Finch in the Guardian, Breaking Waves for Gulf Coast Relief, Jeff in Chair, Writing

Eric Brown’s written a very nice review of Finch for The Guardian, which means I’ve now run the gauntlet of UK major newspapers and only lost a few toes, really, maybe a finger–although Tom Holt tried a gut shot with a bazooka, luckily turned into a glancing blow by all the other coverage.

There’s now a Gulf Coast charity anthology called Breaking Waves–more info here. Contributors include Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda N. McIntyre, and David D. Levine. Consider picking it up. I haven’t talked much about the situation lately, in part because it’s still too nerve-wracking, too anger-inducing, and too frustrating.

Finally, I was happy to find it took only two days of working on “Borne” in a coffee shop to find my balance again. I won’t be going back to Facebook for awhile, but I will be blogging sporadically rather than going dark.

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.

Last Drink Bird Head Awards News

For those who may have wondered if Ann and I would continue the Last Drink Bird Head Awards for service to the SF/F community…we are! (Last year’s winners here, last year’s finalists here.) We’ll announce the finalist ballot soon, and the winners will be announced at Capclave in Washington D.C. in October.

As I may have mentioned, the Last Drink Bird Head anthology is now available for the Kindle, with all proceeds going to the ProLiteracy charity. The book features original flash fiction from the likes of Peter Straub, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Tanith Lee, Stephen R. Donaldson, Gene Wolfe, Ellen Kushner, and over sixty more. (It’s also a flip book!)

(As for the postmodern fiction conversation going on just below…I’ve found it incredibly fascinating, learned some things I didn’t know before, and a very gracious Brandon Sanderson stopped by to add thoughtful comments. Check it out if you haven’t already.)

Postmodernism in Fantasy: A Correction

Brandon Sanderson, god love ‘im, does a somewhat crappy job of defining postmodernism here. For one thing, “postmodernism” isn’t some monolithic thing, so to describe it as he does, even within the more limited context of fantasy, is misleading. For another, some subjects do require a more complex treatment, so when you simplify them down, as Sanderson admits he is, you actually wind up losing the ability to convey any real information in what you are saying. What Sanderson says in his blog entry is largely meaningless.

For an intro to postmodernism and some of its techniques, you could do worse than the wiki entry on the subject.

I also am having a hard time defining Sanderson’s work, in any of his books, as postmodern. His essential wordview is not postmodern, to my mind. This isn’t a slam on Sanderson’s fiction, just an observation that his blog post is less than useful, and in some ways misleading. This happens. It’s not a crime.

But it would also be a shame if certain elements of the post, and responses to it, lend more credence to a faux populist idea that postmodernism is elitist and somehow wrong or always experimental.

The other idea about postmodernism is that it’s always about breaking a fourth wall, or always about inserting the author into the text–this is, in fact, simply one approach, metafiction, which isn’t even the most prevalent of the possible techniques.

In actual fact, many postmodern techniques are very playful and and can be used to great and entertaining effect.

Perhaps the most important point in all of this (and this now has nothing to do with anything Sanderson said in his post) is that writers don’t choose the way they view the world–that’s inherent in their psyche. When you view the world a certain way, you may gravitate toward certain approaches and techniques–with digressions because no one is all one thing–but it’s not a cynical matter of deciding to be experimental or deciding to be postmodern rather than a modernist, for example.

(Not related, but auto-posting today: my Way of Kings photo-shoot.)

Miscellany of Ten or Eleven Things, with Finch, Mustian, Banks, Le Carre, Steamp***, and Zombies

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(The new Iain M. Banks, which I’ll be reviewing for [redacted], with guy holding cat in photo Ann acquired at an antique store. Apparently that photo hung in a restaurant for a long time and is someone famous. Anyone recognize him?)

First off, if you love zombies, you should definitely check out Tor’s week-long zombie feature with all kinds of prizes and undead stuff. (I hate zombies, so it is useful that they will be all gathered in one avoidable place for a month.) I will be hosting anti-zombie week here at Ecstatic Days, which will consist of 66 blog entries on Robert Musil’s The Man With No Qualities.

Second of all, Jeremy Jones is still doing awesome posts on Booklifenow, so go show him some love.

