Mindmeld on Essential Collections…and an Old Man


(Book covers as part of Tetris, courtesy of SF Signal)

SF Signal ran a Mindmeld where they asked me and others about essential short story collections. Go check it out. Here’s my list, sans descriptions.

1.The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
2.The Lottery & Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
3.Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
4.The Zanzibar Cat by Joanna Russ
5.Bloodchild by Octavia Butler
6.Star Songs of an Old Primate by James Tiptree Jr
7.The Seventh Horse by Leonora Carrington
8.To Charles Fort, with Love by Caitlin R. Kiernan
9.The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. LeGuin
10.Tainaron: Mail from Another City by Leena Krohn

….and for something completely different, check out an excerpt from a genius old man’s Old Men in Love, over on Omnivoracious.

Comic Con Special Guests: Me ‘n’ Ann, Join Us July 25

Comic Con is being kind enough to fly us out to San Diego (and thus do a Good Thing for Clarion, which we’re teaching at right after). We’re not sure of everything we might be doing, but they’ve definitely signed us up for a “spotlight” feature, description below. Please come join us. We will have very cool visuals! Woo-hoo.

Sunday, JULY 25, 10:30-11:30am, ROOM 8 (followed by signing):

Spotlight on Ann and Jeff VanderMeer: Dr. Lambshead, Steampunk, Weird Tales, Imaginary Animals, and You: Join Weird Tales editor and Hugo Award winner Ann VanderMeer and her World Fantasy Award winning husband, writer and editor Jeff VanderMeer as they take you on a whirlwind visual exclusive inside look at a cornucopia of exciting new projects, from The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, featuring work by Mike Mignola and Greg Broadmore, to the Steampunk Bible coffee table book, from the rejuvenated Weird Tales to the insanely entertaining Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, featuring recipes for Cthulhu by Ace of Cake’s Duff Goldman. With discussion, interrogation, arguments, and er, Mongolian Death Worms. Nom nom.

The World Cup…of Fiction?

I’m a huge World Cup fanatic–planning on watching at least part of every match. For those of you who aren’t, or just need more to do :), there’s always the World Cup of Fiction. Which I just made up.

How do you play? Take one or more of the countries below and do a blog post about your favorite fiction/books from that place/those places. Perhaps leaving out the obvious suspects like the US and England. As for any rules other than that, I’ll leave it up to you.

I’ll tackle a few of these on Omnivoracious in the next couple of weeks, but overlap’s always good. If you do post something, please link it here, too.

What’re the countries?

An Abundance of Riches: Books from Okorafor, Gray, Swirsky, Mieville, and More

(Two books of potential awesomeness–I’ve already started talking about the Alasdair Gray, with an interview today on Omnivoracious.)

I’ve been resisting doing “books received” posts because, well, the numbers are alarming and such posts would quickly become white noise. But today I received such a proverbial cornucopia of goodness that I can’t resist–in part because I’m blissfully happy to be living in a world that could bring such amazing and different books to my door simulteaneously.

The Okorafor and the Gray couldn’t be more divergent, and yet they share the similarity of being united in their uniqueness. The Rachel Swirsky makes me happy because I’ve been waiting for her work to appear in book form–and because the publisher, Aqueduct, is nearing their 50th published book.

A mass market of Best Served Cold is an excellent opportunity for a leisurely re-read, while who can, quite honestly, resist China Mieville in squid cult mode?

Perhaps the most intriguing book, because it’s so unexpected, is Jean-Christophe-Valtat’s Aurorarama. It’s set in 1908 in New Venice, combining Steampunk and Victoriana with an ominous black airship, along with an Inuit rebellion. It appears to be in the same mode as Dexter Palmer’s The Dream of Perpetual Motion, in that it’s using the Steampunk aesthetic in the service of a very eccentric and different tale than the typical steampunky-ness.

Also, Gert Jonke’s The Distant Sound continues Dalkey Archive’s record of publishing absurdist and surreal novels in translation. (See below for more photos.)

[Read more…]

Finch in the UK

A close-to-final of the Atlantic/Corvus British Commonwealth edition of Finch, out in August–I captured the screenshot a little off-center. The UK edition will be hardcover followed by oversized mass market, while in the rest of the commonwealth it will be a trade paperback. You can preorder the hardcover here.

This is my first trade hardcover in the UK. City of Saints was tp with a limited hc.

Translation Fund, Anyone?

In my spare time—ha!—I am thinking about setting up, or helping oversee the setting up of, a translation fund driven by donations.

Here’s a hypothetical model.

Using carefully vetted translators, strong centralized oversight, and soliciting the opinions of experts in non-English-speaking countries (editors, etc.), we’d oversee the translation of short stories into English, our only focus being “non-realist” fiction (or whatever term denotes the totality of fantasy/SF/horror/surrealism/magic realism/etc. without dividing things into the false camps of genre and literary). The emphasis would at first be on stories by writers not yet translated into English.

