Archive for December, 2008

Evil’s Infernal 60-60 Offer

Jeff VanderMeer • December 28th, 2008 • Evil Monkey, Nonfiction


(Design by the Evil Genius.)

Evil Monkey:
Psst.

Jeff:
Uhhh! Geez, Evil, you scared the crap out of me.

Evil Monkey:
Evil is as Evil does.

Jeff:
What the heck are you doing in that alley? Why’s that guy got no shirt? Um, why’re you wearing a shirt.

Evil Monkey:
No more questions. Just keep an eye on him. I’ve got his wallet.

Jeff:
What? What the hell?

Evil Monkey:
Okay, short answer: I was waiting for you, my friend. Waiting to extend an…infernal offer.

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Channels and White Noise/Dark Noise Revisited

Jeff VanderMeer • December 28th, 2008 • Writing Tips


(The door to channels of white and dark noise…)

My friend Dan Read has had some very interesting things to say in connection with my White Noise/Solitude post earlier this week, and I’m going to bring them up out of the comments thread and into this revisting of the subject. See below. I’m curious whether anyone else has trouble with this balance, and any thoughts on it, especially since it’s part of the sustainable career/sustainable creativity section of my forthcoming Booklife book from Tachyon.

Here’s part of my response to Dan, as well: I totally agree with you re channels. It’s tough sometimes. We keep too many channels open and we have to retreat completely from all of them. The key is the recognition that too many channels are open before a fuse blows. I’m always somewhat afraid of getting burnt out and not regaining whatever it is that keeps the imagination continuously putting out ideas and images. This in particular resonates: “One thing that’s tricky is that the channel stays open in your consciousness even when you’re not paying attention to it. In fact, the fact that you’re not paying attention to it at any given moment creates an extra stress.” This is one reason I am not writing much fiction while doing the 60 in 60. It started as an interesting exercise, something to cleanse my mind. It still is doing that, but with the linkage to the feature, the Guardian thing etc., it is now much more of a “performance” than I’d planned. And so I have to be careful now that this open channel also doesn’t become something that burns me out.

The text below is all copyright Dan Read.

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60 in 60: #14 – Schopenhauer’s On the Suffering of the World (Penguin’s Great Ideas)

Jeff VanderMeer • December 28th, 2008 • 60 in 60, Book Reviews

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series. From mid-December to mid-February, I will read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

On the Suffering of the World
by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Memorable Line
“Knowledge is in itself always painless.”

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Old Revolutionary Posters on Cat Politics

Jeff VanderMeer • December 27th, 2008 • Culture

Anne Sydenham has posted some revolutionary posters on her blog, after reading my post about the Communist Manifesto. Check it out.

Ambergris Music and Finch

Jeff VanderMeer • December 27th, 2008 • Culture, Fiction, Photos

Robert Devereux created Fungicide as an experimental accompaniment to City of Saints and Madmen, which made sense because of the many different post-modern renovations and experiments in the text. (It also includes a reading of “The Exchange” by yours truly.) The cover art is by Hawk Alfredson, whose work was an influence on me while writing Shriek. The interior booklet contains several pieces by Alfredson, as well as Devereux’s own written riff on Ambergris. You can check out samples here.

For Shriek: An Afterword, the second Ambergris book, The Church did a soundtrack for the Shriek movie, and then decided to expand on that for a more complex song cycle that’s a soundtrack to the novel. It even uses lines from the novel as lyrics. This time, Ben Templesmith provided the cover art, and it’s the packaging that provides extra value, rather than an insert booklet. The CD is available with the Shriek limited and, eventually, from The Church directly. The music in this case is slightly more out there than a regular Church CD, but not by much. Since I wrote Shriek while listening to The Church, I think there’s a synergy between their sound and the rhythms of the novel. Here’s a little sampler of the music that I put together–four short bits from four different songs.

***

So, now there’s Finch, which I’ve posted a couple of excerpts from on this blog. It’s got a more hardboiled, stripped-down style, and I’m seriously thinking about approaching a band to see if we could put out a CD based on the novel. It just seems like something would be missing otherwise. In re-reading Finch, I’m thinking bands like Murder by Death, Nick Cave, Darker My Love, stuff like that. But I’m curious–based on the excerpts, what do you think the music should be like? (Should have a cover soon, by the way.)

