At the Mouth of the River of Bees book cover, cropped. A giant bee.

Please Don’t Let This Pillar of Literary Sci-Fi Be Gone for Good!

Earlier this week, posted some devastating news: Indie publisher Small Beer Press co-founder Gavin Grant has been going through Covid-19-related health problems, to the point that the press has to pause publication of new titles indefinitely.

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If you’re not familiar with Small Beer, you’ve been missing out. Founded in 2000 by Gavin Grant and Kelly Link (Get in Trouble; White Cat, Black Dog), the publisher has produced some of the most fearless, creative, and ambitious fantasy and science fiction out there. Small Beer Press also publishes Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, a biannual zine devoted to speculative short stories and poetry.

In March of this year, Small Beer announced that it was closed to new book submissions. When Tor reached out for comment, Grant responded that he was struggling with health complications from Covid.

“In 2022 we only managed to publish two books. This year we published four and here at the end of the year I see how much these books missed the old me,” Grant told Tor. “I’d thought there was a chance I could keep Small Beer going but it is too much for me … As long as the authors are happy, we’ll keep the books in print—or sell them on where there’s interest.” (You can read the full statement here.)

So, the good news: Small Beer’s catalog isn’t going out of print, and the press will publish a limited edition of Link’s new book The Book of Love next year. Plus, Lady Churchill seems to still be accepting submissions, which may mean it will continue. That’s something, and all science fiction and fantasy fans should be glad that Grant is prioritizing his health.

The bad news, of course, is that halting publication of new titles means there are lots of amazing books out there that we’ll never get to read. With the publishing landscape becoming ever more hostile to small presses—and big publishers’ prioritizing of marketability over genuinely interesting books—the loss of any indie publisher is a blow to literature.

The news is also a frustrating reminder of how spectacularly the U.S. botched its Covid-19 response, leaving countless people dealing with long Covid and other complications. I hope this pause at Small Beer will allow Grant to recover.

Anyway, if you want to support Small Beer and read some fantastic books (here’s their full catalog), here are some of my personal favorite titles:

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. One of Kelly Link’s early short story collections. Fun fact: I once dressed up as one of the characters at a Halloween party.

At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson. One of my favorite short story collections ever. Johnson’s followup collection, The Privilege of the Happy Ending, was Small Beer’s final release before the hiatus.

Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress. Another great short story collection.

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar. A beautiful fantasy novel. It also has a companion novel, The Winged Histories.

Half-Witch by John Schoffstall. A weird, quirky adventure story with witches.

Words are my Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin. A collection of Le Guin’s writing on books and literature.

Go! Read! Hopefully this isn’t the end of an era, but we can at least celebrate all the amazing books Small Beer has brought us so far.

(via, featured image: Small Beer Press)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href=""></a>