Got a Question? I’ve Got an Answer (maybe)

Jeff VanderMeer • September 25th, 2009 @ 9:24 am • Uncategorized

I’m here anyway all day laboring away on various projects, attention fragmented, so if you’ve got a question–burning or otherwise–feel free to ask it. These days we tend to think writers should be experts on more than just writing, so in addition to writing/editing/publishing questions, I’ll field any questions you have about Nabokov, Edward Whittemore, Angela Carter, Decadent literature, mushrooms, squid, music, alien babies, weightlifting, Byzantine history, noir, and movies.

63 Responses to “Got a Question? I’ve Got an Answer (maybe)”

  1. Brian Lindenmuth says:

    I’m having a bit of a boring day at work :)

    As an author, editor, small press owner/operator – Is there a place for an end of year anthology that focuses on the best of online fiction?

    The Years Best Mystery/Crime Online Fiction

    Something like that?

  2. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    That’s a good question. I might be a little biased, but I personally tend to prefer novel-length crime fiction. Since I’m not familiar with most of the online venues for mystery/crime fiction, I don’t know if there’s enough material to warrant an online-only year’s best. I know for Best American Fantasy, we do consider online fiction along with material published in magazine/anthology form, so the point is moot there. A Best Fantasy Online Fiction antho wouldn’t really work, because I think most of the year’s bests do a decent job of considering the online stuff. I’m curious now, though–how much online crime fiction is published every year?

  3. Adam says:

    Was there ever actually a squidpunk anthology?

  4. J. T. Glover says:

    1. Can you imagine an article that deals accurately or effectively with 20th century American fabulism without touching on Angela Carter at all? (Loaded question. Such an article exists, and it left me gobsmacked.)

    2. Have you ever considered trying to publish an anthology of movie or music reviews? Harlan Ellison’s Watching is a fine complement to the author’s fiction, and in general I like hearing what authors have to say about other fields of art not their own.

    (Also: pre-ordered Finch from Amazon the other day and am eagerly awaiting its arrival on my doorstep…)

  5. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Adam: No.

    John: Angela Carter wasn’t American. Are you saying that you have to acknowledge her influence on American fabulism because she was so well-received over here? I would say she’s the Godmother to a lot of different fantastical impulses, same as Nabokov is the Godfather of postmodernism. Re film/music–I’d certainly love to, but first I’d have to have a venue where I could do long ones. Right now I just do little thumbnail reviews on this blog. And the fact is, I have to generate income from the nonfiction, so… (Thanks re Finch!)

  6. Justin Pickard says:

    Is there a specific point-of-origin for the VanderMeer squid thing? A childhood enounter or something?

  7. Brian Lindenmuth says:

    I tend to agree with the long form crime fiction which for me really thrives in a novella legnth or longer where it has some room to breathe.

    There are quite a few venues that publish crime fiction (more crime then mystery) either exclusively or in part, either as a ‘zine or a blogzine. There is a pretty vibrant (in terms of quantity) short fiction scene. When I was reading for the short story category of the Spinetingler Awards I read a few hundred stories from maybe a couple of dozen venues and came up with about 15 stories that I thought were strong for various reasons. It was actually coming away with more stories then I thought I would that led me to resurrect the conversations with the bookless series a few months back.

    There is an anthology coming up called Between the Dark and the Daylight edited by Ed Gorman that has a pretty broad focus of inclusion in terms of online material and even cross or multi genre stuff (There is a great hardboiled werewolf novella by Norman Partridge).

    Anyway — thanks!

  8. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Justin–Actually, it just came out naturally in the first Ambergris novella, “Dradin, in Love”. I came to the part where the Festival of the Freshwater Squid is first mentioned and I typed a few different Festival names, none of which suited. I started to think about the Decadents and Surrealists and Jarry leading a lobster around on a leash, decided I wanted something absurdist, and a freshwater squid seemed to work. Once that was in there, I’d say the squid interest came out of the festival title–wanting to explore what that might mean. Suddenly, there were these monstrous freshwater squid in my head. And when I began to explore them further, I found them fascinating. But I also did see squid on the reefs in Fiji growing up, and then in the Florida Keys as a teenager, long before I wrote the Ambergris stuff, and always liked them.

