Subterraneans & Reviews

These days I am wrapping up much post production work related to the Danish short story publication, De underjordiske (tr. The Subterraneans) by Thomas Strømsholt, the first hardcover from my small press. I really like how the final product has turned out–nice wrap-around cover (some copies in the first shipment are marred by cutting errors, but that is being taken care of), fine quality of the hardcover itself, and with, if I do say so myself, quite fine typesetting and design inside the book.

I have high hopes for it, and I wish for it to succeed. For financial reasons? Sure. The main reason, though, is that I wish the author success. In fact, I really hope that this can be his springboard to something bigger. He is such a talented writer, and he deserves as much success as possible, more than I can give with my press. Of course, much of this will likely depend on reviews.

Reviews. Ah, such a simple, easily understood word, but oh so elusive to get in real life. There are times when I think it is the small press’ equivalent to the will-o’-wisp playing in the dangerous swamps. I know, of course, that reviews for books in the… hm… shall we say specialized genres?… are difficult to come by. That goes everywhere in the world. It certainly does in Denmark.

Let me clarify: I have been fortunate. All my books have received reviews, and I am grateful for that. The Danish ones, however, still have not managed to go beyond the review in fan-based publications (online or on paper). A kind of review that is very important, and for which I am truly grateful. My first English publication, Eldritch Horrors: Dark Tales ( Vol. 1), was granted Honorary Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s splendid collection, Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 2 (see e.g. if you don’t believe me), something I consider quite an honor. My first publication in English? Wow!

Now, of course, in Denmark we don’t have such high-profile “Best of” publications. It is a much, much smaller market. No surprise there, since there are only about 5 million people in Denmark (yes, that’s true). So you can imagine how tiny the market is for specialized genre literature, in actual sales numbers. It is to be expected. Nonetheless I hope that Strømsholt’s collection will manage to break the mold, and receive a review or two in more established papers. It is less of a specialized collection than what I have published before (less Lovecraft, if you will), with far fewer edit errors etc. than ever before, and is probably the most beautiful book I have produced so far. Oh–and the stories are simply great! Mesmerizing, strange, chilling. Strømsholt is not “only” a weird tale writer, he is, at heart, a poet. (A dangerous word nowadays, yeah, I know; but one can always hope, right?) And the collection is, at the same time, the most “mainstream”-like book from my press. So, if nothing else, this book has the best chance of being reviewed in some of the established venues here in Denmark, compared to my other publications.

I hope so. The author deserves it. And, trust me, the readers out there, who just haven’t heard of him yet, deserve it.

Next book in line from H. Harksen Productions is the second hardcover from my small press, Hex Code and Others by John Mayer. Mayer was a friend of noted horror writer, the late Karl Edward Wagner, and this is the first time stories by Mayer see print. To some extent this too can be said to be less specialized than what I have so far published in English. Yes, there is a certain Lovecraftian and, especially, Cthulhu Mythos element in the novella story, “Hex Code,” but it is much more than a Mythos pastiche… In fact, it is not a Mythos pastiche at all. No, it is a loving tribute to pulp fiction, action stories, weird tales, horror tales and classic writers in those genres. Not to mention: A darn good story in itself. One that also gives you food for though. The short stories in the collection are not very Lovecraftian at all, but are homages to those genres–and, btw, Wagner plays a role in one of the stories.

This may be Mayer’s first publication of stories. Quite an impressive first collection, if you ask me. But for many years he made a living as painter and illustrator, and to also have him illustrate the collection is a treat for all who enjoy weird tale drawings. Just you wait, just you wait…

Don’t believe me? Hm. I think I just might add an illustration from the book later this week…

I don’t know if Hex Code and Others will be reviewed by established papers and venues. I hope so, and will try to make it happen. The author deserves it, and here too I think that there are many readers who deserve it; who would appreciate a reviewer bringing their attention to the kind of book that exists most of the time below the surface, below the radar, of many a reader. We, the weird tale afficionados, know this to be true–we know that most people, even if they occasionally appreciate a genuine thrill down their spine, don’t realize that there are publications beyond the million-selling bestsellers from the Big Houses that dominate the bookstore’s shelves. Because, let’s face it, that is the existence most weird tale publications have:

They are subterraneans.

But in November 2010 another of the denizens will break through, demanding attention…


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