Indian Facsimile Books

This is rather interesting. I only ran across it because I was searching ABE for a copy of a very obscure old novel (Etidorhpa by John Uri Lloyd – a once quite legendary but now rather forgotten hollow earth novel from 1895), and hemming over the not particularly good-looking newer editions that various people had re-released into the storm of books that we live among today. Among them, however, were a lot of copies apparently coming from India, illustrated with generic, anonymous place-holder images of leather-bound volumes. And I was puzzled, trying to work out what they were. The prices were not too bad, but the listings looked extremely automated. Mechanised listings with no specifics whatsoever. And in this age of online distrust, I was even wondering whether they could be fake.

It took a bit of digging and chatting with some Indian contacts to find out what was going on here. It seems that it’s basically a POD system that is quite big in the country, basically trawling for versions of old public domain titles in online archives and offering them as facsimile books that are made to order. Not so different to many many other presses who release these older volumes with greater or lesser love and attention. But there was one thing here that was very different. In addition to the usual paperbacks and hardbacks, there were some other versions available – deluxe and super-deluxe editions. Essentially print on demand leatherbound volumes! Again, hand-made to order. And that got my attention very quickly. It’s one thing to dump these old texts lifted from the Internet Archive or wherever into a basic book and launch it out into the world – but these looked good. The pictures were appealing and beautifully classical book porn. I have to say, I was still a bit dubious – not at all sure what I was going to get. Maybe they’d be low quality – maybe put together using weird source PDFs – maybe even fake listings leading to nothing. But in the end, I placed an order for the deluxe edition of that very obscure old novel, figuring that if it turned out to be a disaster, I hadn’t lost so much. The prices were not bad, after all, and by this point, I was really curious.

And then … I waited. I knew they took quite a while to make and send, so I waited – waited as India was suddenly in the news, filled with Covid horror. I was almost starting to think that it might never happen, under the circumstances, my curiosity unanswered and still not knowing what I was dealing with. Until at the height of the Covid outbreak there, it quietly arrived.

And – it’s beautiful! It really is. Subtly different to many other higher-end books, with that hand-made feel. But it feels well-bound so far, the paper is soft and nice – a solid and good-looking volume. And for what it is, the price is really quite appealing. What this company isn’t is a publisher as such … it’s a system for producing facsimiles. BUT, if you want to get hold of a nice copy of an old work, this actually seems a bloody good way to do it. The quality will of course partly depend on the original or the PDF or whatever. Problems with that will be copied right over – but that’s what a facsimile book is, and if one goes into it knowing that then it almost becomes part of the fun. One thing I would advise is, if at all possible, check the PDF first. The company often lists multiple versions of the same title, where their system has found multiple PDFs – and I could be wrong, but I think they copy across the original file names as catalogue entries. That can be awkward in some senses (I’m not sure what to make of “Kepler, Somnium Notes, Rosen” in their catalogue, for instance. IS that Kepler’s very early sci-fi novel? I will research more!), but maybe one can use these to track down and check the original PDF release on the Internet Archive or wherever.

The company is Gyan Books – https://www.gyanbooks.com/ – and at some point, I must try out one of their cheaper ‘trade’ hardcovers to see just what I get. The super-deluxe edition is even grander, but somewhat outside my wallet.

Published in: on May 22, 2021 at 12:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Morphing

I am really wrestling with one of the basic contradictions of being a writer here. As a person, I am a shy little man who suffers far too much anxiety and basically wants everybody to like me. As a writer, I get the strange, shivery feeling that I am turning into a bit of an enfant terrible in my small way.

Am currently engaged in a collaborative project at the intersection point between pornography, psychology and sci-fi …

I just finished putting an anarchic alt-punk singer into low-earth orbit where she can watch the final demise of global civilization while fantasising horrible things about the players in the doomed political system and singing to a silent world (need to start shopping that one around soon) …

The current novel in progress is a deeply anti-authoritarian slipstream fantasia touching on the East London protest scenes, alt sexuality, stiflment, political rot, censorship, experimental art and music etc. …

Even Hunters will probably raise a few eyebrows when it comes out later this year and that is OLD now – an angry and argumentative book written at probably the deepest point in my own depression.