  9. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Brian–I’ve enjoyed your reincarnation of the bookless series quite a bit.

  10. Dustin Long says:

    Considering Nabokov’s distaste for Dostoevsky on the basis of his work being gussied up crime fiction, are his own flirtations with genre (SF/fantasy in Ada, for instance, or crime fiction in Lolita) hypocritical, or is the tongue in the cheek a legitimate excuse for playing with conventions he’d otherwise be embarrassed of?

  11. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    I think Nabokov in interview is one of the funniest things ever. The way I read Nabokov in interview is him taking on a persona to deliberately control the conversation. He treated interviews like games, and had no interest in pleasing the interviewer–and, famously, sometimes rewrote questions or supplied his own questions. Although I believe he really did have a disliking for Freud, I take most of his other comments as part of that game-playing, a kind of fiction. He forms a wall between himself and readers using as bricks statements like the one about Dostoevsky. The tone of his personal letters and other correspondence is different enough–as are his lectures. But to get back to your question–I don’t believe writers need to be consistent in their statements, even if we take Nabokov at face value. There’s a constant testing that goes on, and in writing fiction you become, at times, someone other than what you are as a human being. You inhabit characters who have belief systems different from your own, but believe in them while you’re writing the character. You shift from day to day in what you think about various subjects because you’re always testing them in the context of fiction. It’s not that you don’t have a moral or ethical compass, but that believing in South doesn’t mean North doesn’t exist. I’m putting this badly, but perhaps some the sense of it will come through.

  12. brendan connell says:

    How good are publishers at previsioning the unformed desires of readers, and which publishers are best keeping up with these changing tastes?

    Some French film director (can’t remember name) once said something like: “People don’t know what they want. You have to tell them.”

    Is this true for publishing?

  13. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Right now–and I’m not making a value judgment on it; it just *is*–editors are rushing to exploit the following categories: YA, supernatural romance, urban fantasy, in particular. This coincides with the contraction of the profitability of publishing and the partial destruction of the midlist, so it’s not unexpected. But what it means for SF/F is that the major publishers have become more conservative, especially since some of the purges of late 2009 removed a few editors who take chances. I’ve seen a definite turn toward the idea that SF/F is entertainment and nothing more, influenced in part by the fact that pop culture is eating SF/F–or, rather, eating the more easily digestible bits, and genre publishers are buying into that by looking for material that would be at home being turned into the next Buffy or True Blood TV show.

    This is a generalization, so it isn’t entirely true–but this is the way it’s trending. The flip side of that is that very interesting works that are “mimics” of the popular subgenres right now may be getting a wider audience because they appear to share attributes of those subgenres even if their agendas are very different from the majority of works appearing in those subgenres.

    In other news, “YA,” which never was much of a category–anything that can encapsulate any genre so long as a rationale can be made that a certain number of teens will like it isn’t really a coherent category–has been stuffed full of books meant for adults who like the YA category. As always, this means you have books published under the label that are good, bad, and indifferent. Inasmuch as it’s a bad thing, it means you’ve got the potential for fewer books being bought by editors featuring main characters in their 30s, 40s, and 50s–which, I would argue, make for vastly different characters. We don’t stay the same, and we have different concerns and issues at different ages. (Yes, some YA contains adult main characters, but this is not the norm–the default for YA, the only default, is that some or most of the characters will be teens or young twenty-somethings, the exceptions only proving the rule; this doesn’t, of course, mean that adult themes and situations don’t occur in YA–see Margo Lanagan’s awesome novel, for example.)

    My feeling is that, as always, the pendulum will swing back again. The main thing is to seek out individual books, regardless of how they’re marketed, that are great, and to support editors who take chances, since a genre is only ever as good as how many chances it allows to take place in a published format–the outliers allow those just inside of the breaking wave to produce quality but interesting work.

