Teaching at Clarion in San Diego in 2010

I’m assuming it’s official, since it’s on the site and GRRM blogged about it. Ann and I will be teaching the last two weeks at Clarion in San Diego next year. The four instructors before us during the six weeks will be the mega-talented Delia Sherman, George R.R. Martin, Dale Bailey, and Samuel R. Delany. We’re thrilled to be in such fine company, and look forward to both the selection process (Ann and I get a voice on the applications since we’re doing the last two weeks) and meeting the students. I’m going to try to get free copies of Booklife for all of the students. And it’d be an optional thing on a weekend, but Stone Brewery seems to be up for the idea of a visit to see the inner workings of their amazing operation for any students who want to join us (purely tentative/speculative at this point, but it is a trade secret that brewery tours have great relevance to novel structure).

You can apply for Clarion starting in January.

Booklife News

Publishers Weekly has written a good review of Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer that reads in part: “Author and blogger VanderMeer (Finch) outlines ways for writers to harness both the emerging power of the Internet and their own creativity in this informative guide. VanderMeer differentiates between a Public Booklife (marketing the book and the writer) and a Private Booklife (strategies to help get words on the page) and suggests that one’s ideal Booklife is a dynamic balance of the two….With anecdotes from VanderMeer’s own life as a writer, reviewer and blogger, as well as input from agents, editors and publicists, this guide will surely help writers traverse the often difficult journey from first draft to finished product.”

My only quibble would be with the words “dynamic balance,” which could be misinterpreted. The book constantly reminds the reader that your Public Booklife supports your Private Booklife. The goal is to find balance, yes, but that balance means the bulk of your time should be spent writing, with the things you need to do for your career done smarter, faster, and more creatively–i.e., to not just be smarter but also to find ways to feed your creative side while helping your career. The book also makes the case for how setting effective goals and being “organized”—a word that of necessity means different things to different people—will allow you to be less stressed about your career and thus more able to focus on your writing. I am the first person to want to believe in some version of the romantic vision of the writer in a cottage typing away, but if you want to exist in the reality of that vision, so to speak, you’ve got to put in the practical time, too, to build a life that can allow for it.

Here’re a few more blurbs about the book, which is out October 15th, with the Booklife website going live in early October. It’ll feature distinctive, helpful content three times a week. The goal is to post nothing that isn’t in support of the idea of sustainable creativity and sustainable careers. The goal is to be honest and forthright in all advice, to be both practical and inspirational—where being inspirational means supporting a reality, not a fantasy, about writing.

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Jeremy C. Shipp is Critiquing Manuscripts

My critique service is currently closed due to tons of deadlines, but just FYI, if you’re looking for a critique from an interesting perspective, Jeremy C. Shipp is now critiquing manuscripts. You can reach him at chrismatrix at yahoo.com for more info, and his bio is beneath the cut. I think he’s one of the most interesting surrealists/absurdists around.

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Derek Raymond’s The Hidden Files, An Introduction


(Taken from this interesting webpage about Raymond, with many book covers.)

Having read or re-read all of Derek Raymond’s novels, save one, I am turning my attention to his autobiography, The Hidden Files–a somewhat difficult out-of-print book to get a copy of, and not particularly cheap, either.

The descriptions on the dust jacket of The Hidden Files includes this insight, rather more sensationalistic than his actual fiction:

A memoir on [Raymond’s] writing techques and inspiration, peppered with autobiographical vignettes, it provides a unique insight into the dark recesses of a writer’s mind. And in charting his own erratic career, Raymond reveals impeccable credentials as a chronicler of the high-life and low-life sleaze. Born into a wealthy, eccentric, upper-middle class family and educated at Eton, he soon dropped out–a traitor to his class–and immersed himself in London’s criminal underworld of the 1960s. His acquaintance with crime has served him well as a novelist; his bleak, violent accounts of psychopaths, his cynical, cold-blooded detective, his musings about tormented, cold-blooded killers and meditations on the nature of evil paint chillingly real portraits of the demons at the heart of society.

