Today begins the first of a series of “Best of 2015” lists curated by the entire CCM-Entropy community. We don’t mean these lists to be definitive, complete, or authoritative, we simply wish to represent some favorite selections as nominated by the diverse staff and team at Entropy and to try to pay some homage and respect to those who we think deserve it.
This list brings together some of the best small presses, publishers, magazines, and literary journals of 2015. This doesn’t mean necessarily those that were founded or started this year, just those we thought were doing particularly exciting & generous things this year and deserve a little bit of extra attention.
In no particular order:
Presses & Publishers.
1. Dorothy, A Publishing Project. Dorothy, a publishing project is dedicated to works of fiction or near fiction or about fiction, mostly by women.
2. Action Books.
“Action Books has been filling a gap in American publishing by translating works that are considered avant-garde masterpieces in other parts of the world into English. They’ve introduced Americans to writers from Sweden, Japan, Korea, Argentina, Chile… and the list goes on. They also published Tao Lin in the US before you knew who he was and had some dumb opinion about him, alongside a variety of other singular, shape-defying voices including big guns like Aase Berg, Kim Hyesoon, Don Mee Choi, Raúl Zurita, Hiromi Ito, and countless others.” — Blake Butler, VICE Magazine
3. Deep Vellum Publishing. Deep Vellum is a not-for-profit literary arts organization that seeks to enhance the open exchange of ideas among cultures and to connect the world’s greatest writers with English-language readers through original translations, while facilitating educational opportunities for students of translation in the Dallas community, and promoting a more vibrant literary community in north Texas and beyond.
4. Plays Inverse Press. Plays Inverse Press is an independent publisher of dramatic literature, publishing plays and performance texts based on literary merit rather than production records from new, established, and cross-genre writers. They believe, along with Faulkner, that “the aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life,” and that that, at its core, is the purpose of drama. They also agree with Artaud that “we are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theater has been created to teach us that first of all.”
5. Two Dollar Radio. Two Dollar Radio is an acclaimed family-run indie book publisher and film producer, proudly based in Columbus, Ohio. They’ve received praise from The Brooklyn Rail for publishing “some of the finest works of contemporary fiction in the past few years,” and The Los Angeles Times for providing the industry with “an air of possibility, the belief that the future was very much in play.” Publishing Perspectives dubbed Two Dollar Radio “a budding literary movement;” The Seattle Stranger envisioned them leading a “dream industry” out of the wreckage of corporate publishing.
6. Noemi Press. Noemi Press is a literary arts organization based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, dedicated to publishing and promoting the work of emerging and established authors and artists.
7. Penny-Ante Editions. Penny-Ante is a book publisher and an art-based project company.
8. Broken River Books. Broken River Books was founded in 2013 in Norman, Oklahoma by J David Osborne. Starting out as a weird crime fiction press, BRB has branched out into horror, bizarro, and even nonfiction books. While the overall genre of our titles might be hard to pin down, all of their releases are connected by their incredible prose, killer design, and anarchic spirit.
9. Birdcage Bottom Books. Birdcage Bottom Books was founded by J.T. Yost in 2008 with help from a Xeric grant. Their goal is to promote a variety of talented comic artists through both publication and distribution, focusing is primarily on limited-edition handmade mini-comics.
10. Jellyfish Highway. Jellyfish Highway is a new press showcasing unique and transformative works of literature.
11. Curbside Splendor. Curbside Splendor was conceived as a punk rock band in the early 1990s in an apartment in Urbana, Illinois. The band never really went anywhere, but Curbside was re-founded as an independent press in the fall of 2009. They publish fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry that celebrates extraordinary voices and work that is deeply rooted in the Midwest.
12. Coffee House Books. Coffee House Press is an internationally renowned independent book publisher and arts nonprofit based in Minneapolis, MN; through their literary publications and Books in Action program, CHP acts as a catalyst and connector—between authors and readers, ideas and resources, creativity and community, inspiration and action.
