Lanternfish Press

Independent publishing in Philadelphia. Artisanal books for omnivorous readers.

Introducing Mimi Mondal

Christine NeuliebComment

Meet Monidipa "Mimi" Mondal: our newest intern, blogger, and slush reader! Mimi joined the Lanternfish team in April. You'll be reading a lot more from her in this space, so we thought we'd share a little about who she is and what does.

I first met Mimi at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, in the summer of 2015. Mimi had just arrived from India and was the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholar at the workshop. Soon after, in the fall, Mimi moved to Philadelphia to pursue her MFA at Rutgers University. Now she divides her time between New York and Philadelphia, writing and editing. 

Hi Mimi! What do you like to read?

Hi! If you catch me unawares, you will probably find me reading a Wikipedia article. But, more seriously, I read a lot of fiction, and usually the fiction is speculative, although I read less of high fantasy or very technical science fiction. I feel oppressed by flat-out realism, though, and it makes me really glad that flat-out realism has become unpopular in literary fiction as well. Things like dreams, mythology, religious training (or lack thereof), cultural memory, neurodiverse perception, and individual trauma and experience are as real and relevant as – if not more than – that narrow band of reality that's true for everyone.
I also read a lot of news and personal essays, especially from underrepresented voices. I'm fairly broke but I make a tiny monthly donation to Wikipedia, because I read hundreds of articles all the time about completely random things. Ask me all you want to know about deep-water fish (including the lanternfish), dinosaurs, or ancient civilizations! I know a little bit about a lot of things. I was a quiz-competition kid before the Internet became so easily available to everyone, and since then it has been Wikipedia all the way. 

How did you become interested in publishing?

I was interested in publishing long before I knew much about publishing houses, how they worked, or anyone who worked there. I went to college at Jadavpur University in India, where I was an English major, so all of my friends were aspiring writers to some extent. Way back in 2008, some friends and I started an online magazine called Ex Nihilo, which ran for about a year on a WordPress blog, and later on a website that no longer exists. That beloved magazine folded because we could not figure out a way to monetize it, either for ourselves or to pay our contributors. I went on to intern at a quirky independent press called Blaft Publications in Chennai and then to work as an editor at the big, shiny offices of Penguin Random House India in Delhi. 
In 2013, I went off to do an MLitt in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling, Scotland, which I finished in 2015. The UK has a fantastic literary scene, filled with delightful children's literature (Harry Potter only scratches the surface of it!) and cheerful, grotesque humor – both of which I have inherited in my bones. Surrounded by the rain-soaked hills of Scotland, separated by a forested ridge from an ancient cemetery, I wrote my thesis and graduation project on the publication of science fiction magazines, which was probably my first step towards the United States. 

What are some of your latest editorial projects?

My last big editorial project was an anthology called Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler, which I edited with Alexandra Pierce. It is forthcoming from Twelfth Planet Press in Australia this month. This is a collection of people writing posthumous letters to Octavia Butler, along with some academic essays and interviews. It was a deeply emotional and inspiring project, probably the book I am the most proud of having worked on so far. 
Also: these are not strictly editorial projects, but I have been reading and selecting submissions for the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship for the past two years (a privilege of being a former Scholar). This year, I will also start reading submissions for the Speculative Literature Foundation grants. 

Finally, what are you writing right now?

I never thought I would say this, but in the past few months I have mostly been writing nonfiction about identity, race, immigration, and so on. I see myself primarily as a fiction writer. At first I was writing these nonfiction pieces mostly for myself and my friends – long rants, not even meant as essays but as online conversations on Facebook. They were a natural response to the currently unstable political situations in both India and the United States. 
The first of those essays was solicited and published by Uncanny Magazine in May. Uncanny is a science fiction magazine, and the editors knew me because of my prior fiction writing. But then I sent that essay to the New York Foundation for the Arts and was selected for their 2017 Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program, so I hope I will be writing more of those essays in the next few months. 

That's all for now! You'll be hearing more from Mimi soon in our upcoming blog posts.

A New Year: Looking Ahead, Looking Back

Christine Neulieb

2016 was a, hm, special sort of year. Deadly to celebrities, it left the rest of us unsure whether American politics's hard right into absurdity and post-factual vitriol was in fact real or whether the wrong person rolled the dice and now we're all trapped in the Darkest Timeline. 