Third, Finch is now available through Audible.com: 17 hours of pulse-pounding noir thriller wrapped inside a spy novel wrapped inside an interrogation wrapped inside universe-bending SF wrapped inside oldfashioned mushroompunk. With music by Murder by Death. You know you want it. You know you may need some kind of mind-altering substance while listening. That too.

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The Engine Rumbles to Life: Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities Update

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Detail from one of the more disturbing pieces in Dr. Lambshead’s exhibit, by Scott Eagle, founder of the PMO (Primary Materials Only) Movement in international art circles. We are not at liberty to discuss the origin of the teeth.

Documentation and materials are beginning to arrive, suggesting the outlines of the extent of the doctor’s collection. Verified contents include:

—“The Very Shoe,” art by China Mieville, text by Helen Oyeyemi

—“Gallows-Horse,” art by China Mieville, text by Reza Negarestani

—“Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” art by Greg Broadmore, text by Ted Chiang

—“Addison Howell and the Clockroach,” art by Mike Mignola, text by Cherie Priest

—“St. Brendan’s Shank,” art by Greg Broadmore, text by Kelly Barnhill

—“Threads,” Carrie Vaughn, art by James Owen

—“A History of Dunkelblau’s Meistergarten,” Tad Williams, art by John Coulthart

This doesn’t include various accounts of visits to Lambshead’s house and encounters with the cabinet (although no two eyewitnesses seem to be able to agree on its contents, size, and location):

—“A Brief Note Pertaining to the Absence of One Olivaceous Cormorant, Stuffed” (Rachel Swirsky)

—“Dr. Lambshead’s Dark Room” (S.J. Chambers)

—“The Singular Taffy Puller” (N.K. Jemisin)

—“The Argument Against Louis Pasteur” (Mur Lafferty)

—“Inchoate Notes of a Lichenologist” (Ekaterina Sedia)

—“Dust” (Gio Clairval)

Meanwhile, Jake von Slatt, founder of the Steampunk Workshop, will soon be finished discovering two other items that went astray: a Chronoclasmic Inhibitor and Bassington & Smith Electro-Mechanical Analog Brain (“about as smart as the average house cat”). Rumor has it that he will ship these inventions to us and one of them may be entrusted to a lucky reader of the anthology.

In addition, items from the cabinet by artists Myrtle Vondamitz III and Rikki Ducornet definitely will be showcased in the book.

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t add that we have uncovered a portion of Lambshead’s cabinet, sent to the brilliant J.K. Potter prior to the doctor’s timely death. For repro in the book, Potter has been kind enough to photograph the part of the cabinet in his care. Here is a tiny dot of a detail of a preview of that evidence:

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Turning Traitor: Juxtaposition, Corruption, the Bleed

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Radically different author backgrounds, radically different approaches to characterization and narrative. Arrived on the same day, spent several hours on the same stack. May contain commonalities not immediately evident. In Alternative Universe #24, Our Kind of Discarded Dreams is a phantasmagorical rumination on global corruption from the perspective of characters living in a singularity. House of Traitors is also found in the Phantasmagoria section of the bookstore, and the two books are compared and contrasted in the context of major review blogs and other critical apparatus throughout the year.

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Israeli cult classic meets grim fantasy written by a Vietnam vet. The dark wars in Dolly City are ongoing in Alternate Universe #89B. The world grows colder with each passing year and people in the city fear mauraders and the Grauken—a time when intellect gives way to both cannibalism and the impulse to sculpt love ones to bizarre ideas of perfection. When Marika finds a baby in a plastic bag, the child may be the answer to attacks by the mysterious Silth, who can kill with their minds alone. The bleed-through is complete.

