Archive for February, 2009

Jetlagging with Giant Ravens

Jeff VanderMeer • February 25th, 2009 • Writing Tips

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(Me right now, listening to Once and Willard Grant Conspiracy’s Pilgrim Road, feeling slightly strange.)

It’s been a weird ten days since I got back from Australia. As long as I was sleeping from about 11 p.m. to noon, I woke up refreshed and feeling stunningly good. Ever since I’ve tried to break myself of that cycle so I wake up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., my life has been a living hell of insomnia and failure and horrible nightmares. The last three days in particular I’ve felt invincible, invisible, deranged, like I was going to cry out all the water in my body, and like physical objects around me had some kind of secret life.

My dreams have included man-headed panthers, huge ravens with human feet, and the return of the manta ray from “Strange Case of X,” which entered my subconscious mind from an early Piers Anthony novel but had been gone for a long time. I’ve felt like every hideous, inexplicable image hiding inside my brain has been pushing out into the light. One nightmare was so vicious and insane I had to get it out onto paper immediately because no effing way was I going to go through that again. When I woke from it, I got up with my baseball bat and patrolled the house for a half-hour, just in case. And I was still convinced there was something in the walk-in closet.

Jonathan Vos Post says this about jetlag in a comment on my Facebook status:

Circadian rhythm in humans is a myth. Without 24 periodicity in noise, light, heat, you begin to drift away from the astronomical reality. People kept in deep caves for long time with no clocks have proven this. Keywords: “entrainment of oscillators”

Seriously, that’s why jet lag is disrupting. Different organs and tissues drift back to local periodicity differently, and you body/brain are in uncomfortable chaos, in literal mathematical sense. Top expert on jet lag explained this to me at International Conference on Complex Systems.

I think it’s made worse in this case because of coming off two deadlines and then going right into a teaching situation (not that I’m complaining–just observing): going right from long-term isolation to communication, and then back again. Or something. My thoughts aren’t really right in my head at the moment. Have cut back on emailing and making decisions because I feel like I’m in the middle of a storm.

Still, I’ve got it easy. I don’t know how people like my wife, who experiences periodic ongoing insomnia, deal with it. Because it’s only been three days of real hell (one of them enhanced by the retarded decision to have two large coffees with espresso shots) and I’m already toast.

Today I didn’t sleep until 5 a.m. and got up at 2 p.m. Expect inconsistency on Ecstatic Days for awhile. Yee-haw…

Monstrous Creatures: New Nonfic Collection

Jeff VanderMeer • February 25th, 2009 • News


(Not the cover, but an example of Eric Orchard’s amazing work.)

The follow-up to my nonfiction collection Why Should I Cut Your Throat? is tentatively titled Monstrous Creatures and will be published by Guide Dog Books (an imprint of Raw Dog Screaming) in time for the Associated Writing Programs conference in 2010. Monstrous Creatures will include 70-75,000 words of essays, articles, and reviews from the last five years, including rare material like my review of Mieville’s YA novel from the Urban Building Review as well as my work for the Washington Post Book World and others. Subject matter will range from competence in genre to the dialogue or lack thereof between genre and mainstream, etc. All of it will be revised from original publication. Since I have over 150,000 words of material to sift through, the final collection should be extremely tight.

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Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest on Amazon

Jeff VanderMeer • February 24th, 2009 • Book Reviews

I’ve just posted a piece on Cat’s novel Palimpsest on Omnivoracious, including an exclusive “excerpt”. Okay, so it’s actually a deleted scene, but even better! Check it out.

Missives from the Front Lines: Steam, Frogs, and Fungal Invasions

Jeff VanderMeer • February 24th, 2009 • News


(Helsinki: vanguard of a new fungal invasion?)

A few reports came in from the front lines this week, starting off with good news regarding the spore blitzkrieg…

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Final Purge / Fragments From Purgatory

Jeff VanderMeer • February 24th, 2009 • Fiction

Some things will never be re-used. Shards of stuff that meant something once. Time to throw it out.

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Nightmare into Story

Jeff VanderMeer • February 24th, 2009 • Fiction

woke at 4.
nightmare.
wrote it down.
must now excavate.

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Contest: Wombat Thoughts

Jeff VanderMeer • February 23rd, 2009 • Culture


(Nicked from here.)

I’ve had many totem animals. Started off with frogs, moved to meerkats, then squid, then penguins, and currently bears (see: Mord, Third Bear, Seether, upcoming “Borne”). But I think wombats are next on my list.

This one seems to me to be in an odd state of dual concentration and relaxation. Like it’s totally relaxed so it can contain the entire multiverse in its brain and, while comatose, travel anywhere it wants to travel. Kind of like a transdimensional manifestation of the Buddha.

What do you think the wombat’s thinking about? One idea per person. Deadline Thursday night. Winner gets a copy of the Bantam Veniss and City of Saints, shipped to the person of their choice as a gift. (Just got in some great pristine copies of the 1st edition of the Bantam City…)

Booklife Cover, and Notes

Jeff VanderMeer • February 23rd, 2009 • Booklife Now, News

Here’s the almost-final cover of Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer, art and design by John Coulthart. I’m pleased to note that Juliet Ulman is doing the developmental edit. Thanks also to Ann, who read the manuscript in several iterations and helped me make major changes, as well as Matt Staggs, who contributed mightily (as did others I will talk about later). (Check out Coulthart’s post on the process to get to the final cover, including prior iterations; some of those ideas will be re-used for other books, where they’ll work better.)

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Adventures in Brisbane with the Native Species

Jeff VanderMeer • February 22nd, 2009 • Culture, Photos, Uncategorized


(A rare photo of native species Tessa, a fierce creature that, despite being photogenic, generally resists any soul-captures.)

On the back-end of Clarion, I had two days in Brisbane to bum around (well, more like one and a quarter, given the hang-over following the Clarion South wrap party). Our friend Native Species came up to visit just in time for me to have recovered, and has already documented the experience here in a highly entertaining account. (It was awfully nice of NS to visit, since otherwise I would’ve been like a ghost wandering the streets of Brisbane, given that Ann hadn’t been able to come with me on the trip, alas.)

I only have a few things to add…

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Clarion South 2009: A Teacher’s View

Jeff VanderMeer • February 22nd, 2009 • Writing Tips


(Amanda, Steve, Tracy, and Su Lynn, Clarion 2009 students. Who’s more frazzled? Answer: the guy taking the photo.)

Update: Also check out student Aidan Doyle’s things he learned at Clarion. A classic.

They say the first Clarion you teach is the one that breaks your heart and determines whether you’re cut out to do workshops of that nature. If that’s true, then Clarion East in 2007 was the crucible. But Clarion South 2009 was different for a couple of reasons: I taught solo, without Ann (felt at times incapacitated by that, although she critiqued stories from home), and it was the sixth week, not the second. Typically, the sixth week is a time of total exhaustion, combined with the dawning realization, in a kind of rising panic and relief, that it’ll all soon be over. (It can also be a time of manic energy, depending on how the fifth week went; in this case, Trent Jamieson had done a great job of challenging them and yet chilling them out, so they had a good amount of energy for my week.)

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