Donations would fall into “small” and “investor” categories. Small donations would truly be donations, with no return. Investor donations, which could be targeted toward specific writers or countries listed by the translation fund organization, would have the possibility of monies being recouped.

How? Donated monies would be paid to the translator for the translation. The writer would, as part of the deal, agree to turn over a % of any resulting magazine or anthology sale to our translation fund. The investor could then either put that money back into the fund or take it out.

It’s late and it’s possible I’m reinventing the wheel. I’m sure also there are a thousand holes to be poked in the logic of this idea. But I thought I’d put it out there since even if the above isn’t practical perhaps something good would come out of the discussion.

Empty Your Heart on Angela Carter’s Fireworks

(My Angela Carter collection; for a larger version, click here; I have Burning Your Boats, too, but it’s in the bookshelf holding our weird antho source material.)

Paul Charles Smith plans to cover all of Angela Carter’s fiction, and his first post is on her first collection Fireworks. I found Fireworks to be fascinating because it’s somewhat uneven–her evocations of a South American setting and a few others seem like mere stage props, not particularly convincing–and shows Carter finding her voice. Many stories are also clearly affected by her divorce and feeling isolated in another country. I’m not sure I agree with all of Smith’s analysis, but it’s worth checking out since he’s doing such a comprehensive series. One thing’s for sure–Carter was, for her entire career, profane, transgressive, and totally uninterested in uniformity or traditional ways of looking at things.

I’ve got an extensive essay on Carter’s work that’s currently housed at the Scriptorium. I haven’t looked at it recently, and don’t know if it holds up–I wrote it many years ago, when I was 23 or 24.

And if you’re not interested in Angela Carter, here’s our cat trying to get into my office.

Squidpawned

So I was just gearing up to write my next novel, which I was going to call King Squid, Esq., when I look up from all of my deadlines to notice that there’s this other novel out there called Kraken by this Mieville guy.

WTF? My novel was all about a squid cult hiding in a museum in a kind-of London setting and this guy named “Philly” Barrow, and all of the bizarre things that happen to him because of that situation. This Mieville joker’s novel seems, on the face of it, to be similar. Only difference being, I’ve actually swum with squid. Repeatedly. In an actual squid suit.

Now my agent says there’s no way to sell it–I’m going to have to change everything in it related to squid to fungi instead. Tentative new title will be Lord Mushroom, Inc. It’s going to take at least another year to sort this all out. And I’ve got to figure out how to make intelligent mushrooms swim.

What Goes into Anthology Editing? What Should You Be Aware of?

Sometime in the next week or so I’ll post some thoughts on editing anthologies.

But I thought it would be interesting to get some feedback from readers first, in answer to any or all of the following questions. You can note whether you’re referring to original or reprint anthologies if that’s important for context.

(1) What do you personally look for in a fiction anthology?
(2) What do you feel are the top five constraints on anthology editors when putting together an antho?
(3) What do you think is the toughest part of putting together an anthology?
(4) Do you think it’s easier or tougher to edit an antho now than, say, 20 years ago?
(5) Do theme anthologies attract you more than general fiction anthos?
(6) If you were able to edit an anthology, what would be your dream project? (You can be vague if you like.)

Feel free to add any general observations, too.

I’d prefer it if existing anthology editors didn’t respond to these questions. I’m interested in responses from non-editors.

Reversing Damage

Cat Rambo posted notes from Gwyneth Jones’s speech on reducing world machismo. All makes good sense to me. I find this bit especially interesting because it also applies to fiction:

The Overton Window – the extremes of conversation determine the continuum of the discussion. This is why it’s important to have voices at the extreme left, helping expand the window, which has shrunk in recent years to a point where something previously considered moderate can be considered liberal.

Fiction thrives best when you have extremes of fiction modes being written and reaching readers. Expanding the edges gives cover to material that isn’t quite as out there. Otherwise, the “not-quite-as-out-there” becomes the bleeding edge…and we wind up with a more traditional era of fiction–something we’ve spent the last couple of years coming out of, aided by the infusion of fresh voices from here and abroad. Some writers need more cover than others–indeed, quite subversive writing can get published in the mainstream if it has enough cover.

This is related to the feminism issue, generally, because obviously some of those modes aren’t about the structural (or the formally experimental) but about the nature of who inhabits those narratives and where those narratives take place and what conversations take place therein and the ideas embedded therein. It’s important that a certain number of new voices have the room and space to continue to push boundaries rather than simply replace the status quo with what I’d call correctives or renovations. In such an atmosphere, writers who’ve been publishing but gone invisible during trad periods also have a chance to come back into focus.