The OF Blog: Aqueduct Press: 50 books, 6 years, and 4 that I've read

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Aqueduct Press: 50 books, 6 years, and 4 that I've read

Blame Jeff VanderMeer for this.  That is, if you don't want to hear about an excellent small press that has released some outstanding books over the past six years.  I just want to take a short amount of time (honest, I'll be brief for once!) to mention four of their books that I've enjoyed in recent years:

Nisi Shawl, Filter House (2008)

 I had read a story or two by Shawl, in anthologies like Dark Matter, so I was already aware of how talented of a writer she is.  I remember seeing a description of this book on Jeff's site and he was kind enough to put me in touch with L. Timmel Duchamp, the publisher of Aqueduct Press (and a fine writer in her own right), and she sent me a review copy of this book.

I loved it, of course.  14 stories, 3 of which are original to this anthology.  I believe I chose it as one of the best anthologies I read in 2008 and I know it received some consideration for some of the major US genre awards last year.

Lisa Tuttle, My Death (2004 original edition, 2008 Aqueduct edition)

This is one of two books that Jeff sent me a couple of years ago.  I never really got around to writing the full review of this novella that I wished, and I unfortunately don't have the time right now to re-read it,  so just a few simple words.

This is a story of an early 21st century novelist who decides to write the biography of Helen Ralston, an early 20th century author who is now somewhat obscure.  As the biographer investigates Ralston's life, some curious mysteries arise, mysteries that make for a compelling read.  Very, very enjoyable read.

L. Timmel Duchamp, De Secretis Mulierum (1995 original, 2008 Aqueduct)

This is the other book that was sent to me.  Originally a Locus recommended novella for 1995, this short little book is worthy of several re-reads.

It is, among other things, a story about research into the oddball claim that Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Aquinas were women in drag who successfully passed themselves off as men throughout their entire lives.  As the feminist grad student Jane L. Pendler investigates, more and more is revealed about how women have been portrayed in texts, fiction and non-fiction alike, over the years.  Certainly a thought-provoking read when I first read it and one that I will continue to re-read multiple times in the future.

Rachel Swirsky, Through the Drowsy Dark (2010)

As far as I know, this is Swirsky's first collection.  Contained within are ten stories and nine poems by Swirsky, apparently most, if not, all of which were written in the past few years (sadly lacking two 2009 stories published on, "Eros, Philia, Agape" and "A Memory of Wind," that I consider to be among the five best short fictions I've read that were published in 2009).

These stories and poems often focus on relationships, between men and women, women and women, and while some are erotic, others contain (not to the exclusion of the ones that are more overtly erotic) stories that are about heartbreak and longing.  Swirsky's characters feel so "real," with their frailties and insecurities bleeding through, that often there is a heartbreaking quality to several of these fictions.  Swirsky is a damn fine writer and considering how she has already been nominated for several awards and had some of her fiction chosen for anthologies such as Best American Fantasy 2, she will almost certainly continue to be an outstanding writer, whether she continues with short fiction or if she branches off and writes novels as well.  I conducted an interview with her some months ago for the Nebula site which should be going live very soon, so hopefully there will be more people who will shortly become aware of her work if they aren't already.

So there you have it:  four short appreciations for four books that I've read out of the 50 published by Aqueduct.  May there be 100 in the not-so-distant future.

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