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The Recent Best: The Fantasy Catalog of Prime Books

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Time Travel Recent Trips-small Magic City Recent Spells-small Aliens Recent Encounters-small

In November of last year I attended the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, D.C. I’d never been to the city, and there was a tremendous amount to do and see — including the National Mall, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.

All very impressive, even for a Canadian like me. But three months later, the place that’s lingered longest in my mind is the convention Dealer’s Room. It was packed with dozens of tables from the finest publishers in the genre, all showing their latest wares. Since I pay attention to the market every day, I naturally assumed there wouldn’t be a lot of surprises, even in a target-rich environment like that.

I was dead wrong. Walking from table to table, and seeing the dazzling display of novels, anthologies and collections piled in dense stacks before all the smiling vendors, drove home just how marvelously rich and diverse our industry is. Since returning from the convention I’ve tried hard to replicate that experience here, in a series of posts showcasing the catalogs of several of the most impressive publishers. So far I’ve covered Valancourt Books and ChiZine Publications; today we turn our attention to the gorgeous catalog of Prime Books.

[Click on any of the images for bigger versions.]

Zombies The Recent Dead-small Weird Detectives Recent Investigations-small Vampires The Recent Undead-small

As you can imagine, I spent a little money in the Dealer’s Room at WFC. I brought home handsome volumes from PS Publishing, Tachyon, Chizine, Valancourt, Small Beer, and many others.

But I needed a box to carry away all the books I bought at the Prime table. I love anthologies and short fiction, and there isn’t a publisher at work in the industry today with a line-up of collections and anthologies as stellar as Prime’s. They have vampire books, alien encounter books, zombie books, time travel books, urban fantasy books, post-apocalypse books, occult detective books, ghost books, witch books, and lots more.

Prime’s editors — Sean Wallace, Paula Guran, Neil Clarke, Rich Horton, Steve Berman, and others — are deeply connected, and pay attention to up-and-coming writers. Their books are a fine mix of new and reprint fiction from the top writers in the field. Even a handful will introduce you to a terrific line up of established writers you may have overlooked, and emerging stars.

Ghosts Recent Hauntings-small After the End Recent Apocalypses-small Zombies More Recent Dead-small

If you’re curious about Prime, I highly recommend their Recent books, including Time Travel: Recent Trips, Magic City: Recent Spells, Aliens: Recent Encounters, Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations, and many others. The idea behind these books is simple: collect the finest examples of the theme from the last decade or so, highlighting the authors and trends that are hot today.

These books are chiefly edited by the talented Paula Guran, although recent volumes have also been edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Aliens: Recent Encounters) and Rich Horton and Sean Wallace (Robots: The Recent A.I., and War and Space: Recent Combat).

The other volumes I highly recommend from Prime are their Year’s Best volumes:

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, edited by Rich Horton (6 volumes so far, 2009 – 2014)
The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy &  Horror, edited by Paula Guran (5 volumes so far, 2010 – 2014)

There’s a bevy of Year’s Best anthologies out there, but these are consistently two of the best.

The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2014 Rich Horton-small The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2014-small Witches Wicked Wild & Wonderful-small

One of the the other volumes I snatched up from the Prime table was Witches: Wild, Wicked & Wonderful, edited by Paula Guran (2012), which has been on my Amazon wish list for a while. I enjoy themed horror anthologies, although sometimes it seems like the shelves are overrun with zombie and vampire books. A collection of witch tales from authors like Ursula K. Le Guin, Ellen Klages, Kelly Link, Andre Norton, and Delia Sherman seemed just what I was in the mood for.

Black Gate blogger Rich Horton has had a fine career at Prime. In addition to his Year’s Best books, he’s produced some highly acclaimed themed anthologies, including the popular Space Opera and Superheroes.

Space Opera Rich Horton-small Superheroes Rich Horton-small Season of Wonder-small

One of my favorite recent Prime books is Season of Wonder, a Christmas/holiday anthology edited by Paula Guran. I bought mime last year; copies are still available.

I don’t want to give the impression that Prime specializes exclusively in anthologies and short story collections, even if those are the titles I tend to zero in on. They’ve also done some terrific novels with a wade range of talented writers, including Robert Reed’s Great Ship novel The Memory of Sky, Ekaterina Sedia’s Moscow But Dreaming, and Black Gate alum Richard Parks’ samurai fantasy Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate.

The Memory of Sky A Great Ship Trilogy-small Moscow But Dreaming-small Yamada Monogatari To Break the Demon Gate-small

Paula Guran’s themed anthologies are a lot of fun, and Witches wasn’t the only one I had my eye out for. She’s done two Halloween books with Prime as well: Halloween (2011), and Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre (2013). The former includes 33 short stories and novellas from Thomas Ligotti, Stewart O’Nan, William F. Nolan, Peter Straub, Esther M. Friesner, Steve Rasnic Tem, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Charles de Lint, E. Nesbit, Joe R. Lansdale, Ray Bradbury, and many others — all reprints.

