Lanternfish Press

Rare & Strange

Lanternfish Press at Collingswood Book Festival 2017

EventsFeliza CasanoComment
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Collingswood Book Festival

Our first time at a local book festival with a surprising number of author connections

Just a hop-skip away from our home base in Philadelphia is the Collingswood Book Festival, an annual one-day event held in Collingswood, New Jersey. 

It was our first time at this event, so we took the opportunity to make a few new friends (and hang out with one of our authors.)

Other Worlds artist Saul Rosenbaum stopped by to sign a few things and hang out with us in the slightly hot but otherwise lovely day. 

You can pick up a copy of Other Worlds on our website! And, if you're in the Philadelphia area, keep an eye out: there may be a few coloring parties on the way.

But that's not our only connection to Collingswood: Salamanders of the Silk Road author Christopher Smith lived in West Collingswood Heights (on Lincoln Avenue) from 1980 through 1987 and graduated from Haddon Township High School in 1987. He attended Audubon United Methodist Church and worked as a busboy at Rexy's Bar and then at Chubby's 1 1/2 Hearth.

We had a wonderful time at the book festival this year, and we look forward to another visit next fall!

Books to Soothe the Soul

Amanda Thomas

Hello internet friends! I'm Amanda, the operations manager here at Lanternfish Press. I usually lurk behind the scenes around here. I'm definitely more than half mountain-top hermit, but it seems like a good time to come out and say hello. 

I spend a lot of time in the outdoors. I read a lot of nature writing too. It provides a respite from all the hubbub and anxiety of modern life, a connection to the wild even when I'm at my desk in Philadelphia. Here are my favorite books to soothe the soul and remind us of our place in the wide universe.

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The Outermost House

Henry Beston wrote The Outermost House during a year that he spent living in a tiny cottage on the dunes at the very tip of Cape Cod. It is a truly beautiful piece of writing. Beston's sentences feel like they are spun from pure magic. He describes his motivation:

"The world is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot. In my world of beach and dune these elemental presences lived and had their being, and under their arch there moved an incomparable pageant of nature and the year. The flux and reflux of ocean, the incomings of waves, the gatherings of birds, the pilgrimages of the people of the sea, winter and storm, the splendour of autumn and the holiness of spring-- all these were part of the great beach. The longer I stayed, the more eager was I to know this coast and to share its mysterious and elemental life; I found myself free to do so, I had no fear of being alone, I had something of a field naturalist's inclination; presently I made up my mind to remain and try living for a year on Eastham Beach."

Now, I'm not really a water person. I like solid earth under my feet at all times, but even I can hear the wild call of the ocean in Beston's words. I also really like how Beston has the pulse of modern life, even though The Outtermost House was published in 1928. He describes perfectly the source of my frustrations living in the city and doing work which ties me to a desk and a computer:

"A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual. To share in it, one must have a knowledge of the pilgrimages of the sun, and something of that natural sense of him and feeling for him which made even the most primitive people mark the summer limits of his advance and the last December ebb of his decline."

My favorite passage from the book points to the relationship between humans and animals. He reminds us that humans are, after all, animals too and our fates are intimately connected:

"Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and see thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the sense we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."

I would recommend to The Outtermost House to anyone feeling a little unhinged by the modern world. Bonus points if you enjoy reading aloud (this book is perfect for it!). 

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The Living Mountain

The Living Mountain is a book that I don't think I would have found on my own (thanks Christine!). Written during the Second World War and not published until 1977, The Living Mountain is a glimpse into nature at a time of deep human conflict. Nan Shepard offers us a unique perspective on a life spent outside. 

I feel a particular kinship with the book, knowing that the author was definitely a morning person like me.

"I have left at dawn, and up here it is still morning. The midsummer sun has drawn up the moisture from the earth, so that for part of the way I walked in a cloud, but now the last tendril has dissolved into the air and there is nothing in all the sky but light. I can see to the ends of the earth and far up into the sky."

It's also apparent that Nan Shepard really loved spending time outside. She talks about staying out overnight, away from walls and lights, in a way that transports me right into my tent.

No one knows the mountain completely who has not slept on it. As one slips over into sleep, the mind grows limpid; the body melts; perception alone remains. One neither thinks, nor desires, nor remembers, but dwells in pure intimacy with the tangible world.

I would recommend The Living Mountain to anyone contemplating reading Walden. Pick this up instead.

Arctic Dreams

Arctic Dreams is a captivating combination of nature writing and science writing in perfect balance. The prose and story telling in the book made me think of the arctic in a whole new way. Plus I learned about fascinating things like Novaya Zemlya imagesthe formation of sea ice, and fata morgana

I particularly enjoyed Lopez's discussion of how humans fit into the arctic environment. 

The arctic reminds one of the desert not only because of the lack of moisture and the barren topography, but because it puts a like strain on human life. It favors tough and practical people, people aware of the vaguest flutter of life in an environment that seems featureless and interminable to the untrained eye. People with a predator's alertness for minutiae, for revealing detail.