I more or less gave up battling ideas on Facebook and other comment threads – it was starting to seem pointless in the face of the judgementalism, fashionable mystification, partisan nonsense, wooden-headed conviction, absolutism and sheer cartoonish absurdity of the world around me. But maybe I just ended up funnelling all that straight into writing … because I can. And why the hell not? I always admired books like J G Ballard’s Crash for daring to go there and Kathy Acker’s works for just opening her mouth and letting it all out. I also owe a vast debt of gratitude to Rosanne Rabinowitz for her supremely politically aware and sometimes ferocious writing, demonstrating that it can be done and needs to be done – and can be done well. All of these and others reinforce that writing can be strong and vicious and uncomfortable and deep-diving – and beautiful in that. That’s no new revelation, of course, but that’s kind of what I am staring at right now.

But the basic problem of how to reconcile these two sides of me, I am rather less sure about! Well – they say you can write what you want to be.

Published in: on May 31, 2019 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Marked to Die – A Tribute Anthology to Mark Samuels

 

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I am delighted to be a contributor to this new anthology just released from Snuggly Books. Among many great writers’ names is nestled my novella Slag Glass Lachrimæ.  This is a big piece about lots of things – living in London, suicide, grief, lapidary work, books etc. – all with a subtle supernatural overtone. It’s also the story where I came up with the concept of crying rooms – hidden places around the city of London where one can go to express the grief of living in this world – museums filled with trinkets and oddments and stories. Slag Glass Lachrimæ is a bleak piece but also one where I feel I managed to express a small part of something I really wanted to express. Some small echo of my own desolation, yet shaped on the page (which is after all much larger than the creating brain itself) into something that can cut quite hard. I have no idea whether it will affect anyone else – but it turned into one of the stories I feel most emotional about in my very small writing career.

Technically, it was a strange project to work on.  There was no word limit on the contributions for this volume, hence they got a full-sized novella out of me, a major project that took me over for quite a while.  It was also a very steep learning cliff since I knew very little about Mark Samuels at the time the invitation came in. I still don’t really, in all honesty!  This story reacts off my reading of him as a presence in the Wierd Tale scene, without my knowing anything about the man himself – probably my preferred way of reacting to any fellow writer, really!

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And what is slag glass?  It’s a glassy or obsidian-like byproduct of metal processing.  It is hugely variable, sometimes coming in startling colours and patterns.  This story is true on many levels – not least that the glass itself is very very real.   It really is weathering out of the Thames bank, as in the story. Above is an example of the black version that made its way into the story. My own polyhedral of the black tears!  However, in reality it is not restricted to black:

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This remains one of my stranger finds since visiting London.  And it gives me a nice feeling to have immortalized it!

Order the book here – and make it quick because the hardcover is limited to 75 copies and is selling out fast!

http://www.snugglybooks.co.uk/marked-to-die/

Published in: on June 22, 2016 at 8:52 am  Comments (4)  
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Soma

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This is one of my most prized books. It’s a hallucinatory horror novel that is extremely strong, vivid and original, filled with a kind of stinking beautiful poetry of rot and perversion – it made a huge impression on me when I first read it. There were only 150 of these printed by Delirium, and for a long time this was the only complete version of the book available – which rather epitomizes my ambivalent relationship with these special limited editions. On the one hand, it is nice to own something so special, but there seems something wrong to me about having a work tied up in such a rarefied circle of readers, especially when the prices start climbing up into the triple digits! You can’t exactly grab people and say “hey, you have to read this!” Fortunately, it’s now available in paperback as well and well worth checking out if you are feeling like such a strange journey through the jungles of Cambodia.

Published in: on April 5, 2016 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment