Tachyon Publications

This past Saturday Tachyon Publications celebrated its 13th anniversary (or its Bar Mitzvah, as their web page proclaimed) with its traditional party at Borderlands Books, 866 Valenica Street in San Francisco.

Ellen Klages and Terry Bisson gave readings, and a whole slew of other Bay Area SF-scenesters were present, including Rudy Rucker and recent transplant Nick Mamatmas. The Emperor Norton Awards were handed out (Cory Doctorow and Jack Rems winning) and much fun was had by all, although most folks had more fun than I did, since I had overbooked my day and had to leave halfway through the proceedings, without even getting a chance at the cake, alas. Still, I had a chance to chat with Jacob Weisman, who was in excellent spirits, and with Jill Roberts who helped put together the Steampunk anthology that I took the opportunity to pick up while I was there.

I’ve been attending the annual parties at the Borderlands store and following the Tachyon story for quite a few years now. It’s wonderful to see them grow and succeed year by year, with Jacob Weisman and Jill Roberts putting their hearts and souls into it from the beginning. Rina Weisman, who also runs the “SF in SF” events, joined the merry band more recently to very good effect.

It is through Borderlands that I first encountered Tachyon. Along with Jeremy Lassen’s Night Shade Books and the SFinSF.org crew, they form a symbiotic (or maybe the word I’m looking for is “incestuous’) bunch that exist at the genre heart of the city’s vibrant literary community. You are likely to find members of each group at the other’s events, and certainly if you run into any of them at some place like Worldcon, they’ll almost certainly to be having a drink together.

Like many small publishers, one of Tachyon’s strengths is the re-issuing of updated editions of unaccountably out-of-print books. In their case that includes the classic Harlan Ellison collection Shatterday, a revised edition of Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place, and Robert Nathan’s fantasy classic A Portrait of Jennie, as well as lesser-known books by the likes of Mary Shelley, A.E. Van Vogt, and Clifford Simak.

But reissues are not the bulk of their catalog. In the past few years they’ve managed to consistently publish critically well-received and relevant new books, and in the process their authors and artists have collected a whole slew of awards: Michael Dashow received a Chesley for his cover of The Rhinocerous Who Quoted Nietzsche, and John Picacio received another for his cover to the Titpree collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. The recent Hugo and Nebula winner “Two Hearts” appears in the Beagle collection The Line Between, and it’s a rare year when the Tachyon name doesn’t show up on the Hugo nominee list in some category.

Tachyon’s most recent book is The Wall of America, a posthumous collection of short fiction by the late Thomas M. Disch, whose last novel, The Word of God, they also published this year.

For my own personal tastes, though, the true strength of Tachyon is their habit of producing great short story collections and anthologies. Two of the most talked-about recent anthologies came from Tachyon: Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology and the recent anthology Steampunk, the editors of which will be promoting it at the upcoming California Steampunk Convention (October 31-Novemer 2 at the Domain Hotel in Sunnyvale).

Tachyon is also the only place where you can get the short fiction of Tim Powers, Michael Swanwick, and Susan Palwick. They also put out the Tiptree and Year’s Best Fantasy anthologies

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #74, 2008