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

STONE GODS by Adam Golaski, Now Available for Pre-Order

It’s been a long, weird road to get here, but Adam Golaski’s second collection of stories, Stone Gods, is now available for preorder at the NO home page: https://no-press.org.

NO Press would not have come to be had I not reached out to Adam about his extraordinary first collection, Worse Than Myself. I had never read anything quite like it. Through our correspondence, Mooncalves first took shape as an idea, and thus NO. I always had the notion that I would return to publish more of his work, and I’m profoundly proud and excited to do so.

Stone Gods comprises 15 stories over 224 pages. In “Stone Head”, a man waiting for his family to return home finds his world and himself changed by the appearance of a strange monument in his backyard. In “The Great Blind God Passed Through Us,” a girl visits her family in a village where justice demands the observance of old customs. In “Wild Dogs”, strange animals stalk a man whose night on the town goes from bad to worse. In “Open Houses”, a skater dares himself to ride through a cemetery, only to find within it a strange replica of his own home.

For me, the work in this collection strikes an uncanny balance between the most unnerving scenes of David Lynch and Robert Aickman’s tales of unaccountable disturbances affecting regular people.

Stone Gods is a first printing of 300 professionally printed, perfect-bound paperbacks, featuring cover art by the wonderful Anna MacLeod and design from HR Hegnauer, who also designed Mooncalves. This one comes with a luxury matte cover stock that is quite beautiful, if I can say so myself.

You can read an interview with Adam over at Plutonian Press. You can hear him read his story “Distant Signals”, from Mooncalves, over at The Outer Dark.

Some advance praise for Stone Gods:

“Golaski’s exploration of the human experience through the supernatural is immersive and self-exploratory. The final story, ‘A Rainbow Summer,’ employs storytelling itself as a potent instrument. A father breathes life into the animals in Noah’s Ark, masterfully capturing the very essence of Stone Gods and what Golaski achieves within these memorable, sharply crafted stories.”
– Publisher’s Weekly Booklife, “editor’s pick” review

“In measured prose, Golaski’s work recalls that of H.P. Lovecraft with surreal shades of Leonora Carrington’s or Silvina Ocampo’s work. Logic goes out the window in these atmospheric, symbolic tales. A celebration of the strange, cleverly told across stylistic forms.”
– Kirkus

“Adam Golaski’s Stone Gods is an essential entry into the modern canon of the strange story. With hypnotic prose and bold stylistic strokes, these stories poke holes through reality’s thin spaces, destabilizing the dream of normalcy and letting the unknowable peer inside. By turns unsettling, horrifying, and beguiling, there is no safe space inside these pages or — once you’ve read Stone Gods — outside of them either.”
– Gordon B. White, author of As Summer’s Mask Slips, And Other Disruptions

“Adam Golaski’s Stone Gods is a subversive distillation of literary dexterity and allegory, both personal and universal.  By the time we notice one of life’s anomalies, readers will find that Golaski has already captured it, placed it under a cerebral bell jar, and altered his specimen into something both instructive and alchemically unconventional.”
—Clint Smith, author of The Skeleton Melodies

MOONCALVES Now on Kindle, Plus: Podcasts! And New Work from JAW McCarthy

Just wanted to swing by and spread the word that Mooncalves is now available digitally through the Amazon Kindle store! It looks quite good. If you’ve read it, or you know someone who has, have them throw us a review, yeah? There or over on Goodreads. I’m not even asking for charitable takes, though obviously I appreciate them. Personally, when I’m looking for new books to read, I trust public reception more and more the farther it roams from perfect 5 star consensus. In my view, a 3.75 is a true 5.

Last week, I made a personal appearance on the Elder Sign podcast to discuss Brian Evenson’s (of Mooncalves fame!) wonderful 2009 story “Windeye”, collected in the book of the same name from Coffee House Press. It was incredible fun; there are few things I love more than a deep read (which contributes to the agony and ecstasy of being an editor). I also led into that discussion by talking a little bit about how Mooncalves came about.

