DF Lewis has been a regular contributor to the small presses since the 1980s with many hundreds of short stories to his name (see his now out-of-print collection Weirdmonger and The Last Balcony, recently published by Inkermen Press). In recent years, however, he has turned his attention to publishing other writers’ short stories, first with his Nemonymous anthologies and later with his imprint, Megazanthus Press. Caroline Callaghan spoke to him to find out more about his publishing career.
When, how and why did you first start Megazanthus Press?
Well, when I started the Nemonymous anthologies in 2001 they were a sort of cross between a book and a magazine. And eventually ‘megazanthus’ was a word I invented in 2003 as a hybrid of ‘magazine’ and ‘anthology’ coupled with resonances below:
“Me-gaza-nth-us: Me: the cult of ‘me’… as denied by Nemo
Gaza: Eyeless In … (as in Aldous Huxley) … I-less?
nth: to the nth degree –symbolic of infinity
Us: the Jungian archetype of ourness and timelessness and collaboration and shared universes.”
Then I slowly began to call myself Megazanthus Press, especially when I started publishing unambiguous books. Well you did ask! But it is a much easier question to answer than why or how I started Nemonymous itself! Whatever the reason, by the time I publish my Megazanthus book in 2012, I will have published 205 original stories with payments to their authors. Most of those stories are what I would describe as horror stories of one sort or another.
What attracted you to this genre specifically?
Well, my reading of horror fiction started in the mid 1960s, with my now famous meeting with Michel Parry (a school friend at the time) in the Colchester WH Smiths, and he advised me to buy a Panther paperback of HP Lovecraft stories. I never looked back. I started writing horror seriously in 1986 and submitting it for publication with an obsessiveness that I now can’t quite credit! It is therefore not surprising, I suppose, that most of the stories I chose to publish (when suddenly having the ambition to publish other people’s work in 2000) turned out to be horror orientated. The question remains – why horror? I don’t think anyone who enjoys horror literature really knows the answer to that about themselves. I’ve often written about this conundrum and the subject is so complex, I’ve given up trying to fathom it.
Who do you think is the most influential horror writer of all time, and why?
I would toy with choosing one of Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Aickman, Thomas Ligotti… Each suits me in different moods. If there is some Platonic Form of Horror Author out there, it’s literature itself that always, yes, always, tends towards the Ominous Imagination, with the most downbeat outcome from happy endings defaulting in the human imagination towards a logical progression that is eventual death. And I’d bring Marcel Proust and Elizabeth Bowen into that universal ideal Horror Author or singularity continuously crouching on our shoulders even at the happiest times of our lives. And in my recent ‘real-time reviewing of books’, I tend to try to tap into a ‘gestalt’ concept of all the stories or chapters in the book adding to the accreting singularity that dogs the soul. And by recognising that singularity, facing it, immersing oneself in it, one stands the best chance of using it constructively, if not defeating it.
What can we expect to see next from Megazanthus?
As a follow up to The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies, this year sees the emergence of The First Book of Classical Horror Stories, twenty-one stories imbued with themes connected with classical music (a lifetime enthusiasm of mine).
Which authors would you most like to see write for you?
Those writers with great stories inside themselves ready to be ignited by markets like mine, markets equally ready to recognise and then exploit such a synergy and, in tune with Nemonymous, that is more important than the authors’ names. This may sound a tad pretentious, but there are many ways to skin a cat, and I hope my arguably eccentric approach will continue to bear fruit.
Are you currently open for submissions?
No. I tend to have fixed reading periods and I have just finished one. Also, I intermittently need to give space for some attention to my own writing, and I was very pleased to have my first novel, Nemonymous Night (Chomu Press), published in 2011 at the age of 63!
Do you think eBooks threaten or complement the print industry?
I feel very negative about eBooks, despite some of their well-known plus points. With many publishers and budding publishers increasingly publishing or re-publishing books as eBooks for Kindle, etc., one can visualise the time when everything will be available. With everything available, nothing is available. Well, nothing special, any more. Furthermore, there is an accreting ‘culture’ being (inadvertently) encouraged by these publishers of eBooks – a culture that arguably enables and encourages plagiarism, piracy, etc. plus the devaluation of writers. Also, it is my opinion that real paper books have empirically been the only vehicles able to carry fiction works future-nostalgically and memorably as well as effectively in their hard core emotion and tangibility and handleability. (Having said that, I have read a few eBooks and reviewed them in my real-time reviews.)
Do you have plans to release Megazanthus books in electronic format?
No. In fact, categorically, never!
What are you most proud of from your publishing career so far, and why?
Well, publishing and paying for stories, some of which would never otherwise have existed. Some were the first published stories of many authors, a few of whom have gone on to great things. I’d mention one story in particular: ‘The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada’ that seems to have had much influence. It is one of the two Nemonymous stories that remain anonymous to this day at the request of its author. And that brings me to that earlier singularity or gestalt. That nameless amorphous thing to be defeated called Death.