Warehouse Tallahassee Reading Sept 21–And Tell Me About Your Encounter with the Third Bear?

The Third Bear, my story collection, keeps chugging along, having now received a starred review in Library Journal to go with the one from PW:

“In the title story, a monster of seemingly supernatural powers threatens a small village, forcing its leader to find the only way to save his home, while in “Fixing Hanover,” a seaside salvage reconstructionist balks at repairing a mechanical device he fears will bring about his own doom. These 15 elegantly crafted stories ably demonstrate VanderMeer’s skill at telling tales of wonder in language that enhances the reading experience. VERDICT Fans of imaginative literature and true speculative fiction should appreciate this groundbreaking collection by a World Fantasy Award winner that calls to mind the works of Borges, Kafka, and Stanislaw Lem.”

I’ll be reading from “The Situation,” a workplace story in the collection at the Warehouse here in Tallahassee at 8pm on Tuesday, September 21st, as well as sharing ‘orrible real-life stories about workplaces and the terrible things I’ve been made to do. if you live in Tally, please come on down. It’s part of the university’s reading series and a nice venue.

So…the bear in the title story is meant to be visceral, scary, and inexplicable. I’ve got to go hibernate in a cave for a few days. In the meantime, why don’t you tell me about your most frightening encounter with “the third bear”–harrowing, hair-raising, quietly menacing, inexplicable encounters. Which means, generally some element of strangeness or even perhaps…supernatural…element. (Just getting the crap kicked out of you, while terrible, doesn’t count.)

Somebody’ll get a box of books from VanderCentral, culled from the massive piles in the livingroom.

See ya Monday-ish.


  1. says

    So I was running upstairs at work with my chartreuse vest on, trying to evacuate the people upstairs talking on their phones, or studying in carrels, or searching for books. It’s harder than you might think. People hate quitting halfway through for a mere alarm; they want to see smoke before they’ll move. Everything was going fairly well, though, until I got to one corner of the seventh floor.

    The alarms were still blaring, and the usual Grade A world-beater headache was just settling in behind my eyes. Above the alarms, though, I could hear the sound of books thumping to the floor, and the creak of metal.

    “Hello,” I called. “You have to get out–we have an alarm situation here.”

    No response, so I kept walking farther and farther, away from the stairwell and into the stacks. It wasn’t like I’d never been to the area before, but I’m a Carver and Hemingway kind of guy: I don’t do zoology, I don’t do physics. And there are piles of books in the aisles here. Concatenations of subjects that make no sense: Deaver’s On Skinning Game piled atop l’Orange’s The Radical Equation and Pierrot’s Animal Tales.

    I began to smell something up ahead, a stench that didn’t belong in any library. My stomach somersaulted, and I wasn’t surprised when I found the shredded remains of a squirrel at the end of one aisle, covered in tufts of wiry-looking hair. The great, fly-clotted piles of shit started not far beyond it.

    Something roared, and there was a creaking sound that I recognized, and I trotted backward. The shelves didn’t collapse, though. No domino effect, no thousands of books out of order. When I peeked back where the noise had been coming from, many of the books were on the floor, but they’d apparently been there for some time. Hair covered them, bones littered them.

    The shelves and struts had been twisted out of the way of whatever great bulk had been there, and that hair–those wiry brown tufts–was everywhere. Everywhere. A door slammed open violently across the floor, and there came a low chuffing sound, and then I was alone with the alarm and the nest.

  2. Alys Sterling says

    I’ve gone down to the print room to fetch a poster. It’s a huge room, dimly-lit, with presses of varying vintage around the edges, most hand-cranked, and a big table for typesetting in the middle. It’s a bit spooky and shadowy, and the drying rack is at the far end. There’s a radio playing eerie music, and I’m halfway into the room thinking great, my life has a horror-movie soundtrack, when the lights go out.

    They must be out all over the building because the print room is in the basement but it has tiny narrow windows up near the ceiling, and they’re not letting in any light from the courtyard they face. I’m standing there waiting for my eyes to adjust, hoping I won’t have to feel my way out in the dark. The radio is still playing, must be on battery power, I’m thinking, when the moment comes that I know I’m not alone in the room.

    There wasn’t anyone here when I came in, and I haven’t heard the door open. It’s one of those ones that opens with a loud clunking in the mechanism, so I couldn’t have missed it. I hold my breath, but I can’t hear anything over the radio. I’m beginning to panic; the last thing I want now is to still be in here when the lights come on.

    If I’m quiet, I think, and don’t knock anything over, the radio will cover the sounds of my movement. I work my way over to where I think the door is. It clunks open and slams shut behind me, and just as I take my first steps along the pitch-dark corridor, the lights come on.

