VanderMeer Book Deals, Books Sealed, Books Forthcoming

I’m sure most readers of this blog know that, in addition to the Monstrous Creatures I keep harping on, The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literatureis out from Abrams Image on May 1st. Also on the horizon is The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists In October The Weird: A Compendium of Strange & Dark Fiction will be out from Atlantic/Corvus in the UK, co-edited with Ann as is the cabinet antho.

…but I now have some other projects to announce, specifically:

SHARED WORLDS/SINGLE VISION (Abrams Image)—This unique book focused on the craft of writing SF/Fantasy will combine a textual and visual approach in a 7 x 10 full-color format featuring over 100 images. Currently, the awesome John Coulthart is the designated designer. $1,000 of the advance will go to Clarion San Diego. In addition I will underwrite the Shared Worlds teen SF/F writing camp student antho for three years. And a percentage of all royalties from sales will be split equally between Clarion San Diego and Shared Worlds. I’ll be writing the main text, but added bonuses will include pieces from Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Karen Lord, Karen Joy Fowler, Michael Moorcock, Paolo Bacigalupi, Liza Trombi, Diana Gill, Ann VanderMeer, Jeremy L.C. Jones, Charles Yu, Karin Lowachee, Nick Mamatas, Lev Grossman, and others. Most of it originals.

IF YOU WERE THERE: THE TOP 50 FANTASY WORLDS OF ALL TIME (Underland)—Roughly following the form/tone of a travel guide, this A to Z appreciation of iconic fantasy/SF creations will include illustrations, maps, and some additional essays in addition to the main text.

BORNE (Subterranean, US)—This will be my next, short, novel about a giant ravenous floating bear in a post-apocalyptic city that includes all manner of bioneered creations and intrigue. However, it’s wedded to a very personal story. Think of it as Chekov performed in the round with Godzilla and Mothra battling it out in the backdrop.

There are at least three other projects in the works, in various media and modes, that may come to fruition soon as well. Oh, yes, and I’m launching a line of books in my spare time.

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Things You Find While Cleaning Up: High School Papers

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I’m engaged in some spring cleaning that includes going through my many folders of old and/or incomplete fiction and nonfiction writings. The things you find. Like, a long-ass research paper on “The Peoples and Ruins of Great Zimbabwe”. These ruins were a special obsession of mine for a year or so of high school.

An excerpt: “Soon self-proclaimed experts were interpreting the find as a lost Phoenician settlement, as King Solomon’s Mines, as the ancient dwellings of the Queen of Sheba, as an Islamic colony, as anything but the truth. A kind of diseased romanticism infected imaginations everywhere, until not only the builders but even the time of construction became hopelessly entangled in a thick fog of contradictory theories. The single thread of common reasoning was the idea that Great Zimbabwe had been built by people from an area around the Mediterranean. In other words, it was presupposed that white men had been the original inhabitants of the city. Not a single person looked objectively at the evidence garnered at the ruins; otherwise the truth would have been apparent.”

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The second thing I found was a paper I wrote on Thai writer Somtow Sucharitkul, who at some point changed his writer name to S.P. Somtow. Sucharitkul was one of my all-time favorite writers. So I was going to write about him. The resulting paper I titled “Somtow Sucharitkul: American Themes, Multicultural Viewpoint” because the assignment was to talk about a quintessentially American writer, whatever that means. Although there are lots of ways to talk about Sucharitkul’s work in terms of his being influenced by US SF/Fantasy writers and also famous poets, I have to admit I might’ve overdone the linkage. But most of the essay is an excitable series of appreciations of the novels, sometimes light on the analysis.

An excerpt: “Time is the essential element of the best novels. How a writer perceives time determines whether a book will be a gateway to an entire world or a narrow gateway into a small piece of that world. This perception also often determines how an author addresses his or her themes. Both Thomas Wolfe and Somtow Sucharitkul have a mastery of time, using three different types of time—ordinary sequential flow, accumulated human experience, and immutable time. However, Somtow’s method of expressing time is vastly different from Wolfe’s. Sucharitkul uses less poetry and more prose in expressing his ideas on time….Still, there are similarities, too. Wolfe is often essentially saying that not only are we the accumulation of human history, but we also repeat history. This is the role of Somtow’s Rememberers—to repeat history so it will not be forgotten. They act as a cumulative conscience reminding the Inquestors to be compassionate.”