Most of us spend our lives separated for the forces of nature. Rarely (if ever) do we find ourselves situations where we must depend on our wits, observation, and experience for our survival in the immediate term. Interactions between humans, animals, and the environment look different when survival is on your mind.

It not only takes a long time of watching the animal before you can say what it is doing; it takes a long time to learn how to watch. This point is raised deferentially but repeatedly, in encounters with Eskimos. They are uneasy, they manage to say about the irrevocability of decisions made by people who are not sensually perceptive, not discriminating in these northern landscapes, not enthusiastic about long term observations. When I hear these points made, my instinct is to nod yes; but it always causes me to reflect on something else-- how dependent we are on Western field biologists to tell us fully and accurately what the animals did while they were there. How we hope they regain some approximation of "the native eye" in their studies.

Lopez's description of the mutual predation between humans and polar bears really resonated with me. He describes the feeling of simultaneous self-sufficiency and dependence that I experience when I'm out backpacking. The feeling that you are out there alone and must rely wholly on yourself, and yet you remain dependent on other humans because you can't stay out there forever.

"To encounter the bear, to meet it with your whole life, was to grapple with something personal. The confrontation occurred on a serene, deadly, and elevated plain. If you were successful you found something irreducible within yourself, like a seed. To walk away was to be alive, utterly. To be assured of your own life, the life of your kind, in a harsh land where life took insight and patience and humor. It was to touch the bear. It was a gift from the bear."

I would recommend Arctic Dreams to anyone who enjoys nature or science writing in a general sense. It is an excellent introduction to the arctic as a place and an ecosystem. It is a humbling and inspiring read. I'll leave you with my favorite passage:

"It was still dark, and I though it might be raining lightly. I pushed back the tent flap. A storm-driven sky moving swiftly across the face of a gibbous moon. Perhaps it would clear by dawn. The ticking sound was not rain, only the wind. A storm, bound for somewhere else."

Cover Reveal: DAUGHTERS OF THE AIR

Cover RevealsChristine NeuliebComment

We're beyond thrilled to unveil the cover of Anca L. Szilágyi's debut novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE AIR, which is being released on December 5. Preorders available NOW!

We asked Anca to share a few words about the inspiration behind this design:

I've been a fan of  Nichole DeMent's work since I first encountered it in 2013. I knew right away that the moody, mythic imagery of her Oracle series fit the atmosphere of Daughters of the Air. In the years prior, I'd used paintings as prompts to finish a first draft of the novel, putting Dover art stickers into notebooks and writing whatever came from them. There was a lot of groping around in the dark for a long time, but I gradually learned which artists generated ideas for me, and more specifically, which artists seemed to generate ideas for which characters: Chagall aligned with Daniel, the father; Modigliani aligned with Isabel, the mother; and Kandinsky aligned with Pluta. Eventually, though, the story as a whole suggested its own aesthetic. 

I adore the cover image, "Bird Moon"; it makes me think of wandering through tall, crackly grasses on a summer night, listening to the rattle and click of flying creatures. It also reminds me of a particular, pivotal scene in the book that is wild with possibility, both dangerous and transformative. I'm grateful to Nichole for letting us use this gorgeous piece!

"Bird Moon" image by Nichole DeMent. Design by Michael Norcross.

Lanternfish Press at Brooklyn Book Festival 2017

EventsFeliza Casano

This year's Brooklyn Book Fest is behind us, and we had a fantastic time meeting new readers and old fans alike this year! 

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We had quite a few samplers for new readers to check out: a selected entry from Vikram Paralkar's The Afflictions and first-chapter samples of Christopher Smith's Salamanders of the Silk Road and our December release, Daughters of the Air by Anca L. Szilágyi.

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Daughters of the Air Tour of Gowanus

We were joined this weekend by Anca L. Szilágyi in advance of Daughters of the Air's debut. During the afternoon of the festival, we had the opportunity to explore Brooklyn for an Instagram tour.

Daughters of the Air (December 5, 2017) is a literary fabulist story of a runaway teen set across the Americas:

Tatiana “Pluta” Spektor was a mostly happy, if awkward, young girl—until her sociologist father was disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War. Sent a world away by her grieving mother to attend boarding school outside New York City, Pluta wrestles alone with the unresolved tragedy and at last runs away: to the streets of Brooklyn in 1980, where she figuratively—and literally—spreads her wings.

The author took us on a walking tour of Gowanus, Brooklyn, where many scenes in the novel are set.

Our walking tour centered mainly around the Gowanus Canal, including a bridge where Pluta learns about the area's history. During the tour, Szilágyi mentioned the fascinating appeal of the "nooks and crannies" around the canal, which is surrounded by dead-end streets with seemingly no purpose.

You can find more scenes from the tour by following Anca Szilágyi on Instagram.

Brooklyn Book Festival is one of our favorite events of the year, and 2017 was a wonderful time. We look forward to seeing everyone at BKBF 2018!

Introducing Mimi Mondal

Christine Neulieb

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.