by Chris Reed
Longevity is not something you normally associate with the small press, so for a publisher's career to span more than two decades is quite remarkable. Yet David Memmott has not only been active that long, but he has also during that time quietly assembled a stable of contributors for which most other publishers would willingly give their right arms. The invitation for Back Brain Recluse to put together a collection of new material by these eminent writers, artists and poets as a celebration of David's career in publishing was therefore too good an opportunity to pass up.
In many ways, David Memmott has been the archetypal small press activist. First in the guise of Ice River, a small literary journal that ran for six issues in the late 1980s, and then as a book publisher under the Wordcraft of Oregon and Jazz Police imprints, he has shown a strong commitment to both introducing imaginative writers and supporting established writers whose work has been overlooked or marginalised by the commercial forces of mass culture.
However, a shared philosophy towards publishing is not all that BBR has in common with Wordcraft. When the New Science Fiction Alliance first set up its mail order catalogue back in 1989, Ice River was, thanks to the efforts of Dave W. Hughes of Works magazine, one of the first US speculative fiction titles that we imported for resale in the UK. Their earlier access to desktop publishing and affordable laser printers, allied with such strong, vibrant material, meant that these American magazines soon became our benchmarks for what we could - and should - be achieving in the British small press in the early 1990s.
One of these early imports was especially influential. With Misha as editor, New Pathways into Science Fiction and Fantasy began to break new ground by exploring more of a 'Literature of the Fantastic' or 'Literary SF'. Combined with its bold design, this magazine became a defining and lasting factor in BBR's development and, crucially, it was to have the same effect on David Memmott. Inspired as we were by the nascent field of speculative fiction, it was no surprise that the subsequent decade saw Back Brain Recluse and Wordcraft publish many of the same writers from both the UK and USA.
And so, whilst Angel Body and other Magic for the Soul is primarily a celebration of Wordcraft's achievements, most of its contributors should already be familiar to BBR's readers. Indeed, many names from our early years (including Misha herself) are making a welcome return to our pages with brand new material commissioned for this anthology, making this book just as much a new issue of BBR as the next volume in the Wordcraft Speculative Writers Series.
Angel Body also represents the completion of BBR's transformation from magazine to book format. The magazine itself went through numerous changes in direction, style and format as our tastes and technology evolved, so this latest move simply continues that sequence.
Having been for so long committed to discovering and introducing new writers, we now have the chance to focus on the other core role of the small press, to support established writers not recognised by the mass market. We already make a significant contribution as a small press distributor - who could have predicted that the NSFA's modest mail order efforts would become the BBR Catalogue of today? - but we also wanted to move our own publishing activities in a similar direction.
Starting this new era with Angel Body and other Magic for the Soul fulfils our objectives for BBR. Each of the contributors we've assembled from the Wordcraft stable speaks with refreshing clarity and confidence, and I'm delighted to be introducing some of them to British readers for the first time. Yet for all the talk of fresh starts, I feel this book's characteristically eclectic mix sees BBR as true to its roots as it ever was, and the reappearance of poetry and graphic narrative in our pages might even be described as a return to our roots.
I'd like to thank David and all the contributors for their candour, patience and enthusiasm for this project. It's been a joy to work with them on Angel Body, and I'm both proud and excited to be starting a new era of BBR from such a strong base.
Chris Reed, Editor/Publisher
Back Brain Recluse
Chesterfield, August 2002