I have a vague memory of sending a copy of the paper to Somtow and that he was kind about it, consider what a mess it must have seemed.

Somewhere around here I have the 200-page paper I wrote on post-apocalyptic civilizations that wound up being instead a whole invented storyline set after some catastrophe, including sample poetry and prose from this time period. I remember being utterly depressed when I got an A-. “I did 200 pages and got an A-“. “Yes,” my teacher said, “but the assignment was 30 pages and nonfiction only.” Ah well.

Style is Story is Style

It should come as no shock to anyone that style in fiction is the arrangement of words in a story by a writer. If the writer is said to have a “distinctive” style it is because the writer’s voice has found expression in a way unique to the writer that resonates with the reader. Inasmuch as a story has depth, it is usually because the style can “multi-task,” to use a horrible word, and operate not “just” as how a story is told but in an intrinsic way, with each sentence/paragraph performing a different function in the context of the different elements of a story (character, setting, theme, etc.).

Some styles cannot multi-task. This is not a function of the simplicity or complexity of the words chosen necessarily, but a function of the simplicity or complexity of the layering the writer wishes to achieve; some writers have no choice but to operate at a simple level, while others can create simple and complex layering as they choose. Sometimes, the inability to multi-task is due to the banality of writer’s worldview. Sometimes, it is due to writing for a specific audience. Sometimes, the writer hasn’t yet matured to the point where his or her style can carry the weight (or carry it in an effortless fashion). Sometimes, of course, it is a choice—and a damn good one. Nor does a multi-tasking style mean baroque or purple prose; many great multi-tasking styles are “invisible.”

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Leviathan 5 Translation Fund Drive: Goal Reached, Dance to Come

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our Leviathan 5 fund-drive! We did indeed reach $1,000 in the month of February–the final tally is $1,250, in fact. You can continue to contribute, of course, through paypal using the button on the sidebar (scroll down) or directly to vanderworld at hotmail.com.

All monies received will be held in a savings account until they’re needed, and all those who donated (or will donate) will be listed in the finished anthology.

More importantly, this means I have to fulfill my promise to dance on video—specifically, an interpretative dance based on my story “The Third Bear”. That should be done in the next week.

It’s been very busy around here, but there will be more posts this week, including my and Ann’s FOGCon schedule.

Thanks to Jeremy Zerfoss, who contributed this poster graphic based on the idea of “leviathans” (and cats!) to help generate donations. Thanks also to everyone who signal-boosted this effort!

Leviathan 5

Monstrous Creatures Limited Edition–And Translation Fund Drive

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The Monstrous Creatures limited edition is in the house so I can sign them. It’s a 100-copy edition signed and numbered, with a new dustjacket by Jeremy Zerfoss. It’s beautiful. I especially love that Jeremy knows my work so well that the flaps feature squid and the gray caps’ enigmatic symbol, as well as a cheeky blurb from Zerfoss himself: “I enjoy Jeff VanderMeer’s work so much I designed the cover.”

The full TOC for the book can be found here. The limited also includes a new section, “Monstrous Jobs,” in which I spill all about many very surreal or bizarre work experiences, specifically:

—“I’m not with the CIA” (working for the census bureau)
—Mrs Bookwarehouse (working for a remaindered bookstore)
—The Baron’s Son with Blackened Fish Sticks (working for an entrepreneur)
—Lord of the Flies with Middle Management (working for a company that codified city ordinances)
—How I Became Dr. Lambshead’s Assistant (putting together an odd antho)
—The Pellet Story (getting pulled in for questioning for supposedly bombing my former employer)
—Pitch Me Eden, A-Hole (working for…oh, you have to read it)

I’ve received no advance for the limited and all of my royalties from orders will go directly into the Leviathan 5 translation project, along with any royalties received from the regular editions. Ordering information along with cool posters and banner ads, and a free download of my prior nonfiction collection, can be found here.