I also recorded an interview with the inimitable Anya Martin at The Outer Dark, a forum close to my heart, specifically about Mooncalves, and I solicited nine (9!) excerpt recordings from Adam Golaski, JAW McCarthy, Glen Hirshberg, Ernest Ogunyemi, Janalyn Guo, Lisa Tuttle, Chelsea Sutton, Jamie Corbacho, and Briar Ripley Page… I believe at this point we’re planning to split those readings into two episodes, because Anya is magnanimous that way.

The season’s turning itself here in Oregon – not quite as dramatic (dare I say romantic) as the big swings in Colorado, but I am adjusting nicely. And Spring always brings out an urge to create in me. In a few weeks’ time I hope to have NOPE#2 moving into the publication pipeline, for a target of August 2023.

Beyond that? Provided I meet with no catastrophes I would like to release more collections, or perhaps a series of chapbooks… There are so many great writers I want to work with, to continue working with. It’s just a matter of considering my resources and ensuring I can do right by the people I work with.

Next up on this blog will be a short (and I have to admit, tardy) interview with the aforementioned Brian Evenson. Though now that I’ve reread most of the Windeye collection, I have more thoughts simmering. It may well go up after the Outer Dark episode. We’ll see where things go.

Last but not least, our own JAW McCarthy is releasing her first short novel, entitled Sleep Alone (Outer Limits Press), in exactly one week from the time of this writing. I know she’s been working on it for a minute, and there’s no doubt in my mind it will match or even surpass the quality of her short stories. I’ve got my copy pre-ordered; get yours!

Until next time…


A Week of Kindness

This past week I announced that I’d be converting all revenues from Mooncalves from that particular week to donations toward two LBTQ+ charities out UK way, Galop and the Scottish Trans Alliance.

The amount raised was respectable – I was hoping for more, but perhaps due to my limited reach, or the limited funds of people out there in the world these days (I’m sure many folks have already given to local or national charities), the turnout was modest. In any event, I’m grateful.

All told, we raised $166.05 over the course of the week — I’m including shipping costs in that and after converting currencies I’m throwing in some of my own walking around money to bring it all to a cool 200 pounds sterling (what’s the shortcut for the pound currency symbol? I’ll never find out) which comes out ultimately to approx $242.04 American. Not bad!

Here’s our receipt from Galop:

100 lbs to Galop!

And from the Scottish Trans Alliance:

Thank you to everyone who donated and spread the word! And to everyone fighting for the lives of people made, senselessly, to struggle. To me you are a diamond.

Next up — I have to transcribe that Brian Evenson interview I was talking about. And I have a reading from the inimitable Christi Nogle after that! And more author interviews. Talk soon.

February 2023, and A Week of Trans Charity From MOONCALVES

A depiction of the Mooncalves cover by the incredible, beautiful soul called Edith Zimmerman.

I just wanted to stop by and let everyone know that, for the remainder of 2/20 all the way to the end of 2/26, all proceeds from the sale of Mooncalves (that is to say, all money not tied up in shipping costs) will be donated to trans support charities across the pond – Galop UK, and the Scottish Trans Alliance. This goes for digital as well as hardcover orders.

I’ll tally up sales at the end of the week and split the pot between the two. I’m hoping I can raise at least $500.

If you’ll allow me explanation of this decision: God knows the state of protection and support for trans people is bad all over right now, and fascist assaults on them are underway all throughout the United States, but TERFism (we at NO long for its death) was first made urbane and anodyne-seeming in the UK and exported to us here in the US, through popular genre publishing no less. I want to help where that rotted seed took root, and also to spit in the eye of self-satisfied manufacturers of consent in any small way I can.

I don’t make the money of a children’s fiction behemoth, but I want to support, materially, however I can. Trans people have graced my life in my family, as friends, as co-conspirators, and as features in the tapestry of daily life in the places I have lived. They do not deserve the bullshit they’re subject to. They never have and they never will.

