Welcome back! Today, I’m pleased to spotlight Sam Cowan. Sam is the founder of Dim Shores, a specialty press for chapbooks and other publications that focus on weird fiction. Previous titles have included Anya Martin’s Grass, Kristi DeMeester’s Split Tongues, and Michael Griffin’s An Ideal Retreat, among other releases.
Earlier this month, Sam and I discussed the genesis of Dim Shores as well as the hotly anticipated anthology, Looming Low.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become an editor, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I don’t really consider myself an editor. I select manuscripts, and I proofread and copyedit them, but that’s about it. As for favorite authors, today it’s Thomas Ligotti, William Gibson, S.P. Miskowski, and Cody Goodfellow. It changes day to day, depending on what I’m reading and thinking about.
What inspired you to start Dim Shores? Additionally, what first drew you to weird fiction, and where do you see the genre heading in the future?
I read “The Call of Cthulhu” in an anthology when I was 11 or 12 and it really stood out to me. That got me interested in Lovecraft, and from there it just progressed. I had not heard the term “cosmic horror” but that is what grabbed me so hard, that feeling of insignificance. 30-something years later I attended NecronomiCon Providence 2013 and for the first time met other people, in person, who were interested in the same kinds of things I was. The experience really charged me up.
In 2014, I went to the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland (much closer to home for me) and saw many of the same people, and met more new folks. I was friends with Michael Griffin and wanted to do something fun, so I bootlegged all of his stories I could find online and put them in a chapbook, with an introduction by Justin Steele (another convention friend). I enjoyed the process of making the chapbook and started thinking about doing it for real. It took a little while to get going, but Dim Shores debuted in March 2015.
Weird fiction is a broad term and I think it will only get broader. The voices and perspectives will continue to get more diverse, a very exciting prospect for writers and readers alike.
Looming Low, the anthology that you’ve co-edited with Justin Steele, is due out later this year. The authors in the table of contents are magnificent, and the cover art is truly stunning. What can readers expect from the stories within?
Thank you! Marcela Bolívar and Yves Tourigny both nailed it. Their styles are very different but both pieces evoke a feeling that something strange and probably dark is about to happen.
Looming Low is unthemed. Our guidelines called for unsettling, literary speculative fiction and that is exactly what we got. The 26 stories vary greatly in length but there is a certain tone that carries through. Some stories could probably be considered dark fantasy, and a couple blur the line between science fiction and horror, but they all exist in the same general emotional space.
Justin and I agreed at the start that we would only include stories that we both felt strongly about. There were a few we disagreed on so they didn’t make it in, but for the most part we were in sync. We planned to whittle the TOC down to 20 entries but couldn’t get lower than 26, there was so many great stories.
The first issue of Resist and Refuse recently debuted through Dim Shores. How has putting together a magazine been the same or different from your usual workload at Dim Shores?
The process and experience of making Resist and Refuse was very different. I usually work on one or two chapbooks at a time, so I’m dealing with two or four people. Resist and Refuse involves about 25 people and was a more difficult project logistically. It was an impulsive reaction to the last election cycle, not just to Trump but to the proudly ignorant movement that gave him the win. I was horrified and wanted to do something and this is what I ended up doing.
It was also quite different in that the page size is considerably larger (8.5×11, chapbooks are 6×9) and there are many more graphics. The chapbooks include three interior illustrations that generally take up a whole page. To make R&R feel more like a periodical I added a bunch of photos, art, and pull quotes to fill up pages. There are still some holes but I’m happy with it.
As an editor, what advice do you have for writers out there? Anything that you see frequently as an editor that writers shouldn’t do, or perhaps things you see writers doing well that they should keep doing?
As a copyeditor my only suggestions are about technical issues. There is no need to double-space sentences, and for the love of all that’s good in this rotten world, don’t use a tab or even worse a bunch of spaces to indent a paragraph. Word has an auto-indent feature, it’s great. Run spell check before you submit a document. And If you are purposefully using incorrect grammar somewhere, mention that to the editor.
I love your posts on Facebook when you’re editing work for Dim Shores while having a beer at the local pub. That seems very much like you’re doing publishing the right way. So keeping with that theme, have you found that certain writers’ works pair particularly well with certain styles of beer?
I read different types of work but my beer palate is pretty limited. I usually drink IPAs, sometimes red or pale ales, and occasionally I enjoy a good stout. I find that pretty much everything pairs better with everything else when beer is involved. I do sometimes drink scotch when I read Laird Barron though, it just seems right. Reading and editing while eating and drinking at the pub was one of my favorite things. Despite my dutiful patronage, the pub recently closed. I’m waiting to see if someone else opens it back up, fingers crossed.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m in the process of gearing up for NecronomiCon Providence 2017. Looming Low is at the printer now and will debut at the convention. There will be a launch event on Saturday, August 20, at 6:00 with readings by Michael Griffin, Livia Llewellyn, Anya Martin, and Michael Wehunt. I’m still putting together the details for that but should be fun.
After I fulfill all of the Looming Low orders I’ll focus on the next three chapbooks: Coffle (Gemma Files, art by Stephen Wilson), Curses (Anna Tambour, art by Nick Gucker), and Pwdre Ser (Kurt Fawver, art TBD). Coffle is already in progress, most of the layout and the cover art is already done.
Where can we find you online?
Awkwardly, Dim Shores doesn’t have a real website at the moment. I had a WordPress site but destroyed it while trying to add features via code. I’m still not sure what i did. That said, dimshores.com will take you to the web store, and will eventually lead to a new website. For now most news and information is relayed through the Dim Shores Facebook page, as well as an email list. Dim Shores is on Twitter, but I don’t like Twitter and don’t do a whole lot there. I am very new to Instagram and haven’t posted much yet but it seems better than Twitter, we’ll see.
Tremendous thanks to Sam Cowan for being this week’s featured interview!