“The Mona Lisa”–A Collaboration with Tessa Kum for Halo: Evolutions

(All images in this post are *unauthorized* dramatic re-creations from our novella “The Mona Lisa,” with the spaceship played by a model given to Ann and me by a Romania friend. These images do not in any way represent screen shots from any new or future version of Halo, okay dude?)

UPDATE: Tessa’s version of events, which involves a lot more swearing…

There’s nothing like a little challenge to roil the blood and take over your life for a couple of months—all while not being able to say much of anything about it publicly, but, finally, I can announce that: Tessa Kum and I have sold a monstrous, kick-ass, action-packed, insanely entertaining 35,000-word novella entitled “The Mona Lisa” to Tor editor Eric Raab for the anthology Halo: Evolutions–Essential Tales of the Halo Universe. Other contributors include Tobias Buckell, Brian Evenson, Karen Traviss, and Eric Nylund. Halo: Evolutions should be available in bookstores by November-December.

Our story is set in the period between Halo 1 and Halo 2, in the Soell System, amid the debris field now circling the gas giant Threshold. The Prowler Red Horse is on a recon mission that largely consists of salvage. As the story opens, they’ve just brought a strange civilian escape pod on board the ship. For once, there are signs of life, and Sergeant Zhao Heng Lopez and her team are waiting for the engineers to get the pod open, unsure of what it might hold. What they find inside eventually leads them to [REDACTED—CLASSIFIED], which might hold the secret to [REDACTED—CLASSIFIED] and [REDACTED—CLASSIFIED] with ice cream and a thick [REDACTED—CLASSIFIED] that’s [REDACTED—CLASSIFIED] in the hold, after a flash of earlobe.

One thing we wanted to do was break with tradition, so our two main characters are women: Sergeant Zhao Heng Lopez and medic Benti. Other prominent characters include the Prowler’s commander, Foucault, his AI Rebecca, the pilot of a Pelican named Burgundy, a slew of marines, and, erm, someone wielding a cricket bat. Yes, you heard correctly. A cricket bat. How’d that sneak in there? The Aussie influence from Tessa, my partner in crime on this Bataan Death March of an experience. (Me: “Wanna collaborate on a Halo story, ‘cause I’m in over my head?” Tessa: “Hell yeah!” Two months later: “I’m gonna die if I read this again,” “Where the hell am I again? My brain doesn’t work anymore.” Ann: “Jeff, I’m sick of this *#(!&)@ process, too.”)

As readers of this blog know, I am indeed all about process, so below the cut you’ll find some insight into the story behind the story, for anyone who’s interested. (I’m sure Tessa or Ann will correct me if I get anything wrong!)

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Last Drink Bird Head Song and Poster

(Last Drink Bird Head World Fantasy Con party poster, design by John Coulthart; larger version here)

John Anealio has written a very cool Last Drink Bird Head song, called, naturally, Last Drink Bird Head.

You can still preorder the Last Drink antho here.

(The sheet music for the Last Drink song; larger image here.)

Brain Harvest Contest Winners: Brian Francis Slattery and William T. Vandemark

Brain Harvest has now announced their first-place winner, as chosen by me, in their latest contest. I judged the contest with the writers’ names taken off, from the top 15 entries as picked by BH’s excellent editors…which just goes to show I must really like Brian Francis Slattery’s fiction whether I know it’s by him or not. As for what I meant by the melted clock comment–no way to easily compare and contrast for judging purposes the first and eventual second place winners. Anyway, some cool stuff all around, and glad to support the awesome Braaaaaaaaaainnnn Harvest.

District 9–Some Questions

I meant to post this awhile back, forgot about it, and then read this wonderful analysis by Nnedi on her blog. In addition to the stuff about Nigerians, this really resonated in her complaints about the movie: “It bothers me that this film has gotten such stellar reviews. But I guess that just shows how low people’s standards for Hollywood films are. The problem with setting your standards low so you can enjoy movies is that it allows them to get away with some serious irresponsible rubbish. And it makes directors, writers, and producers very very lazy. I want to see an SF film set in Africa as much as anyone but I don’t like to see things done half-assed.”

A few legitimate questions that came to mind, considering the ultra-realistic/documentary style of the movie, at least at the beginning.

Warning: The questions suggest spoilers.

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Sunday Miscellany: Books, Crutches, Mantels

(The FTC can stick this where the sun don’t shine. This caption would’ve been more effective a couple days ago.)

