The Past, Present, and Future of Ambergris

Jeff VanderMeer • August 17th, 2010 @ 10:19 am • Culture

A number of stimuli have me thinking about my Ambergris novels, past, present, and future. The first was this stunningly nice Black Gate article by Matthew David Surridge about the series as a whole. It’s nice when a reader gets what you intend. (And, yes, the simpler style of Finch is intended to allow more room for the reader, in part because between the lines of the novel all of this backstory from the other books is streaming in and filling up the space.) And Bookmunch’s review of Finch, in the context of the series (some spoilers), had me feeling somewhat nostalgic, in that I realized Bookmunch has now been around for over a decade! (Definitely a reviews site to check out.)

Then there’s also the publication of the last book in the series,Finch, in the UK, which has been an interesting experience. I’m somewhat shielded from things like the Tom Holt narsty review in SFX simply by dint of the novel’s success in North America: Nebula finalist, Locus award finalist, tons of year’s best lists including the Washington Post, B&N Review, and Wall Street Journal. But it is fascinating to see a book that you feel has already been well-and-truly marinated by the public be re-marinated. Thus far, Holt excepted, it’s been a good experience, with a great reviews in Interzone, The Times, and Strange Horizons, among others. SciFiNow also really liked the book despite the sex scenes–ha!

But all of this prompted me to dip back into City of Saints, Shriek, and Finch, and to generally be quite happy with all three. You always see things you could’ve done, opportunities missed, etc., but on the other hand books like City of Saints were constantly growing and changing. Little-known fact, for example, that the Bantam City of Saints is at times very different on the line level from other versions because after I wrote Shriek I realized it didn’t totally match-up with City. The new book seemed to have the true account, so I changed City instead.

At some point, it’d be nice to have a reissue of all three novels from one publisher, in the same format and cohesive design. I think this might also bring a kind of unity to the series.

The point of all of this ramble is that I’ve had three or four ideas for new Ambergris narratives, all set in the immediate 30 to 40 years following the end of Finch.

John Finch is a recluse, word having leaked out. He’s almost a kind of living saint who rejects any adulation, and who still lives in the same war-torn hotel, while all around the factions have gotten more and more complex and intertangled. The gray caps are still there, but their supremacy has been checked by new rebel hybrids and powers, as well as the new rise of tribal power by the true original inhabitants of the area. Bliss is still part of the mix. Sintra has become a powerful leader. Bosun, driven half-mad by his brother’s memory bulb, figures in as well. Along with new characters.

Thing is, all of this is manifesting in my head as graphic novel, not as fiction. So I have no idea where it will lead, except my brain seems to be telling me once again that it wants Ambergris transformed, and to head directly into an illustrated medium, which is where it always seemed to be heading anyway.

This would be so much easier if I could myself draw worth a darn.

11 Responses to “The Past, Present, and Future of Ambergris”

  1. David H. says:

    First, a reissue of the Ambergris novels would be wonderful. I was slightly disappointed when I got “Shriek” and I realized that it was taller than my copy of “City,” and the same with my copy of “Finch” (which is slightly *shorter* than “Shriek”).

    Second, your Ambergris novels made me detest fungus in all forms. Seeing some fungi on a tree in my parents’ front lawn creeped me out like no other. Thanks! :)

    Finally, a graphic novel would be *awesome.* Even if you can’t draw, you can always work with an artist–that’s how American comics seem to be done–different artist, inker, letterer, writer, etc. per comic. Maybe ask Neil Gaiman or some other comic writing friend for some artist or comic studio recommendations (I’d be careful with Dabel Brothers Productions, though–I think they’ve had a lot of issues lately with keeping to contracts. See Martin, George R. R.).

  2. Nemone says:

    Yes!Yes!*dances the dance of joy, alarming the neighbours*.We are going back to Ambergris!And will Finch still have a cat called Feral,possibly a descendant, or the same(suspiciously longevous)one, or a figment of his imagination?I can’t wait.Happy,happy.Graphic novel,it’s all good.This is a wish granted!

  3. redhead says:

    There is no such thing as having enough Ambergris stories.

    David H, it’s funny you said the Ambergris novels made you detest fungus, thanks to those same novels, I’m obsessed and constantly in awe of all things fungus! Everytime a friend tells me they have a mushroom growing in their yard, I insist that they send me a photo. I gotta work on my Finch review, I think I need to read it again. especailly the scenes I rushed through the first time cuz they scared the crap out of me.

  4. James says:

    A uniform reissue in hardcover would be lovely and I would be among the first in line to buy them. I have loved the artwork so far, excepting the Bantam trade, and it would be interesting to see what they manage to come up with, though I would like to see John Coulthart involved.

    A graphic novel would be interesting and considering how you changed style from one novel to the next throughout the series-thus-far, this would be consistent, if a bit extreme. I cannot explain why, but the first artist who came to mind was Ben Templesmith (Flickr).

    You aren’t alone, by the way. I have had a few ideas that would work best in an illustrated medium and even my stick figures are terrible.

  5. Will Hindmarch says:

    I would love to see a few artists render new Ambergris stories, giving the city as many visual dimensions as it has literary facets now. If you need people to put in their share for this sort of project up front, count me in. The promise of it alone is worth my money.

  6. Robert Devereux says:

    I’ve already got a lot of versions of the Ambergris books, including every English language version of City of Saints and Madmen. I can’t bring myself to part with any of them. Don’t ask me to get yet another version.

    But a graphic novel set in Ambergris would be great.

  7. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Right now I’m working on a graphic novel of Finch with a Serbian artist named Ivica.

  8. John R. Fultz says:

    “PAGES FROM AMBERGRIS: An Open Letter to Jeff VanderMeer”
    by John R. Fultz

    http://www.blackgate.com

    http://www.blackgate.com/2010/08/19/pages-from-ambergris-an-open-letter-to-jeff-vandermeer/

  9. John R. Fultz says:

    This is terrific news….I for one would love to see new tales of Ambergris in any medium.

    How about an ongoing comic series? VERTIGO or DARK HORSE would seem to be the most likely candidates.

    My first recommendation for artist: The great Kelley Jones

    Cheers,
    John

  10. ethan says:

    Graphic novel? Ben Templesmith.

  11. Ambergris: Past, Present, Possible Future « Dazed Rambling says:

    [...] Continue: [The Past, Present, and Future of Ambergris] [...]

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