5 Favourite Reads of 2015

I concede that these lists of “Top X” anything are not without issue. It’s not easy to rank favourites from such an expansive selection of great fiction. In fact, one could argue is it not particularly necessary. However, these lists are useful to provide a literary snapshot of the year, although I will be the first to admit even writing these words feels a bit problematic. Compiling this list somehow feels strange, because I become aware of all the fantastic fiction I have read which is not included. Yet, it also makes me aware of my reading habits and enables me to expand my literary gaze in the New Year.

So, here is a list of our five favourite books of 2015, in no particular order. All are contemporary works; most have been first published this year, except in two cases where new editions of the books were produced. Let us know what you think, and happy reading to all in the coming year!

 

  1. Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

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This wonderful collection of short stories was published in October 2025 by Fitzcarraldo Editions. Although the tales are divided and given separate titles, they are all told by the same voice – an anonymous, hermit-type woman who has taken up residence in the west coast of Ireland. Each sentence is rich and engrossing; this is not a work to be read for plot, but rather it is a literary experience sure to enchant the reader.

 

 

2.  The Dumb House by John Burnside (Vintage)

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This haunting title was originally published in 1997, but was re-issued this year as a part of Vintage’s “Scottish Modern Classics” series. This is an unsettling tale about a man who becomes obsessed with the idea of language; how humans acquire language and what happens if the road to this acquisition is cut off. This is a dark psychological tale of untoward experimentation and unnerving psychopathic destruction.

 

 

3.  Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki  Murakami (Harvill Secker)

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This book was originally published in English in 2014, but the paperback was brought out by Harvill Secker in summer 2015, so we decided to include it in this list. This is a beautifully written book which tells the story of Tsukuru Tazaki, who is the only member in his group of childhood friends whose name does not include a colour. The story explores how Tsukuru, now in his thirties, returns to his childhood friends in order to discover why they suddenly cut off all contact with him. It is one of his more grounded works, and Murakami’s writing manages to be touching, without being overly sentimental.

 

4.  Upright Beasts by Lincoln Michel (Coffee House Press)

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This is the second short story collection on our list, and is the first work of fiction published by Lincoln Michel. These stories are all a little bit odd, perfectly apt as they deal with the bizarre reality of human nature – implicit in the title Upright Beasts. The collection is almost a study in magical realism and more, borrowing elements from all literary categories. Some of his stories are creepy, some are gripping and some are very funny, and the whole collection is simply brilliantly crafted. Michel is surely a promising emerging author, we look forward to what he produces next.

 

5.  Slade House by David Mitchell (Sceptre)

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The latest work by the notable British author was suitable published just before Halloween 2015. In Slade House Mitchell presents an absorbing take on the classic haunted house narrative. A series of nine stories told nine years apart, each with a different narrator, but all centred around the mysterious and disturbing Slade House. Mitchell perfectly captures the eerie nature of the traditional ghost story, much in the tradition of M.R. James or Robert Aickman. Yet Mitchell still manages to feel fresh with a few added twists and turns, and throughout the tale a genuinely creepy atmosphere prevails.

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New Era, New Trophy – World Fantasy Award

Earlier this month the organisers of the World Fantasy Award announced that they would be making a change. For over forty years the winners of the World Fantasy Award were presented with a trophy modelled in the image of renowned weird fiction author H.P. Lovecraft. However, now there is a wide-spread belief that it is time to shake things up a bit. The coveted award will no longer take the form of Lovecraft’s head, however influential that head may be. As you might expect, this alteration caused a bit of controversy in the sf/f community.

The organisers did not give an explanation for the change, but it is apparent that many feel Lovecraft is not an appropriate figure to represent the award. The problem of Lovecraft’s racist opinions, which some argue figure in his writings, is clearly of particular concern. Quite predictably, a schism appeared in the sf/f world. One side argued that Lovecraft’s influence on fantasy and horror was being denied, while others protested that fantasy has undergone significant transformations since the Award’s initiation, and a new trophy should reflect that. Lovecraft, it seems, represents the  exclusive old guard, whereas we have entered a new era in sf/f, one which is inclusive and embraces previously marginalised voices.

Regardless of your opinion, the Award’s organisers have been steadfast in their commitment to change. There is no going back. In fact, they have recently called for artists to submit their designs for the new trophy. So if you were upset with the decision to oust Lovecraft, you have the opportunity to offer a design for the trophy of your choice. However, the administration have stated clearly that “the ideal design will represent both fantasy and horror, without bearing any physical resemblance to any person, living or dead”, so bear that in mind!

