This is, of course, not Indie April as normal. However, with businesses closed or operating solely online and everyone at home on lockdown, I think it’s important that readers, writers, editors, and publishers still take a little time to celebrate and promote our small presses this month, for whom this could be a tough time to keep afloat.
Below is a short list of the Scottish indies I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of being published by over the last five or so years.
(I’ve only included publishers still on the go, which means sadly leaving out the once-great fantasy zine Aether/Ichor, which I helped edit for a few years and shut up shop in January.)
Shoreline of Infinity
One of my absolute favourites – Scotland’s only sci-fi magazine and 2018 BFS Award winner for best periodical, Shoreline of Infinity. I’ve been reading and writing book reviews for Shoreline for years now, and one of the highlights of my writing career to date was having a short story published in it last year.
Secret Ingredients – a weird alien/crime cross-over I usually describe as “Kitchen Confidential meets Monsters, Inc.” – appeared in Issue 15 alongside work by some of the best contemporary SF writers in the UK, including Tim Major and Gareth L. Powell.
You can pick up any issue and be dazzled and enchanted by imaginative, high quality prose and poetry (it really is Scotland’s Interzone) but as a good starting place I’d recommend The Chosen from the First Age anthology – a collection of stories selected from Shoreline’s first ten issues which is currently free to download during the pandemic. (Other than that, I think Issue 14 is a real gem, featuring brilliant stories by Cat Hellisen and Rhiannon Grist.)
Edinburgh-based Monstrous Regiment has really made a splash over the past few years with its beautifully designed books, spanning both fiction (its colour-themed literary anthologies) and non-fiction (the now two volume Bi-bile – collections of essays about bisexuality).
My short story Plant Life, about a man who begins to plant memories in his garden with weird and wonderful results, appeared in MR’s second issue, Emerald – prose and poetry inspired by the colour green. My take is maybe a bit literal, but there is plenty more subtlety on offer with some fabulous and creepy tales by Kirsty Logan, Katie Dennison, and Rhiannon Grist (as namechecked above – Rhiannon creates amazingly inventive and spooky short stories in the Black Mirror vein, go and read!).
Monstrous Regiment has recently smashed a successful Kickstarter campaign to publish its latest nonfiction project So Hormonal – a collection of essays about hormones – and has also announced it will be publishing Ely Percy’s latest hybrid novel/short story collection Duck Feet. Keeping very busy on lockdown!
Contrary to what the name implies, Gutter Magazine is one of Scotland’s premier literary zines, high on the upper crust along with New Writing Scotland, publishing the likes of Jackie Kay, James Kelman, Ewan Morrison, and Louise Welsh while scooping up a whole bunch of awards throughout its ten year history.
In September 2015, having abandoned a job on the railway, I started writing again for the first time since leaving uni. The first thing I did was pen a partly autobiographical account of my time working nightshift on the rails – with a heavy dose of exaggeration and fictionalisation in the style of the beat gen heroes of my late teens – which somehow ended up on the pages of Gutter 14 (Published 2016). The Six-Foot appeared alongside work by legendary Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat and an interview with Darren McGarvey, who went on to win the Orwell Prize just a couple of years later. Though I now find my contribution a bit cringey and have no desire to reread it, the confidence boost that came with being published by Gutter in those early days was immense.
The launch of Gutter 21 – a BAME special created in collaboration with the Scottish BAME Writers’ Network and guest editors Alycia Pirmohamed and Jay G Ying – was sadly postponed because of the pandemic, but the issue can still be bought online, go ahead and check it out!
The Glasgow Review of Books
As well as thoughtful and incisive reviews, the Glasgow Review of Books also publishes fiction, poetry, and translations, all of which can be read for free online.
In October 2018, my short story There’s a Joab Oan appeared on the site. It follows psychic Deek and his long-suffering roommate (and ghost) Crookit Stan, who investigate a haunting and bicker about everything all the time. It can still be read here.
GRB is currently looking for a new poetry editor as the excellent Samuel Tongue is stepping down – check the website if you think you’re up to the challenge.
Speaking of Samuel Tongue, I had the pleasure of appearing on the same TOC as him in DTNT Anthology 001 at the end of last year.
DTNT (or Daytime Nightime, for those of you who don’t like acronyms) is a radio show on Glasgow Uni’s Subcity radio, hosted by Roslyn Potter. I appeared on an episode in January 2019 and read out some of my stories and picked some tunes, and was later asked by Roslyn to contribute a short story to the show’s first print anthology, a collection of work by DTNT’s guests that year.
Raumschach – a story about space and 3D chess – appeared alongside poetry by the aforementioned Samuel Tongue, prose by Michael Rennie, and lyrics by musician Jill O’Sullivan, of the excellent Glasgow bands Sparrow and the Workshop and Bdy Prts. (Extra cool for me was that the cover art by Studio Mama was inspired by my story!)
You can listen in to DTNT – now broadcasting from home – here.
The above is just a tiny slice of what’s going on in the vibrant Scottish indie publishing scene, covering those I’ve had the good fortune of being involved with personally. There are many more excellent indies currently working in Scotland, putting out important and entertaining original fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and comics. If you’re keen to dive in, here are a few more recommendations (most of whom are currently still able to deliver books): 404 Ink, BHP Comics, Blood Bath Lit Zine, Cranachan, Extra Teeth, Pushing Out the Boat, Tapsalteerie.