Archive for April, 2009

Britten and Brulightly’s Effing Weather: Pitch-Perfect Noir

Jeff VanderMeer • April 24th, 2009 • Book Reviews

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I just posted a short feature on Hannah Berry’s brilliant Britten and Brulightly over at Omnivoracious. Great stuff. As usual, I think Joe Gordon at Forbidden Planet got there first, but am happy to have discovered Berry in this new US edition.

“What every great noir needs is the right atmosphere, and the sepia tones of Berry’s creation set that mood perfectly. The subtle shifts in those tones, from gray to brown to green work well with panels that contain an amazing amount of texture and detail, without ever seeming crowded.”

More images below the cut, although they don’t really do justice to the wealth of shades and nuances in the colors.

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Evil Monkey Interrogates Finch

Jeff VanderMeer • April 23rd, 2009 • Evil Monkey

Evil Monkey:
So…you’ve been mouthing off on Facebook about finishing Finch, your new novel. I thought you finished that piece of crap months ago?

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J.G. Ballard Linkage

Jeff VanderMeer • April 23rd, 2009 • Culture

Just posted an Omnivoracious piece with linkage to some of the best tributes to Ballard–among which I must classify the edgy/funny one above, from Rhys Hughes’ blog, where he also writes:

“…nothing will ever erode the staggering importance, the extreme malignity and the utter originality of his novel Crash! and its relevance to the world we live in. The featured photograph is my tribute to that masterpiece. The cost of the picture was £2.05 (£1 for the toy car, 85p for the firelighters stuffed inside the chassis and 20p for the box of matches to ignite the wreck). The wreck itself was created by bashing the car with a pebble found on the beach.”

Geoff Manaugh on Ballard

Jeff VanderMeer • April 22nd, 2009 • Culture

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I invited Geoff Manaugh of the BLDGBLOG to share his thoughts about Ballard on Omnivoracious–and I’m glad I did. It’s fascinating stuff, and it begins to get at some of the reasons I love Ballard’s work. Much of how he rewires minds is how he approached the idea of space and architecture.

Here’s a short excerpt:

“Among other things, what makes Ballard’s fiction so spatially valuable is that he explores the psychological implications of everyday non-places–like parking lots, high-rise apartment towers, highway embankments, shopping malls, well-policed corporate enclaves, and even British suburbia–without resorting to the flippant condemnation one might expect. Instead, Ballard describes these spaces in terms of their effects: how they mutate and rearrange the mental lives of their inhabitants…It’s as if these buildings, malls, empty plazas, and parking lots do, in fact, inspire a new type of humanity–as modernism’s high priests once predicted–but Ballard shows that what they are bringing into existence is something altogether darker and unexpected. In other words, our contemporary built landscape has not ushered in the enlightened utopia once promised by Le Corbusier, for instance, with his isolated towers, or by Mies van der Rohe with his unornamented glass boxes. Instead, there is a slow-burning psychopathy here, a dementia inspired by space itself.”

Prototype

Jeff VanderMeer • April 22nd, 2009 • Culture, Photos

[A couple of unrelated programming notes: Secret Lives orders go out this weekend, and SF Site has a MindMeld in which I pick on Elizabeth Hand, Kage Baker, Rachel Swirsky, Meghan McCarron, and Micaela Morrissette.]

Heh. Prototype. Not perfect. Not fly right yet. But…progress. Back to the laboratory. Sometimes I think I might be a little nuts, but when I do pull this off, it will be made of cool.

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Booklife Turned In…Now It Begins…

Jeff VanderMeer • April 21st, 2009 • News

Just turned Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for 21st-Century Writers following Juliet Ulman’s splendid developmental edit (thanks, Juliet!). Thanks to my long-suffering wonderful wife Ann for her first read, help with reorganizing parts, and subsequent reads of bits. Thanks to my beta readers–you know who you are (I’m currently making sure I’ve got all the names right in the acknowledgments). Thanks to Matt Staggs for adding his ideas and a wider perspective. Thanks to Sir Tessa for calling bullshit and for questioning the narrative and for compliments. Thanks to J.T. Glover for a systematic and careful read. Man, did I have access to a crack team of intelligent readers or what? And thanks to Jill Roberts at Tachyon, for patience and many kindnesses.

Here’s the final TOC. The beast comes out in mid-October, but you can already pre-order it (ignore the description–that’s just the Public Booklife part). I’m excited. It works. It not only works and is helpful, it does no harm. It’s both practical and eccentric, bloody-minded and understanding (I think). Now the only problem is, it’s so transparent I’m going to have to come up with a whole new approach for my own books. Stay a step ahead.

Jeff

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Finch Excerpt: Standing on the Ridge, Looking Down

Jeff VanderMeer • April 21st, 2009 • Fiction

This excerpt seems pretty indicative of the first quarter of this year for me. Anything could happen going forward. Cue: The Black Keys “Goodbye Babylon” for this bit.

An hour later, Finch stood on the ridge and stared down. Far below, the dull blue snake line of a canal. Two detectives in a boat. Slowly making their way northeast. Finch was about three hundred feet above them. Wyte was a large shadow with a white face, the boat a floating coffin. Dapple had been reduced to a kind of question mark. Not a good place to be. Anyone could’ve been on the ridge, looking down. Lucky for them it was just him.

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Guest Post: “Finding Your Voice” by Charlie Hills

Jeff VanderMeer • April 21st, 2009 • Culture

Finding Your Voice
by Charlie Hills

Is that… is that a diet book? Don’t bother rubbing your eyes; you’re not hallucinating. It really does look like one, doesn’t it? But as the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its blog appearances.

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JD AE DS TWUAS

Jeff VanderMeer • April 20th, 2009 • Uncategorized

J.G. Ballard: Appreciations

Jeff VanderMeer • April 19th, 2009 • Culture

My piece on Ballard for Omnivoracious, with appreciations by Mike Moorcock, Liz Hand, Paul Di Filippo, and others. There’s also this piece on BBC and in The Guardian. And more at The Guardian.

This one strikes a little too close to home, just kind of got to me. On a personal note, I came to Ballard through his short stories while still a teenager, through collections like Terminal Beach (1964) and Vermillion Sands (1971). I first encountered Ballard on the back shelves of used bookstores, and thought he was one of the best treasures I ever discovered there. I always felt, reading his work, that I didn’t process a Ballardian piece of fiction; instead, it processed me. I saw the world differently after reading Ballard. Often, while in the middle of one of his stories, I would literally feel as if the spatial dimensions around me were shifting and that I was adrift. Somehow, as Martin Amis has said, Ballard got to a different part of your brain than other writers. This sense of enveloping the reader in the unknown and alien had a huge influence on my own fiction, and gave me permission to experiment in a way I don’t think I would’ve done otherwise.

I’m going for a walk.