Although I’ve only just started in on The Hidden Files, I thought I’d give you a taste of it by typing up the introduction, which you can find below the cut. In it, Raymond talks about the origins of the title–the fact there are parts of ourselves we keep hidden from other people, and suggesting that in part this is because those hidden files feed into the fiction. His description of the immersive aspect of writing fiction rings very true to me–and is making me increasingly wary of an unthinking embrace of social media and the resulting fragmentation of our attention spans, the wholesale creation of not just open channels but open thoroughfares through which other people’s personalities, ideas, and ephemera smash into our consciousnesses. Is there damage to the hidden files as a result? Even, perhaps, corruption that we don’t notice? Is it connectivity or assault? Anyway, this is a tangent to Raymond’s point, I’m sure, but something that struck me.

I’ll report back on The Hidden Files when I finish it. In the meantime, here’re the links to my prior Derek Raymond post and, of course, Raymond’s introduction, British spellings preserved.

Derek Raymond’s Factory Novels

The Pathology of Derek Raymond’s Dead Man Upright

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Congrats to Howard Waldrop: First American to Win the Jack Trevor Story Memorial Cup


(Photo by Ellen Datlow; this was during Waldrop’s cloning/”similarity of atoms” phase, which also involved dry ice, a magician’s wand, a taxidermed poodle, and two Tylenol.)

Below find the details about the Jack Trevor Story Memorial Cup, won by Howard Waldrop. This is the second time I’ve served on the selection committee, and it’s a real honor. You’ll recall that I wasn’t blogging or on Facebook for about 72 hours a couple weeks back. That was so the cup administrators could bundle me onto a plane bound for Paris, to participate in the final deliberations. It’s definitely a whirlwind event, and I apologize to my friends in Paris–judges are sworn to secrecy and, anyway, there’s so little time actually on the ground. As soon as you reach the airport, you’re put into a town car and driven off to the L’Horizon, there to spend an afternoon drinking beer and coffee in equal measure while discussing the possible results. (This year, too, for some kind of fashion shoot Moorcock had to bring all of his awards with him, and this cause a bit of a stir, mostly because of his wife Linda’s cursing, and extended the deliberations.)

Anyway, we all agreed that Waldrop was a worthy winner, and as usual it was worth the fuss of travel to see the other judges and catch up with them. (Lisa Tuttle showed us her new set of num chucks!)

Finally, some have seemed puzzled by the condition that “the money be spent within two weeks and the recipient have nothing to show for it by the end of that period,” speculating that this could be cause for either rampant frivolity or stoic responsibility on the part of the recipient. Given that Waldrop must submit a fifty-page detailed report about his expenditures, evidence will be forthcoming.

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Manuel’s North Avenue Room, in Atlanta with Will Hindmarch

I frankly love doing gigs in bars, and Manuel’s is an Atlanta institution. Will Hindmarch is the genius behind this event, and we’ll be doing short readings, taking questions, drinking and generally having a great time. Including special guest J.M. McDermott, author of Last Dragon. Come join us.

I’ll be reading from my novel Finch.

Description: An exciting noir thriller set in a fantastical city. The final, stand-alone installment of the critically acclaimed Ambergris Cycle: “Tasked with solving an impossible double murder, detective John Finch searches for the truth among the rubble of the once mighty city of Ambergris, a metropolis unlike any other in or out of history. Under the rule of the gray cap masters, Ambergris is crumbling into anarchy and rebellion. The remnants of a rebel force are demoralized and dispersed. Partials—human traitors transformed by the gray caps—walk the streets brutalizing the city’s human inhabitants. In this powerful and poignant novel, the past and the future, the cosmic and the gritty, collide. What will happen if Finch uncovers the truth? What will happen if he doesn’t? And will Ambergris ever be the same?”

