London: Book Haul, Leonora Carrington, and the Return of the 60 in 60?


UPDATE: Omni post on Will Self at Thrilling Wonder Stories 2.

We’re just back from London, where we were conservative in our book buying, to some extent. Above find the sample of Penguin Great Ideas series 4 and 5 titles I picked up, with an eye to still finishing up the original 60 in 60 (that second 60 refers to “months” now, not “days”) and adding a few titles on the back end. Most of the rest we picked up at the British Library bookstore and the Tate Modern. More on the Thrilling Wonder Stories 2 conference later this week. In the meantime, more evidence of books acquired, including I Wonder, on John Coulthart’s recommendation…

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Lynda Barry on Squid, Creative Play, and More!

I love Lynda Barry’s work. So it was an absolute pleasure to be able to interview her for Omnivoracious. It’s a great interview, and parts of it are extremely funny. My personal favorite part is, of course this:

I love cephalopods and I get the sense you love them too, from your art. What draws you to them?
Well, they are spectacular creatures, very smart, able to change their skin color and surface, some can strobe a bioluminescent trip on you, and nearly all can squeeze in and out of tight spots. Also they have beaks. They are wonderful to draw. Unfortunately they are also very delicious. That’s been tough. I love them so much. I also like to eat them so much. But I like to think they would feel the same about me. That I’d be something worth eating as well. I don’t know what the squid equivalent of deep frying, salting, squeezing on lemon and serving with sauce would be, but cephalopods aren’t fools. There must be a way to prepare people like me in a way that would make a fantastic appetizer.

Go check out the whole thing.

Just back from London. More later as I get over my jetlag hangover.

Thrilling Wonder Stories 2: Watch Out! Kid’s Got a PowerPoint…

kids got a powerpoint
(Wot? Is that a PowerPoint presentation? Stand back!)

Yes, I will be helping to represent flat media at the Thrilling Wonder Stories 2 conference in London this Friday, with my “Finch: The Story of a Novel as the Narrative of Historical Consequences, an Occupied City, a Failed State”. Luckily, I’m packing a PowerPoint presentation loaded with amazing art from Sam Van Olffen, Aeron Alfrey, Ivica Stevanovic, Myrtle Von Damitz III, and many more—full list after the conference. While I’m nattering on about cross-pollination and colonization and other thrilling! wonder! stories!, you can be looking at the pretty pictures.

As previously mentioned, this is a fly-in, fly-out situation, so I hope to see you the day of, if you’re in the vicinity. Other presenters include Geoff Manaugh and Will Self. Check out the full list here or here. Ann and I think this should be a great event.

Since I might not post for a couple days, go ahead and use this thread to tell me what you’ve been up to…or tell the tale of presentations-gone-wrong.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz on the Value of the Butler Scholarship: What You Can Do

Apologies for yet another post today, but the Carl Brandon Society’s fundraiser for the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship ends on Monday. The scholarship “sends two emerging writers of color” to the SF/F workshops Clarion West and Clarion San Diego each year.

Relevant to that fundraiser, which involves entering a raffle for e-readers loaded with cool stories and poems, a writer I much admire, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz posted a blog entry about how much receiving the scholarship meant to her. Go check it out to get a sense how essential this scholarship is for those who receive it.

The Clarion workshop is important for reasons that go beyond the value of in-depth workshopping from six different experienced instructors and talks by other guests that provide talented beginners with the tools to improve their writing.

It is also important career-wise because many of the instructors can be of use in shortening the path to publication through sharing of contacts, resources, and leverage. Many instructors also aren’t just writers but editors, which is also of use. In addition, the connect to and comraderie with fellow students will, over time, mean more than being part of a community, since many Clarion students go on to have full-on writing careers.

Therefore, in short Clarion is partially about access, and lack of access for talented writers due to monetary concerns is something that diminishes the field and makes it even harder for talent to win out.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I know from personal experience and observation as an instructor at Clarion—and I know Ann would agree—that this scholarship truly makes it possible for immensely talented writers to have access to Clarion—writers who otherwise simply would not be able to attend. That makes it essential in my book.

If the raffle isn’t for you, but you still want to contribute to the scholarship fund, you can send a check made out to “The Carl Brandon Society” to:

The Carl Brandon Society
P.O. Box 23336
Seattle, WA 98102

To set an example, I’ve just written a check for $100. (As a full-time writer with little margin for error, that’s a significant contribution.)

Michael Moorcock’s Into the Media Web: Best SF/F Nonfiction Book of 2010

Michael Moorcock’s Into the Media Web: Selected Short Nonfiction, 1956-2006, edited by John Davey, is the best SF/F nonfiction book published this year. Savoy should be commended for publishing it. John Coulthart did the remarkable design, and he’s shown off that design here. Over 700 pages and 300,000 words, with Alan Moore contributing a foreword and Moorcock himself has written a thorough introduction, which includes several interesting photographs.

Moorcock is a post-WWII literary icon and the range of his enthusiasms, dislikes, and passions is on full display in this book. It’s an important and career-spanning creation, and demonstrates the versatility and depth of Moorcock’s talent. The book is listed as out-of-print on Savoy’s site, but you really must seek it out regardless.

Drawn & Quarterly: Pablo Holmberg, Kevin Huizenga, and Brecht Evans

(OMG–are those mushroom dwellers?!?!?)

Thousands of books arrive at our house every year because of the various reviewing gigs like the NYT and Omnivoracious, and because of Ann editing Weird Tales. Some publishers, time and again, become anonymous in that context. The books all look the same, or there’s something about the format that becomes anonymous.

Others stand out by a mile because they’re recognizably coming at readers from a unique or interesting perspective, and because they vary their formats and design approaches while remaining true to some central focus.

