Archive for June, 2009

Mid-Week Palate Cleanser: Michael Phillips’ Nemesis

Jeff VanderMeer • June 17th, 2009 • Uncategorized

Dune-haters…tremble before the dunecat!!!

Er, found here, by way of the awesome MKR.

Omnivoracious Interview with Mieville

Jeff VanderMeer • June 17th, 2009 • Culture

Are you sick of Mieville yet? Don’t be. In this one he talks about The City & The City with Amazon books editor Tom Nissley. Excerpt (it’s also on video):

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Shared Worlds: Real Cities That Seem Fantastical/SFnal

Jeff VanderMeer • June 17th, 2009 • Uncategorized

Shared Worlds asked Elizabeth Hand, Nalo Hopkinson, Ursula K. LeGuin, China Miéville, and Michael Moorcock:

“What’s your pick for the top real-life fantasy or science fiction city?”

“At Shared Worlds students create fantasy and science fiction worlds to fuel their art and writing projects. But even the strangest made-up place can have some real-world spark. Our own planet is often surreal, alien, and beautifully strange—and cities tend to focus our fascination with these qualities. Sometimes the exoticness comes from finding the unexpected where we live, and sometimes it comes from visiting a place that’s foreign to us.” – from the article

Post our link on your site or blog, pose the question “What city would you choose?”, and help one of the most unique teen “think tanks” in the country, now in its second year. Video from last year’s camp.

Now sponsored by Tor Books, Wizards of the Coast LCC, and Realms of Fantasy magazine!

Shared Worlds is a two-week unique summer camp for teens ages 13 to 18, held at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Creative and fun, Shared Worlds emphasizes writing fiction, game development, and creating art—all in a safe and structured environment with award-winning faculty. Participants in this “teen think tank” meet like-minded students and learn how to work together and be proactive on their own. The first week, the students form teams and create their own worlds; the second week, they create in them. Faculty for 2009 will include Holly Black, co-creator of the Spiderwick Chronicles, Hugo Nominee Tobias Buckell, White Wolf game developer Will Hindmarch, Weird Tales fiction editor Ann VanderMeer, and more.

I will also be there, as the camp’s assistant director.

Also, exclusive to Ecstatic Days, I asked past and present faculty for their thoughts on the idea of real cities with a fantasy/SF flavor. (There’s also a MindMeld on the subject from the nice guys at SF Signal–thanks!)

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Surrealist-Expressionist Mash-Up: Alfred Kubin, Decadents, Max Brod, Franz Blei, The First Hour After Death, and Last Drink Bird Head

Jeff VanderMeer • June 16th, 2009 • Book Reviews, Fiction

“The characteristic feature of this strange art is that it attempts to depict the extrasensory, to provide symbols for the mysterious forces to which we are subjected in our daily lives but which we do not know–indeed, that is revealed to us only in wild dreams and fantasies, in states of clairvoyant nervous strain….[Such art] may be born from feelings of anxiety, of isolation, of floundering horror. With a self-tormenting love, it seeks the nocturnal sides of life; it is at home in twilight, in torment, in the wild, in the uncanny, and the ghastly…” – 1903 Berliner Illustrirte (a painter of the invisible).

So…I posted this piece on Alfred Kubin on Omnivoracious. My excuse? China Mieville’s new novel is apparently influenced by Kubin, and he’s guest-blogging on Omnivoracious. Also take a look at these prior posts on Kubin and on Dedalus and the Decadents.

Kubin led to Franz Blei and his description of Kafka: “The Kafka is a magnificent and very rarely seen moon-blue mouse, which eats no flesh, but feeds on bitter herbs. It is a bewitching sight, for it has human eyes.”)

Kafka led to Max Brod, and Brod led to memories of City of Saints & Madmen and “King Squid,” which lovingly ransacked Dedalus Decadent editions for much of its influence (it was a way of remembering the books I’d read), including in the bibliography–in fact, to this day, I keep calling Franz Blei Frank Blei and Max Brod Maxwell Brod because of it…which led to remembering China’s contribution to the bibliography, heh (Vielle, C.M., Naughty Lisp and the Squid: A Poly Diptych). Which led to Max Brod’s “The First Hour of Death” in The Dedalus Book of Austrian Fantasy: 1890-2000.

I encountered the title in the TOC while finishing up the appendix sections of City of Saints, read the first sentence (“The odd incident occurred as the minister was leaving…”), realized I wanted a different story for the title, and promptly sat down and wrote my own “In the Hours After Death,” presented in City of Saints as having appeared in the neo-Decadent Burning Leaves journal. If it reaches past that context of affectionate nod to its predecessors, it’s because I wrote it in a moment of utter and devastating sadness, and I offer it up here as a sacrifice to this week of ongoing decadent-surrealist-literary fantasy that I’ve got going.

(Oh, and go vote for or against Last Drink Bird Head in SF Signal’s cover contest…)

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“God, that’s a merciless question”: China Mieville’s Interview From Weird Tales

Jeff VanderMeer • June 16th, 2009 • Culture

Last year, I interviewed China Miéville for Weird Tales’ 85th anniversary issue. Yesterday, I posted a short excerpt of the interview on Omnivoracious as part of an announcement about China blogging there. (For those of you living under rocks and on distant planets, his The City & The City was released recently.)

