Archive for January, 2011

Steampunk Reloaded, for Your Consideration

Jeff VanderMeer • January 19th, 2011 • Culture


(Image from artist Ivica Stevanovic’s blog–Ivica contributed two images to the anthology.)

I’m not one for pushing projects I’m involved with for awards, but because we edit anthologies that more and more have a significant visual component and also mix original fiction with reprints, I’d just like to remind those who picked up Steampunk Reloaded (2010) that it contained three bona fide original stories:

Jeffrey Ford, “Dr. Lash Remembers” – A harrowing tale of Steampunk disease that will make you think twice about jumping into an airship.

Jess Nevins, “Unpublished Pages from the Encyclopedia of Victoriana,” featuring three failed Steampunk inventions.

Ramsey Shehadeh, “The Unbecoming of Virgil Smythe” – A fast-paced, riveting tale of time slips and the perils of colonialism, featuring the enigmatic Dromedons, rebellion, and a very strange train ride.

It also included a translation that has never before appeared in English to our knowledge:

Vilhelm Bergsoe, “Flying Fish (Prometheus)”, translated by Dwight R. Decker – A novelette from 1869 by a Danish writer. This progressive tale of the dirigible Flying Fish, written in the form of a letter from the future to the past.

There is, of course, also the original “A Secret History of Steampunk” by yours truly, but that was meant almost as much as a vehicle for an assemblage of other texts and images by a group much more talented than me and I’d prefer the spotlight be on them. (Full list here.)

Not to mention original nonfiction. And plenty of refutation to the claim of Steampunk as reactionary in the form of stories by Cat Valente, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Margo Lanagan, and others. (What I think about this subject can be found here and here.) And not to mention a rather stunning layout and design by John Coulthart.

The anthology was the juggernaut that also allowed us to do outreach in the form of Brazilian/Portuguese translations from Vaporpunk (thanks Fabio and Larry and Beyond Victoriana!) and post a story by Jacques Barcia on the Tachyon website.

Which is another way of saying, when we do a reprint anthology these days, it’s a lot more than just a collection of 12 to 20 stories placed in a certain order.

Ann and I believe this is the future of anthology editing, and I’ll talk more about anthology editing in the 21st century in a blog post once a certain website posts the full contents for The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities.

Three Fine Fools Get a Schedule: Triangulated Blogging on Gerry Alanguilan, Eric Basso, Javier Marias, and Helen Oyeyemi

Jeff VanderMeer • January 17th, 2011 • Book Reviews, News, Uncategorized

If you’ve followed this blog lately, you know that Larry Nolen, Paul Charles Smith, and I have formed a blogger book club. Every few weeks we read a book and then post our reviews of it, without sharing our opinions with each other ahead of time. I then also post the book info and snippets of the reviews to the Amazon book blog. So far, we’ve covered Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps, Matt Bell’s How They Were Found, and Michael Cisco’s The Narrator (with guest J.M. McDermott).

Since these reviews have seemed useful in spreading the word about under-appreciated weird books, we thought we’d continue—and not only continue but formalize a schedule for those who want to read along. If you do read along and post a review around the same time as ours, I’ll add the link to our coverage.

Here, then, is the tentative schedule for our posts, which we’ll update with each new round of book reviews.

Early February: Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan (graphic novel)—“Gorgeously drawn black-and-white artwork combines with outstanding storytelling in this modern-day fable of ethnic strife, identity, friendship, and family. The titular character has been a writer all his “human” life, keeping a secret diary that his son Jake discovers and reads after Elmer’s death. Along with his newly engaged sister and gay movie-star brother, Jake returns to his childhood home for Elmer’s last days, stays on for his funeral, and helps his newly widowed, delicate mother. Oh, and Jake and family are sentient, well-spoken chickens.”

Late March through May: The collected works of Eric Basso. This writer of what I would call avant garde gothic/weird literature is criminally under-appreciated and under-reviewed, and requires an extensive re-visiting. (His “Beak Doctor” is included in Ann and my The Weird antho from Corvus.) Therefore, we will be reading multiple texts, with others read as reference points for the main volumes under review. We’ll have writer Matthew Pridham joining the team as a special guest sharing his opinion as well. We will cover, in multiple blog posts:

The Beak Doctor and Other Stories: 1972 to 1976—“For years, Eric Basso’s novella, “The Beak Doctor,” has sustained a cult reputation among a hard core of avant-garde writers. This collection of short stories begins with a tale of death and hideous resurrection, moves on through a quest for the great horse who rules a subterranean polar kingdom, an atmospheric cycle of short prose pieces, a tragicomic roman noir set in Istanbul (in which the great horse appears in a new guise), and concludes with the harrowing odyssey of a masked man in a fogbound city turned upside down by a plague of sleeping sickness: “The Beak Doctor.”