 

For more on this topic:

The Atlantic published an interesting in-depth piece on this issue – Check out the article by Lenika Cruz here

See this short piece in The Guardian about the call for new trophy designs

Highlights | 19-25 Oct 15

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The New and Improved Romie Futch by Julia Elliott (Tin House)

Out this month from Tin House is The New and Improved Romie Futch by Julia Elliott. Tin House can always be relied upon to provide fantastic new fiction, and this title is sure to garner attention. Elliott tells the tale of down-on-his-luck Romie Futch who attempts to reclaim his life by enrolling as a test subject at the Centre for Cybernetic Neuroscience. There, he hope to become “new and improved” by downloading knowledge of the humanities subjects into his brain. Safe to say, things do not go as planned, and Romie ends up on the trail of a mutant beast known as “Hogzilla” – a thousand-pound boar possessing supernatural powers. Elliott’s book seems encompass everything we love – undeniably weird, with sprinkling of the speculative and Southern Gothic. We are eagerly anticipating out copy!

Find out more on Tin House’s website and read an interview with Elliott to find out more.

Read Publisher’s Weekly review of the book here and read an excerpt here

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 Vintage Classics Bronte Sisters Series
Granted, the Brontes are not contemporary authors, but the dynamic literary sisters are back in bookish news (not that they every really left!). In honour of the bicentenary of the Bronte, Penguin Vintage Editions are re-jacketing Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte). These fantastic new covers deserve a mention because they so perfectly portray the eerie and Gothic themes embodied in these texts, which often gets let out in mainstream discussions of the Brontes. The jackets were wonderfully designed by Sarah Gillespie, find her stuff here. And just in time for Halloween, too – the only problem is you feel the unrelenting urge to buy the whole set!

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The Masters Review – New Voices for the Classic Ghost Story

Gothic is most certainly the theme of the week – the finial item on this list comes from The Masters Review. October is the month of all things creepy, and The Masters Review is determined to let their spooky side shine! The state their aim for the month is to “to bring you as many different takes on the ghost story as possible”, and this week’s feature is the new short story “Clean Hunters” by Lana Valencia. If you’re interested in a bit of non-fiction this Halloween season, The Masters Review has also published some great essays on the uncanny (“Something’s Wrong in the Garden”) and the darker side of literature in their Literary Terms series (“Literary Terms: Gothic, Grotesque and The Uncanny“).

Feature: Unsung Stories Live

This week, indie publisher Unsung Stories showcased some exciting sf and speculative stories in a public reading. On Tuesday 20th October, a crowed of sf/f enthusiasts gathered in the Star of Kings pub in Kings Cross, London, to hear some fantastic (and fantastical) tales in Unsung’s spoken-word event. The occasion was a great chance to hear some of the very talented voices from the sf world as they took to the mic – and is all the more significant as it is the only live-reading of purely sci-fi, fantasy and horror available in London!

The readings were a brilliant blend of touching, troubling, imaginative and comic tales. These superb stories were provided by David Hartley, Cassandra Khaw, Robert Sharp and Simon Guerrier (see below for links to their Twitter accounts). This was the second spoken-literature event run by Unsung Stories, and we have been dutifully told that there will be more to come! It is a great initiative to get both new and seasoned sf/f writers to share their work, so we will keep you informed on any upcoming events.

We also encourage you to check out the Unsung Stories website for more information about the publisher. They specialise in genre-blurring work that crosses traditional borders of genre fiction, often resulting in a wonderful mix of sci-fi, horror, crime and fantasy. So far, Unsung have published three books – Déja Vu by Ian Hocking, Dark Star by Oliver Langmead and The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley – and we are keeping an eager eye on them to see what they come up with next!

For an impressively detailed account of Unsung Live, take a look at this superb review by Andrew Wallace.

If you want to know what the readers are up to, follow them on Twitter:

David HartleyCassandra Khaw Robert SharpSimon Guerrier

Highlights // 12 – 18 Oct 15

Injection_01-1Graphic Novels: Descender and Injection (Image)

Although we primarily focus on text-based fiction, it would be completely misguided not to report speculative fiction from the graphic novel and comic-based world. Recently, Image introduced two new titled to their impressive catalogue of speculative and weird works: Descender by Jeff Lemire, and Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. The first volume of Descender was published this September; a beautiful story which artfully mixes glorious space opera with a touching, “coming-of-age” type narrative humanoid-robot Tim-21.

And if that wasn’t enough, Image are set to release volume one of Injection. We can’t wait for this one – it contains a serialised collection of graphic novels which detail the fall-out of a 21st century “poisoned by five crazy people”. Injection has been described as a blend of weird, science fiction, crime and horror all rolled into one. So, naturally, we had to get in on that – we are ready to dive into our copy!

e433eb8de9132a354277d9f4b44fc17aR.R.A.P. Magazine – Black Speculative Fiction Month

R.R.A.P. Magazine is a great place that forefronts diverse stories, characters and writers from different backgrounds. Of course, this is a great initiative in any context, but October is a very interesting month. During October, R.A.A.P. Magazine are championing works of black authors writing speculative, fantasy and science fiction. Hop over to their website to see their selection of the best in speculative fiction, with a fantastic mix of often marginalised voices dabbling in the speculative genres.

