Black Clock #9, and More Catching Up Before Diving Back In…

Here ya go: news you didn’t know you needed. Please use the comments to tell me your news!

– Black Clock #9, the political issue, is now out, with fiction by yours truly, and other contributors that include Rick Moody, Brian Evenson, Jonathan Lethem, Steve Erickson, Janet Sarbanes, etc. I’m very excited about this one. My story shows John McCain, George W Bush, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton in a series of alternate universes. Something terrible comes out of McCain’s head…

– Will Hindmarch will join the parade of guest-bloggers here at Ecstatic Days, taking a week around mid-October.

– Ann and I just finished editing, with John Davey, a best-of collection of Michael Moorcock’s non-Elric stories, to be published by Tachyon in May 2009.

– I just turned in my final line-edits on the Predator novel to Dark Horse, and the book is set for publication in late September. I’m very happy with the novel, especially because it gets stranger as it goes along. (Just remember, dear readers, this is a Predator novel–the first person who tries to compare/contrast it to Veniss or City is going to get a book thrown a them. A big book.)

– Congrats to Jeremy Thorpe and his fiancee on getting married. I was very flattered that Shriek played a role: “I got married on July 26th. I mention this because one of our readings was from Shriek–the bit that ends with, ‘Each could feel the other’s presence in their separate spaces as powerfully as in their shared space.’ When I first read that, I showed it to my then-fiancee Kendra, saying, ‘This! Look! Us!’ And, a year later, there was your name in the program, and it was far too late to back out then. Jed Hartman (of Strange Horizons) did the reading.”

– Work on Finch continues apace. I’m incredibly psyched about the novel. It has grown and grown in depth (if not length) as my notes for two more Ambergris novels are devoured by this novel. Which basically means this is probably the last Ambergris novel. All will be revealed…that should be revealed. I’ll be interested to see how people interpret the three books as a whole, because they’re really all one long mosaic novel. Shriek in particular becomes reinvented by Finch. And certain parts of City of Saints, when re-read in light of Finch, should cause the hairs on one’s neck to rise and stay that way…

– Last Drink Bird Head is now scheduled for September of 2009 and the Clarion charity antho is scheduled for March 2009. This was necessary because of the glut of projects coming out the end of this year.

– The debate about whether dragons exist rages on in the comments thread of my Amazon post from several months ago: “if you wactch avatar youll get lucky enough to have a dream about the spirit world. Then try to get to Ordona’s forest and talk with her. she will give you an egg to watch in the spirit world. AND if you get really lucky youll get your dream dargon…”; “i just got the drakon dragon and it’s a boy. he is so cute. has very hard scalesthat are is orangeis-yellowis,has 3 rows of teeth and has a 3 forked tounge. he’s a miniature and he ate his egg when he was born. his egg was golden and shiny.”

– The Weather Channel’s blog posted a piece by Jonathan Bender on Steampunk, which includes parts of an interview with me and Ann.

John Coulthart created a lovely moleskin-fitting steampunk design around my Steampunk Equation, which may appear in a commercial context soon (more info when I have it):

– io9 ran our latest art column, on Bob Eggleton.

– My first political fiction column for the Huffington Post should go live sometime next week, with a review of the new Stephenson novel scheduled for B&N Review in September.

– Ann and I leave for Europe August 20. First, we’re two of the guests of honor at Parcon in Pilsen (highlight: a beer bath) and also there to support the launch of the Czech version of The New Weird. Then it’s off to Romania to support the launch of The New Weird and my Predator novel. Followed by some R&R back in Prague, including our continued hunt for Svankmajer. Not to mention, we’ll be doing a short piece on Prague for Realms of Fantasy.

– LATE UPDATE: Dark Knight was awesome, and not too long. Also, after $25,000-worth of tests to figure out why one of the arteries leading to my heart is oversized, it turns out, hey, it was probably always that way, because I’m in perfect health, with great cholesterol levels and great blood pressure. And, luckily, my insurance kicks ass, so it only cost me $300.

This is the last time I poke my head up out of the novel writing for awhile…


  1. Phil Maloney says

    “Something terrible comes out of McCain’s head…”

    I thought the story was supposed to be about an alternate universe…

  2. says

    I’m guessing that “something terrible” that comes out of McCain’s head is not an original thought, is it?

  3. says

    Hrmm…now I have this image of the worm crawling from McCain’s ear like in Star Trek II and Obama yelling, “KHHAAAAAANNNNNN!”