Remember–there’re still a few days left to make me dance by donating directly to the Leviathan 5 effort. We’re getting very close!

The release party for Monstrous Creatures will be at FOGCon; more info on all of that shortly.

Need a Story or Novel Critique? Try Tom Piccirilli…

With several book projects gearing up, I’m not accepting any further manuscript critique work for awhile. But I did want to let anyone who’s interested know that Tom Piccirilli is currently available right now. Tom’s an award-winning, critically acclaimed author who has been a professional for more than 20 years, writing all kinds of fiction from the supernatural to noir to neo-noir, to thrillers, subtle horror, visceral horror. This guy’s just about done it all.

Furthermore, his rates are very generous, to say the least: “$50 per story, say, up to 5k words. Or 5k words of opening chapters to a novel. 2-3 single-spaced pages of critique. $250 for a novel manuscript 5-10 pages of critique.” You can contact him at Picself1 at aol.com for more details.

Halo Motion Comic of “The Mona Lisa”: Sneak Peek

So, lo!, Tessa Kum and I wrote a kick-ass novella for the Halo: Evolutions–Essential Tales of the Halo Universeanthology from Tor called “The Mona Lisa”. It features some very tough female marines, some evil scientists, lots of loud and obnoxious shooting at people, an alien named Henry, Unspeakable Horror, and much else as well. We were very proud of “The Mona Lisa,” and seeing the reaction to it in the anthology was great.

However, it wasn’t over yet! As it turns out, “The Mona Lisa” is now being turned into a motion comic, probably in about 11 episodes, to be released online over the summer. We got a sneak peek at the first two episodes recently, and as Tessa reports, “The peeps at 343 are clearly awesome. I didn’t think it was possible for them to get any more awesome. Surely they’ve broken some universal awesome limitation. Pyramid have also done a gorgeous job with the voice acting, effects and music. Seriously gorgeous voices happening in there (I luuuuv Mama Lopez’s growl!), and well matched by One’s gorgeous artwork.”

Tessa has a ton of screen shots over on her blog, along with more information.

As for me, I decided to go back over my old blog posts about the process of collaborating on the story, and I realized I’d already mocked out some visuals using puppets and a Romanian model spaceship.

How closely did my vision and that of the motion comics peeps match up?

Well, first off, here is my view of the marine’s ship, the Red Horse, and then their view.

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As you can see, my ship was floating along a backdrop of interstellar carpet with no visible engine burn, while theirs is in space, where it ought to be. Also, I’ve neglected to put my marines on the inside of the ship, where they’d be able to breathe better.

Now, here’s a crucial moment: the crew is meeting and talking about the horrible, bloody find they’ve made, and what to do about it. Here’s my version, followed by theirs.

Once again, there was a fatal flaw in my reasoning, in that for some reason all of the main crew members have left the Red Horse for their paliver, and they’re standing on the carpet kind of nonchalantly, joined in this instance by a huge green alien baby and some kind of space cat. Whereas in their version not only is everyone inside, but the grunts are rightly separated out from the captain and the ship’s AI.

Finally, the vision of the characters is very different, as evidenced below.

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We’ll both keep you posted on future sneak peeks of later episodes. So far, they’ve been very faithful to the structure of our original. Regardless, I’m fairly sure I’ve got this later scene wrong too:

The Bestiary Anthology: Progress

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Those of you who read this blog carefully will have noticed mentions of a bestiary anthology Ann and I are putting together. It’s in an A-Z format, all-originals, but will also include some surprises—like an invisible letter, a 27th letter, and a secret appearance by a Special Guest. Heh.

Here’s the TOC thus far, with some entries still coming in.