  14. Joel says:

    As I was browsing through your last couple of posts, I couldn’t help but see that Jack O’Connell is a hero of yours. I’ve just recently read The Resurrectionist and subsequently re-read all his other Quinsigamond books (for the… third time?) . Care to make a recommendation or two for someone who’s an O’Connell fan (as well as a Vandermeer fan) but isn’t all that familiar with noir outside of that?

  15. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Well, Derek Raymond definitely. Any of his books, but start with He Died With His Eyes Open. Ken Bruen’s bleaker books are great. I very much liked The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli, although that’s a slightly different noir tradition…I’m trying to think of really great *strange* noir. Mieville’s The City and the City really didn’t strike me as that noirish–didn’t really have the atmosphere I think of. It definitely was more a police procedural atmosphere, and the crime wasn’t all that original….The Bridge of Sighs is a great book, with a noir feel. I’ll probably think of more in a little while. (Oh–and I’d recommend John LeCarre, because he does have a noir feel, even as he’s telling spy stories, in some of his books.)

  16. Brian Lindenmuth says:

    Joel:

    Does this mean you are approaching noir (and perhaps crime fiction in general) through a SF/F gateway?

    If so I may have some suggestions.

    Or were there particular themes that you enjoyed reading about?

  17. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Brian–yes, please do offer up some suggestions. Brian Evenson’s Last Days, for sure. Also, Henning Menkel (sic) is really bleak/good, although not necessarily noirish. Especially his early work. Early Lawrence Block is gritty. There’s a Swedish couple that wrote a series of about eight or nine awesome mysteries, but I’m drawing a blank on their names. Great stuff, though.

  18. Joel says:

    Wow! Thanks! I’ve already read China Mieville’s The City and The City as well as all his other works and I am familiar with a few of the names and titles you’ve suggested but some of them appear new to me. Which is typically what I’m searching for. Always looking for that one “new” author that will lead me to others I may not be familiar with.

    Brian, I hadn’t really considered my approach to be strictly from a SF/F point of view but now that I think of it, I guess that does tend to be my preference. Although I don’t think of Jack O’connell’s books as coming from that vein, his work certainly does have a weird, fever-dream feel that lends them a fantasy touch. I’ve been tempted by Charlie Huston’s books as well.

    But ANY recommendations would be great! Thanks for what’s been provided so far. My brain is salivating already.

  19. Joel says:

    Damn! Just remembered a recommendation of mine that I *think* falls under the umbrella of noir is Will Christopher Baer’s Phineas Poe trilogy. Definetely weird and the second volume certainly strays into a bizarre fantasy sort of thing. Been waiting for his next novel Godspeed with great anticipation.

  20. Terry Weyna says:

    Okay, sort of outside the guidelines, but maybe you can help. I’m about two-thirds of the way through Flannery O’Connor’s WISE BLOOD, and I’m not understanding — at all, at all — why anyone thinks this is a small masterpiece. Does all the good stuff come in the denouement, which I haven’t reached yet? Or what? Any literary criticism of the book you can refer me to?

  21. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    I’m not a huge O’Connor fan, so I’m the wrong person to ask about this one…

  22. Kevin Roche says:

    Good heavens! All these ponderous questions.

    I just want to know: what is the airspeed velocity of a migrating alien baby squid?

  23. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    I don’t think they’re ponderous. You don’t have to read the answers if you don’t want to.

    And the answer to that question is: I need more context.

  24. Jonathan Wood says:

    Is it possible for someone to locate their position on the road atlas in my car?

  25. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Jonathan: Only if they’re trying to get to Byzantium around 1100 A.D.

  26. Adam says:

    Jeff what is your favourite album and song by Murder By death? You said their music was swimming in your head as you wrote Finch, curious as to which album?

  27. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Adam:

    “Fuego!” is right up there, but so are a lot of others. Also, although they have a distinctive sound, they change a bit from CD to CD. The latest CD had a more direct sound to me, which I liked a lot, but depending on my mood I also really loved the earlier stuff. I listened to all of their CDs while working on Finch, and they’ve all kind of swirled together, too. So it’s a bit of a difficult question. “Killbot 2000″ is another great one. “Coming Home” rocks. Sorry to not be able to answer more specifically. To me, while being distinctively original, they also channel the best of the Tindersticks, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits. Something about what they do just clicks with me.

