Weird Loot, Entering the House

Jeff VanderMeer • March 5th, 2010 @ 9:16 am • Culture, Photos


(Sleeping cats for a Friday.)

First of all, happy birthday to my wonderful wife, Ann!! (Okay, so her birthday is tomorrow, but I’m not online tomorrow.)

Second of all, I did an interview with writer and editor Maurice Broaddus on Omnivoracious. I really love this interview–it’s one of my favorites. Go check it out.

So…we went down to one of the local used bookstores yesterday, thinking “Maybe we can pick up a couple of anthologies or author collections of use for weird and other projects”…only to find more than 200 titles, mostly in old Doubleday or Book Club editions–part of a collection sold by an elderly man moving to a smaller house.

An unseemly feeding frenzy ensued, and close to half of that collection now resides in our house.

It’s fascinating going through these older books. First off, there’s not as much of a reliance on names–they’re absent from some front covers entirely–and more of an emphasis on “hey, you’re about to read some great stories.” New writers appear several times, and there’s a value assigned to publishing new writers expressed in the introductions to several of these anthos. I don’t find that to be the case, generally, with present-day anthologies from large publishers, which fixate on big names as the best or easiest way to generate sales.

And, yep, women appear in these books, sometimes in quantity (although I haven’t looked through all of them yet), and especially in Marvin Kaye’s anthologies there’s a good balance of type of story and also lots of great stories by writers like Joanna Russ, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Joyce Carol Oates, etc. Indeed, there’s at least one story by Rabindranath Tagore in Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown. In addition, there are translations either picked up in reprint or commissioned for a particular antho. (Full Spectrum 3 isn’t pictured here, but it features two translations.) In Foundations of Fear, not pictured here, edited by David Hartwell you can find stories by Daphne Du Maurier, Octavia Butler, and more.

This all by way of saying that with regard to the SFX stupidity in not featuring any women in its special horror issue…maybe we shouldn’t let a few asshats define how we think women in horror are or have been represented. Castigate the asshats, yes, but don’t let them define the overall experience. Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy Magazine have all published excellent creepy/horrific stories by women over the last few years, there have been many anthologies with great horror by women, and some of the top editors interested in horror include Ellen Datlow and my wife, Ann VanderMeer, just to name two. (Indeed, all SFX had to do is email Ellen or Ann and ask who to feature and they could’ve had a cornucopia of women.)

One other interesting note before the book photos…one of the books is Dreams that Burn in the Night, by Craig Strete, who writes using a lot of Native American themes. This collection comes with a blurb from Jorge Luis Borges as well as James Tiptree Jr, and one story is co-written with Michael Bishop. The stories, in my opinion, are among those that haven’t dated well. But, given that he apparently was up for the Hugo and the Nebula and no one’s really heard of him today (except for this mention; scroll down), it’s a cautionary note for all of us writer types–see also the Peter Tate collection (who?). Here today, gone tomorrow. Bwaahahahaahaha.

Any observations about these covers? They’re drab in many cases, but, honestly, I prefer drab to the pseudo-Romance covers so popular today, with characters represented. I really don’t want any image of the characters in my head other than the one provided by the words inside.

19 Responses to “Weird Loot, Entering the House”

  1. eric orchard says:

    These books cause a weird nostalgia for me, these are the kind of books I devoured but had to hide from well meaning family members. Some of these covers are amazing! Especially the two Edward Gorey at the bottom and the Hannes Bok at the top. I wish there was more room in fantasy and SF for this kind of art. I asked Tod Lockwood about that once why so much fantasy art sticks to the same type of image and style and he told me that the majority of fantasy is marketed at 14 year old boys and they want the same grim and gritty that they get from video games. This covers are unsettling in a way that mass marketed books usually aren’t these days.

    Is that Leonard Cohen on the cover of Shadows 2?

  2. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    No, Shadows 5.

  3. Luís Rodrigues says:

    I have that exact same edition of Fancies and Goodnights, love the Seymour Chwast cover illustration.

  4. eric orchard says:

    Lol!

