It seems that Robert McCammon has finally found a publisher that “gets” him, as evidenced by the slate of projects he has in the pipeline with Subterranean Press. The author offered some updates on those projects via his official website – I’ll let you read the particulars there and we’ll talk about why I believe it’s a good thing not only for McCammon and his readers, but for fans of good writing in general, when you get back.
For McCammon and his fans, the reasons are obvious. We had a long drought there where McCammon wasn’t publishing at all, and it looked like he’d packed up the pen for good. It wasn’t that he’d lost the ability or the inspiration to create; it was that he’d lost all desire to deal with the often confounding expectations of the publishing machine, a meatgrinder mentality that prefers its workers continue to produce the same flavor of fiction over and over again, making it easy to package and easy to sell. McCammon committed the ultimate sin of writing outside his established genre (horror), and got slapped on the wrist for it. Successful and unwilling to compromise his own artistic instincts and integrity, he did what a lot of people in similar situations would like to do, but which few have the means or the courage to go through with: he quietly stepped away.
He stayed away for nearly a decade until River City Publishing, a small Montgomery, Alabama, press located just south of his Birmingham home, offered to publish his historical fiction novel Speaks the Nightbird, the very book that had triggered his retirement. McCammon agreed, and a series was born. The second entry in that series (known by now as the Matthew Corbett series after the hero of the books), The Queen of Bedlam, was published by Pocket Books. The production values and promotion of Bedlam left a little to be desired, at least in my opinion, so I was ecstatic to see Subterranean Press enter the picture with the third book, Mr. Slaughter.
Since then, the trickle of McCammon projects has turned into a flood. Subterranean has produced a limited edition of his classic werewolf novel, The Wolf’s Hour, which included a new novella featuring the Michael Gallatin character. There’s also a collection of Michael Gallatin stories and novellas, The Hunter from the Woods, in the works (and you can download the novella “The Room at the Bottom of the Stairs” on that book’s page). Subterranean is also working on a limited edition of McCammon’s first novel Baal as well as the fourth Corbett book, The Providence Rider.
So, the relationship with Subterranean Press is good for McCammon fans because, well, look at all the new stuff that’s coming out. It’s good for the author because he’s finally found a publisher that’s willing to let him stretch his legs a little. He’s got a home for his historical fiction, his horror fiction, his supernatural fiction (the recent novel The Five, which I’d hesitate to call all-out horror despite some horrific elements), and it’s all under one roof.
Why is it good for readers as a whole? Because it shows that there are still some publishers out there who recognize that people like more than one flavor. Publishers that are willing to let authors follow their muse, even when it takes them down unfamiliar corridors. Publishers that recognize that good work sells itself and doesn’t always have to come prepackaged and easily digestible. Publishers that are willing to challenge readers and authors to try something new, and to let them reap the rewards.
It’s a rare thing these days, but at least we know it’s still out there.