  28. Deborah says:

    My alien baby will not stop screeching. I am at the end of my tether. Please help, Dr. Jeff.

    Sleep-deprived in London

  29. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Unfortunately, if you love your alien baby, you’ll have to set him free. You need to send him somewhere exotic and have people take photos of him that they then send to you. That will stop the screeching…for a time.

  30. Bryan Russell says:

    I recently read my first Angela Carter novel, The Magic Toyshop, and loved it. Which of her books should I read next?

  31. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Hmmm. Magic’s okay, but my favorites are Nights at the Circus and The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman.

    From a writer’s point of view, it’s very interesting to read her work from first book to last, to see the whole progression.

  32. brendan connell says:

    Thanks for that detailed answer!

  33. Brian Lindenmuth says:

    One thing that may or may not need to be pointed out is that I think there exists a perception of the genre (mystery/crime). Fairly one dimensional, clichéd, short, transparent prose. Some of this may stem from it’s close relation to mainstream, non-genre fiction and part of this may come from it’s commercial appeal and success. But. I think that at it’s best mystery/crime fiction is a much bigger tent then people realize, even to people who are within it’s community.

    Hopefully Jeff will forgive me for doing this since the day got busier….

    I wrote this a couple of years ago as a guide to the genre of mystery and crime fiction. At the time a lot of the readers of the site (back when it was fantasy book spot) were SF/F readers so I tried writing something that acted as a broad guide to the genre. I’m not going to lie though — it’s very much a shaggy dog piece. I had a lot of things I wanted to say and a lot of books that I wanted to recommend. In retrospect I probably needed an editor to help shape it. http://www.bscreview.com/2008/05/a-mysterycrime-fiction-primer/

    Yes go read Brian Evenson. Will Christopher Baer is very good though I really liked the first two books in the Phineas Poe trilogy but not the third. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey – If Jeff is writing noir fantasy then Kadrey is writing hardboiled fantasy. The Raw Shark Texts from a couple of years back was very good and is also a thriller.

    The single best introduction to some of the best of the older crime fiction is Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930’s and 40’s and Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950’s

    And yes, Charlie Huston is fantastic. He doesn’t imitate pulp he is pulp. 9 novels in 5 years and still going strong his work can be a little sloppy but he keeps getting stronger.

    And FWIW – One of the best crime fiction stories going right now is a monthly comic called Scalped by Jason Aaron that is being collected into trades.

  34. Kevin Roche says:

    Well, neither the African nor European swallows succeeded in delivering the coconuts before the Knights of the Log Table descended on the opening night of Spamalot! in San Jose last week, so I thought it worthwhile to investigate alternative delivery mechanisms well in advance of the next such operation.

    I am, of course, assuming alien baby *freshwater* squid, although the ability to tolerate brackish air would obviously be a bonus.

  35. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Brian–thanks for that. Much appreciated.

    I’ve read mysteries since I was a teenager, and I love the sheer diversity of it all. Not just noir but hardboiled, as you say–I tend to think of both of those as different *textures*–but also neo-noir, what I think of as the police procedural, and all kinds of other variations. East and West Coast settings tend to also affect tone and style, in my opinion. I find classic noir set in San Francisco and LA much, much different than those set in New York City, for example.

    I’ve read so much in these genres/subgenres that when I visited Los Angeles for the first time and Ann’s son, Jason, was driving us around places like Mulholland Drive I was having these weird deju vu flashbacks, like I’d been there before…and I suddenly realized I was having flashbacks to scenes from mysteries set in LA.

    But because there’s so much variety, it’s why I look askance a little at the idea of the rise of a new fantasy noir. These different forms of mysteries/crime fiction/whatever are, to my mind, *so* different in their particulars that lumping it all under one term like “fantasy noir” is clunky, awkward, and not very useful. It’s one reason why I bridled in the early summer to comparisons between the Mieville novel and Finch. To my mind, they are utterly different approaches and utterly different in scope and tone and style. (And I’m not satisfied by the crime element of Mieville’s novel at all.)