    There’s a little pane of glass in the print room door, which I could look through and prove to myself that the room is empty. I don’t look. I’m just glad of the light because now I can run down the corridor, back to where my friends are.

    I tell them I couldn’t find the poster.

  3. Laura Clemmons says

    Another bad week at work led me, as it so frequently did, to the hiking trails at Paynes Prairie State Park. I set out through a swirling cloud of tiny brown birds that show up every fall to strip the bushes near the start of the trail. The air was just turning cool which for Florida means I was just barely breaking a sweat as I hit the half mile mark. I took deep breaths of sunshine and life, allowing them to fill me, replacing the exhaled frustrations of the week.

    By the time I reached the overlook my dark thoughts had cleared and the tension in my back and shoulders was nearly gone. I watched the wildlife for a while, rabbits and field mice busy preparing for the coming winter under the watchful eyes of hawks circling overhead. The prairie is mostly dry in the fall, but there were still a handful of egrets and herons stalking the few remaining pools. Even the bison had put in an appearance, just visible as a set of brown smudges blending into the tall prairie grasses on the horizon.

    A subtle tension began to seep its way in with the light breeze wafting across the grasses, bringing with it a hint of marsh rot. A sense of unease crept over me like the electric pricking of my skin just before a thunderstorm. The breeze and the scent were both out of place this time of year. They should have been coming from a different direction. Not wanting to spoil my improved mood with ecological worry, I decided it was time to hike out.

    I was about two thirds of the way back, enjoying the rustles and creaks of an active oak hammock when the mockingbird appeared. Encounters with mockingbirds aren’t unusual here. They have a special kind of bravado that only an avian bully can carry, and are known to execute swoop and grabs on unsuspecting picnickers. This one, however, was acting strangely even for a mockingbird. He stood in the middle of the path between me and the exit. As I approached, he began to screech and dance about. This wasn’t the usual, threatening, you’re in my territory sort of dance. He seemed agitated.

    He paused and cocked his head at me, then hopped a few feet down the path, turning to see if I would follow. When I only stood there he resumed his agitated little dance and again hopped a few feet down the path, turning to look at me. I took a couple of steps forward. He chirped at me and hopped a little further. I took another step forward. This time he hopped onto a game trail that crossed the hiking path. I paused to look at him, then continued on my way. Suddenly I heard an enormous racket behind me and turned to find the mockingbird screeching at the top of his lungs and once again dancing his little heart out in the middle of the path. Realizing he had my attention he stopped, cocked his head at me, then hopped down the game trail.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in the Florida woods. I’ve heard stories from others about animals who seem to know when something doesn’t belong, but had never experienced it myself. The sense of unease that started at the prairie overlook grew. My brain seemed to be prickling along with my skin. My instincts told me to get out of there but my curiosity got the better of me and I followed the bird as he hopped down the center of the game trail. About forty yards in we reached the edge of a clearing where he again performed his dance, then flew off to disappear into the trees.

    Gathering my self to face whatever the mockingbird felt was so threatening he had to involve a human, I stepped across the boundary into the clearing and found . . . Peace. Overwhelming peace. A gentle warmth enfolded me like the protective arms of a mother around a frightened child. After a few moments I came back to my senses and walked the perimeter of the clearing, dreading the thought of of having to step back into the woods if I spotted something. Finding nothing, I circled around the enormous oak tree that dominated the clearing. In an area of old, large oaks this one stood out as a giant and felt oddly warm to the touch.

    I noticed at this point that the surrounding woods had fallen eerily silent during my inspection. A sense of stillness, as if nature was holding her breath pervaded the clearing. Reluctant to leave my guardian tree, I sat quietly at the base of the oak and waited to see what would happen. A few minutes later I felt it. The temperature began to drop and I shivered as something cold slunk at the edge of my senses. Revulsion built inside me as I felt the source coming closer at about the pace of a walking man. I could hear the crunching of leaves and twigs from the direction of the hiking trail. When the sounds grew even with the game trail across from where I sat I felt a presence slide over me, like it was searching for something half sensed. Cold. Wet. Oily. I shrank back against the trunk of the oak and felt it’s quiet strength surround me, damping the intense hostility radiating from the direction of the path. It felt like hours before the presence slid its attention from me and moved away, though the light filtering through the branches had hardly changed.

    I stayed at the base of the tree for perhaps an hour, shaking, certain that I had a brush with some nameless power both ancient and primal. I have searched my soul since that day trying to figure out why I was chosen for protection. I have even returned, though certainly not alone, to search for the mysterious clearing and the spirit of the ancient oak within. The whole area is different now. The bison have moved to other side of the prairie and I rarely see rabbits and mice on the trail. The one thing I still see there is mockingbirds. Far more numerous than I remember, they shadow my movements through the area. Always watching.

    These days, when the mockingbirds act nervous, I pay attention.