THE UNCANNY PUBLISHER By Andrew Byers, Uncanny Books
I first encountered Anonymous-9’s work in late 2012 shortly after publishing a review of her novel HARD BITE on Hellnotes. I liked the book a lot and she reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in an interview to discuss how the novel came about. The interview was a lot of fun, and Anonymous-9 also turned the tables and did a separate interview with me about being a book reviewer. That was also great, and the reverse of the typical reviewer-interviews-author kind of thing. We hit it off, and I mentioned that I would soon be forming my own small publishing house, which had been a dream of mine for a long time. That happened a few months later in mid-2013 and became Uncanny Books, a small press focusing on horror, contemporary fantasy, and other genre fiction (i.e., all the stuff I love to read).
Background to the DREAMING DEEP deal
We kept in touch and in the interim, Anonymous-9 put out the aptly titled JUST SO YOU KNOW I’M NOT DEAD collection of short stories to whet our appetites and assure us that in fact she wasn’t dead. Which was nice. I loved each of the three stories in JUST SO YOU KNOW I’M NOT DEAD, but there was just something about “Dreaming Deep” that really spoke to me. When Anonymous-9 got in touch with me and suggested that I publish a much-expanded version of “Dreaming Deep” and that it form the basis for a shared world and set of characters that other authors could use, I was really intrigued. I had been wanting to do something similar for a while, but had not yet come across the right setting and characters. Until “Dreaming Deep.”
There is just something so iconic about a story that takes H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and sets in the modern day, then thematically matches it up with Herman Melville’s MOBY-DICK. The story itself is such a compelling one, and I see so many possibilities for the further adventures of Captain Angelus and his crew. I should also add that Anonymous-9’s voice comes through very clearly in “Dreaming Deep.” By no means is this one of those Lovecraftian pastiches that clumsily tries (and fails) to use Lovecraft’s voice, nor does it simply name-drop the requisite elements of the Cthulhu Mythos (the Necronomicon, ol’ Squid-Face himself, etc.). As much as I love Lovecraft’s writing and ideas – I discovered him at the age of 13 and my mind is still blown – I’d rather see other writers take his ideas and run with them in their own unique ways rather than mindlessly ape Lovecraft. “Dreaming Deep” is a story fundamentally set in a world of Lovecraft’s imagining without needing to proclaim that that’s so.
The Long View
So Uncanny Books arranged to purchase all the rights from Anonymous-9 for the expanded version of “Dreaming Deep.” Once it’s done, it will be published as a stand-alone novelette of about 15,000 words, but it will also form the kernel of a shared world. Other writers will be invited to use the same characters and setting to tell their own stories, and Uncanny Books will publish a collection of those stories, bundled with Anonymous-9’s work. And who knows, if reader response is favorable, we might do a series of these collections, or maybe someone might write a whole novel. Only time will tell.
This arrangement between Anonymous-9 and Uncanny Books is somewhat unusual, and many authors would undoubtedly balk at selling all the rights to their creations. I initially proposed a more traditional arrangement: that Anonymous-9 and Uncanny Books (i.e., me) would share rights to DREAMING DEEP and develop follow-on projects jointly. But I understand why Anonymous-9 didn’t want to remain involved: she’s a writer, first and foremost, and doesn’t want to become a publisher. I certainly get that. This isn’t entirely untrod ground though. Obviously there have been a number of publishers over the years who have maintained long-running house-owned series written by multiple authors, some using house names and some not. There are a few contemporary precedents as well, including UK publisher Abaddon Books does this with a number of their series, and I would also note Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin’s very popular Dead Man series where they allow other authors to play with their characters, settings, and premise.
That's the plan for now although there will likely be many tweaks and refinements as things progress.