Speaking personally, and to be perfectly direct on this subject: I believe the vector through which the project of anti-Trans genocide has spread its poison in America, and the pretense by which the managerial center comprising our Democratic party has reneged on meaningful opposition to it, has been the centrist compromise with the right wing that parents of children should have an immutable and privileged control over the lives (often literally) of those children. By this dogma the experiences, decisions, thoughts, and desires of children are the last possible thing considered. This is the liberal compromise that has led to this point.

To that end, I recommend that anyone read the work of Sophie Lewis and other scholars and journalists in the field of family abolition. This radical program sites, in part, the construction of the family unit as essential to oppression and abuse. The reality of this idea can be plainly seen in our current march toward principled, policy-enabled genocide. I just wanted to make that clear. Family abolition now.

Beyond that, it’s been a month since the release of Mooncalves as a book sold here on the NO site, and as of this writing I’ve sold 130 of the 250 hardcover copies I’ve had made. I consider that a healthy number, and the proceeds are likewise healthy; NOPE#2, Adam Golaski’s collection Stone Gods, is well-funded and moving at a brisk pace by this point, and I am looking into more projects in the coming year. More on that as it develops.

It’s worth mentioning, if it was not already clear, that the digital version of the book is now on sale through the NO Press site. It will be available for Kindle devices in the US and UK on March 6th. Though obviously, I make more if you buy from here 😉 I’ve looked into the possibility of an audiobook, but given the wide range of voices and perspectives brought to the stories, I’m not sure what the best practice is there.

In terms of continuing marketing efforts, I’m just about to pull the trigger on some good old-fashioned ads but have also booked two podcast appearances, one a grand and humbling showcase of Mooncalves (including author readings) on the mighty Outer Dark podcast, and a critical conversation on the Elder Sign podcast regarding Mooncalves contributor Brian Evenson’s classic story “Windeye”, which will also hopefully serve to expose our book to the masses.

I also have a short interview with dear Brian to do a little editing on and to post here, following last week’s talk with the magnificent Christi Nogle.

Thanks to everyone for making Mooncalves a success. I am beyond humbled. It simply does not feel real. As I write this, I’m waiting for new shipping boxes to arrive, as with 130 units sold, I am exactly one (1) order confirmed beyond my current stock of shipping materials. But that, and any new orders put in to support those wonderful trans causes, will be going out ASAP.

Until next time!

John WM Thompson, Proprietor and Haunted Thing

An Interview with Christi Nogle

The air conditioning whirred, television cackled in the living room, water boiled, the microwave made its grinding noise. All of this going, and still she heard her father say, “Maxine.” It wasn’t harsh, like a command. If anything, he sounded amused. She went into the living room, and he was not there.

“Night, When Windows Turn To Mirror”, by Christi Nogle

When I first began to conceive of the Mooncalves anthology, I had a list of authors I thought might fit into it, but as there was no theme, it was an open question of how they would do so. I solicited stories from numerous authors, and the first story that felt strongly “of” the anthology was “Night, When Windows Turn To Mirror” by Christi Nogle. I offered to acquire it immediately, and in many ways it set the tone and opened the door for what came after it. It set, as they say, the vibe.

I reached out to Christi to talk about “Night…”, her relationship to writing, and her recent work (including Beulah, her debut novel from Cemetery Gates).

NO Press: One of the things that intrigued me about this story was its use of juxtaposition: Maxine’s chaotic rooms against her father’s orderliness, her definition within spaces against his constant slipping, the way that one pole seems to pull at the other as the story literally and figuratively expands. From where did these originate? Did you set off with them or did they reveal themselves in the text? Did you guide them or did they guide you?

Christi Nogle: Yes, there is a certain messiness associated with Maxine. I suppose I associate chaos with vitality. A closet strewn with clothes and a bathroom littered with all sorts of products indicate someone who is busy and off in search of adventure—or someone who wants to see herself that way. The “cup of stars” episode from The Haunting of Hill House haunts this story, I think. Maxine is someone who’s given up on so many aspirations, not least of which is a vision of who she might have become, and the story finds those hopes reawakening.  

