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

(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.

Early Aughts

The original edition, with the World Fantasy Award winning novella.

The final issue of Ann’s The Silver Web, with awesome work by Carol Orlock, Daniel Abraham, Vera Searles, Michael Bishop, and more. Cover by Scott Eagle.

The expanded edition, 2002, a World Fantasy Award finalist (not pictured, the current Bantam trade paperback edition). As with all of the books I’ve written, Ann was a huge component of its success, helping in all aspects.

Got married and edited the World Fantasy Award winning Leviathan 3 that year as well, which included Zoran Zivkovic’s Library stories, which won in the best novella category. Also a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award, only the second book at that time to have done so, with The Troika by Stepan Chapman from my Ministry of Whimsy Press being the first.

Chapbook The Exchange, with Eric Schaller

A Ministry title from the early 2000s, as an imprint of Night Shade.

Ann was out of town on business for a few days in 2003 and I got bored and put together an anthology in a month. With pretty damn cool work by K.J. Bishop, Ursula Pflug, Elizabeth Hand, Jeffrey Ford, and others. Even got reviewed in the Washington Post, which cracked me up considering how indie press it was…

The original, hardcover edition of The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Disease, with art/design by John Coulthart. A Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award finalist, among many other honors, reprinted in a couple other languages, and eventually published by Bantam in trade paper with a different cover. Ann was instrumental in the book’s success, including reading submissions, helping make decisions about various aspects of the book. Probably the most intense effort of the early 2000s for both of us.

The original Prime edition of Veniss, finalist for the World Fantasy Award and several others.

Limited edition chapbook of my story Secret Life with art by Eric Schaller.

Mid Aughts

Ann edited this omnibus of two Cisco novels, the first of which had appeared as a stand-alone from her Buzzcity Press and won the International Horror Guild Award.

Secret Life, my second short story collection but probably the first major one.

In 2004, my Ministry of Whimsy also published Zoran Zivkovic’s novel The Fourth Circle, his first book publication in North America. The cover art, btw, is by K.J. Bishop.

My first nonfiction collection, which raised a certain amount of controversy.

Another 2004 Ministry title, with cover by John Coulthart.

The Bantam edition, 2005. Never that thrilled with this cover, to be honest. Pan MacMillan edition was better. Around this time, and into 2006, Ann and I spent a lot of time concentrating on correspondence with and editions from our foreign language publishers, including a five-week European book tour in 2006.

Shriek, on the right, came out in 2006 along with the reprint of City of Saints. Shriek made a lot of year’s best lists, including Amazon, San Fran Chronicle, but failed to make any awards lists. But to this day, Shriek is the book I get the most personal and satisfying emails from fans about. Perhaps relatedly, it is probably the most personal and, from a writing perspective, most satisfying book I’ll ever write. Ann spent a good deal of her time in 2006 helping me set up 20 Shriek book release parties at venues around the U.S., based around the Shriek movie.

The Secret Life Select Fire Remix actually attempted to remix my story collection the way you’d remix a CD. Jeffrey Ford’s intro was fragmented and recombined, the title story woven through the body of the book, short-shorts added, story notes moved to the end and expanded, and some stories deleted. I’d say this is probably the one book I can point to as being a huge bomb. It was inscrutable to all but core fans–an example of me having blinders on with regard to a reader’s entry point into a book through the cover, blurbs, etc. Since all that material was faked. Lesson learned. Heh.

Setting up the Best American Fantasy series, with help from Sean Wallace, took up a lot of our time in 2006 and 2007. The concept of the series was initially received by several genre reviewers with puzzlement. Since then, they seem to have gotten used to it, but it was sobering to realize the same attitudes that had resulted in having to put in a lot of extra effort in the 1990s on Leviathan 1 and Leviathan 2, and for Ann on The Silver Web, were still there. Things don’t get easier–you have to enter the fray again and again, have to keep proving yourself, each time older but with more experience. It was in this spirit–my slogan for 2007/08 was “knives out”–that we approached the last years of the aughts.

In 2007, as well, Ann took over as fiction editor for Weird Tales. She immediately focused on updating the type of short stories being bought and began her usual (IMHO) excellent job of finding great new writers and highlighting them alongside more established writers. At the same time as she took on this solo gig, and in the context of the BAF experience, we decided that, with my Ministry of Whimsy and her Buzzcity Press moribund, combining our efforts and co-editing all future anthologies together made artistic and financial sense. We could redouble our efforts, and Ann’s often profound contribution to previous books would be recognized formally re future projects.

While teaching at Clarion San Diego in 2007, we surprised the students with a printed-up book of their writing exercise stories created during our week. The finalized anthology, with nonfiction from Clarion instructors, will appear in 2010, with all proceeds going to Clarion. (As an aside, one of the great experiences of our lives together was teaching at Clarion, because it was the first time we’d really taught together, and we found that we balanced each other well. Before, we’d always been in support of each other.)