Booklife
Finch

Praise:

“A clear signal, if one were ever needed, that he remains one of modern fantasy’s most original and fearless pioneers.” – Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Richard K. Morgan

“I can’t remember ever reading a book like “Finch”. Audacious in technique, and extravagant in imagination, it has the rare quality of making the macabre poignant. In the midst of a disturbed and disturbing narrative landscape, Jeff VanderMeer gives us deeply sympathetic characters–especially Finch himself–who inspire us to care about their flawed and tyrannized world. I’m impressed.” – Stephen R. Donaldson

“FINCH just blew me to hell and gone. I would have sworn you can’t unite noir and fantasy, and oh how gloriously wrong Jeff VanderMeer proved me to be. Finch is a detective unlike any you’ve encountered and is utterly compelling. He is faced with a double murder that you shake your head, go….you’re done Finch. Not quite. I loved the meeting of the grime and the sublime and oh so beautifully crafted. Rarely has a novel got it all. Think Cormac McCarthy, via David Goodis, with an amazing nod to Lovecraft and still that doesn’t quite capture the spell this novel casts from the off. Me, I loved the Heretic. That’s a hint.” – Ken Bruen

The Steampunk Bible and Steampunk Slideshow


(Check out this Steampunk slideshow with text I put together, commissioned by Film In Focus to coincide with their updates on the animated film 9, featuring two great pieces by John Coulthart among other goodies. And then check out their other slideshows–some really great stuff.)

I believe I’ve mentioned this project briefly before, but it’s official-official, so…I’ve sold The Steampunk Bible to Abrams Image in New York City. It’s meant to be the quintessential pictorial and textual look at Steampunk, from all angles–movies/books/comics, fashion, art, makers, the green tech element, international Steampunk, and much more–making sure to capture the “punk” as well as the “steam”. It will be a beautiful book-as-object, too. I’ll be doing additional research and interviews for the book during my book tour this fall. Publication is scheduled for late next year.

In addition to thanking my agent, Howard Morhaim, I’d like to thank Leslie Henkel, a publicist at Abrams, as well as Matt Staggs, whose nudges started a chain of events. Also thanks to editors Maxine Kaplin and David Cashion at Abrams–the whole process so far bodes well for not only a great book but a great experience. Finally, thanks to Jake Von Slatt of the Steampunk Workshop for mentoring, friendship, and much else–truly an extraordinary guy.

Rebel Samizdat and Heretic Editions: Excerpt and Limited Details for Jeff VanderMeer’s Novel Finch


(The full cover of the trade paperback edition of Finch, by John Coulthart. The same art will be used by Murder by Death for their CD soundtrack to Finch.)

First off, Underland Press has posted a lengthy excerpt of Finch on their site–specifically, the first 58 pages. Click on “READ FREE EXCERPT”.

Underland Press has also announced the two limited editions of my novel Finch, shipping in November. They are:

The Rebel Samizdat Limited

The Heretic Limited

Each edition comes with the Murder by Death soundtrack for Finch. The band picked up on “a few scenes or ideas” from which to compose the music, including mushroom houses, a band playing at a blackmarket underground party, and elements of a dream about the fortress of Zamilon, among other elements.

From there, though, the editions diverge. Check out the links, or see below for more information, with close-up detail of the dustjacket images. Please note that they do ship overseas–contact victoria at underlandpress.com for shipping costs.

Ambergris completists should note that about four hundred words of the chapbook, in greatly altered form, graced the illuminated manuscript cover of the original hardcover edition of City of Saints. Indeed, in looking back over Finch, Shriek, and City of Saints the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed all kinds of synergies between them that reflect the fact I was working on some stage of each at the same time. Inevitably, bits I thought were meant for Shriek went into City, or went into Finch, or bits intended for Finch went into Shriek or City. It creates rather more connectivity than I’d even intended, in a good way.

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