The roots of what we now call genre fiction reach back to the beginnings of civilization where humankind sought to explain the dramatic events of nature through myths and stories. Darkness, the supernatural, tales of the unknown, with creatures emerging from the woods, the sea, the skies, these themes still play on our collective fears, even as technology is close to taking us beyond our solar system we still explore the mysteries of the world on our mobiles, movies, streamed TV and, of course, our books. And at Flame Tree, we love this stuff!
Myths of the Ancient World
From nearly five thousand years ago, before the beginnings of written language, stories about the world were told in song and oral poetry, later to be recorded and re-interpreted over the generations as religious and historical texts. The ancient Chinese, with their August Ones and the Five Emperors, the ancient Sumerians and their List of Kings and Epic of Gilgamesh, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and, in the last centuries of BCE, the tales of Homer, the oral traditions of the Celts, the supernatural tales of the Norse, the giants, the dark spirits of the night, all stoked at human consciousness while anthropomorphizing our deepest fears into understandable human-shaped figures.
The Middle Ages to the Enlightment
Later, in the first millennia CE as the Arab world developed a superior understanding of maths and science in the nexus of Baghdad, the Christian church, adopted as the life-blood of the late Roman Empire conquered most of the Mediterranean, North Africa and Europe, and as the victor, rewrote the myths of the Celts, amongst others, to bring romanticized tales of chivalry and religious conflict in the Middle Ages. This brought us the legends of King Arthur, Gawain and the Green Knight, sanitizing the human instincts for revenge, greed and war.
In a rush through the renaissance, as the West caught up with the East in the matter of science and maths, the rigid hold of the church on the narratives of the imagination gave way to the onslaught of enlightenment and rationalism. Beginning with the great discoveries of Copernicus Thomas’ More’s Utopia also emerged as defining moment of speculative literature. Soon, in the 1600s Galileo and the literary and mythical powerhouses of Shakespeare, Cervantes and John Milton emerged to tantalise their own audiences and the generations that followed. Soon the observations of the Natural Philosopher Isaac Newton and his contemporaries would break the frontiers of the everyday, and change our perspectives on the world, the science that followed and the literature that sought to describe it.
The Beginnings of Modern Speculative Fiction
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein of 1818 brought such science into literature and explored the speculative consequences of the rational and the emotional, spawning an avalanche of tales that found new ways to scrutinize our place in the universe. The literary outpourings of the nineteenth century brought the creation of vampire fiction (popularized by Bram Stoker), a golden age of ghost story writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell and M.R James, the mysterious and scientific tales of Edgar Allan Poe, the epic tomes of William Morris, the Celtic musing of W.B. Yeats, the dark investigations of Charles Dickens and Algernon Blackwood, the psychic acuity of Arthur Machen, the clever brain-teasing detective tales of Arthur Conan Doyle, and the re-crafting of ancient fairy-folk as creatures of mischief in the re-telling of Teutonic tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.
Each of these bore new directions and, like the demented tentacles of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, fiction fragmented in the 20th Century into the powerful strands of horror, crime, fantasy, romance and science fiction. Indeed, fueled by war and social upheaval, the alien-invasion and time-travel stories of H.G. Wells, and the epic fantasy of Tolkien, the dramatic rise in readership for diverting, other-worldly adventures coincided with the mass production of mechanical pulp. It created the market for Weird Tales and their ilk, so founding the careers of Robert E. Howard (Conan!), Robert Bloch (Psycho!) and Ray Bradbury (Farenheit 451), and continues today in the novels, movies and digital screens of the modern world.
On the Shoulders of Giants
The thirst for great stories, the notion of the darkness beyond and around, the mysterious, the unseen, is as powerful now as it was in the cradle of civilization five thousand years ago. And without Gilgamesh, Homer, King Arthur, Shelley, Poe, Wells, Lovecraft and the like, the popular works of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, Margaret Atwood, J.J. Abrams, and Guillermo del Toro, and the rise of streaming TV simply could not exist. Now we have expanded narratives too, with the desire to reach back to find tales of the disenfranchised, to seek beyond the gaze of the male, the victorious, the monied classes and the powerful. This has started a wave of fiction from the dispossessed worlds in our history, with narratives slavery and dissent told in the form of speculative fiction.
At Flame Tree we have a tradition of combining the ancient and the modern, particularly with our Gothic Fantasy series of short stories anthologies sourced both from submissions and curated classic texts. We explore the legends of the world, including African, Chinese, Celtic and Greek myths, as well as the deep themes that run the course of history: Supernatural Horror, Murder Mayhem, Alien Invasion, AI & Robots, Lost Worlds, with more published every year.
Flame Tree Press
Now, with the launch of FLAME TREE PRESS we focus on the pure stream of new novels in fiction, horror, crime, sci-fi and fantasy. September sees the launch of the list, and it bears the scars of the past with pride, offering worlds of imagination and mystery, introducing the next generation of Fiction Without Frontiers, seeking diversity and depth in our publishing. It will take a while to reveal its true shape, so bear with us, as we explore these worlds with our authors, readers, librarians, reviewers and blogger friends.
Nick Wells, Publisher & Founder, Flame Tree Publishing
The September releases from FLAME TREE PRESS are now out in Hardback, Paperback, Audiobook and eBook!
- Checkout the full list of available and upcoming titles from Flame Tree Press here.
- Hardbacks, Paperbacks Audiobooks and eBooks are all also available on amazon here.
- You can follow us on the Flame Tree Press Twitter and Facebook accounts
Check out all the blogs from launch week
- Flame Tree Press | Launch Week | 1 | Don D'Auria Q&A
- Flame Tree Press | Launch Week | 2 | The Authors
- Flame Tree Press | Launch Week | 3 | The Books
- Flame Tree Press | Launch Week | 4 | Origins and Futures
- Flame Tree Press | Launch Week | 5 | Upcoming Releases