As for the inspiration or origins of what happens in the story, . . . it’s complicated. One place where this story originates is my own tendency to get lost. I’ll find myself in a part of town or in a building I’ve visited many times, find myself surprised by areas I do not recall ever seeing before. I often dream about cities and buildings that change and expand, and I love encountering such things in books, such as in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves

NP: At first glance there are two repeating movements in the story: The expansion of space, and the losing track of things previously unmentioned, both of which have the weird and unresolvable qualities of dream. Does the story continue on beyond the text, in your mind? Is the situation something that will ever truly dawn on Maxine? What do you suspect would happen if it did?

CN: These are fascinating questions! No, I do not think Maxine ever could work out the mystery of what is happening to her. It’s her life; it’s never going to be entirely clear. 

In one way, the story is larger in my mind. There are more rooms that Maxine explores and more entities she encounters on the first and second floors. In another sense, no; the story does not continue past what happens in its final lines. She’s decided to go down to the basement, and that’s the end of her, as a character at least. 

NP: Was there anything forbidding, anything that spooked you while writing this story? Anything in the telling that invited you in, seemingly for its own motives? Did you accept or reject that invitation?

CN: There are some moments in the story that spooked me a bit, such as the windows seeming to be covered in black fabric, as well as the events on the second floor. 

NP: Last year you published your first novel, Beulah, a wonderful story of a life in haunting, via Cemetery Gates Media. How has the completion of that project affected your work since? What’s next on the horizon for you?

CN: Beulah is a work I am very proud of, and I hope your readers will pick up a copy. I have one novel and have completed over a hundred short stories, so I still see myself very much as a short story writer, but the greatest effect of Beulah was to show that I can write a novel even though it is more difficult than a short. Ever since completing the book, though I spend most of my time on short fiction, I have been working on a second novel titled All My Really Good Friends, as well as planning other longer works for the future. 

NP: Is there anything in your work that seems to recur, anything that came up during the drafting of this story that seemed to visit from another?

CN: Oh yes. The back cover copy for my first short story collection actually sums it up nicely. It was shortened a bit to fit, but the original went like this: “Beware: this book is filled with Virginia Creeper, decaying and expanding houses, unrecognizable faces in the mirror, cosmic parasites, complicated love affairs, deserts and desert flowers, towers of water-damaged books, unreliable narrators, frustrated artists, trees and sculptures depicting trees, algae and fungi, a multitude of windows and doors, several grandmothers, pies, puppies with human features, dollhouses, homunculi, dream imagery, and many, many ghosts. ”

So, though “Night, When Windows Turn to Mirror” is not in this collection (It will be appearing later in a collection titled One Eye Opened in That Other Place), it still circles around some of those same topics such as domesticity and caring for the elderly, the decaying and expanding dream house, questions about identity, etc.

NP: Beyond this antho, what else are you working on? What’s coming down the pike for you?

CN: Recent and forthcoming books are Beulah, an anthology I co-edited with Willow Dawn Becker of Weird Little Worlds called Mother: Tales of Love and Terror, and my debut short story collection from Flame Tree Press called The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future. Recent stories include “Millions” in Cosmic Horror Monthly, “The Pack” in Underland Arcana, “Out at the Old Trestle” in Campfire Macabre II, and “Naked Shark” in Tales From Between. Also watch for more story collections from me in 2023 and 2024 as well as the forthcoming anthology Wilted Pages: An Anthology of Dark Academia, to be co-edited with Ai Jiang and published by Alan Lastufka’s new press Shortwave Publishing, planned for August 2023.

Thank you to Christi for talking with us, and for writing such amazing work!

Update: MOONCALVES in Transit, Imminent Promo, and NOPE#2

Greetings from NO! First, I must apologize for my relative silence (I feel like I’ve done that before, and if so, again); I meant to get the ball rolling on promotion for Mooncalves over the last month and a half, but life conspired to distract me. Long story short, I was laid off from my previous position in early October, and my job search consumed two months of my day-to-day. I considered mentioning that, here on the blog, but even as this change did not and has not affected Mooncalves‘s status, doing so would have only raised concerns to be addressed, and I had neither time nor energy to field that own-goal.

