Archive for December, 2009

Our Life in Books: The Decade in Review (and thanks)

Jeff VanderMeer • December 31st, 2009 • News, Writing Tips


(Our ketubah, or marriage contract, from 2002, with a border created by Scott Eagle, who has contributed art to several of our covers.)

Despite having been very active in the 1990s, it’s in the 2000s that Ann and I came into our own as a creative partnership, and I reached what one might call mid-career (I’m now 41). We had many, many opportunities, were tendered many kindnesses by people too many to mention for fear of leaving someone out, and, throughout the decade, put our all into every project, even when it sometimes threw our lives out of whack. (A book is often an obsession; an obsession is often a type of love.)

As the decade comes to an end, I would just like to thank Ann—my partner, my best friend, my wife—for her creativity, generosity of spirit, smarts, and comradery on so many projects over the past years. Not only has she accomplished so much, but she’s done it while devoting thousands of hours to her synagogue as a teacher and dealing with a full-time, often very demanding day job.

As the decade comes to an end, I’d also like to showcase the books and other physical artifacts we’ve created. We love books. We love the people associated with books. They are still the most potent symbol of a reading, writing, and editing life. They provide the physicality that gives one the satisfaction of a job well done. There are other measures of the decade–family, friends, teaching, etc.–but our books also often encompass those elements, in terms of the back story behind them.

So thanks to all of the readers and everyone else who has been supportive. The book business is not an easy one–it is filled with treacherous pitfalls, reversals, unexpected bad luck, and unexpected good fortune (which can be just as perilous). Sometimes a kind word or gesture by a reader or colleague has been instrumental in giving us the energy to complete a project. But, as I say, we’ve been blessed this decade, and we’ve made a good run of it. I don’t think either of us has any regrets (except I wish I would sometimes would learn not to comment on blog posts on the internet).

Here, then, is our decade in review, through books/magazines we wrote, edited, or published, leaving out over forty foreign language editions and most reprint editions…

UPDATE: Or you can always go the short route and just click here.

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Mirror Image and Blast from Past

Jeff VanderMeer • December 31st, 2009 • Culture

Doing some organizing and came across Dradin and its Eastern European twin, as well as two 1990s issues of The Silver Web, the mag Ann founded and edited. Oh, the old days.

Booklifenow: TIME’s Lev Grossman, WaPo’s Ron Charles, SF Chronicle’s Michael Berry, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Guth on Submitting Books for Review

Jeff VanderMeer • December 30th, 2009 • Writing Tips

Matt Staggs has a great post at Booklifenow about avoiding rookie mistakes when books are submitted to reviewers or review editors, featuring four high-powered interviewees.

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

Jeff VanderMeer • December 30th, 2009 • News

Cabinets of curiosities (also known as Wunderkammer, Cabinets of Wonder, or Wonder-rooms) were encyclopedic collections of types of objects whose categorical boundaries were various. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings) and antiquities. — From Wikipedia

I haven’t had a chance to do more than mention in passing one of the major projects Ann and I will be working on in 2010: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, acquired by the wonderful Diana Gill at HarperCollins.

A loose sequel to The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases–among other honors, a Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award finalist–this new anthology ramps up both the art and the storytelling, with full-page art, the delights of eccentric front and end matter, “exhibit” descriptions, and a core formed of full-on short stories.

Contributors committed to the anthology include Mike Mignola, China Mieville, Holly Black, Naomi Novik, Minister Faust, Alan Moore, Cherie Priest, Mike Moorcock, Tad Williams, Jake Von Slatt, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jeffrey Ford, Carrie Vaughn, and Kage Baker. John Coulthart will be doing a lot of artwork for it. We’re delivering the cabinet, art and fiction, to HarperCollins in November 2010, for publication in 2011. We’ll post the full contributor list after we turn it in. Each story will be accompanied by art. (We wish we could have an open reading period, but it’s impossible given the targeted nature of the text, very specific needs, and a few other factors.)

More on the premise below the cut…


(Not the cover, but an image created by John Coulthart for the proposal.)

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Indie Press in the Pre-Internet Age: Dan Read’s Tribute to Two Fallen Stalwarts, Janet Fox and Marcelo “Buddy” Martinez

Jeff VanderMeer • December 30th, 2009 • Culture

I had been meaning to talk a little bit about Janet Fox, who died this year and who used to run a market report that also served as a kind of indie press crossroads/clearinghouse back before the Internet took hold. Fox was a great person, a good writer, and did a lot for the community back then. I wrote more than one article for her, and she was always very supportive of new writers. Also passing on this year was Marcelo Martinez, who I knew less well but who was linked to Fox in that they were both prominent in the horror/dark fantasy/fantasy scene at around the same time.