The Golem Triptych: A Dramatic Trilogy—“According to Jewish legend, the golem is an automaton in human form created through magic, a spirit that could be called upon to perform tasks for its master. The central character in this dramatic trilogy, Joseph Golem, is an old man who dies in a prison camp and is brought back to life by a young woman. Moving through time and various identities, Joseph finds himself in 16th-century Prague, where he assumes the identity of Rabbi Judah Loew, creator of the golem.”

Bartholomew Fair (novel)—“Set in London during a killing heat wave, the novel unfolds as a terrible cataclysm is about to devastate the city. Begun in the Middle Ages as a religious festival in commemoration of St. Bartholomew the Great, over the centuries Bartholomew Fair passed through several metamorphoses. Now it has gone underground. Its lone survivor recounts the story of the Fair’s final, sordid incarnation, and the bizarre odyssey which brings him face-to-face with the unspeakable.”

The Sabattier Effect (novel)—“An investigation into the death of an old man takes place in a French village, but nothing about this investigation is as it first appears. Its prime witness, a photographer, is interrogated by a police inspector about the dead man, his connection with two mysterious younger women, and the enigmatic painting the man had hired him to photograph. His account of events triggers a series of flashbacks in which the immediate past comes dangerously alive. The investigation becomes a desperate quest to rescue a present threatened with extinction by the unpredictable past that is about to engulf it.”

We will also be reading and referring to the following by Basso:

Decompositions: Essays, Art, Literature 1973-1989—“Decompositions collects all of Basso’s essays on art and literature in one volume. Basso approaches his subjects not as a critic but as an artist reflecting on the works, lives, deeds and frailties of other artists. These studies cut to the quick of what it means to create, and be created or destroyed by, a great poem, story, novel or painting.”

Revagations: A Book of Dreams, Vol. 1: 1966-1974—“In these pages, we discover an unconscious life laid bare in a myriad of bizarre adventures and intrigues.”

Accidental Monsters: Poems and Texts 1976—“Completed in six months, on the eve of the poet’s twenty-ninth birthday, Accidental Monsters was Eric Basso’s first collection of poems. The author carries us through a world where landscapes and interiors merge, a terrain vague of fleeting visions, gnomic adventures, enigmas, grotesque creatures and bizarre mechanisms. We eventually journey to an unnamed planet, and are witness to several sinister tableaux.”

Catafalques: Poems 1987-1989—“A dark magic works here, sustained by poetry that is often complex, ironic, disquieting, impassioned, and sometimes even wildly comic. In these pages we are confronted with the poet in midair, the Walrus Voluptuary, a tree that becomes a woman, a man with the head of a black swan.”

June-July: Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marias. Writer Kai Ashante Wilson, who suggested Marias’ work, will join us as a special guest blogger. This is a three-volume novel, and will probably require three separate posts. Here’s a description from PW of volume one: “In his leisurely, incisive latest, these preoccupations fuel a plot with a spy-novel gloss. Jaime Deza, separated from his wife in Madrid, is at loose ends in London when his old friend Sir Peter Wheeler, a retired Oxford don, introduces him to the head of a secret government bureau of elite analysts with the ability to see past people’s facades and predict their future behavior. A cocktail party test proves Deza to be one of the elect, and he goes to work clandestinely observing all sorts of people, from South American generals to pop stars.”

August: Helen Oyeyemi, novel(s) to be determined.

Global Warming on This American Life

Jeff VanderMeer • January 16th, 2011 • Culture

Listening to a naysayer to global warming on NPR today was profounding depressing. Basically, this teenage girl was never going to be convinced by any scientific evidence, despite being presented with plenty of such evidence. It’s a learned response, through indoctrination both deliberate and societal.

We have a world rapidly being contaminated by plastic, ecosystems being degraded, species dying out, overpopulation, pollution that creates accelerated cancer rates, and a host of other problems attributable to human activities, behavior, or inventions.

Even if you took global warming off the table–poof, global warming doesn’t exist–we would need to make major changes in our values, our attitude, our daily lives to maintain a liveable world.

So the questions are really

—Can we take the risk that, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, global warming isn’t occurring and isn’t mostly created by humans? I.e., if it is true, we’re headed toward catastrophe, so why take the risk of not taking action?

—Wouldn’t we want to reduce pollution levels, find alternatives to fossil fuels, reduce our population supersaturation, and protect ecosystems even if there were no such thing as global warming?

Related questions I keep asking myself are:

—Are we now so divorced from the natural world and our place in it that we can conceive of existence on an Earth without complex ecosystems, without non-degraded air and water?

—Are we so far gone that we cannot come around to a position in which we value animal life more, and therefore the natural settings they need to live? (All of which affects our own quality of life.)

Current Reading…and Last Day for Translation Award Donations

Jeff VanderMeer • January 14th, 2011 • Culture

IMG_9789

IMG_9790

Being kinda sick and having mined out On Demand movies to the point that I’m down to Care Bears Birthday 3 and Chucky Goes Hollywood…I’ve been switching over to reading I Hotel and sampling Surrealist Subversions and The House of Fear (Leonora Carrington) with Savage Detectives up after I Hotel. By the way, I Hotel…thus far it is one of the best political novels I’ve read, in how it interweaves history and personal lives, how it manages to be didactic at times, but in ways that are playful, imaginative, and, yes, entertaining. Great stuff.

