Among the sharpest, smartest independent presses out there, the Seattle-based Aqueduct Press recently reached a milestone: this past week they published their fiftieth book, in a span of only six years. That latest book is a collection of stories and essays by Chandler Davis, titled It Walks in Beauty. Davis' book is the first in a new series for the publisher: Heirloom Books, dedicated to bringing back into print and preserving work "that has helped make feminist science fiction what it is today." This is in keeping with their general mission statement: "Aqueduct Press dedicates itself to publishing challenging, feminist science fiction. We promise to bring our readers work that will stretch the imagination and stimulate thought."
During the six years that founder and writer L. Timmel Duchamp has run Aqueduct Press, it's had an impressive string of award nominations and wins. Books from Aqueduct have won the Philip K. Dick Award, the Tiptree Award and the Carl Brandon Parallax Award, as well as been finalists for the Hugo Award and many others.
Most recently, Ursula K. LeGuin's Cheek by Jowl won the Locus Award for best non-fiction book/Art book.Why did one of the icons of science fiction and fantasy go with Aqueduct? Reached via email, Le Guin said,"I took Cheek by Jowl to Aqueduct because I wanted to have a book published by Aqueduct. It has a classy list, and the books are elegantly made, and it's on the West Coast, and it isn't controlled by its Marketing Department. And it's Timmi! Also, I had a specific idea about having a lot of little animal pictures all over the book. A commercial publisher is likely to throw this kind of idea to the Art/ Design/Cover Departments, where it dies instantly (and there are no illustrations, and the cover is both conventional and inappropriate.) At Aqueduct, I got a cover, and a whole book, full of little animals. I love it."
A lot of people love Aqueduct Press, myself included, because they've quickly established a reputation for quality that serves its core readership but is also of definite interest to general readers of SF/F and beyond. In addition, they've displayed admirable marketing and artistic savvy in creating a distinctive look-and-feel for their various book lines, including the Conversations series, which is a slim-sized paperback series intended to create a dialogue through publication of a wide range of texts, from poetry to essays, speeches, manifestoes, interviews, letters, and more.
Recent books include Through the Drowsy Dark by Rachel Swirsky, Narrative Power: Encounters, Celebrations, Struggles edited by Duchamp, and The Secret Feminist Cabal by Helen Merrick (mentioned previously on Omni). In addition, Aqueduct will soon publish suzy McKee Charnas' Dorothea Dreams as the second in the Heirloom Books series. You can find a full list of their books in print here.
I recently interviewed Duchamp about Aqueduct's success via email...