In contrast, Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre contains all original stories from Laird Barron, Stephen Graham Jones, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nancy Kilpatrick, Jonathan Maberry, John Shirley, Maria V. Snyder, Carrie Vaughn, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and many others.

I bought both Halloween books at the booth. I didn’t pick up Ekaterina Sedia’s Circus: Fantasy Under the Big Top, however — I’d ordered the the month it came out. It remains one of my favorite Prime volumes.

Halloween Paula Guran-small Halloween Magic Mystery and the Macabre-small Circus Fantasy Under the Big Top-small

Any publisher with an output as diverse as this is bound to have a Lovecraft tribute volume or two in their catalog, and Prime does not disappoint. Paula Guran’s collection of acclaimed recent Cthulhu stories, New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird, appeared in November 2011, and a sequel is due in April. And Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Paula R. Stiles’ science fiction anthology Future Lovecraft was published in September 2012.

Finally, one of the more intriguing recent anthologies from Prime was The Hugo Award Showcase: 2010, edited by Mary Robinette Kowal. It contained Hugo Award-nominated stories from John Kessel, Kij Johnson, Nancy Kress, Michael Swanwick, Elizabeth Bear, Robert Reed, James Alan Gardner, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Ian McDonald.

New Cthulhu The Recent Weird-small Future Lovecraft-small The Hugo Award Showcase 2010-small

We’ve covered several recent Prime books, including:

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2014 edited by Paula Guran
The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2013 edited by Paula Guran
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 edited by Rich Horton
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2013 edited by Rich Horton
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2012 edited by Rich Horton
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011 edited by Rich Horton
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2009 edited by Rich Horton
Space Opera edited by Rich Horton
New Treasures: Season of Wonder edited by Paula Guran
Weird Detectives edited by Paula Guran
Circus: Fantasy Under the Big Top edited by Ekaterina Sedia
Adventures in Stealth Publishing: The Return of the Sorcerer
War and Space: Recent Combat edited by Rich Horton and Sean Wallace
John Joseph Adams buys Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazines from Prime Books
The Return of the Sorcerer: Falling Under Clark Ashton Smith’s Potent Spell for the First Time

And Bryan Thomas Schmidt interviewed Rich Horton and Paula Guran for us as part of his ambitious article “Finding the Best: An Interview with Year’s Best Editors Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, Rich Horton and Gardner Dozois.”

I’ve showcased six publishers who displayed their products at the World Fantasy Convention and Worldcon so far:

Twenty Years of Smart Science Fiction and Fantasy: The Tachyon Publications Catalog
Bringing Neglected Classics Back Into Print: The Horror Catalog of Valancourt Books
The Best Pulp Horror and Weird Tales: The Fantasy Catalog of Hippocampus Press
Embrace the Odd: The Fantasy Catalog of ChiZine Publications
The Recent Best: The Fantasy Catalog of Prime Books
The Wonders of Fairwood Press

Prime is one of the most energetic and prolific fantasy publishers today, and they deserve your support. See their complete catalog and order copies directly at their website.

5 Comments »

  1. John its hard to relate how much I appreciate posts like this. Approaching 50, I just don’t seem to have the time or energy to devote to fun reads as I did in my teens. But also, I’ve recently moved to west Texas, where there is one Barnes & Noble with a rather small and dismal Sci-Fi/ Fantasy/ Horror section. I think back to my teens 30+ years ago in Philadelphia, and the selection of those books between new and used bookshops as I skateboarded around the city was seemingly astounding.

    …well, perhaps I’m partially pining for days past, but I truly appreciate your efforts to bring all these fine works to light :-)

    Cheers, -Anthony

    Comment by AWAbooks - February 3, 2015 11:52 pm

  2. Anthony,

    Thank you. I’m glad you appreciate them.

    And I know exactly what you mean. I had more time to read in my teens, and I remember those days fondly.

    But there was another aspect to the hobby that was just as enjoyable as the reading, and that was — just as you say — browsing bookstores old and new, discovering untold treasures tucked away in odd corners or in the New Releases rack. For me it was a period of constant discovery and excitement and — while I do enjoy having more in-depth knowledge of the field, as I do now — I dearly miss those days of discovery.

    I still get a thrill browsing well stocked bookstores, and finding new authors. And I try to re-create that sensation here at Black Gate whenever I can. I’m glad someone other than me appreciates it. :)

    Comment by John ONeill - February 4, 2015 1:02 am

  3. I’ve just started House in the High Wood. The Dickensian opening is great, and I eagerly await the Lovecraftian shoe to fall

    Comment by AWAbooks - February 4, 2015 1:16 am

  4. Curse the luck,

    I found a wonderfully cute, tentacled purple beasty on the emoji keyboard of my Android tablet, which I appended to the end of my last Lovecraftian comment…

    …apparently said beasty couldn’t quite pierce the digital ether, to wreak unspeakable horros on Blackgate 😉

    Comment by AWAbooks - February 4, 2015 1:24 am

  5. […] month I did a quick survey of Prime Books, looking at 24 volumes in their recent catalog. And an impressive lot it was, too […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » Future Treasures: New Cthulhu 2 edited by Paula Guran - March 13, 2015 11:33 am


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