Follow R.R.A.P. on Twitter here for more exciting discussions about race and culture in fiction and the media.

35108-1Publishers Weeky – Big Indie Books of Fall 2015

Check the Publishers Weekly list of the Big Indie Books of Fall 2015 which is chock-full of thrilling new titles coming out this autumn. There are some great titles on the list, such as Learning to Die in the Anthropocene by Roy Scranton (City Lights), The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House) and Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine (Drawn and Quarterly). It’s really important to support indie publishers – after all, they bring us some great texts that big publishing houses are reluctant to get behind. So wander on over to Publishers Weekly’s website and take a peek at the impressive range of essays, graphic novels, fiction and non-fiction on offer!

Hope you found something you like here! If you have any suggestions or have something you would like to see featured in the upcoming weeks – please let us know in the comments! Keep the conversation going – MEGLO

Author Spotlight: Jeff VanderMeer

Bookish Bio

In celebration of the news that Jeff VanderMeer will be releasing another book next year, we have decided to dedicate our very first Author Spotlight to him! Jeff VanderMeer is an American author who has been writing sf of varying degrees for the last few decades. He has been a prominent voice in the sf community, both online and in the academic world. Not only has VanderMeer contributed significantly to the Weird with his works of fiction, but along with his wife Ann, he has complied numerous influential anthologies. These anthologies have dealt with a wide range of sf-related topics, from Steampunk to weird fiction and the New Weird. VanderMeer is also a strong advocate of translated weird fiction, and he is determined to make it possible for international Weird writers to get their stories published in English for the Anglo-centric masses.

Catalogue Stand-Outs

VanderMere’s most prominent works of fiction include:

The Southern Reach Trilogy –

“Annihilation” (4th Estate, 2014)

“Authority” (4th Estate, 2014)

“Acceptance” (4the Estate, 2014)

The Ambergris Novels – 

“City of Saints and Madmen” (Tor, 2004)

“Shreik: An Afterword” (Tor, 2006)

“Finch” (Underland Press, 2009)

The paperback editions of The Southern Reach Trilogy by 4th Estate UK

The paperback editions of The Southern Reach Trilogy by 4th Estate UK

In-Depth Focus

A look at the books of The Southern Reach Trilogy 

Although the trilogy is made up of three separate novels, it is recommended that all three books should be read in sequence. The publisher, 4th Estate, made the savvy decision to publish all the books in the same year; this worked greatly to their advantage as the first book “Annihilation” proved a run-away success.

“Annihilation” follows the story of a team of four scientist as they undertake a mission to a strange wilderness known as Area X. The group are the twelfth expedition to be sent into the strange zone by a clandestine government agency called The Southern Reach. In the following two novels, the reader gets a better look into this shadowy agency, as the story shifts from the weird wilds of Area X to the unsettling claustrophobia of confined offices and narrow hallways. The story of Area X slowing unfolds as the characters become both baffled by and obsessed with the mysteries of the unsettling landscape.

Useful Links

VanderMeer’s Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_VanderMeer#Novels

VanderMeer’s Blog: http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/

VanderMeer on “The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction” from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/10/uncanny-fiction-beautiful-and-bizarre/381794/

“The Weird World of Jeff VanderMeer” from Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/2014/12/10/the-weird-world-of-jeff-vandermeer/

“A Writer’s Surreal Journey” from The Altantic:  http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/01/from-annihilation-to-acceptance-a-writers-surreal-journey/384884/

“Weird Ecology: On The Southern Reach Trilogy” from the Los Angeles Review of Books: https://lareviewofbooks.org/review/weird-ecology-southern-reach-trilogy

Intro to Meglo

A little bit about MegloBlog:

This is a space to discuss the latest news in the world of contemporary speculative fiction. There are so many impressive authors emerging right now, and we aim to keep the public informed on exciting developments and projects in the literary world.

If you are interested in fiction that blurs boundaries, this is the place for you!
We are primarily concerned with fiction that is a little bit strange and hard to place. Weird fiction, horror, science fiction, urban fantasy, magical realism … anything that feels slightly odd and unnerving, anything that breaks down the division between genre fiction and traditional literary fiction. We live in a time where binary categories and social norms are constantly shifting, so why should the norms of literature be any different!

Meglo Aims:

This site is an open channel, and we are keen to start a discussion about the state of literature in the present moment. If you would like to throw your opinions out there, please don’t be shy and leave a comment! We are based in the UK and our focus is mainly on British and North American fiction, but we are happy to hear from writers further afield.

Happy reading, happy writing, and remember to always keep an ongoing dialogue. Literature stays alive through continuing discussion of its readers!