13. Copilot Press. Copilot Press is publishing as an arts practice. Each book is a collaboration between content and designer. Book artist Stephanie Sauer began by working in dialogue with the manuscript and the book as form, creating one-of-a-kind structures designed to let the content of each book bleed out onto your palms as you handle it, read it, interact with it.
14. Bloof Books. Bloof Books is collective poetry press based in Central New Jersey, publishing perfect-bound paperbacks as well as limited-edition handmade books and chapbooks.
15. Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg was the first provider of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971 and his memory continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today. Today Project Gutenberg offers over 50,000 free ebooks.
16. Timeless, Infinite Light. Timeless, Infinite Light is an Oakland-based small press that publishes contemporary writing with a tendency toward the experimental, radical, and mystical. They are committed to promoting critical poetic work by emerging and established writers, and they prioritize authors whose identities are often excluded from the literary mainstream. They believe in the radical potential of collaborative, hybrid, and embodied writing, and promote work that resists structures of oppression, both in form and content.
17. Two Lines Press. Two Lines Press is a program of the nonprofit Center for the Art of Translation. Two Lines Press exists to give American readers the opportunity to read some of the great work from outside our borders that they would not otherwise get to see. As the barriers between cultures continue to come down and more and more authors are finding inspiration in foreign lands, there’s all the more reason for us all to read the world. Two Lines Press endeavors to give readers another point of entry to this important international discussion—to see that great literature isn’t created by the background of the culture in which its produced but by the talent of the writer that produces it (and the translator that brings it to English).
18. Lazy Fascist Press. Lazy Fascist is an an imprint of Eraserhead Press. Lazy Fascist publishes authors who, through careful exploration of unique linguistic landscapes, create monstrous, unclassifiable fictions. They value explosive language over explosive weapons. They’ve published everything from minimalist dark comedies to meta-fictional SF, along with historical fiction, fairy tales for adults, and hybrid plays.
19. Eraserhead Press. Eraserhead Press is an independent publisher of bizarro fiction since 1999.
20. Solar Luxuriance. Texts and editions found within the heliocentric luxury of aberrant living.
21. Dark House Press. An imprint of Curbside Splendor publishing neo-noir, fantasy, science fiction, horror, literary, magical realism, transgressive, crime, surrealism, and the grotesque.
22. Graywolf Press. Graywolf Press is an independent publisher of thoughtful and imaginative contemporary literature.
23. Phoneme Media. Phoneme Media is a nonprofit publishing and film production house, dedicated to disseminating and promoting international literature through books and film. Phoneme Media exclusively publishes literature in translation.
24. The Unnamed Press. The Unnamed Press publishes literature from around the world. Whether it’s fiction, memoir or something in between, they are always interested in unlikely protagonists, undiscovered territories and courageous voices.
25. Switchback Books. Switchback Books is a nonprofit feminist press publishing poetry by women. Our definition of “women” is broad and includes transsexual, transgender, genderqueer, and female-identified individuals.
26. Pioneers Press. Pioneers Press is a publishing house and small-press distro focusing on survival and sustainability on the farm and in the city, in addition to health, gender, sexuality, social justice and food movements, and literary works by up-and-coming authors.
27. Ahsahta Press. Ahsahta Press champions and promotes surprising, relevant, and accessible experimental poetry that more commercially minded small presses avoid; in making it widely available, they aim to increase its readership.
28. Les Figues Press. Les Figues Press is a nonprofit literary organization and award-winning, independent publisher of poetry, prose, visual art, conceptual writing, and translation. They also curate and host literary events, including readings, conversations, performances, and art salons. Les Figues Press embraces a feminist criticality and editorial vision. They are interested in work that is aware of itself as a textual body within a history and culture marked (like physical bodies) by constructs of gender, race, class, and sexuality.