  5. Rick B. says:

    I agree with your observations on the covers. I try not to pre-judge a book by the cover, but find myself falling into the trap of having preconceptions. It’s one thing for a cover to set the mood – as your examples above do. It’s another to show us the characters and scenes.

    Having said that, however, I do appreciate great cover art – whatever the scene!

    Just riding the fence here…

  6. Brendan Connell says:

    The covers with less artwork are better. The problem being that I don’t like the art most publishers choose. As a matter of fact, the only current publishers who almost always have good covers are Penguin and Dedalus…(this is of course just one man’s opinion)….

  7. J. Andrews says:

    Neglected Visions strikes me as the most interesting from the cover. Which you think would be odd, given there’s not much _to_ the cover. But the title itself is intriguing and the way it looks makes it look.. I dunno, like it’s not for the run-of-the-mill, casual sf/f fan. More hardcore and therefore more interesting.

    Like ‘Hey, we could throw a monster or a spaceship on this. But we all know a planet with a satellite around it, stars, and the color blue are awesome and cool all by themselves, and real geeks will get that.’

    And I borrowed that Byte Beautiful collection from the library not that long ago. Same cover and everything.

  8. Terry Weyna says:

    Wow! I bet the seller hated to give those up. I’m pretty sure I’d have to be dead before you’d get a haul that good away from me.

  9. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Julie–yeah, it is interesting. Especially because I have no idea who any of the writers inside are…which means that book didn’t work out for them so well.

    Terry–our first thought was how horrible it was that this guy had to get rid of these books. Some of them are book club editions, but the completeness of his collection, for a certain period, was both wonderful and a little sad, you know? Because it’d be really tough for us to get rid of stuff. But we’ll take good care of them.

    Jeff

  10. Steve Tem says:

    My, these do take me back, since this was around the time I started selling, and I’m in several of those books. I wrote a lot of my early stories for Roy Torgeson, Stu Schiff, Charlie Grant, and Lin Carter. Not all of the stories were great, but it was a good education.

    My own preference for covers is the simpler the better–a solid field of color, nice typography, and a single isolated image that’s suggestive, but not immediately identifiable as to genre. I dislike, or hate, at least 90% of the genre covers I see.

    I realize, of course, my prefgerence doesn’t necessarily sell books.

  11. Nemone says:

    My favourite cover is the one with the fish(can’t read the title).
    Could we add Jellypunk to your growing list of projects?I just watched Ponyo.Jellyfish anthology ,please!
    Also, in some parallel reality, Avatar is a Miyazaki film and it is wonderful (it has airborne jellyfish), with a proper script and everything.A wish of Jellyfish.

  12. moth says:

    What a fantastic haul! I think i’ve read of the some of them. I love the dark sins, dark dreams cover and the gorey looking ones.

    The I love it when the kitties sleep like that. they are such the picture of contentment.

  13. Wesley Osam says:

    I much prefer these covers to the Photoshop jobs sported by most books today–especially the Gorey and Chwast covers.

    Those Marvin Kaye anthologies are amazing. They introduced me to so many great weird writers when I was in my early teens. Kaye was obviously more interested in unusual or little-known stories than the old reliables other editors lean on so heavily. (But I still got to read those, too, because I had Cerf and Wagner’s Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural.)

  14. Anne S says:

    Happy Birthday Ann!

  15. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Steve–I was noticing your name a lot! I was like, “No way–Steve must’ve been 12 at the time!”

  16. Steve Tem says:

    >Steve–I was noticing your name a lot! I was like, “No way–Steve must’ve been 12 at the time!”

    Oh. I wish. I turn 60 this Fall. I started selling stories toward the end of the seventies. I think I write much better now, but it’s too late to be that “promising young writer.” At least it’s never too late to be an old fart.

  17. Hellbound Heart says:

    hope you’re having a wonderful birthday, ann……is jeff doing lots of wonderful things for you?

    dunno what covers strike my fancy here…..

    peace and love…..

  18. Egg says:

    Happy Birthday Ann,
    hope it’s a good one!

  19. Matt says:

    So then that isn’t Finch on the cover of Finch? The dude next to the gun?

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