Late Aughts

The New Weird, collecting, analyzing, and questioning the controversial movement (or non-movement, depending on your point of view), came through the potentially cantankerous reviewer gauntlet relatively unscathed, getting plenty of positive reviews. It’s now taught in universities, including by Junot Diaz at MIT. It remains our favorite of our works in terms of the art of compiling, organizing, and contextualizing fiction and nonfiction about fiction. It has also clearly influenced other anthologists, who have since taken more structured approaches to their own projects.

In 2008, also, Weird Tales continued its rejuvenation with Stephen Segal as creative director and Ann as fiction editor.

PS Publishing released my novelette “The Situation” as a book with cover by Scott Eagle. Wired.com’s GeekDad offered it as a free download, garnering a lot of attention for it–I still get emails from office workers who recognize the particulars. The story is, in disguised form, exactly what happened to me in my day job in 2007, at which point I became a full-time writer.

Aided by our unimaginative title and a NYT article on Steampunk that came out the same week as our anthology, Steampunk was a huge success, and a World Fantasy Award finalist.

A stunning 20th anniversary issue, with an original novella by Mike Moorcock and my interview with China Mieville. This was probably my favorite of the many interviews I’ve done over the years.

In the middle of this perfect storm of attention for New Weird, Steampunk, and Weird Tales, my whimsical collection of stories based on the real lives of my readers came out in a thousand-copy limited edition…and sank without a trace…before resurfacing with several favorable reviews at year’s end and into 2009.

I wrote a Predator tie-in novel that I’m probably too proud of. It taught me a lot of about editing scenes and character point of view, much of which helped with writing my next novel, Finch.

Fast Ships, Black Sails was meant to be a fun and entertaining anthology of diverse pirate stories, and several stories wound up making various year’s best anthologies, including work by Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, and Howard Waldrop. The antho was also a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award. Many reviewers cited it as the best original fantasy anthology of the year.

Another two issues of Weird Tales came out that year, and cemented what would become a Hugo Award win in 2009 for Segal and Ann.

Falling victim to the publishing purges and reorgs of late 2008, the second volume of Best American Fantasy actually came out in early 2009. We’d chosen a tighter focus for the second volume, eschewing fantasy as metaphor, for example, out of a sense of self-preservation more than anything else. The result is tighter, and received more critical acclaim, but was not as adventurous. That said, I really love all of the stories in the book.

With the help of John Coulthart, we created a chapbook of student writing for the Shared Worlds teen writing camp participants this past summer.

Weird Tales soldiered on, continuing to innovate in both its hardcopy and website forms.

Our charity antho Last Drink Bird Head came out from the newly resurrected Ministry of Whimsy, now an imprint of Wyrm Publishing (Neil Clarke). Featuring over 80 contributors, including Peter Straub, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Gene Wolfe, and Tanith Lee, it fit nicely with such other quirky projects as the fake disease guide.

Yes, it is one of the greatest zombie stories ever.

I closed out 2009, and the decade, with possibly the strongest one-two punch of my career: the writing strategy guide Booklife and the surreal noir fantasy novel Finch. Both books went into second printings within weeks of publication in October-November. Both books received rave reviews. Finch made the best-of-lists of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Barnes & Noble Review, and many others. It received full, enthusiastic reviews in the LA Times and Washington Post. Grove Atlantic picked it up for UK publication, while A&C Black picked up Booklife for the UK as well (July and August 2010). In a way, I ended where I began, finishing my Ambergris Cycle. Booklife, meanwhile, reflected everything I had learned from a decade of books.


What book projects are we embarking upon for the future? Watch this space…


  1. Jonathan K. Stephens says

    Happy New Year Ann, Jeff & Family!

    Despite being an avid collector of all things VanderMeer (a VanderCultist, if you will), whenever I see a post like this, I’m always reminded of how many really great items I’m missing!

    – Memo to Self, Re: New Decade Resolution #1 – Expansion Of VanderCollection: New Book Shelves Obviously A Vital Imperative!

    Thanks for everything from the last decade and I can’t wait to see what your fertile imaginations have in store for us for the next 10 years!

    Warmest Regards,


  2. Patricia Graeme says

    *gasp* Can’t BELIEVE I’ve never come across this site before! I’m breathless. Fantastic stuff, beautiful books. I’ll be here often!

  3. says

    Amazing body of work guys – congrats! For myself, you went from a complete unknown to one of my favourite authors over the course of the decade, and one whose opinions I actually bother to read and take on board. Thanks for all your hard work :o)

  4. Hellbound Heart says

    last decade was an absolute beauty……this one will be even better!

    peace and love……….