Archive for June, 2010

The Oil Spill: Hold Them All Accountable

Jeff VanderMeer • June 7th, 2010 • Uncategorized

As I said on facebook a few days ago, I think BP executives should have to live on floating rafts of debris in the middle of the oil and exist on the raw flesh of dead marine life in the area. And then anyone who suggests lifting the temporary ban on offshore drilling should join them, first and foremost Sarah Dipshit Palin. I’m serious.

All of us who know this area, the Panhandle region of Florida, are in a state of shock over this, hoping the oil isn’t going to come this way, that the landscapes we love and have, in many cases, known for decades–that have given us our sense of place and our bliss–aren’t going to be utterly and forever devastated by what’s happening. It’s hard to focus on things like deadlines in the face of it, and I’ve gone from throwing myself into work to being frozen.

Connie May Fowler, a writer and resident for many, many years has said this all more eloquently than I possibly could, and I urge you to read her blog entry.

What does the edge of the world look like? A sacred knot, a watery maze of rivers, estuaries, bays, oyster reefs, and wide-open sea. The complex cocktail of nutrients flowing from freshwater rivers into saltwater shallows helps create a biodiversity studied by scientists worldwide.

It’s true that we’re all responsible because we all depend on oil, but it’s also true that BP Oil didn’t need to drill there, that the government didn’t need to approve that drilling, and that all of the subsidiary companies involved in coming up with fail-safes and making sure equipment was properly maintained didn’t do their jobs. And that no one, apparently, could grasp the essence of what to them was an abstract and now is obscene reality. And that they still fucking can’t grasp that reality, because their words, their actions, and all of the rest, doesn’t match up with this central idea: This can’t happen again. We can’t afford for this to happen again. And that requires rethinking the paradigm. Will this happen? I’m not hopeful. This is why the scenario at the beginning of this post is part of the point–there’s a disconnect between reality and the fiction going on in these people’s heads.

I feel a little battered at the moment, and a little guilty, because these deadlines are the worst of my life and I have to make them to put food on the table. What I want to do is go out to St. Marks, what I want to do I can’t do because of everything else, until July. But I can give a little money, and you can too–check the links on Fowler’s post.

Another thing I’d like to address is this…those of you who actually rushed to the beach to enjoy it before it all goes to hell. I understand the impulse and it’s a genuine one–although some of the people I saw on the news standing in front of their SUVs on the beach seemed imbued more with the true American spirit of using something up and moving on to the next disposable thing–but for my part I’m not going out there until the danger is past, or it’s upon us and being out there will help document what’s going on. I know what St. Marks looks like unpolluted. It’s in my head. What I’m not going to do is abandon it if it all goes to hell. I’m still going to be there, I’m still going to be here.

I know I might not be making sense anymore. I’m angry and upset and I want these people held accountable–all of them.

The Three Quests of the Wizard Sarnod–for Capclave

Jeff VanderMeer • June 7th, 2010 • News

This is now available for pre-order for those attending Capclave this year, where Ann and I will be guests of honor along with Connie Willis. Ignore the “sold out” notice. But you can only order, for now, if attending the convention. The sales of the book benefit the organization that funds and runs the con.

John Coulthart is doing the cover and interior design. I’ve contributed an intro and Ann has done a tell-all afterword that compares me to Grod, which as this description from the book might indicate is no compliment!

Grod Lump was round and fleshy, hairy and squat, a misshapen node atop two monstrous legs. He had four brawny arms and a face like a burlesque of a boar. The eyes scattered across his body sometimes made his foes mistake him for Chun the Unavoidable or Chen the Inexplicable. His skin had the texture of battle armor. He kept his brain behind the iron bowl of his prodigious stomach. The huge hole in the top of his head, from which issued a kind of simmering flame and the constant smell of hot coals, was what Grod used to cook his master’s salamanders.

This version reinstates the character of Grod and expands (no pun intended) the role of Bloat Toad. If that is too cryptic for ya, here’s more info:

The Wizard Sarnod has lived in isolation on an island in the middle of a lake for centuries. But one day, the Nose of Memory arrives to destroy his calm by dredging up the past, and he must send three of his familiars to the subterranean Underhinds on a quest to find two people, long banished: his brother and a former lover. In the Underhinds, they will encounter living dirigibles, fire dragons, the Bloat Toad, unimaginable perils, and long-buried secrets . . . Based on Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series, The Three Quests of the Wizard Sarnod is a longer and very different version of a story published in the Dozois-Martin edited Songs from the Dying Earth.

