Working on The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

(Sneak peek detail from Ivica Stevanovic‘s amazing full-page art, to accompany the story “Relic” by Jeffrey Ford. A recent series here, too.)

Having finished up most of the editing on the stories and incidental text going into The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, we started compiling the master document today. This also includes placement tags for images and creating a separate image key. The anthology is heavily visual and it wouldn’t make any sense to include even thumbnails in the text document. The image key also will contain all of the captions for images—very important because those captions will help contextualize not just the image but also, potentially, the story it accompanies.

Today and through the weekend, we’ll be working on the final detail work prior to turning in the anthology to Diana Gill at Eos. It’s always important to try to make the master document as consistent as possible format and style-wise, and to do last spell/grammar checks, read-throughs, etc. Our goal during this phase is to make the manuscript as clean for the typesetter and copy-editor as possible, and to give as clear instructions as possible not just about the images but about special cases in the text, like Arabic letters, which we always fear may drop out of the manuscript on the other end. Our friend Gio Clairval, who is in the antho but also an excellent translator, will be checking the German and French in a couple of manuscripts, too.

You can get to this point and get sloppy, and then your life and the publisher’s life are both more irritating and difficult when you get the typeset version back.

There’s also the challenge of finding high-res images for some stories. For example, Minister Faust needs us to find a Bosnian Course-Hair Hound photo to accompany images of Aleister Crowley and a stapler!! (Not that I’m complaining—we love a good challenge.)

One problem in compiling the manuscript is I keep either chuckling or having my breath taken away reading the material. Jeff Ford’s “Relic” just tickles both me and Ann to death, with its recursive lying (sorry, “fabrication”) and crazy sermons…and it’s just such a wise story, too, about relationships. And then I started replacing Mike Moorcock’s single quotes with doubles and kept cackling at this bit early in the story: “The small daughter of a Bermondsey tailor claimed that her half-grown cat Mimi had eaten a fairy. Of course no one would believe her even though she insisted she had seen Mimi nosing around a tiny leg. Rebecca, of course, was rightly punished for telling stories. But a few days later she came to her mother holding triumphantly a little human ear.” (Of course, just the title of Cherie Priest’s story, “Addison’s Clockroach,” cracks us up.)

Like I said, though, it’s not just laughs. There are serious pieces. Lev Grossman’s “…Roboticus the All-Knowing,” based on one of the original Mike Mignola illos, starts out absurd but ends up containing a fair amount of pathos. “The Gallows Horse” by Reza Negarestani is…well, it’s just genius and audacious. Alan Moore’s “Objects Discovered in a Novel Under Construction” could’ve just been a joke about his half-finished novel, but instead it’s very much a highlight of the book. Caitlin R. Kiernan’s key to a key is extremely creepy. Amal El-Mohtar’s “The Singing Fish” is a perfectly executed story about art and influence. Ted Chiang, N.K. Jemisin, Rachel Swirsky…I could go on and on.

One thing that I think makes this anthology superior to its predecessor The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases is that we’ve provided contributors with several different ways to tell stories, ranging from the traditional to the more Borgesian—and the emotional range seems wider as a result.

The style of the various pieces of art is also more diverse. There’s certainly some neo-Victorian/Steampunk influence, but, ya know, Lambshead was only ten in 1910, so most of the stories and the artifacts cover various periods throughout the twentieth century. At last count, 20 to 25 different artists are contributing, with John Coulthart providing focus/cohesion through section title pages and piece work. The format will be an oversized hardcover with the cover printed right on the boards.

In short, this thing is going to be Mighty. (Full disclosure of TOC will occur in the next couple of weeks, on another website…)

P.S. Can we just say…our editor Diana Gill and Will Hinton at Eos have been wonderful.

(Detail from a J.K. Potter piece in the antho.)

Amazon’s Best Books of 2010: Top 10 Science Fiction/Fantasy

Amazon has just revealed their top 10 SF/Fantasy books of the year, as well as a general top 100, and I’ve posted two blog entries showcasing all ten titles. The writers on the list are Michal Ajvaz, Charles Yu, Karen Lord, Felix Gilman, N.K. Jemisin, Grace Krilanovich, Dexter Palmer, Nnedi Okorafor, Brian Conn, and Richard Kadrey. The order kept changing and if I had my druthers the list wouldn’t be numbered at all, but in the end Michal Ajvaz won out. The list reflects consultation with Amazon editors and my own reading throughout the year.

Ajvaz’s The Golden Age was a brilliant act of imagination that showcased this Czech writer’s amazing talent—a career-defining book. Charles Yu single-handedly revived the time travel story with a short novel both inventive and poignant. Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo is a miracle of storytelling ability and compression and generosity. The dialogue and characters and quality of writing in Felix Gilman’s novel took me by surprise several times, and the book displays complexity and moral ambiguity at every turn. N.K. Jemisin’s wonderful Hundred Thousand Kingdoms plots a non-trad course for fantasy in the twenty-first century. Grace Krilanovich created an amazing phantasmagorical Pacific Northwest in her The Orange Eats Creeps. Dexter Palmer revitalized retro-futurism by way of The Tempest and his own absurdist imagination, while Nnedi Okorafor’s novel Who Fears Death features a brave and original heroine and a unique, often heart-breaking story. Finally, Brian Conn’s The Fixed Stars is a awesomely strange post-capitalist surreal SF mosaic novel and Richard Kadrey continues to mix pop culture and genre tropes in bold, high-energy recombinations.

Anyway, I’ll post about a “second ten” of worthy novels next week, as well as posts on anthologies and story collections before the end of the year. I’ve also invited each writer on the top 10 list to submit their own top 10 list—either of books read during the year, favorite books, or books specifically from 2010–and will post those on Omnivoracious as they come in.

What We Need

Less hyperbole. More “we” and less “I”. Fewer opinions. More facts. More trust. Less suspicion. More affection and appreciation. More reading and less talking. More common ground. More doing and less talking. Less group-speak and more unique voices. Fewer ideologues and more individuals. More community bonds. More appreciation for our physical environment.

Amazon’s Top 100 Books of 2010–Tweeting Now

Over on Omnivoracious, books editor Tom Nissley just posted that they’re revealing the Amazon top 100 via their twitter feed all today. Tomorrow, the individual lists for YA, etc., go live, including my SF/F Top 10, which should please everyone and no one. At least one title on the top 100 is also on the SF/F top 10, possibly more.

I’ll also post a two-part entry on Omnivoracious tomorrow going over the selections in detail, followed by a separate post by Friday on “the second 10”. By end of year, I’ll also blog about short story collections and anthologies. This year there were so many interesting novels, the top 10 list doesn’t include anything but novels.

Meanwhile, while we’re waiting for all of this to be unveiled, feel free to post your picks here. And, you know, read. I think a lot of us spend entirely too much time blogging and not enough reading. Which is usually what gets us in trouble. :) Don’t be like me–go read a book.

UPDATE: They’ve posted the next 10. (just let that serve for the next ten, and the ten after that…)

UPDATED UPDATED: My post on Dalkey Archive books, leaning heavily on the OF Blog and prior posts from Felix Gilman on his the Half-Made World.

Peace of Mind

Evil Monkey: Do you monitor the blogosphere when you write?

Jeff: No.

Evil Monkey: Do you take things away from the blogosphere to think about when you write?

Jeff: No.

Evil Monkey: Irresponsible! Unjust!

Jeff: I don’t want any kind of white noise in my head. I’m going to write what I’m going to write.

Evil Monkey: Don’t you need voices in your head to help?!

Jeff: No. Do you?

Evil Monkey: Heck no! Because I’m the voice in your head.