Dec. 21-27: 60 in 60 Week in Review

Jeff VanderMeer • December 27th, 2008 • 60 in 60, Book Reviews

Visit Omnivoracious every Saturday for a summary of the week’s 60 in 60. This was a tough week in terms of ranking the books, in part because a ranking is ludicrous on the face of it and in part because I enjoyed each of these books, but for vastly different reasons.

There is also the relative weight of each book to consider. The Hazlitt was more enjoyable than The Communist Manifesto, but obviously has been less influential. Despite relying on my own personal context and not seeking out more information than provided in each Penguin edition, certain texts already come with built-in preconceptions for the reader. So Hazlitt entertained me and was clever, but I had little to say about it because of its relative lightness. Not so The Communist Manifesto–something more radical, which by its very nature provokes a longer response.

In the coming week, Schopenhauer (which I’ve started this afternoon and am enjoying), Ruskin, Darwin, Nietzche, Woolf, Freud, and Orwell are on deck. Ruskin is an old friend, as are Woolf and Orwell. Nietzche and Freud I’ve previously encountered in excerpts only. It should be an interesting week.

Thanks for reading, and, more importantly, for posting comments to both the texts and my thoughts about them.

Mysterious Journey: Tyhjiö

Jeff VanderMeer • December 27th, 2008 • Culture

Check out the trailer, among other…mysterious…things…

60 in 60: #13 – Marx and Engels – The Communist Manifesto (Penguin’s Great Ideas)

Jeff VanderMeer • December 27th, 2008 • 60 in 60, Book Reviews, Culture

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series. From mid-December to mid-February, I will read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

The Communist Manifesto
by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels (1818-1883, 1820-1895)

Memorable Line
“The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground–what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?”

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Reclaiming the Past: Old Photos

Jeff VanderMeer • December 26th, 2008 • Nonfiction, Photos

When I was four, our family joined the Peace Corps and moved to the Fiji Islands for two tours of duty. My father taught chemistry at the University of the South Pacific and my mom did biological illustrations for various departments and other clients. In between tours, we took an extensive trip to Peru and other countries. After the second tour, our parents took my sister Elizabeth and me on an amazing adventure: about six months traveling the world before returning to the United States. We traveled from Fiji to, among others, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, India, and then places like Kenya and Egypt and parts of Europe. We stayed in hostels, hotels, motels. We traveled by plane, train, bus, and car. We saw trance dances and shadow puppets in Indonesia. I was bitten by a monkey in the Calcutta zoo and ate American-style pancakes in Kathmandu.

In short, it was an eye-opening experience–the kind of thing that led to me becoming a writer, and especially a fantasy writer. As Jay Lake and I have discussed, it seems there is a certain kind of writer who tries to reconcile a childhood of moving from place to place by writing fantasy–a way of combining elements of all the places visited or lived in. (And also because, frankly, if you’re exposed to the world in its entirety as a kid, it’s a strange and fantastical place.)

Perhaps as importantly, when you travel a lot overseas, you lose your ties with your extended family even as you gain exposure to many cultures and people. My parents took photographs the entire time my sister and I were growing up–both in Pennsylvania and overseas. They’re in the form of slides, which I’ve only just this week–thanks to Ann buying me a slide converter–gotten around to beginning to convert into digital form. In many cases, these slides are my only memory of early events in my life. Sometimes they are my own memory of family members. At times, I am unsure whether I actually remember something or I am just remembering the photograph of it.

Over the next few months, I’ve decided to digitize all of these slides and to share some of them on this blog. For someone with no fixed sense of place, no fixed sense of family (until I encountered Ann’s wonderful extended family), this has become very important to me. I can’t promise anything profound, but you’ll always have the option to just skip the post. But I want to start getting a few things down on paper, to fix my memories in a kind of record. For now, here are a few photos from my initial scans, with a couple of comments. Again, thanks for your patience with this indulgence–and apologies for the poor quality of these initial photographs. I’m still learning how to operate the scanner.

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White Noise, Solitude, and Writing

Jeff VanderMeer • December 26th, 2008 • Writing Tips

As I have mentioned, one thing I enjoyed about the last six weeks of working on Finch was not being connected to the Internet, or to much else. It’s been a long time since I’ve had solitude. The lack of it can eat away at your center. In a writer, it can shorten attention span, make it difficult to get into that deep, submerged place that your power comes from. Instead of allowing things to come into you, you are continually projecting things out from you, if that makes any sense. It will seem as if you are in a sense accumulating more power, but in fact you are diminished because nothing is flowing into you. It creates fatigue, and a certain amount of irritation.

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