Drawn & Quarterly always puts out cool books. When they come in the door, I can’t just throw them on the stack.

Today, for example, we got Eden by Pablo Holmberg, The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga, and The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens. The art style of each, the world view behind each, and the size of each book are entirely different. But they share the D&Q vision. They’ve all got great end papers. They each are in the format best-suited for them (Wild Kingdom as a little hardcover, cover image printed on the boards, for example.) Take a look at some samples below, and definitely look for all three. Extremely awesome stuff—and am enjoying the kind of “eavesdropping on party conversation” style of the Evens.

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Hiromi Goto Guest Blogging on Amazon’s Omnivoracious Book Blog

Hiromi Goto, Tiptree Award winner and author of the cross-over YA/adult novel Half World from earlier this year is guest blogging on Amazon’s book blog—and it’s great stuff.

Her first post is about romance or lack thereof in dark fantasy, specifically that her novel doesn’t have that element. (Just one of the things Half World doesn’t do that makes me like it so much.)

Goto’s second post is about a realistic approach to fantasy, which in some ways goes hand-in-hand with the first post. I agree with everything she says there. It’s one of the issues facing fantasists writing today—which is to say there’s this kind of escapist view of how things should happen that tends to destabilize some novels and introduce gaping plot holes as well, or to cover up plot holes with some fantasy element. Anyway, great post.

Check in over at the book blog on Monday and Tuesday when Goto talks about how fantasy is horror’s BBF and some really wonderful and poetic parting thoughts on the genesis of Half World.

Some readers may have missed Half World when it came out in the spring. Now’s your chance to pick up this unique and powerful novel, which also comes with pretty darn cool illustrations.

If you’re so inclined, give these posts some signal boost—I think they’re definitely worth it.

VanderMeer at Stranger than Truth: Thrilling Wonder Stories 2 (London, Nov 26)

101118 Thrilling Wonder II Stories Poster Nov 2010 art COLOUR

Ann and I will be in London very briefly next week. I’m giving a presentation and participating in discussion at the Stranger than Truth: Thrilling Wonder Stories 2 conference. I’ll be talking in the context of Alternate Presents, Finch and aspects of failed cities from a fictional point of view. Other participants include Antony Johnston of Wastelands fame, Will Self, Ant Farm, Rachel Armstrong, Geoff Manaugh, and more.

I should note that this is a very tight travel schedule, so I hope to see people the day of the event, as we’re basically there, doing the conference, and then taking a couple of days for ourselves on the back end (which are sacrosanct, so don’t be askin’, no matter how much we love you).

We have always regaled ourselves with speculative stories of a day yet to come. In these polemic visions we furnish the fictional spaces of tomorrow with objects and ideas that at the same time chronicle the contradictions, inconsistencies, flaws and frailties of the everyday. Slipping suggestively between the real and the imagined they offer a distanced view from which to survey the consequences of various social, environmental and technological scenarios.

Thrilling Wonder Stories gathers an ensemble of mad scientists, literary astronauts, digital poets, speculative gamers, mavericks, visionaries and luminaries to spin stories of wondrous possibilities or dark cautionary tales.

Oh yeah–and the mushrooms are coming!

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities Completed

6-Visits & Departures
(One of John Coulthart‘s remarkable section title pages for the anthology.)

Ann and I turned in the final manuscript for The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities (June 2011) today, in the midst of some plumbing catastrophies at the house and a lovely encounter with a couple of roving pit bulls. In addition to finalizing the introduction, creator bios, and standardizing some references, we added in Charles Yu’s awesome contribution, “The Book of Categories” and received China Mieville’s equally awesome “The Dust’s Warning: Pulvadmonitor”.

As we had hoped, the expanded context and flexibility of moving from the fake diseases of the first volume to the artifact-based stories of this second volume has resulted in a corresponding widening and deepening of emotion and experience in the fiction. Certainly, this book will be fun and entertaining, but Ann and I also think it’s provided a showcase for some stunning creators to show the full gamut of what’s possible in fantasy fiction. There’s everything from the traditional to the avant garde, bound together by the conceit and the presence of Lambshead. We think this might be the best anthology we’ve ever done.

Haven’t even mentioned the art, have we? Originals from Mike Mignola, Jan Svankmajer, Greg Broadmore, Yishan Li, Myrtle Von Damitz III, Jake von Slatt, J.K. Potter, Rikki Ducornet, James A. Owen, Ivica Stevanovic, John Coulthart, and tons more. In all, 25 artists are included, with over 65 pieces of art, and 30 writers, with another 34 contributing mini-entries in the Catalog section. So, basically, about 90 contributors (!!). The entire table of contents will be revealed on a prominent pop culture site in a week or two. (Did I mention Mike Moorcock’s hilarious story? Or Naomi Novik’s take on Lord Dunsany? Or Minister Faust’s Tesla invention? Or Ted Chiang’s mechanical nanny? The mind boggles.)

This concludes the book-delivery part of our schedule for 2010. It’s been a somewhat ridiculously productive year. Between January and November, we delivered Steampunk Reloaded (Tachyon), The Weird: A Compendium of Strange & Dark Fictions (Atlantic–750,000 words!), and now the Cabinet for HarperCollins. Not to mention my fiction collection The Third Bear, a nonfiction collection titled Monstrous Creatures, and the coffee table book The Steampunk Bible (with S.J. Chambers). Ann helped out a lot with all three of those, in addition to turning in three issues of Weird Tales and all kinds of other stuff. I also completed 40,000 words of my novel Borne, and Ann started work on an as-yet-untitled bestiary anthology. In addition to teaching at and prepping for Clarion and Shared Worlds. Oy.

So, yeah, a busy year—possibly one of the busiest yet. Maybe it’s time to take a short break. *Keels over.* X_x.