Staff Book Reviewer Jessica Maybury is a recent graduate of the MA in Writing programme from NUI, Galway, Ireland. Her work has appeared in Nth Word, Word Riot and Prick of the Spindle, among other places. Her Web site is jmaybury.blogspot.com.
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I was told once by a former professor of mine that independent publishing is the way forward.
He said that the big names in publishing with their vast sums of money and employees were under threat and that stories and poetry, being the kind of things that always find a way, are finding other ways to get to their readers.
And yeah, okay. Things like this have been shrieked for centuries.
In the 19th century, the publishing industry was going to die, apparently, because of newspapers. Clearly, it didn’t. It’s going to die now because of the Internet. It can be argued that yes, it is being threatened, and greatly so. The price of production is too high, the price of books sold is too high, and people always want the undercut, after all, don’t they?
And so what happens. Small, autonomous presses are turned to.
Rose Metal Press specialise in, among other things, the publication of short short stories, flash fiction and micro-fiction. They’ve been running an annual chapbook competition for six years. Betty Superman is the winner of the fifth one, which was judged by Kim Chinquee. As the winner of a competition run by a press with high production values, you can see how Betty Superman could be held up to the rest of us as an example in what the chapbook can do, or what it should do.
The stories are small and tight, self contained. Each one is a mini pavlova—just the thing you’re looking for, but not heavy enough to make you feel overcome.
The thing though with these stories is that they throw your own life back up at you. Was this not what we were told in school that fiction was supposed to do?
Yes, you think, over and over again, this is my mother, yes I was there, I did that, I know this.
It is important that stories are not only well-made, but more, that they mean things. The shops are full of gorgeous, insubstantial things with no depth or real emotion. You don’t remember them past the page. Tiff Holland’s stories linger in your memory as an impression or scent of something necessary and earthy, something you want to return to.
This is not something that often happens nowadays in books. The world of words has become almost a contortion of what it was, stylised and flat.
If the death of the publishing industry is what it takes to produce stories like those in Betty Superman, then by all means let’s have a little dance for rigor mortis.
Official Rose Metal Press Web Site