The idea behind the anthology Blind Swimmer was a simple one really – a chance to bring together all the authors the press had worked with or would soon be working with and thus create a kind of self-portrait of the press itself – a sampler. It is no surprise then that Blind Swimmer occupies a very special place for me – as a retrospective of this still young press and as a moment of taking stock – not to mention as a consolidation of the Eibonvale ‘family’. I resist the description of ‘editor’ of this book, which has been bandied around – it was a collaborative project on every level.
The reaction that book is getting is still intriguing me though and I can’t resist discussing it a bit here. Some have called it one of the best anthologies of 2010, as already trumpeted elsewhere on this blog and which naturally makes me very happy. However, the reactions to the book have been rather more complex than that and the reviews it has received have been an education in themselves – an exercise in how diverse and personal reviewers are as much as anything. Every reviewer finds some stories to single out – but never the same ones. That’s the crucial thing. Every story in the book has been loved by someone – and every story in the book has been hated by someone. No exceptions. To either. The original hope for the book was to provide a challengingly diverse collection – stories in a dizzying variety of styles and timbres. That in itself was symbolic of the press’s ambitions, which are to be fundamentally unpredictable and varied, open to anything interesting on any level (not simply literary elitism), and yet at the same time united within that diversity on levels far more fundamental than mere matters of matching up with some genre-based or scholarly ideals. And judging by the response to the book, that has come closer to succeeding than I ever dared hope. Operating on a slightly different level to some, it is almost as if Blind Swimmer has been tweaking people somehow – poking squarely at their individual expectations of what an anthology of stories should be and generating a weird mix of ire and love and downright confusion in the process. I consider this a far more interesting and successful reaction than if everything in the book was universally raved about.
Blind Swimmer remains above anything else – above any strange games that it chooses to play with people – a simple expression of the Eibonvale Family – the amazing writers we have been lucky enough to work with. And needless to say, I am looking forward to continuing (and expanding) that family in the future.