    Finch is also not truly noir–I mean, it is, but it moves through a progression of things. You could say it starts out as a police procedural in an Orwellian state with noir overtones, moves into the realm of noir, and then as the details of the case expand in Finch’s mind takes on both political and spy elements infused with the elements of a thriller, in addition to the overall fantasy arc. Noir is like the transportation system for the novel, the circulatory system–not a perfect metaphor, but…The tone of the novel, the style, supports this. I experimented a lot with the style until I found a way to convey both the lyricism of fantasy and the gritty taut quality of what we expect from noir. Although, as Brian says, there’re lots of other styles found in noir and other mysteries/crime fiction.

    Now I’m just babbling. Not sure any of it makes sense. A little tired.

  36. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Kevin–it depends on the force of the throw.

  37. Contestant #11 says:

    Brain. Harvest. Mega. Challenge. Results. When. Thanks.

  38. Larry says:

    OK, here’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask you for a few weeks now. I have a female friend who lives overseas who is a graphic arts major and she loves graphic novels that are provocative and which have great artwork as well. She recently recommended David Mazzucchelli’s Aterios Polyp to me, which I loved. She’s wanting more recent (esp. 2009 releases) graphic novels along that vein. What would you suggest for her (and by extension, myself, since I’m starting to delve into it) out of the recent releases?

    And a sillier question:

    Besides French, are there any other foreign languages that you’ve considered learning and/or tried learning in the past?

    Related to that:

    Which non-English market has produced the best-looking covers for your works in translation?

  39. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Contestant #11–I hope to turn in results tomorrow. I don’t know when they will be announced. They’ve sent me the top 15 and I choose from those.

    Larry–I know some Spanish. I’ve had a lot of good covers–the French and Portuguese are the most elegant, probably. But I like just about all of them.

    Re graphic novels–I’ll have to think about it.

  40. Kevin Roche says:

    hmmm… time to run some tests with the mangonel.

  41. Larry says:

    Cool. Just drop me a line whenever and I’ll place an order and hopefully have them to her by Christmas time :D

    Do you have any links to the Portuguese? I think I’ve seen the French (and remember them being very good), but I don’t recall how the Portuguese look like.

  42. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Google it–image search. :)

  43. Larry says:

    I will…once my brain unfreezes! :P

  44. Bob Lock says:

    Jeff,
    Something that constantly worries me is how do people with no teeth know if their spaghetti is ‘al dente’?

  45. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Larry: This is all I have time for – http://www.omnivoracious.com/graphic_novels/

    Bob–I don’t know, but saying you have no teeth is, as I have found out, a perfect excuse when some bozo calls up trying to sell you dental insurance.

  46. Bill Ectric says:

    Jeff, have you ever read Bergman on Bergman (1970), in which film director Ingmar Bergman is interviewed by film critics Stig Bjorkman, Torsten Manns, and Jonas Sima? At least one passage in the book reminds me of you.

    Sima says to Bergman, “If I understand you aright, you’ve a strict code of professional morality, which insists that ‘the show must go on.’ ”

    Bergman answers, “Over the years one has learned certain things by experience…and gradually they crystallize into a pattern of behavior which afterwards – to use a superior expression – one calls one’ professional ethics.”

    I thought, “That sounds like something VanderMeer would say.”

  47. Larry says:

    Thanks. I’ve read several of the Graphic Novel Friday columns before, but I see there are several that I missed. I’ll certainly be looking through these and ordering a few :D

  48. jeff vandermeer says:

    Bill–can you provide more context? “The show must go on” doesn’t sound quite so complex as an ethical code.

  49. Bill Ectric says:

    When Bergman and Sima use the words “morality” and “ethics” it seem more like a good/bad kind of thing, but I think they mean is more commonly known as a work ethic, or professionalism. Actually, that was more of a comment than a question. Yes, I admit it, I’m rambling. I started out to ask if you have ever watched any Bergman films, and then I got to thinking about the concept of work ethic.