    That would be sweet.

  4. says


    Just means Borne is closer.


    More like,

    The fungus cometh and in the shattered bunker President McCain laughs through a mouthful of blood. The last emergency sequences were overrun and they had to fall back even after he’d emptied a clip from his Glock into the heads of those creeping nearest. “Ah, Tootsie,” he says to his golden retriever, cowering in a corner. “Sometimes I wish I was back on the bus. It’s a helluva a thing to be President.” Blood wanders down his forehead, near the green crater where the fungal presence has manifested. It pulses and itches, and with the drugs to keep it under control now gone, McCain knows he only has a few hours of free will. As it is, the titanium door of the bunker tinkles and echoes with the sound of those on the other side. On his side, it’s just him, the dog, and fifty dead marines; he’d had to turn the flame-thrower on them himself, just so more of the Colonized wouldn’t rise to challenge him. Laughing bitterly as he did it. If he hadn’t help kill the congressional resolution condemning the past President for internal use of nukes, the damn things might not have mutated so fast.

  5. says


    President Hillary Clinton is one of the first into Kansas City, at the head of an armored column of tanks, mobile missile launchers and prisoners of war, stripped of their Ecstatic insignia. It’s largely symbolic, since Clinton took the Heartlands by rendering vast stretches of it uninhabitable through tactical nukes and ceding special reservations, mostly in the Western states, to the Doberzees, so she could stop fighting a two-front war. But she takes an unguarded, well-earned satisfaction in the pageantry, the bodies of the defeated lining the route forced to display the smiles and waving of a people being liberated.

  6. Transfiguring Roar says

    Nice update, Jeff. I’m with Tessa about Finch being the last Ambergris novel. I have faith that’ll it’ll be a bang, though, and not a whimper. Looking forward to it.

  7. Jeff VanderMeer says

    “When the time comes, right, Finch?”

    Back at the station. Back at his desk with the other detectives. Smell of fungal rot from the green strip of carpet running from the door to the back area, which was hidden by a curtain. Smell of bad coffee from the table near the back that also housed their only typewriter. Dull light through dull windows above Wyte, who sat at the desk to Finch’s left. Beyond, five of ten desks empty. The rest out following leads or taken to the camps or…? Skinner, Gustat, Blakey, Dapple, and Albin furiously scritching away on their notepads with sharp pencils. All of them like school boys in some incomprehensible class. None of them likely to ask questions of the teacher. Only a weak hello when Finch had walked in. Too much effort. Not yet over the morning jitters.

    Finch was in a bad mood. As usual, it had been difficult just getting back to the station. A tortuous route. No motored vehicles allowed without an important reason—too many suicide bombings. Three makeshift bridges over flooded streets. All recent gray cap engineering in sectors where gray cap buildings had gone up. The sectors did not correspond to any human map. They sliced through apartment buildings, cut down the middle of streets. Displayed an arrogance about the way things had been and were now that angered Finch.

    Then a mob to avoid at the corner of Albumuth and Lake. A huge blood-red mushroom with a thick stem like a tree trunk hadn’t yet released the morning ration of drugs. A glitch? Not Finch’s problem. But the addicts were mad. They wanted their fix. Wanted out. They stood beneath the slow-breathing dead-white gills waiting for the green-gold nodes. Maybe someday he’d join them. Instead, he’d taken a boat across a wide canal. Looked down at his frowning reflection and not recognized it. The thick, broad-shouldered man lingering there seemed forty-five, not ten years younger.

    All of this added to the mental fatigue. The stress.

    His partner Wyte understood that better than anyone.

    “When the time comes, right, Finch?”

    “Sure, Wyte,” Finch said. “When the time comes.”

    “You’ll know what to do.” The voice, once so deep and gravelly, had changed since Finch had first met Wyte. Become soft and liquid, lighter yet thicker.

    “I’ll know what to do.”

    Ritual had a purpose. Ritual cordoned off fear. Ritual made the abnormal ordinary. The memory hole beside each of the desks. The deep green vein running the length of Wyte’s arm seen from the left edge of Finch’s vision as he sat down at his desk. Pushing up ridge-like against the fabric of Wyte’s long sleeves.

    Finch took his gun from its holster. Recoiled from the touch of the grip.

    “For Truff’s sake,” Finch said. Laid it on his desk with a squelch.

