Introduction and Mooncalves Status Report, February 2022

By way of introduction, my name is John, and this is the site for NO Press. Our first venture is an anthology of original fiction called Mooncalves, featuring stories solicited from authors acclaimed and unsung, and due for release in early April 2023. In this introductory post I’ll explain how Mooncalves came to be and explain where it is, as a project, in February 2022.

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been less than a year since I sent out the first exploratory messages and emails regarding what would become Mooncalves. Time has moved strangely enough with the pandemic that, as of this writing, continues to befall us. The notion of becoming a publisher occurred to me in June 2021. I was visiting family in a somewhat remote part of Oregon, and the pandemic had me feeling cooped up even when I wasn’t. During that time I could either be found reading (at that time, M. John Harrison’s The Course of the Heart and the NYRB edition of William Sloane’s The Rim of Morning / The Edge of Running Water) or riding bikes while listening to John Langan’s The Fisherman. Drought was hitting western Oregon hard, but you wouldn’t know it by looking; everything was still green.

I could call Mooncalves and NO Press a response to those conditions, to the surrealism of living through crises that, contra the movies, could be and were ignored by the engines of American life (and subsequently generated, is still generating, mass death). But mostly I loved fiction, wanted to support it, wanted to generate what I personally liked and aspired to read. I have loved short fiction since I was a boy reading Philip K. Dick’s “Upon the Dull Earth” in the bleachers at football games, brushing falling snow off the pages.

In recent years I’d come to admire the curation of outlets like Undertow Press, Tor and Ellen Datlow, the Nightscript collections, Black Static, New Genre. As much as I loved them, I was seeing many of the same names repeated in extant markets, editors’ stables developing, TOCs partially calcifying year to year. I loved horror fiction and “the weird” but I longed to see preserved a borderlands of genre, from which certain elements could exist immanently within the fiction, where the fiction could exist without demand for a particular named allegiance. Even “weird fiction” had become, in my view, codified to some extent.

I wanted to see more of that unnamed, nationless fiction. I wanted to preserve – or perhaps create – the borderland. Mine was a gnostic feeling: If I described the ideal thing that I was looking for, it would wilt and dissipate. So with that same spirit of pretense I use to describe all of this, I set to create a space for that fiction to exist. Hence NO Press, and Mooncalves.

I’d been corresponding with some writers I admired, discussing the faint possibility of a periodical, but I was conscious of the continual effort it would require to maintain. The better suggestion put to me was an anthology in hardcover. Having just read and admired such releases from Centipede Press and Tartarus Press, the idea took root very quickly. I hired HR Hegnauer to create a mock cover, from Odilon Redon’s painting Head Within An Aureole, and looked to the aforementioned presses for measures of quality that I wanted to meet in printing.

I resolved from very early on not to open submissions to the public, at least for this first book. I sent pitches tailored to each writer I wanted to solicit (this is less work than it appears; if you know who you want, you’ll be able to tell them why why) with the promise of payment on draft acceptance. I think because of those efforts my response rate has been, from what I understand, unusually high. Mooncalves is not a themed anthology, but my initial pitches to writers requested (after Brian Evenson and Eugene Thacker) a kind of horror in which it’s unclear whether the wrongness is in the world of the story, or in its characters. Later on, as the anthology began to assert its own shape, this pitch changed to what M. John Harison called “Anti-Pavlovian” writing: formally experimental and cleaving toward the uncertain.

8 months after those first emails, counting the 14 stories I’ve bought, copyedited and sequenced plus the small handful that are informally accepted and in revision, I’ve got roughly 80,000 words of a prospective 90-100. I expect the final manuscript to come together in April or May; I’m currently exploring the exciting world of printing and storefront logistics.

By May, I’ll also have endsheet illustrations in graphite from Justine Neuberger – here’s an early draft of one such illustration:

Art by Justine Neuberger

The current confirmed Mooncalves Table of Contents includes stories by:

  • L. Marie Wood
  • Mark Meyer
  • Ernest Ògúnyẹmí 
  • Thomas Mavroudis
  • Sofia Samatar
  • Briar Ripley Page
  • Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Lisa Tuttle
  • Adam Golaski
  • Christi Nogle
  • JAW McCarthy
  • Janalyn Guo
  • Glen Hirshberg
  • Elwin Cotman
  • More to be announced…

Once the final manuscript is complete and the TOC set in stone, I’ll begin author interviews and other entertainments in the leadup to April 2023. An electronic version of the book will be rendered after a period of a few months. I hope to produce an audio version, but all my focus is presently on the print version of Mooncalves.

Cover Mockup by HR Hegnauer

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re as excited for this strange little book as I am. More to come!
John WM Thompson

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