    Okay, here’s the quesion. When you write, rewrite, or edit, have you ever felt like stopping but you knew you had to keep going and how did you keep going?

  50. jeff vandermeer says:

    ack, bill, of course re work ethic. long long long day. sigh.

    if I feel like I have to stop, something is wrong behind me or on the horizon and must be fixed. so I do stop because writing in 30-40 percent done in your head.

  51. M. says:

    What about Byzantine history interests you? Do you also like the art?

  52. Chris says:

    Jeff, a friend recently asked me for some Ballardian contemporary writers. I was stumped. Any ideas?

  53. Larry says:

    And because I can: Will the Gators be able to cover the point spread for once against an SEC opponent this week, after failing miserably last week? :P

  54. Ross says:

    1) I’ve always thought that Lolita is about self-deception and the human habit of creating a false self that explains one’s deeds coherently, if not morally. This leads me to think that Humbert is full of shit most of the time– he misinterprets the facts of his story– but I’m not sure if he lies about the fact of those facts. Do you think that he is lying about the the morning at the Enchanted Hunter when he and Lo “technically became lovers?”

    2) I want writing and publishing books to remain a viable business. I cannot afford to buy every book I read (I read lot a lot, make a medium-sized amount of money, and am trying to save). I buy some books, but get a lot more out of the library. Am I failing, morally, because I don’t economically support all the authors whose work enriches my life? Is this counterbalanced by my support of the free lending library, a wonderful democratic institution? (NB: I am in love with and will soon marry a librarian.) Can you suggest criteria for determining which books I should buy rather than borrow? Small presses? Unpopular genres? Your work?

  55. Hellbound Heart says:

    after reading and listening to your post on arctic monkeys a little while ago i went out and bought their latest album….not bad at all, compadre!

    what do you consider as the church’s best album/song?

    peace and love……

    another question………why do i LOVE chocolate so much?

  56. jeff vandermeer says:

    M–I find the whole history of the Byzantines’ survival fascinating in the sense of how many times they had to combine diplomacy and behind-the-scenes intrigue with military campaigns. Also, their position straddling Europe and Asia. I like the art, but mostly interested in the history. Also their interactions with Venice, their situation during the Crusades, etc.

    Chris–I’d be stumped, too. Anyone got any ideas?

    Larry–yes.

    Ross–(1) I agree with you, but define “lie”? He’s so spinning the facts anyway that it may not matter. On another level, of course it didn’t happen–it’s fiction. (2) This may be a controversial thought, but…make sure you buy fiction by the writers who are midlist and full-time. The economy being what it is, you’re not going to help mid-list writers who have day jobs become full-time writers by buying their books. But more specifically, buy books that don’t fit ready-made marketing categories, because those will have the hardest time finding an audience in the current environment–and buy them equally from large presses as from small.

    Hellbound–I like so much of the Church’s work that I don’t know if I can answer that question. But, Starfish does have a ton of good music on it. But, again, I love most all of it, and my answer would change by the week. You like chocolate because you are human.

  57. Tero says:

    Bob: By throwing it against a wall, of course!

    Jeff: The Swedish couple you’re thinking of is most probably Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö.

  58. jeff vandermeer says:

    yes! That’s right, Tero.

  59. David Moles says:

    Hey, Jeff, nobody’s asked about weightlifting. What’s your workout like? How did you balance working out with writing and a day job? And how’s not having the day job changed things?

  60. jeff vandermeer says:

    Well, the day job was right next to the gym, so I’d go right after work. If the writing schedule was intense, I’d do full body three days a week. If not, legs/back three times a week, arms/chest/shoulders two times a week, then switch to three times for a/c/s, two times for l/b. I bought gym equipment for the home–free weights, bench, benchpress stand–so that if I couldn’t do a full gym work-out, I could still do something at home.

