Meerkat Press is excited to announce the acquisition of Kathe Koja’s immersive fiction, DARK FACTORY, from Christopher Schelling of Selective Artists, for publication in 2022, a novel that uses words, images, and sound to ask Where does the story end, and reality begin?

Dark Factory is a state-of-the-art club where reality is customizable: just scroll down the menu, and change your world. Ari Regon is the club’s floor manager, a wild card who makes things happen, Max Caspar is a stubborn and talented DIY artist. And they’re both chasing the same thing: the ultimate experience, a vision of true reality.

Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally.

Meerkat Press is an independent press committed to publishing irresistible, unforgettable prose and poetry. Their books range from literary to genre fiction, with quality the common denominator. They have won or been finalists for the Nebula Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Aurealis Award, the Australian Shadows Award, the Ditmar Award, the Norma K. Hemming Award, the Ladies of Horror Fiction Award, the Foreword Indies Award, the IPPY Award, and the Benjamin Franklin Award.

Selectric Artists is an agency for literary and talent management, founded and run by Christopher Schelling in 2011. Selectric’s client list spans a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including New York Times bestselling memoirist Augusten Burroughs (Lust & Wonder), YA novelists Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park) and Cinda Williams Chima (Flamecaster) and musicians like New York-based pop-rock duo, the Skivvies.


Excerpt from DARK FACTORY

“Ari! Hey Ari, how’s it going?”

“Hey,” his nod to the skinny DJ on the bench opposite Jonas’s office, blue glass walls half-covered with overlapping Dark Factory posters, the effect is like peering into a paper aquarium. “It’s going good. Tight.”

“I just got in from Chromefest, I played some crazy-great shit,” the DJ digging into his bag, a dangle of fake gold giveaway charms, too many stickers, TOOT SWEET, U DONT REDLINE U DONT HEADLINE, pulling out a mix stick. “Got a minute?”

“Got a meeting,” with a shrug, a smile, his public smile—

but inside the office no Jonas, only his spoor: smudged steel water bottle and empty NooJuice cans, Causabon trainers new in the box, a white dinner jacket hung on the back of the hulking recliner, and between the piles on the blue glass table that is Jonas’s desk two burner phones, both vibrating like wind-up toys: Ari takes up one, then the other, neither are numbers he knows. Also on the desk is a flat delivery box stacked with t-shirts, new streamlined design, and “Y makes the logo move,” Jonas at the door, slamming the door, Jonas wearing last summer’s t-shirt, black and sleeveless beneath a clear plastic wrap jacket; with his thick hair sheared at the sides he looks like a brand-new cleaning brush, Ari hides a smile. “Lee thinks it’s too subtle. What do you think?”

“Not if it moves,” an answer and a parry, Jonas likes to test everyone, Ari most of all. “Chockablock thinks of everything.”

“And overcharges for everything too. Wear it around, see what people say,” and as Ari drapes a shirt around his neck, “I know it’s your day off, but I need you in the box tonight.”

“Just me?”

“You and whoever else I stick in there. Be good, or it’ll be Lee.”

“I don’t have a problem with Lee.”

“That’s not what she says.”

“Then that’s her problem.”

“True . . . Got a smoke? Darcy’s after me to quit,” Ari offering one of the black blunts he gets from the boys in the clubs, Jonas rooting in the desk’s mess for an ashtray and “Jesus,” Jonas’s shrug half-annoyed, “Lee said that some woman gave birth on the floor last night? To an actual baby? What a mess.”

Ari laughs—“The Factory’s first natural-born citizen”—and after a moment Jonas laughs too: “Your brain, Ari, your fucking brain,” pulling out his real phone, a quick dictating bark, “Lee, find those baby people, give the baby free admission for life, make a big deal out of it—”

—as Ari exits in a puff of smoke and a flutter of posters, past the still-waiting DJ, two runners toting scent canisters like oversized silver bullets, another runner wrangling a wobbly rack of boxed NooJuice, provided to the production in exchange for placement, another of Ari’s ideas that Jonas approves, Jonas drinks half a dozen cans of that swill a day. Lee drinks it too, though Ari knows she hates it; sometimes he catches Lee studying him when she thinks no one can see.

In the performers’ lounge he slips on the new t-shirt—a little loose across the chest, he likes his shirts tighter—smooths back his hair, then heads for the black-and-white NOT AN EXIT sign over the loading dock doors: a delivery van rolling out, another just backing in as he sidesteps between them and out into the street, Neuberg Street, his streets. A teenager, the first time, he came here to drink cheap lager and fuck and dance to loud music with boys, he still fucks and dances but Jonas has taught him something about wine, so he drinks that instead now, chilled and white, it pairs nicely with the blunts . . . Sixteen then and wide open, new to the scene, new to joy: his look changed, his slang, even his walk, more swagger, more aware of his body as he roamed past the schnapps bars and phone stores and ancient brick alleys, the corner charging station shaped like a top hat where the boys hung out, flirting and sparring in the noise of sidewalk speakers and the whirring purr of the trains, the muezzin’s call floating over avenues of beech and linden trees, the black-washed façades of the remodeled industrial flats, the cafés hot with espresso and frothing oat milk, the clubs’ 4AM aroma of lager and latex and Club-Mate, dancing panting bodies, moisturizer and tobacco and tears . . . And now he lives in one of those expensive industrial flats, he has everything he wants in this world, almost everything.

The October sky is overcast as a tarnished mirror, heat still radiating from the pavement; he stops at a Kaffee Kart for an iced espresso and “Your shirt’s cool,” says the freckled barista, as Ari records her reaction for Jonas’S eventual benefit. “Dark Factory, it’s like life if life was perfect, I’d go every weekend if I could. You go a lot?”

“I go every night. I work there.”

“You work at Dark Factory? Oh cool! What do you do?”

And Ari smiles, because there is no name for what he does, what he is, what Jonas needs most, what Lee for all her stats and apps and 24/7 devotion can never be: the bridge between the Factory and the world, a native of both because “I’m the ambassador,” he says, and lifts his cup to toast—the barista, the Factory, his job, himself—as a sudden gust of steam surrounds him, like a saint’s silver halo, or a personal storm.


Kathe Koja

Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com.