29. Ugly Duckling Presse. Ugly Duckling Presse is a nonprofit publisher for poetry, translation, experimental nonfiction, performance texts, and books by artists. UDP was transformed from a 1990s zine into a Brooklyn-based small press by a volunteer editorial collective that has published more than 200 titles to date. UDP favors emerging, international, and “forgotten” writers, and its books, chapbooks, artist’s books, broadsides, and periodicals often contain handmade elements, calling attention to the labor and history of bookmaking. UDP is committed to keeping its publications in circulation with our online archive of out-of-print chapbooks and our digital proofs program.
30. Civil Coping Mechanisms. Yeah, we’re majorly biased. But still, we’re coping.
Civil Coping Mechanisms (CCM) is a DIY kind of press. We take the same level of angst as our brethren in shunning those that would be in the immediate position of neglecting our efforts as artisans. We take the sentiment of doing it ourselves while stating to the tired publishing process, “To hell with it.” Why not do it our way? What only matters: Offering a space for the innovation so sorely shamed and disregarded as unmarketable by the major and indie presses too busy selling the next celebrity memoir, paper-thin creative nonfiction spine of lies, the wax-intellectual pursuits of yet-again the same vision wrapped in newer trim, or the same regurgitated genre-fiction and prose you’d expect would have become stale by now. Oh yes, we rant. This is our place. We’ll do as we damn well please.
Journals & Magazines.
1. The Offing. A Los Angeles Review of Books Channel, The Offing is an online literary magazine publishing creative writing in all genres and art in all media. The Offing publishes work that challenges, experiments, provokes — work that pushes literary and artistic forms and conventions, but understands that to do so requires a rigorous understanding of those forms and conventions. The Offing is a place for new and emerging writers to test their voices, and for established writers to test their limits.
2. The Collagist. The Collagist is a monthly journal published on the 15th of each month since August 2009. Each issue contains short fiction, poetry, essays, book reviews, and one or more excerpts from novels forthcoming from (mostly) independent presses. By publishing online, The Collagist seeks to provide access to powerful, progressive literature by both new and established writers to an ever-expanding audience.
3. The Atlas Review. The Atlas Review was founded in 2012 as a way to combat the institutional weight of the literary community. All submissions are vetted anonymously, allowing the work to stand above names, associates, and credentials. They believe that the strongest work will (and must) innately carry the most important elements of identity, elements that go beyond 75 word bios or accolades. Our work is who we are in the world.
4. Fireflies. Fireflies is a bi-annual print film magazine created between Berlin and Melbourne. Each issue assembles an international group of writers and visual artists to celebrate the work of two extraordinary filmmakers through personal essays, interviews and creative responses.
5. Literary Hub. Literary Hub is an organizing principle in the service of literary culture, a single, trusted, daily source for all the news, ideas and richness of contemporary literary life. There is more great literary content online than ever before, but it is scattered, easily lost—with the help of its editorial partners, Lit Hub is a site readers can rely on for smart, engaged, entertaining writing about all things books.
6. Fanzine. Though the About page on their website simply states: “The FANZINE is….” Fanzine has become an integral part of the literary community with its regular features, reviews, and articles.
7. Staging Ground Magazine. Staging Ground is an ongoing experiment in organizing, presenting, and publishing literary, visual, and dramatic arts. Started in 2011 with the idea to publish a slim, attractive magazine of experimental poetry and visual art, we soon branched out to present drama, publish translations, and publish artist web features.
8. Weird Sister. WEIRD SISTER explores the intersections of feminism, literature and pop culture. We feature essays, interviews, comics, reviews, playlists, secret diaries, and love letters written in invisible ink.
9. Catapult. Catapult is an innovative publishing venture created by the founders of Electric Literature and Black Balloon Publishing. The company includes a print and ebook publishing program of the highest literary caliber, a robust series of top-quality writing classes, a daily website of narrative nonfiction and fiction, and a community platform where emerging writers can share their work.
10. WhiskeyPaper. WhiskeyPaper/WhiskeyPaper Press is an online literary magazine/chapbook press founded & edited by 90s high school sweethearts/husband & wife superteam: Loran Smith & Leesa Cross-Smith.