PLEASE NOTE: Today is the last day for donations to fund the new genre translations awards founded by Cheryl Morgan et al—if you want to be in the running for lots of great prizes, including a signed copy of my novel Finch.

Anil Menon’s Beast–and Tamil Pulp Fiction

Jeff VanderMeer • January 13th, 2011 • Culture

IMG_9780

UPDATE: Ashish Gajera pointed out this Indian pulp noir special issue.

Anil Menon’s The Beast with Nine Million Feet came in the mail yesterday. (I think I lost the first copy the publisher sent.) I’m a big fan of Menon’s nonfiction, so am curious to sample the fiction. Menon also was kind enough to send me Tamil Pulp Fiction, which looks fascinating. In addition to short stories, it also features deliriously awesome color plates of various pulp books or publications. Here are just a few examples. Please note the fish or eel coming out of the eye. Please note the crazy cat.

IMG_9781

IMG_9782

IMG_9783

Leviathan 5: The Next Wave–Translation Funding Through Third Bear / Monstrous Creatures (with Free PDF)

Jeff VanderMeer • January 12th, 2011 • News

(Read more about the Leviathan anthology series here. You can also still order Leviathan 3, which includes great fiction by Carol Emshwiller, L. Timmel Duchamp, Zoran Zivkovic, Rikki Ducornet, Jeffrey Ford, James Sallis, and more.)

Want to support this project? Spread the word—signal boost appreciated.

Ann and I have finalized most of our plans for Leviathan 5: The Next Wave, which will be published by the awesome folks at ChiZine Publications. This anthology, the latest in the World Fantasy Award winning and PKD award finalist series, will focus on weird fiction and fantasy from newer writers, probably defined as writers with two or fewer books published in English. We are going to do something fairly unprecedented in the history of genre and have between 15 and 20 associate/foreign language editors in other countries so that many writers who do not write in English would be able to submit. Up to 30,000 words of the 100,000 words might be fiction newly translated for Leviathan 5.

But to ensure we have a budget that allows for paying a decent wage to translators, and to cover anything unexpected that comes up, we will be doing a couple of fund-raisers. ChiZine is already providing a solid budget, but to do this anthology “pure”—with no solicitations from established writers–this extra step is necessary. I would note that Ann and I are not taking any editorial fee upfront–this is a labor of love and something we feel is necessary to further spotlight new writers and international writers.

The first “fund-raiser” is simply this: 100% any royalties received from my forthcoming nonfiction collection Monstrous Creatures or my 2010 short story collection The Third Bear will go toward funding Leviathan 5. This is no idle threat since the advances for both were low enough that royalties will kick in soon.

Monkey Brain Books has also been kind enough to provide a free PDF of my prior nonfiction collection, currently on the order page for Monstrous Creatures. If you download that PDF, consider buying Monstrous or making a direct donation. Any direct donations for this project can be sent to me via paypal at vanderworld at hotmail.com with “For Leviathan 5″ as the subject line. If you would like to become a major investor, ping me as well.

Right now, the plan is for an open reading period for Leviathan 5 starting in late 2011 and extending into the spring of 2012, for publication in spring of 2013. Projects like this require a long lead time. Payment and firm reading period information will be forthcoming once we’ve finalized our plans.

PS For those wondering, the “best of Leviathan” volume will probably come out prior to Leviathan 5.

Monstrous Creatures Table of Contents

Jeff VanderMeer • January 12th, 2011 • News

Out in March from Guide Dog Books, Monstrous Creatures collects the best of my nonfiction from the past five years, around the theme of the “monstrous.” SF Signal has just posted the full table of contents.

Wow! Brazilian “A Situação” Looks Awesome!

Jeff VanderMeer • January 10th, 2011 • News

Stunning cover for the Brazilian edition of The Situation! And check out this illo, which I assume is either interior art or associational PR. The book will be published in March. Very excited–my first South American publisher. (Thanks to Fabio Fernandes, btw, for his belief in my work and to the publisher for such a great-looking edition.)

Finch on ALA RUSA 2011 Reading List

Jeff VanderMeer • January 10th, 2011 • News

Rather happy to note that the ALA has honored my novel Finch by placing it on the short list in the fantasy category. Here’s the full list in that section:

Winner: “Under Heaven” by Guy Gavriel Kay

Shortlist:

“Finch” by Jeff VanderMeer, Underland Press
“The Half-Made World” by Felix Gilman, Tor Books
“The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” by N.K. Jemisin, Orbit
“Nights of Villjamur” by Mark Charan Newton, Spectra

Facebook Status Updates

Jeff VanderMeer • January 9th, 2011 • Uncategorized

(more…)