The Key

Yesterday happily brought some new galleys from PS Publishing in the UK. Most welcome was the copy of Lucius Shepard’s new collection, Dagger Key and Other Stories. Its 470 pages cover nine novellas and novelettes published over the past five years, including revised versions of “Limbo” and “Abimagique”, as well as the stories “Stars Seen Through Stone”, “Emerald Street Expansions”, “Liar’s House”, “Dead Money”, “Dinner at Baldassaro’s”, “The Lepidopterist”, and new pirate story “Dagger Key”. The great thing about this book is that it’s the simplest way to get the latest Shepard stories all in one place. He’s been incredibly prolific over the past three or four years (see also 2004’s collection Trujillo as evidence), and he’s without question one of the best short story writers working in the field. I might quietly yearn for a different cover artist to grace a Shepard collection (I could be wrong, but Potter has done the covers for every collection except Barnacle Bill and Eternity and Other Stories), but this is both a welcome and an essential book. The only quibble is that, after all of the PS copies are sold, I hope that there might be a trade edition of the book. It’s long for a trade collection, I know, but I’d like to think that a book like this could come out in an edition of more than seven hundred copies. Of course, with that in mind, if you love great genre fiction you should get your order in for Dagger Key and Other Stories. They’ll be gone before you know it.

10 thoughts on “The Key”

  1. Hi Jonathan,

    John Picacio produced an exquisite cover for the mini-collection, ‘Two Trains Running’, and Liz Wright’s Rousseau-esque painting graces my Kerosina edition of ‘The Jaguar Hunter’…but forget all that! Thanks for the reminder on ‘Dagger Key’; I gather the limited edition comes with author’s notes. Good luck with ‘Eclipse’!

    Cheers, Bruce

  2. Hey Bruce,

    I guess I don’t count ‘Two Trains Running’ as a full collection, though that’s only an unconscious thing on my behalf. And the original covers for Jaguar Hunter was by JK. And yes, Dagger Key does come with story notes, and good ones. Oh, and thanks!

  3. I hope that it will sell out as well.

    I have mixed feelings about the whole limited edition direction. On the one hand it’s wonderful to have beautiful books. On the other hand paying what these books cost on an ongoing basis becomes prohibitive over time.

    But it’s better to sell them all than have them lying around for years. And (unfortunately) I suspect that PS will make more selling them at these prices than anyone selling them for trade prices…

  4. I’m not so worried about limited editions or expense. I’d just like to have the books available to a broader audience. If the edition-of-record for a major book by someone like Shepard is only six or seven hundred copies, and it never gets reprinted, that’s an edition that’s only ever going to be read by a small number of people. I hope someone will reprint Dagger Key at some point. In the meantime, I am very grateful to PS that Trujillo and Dagger Key exist.

  5. If the past is any indication what will happen is that parts of the book will appear elsewhere. Some of this will appear in the “greatest hits” collection.

    Liars House had already appeared before.

    It would be interesting if the SFBC would step in and license this book. But his upcoming “greatest hits” book would be a more comprehensive choice.

  6. Dagger Key is shorter than Trujillo, so it could be an outside possibility for a trade publisher. Trujillo was over 700 pages, if I recall correctly, while Dagger Key is about 470 pages. In terms of appearing before, everything except for “Dagger Key” has been previously published, and only a couple don’t have some kind of print manifestation. Not that same thing as being in a Shepard collection, though.

    As to the ‘best of’ from SubPress. It’s incredibly welcome, and will be very cool, but I can’t see anyone reprinting it ever. If you look at the SubPress site, it’s going to be about 300,000 words long. That’s a big book. If Shepard were George Martin and sold a bazillion copies, it might work out. But, for anyone else, it wouldn’t. You might get away with cutting it into two trade paperback volumes, but even then, it’s a real long shot.

  7. I didn’t quite say it but what I meant to say was that Liar’s House had previously appeared as its own book.

    Well SFBC has been doing omnibus type books for many years.

    I agree though that publishers will usually want to go with something smaller.

    The page size is in my mind less of a factor than whether there would be enough buyers for a publisher to sink in.

    With the demise of Thunder’s Mouth that struck down one publisher who might have stepped in.

  8. PM, I was a bit bemused by the inclusion of ‘Liar’s House’ as well. I’d read the novella on-line, courtesy of Lucius and Ellen, and picked up the ltd. courtesy of Bill. I thought the next time I’d see it would be in ‘The Grand Tour’ or ‘The Semi-Compleat Griaule’ or whatever, and thought ‘Ariel’ or ‘The Emperor’ might have been more choice. On the other hand, I don’t write fiction or publish books, and gladly fork out the dough for the limiteds I do buy. The only other pricey habit I have is Scotch collecting…

    I agree that the ltd. eds. aren’t likely to get the author noticed in the local Borders or B & N, which isn’t right but there it is. In Lucius’s case, I have a suspicion that ‘The Wild North King’ and it’s companion volumes may sharply increase his reader’s base.

  9. If Lucius were rich, I’d give him a harder time about this and that being reprinted here and there. He and his publishers are doing the best they can under the circumstances.

    But we’d all agree that more inexpensive versions are necessary to gain a larger audience. I’d also toss in eBooks. One of the things I liked about the Jack Vance Treasury was that SFBC picked it up. So I have a reading copy and an original.

    Yeah the kid’s book he’s writing is interesting. Here’s how it will play out. If he does become really popular then certain folk will become aware and offended by his other writing and I’d predict that they’d make his life hell.

  10. Jonathan sez: ‘Dagger Key is shorter than Trujillo, so it could be an outside possibility for a trade publisher.’ From your lips to Bog’s ears! I did see that ‘Trujillo’ was eventually released piecemeal as ‘Eternity and Other Stories’ and the short novel itself.

    I snagged the ltd. ed. just yesterday…thanks again for the reminder, JS.

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