Our friend Dan Read, who doesn’t blog, has written a tribute to the two of them that I’m happy to post here. I think Dan also makes an important point about having lost part of our history in this internet age–and how important it is to reclaim it. This post is well worth your time–please read. I would also add I couldn’t find a photo of Janet on the internet or a large image of a Scavenger’s cover. If you have either, perhaps you’ll post a link. – JeffV

Janet Fox and Marcelo Martinez: A Tribute by Dan Read

The following is intended as a tribute to two people who died in late 2009, Janet Fox and Marcelo “Buddy” Martinez, on October 21, 2009 and November 30, 2009, respectively. Their pairing in a single tribute may seem odd, as I have no idea whether they knew each other personally. For my part, it is a coincidence of the close proximity of their passings, the fact that I encountered their respective work in the same scene at around the same time, and the fact that I first learned of Buddy Martinez’s passing in this blog post by Brian Keene, which relates the news of both Janet and Buddy’s death in the same post—and which inspired my own joint tribute. I hope no one minds.

Thanks to Jeff VanderMeer for providing a home for this small tribute to two people whose time on this earth I can only offer a small slice of what is due, I am sure. Please add comments to correct or expand on my perspective, which is limited by not having known either Buddy or Janet personally, and to add remembrances of your own.

I was sad to hear news late this year about both Buddy and Janet. Both had a formative influence on me in the sense that they were already doing things that I wanted to be doing. They shared, it seems to me, a certain DIY aesthetic, which corresponds to their memberships in the small press world during the post-zine, pre-internet days of the desktop publishing age (let’s call it ’84 to ’94). As publishers, curators, and artists, they showed others, including me, what was possible. They created or illuminated avenues that brought writers, artists, publishers, and readers together, in the process demonstrating that top-down “mainstream” culture is not all there is.

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Paying It Forward, Paying it Back, Using Your Leverage

Jeff VanderMeer • December 28th, 2009 • Writing Tips

As the year comes to an end, I’ve been thinking about leverage, which I talk about in Booklife. But in Booklife, while I have a separate section on paying it forward and contributing to community, I’m not sure I fully tie the idea of leverage to the idea of paying it forward.

Your writerly “leverage,” as I define it, is a kind of political capital. You can amass it based on your visibility through your online presence and your books, published short stories, etc. It consists of intangibles beyond audience, too. The respect and affection others have for you affects your leverage–how people perceive you as both writer and human being.

You use leverage to make your projects, your books, successful–leverage breeds leverage–but it serves, or should serve, another purpose. You should use your leverage (or position or privilege) to be of use to other people in the writing community (or even outside of it). No matter what level you’re at, there’s something you can do to help someone else.

I’ve met writers who hoard leverage or privilege, who feel that concealing their contacts, masking their methodology, building closed cliques, ignoring talented people who ask for help, is the best way of helping their careers.

Maybe this is true in the short term, but the fact is the best way to build leverage long-term is to be open and useful to others–as much as you can be without disrupting your own time for writing and other creative endeavor.

Paying it forward, contributing to community, can at times be controversial or uncomfortable or actually cause you to lose prestige or respect temporarily. The whole point, at times, of using your position is to expend it like rocket fuel–in a short burst that is of immeasurable value to someone else.

I think about this, too, because sometimes people get into positions of power by being miserly with their leverage…and never realize that they’ve reached a position where they can afford to take a stand, be publicly controversial for the greater good. And so they don’t.

Whatever level you’re at now, don’t be that person. If you die without calling in all your markers, for others, for yourself…you lose.

What I’m saying is this: whether you’re a writer with one published story or a writer with twenty novels out, you have some leverage. What you can do might be tiny in scope, but might mean a lot to someone.

As we enter 2010, in a perilous publishing atmosphere, with a lot of uncertainty ahead, we should all be thinking of about not just ourselves but others. Trust me when I say the more connectivity you build, the more good works you foster, on whatever level, the more you, too, will benefit in the long run.

This is a rare cross-post to Booklifenow.com

The Church Re-Releases Shriek: An Afterword CD

Jeff VanderMeer • December 28th, 2009 • Culture

Slicing Up Your Eyeballs reports that The Church has re-released the Shriek: An Afterword CD based on my novel. The re-release “has been remastered to correct significant audio problems with the initial release, and errors with the tracklisting and packaging also have been corrected.” I should note– the first version sounds just fine to me, and The Church always tinker with their stuff a lot.

