If you don’t know of Comma Press, allow me to introduce us: we’re an independent, not-for-profit publisher based in Manchester, England, and we specialise in short stories and fiction in translation. Our aim is to publish new, exciting and often marginalised voices from around the world. We publish interdisciplinary collaborations between authors and translators, historians, scientists and activists, which include anthologies covering over 2000 years of British protest as well as the first anthologies of science-fiction from the Middle East. We have an Arabic imprint, which features collections by award-winning authors such as Hassan Blasim and Nayrouz Qarmout. We have a popular and recognisable ‘Reading the City’ series, a British horror series, and we publish the BBC National Short Story Award shortlist anthology annually.
In 2016 we founded the Northern Fiction Alliance, a collective of indie publishers based in the North of England. The NFA is a project devised to showcase the diversity, creativity and spirit of risk-taking that sets Northern publishers apart and continues to provide networking and training opportunities for other publishers based in the region and showcase the work of their authors on a global platform.
Over the past few months, we have seen the innovative nature of the independent publishers in full force, as they have harnessed the internet to work creatively and collaboratively to support our organisations and readers with new initiatives while physical engagement has become impossible. From independent presses hosting lunchtime Instagram live conversations in honour of Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) to the Borderless Book Club, founded by Peirene Press and showcasing the translated fiction being published by UK indies. The latter began in response to the lockdown, but thanks to a huge groundswell of support, will happily be continuing on into the autumn.
As a Northern press with a global network of readers, editors, translators and authors, the pandemic has had its small advantages in the grand scheme of things. As well as taking part in the Borderless Book Club line-up, we’ve been able to co-host a number of online events featuring our authors and translators overseas. Whilst we’d much rather be able to bring them to the UK and have them be face-to-face with audiences, this summer has been a welcome respite from our decade-long struggle with the UK Foreign Office to obtain visas for authors we have invited to the UK from the Middle East. Instead we’ve been able to stream ‘Writing the Palestinian City’ with Liverpool Arab Arts Fest and launch our Europa28 anthology with Hay Festival via the mediums of Zoom, Facebook and Crowdcast.
We’re looking to the future, whatever it may hold, and over the next year are excited to be publishing an Iraqi novel in translation, a collection of stories from Jakarta, Ramallah, Venice and Reykjavik respectively, and hopefully more science fiction from the Middle East too. If you’re interested in global literature, please do follow us on our various social channels (@commapress), subscribe to our mailing list or visit our website (commapress.co.uk).
(Becca Parkinson joined Comma Press as a Marketing & Production Assistant straight from finishing her undergraduate degree at Lancaster University. Whilst at university she was the Editor of both Cake Magazine and Flash Journal. She is the current Sales & Production Manager, and oversees events. She is also the co-editor of the translated collection, The Book of Tbilisi.)