Where we look to the sea for our editorial metaphors, Athenian micropress publishers Pilotless Press look to the sky for theirs.
In their ‘Air-to-Air Manifesto’ Pilotless Press state that “Language is the ultimate trip, and fiction is its vessel and vassal.” We agree, but would probably have to add photography, film, food and meeting new people into our ultimate trip. It’s a mixture of all these substances, as well as the physical discovery of a city we’ve never been to before that get us wired about creating each new issue of Boat. What we like about Pilotless Press is that they get their fix from being aeronauts and men of their word, literally the printed word.
Pilotless Press is the brainchild of three friends Phyllis Nikolaou, Pavlos Zervos, and Panagiotis Gavriiloglou who share a similar love of short fiction (namely by Greek writers written originally in English), and an equal distain to its digital little sister. “We don’t understand ugly books either”, their self-named Co-Pilot (Gavriiloglou) told Boat last week. This sentiment is made clear in P P’s first edition, which takes its form as a beautifully crafted chapbook of Allen Kechagiar’s short story The Mundane History of Lockwood Heights. We were lucky enough to be sent one through the post last week. Created with the utmost care, the chapbook arrived (along with a bookmark and postcard) in a sealed and stamped envelope, within a second addressed envelope.
The story within tells the tale of a nameless man returning to his hometown of Lockwood Heights, California: a valley obscured by shopping malls and populated by virgins seeking jobs in the porn industry. Both the story’s sadness and its strangeness make it a truly captivating short read. I could easily have read on. The narrator flashes back to memories of a teenhood tailored to porn, then back again between the present and memories of his father’s funeral. A questioning of the trustworthiness of time and memory are central to reading Kechagiar’s story. They are also what Pilotless Press pivots upon.
“When a story is printed it enters the realm of memory,” their Manifesto states. “It can be remembered and transmitted, despite the fact that it has never been experienced except in the most abstract of terms. In this way, fiction is the ultimate impostor, or the ultimate conduit of impostors.” This becomes mimetic in Kechagiar’s story as the narrator also finds memory deceitful. When he returns to the home he grew up in: ‘how can I explain the re-arranging of the photographs on the staircase wall? […] In subtle, disquieting ways, the home, the house I had grown up in, had turned into the map of a failing brain.’
Being their first short story it seems that The Mundane History of Lockwood Heights could be the egg to their publishing house chicken. Or is it the other way around? When we asked them what their goal for the future of Pilotless Press’s was, they answered: “Inasmuch as it can be said to have a goal, that would be to publish short stories by Greek writers writing in English, with a strong modernist/post-modernist bent.” They also expressed an opposition to digital: “we might at some point be forced to try digital publishing” said their Co-Pilot, “probably when someone points a gun to our heads”, he went on.
Their dedication to print could be seen as merely nostalgic, but there is nothing old-fashioned about their publication. The design of the chapbook and the postcard it came with brandishes an image that resembles what I can only describe as a metal spring (one that is either bent or self-enveloping, depending on how you look at it). This image could be seen to reflect the Pilotless Press ethos: the infinitely intangible quality of that tricky little thing we call memory. The chapbook format could be considered much more post-modern than it is old-fashioned then, and they don’t plan to stop the experimenting there either. “We might at some point publish hardcover books, loose pages, folded napkins, or folios. No one knows”, said their Co-Pilot.
But never digital? “As much as we like gadgets, we don’t think that we’ll ever get over that moment when you get hold of a new book and the first thing you do is to open it just to see how the paper smells.” Says their Navigator (Nikolaou). With the Athens Issue coming back from the printer today all new-smelling, we know just how they feel.
We look forward to holding Pilotless Press’s second edition when it comes out. For now, head to their site pilotlesspress.tumblr.com to pick up The Mundane History of Lockwood Heights – we think it’s definitely worth the read.
Words by Zara Miller
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