Horror fans are quite often collectors. Whether its posters, Blu-rays and/or DVDs, figures, memorabilia, or something else, we’ve always been archivists of the genre in some way, shape, or form. For many, the love of horror extends off the screen and into the pages of a book, where the writings of King, Lovecraft, Koontz, Shelley, and Stoker raise the hairs on the back of our neck and make us afraid to turn to the next page for fear of what our imagination will conjure.
Much like the difference between a bargain bin Blu-ray pales in comparison to a Scream Factory or Arrow Video treatment, the world of books has a similar situation. One can get a generic paperback edition of a book and enjoy a story for all that it has to offer and no one can, or should, fault them for appreciating it in that method. But I think we all know the feeling when we get our hands on a product where love and care exudes from every portion of what we hold. Just think back to that feeling when you got your first Blu-ray with a loving HD restoration, a robust special features section, and gorgeous artwork that made your eyes linger. When it comes to books, that kind of treatment is offered with everyone of Folio Society‘s releases.
Founded in 1947, the London-based publisher aims to release editions that should be “…presented in a form worthy of their contents.” Painstakingly crafted, each book that they release takes months, if not years, for a final product to be agreed upon where every aspect is considered to the nth degree. As they themselves explain, “…each book is considered as an individual object of value in its own right, there is a variety to our aesthetic – the only uniformity is in the quality of every single book.”
While Folio Society does not focus solely on genre fare, they have released many classic titles from that world, including the recent edition of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which featured brand new artwork by frequent Neil Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean. To celebrate those who put enormous amounts of effort into celebrating and cherishing the genre we so dearly appreciate and love, I had the chance to interview Folio Society’s Publishing Director Tom Walker about the company, specific titles they’ve released, and what’s coming next. Please enjoy!
Dread Central: The Folio Society has been creating beautiful editions for over 70 years. Can you tell me a bit about how you not only honour the legacy of the books you have in your catalogue but also the legacy of The Folio Society itself?
Tom Walker: I often feel overwhelmed walking through our library at the scale of what we have produced since 1947 – I know how much energy it takes to get one book right, so to do it with thousands, the library is an extraordinary feat. The thing that surprises me most though is how little we have changed since then. Our goal is fundamentally the same – to bring classic books to new audiences by producing them in a spectacular and lasting form. It’s a thrilling and a noble ideal really, so it feels an honour to be part of a publisher which has such a living tradition running through it.
DC: What do you look for in a book to find it worthy of The Folio Society treatment?
TW: That is a never-ending question, and one we constantly debate within our publishing team. Beyond the perhaps obvious considerations of the book having a stature to carry a fine edition, I look for books that are the best within their genre and will lend themselves well to an illustrated edition. Definitions of ‘classic’ works are slippery, but I like to think that Folio plays its part in helping to canonise certain books and authors, and to ensure they are read and re-read down the generations. The most important consideration for me is always that someone within Folio must love the book – it takes a certain level of obsession to create books like ours.
DC: Clearly an enormous amount of love and care goes into every book that you release. From the paper to the binding, the lettering to the new forewords, the slipcases and the printing… It all combines into something that is as much a work of art as the story the book itself contains. How does this process work for each novel?
TW: Well there are certain elements which are consistent but fundamentally we treat each book uniquely and with the respect it deserves, so when we decide to publish something we’ll think long and hard about how it could best be published, and over the course of it production we will consider every tiny detail. The editor and the art directors will likely have a vision of the final book quite early on, but it will always change through various stages of creative intervention – from the typographer, from the commissioned artist, from the author or introducer. We’re trying to match the form with the content and often that can involve restraint as much as it can involve a lavish design. So long as the aesthetics match those of the book and interplay in interesting ways, we have done our job well. We’re hugely fortunate to have an in-house team which loves creative collaboration and makes such a process possible.
DC: The Folio Society doesn’t discriminate by genre, offering anything from comedy to tragedy with everything in between. For horror fans, that means a great deal as the genre often gets looked down upon. What responsibility do you feel The Folio Society has in showcasing the validity and importance of all styles of writing?
TW: Often the very best writing is to be found in non-traditional genres, as I’m sure your readers will have noticed. Writers – particularly those with something genuinely new to say – don’t always like being confined to the expectations of a conventional genre. Horror, science fiction and other genres have undoubtedly been a refuge for some of the finest writers over the years. Folio is also in a unique position for a publisher in being able to showcase a wide range of genres – most publishers will tend to specialise in certain areas where we range quite freely. A lot of our readers will buy whole libraries from us, and no good private library will ever contain one genre. It’s thrilling too to be able to introduce readers to new authors they wouldn’t otherwise have considered except through us.
DC: Getting into specific titles, what can you tell me about the creation of your release of The Call of Cthulhu & Other Weird Stories? Was there anything that stands out about that particular release?
TW: That was an unusual project in a number of ways, not least because we produced two editions at the same time – a limited edition alongside our collector’s edition – and I must say the collector’s edition is in itself quite an extraordinary thing. Two elements stand out most for me with this edition. The first is the introduction by Alan Moore. It’s one of the finest I’ve commissioned in a decade of working at Folio, and makes the case for Lovecraft in a hugely compelling fashion. Secondly the vision at work here is very much that of the artist, Dan Hillier, who was involved in every level, from the artwork to the slipcase and solander-box box design to the decision to blacken the foredges of the book. It’s one of those projects where everything came together in a serendipitous and very fun way, and I think it stands up to Lovecraft’s extraordinary tales.
DC: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist is obviously a huge title for horror fans across generations. How do you go about honoring such a title?
TW: When we decided to publish this novel –an easy decision! – we were looking at artists to commission and came across the Lonely Road edition which had been illustrated by Caniglia. We knew of his work already and were so impressed by it that we asked Lonely Road if they would allow us to re-use it for our edition. They were graciousness itself, and through working with Caniglia we were able to include some material from him unique to our edition and what we ultimately produced is, I think, quite stunning.
DC: You have a glorious edition of The Shining from Stephen King. Will we see any more offerings from The Folio Society for King’s work?
TW: I do hope so. Watch this space!
DC: It seemed over the past several years that physical media was going to slowly disappear as electronic options became more and more popular. However, we’re seeing a resurgence of love for being able to have something tangible. What is your stance on physical versus digital, especially in your field where Kindles and Nooks and tablets are obviously very convenient?
TW: I’ve always felt that the rise of digital media has been Folio’s greatest opportunity. We all read so much online and on tablets but the pull of the physical isn’t going away, and I think Folio is part of a resurgence in crafted and thought-through objects – and writing – which people appreciate all the more as so much of our media is so ephemeral.
DC: What is coming up that you’re excited for at The Folio Society?
TW: It takes somewhere between eighteen months and three years to create a Folio Society edition, and I am always most excited about the books we have in the programme that far ahead. But I can’t tell you about any of them! A couple which have just been released I’m particularly proud of are Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, and Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf – both amazing novels, and both now in Folio formats which are utterly addictive.
DC: To end things, I’d love to know what is your dream book that you would love to be able to bring into The Folio Society’s catalogue?
TW: My dream book is always the next book I add to the catalogue, so luckily for me I don’t have to choose – you do!
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