Auricle – Gio Clairval
Bartleby’s Typewriter – Corey Redekop
Counsellor Crow – Karen Lord
Daydreamer by Proxy – Dexter Palmer
Enkantong-bato – Dean Francis Alfar
Figmon – Michael Cisco
Guest – Brian Conn
Hadrian’s Sparrikan – Stephen Graham Jones
Ible – Brian Evenson
Jason Bug – Joseph Nigg
Mosquito Boy – Felix Gilman
Pyret – Karin Tidbeck
Quintus – Michal Ajvaz
Rapacis X. Loco Signa – L.L. Hannett
Tongues of Moon Toad – Cat Rambo
Ugly-Nest Rat – Eric Schaller
Vanga – Rikki Ducornet
Xaratan – Rhys Hughes
Yakshantariksh – Vandana Singh
Zee – Richard Howard

We should have several more to announce shortly, including from Leena Krohn, Reza Negarestani, Cat Valente, Micaela Morrissette, and Rochita Loenin-Ruiz.

Shared Worlds Teen SF/Fantasy Writing Camp–Register Soon!

Just a note that Shared Worlds is filling up rapidly this year–we’re almost at half of capacity in terms of applicants. So if you’re thinking of sending your teen, or you are a teen who wants to go, you might want to register soon.

SHARED WORLDS: A Unique SF/Fantasy Writing Camp for Teens

Now open to applicants: Shared Worlds 2011 will be held at Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC) the last two weeks of July, marking the camp’s fourth year of operation. Guest instructors will include Carl Brandon Parallax Award winner and YA novelist Nnedi Okorafor, World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer, Hugo Award winning editor Ann VanderMeer, Philip K. Dick Award finalist Minister Faust, World Fantasy Award winner Ekaterina Sedia, and trend-setting game designer Will Hindmarch.

Shared Worlds is a unique summer for teens (rising eighth through twelfth graders) from across the country that uses an innovative approach to writing fiction and realizing full creative potential, all in a safe and structured environment. During the first week, the students build SF or Fantasy worlds in groups. In the second week, the students fine-tune their worlds and write stories set within those worlds, receiving professional feedback from award-winning authors. Many major publishers have contributed free books to participants, including Wizards of the Coast, Tor Books, White Wolf, Del Rey, Firebird, and First Second. Amazon.com also recently awarded Shared Worlds a major grant.

Past visiting writers have included NYT bestseller Holly Black and NYT bestseller Tobias Buckell, with writers such as Ursula K. Le Guin, China Mieville, and Michael Moorcock contributing to various subsidiary efforts for the camp. Extensive media coverage for Shared Worlds has appeared in the Guardian, the Washington Post book blog, and many others. Scholarships based on need will be available. (Article on a past camp.)

The Moments Between: Vanquishing the Language of Defeat

I really enjoyed this recent post from John Ginsberg-Stevens, which riffs off of my essay “The Language of Defeat.” The essay is part of my forthcoming collection Monstrous Creatures and can also be read at Clarkesworld. The argument I put forth is just a more detailed version of the sentiment I expressed in my recent post about the direction of my blog going forward.

Ginsberg-Stevens does a nice job of examining the general ideas in my essay while also putting forth some thoughts that I think push forward from my essay, or inhabit the empty spaces within its structure.

The trick is to think about those moments between, what lies inside and between the categories and assumptions that we project and ingest and wrestle with as we read and think and imagine. It is easy to conflate the cultural and literary utility and pleasures of genre with other considerations, and create not just borders, but outright barriers that inhibit our ingenuity as readers and writers and editors. The syntax of defeat creates obstacles, rather than conditions for creativity. The question for me is, what ideas enrich our experience of literature, increase our insights into what it gives us, and help us to recognize and incorporate the little moments between into the life of the mind and spirit that literature invigorates in us.

In the above quote, I might suggest that “conditions for receptivity” would be as appropriate as “conditions for creativity.” It’s our receptivity that feeds into our creativity, that allows the conditions for creativity, or imagination, to find the most fulfilling and unique manifestations. Which is vital in the struggle against cliche, stereotype, and received ideas. The more we find unique ways to think about books and the more we are receptive to the complexities a good book offers, the less we are colonized by groupthink and The One Right Way.

PS The books lists at the end of my original essay are incredibly random, as this was an added element. They’re not to be considered definitive, or a top 10 or anything like that.