For more info on ordering, etc., visit SUYE.

Here’s the track listing on the re-release. I don’t have the original in front of me, but I do think it may be different by one song.

1. “We Dwell In Fragile Temporary”
2. “Shriek Voices”
3. “Shriek Theme”
4. “Duncan And Mary”
5. “Even The Flies Have Eyes”
6. “The Gray Caps”
7. “Truffidian Church”
8. “Ambergris”
9. “My Love, Last Night”
10. “Incident On Bannerville”
11. “A Tragi-comic Family Story”
12. “A Tale For You”
13. “We Are Lost”
14. “Dream Of Edward”
15. “War Of The Houses”
16. “Shriek – Reversal”
17. “The Aan Tribal War”

Top Three Vander Predictions for 2010: Mieville, Atwood, Austen

Jeff VanderMeer • December 27th, 2009 • Culture, Uncategorized


(My gawd–this is so weird. Before I renounced cephalopods earlier this year, my next novel was going to be titled The Squid and the Squid.)

Since most of my predictions for 2009 came true–I predicted in 2008, for example, that I would end my 2009 Booklife/Finch tour reading from a storage closet in an Atlanta bar and that the blogosphere would come apart at the seams during a harmless discussion of magazine pay rates–I’ve decided to again put forth some knowledgeable mutterings about the year to come.

(1) I predict that China Mieville will publish a novel about squid and that it will be odd. I predict this because you could see this coming as early as 2003, when City of Saints & Madmen came out in the U.S. China’s entry in the bibliography of “King Squid”–Naughty Lisp and the Squid–points to an unhealthy obsession–one I used to share, but which I have since put behind me.

(2) Because Jane Austen has so much to answer for now, scientists will clone her by combining her DNA with the DNA of a woolly mammoth and she will appear before the International Court on charges of Ridiculous Cross-Pollution, the resulting mash-up called Pride of the Courtly Cave Bears.


(Baby mammoth, or a resurrected Jane Austen?)

(2) Margaret Atwood will announce her new invention, on which she has been hard at work for the past few years: The Infernal Claw. This device, which has replaced her right hand and wrist, is indeed a steel claw hooked up to a machine that allows her, even in her sleep, to remotely sign readers’ books. Her books will now come with nanotechnology embedded in the title pages so that she may randomly and without warning sign your copy of her latest novel. The ectoplasmic, alt-world doppelganger of The Infernal Claw will use the nanotechnology on the title page as a portal through which to enter your brain and both tickle it and convince you to admit that you do not write science fiction (and, in many cases, this will be true).

The Golden City by Twelve-Hawks: Snooze Fest

Jeff VanderMeer • December 26th, 2009 • Book Reviews

The Washington Post Book World ran my review of John Twelve-Hawks’ The Golden City, the last in his trilogy. Although I’ll give him props for some of the settings, the characters were cardboard and the action clumsy at best.

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals: Coming Soon!

Jeff VanderMeer • December 25th, 2009 • Culture, News

Somehow, it seems entirely appropriate to post about The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals on Christmas Day…and necessary since Foreward posted about the book earlier this week. A lot of reverb from that and great word-of-mouth, so I just want to make sure that readers have all the info about the book now, even though it’s not out until February 2010 (just in time for Purim).

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals isn’t a rehash of the original post from back in 2007. The selection from the dialogue between me and my wife on the subject is only one element of the book–and each discussion has been carefully and in most cases completely revised. But in addition to those sections, the book contains the following:

– Master designer John Coulthart’s brilliant design and copious selection of illustrations.

– Hugo Award winner Ann VanderMeer’s introduction on Jews and food.

– A foreword by Joseph Nigg, author of the Oxford University Press’s definitive guide to fantastical beasts and, under the name “Topsell” the mastermind behind the wildly popular How to Keep and Train a Dragon.

– An often tongue-in-cheek original description of each beast by yours truly.

– Ann’s conversation with Food Network star (Ace of Cakes) Duff Goldman about how you’d cook, say, a Mongolian Deathworm, and what evil tastes like.

– As an added bonus, one illo is by one of our favorite artists, Ian Miller.

All this in a beautiful little hardcover book, and a website coming soon that will include extras like the recipe cards displayed below (Ann wrote the text for those).

I highly suggest preordering this book because my gut tells me the first edition print run, no matter how large, is going to sell out within weeks of publication.

Samples from the book below the cut, and my apologies for another “book ad”–you’ll have plenty of real content here from me in the next few months.

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