Oxford American: Ten Great Very Short Books Picked by Kevin Brockmeier

Jeff VanderMeer • June 5th, 2010 • Culture, News

I don’t think the website includes Brockmeier’s article yet, but I just got the latest Oxford American, courtesy of the editors, and it includes a fascinating list of books under 100 pages, in alpha order by author, that Brockmeier really likes. I’m on it, but that’s not why it’s fascinating–it’s fascinating to me because Aira shows up yet again in my life, three times in less than a week, and because Monterroso is in our book of weird, and because so many of the others I hadn’t heard of but sound really interesting. I’m not going to reproduce Brockmeier’s text about each, but here’s the list.

I’ve only read a version of 4 and also 8, so if anyone has read the others (besides 9, which is a real stinker), please give us some intel!

1- Cesar Aria – An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

2 – Bohumil Hrabal – Closely Watched Trains

3 – Rebecca Lee – Bobcat

4 – Augusto Monterroso – The Black Sheep and Other Fables

5 – Grant Morrison – We3

6 – Ben Rice – Poppy and Dingan

7 – Emma Straub – Fly-Over State

8 – Mark Twain – The Diaries of Adam and Eve

9 – JeffV – The Situation

10 – Alejandro Zambra – Bonsai

Periodic Table of SF Women–Meme!

Jeff VanderMeer • June 5th, 2010 • Culture

I got this from Matt Cheney, who got it from Cheryl Morgan, who got it from Mary Robinette Kowal, based on the Periodic Table of SF Women:

Bold the women by whom you own books (I’m assuming this includes books or magazines edited by people who are not fiction writers).
Italicize those by whom you’ve read something (short stories count)
*Star those you don’t recognize [note: I've encountered so many names in my life, I always feel like I recognize most. The ones I've starred are ones that, if somebody mentioned them in conversation, would cause a profoundly vague expression to come over my face. And I'm doing this quickly, so I hope I don't star anybody who I not only recognize, but have spent actual time with...]

For my part, I’ve ignored review copies received in favor of books I actually bought at one time (some are in storage, some have been sold back, because we just don’t have room). This is by no means all of the SF/F women authors we own books by, and then there’s a huge number of literary mainstream books by women in both of our collections.

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Weirdies, Weirding On…

Jeff VanderMeer • June 4th, 2010 • Culture

Work on the book of weird, covering a century and clocking in at 750,000 words, continues apace. We’ve recently acquired stories from writers like Shirley Jackson, Merce Rodoreda, Jamaica Kincaid, Leonora Carrington, Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, Michal Ajvaz, Murakami, Joanna Russ, Bruno Schulz…well, the list goes on and on.

Some writers don’t fit, or their short fiction turns out not to be of the same quality as their novels. Some obscure writers do more than hold their own against the better known. Some classics continue to hold up and others don’t. For example, Robert Howard might’ve worked in his swords-and-sorcery mode but we’re not including that strand, and his real-world stories, the best ones, are, quite frankly, either too pulpy or too filled with the kind of reactionary elements that you can’t ignore.

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The Periodic Table of Women in SF–Awesome!

Jeff VanderMeer • June 3rd, 2010 • Culture, Videos

Diana Comet and Sandra McDonald put together this totally awesome short video of a periodic table of women in SF–and I’m not just saying that because my wife Ann is on it. It’s got lovely pacing, it embeds a lot of information, and made me smile more than a few times.

There’s also a PDF version, but there should really be a poster version, too!

Back from Vancouver Island…Book Haul!

Jeff VanderMeer • June 2nd, 2010 • Culture


(Two books, one new, one old, that I am eager to read.)

Well, our vacation for our eighth anniversary was amazing–Victoria, Salt Spring Island, Tofino. Stunning landscapes, insane drives (um, out to Port Renfrew in fog and heavy rain is like some kind of Mad Max adventure), and lots of relaxing. We didn’t take many photos, because…well, we couldn’t be bothered.

But we did take along and buy a lot of books…because, yeah, we need more books…A sampling below. Butler and a couple of others to reacquaint ourselves with stuff we’d read before. Some trashy paperbacks because they’re fun. There’s one below about a secret Finnish society in the valleys of Montana–more on that in a separate blog post…

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