11. Hazlitt. Hazlitt is a home for writers and artists to tell the best stories about the things that matter most to them. Be it art, sound, or text, fiction or non-fiction, humour or criticism, Hazlitt is essential Internet: humane, diverse, and committed to stories and writers not heard anywhere else.
12. Bone Bouquet. Bone Bouquet is a biannual print journal publishing the best new writing by female poets, from artists both established and emerging. Their aim to highlight the important literary work of women, who are often underrepresented in the writing community and popular media.
13. TENDERLOIN. tenderloin is a monthly journal that features 5-10 poems by a single author. the idea is a slow digestion. this is your gallery space. we invite you to walk around & take your time. look at the art.
14. Berfrois. Berfrois is a literary-intellectual online magazine. It is edited by Russell Bennetts. The site is updated daily.
15. Nautilus Magazine. Nautilus is a different kind of science magazine. They deliver big-picture science by reporting on a single monthly topic from multiple perspectives. Each issue combines the sciences, culture, philosophy, fiction, & graphic stories into a single story told by the world’s leading thinkers and writers. Beautifully designed and endlessly smart and insightful.
16. Sporklet. Sporklet is published quasi-monthly, features poetry & fiction, and occasionally includes solicited art, music, film…
17. Volume 1 Brooklyn. Founded in 2009, Volume 1 Brooklyn engages and connects the literary-minded from Brooklyn and beyond. Vol. 1 Brooklyn features short and long form content on our website and produces a number of free cultural events to bridge the gaps between various forms of culture and art. Vol. 1 Brooklyn seeks to motivate our community to explore and experience new writers, artists, musicians, and other people and projects we consider vital.
18. NOON. NOON is an independent not-for-profit literary annual published by NOON, Inc.
19. Lute & Drum. Lute & Drum is a beautifully-designed literary arts magazine.
20. Asymptote. Asymptote is an international journal dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing.
21. Harriet: The Blog – Poetry Foundation. The Poetry Foundation’s blog for poetry and related news.
22. Shotgun Seamstress zine. Old maximum rocknroll columns & new black punk rock thoughts.
23. The Volta. The Volta is a monthly, online multimedia site of poetry, criticism, poetics, video, conversation (audio), and interview (text).
24. Electric Literature. Electric Literature is a non-profit dedicated to amplifying the power of storytelling through digital innovation. Their mission is to ensure that literature remains a vibrant presence in popular culture by fostering digital innovation, supporting writers, building community, and broadening the audience for literary fiction.
25. The Toast. The Toast is a daily blog that publishes features on everything from literary characters that never were to female pickpockets of Gold Rush-era San Francisco. We’ve especially been loving Nicole Chung’s Adoption series.
27. The Feminist Wire. The Feminist Wire provides socio-political and cultural critiques of anti-feminist opinions, practices, orientations, etc., that block or limit the satisfaction of goods or ends that humans minimally require for maintaining a biological life.
28. Prelude. Prelude is a journal of poetry and criticism based in New York.
29. Fence. Founded in 1998 by Rebecca Wolff, Fence is a biannual journal of poetry, fiction, art, and criticism that has a mission to redefine the terms of accessibility by publishing challenging writing distinguished by idiosyncrasy and intelligence rather than by allegiance with camps, schools, or cliques. It is Fence‘s mission to encourage writing that might otherwise have difficulty being recognized because it doesn’t answer to either the mainstream or to recognizable modes of experimentation. Fence is long-term committed to publishing from the outside and the inside of established communities of writing, seeking always to interrogate, collaborate with, and bedevil other systems that bring new writing to light.
30. Entropy. Of course. We’re biased. But we can give ourselves a pat on the back. We’re happy to be here and we’re happy for you to have us. Entropy is a website that seeks to engage with the literary community, that becomes its own community, and creates a space for literary and non-literary ideas.
PS. Entropy loves small presses. Check out our Small Press Database. Are you a small press that wants to be included? Or do you know of one that should be? Email our Small Press Editor Dennis Sweeney.