I’m posting the full interview now, on my blog, because I think it’s relatively unique, in that China was between books and the point of the interview was more about discussing “weird” fiction. So the emphasis is a little different than in some of his other interviews. And, because it was conducted via IM, there’s an interesting flow to the conversation. Besides, you gotta love an interview that mentions not only Cloverfield and Vin Diesel but the aesthetics of the weird, and ends in a face-off between reptiles and mammals.

This version doesn’t reflect the final copy-edits made by Weird Tales, and also includes snippets cut from the printed interview. I hope you enjoy it…

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Critique Service Open Again

Jeff VanderMeer • June 16th, 2009 • News

Having begun to clear a few things from my plate, the critique service mentioned in the Services section of this site is available again. From short stories to novels and nonfiction, I have experience in just about all areas–and genres, including the amorphous literary mainstream. Any level of writing experience from beginner to advanced. Many widely published writers have benefited from this service.

If interested, inquire at vanderworld at hotmail.com. Please provide the following information: length, general type of fiction, and a paragraph on your general background as a writer.

Rates are per-hour, not page-based, and thus the level/detail of critique is adjustable depending on your budget. I will provide more information when you email me.

If I get too many requests, I can refer you to any of several professional writers I trust to provide a comparable quality of critique.

Incoming: Stories Exterior and Interior

Jeff VanderMeer • June 15th, 2009 • Book Reviews, Photos


(Why do I have these? A–I’m a Halo addict, B–I have been hired by the competition to help create something called “Palo”, C–a legacy player who has grown bored with the game and loves my work is paying me to write Halo fan fic that involves Ambergris, or D–I might be writing a story for an antho.)

It’s time again for an incoming books post, but I thought I’d switch it up this time and add some idea of what’s going on outside the house, too, not just what’s coming into it…

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The Blog & The Blogger: China Mieville on Omnivoracious

Jeff VanderMeer • June 15th, 2009 • Culture

The City & The City‘s China Mieville will be guest blogging on Omnivoracious, the Amazon book blog, this week. In between, I’ll be posting on a variety of loosely related topics, including Alfred Kubin, The Other City by Michal Ajvaz and Magic Prague. Check out the blog all week, as there will be new content of a surreal/fantastical nature every day.

Already posted:

Introductory post, including part of my Weird Tales interview with China:

Mieville: Our monsters are about themselves, and they can get on with being about all sorts of other stuff too, but if we want them to be primarily that, and don’t enjoy their monstrousness, they’re dead and nothing.

VanderMeer: Right–nobody likes a monster piñata.

China on five reasons Tolkien rocks (perhaps unexpected, but it’s good!):

Dude. That totally was cool. I mean, say what you like about him, Tolk gives good monster. Shelob, Smaug, the Balrog…in their astounding names, the fearful verve of their descriptions, their various undomesticated malevolence, these creatures are utterly embedded in our world-view. No one can write giant spiders except through Shelob: all dragons are sidekicks now. And so on…But the thing about the Watcher in the Water is WTF? Here the technique of under-describing, withholding, comes startlingly to the fore, that other great technique for communicating balefulness. We know almost nothing about the many-limbed thing in the water outside Moria. Some think it’s a giant squid: me, I say not, given that it lives in fresh water, has too many tentacles, and that those tentacles have fingers. Which squids don’t have. But we know three things. It is tentacular; it is badass; and it is weird. And that uncertainty is what makes it rock.

Weird Tales #353: Jeffrey Ford, Jeff Johnson, Paul Tremblay, and Others

Jeff VanderMeer • June 14th, 2009 • Culture

New Weird Tales. My wife Ann is the fiction editor, although you probably already know that. In August she’ll be going to the World SF Convention as a Hugo nominee because of it. Here’s the lineup. I should note there’s some awesome stuff in this issue, but “The Garbacologist” is perhaps the most awesome. It’s a tough call.

FICTION
– “Weiroot” | by Jeffrey Ford
– “The Garbacologist” | by Jeff Johnson
– “Headstones in Your Pocket” | by Paul G. Tremblay
– “Bruise for Bruise” | by Robert Davies
– “Court Scranto” | by Caleb Wilson
– “Selected Views of Mt. Fuji, With Dinosaurs” | by Hunter Eden

FEATURES
– “Thomas Ligotti: The Weird Tales Interview” | Geoffrey Goodwin asks horror’s offbeat genius: must life be so decayingly crummy?
– “Richard Corben: Drawing Upon the Masters” | The comic-book legend tells Bill Baker about adapting Poe and Lovecraft for Marvel’s Haunt of Horror.

DEPARTMENTS
– Weirdism | J.G. Ballard: the most mindblowing drug
– The Bazaar | steampunk art sorceress Bethalynne Bajema
– The Library | Tanith Lee, Catherynne Valente, and Jedediah Berry
– Lost In Lovecraft | a literary journey with Kenneth Hite

Cover illustration by Saara Salmi

(Stolen from Paul Tremblay because I’m lazy.)

Lord Lizard-Skink Is Back!! All Hail the Lizard-Skink…

Jeff VanderMeer • June 14th, 2009 • Uncategorized

My friend the lizard-skink, the reincarnation of our cat Pretty Ugly, last seen more than a year ago–he’s back! Well, I think it’s a he. Sexing lizards is not my strong suit. Also, erm, I think it’s the same lizard, but it might be a successor. Don’t know how long these critters live. But it was a thrill to see him near the garage, giving me that tough-guy baleful glance.

Here’re some past entries on him, including lizard mugshots. I still don’t know exactly what he is, but I’m glad he’s around.