But before we breathe a sigh of relief, let's remember: 2017 hasn't had time to show its true colors yet. Out of the frying pan . . .

Still, here at Lanternfish Press we didn't have such a terrible year.

Some highlights:

In September, we released Salamanders of the Silk Road, which is one of those books you'll read, then put down and say "I'm not sure what that was . . . but I think I liked it." A surrealist take on the legend of Prester John, Salamanders asks what happens to mythic figures when their time is past. (Hint: depression and run-down beach houses in Florida, apparently.)

Oh, and did we mention it has monsters?

We held the launch party for Salamanders at the legendary Parnassus Books in Nashville, where eager readers left the store sold out of copies and landed the book on Nashville's bestsellers list!

We confess, we patted ourselves heartily on the back after that.

Author Christopher Smith reads from Salamanders

Author Christopher Smith reads from Salamanders

In October we released our first-ever coloring book: Other Worlds, a space odyssey created by Philadelphia artist Saul Rosenbaum. Then, just for fun, we threw a whole bunch of parties where Philadelphians gathered to ink the pages. 

Other Worlds (1 of 34).jpg

Here's my masterpiece (as you can see, there's a reason why I stick to words most of the time):

In space the sky is pink?

In space the sky is pink?

For Halloween, we threw a party celebrating two years of The Afflictions, inviting people to dress up as diseases from the book. There was much to celebrate: the book was published in Spanish this year by La Bestia Equilátera, a publisher in Argentina, and is now forthcoming in Italian!

In November we opened for submissions. This was our first year using the Submittable platform, and tbh we're pretty in love with it. We were terrifically impressed with the quality of manuscripts we received (well done, you). We also welcomed on board a new team of manuscript readers, who even now are doing valiant battle with what remains of the slush pile. A million thanks to them for their keen wits and hard work.

There's someone else we should introduce to you: our tireless intern, Advait Ubhayakar. Advait, would you like to say a few words?

advait-pic-sq.jpg

"Hi, I'm Advait. Since the early 2000s, I have earned my bread and butter writing for businesses around the world. For spices, salt, and the meatier things of life, I write & read stories and poetry in English, and speak & sing four Indian languages. I am in the midst of revising a novel set during the 2014 Indian election: a time that seems so innocent compared to, umm, more recent world events."

As for 2017, well: who knows about the future. You really can't trust it. But we're pretty excited about our prospective new titles, which include reprints of hard-to-find Victorian novels as well as fresh original fiction. 

So stay tuned, friends. We can't wait to share more. 

Sign up for our email newsletter to stay posted!

Lanternfish Press Open Submissions

Call for SubmissionsChristine Neulieb

Lanternfish Press Submission Guidelines

Lanternfish Press is now accepting submissions through our shiny new Submittable portal. We’re looking for smart surreal and gothic fiction, genre-bending SFF and mystery novels, and writerly nonfiction works on politics and philosophy. We’re very eager to read submissions from women, people of color, queer and neurodiverse folks of all stripes, and anyone else who doesn’t look a whole lot like Jonathan Franzen.

Please NO short story collections, poetry, romance novels, YA, or inspirational.

Beyond that, it’s hard to describe exactly what we’re looking for in a manuscript. Often we don’t know until it crosses our desks. But here’s some general advice:

Read. Read voraciously. Read writers who don’t look like you. Read foreign writers. Read dead writers!

Writing is a conversation. It can offer people who lead wildly different lives a window on each other’s worlds. It can bridge gaps between cultures and gulfs in time, overcoming unbearable solitudes. We tend to click with writers who’ve grappled with many stories and whose work is informed by that broader perspective. 

Aim high.

Being “relatable” is overrated. Nine times out of ten it just means saying things that resonate with the favorite stereotypes of a given marketing demographic. Yawn. If you really want to wow us, shoot for a perspective that a European writer of the sixteenth century, a middle-class Nigerian teenager of today, and a woman born in an agrarian community two hundred years in the future might all be able to make sense of. If you have trouble putting your finger on what could possibly interest such different people, William Faulkner’s brief but pithy Nobel lecture is a good place to start.

Have fun.