    The gun had been issued by the gray caps. Dark green exoskeleton, soft interior. It had been seeping lately. Its guts stained his hand. Reloading didn’t seem like an option.

    “I wonder if it’s dying on me,” Finch said. To Wyte.

    There’s a thought. Should I have been feeding it?

    Wyte just grunted. He was reflexively writing up reports on nothing in particular. Lost husbands. Unidentifiable corpses. Vandalism. Finch had cases, too, but nothing that couldn’t wait.

    Finch rummaged in a drawer. Found a worn handkerchief. It predated the war. He’d gotten it from an expensive shop on Albumuth Boulevard. He didn’t know why he kept it. Luck? Grimacing, picked up the gun with the handkerchief. Deposited both in the drawer.

    “I’d rather get shot,” Finch said too loud, but not sure if he meant it. Gustat and Blakey, joined at the hip, looked up, glared. Dapple brought a case file so close to his eyes it hid his face.

    Ever more difficult to know what to say. How to act. They all assumed the gray caps spied on them. Difficult to remember that all day.

    Almost as if to cover for Finch, Wyte, asked, “So, Finchy, just how bad was it?”

    Finch turned in his chair to face Wyte. Hadn’t wanted to. No telling what he looked like.

    Wyte: a tall man, mid-forties, with a handsome face, powerful shoulders and chest. Tattered olive suit. Eyes now hooded in gray. A spark of green colonizing the brown of each pupil. Right temple: a purple birthmark that hadn’t been there yesterday. Smelled of cigarette smoke to cover the stench of mushrooms. Even though cigs were hard to come by. Once, he could have entered a crowded bar and all the women would have found a way to stare at him.

    “A double,” Finch said. “In an abandoned apartment. One gray cap. One male human.” Then told Wyte the rest.

    “A clear case of dancing lessons gone terribly wrong,” Wyte said. The grin only manifested on the left side of his mouth.

    Skinner, next to Wyte, hazarded a snicker. But Finch didn’t find it funny. He was still seeing the bodies.

    “This is nothing good, Wyte.” Good would have meant something that might go away quickly. This could linger.

    Wyte, as if realizing his mistake: “Do you want me to take the memory bulbs?”

    “No thanks.” Who knew what a memory bulb would do to Wyte in his state? Finch didn’t want to find out. The late Richard Dorn had sat at his desk for six months after the gray caps had forced him to eat a memory bulb despite his wasting disease. Dead. Turning into a tower of emerald mold. The desk sat in a corner now, abandoned, a green smudge on the seat of the chair.

    “We’re in trouble on this one, aren’t we?” Wyte said. Black patch on his neck, slowly moving. Nails a faint green. A whiff of something toxic.
    Finch shrugged. Yes, but not the same kind of trouble.

    Wyte leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head. Red stains on the shirt’s underarms.

    Finch had known Wyte for more than fifteen years. They’d fought in the wars together. Known the same people before the Rising. Played darts together. Had drinks. Sudden vision, debilitating: of his girlfriend back then laughing at some joke Wyte had made one night, the days of Comedian Wyte long past except for the occasional flare up that just made it worse. Now, through some mistake or cruelty, they worked cases together.

    For awhile Finch had been making Wyte more and more distant.

    Someday he’ll be a silhouette on the horizon.

    And Wyte sensed it.

  8. Transfiguring Roar says

    Haha. Thanks for the teaser, Jeff! It has made my day.

    It reads very much from the perspective of a detective, and that should make it an unique Ambergris read. It looks like you really have nailed the situation just from reading that little bit. Excellent stuff.

  9. The Masked Madman says

    I must give a third cry for the end of Ambergris… it is such a fantastic city, full of potential… I hope, Jeff, that you’ll give it life after Finch – whether it is you doing the birthing or someone else.

    This does not mean, however, that I’m not INCREDIBLY EXCITED for Finch… the teaser, the thought of it being the biggest and most awesome Ambergris novel… that’s enough to keep me going.

    I do hope it survives past you, though… perhaps into the lands around Ambergris? Perhaps into the past? It’s a strange not-quite-real world you’ve created… and my favorite fictional city to visit.

  10. says

    Dear Madman: I’m not much for the idea of others working in Ambergris, to be honest. But it’s true I don’t know what other inspiration I might find. Also now finding that “Zamilon File” will still probably come after “Finch,” but I doubt it’ll be more than a novella.


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  12. says

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