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Congrats! Announcing Flash Fic Selections for The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

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The results are in, and Ann and I have made our decisions, out of over 250 entries, as to which micro-submissions from our open reading period will be included in The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities (HarperCollins, July 2011). Without further ado, here they are:

Hugh Alter – The Sea Scroll
Julie Andrews – Mellified Alien
Christopher Begley – Unhcegila’s Scales
Jayme Lynne Blaschke – Mother of Spirits
Nickolas Brienza – The Fort Chaffee Polyhedral Deck
Tucker Cumming – “Our Greatest President”
Kaolin Imago Fire – Leary’s Pineal Body
Dr. Galubrious – St. Blaise’s Toad (text and image)
Jess Gulbranson – Coffin Torpedo
Jennifer Harwood-Smith – The Dinner Bell of the Mary Celeste
Willow Holser – Silence, One Ounce
Rhys Hughes – Reversed Commas (box of)
Paul Kirsch – Much Smaller Cabinet
Michael J. Larson – Unlabeled Wax Phonograph Cylinder
Therese Littleton – Czerwatenko Whelk in Olive Oil
Graham Lowther – Ear Eye
Claire Massey – Harness & Leash for Fly
Tony Mileman – Untitled Booklet
Adam Mills – Bear Gun
Ignacio Sanz – Oneyroscope
Steven M. Schmidt – Tycho’s Astronomical Support Garment
Grant Stone – Kepler the Clock
Brian Thill – The Dander of Melville
Nicholas Troy – South American Insult Stone
Nick Tramdack – Bullet Managerie
Tom Underberg – American Night Quilt
Horia Ursu – Dracula’s Testicles
William T. Vandemark – The Decanter of Everlasting Sadness (submitted via email due to use of proprietary material)
Kali Wallace – Human Skeleton, Irregular
Tracy Welser – Parsimonius Skull (owl)
Amy Willats – Skull
Nadine Wilson – Tomb-Matches

Each contributor will receive a copy of the anthology as compensation, and we will be emailing you with a contract and any copy-edits (yes, some will need editing) in the next week or so. Contributors to the anthology include China Mieville, Tad Williams, Helen Oyeyemi, Holly Black, Yishan Li, Garth Nix, Mike Mignola, Minister Faust, Ted Chiang, Cherie Priest, Reza Negarestani, Caitlin R. Kiernan, N.K. Jemisin, and so many more we’ll forget some, so click here for the full-on list (minus a few we can’t announce yet).

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What’re You Up To? (and micro-submissions update)

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(Part of our own cabinet of curiosities, including a Romanian spaceship, a well-traveled alien baby, two fern-tentacles and sequined kiwi from a dear New Zealand friend [thanks!], gargoyles, etc.)

So, dear readers, tell me what you’ve been up to–feel free to plug whatever you like. I’m finishing up some further work on the Steampunk Bible today, so am wordless at the moment. (Note that if you post URLs, they might get temporarily caught in WordPress’s spam filter.)

Also, I forgot to actually link to my Omnivoracious list of the best SF/F of the year thus far.

Finally, we’re going to have to hold off on announcing which micro-submissions got into the Lambshead Cabinet anthology until early next week. Sorry for the delay.

Steampunk Reloaded: Creating Books is Like Cooking?

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(Some days, you’ve got to love your job. Like, proofing pages from a fake children’s mag titled Five Eyes For Every Child.)

This week, my wife Ann and I have been doing some of the final proofing on the Steampunk Reloaded anthology (pages pictured above). It’s over 400 pages this time, and thankfully Tachyon’s managing editor, Jill Roberts, has spearheaded the main copy-editing/proofing efforts, while we’ve mostly focused on adjustments to image placement, re-checking the intro, and tweaking the 17,000-word “A Secret History of Steampunk” that forms the bulk of original fiction in the book. It’s unrelenting detail work, and important. It’s easy to drop the ball at this point and wind up with errors. Sustained concentration across many different stages of pre-production, production, and publication is key to creating a quality book. (It doesn’t hurt to have genius artist/designer John Coulthart doing the interior layouts.)

In a similar way this week, my colleague S.J. Chambers and I made final text changes to the Steampunk Bible—little tweaks, typo marking, and a few additions of text to help with the flow of images. We also just got done working with the editor to determine the final images and their placement—in the process picking up amazing new stuff by both J.K. Potter and Molly Crabapple. As you can see from the page below, part of the process is taking off all of the image note post-its (our editor has kept the final notes on that part of the process) and then just turning in the pages with text changes.

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In going through this process, and also beginning to learn how to cook, it’s struck me that creating a good book and a good meal share some commonalities…

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