Who says a “serious” book can’t also be entertaining? We love stories that aren’t afraid to have fun: raucous, gleeful, zany romps through new worlds bursting with life. 

Embrace your voice.

We appreciate skillful prose, whether the style is spare and clipped or elaborate and intricate. We have nothing against either long or short sentences. Don’t be afraid of your own voice. Shout it loud! 

As a matter of house style, we do tend to dislike present-tense narration unless the author has a very solid reason to use it. (“It’s more vivid” is not a solid reason.) Instead of reaching for immediacy through use of the present tense, we encourage writers to explore other ways of escaping abstraction and engaging the reader in a lifelike world of concrete things and sensations. 

/rant

Good luck.

Introducing Christopher Smith, Author of Salamanders of the Silk Road

InterviewsAmanda Thomas

Salamanders of the Silk Road just came out in September. We're excited to catch up with author Christopher Smith. If you're in Nashville on November 13, join us for the official book launch at Parnassus Books!

Hi, Chris! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, there’s approximately three of me. I’m a dad and a husband. I live in Clarksville, Tennessee, just north of Nashville, with my wife, Kate, and our two daughters. My son is in his first year at college, and we—or rather, she—homeschooled him all the way through, not for religious reasons but because she wanted to. The girls started public school last year and are loving it, and Kate’s now working a great gig as a state librarian in Nashville. 

I’m also a journalist and editor. Off and on I’ve flirted with the idea of just being a full-time writer (I also buy lottery tickets), but for now I use my word skills to pay the bills working in newspaper journalism. I found the best way to both have time to write and make enough money to support my family was to go into newsroom middle management. I don't wear suspenders, but I do tend to walk around the office with a cup of coffee.

And I’m a writer. I’ve been writing fiction or dabbling in poetry since high school, and it’s the closest thing to effective therapy I’ve experienced. When I don’t write fiction, I become an unpleasant version of myself. I’ve been trying to find success with that for decades, and only now have I started to break through; I’m excited to see what happens next. So, yes, there’s three of me. 

And tell us a bit more about the legendary character you’ve brought to life: Prester John. Who is the real (?) Prester John?

Prester John is the most important historical figure you’ve never heard of. Quick version: In the 1100s, messengers appeared in the papal court to report on a so-called Prester John who promised in his letters to bring an army of monsters to fight in the Crusades. He claimed to have led an army to the Tigris River but turned back when the Tigris didn’t freeze to allow him to pass over. This mysterious Christian empire of the east was supposed to be filled with magical wonders and strange creatures, and the published and recirculated letters of Prester John grew in length and popularity in Western Europe as a sort of pulp fiction over the next couple hundred years. The legend was taken seriously enough that it inspired expeditions, including those of Marco Polo and Bartolomeu Dias. A byproduct of early cartographical confusion resulted in the kingdom moving from central Asia to Abyssinia. Into the mid-1500s, cartographers continued labeling central Africa as the kingdom of Prester John.

How did Prester John become the protagonist in Salamanders? What's it like to get into the head of a character who is immortal?

I’d been working on a short story about a man and a woman having a long discussion in a hot tub. They’d decided to kill themselves, but they were having an ongoing series of arguments, so the man couldn’t kill his wife because he wanted to kill her out of love, not out of anger. At the same time, I was reading Daniel Boorstin’s nonfiction work The Discoverers, and it was rife with references to Prester John. I’d never heard of him. I asked everyone I knew, and only three knew of Prester John: a friend who’d read Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, another who was a deep fan of Fantastic Four comics, and my wife, who’d read about him as a little girl in a mysterious legends anthology that she still has. So I thought, this is a great character who needs deeper treatment—plus, if he were alive in 1100 and still alive in 1500, he’d surely still be alive today. And maybe he’d be arguing with his wife and finally contemplating suicide. So Prester became the man in the hot tub, and the story blossomed into a novel. 

I had a lot of fun handling the immortality part. Early on, as he’s getting accustomed to his unique perception of time, he loses track of it, and some of my favorite passages are of him standing on a hillside for months at a time, watching his horse dying of starvation, an apple tree blooming, and the stars, which he mistakes for meteors flashing across the sky. But later in the story it gets deeper, with Prester coming to terms with everything that’s changed in the world and in himself, and with how gloriously he’s failed to deal with all of that. 