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Murder by Death Finch CD in the House

Yep, it’s in the house–my copies, and the extra copies I’m taking on the road for the book tour. It’s simple but very nicely put together. And, of course, the music is awesome.

Below the break all the mundane details about ordering it or Finch or both.

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Mash-Up Novel Bridget Jones’s Naked Lunch Sold to Major New Imprint

(This is just a very rough draft of the cover from CCC’s designer–the art will probably change)

I’m very happy to announce I’ve sold the novel mash-up Bridget Jones’s Naked Lunch to new imprint Cool Classy Classics.

Here’s an excerpt. I plan to finish it next month and it’ll be published by February of next year. More details when I have them.

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Event Updates: Portland, Richmond

(Will Hindmarch’s awesome poster for the Atlanta event)

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be the writer guest for Fountain Bookstore’s holiday party December 8th in Richmond, Virginia. The party will start at 6pm and my event will start at 6:45. Fountain Bookstore is absolutely awesome and I am really looking forward to this event. (Thanks to Tom Dehaven and J.T. Glover for their help.)

I also have more information on the party sponsored by Underland Press in Portland (Friday, Nov. 6, starting at 5:30): “Help celebrate the weird and the wonderful with readings by acclaimed authors Jeff VanderMeer, Jay Lake, Cat Rambo, and Jeff Johnson. With art by Benjamin W. Burch and music by DJ Santo, along with crepes, wine, and beer at the Press Club, we’ll stay and talk fantastic lit ’till the management kicks us out. The Press Club, 2621 SE Clinton Portland, OR 97202.’

Currently, we’re just waiting on confirmation of an event in Baltimore, and the whole tour will be set. Regardless, I’ll post the full list of events early next week. HUGE thanks to Matt Staggs for his amazing help in booking some of these gigs, and for his follow-up. The guy’s a champion.

An Embarrassment of Riches: Booklife’s Here

Well, a box of them reached my house, at least. I don’t know if the book will be in stores by October 14, but I would imagine within the next two weeks. You can also, of course, always order it from either Amazon or Indiebound.

It’s perhaps some indication of just how busy I am that my first reaction on opening the box was, “yep, that’s it all right–why isn’t it gold-plated?”, and then I went back to this playlist feature I’m writing for Large Hearted Boy.

Took me a few minutes to circle back to the box and look at them again and squint, pinch myself. “Are these real? Surely I’m destined to be in pre-production purgatory with these suckers for all time? Surely this isn’t the finished book.”

Went back to work, picked up a copy on my break, brought it back to the table. Wondered again why it wasn’t gold-plated or have starship engines to propel it. Put it down. Picked it up. Looked at it like the apes did at the monolith in 2001. Went back to work.

I’m still not sure what to make of this mirage of an intruder.

Anyway, booklifenow.com will go live by around October 21.

Thought for a Thursday: Is It Really “Entertainment” That Needs Defending?

Great authors are not to blame for your lack of education., June 17, 1999 By A Customer:

For God’s sake— why do so many people write these idiotic reviews, these reviews that are nothing so much as confessions of stupidity? Why do people believe that the primary aim of all art, even that of fictive prose, is absolute simplistic clarity? These are the same chuckleheads who fail to understand impressionism and cubism; they are the people who fail to recognize that distortions of photographic reality (or the use of abstract, metaphor-laden prose with poetic, rather than simple reportorial, qualities) are attempts to reveal a hidden truth or an occult sensation, something intangible lurking beneath the surface of the hubbub that constitutes our everyday lives. “Guernica” strives to convey the absolute chaos and horror of war, something of the mental distortion endured by those unlucky enough to fight; “The Scream” tries to convey the sense of terror that resides the very nature of being, a sense only perceived by the introspective and the sensitive; and “The Crying of Lot 49” dissects the effects of sixties culture, and its cultural precedents, on the bare skeleton of America. It uses metaphor to make sense of the welter of confused action that is American life (read: it does not strive to obfuscate it). None of these masterworks fail simply because they refuse to be obvious. There is a place for the realism of Michelangelo and the journalistic minimalism of Hemingway, but artistic expression should not, is not, and cannot be confined to those styles that lend themselves to easiest comprehension. Some art reaches for wispier, more difficult ideas, and demands that we, the readers and viewers, make the effort required to understand.

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