George Salis: How and why was House of Zolo started?
Nihls Andersen: I had been pondering the venture for some time. I knew there was great work out there and I wanted to read it. Last June, my colleague Erika Steeves found a Harlan Ellison collection, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, on the sidewalk, (in Toronto people often leave books out in front of their houses for others to take and read). After Erika read the book she brought it over one evening and in the ensuing conversation we found that we shared a common frustration – speculative literature is not well represented in Canada.
We decided that we wanted to create more space for those voices and for alternative voices in general and over the next months we developed the House of Zolo. We were right about knowing that there was incredible work out there – our first call resulted in hundreds of submissions of powerful, high quality literature. I’m lucky to know some talented editors and designers, like Erika, who agreed to come on board the project. We have a small but dedicated team and since we founded HOZ earlier this year the energy has been so powerful and positive we know we are onto something.
GS: What exactly do you love about speculative literature in particular?
NA: I have always seen authors of speculative literature as a special lot. There is a fearlessness in how these writers explore unknowns, how they divine our possible futures, or articulate our nightmares. There is the tenacity of the underdog, too, because alternative literature is often marginalized in the world of publishing and so there is a dedication that shows in the quality of the writing. There is also often the inherent aspiration to envision something better and/or to expose truths about what is wrong. I have always recognized the systems we inhabit are unsustainable and speculative writing takes us to places of new possibilities.
GS: Which novels are emblematic of your press’ aesthetic?
NA: Our aesthetic is very broad and so, no one title comes to mind. We are looking for progressive ideas, we want to hear from radical thinkers. We like experimental poetry. Much work in speculative realms still revolves around the idea of empire and that is something we are choosing to avoid. We want to explore alternatives to stories of empire and war. HOZ is open and intends to be broad. That said, we are impressed when a story or poem makes us feel something deeply, we like to be moved to tears, we like to laugh, to be chilled, to be blown away.
GS: Why did you choose Phreak as your first novel release?
NA: J. E. Solo is a new voice on the Canadian speculative literature scene and we wanted to focus on a first novel by a Canadian author. Phreak hit the right notes – set in a dystopian Canada, so much rings true. It offers a layered criticism of contemporary culture, especially regional culture, but is told in a way that could apply to many places. The style and the humour of the speaker make it an accessible story and the (very) near future perspective creates a compelling read.
GS: What are your ambitions for the future?
NA: Our intention is that HOZ will publish many authors and be successful at reaching the audiences that we know are out there. Popular culture is obsessed with the speculative and it is ironic that speculative writers have relatively few avenues for exposure and publication. I would like to see HOZ bring amazing, fresh new writing to the world while giving speculative literature authors a platform for their work. We want to remain flexible and open to change. We are also exploring different models for HOZ as it evolves, heading towards one that incorporates profit-sharing with authors. The House of Zolo hopes to be known for producing high quality, alternative thinking speculative literature and for putting the writer first.
Nihls Andersen is an editor at House of Zolo. HOZ was founded in 2019 to promote writers of speculative literature, to raise the profile of speculative literature worldwide, and to offer readers powerful, forward-thinking stories and poetry.
George Salis is the author of Sea Above, Sun Below (River Boat Books). His fiction is featured in The Dark, Black Dandy, Zizzle Literary Magazine, The Sunlight Press, Unreal Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in Isacoustic, Atticus Review, and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil was featured in Skeptic. He is currently working on an encyclopedic novel titled Morphological Echoes. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. Find him on Facebook, Goodreads, and at www.GeorgeSalis.com.