What writers have inspired and influenced you? Are there particular authors that you enjoy reading or look up to as a writer?

For story, Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk, maybe a bit of William S. Burroughs. Gaiman is brilliant at creative storytelling, at taking the fantastic and sometimes ridiculous and turning it into something poignantly beautiful. For tone, I like the poet John Berryman and Morrissey. Listening to The Smiths touches me in a place that just compels me to write. For style, definitely William Gay. I could read him every night for the rest of my life. He was a self-educated Tennessee writer who could spin these dreamscape paragraphs about wilderness hollows under a low-hung sky and the musky smell of sex amid the dust of red clay. You just want to underline everything. 

Salamanders of the Silk Road
18.00
Quantity:
Add To Cart

What is your writing process like? How and when do you find time to write around your other obligations?

The first draft of what became Salamanders was written when I was working the night shift and we had three small kids we were homeschooling. My wife would go to the YMCA in the mornings for a 45-minute workout. She’d put our daughters in the nursery, and I’d take my son with me to a coffeehouse across the street that doubled as a Wiccan/spiritualist bookstore. I’d buy coffee and he’d get hot cocoa. He read Lord of the Rings and I wrote the novel for most of a year in those 45-minute spurts. Later, as the kids got older, I renovated part of the basement to create a man-cave, and that made things easier. I also write on vacation. I wrote a few chapters in an actual Florida beach house in between spurts of reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. You can and should force yourself to write. But if you don’t, eventually you write when you need to write. When I need to write, I find time, and it has to happen. If it didn’t, I’d probably take up smoking meth or something. 

You spend an enormous part of your professional life writing. How is writing creatively different from what you do at your day job?

Journalism writing and editing for me is like an artificial, hollow version of what I do when I’m writing fiction. It’s like the difference between playing a video game and actually driving, between cheap domestic beer and a craft ale, between masturbation and sex. I’m good at journalism, and writing or editing a news story can satisfy the urge, but afterward, I’m simply satisfied. Done. There’s none of the deep fulfillment that I get out of writing fiction, at least when I’m hitting on all cylinders. 

A good example of this: I started writing the novel after writing a weekly parenting humor column for five years. I enjoyed doing the column, but those five years of writing about reality absolutely propelled me into surrealism. I was so done with reality, I was ready not just for fiction but for sentient water that struggles when you gargle, for words that crash onto the floor in a rainstorm, smashing an alphabet soup of letters on the ground, and for constellations that fight in the sky and sulk at sunrise. Holding back on fiction for so long, I think, made me a better writer, or at least made writing a lot more fun.

Where can readers visit you on the internet?

You can find me at www.salamandersmilk.com!

 

"What are you going to be?"

Advait Ubhayakar

The signs are all around us. And they are spreading — orange gourds sit outside doors; the innocuous lamp over a favorite café sprouts fangs overnight; at the local library, children carve out faces of terror and glee. As you read this, the H-word is also infiltrating popup ads and emails that promise speedy delivery of ready-made costumes by week’s end. 

Humph. 

If you’re like us, you inhabit characters all year long. For readers, role playing is not a once-a-year activity but a perennial bug that draws us in search of stories. The plots and the voices wait for us, whether we’re riding to work on the bus or curled up snug in our beds. (How great are the days when we have nothing to do but roam wild amid the forests of words!) 

Still, it is really cool to have a day where we can all dress up in public, showing off the personas we’ve slid into in the privacy of pages. This year at Lanternfish Press, we’ve decided to dress up as the contents of our first book ever: The Afflictions. There’s a lot to pick from — this faux-encyclopedia contains over 49 disorders of the mind, body, and soul. (That’s a lot of body paint.) Expect to see us infecting the internet over the course of this week!

As the great (and greatly afflicted) DFW once said, good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. We hope getting into character(s) can become timely proof of this dual role of fiction. A game of inhabiting another, and letting an other inhabit us. 

If you’ve ever stayed in with a book, you already know this: As much as fiction is an affliction, it is also a cure.

A trick. And a treat. 

This Halloween, look to your bookshelves for inspiration and share your literary avatars with the world! 

Join us as we #getafflicted.