    Now that I’m don’t have a day job, it’s in many ways easier and better, because I can go the gym during that 2:30 to 4:30 stretch where it’s hard for me to keep focus on the writing or other projects. Lately, I’ve been most interested in building muscle, and so I’ve done more circuit training and cut the outright cardio. So, for example, I’ll let the leg press function as part of a cardio work-out. I’ll do three sets in a row at different foot positions at about 800 pounds and then after the third superset, I’ll take one plate off each side and quickly get back into position to do two sets, take two more plates off, repeat, and do that down to one plate on each side. That’s a pretty good heart-rate spike. Then I’ll also do things like combine latt pull-down with lunges, so that I’m not letting my body rest. Ultimate expression of that is doing lunges the length of the basketball court with two 35-lb weights and then on the way back doing military presses for shoulders, going from that immediately to the leg extension machine and then shoulder shrugs, followed immediately by a little clean-up work on biceps/triceps.

    I’ve been able to up my benchpress to three multi-sets: one at 200 lbs with the barbell, one at 120 lbs using two dumbbells, and then one at 80 also using dumbbells. Then repeat. Chest and shoulder strength is now nicely counterbalancing leg and back strength. I do work on triceps very hard, mostly with free weights, at the end of my work-outs. I’m also trying to target abs more, although abs get worked on a lot of the other exercises. Biceps I do at the very, very end.

    This approach has meant I’ve gained a significant amount of muscle over the last six months, but also I’ve gained a little fat. So now I’m switching the balance to include more straight cardio and cut all alcohol and bad carbs. The idea between now and World Fantasy and the book tour is to shed anywhere from five to ten pounds while either maintaining muscle mass or adding a little to it. If I can do that, then while on the six week tour I can maintain a healthy diet, use body resistance exercises when I can’t find a gym, and hopefully come out the back end having put on five pounds or less. (I know from prior experience on extended tours that it’s impossible not to gain a little weight, although quite frankly it’s a lot easier to not put on weight if you’re touring Europe because there’s so much more walking than in U.S. cities.)

    It’s something I really think about now I’m in my 40s and because I’m doing so many projects. Without the weight-training I would’ve gone insane a long time ago. Because you have to concentrate on just the lifting or you hurt yourself, it’s somewhat meditative. And when I’m stressed from over-work, it also helps calm me down. What I need to do now is take it to the next level, and that really means getting serious about the healthy eating and the alcohol intake–not just now but going forward. It’s easy to fall back into bad habits that don’t support the exercise.

    I’m much healthier at 40 than I was at 30 because of lifting weights, and if I work hard I can be healthier at 50 than at 40. The most important thing is–I love doing it. I used to jog a lot, and not only was I continually hurting my ankles, I *hated* jogging, so it was hard to keep to a regular schedule.

    In general, I think writers need to try to include exercise as part of maintaining their creative edge. The more I keep to a regular schedule, the more creative energy I have. It doesn’t really have anything to do with what weight someone’s at–it’s just about getting the body moving as an antidote to being in front of the computer so much. And being in balance. Okay, I think that’s enough babbling about one of my favorite subjects…

  61. Samuel S says:

    Jeff, you mentioned (and even sic:ed) Henning Menkel in an earlier post. Don’t you mean Henning Mankell, the author of the ‘Kurt Wallander’-books? He’s just as swedish as Sjöwall/Wahlöö and writes books in the crime/mystery genre. There are a lot of movies based on his books in Sweden and if I’m not mistaken there is also a rather new british (or american?) series starring Kenneth Branagh as Kurt Wallander. I’ve never read any of his books myself but he’s extremely popular in my native country Sweden.

  62. jeff vandermeer says:

    yep, that’s who i meant as well.

  63. Bill Ectric says:

    Ross and Jeff, on several occasions I have asked my local public library to order books that they didn’t already have on the shelf. They almost always do it. That’s how I first read Veniss Underground, for example (I later bought an autographed copy).

    I’m pretty sure libraries purchase the books (somebody correct me if I’m wrong). The point is, even if I can’t afford a book, I get the library to do it. That still constitutes a sale for the author, so it’s all good.

    And speaking of “buy books that don’t fit ready-made marketing categories,” my new novel might just fit that category. I would love for someone to ask their local public library to order it and let me know what happens.

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