As of yesterday, two things happened: I gained employment once again, and the entire run of Mooncalves hardcovers began shipping to the new NO HQ in Corvallis, Oregon. It should arrive before the end of the year, and contributor copies will be going out soon thereafter. I’m moving from Denver for my new job job, and while the move will take time and money, over the next few months my income should be increasing quite substantially; there is a real possibility that NO could spread its wings. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Mooncalves is not a business venture, in that I didn’t factor in potential sales in the cost of making it real.

So after my move next week, I’m committing to doing some promo, here on the blog, and hopefully elsewhere. I’ll also fully build out the preorder/ordering page (you can currently preorder here: https://no-press.org/mooncalves/) to reflect all the details of what you’ll be getting. Look out for that in the coming weeks!

Beyond that, I’ve signed NO’s second release: the third collection from Adam Golaski, tentatively titled Stone Gods. Adam’s work has always captivated and shaken me, and this collection is, I dare to say, his most startling work yet. So if Mooncalves is NO Press Editions #1, Stone Gods will be NOPE#2. It will get its own post soon.

One other bit of housekeeping, certainly not the least: Given that I’m my own boss, I’ve reflected on the previously announced June release date for Mooncalves, and given that Stone Gods will more than likely be ready for sale around that time, I’m planning on bumping Mooncalves up its original April release, perhaps even earlier. It may depend on the promo I can put together; I feel I owe it to my authors not to be haphazard about it.

Everything is coming together, the culmination of years of work. At this point, waiting is the hardest part.

With love,
John WM Thompson

It is all Happening: Mooncalves Printing, Galleys, Release Date

Hello for the second time! Quiet as this site has been over the last six months (???) much has happened in the interim. I’m here with you now, dear reader, to speak on those developments.

In a nutshell: Save for the half of payment due on delivery of the hardcovers, everyone involved with MOONCALVES has been paid in full for their hard work. McNoughton & Gunn have been contracted for the printing – white linen, blue foil stamping beneath the dust jacket – but with that industry in a bit of a state due to supply chain issues, there is a pretty significant delay. There’s just no getting around it.

This puts the delivery of the books at approximately 12/29/22. People far more seasoned than me in the publishing business have advised me to provide a cushion between product delivery and initial sale. Ergo, I’m moving the release date, such as it is, from March 31 to July 2023.

I’m hoping to be at Readercon in Quincy, Massachusetts from July 13 to 16, 2023. The plan would be to hawk in person there (keeping in reserve however many preorders this thing gets) and maybe hold some kind of event. We’ll see!

That pushing of the date will also give extra time for promo readers / potential blurb writers. One of the lessons I’ve learned winging my first project as a publisher is that the workflows involved can clash with one another… I elected to have the stories in Mooncalves copyedited a la carte as they were accepted, which left us with a more or less fully proofed manuscript when the final acceptance was confirmed (some of my slips were caught after that point by beta readers Adam Golaski and Chris O’Halloran, to whom I owe a debt).

Still, this meant that the inclusion of blurbs and the introduction I had arranged in the printed product became complicated. With the printer requiring finalized material before I could secure a spot on the calendar, and delays already significant, I elected to leave out those elements from the hardcover. They will be present in the digital version.

I contracted a smaller printing service with extremely quick turnaround to crank out 25 softcover galleys. They arrived over my August vacation. The cover turned out just a tad darker in shade than it should have, but they couldn’t avoid being pretty, given HR Hegnauer’s design work. Contra the cover warning, the text in it is final:

One of 25 paperback Mooncalves galleys, printed via Bookbaby

Of the 25 copies, a good half have already been sent out to reviewers, writers, and blurbing folk who prefer paper to digital print. I’d like to hold some copies for annual best-of consideration come 2023. The work in Mooncalves is certainly worthy. People who’ve read it already have their favorites.

As to what happens after July 2023, I have some idea of what I’d like to publish – I have already read some very exciting things – but there’s nothing else to announce just yet. Soon.

I really cannot wait for you to read these stories.