The Steampunk Bible Is Out! (With Book Tour)

The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature…is officially out this week!

My coauthor is kicking off a book tour in Austin, Texas, tomorrow evening with a party event at the U.S. Arts Authority (very close to the World Horror Con venue), featuring special guests Rick Klaw, Michael Moorcock, Jess Nevins, and Liz Gorinsky, among others. More tour events can be found here.

Recent features:

Writing Prompt for Today–On Facebook

From my facebook, which is where you need to post your entries:

Your writing prompt for today: “This corpse is full of birds.” Flash fiction under 200 words. Post in comments. Deadline: 9am EST tomorrow. At very least will repost on blog later in year as charity event to benefit Last Drink Bird Head service awards. (nothing too risque)

Not my facebook friend? Ooooh. You should be. It’s jeff.vandermeer

“The Mona Lisa”: Now a Halo Motion Comic (Episode 1)

Whoo-hoo! The first of 11 episodes of the Halo motion comic based on the novella “The Mona Lisa,” written by me and Tessa Kum for the Halo: Evolutions antho, is now live. They’ll be posting a new installment every week. Warning: it’s bloody and dark and crazy.

You can find the official version here, along with each new installment as they go up.

What’s the Craziest or Most Experimental Science Fiction or Fantasy Book You’ve Ever Read?

Anyone who has seen my latest book The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature knows that Abrams does amazing work. Well, they’ve contracted me to create the ultimate Fantasy/SF writing book. It’s going to be called SHARED WORLDS/SINGLE VISION and be in full-color with over 100 images. John Coulthart will be doing the design and much of the art.

In addition to all of the normal stuff I’m going to have a section on “Bleeding Edge,” and while researching this bit for the extended outline for the book, I became preternaturally curious about what readers might define as “experimental” in approach and also what they might define as “crazy-town” as well. Above, you’ll see the cover to a novel many consider experimental, for example.

But, in general, I’m disinclined to define my terms. Instead, I’d like to hear from you: what book or books that could be classified as SF or Fantasy are the craziest or most experimental ever—and why?

(Note: Some of the discussion herein may be quoted in the final book.)

Cheeky Frawg Rises Slowly From Slumber, and Other News


I’ve spent the weekend working on book proposals, correspondence and reading related to Finnish writers, and a lot more. But regular blog service will resume here shortly—and as part of that we’ll also be unveiling more Cheeky Frawg e-book titles, as well as beginning our true PR push for existing titles. (Click on for our current titles.) We will also soon be making our e-books available through distribution sites that cater to audiences outside of the UK and North America–promise!

One thing to look forward to: I’ll definitely be releasing an e-book of “Flesh,” a totally reimagined version of a story that first appeared in Fear Magazine back in the 1980s. I was planning on just typing it up as-is for an e-book, but then inspiration struck and suddenly my originally 5,000-word story (which has never appeared online) was 10,000 words.

In other news, The Steampunk Bible is out, as is the Brazilian edition of The Situation. And, as you may have heard, my wife Ann is up for a Hugo Award again. In addition, you can now buy electronic subscriptions to Weird Tales, the magazine she edits. I’ll have linkage to that, and more later this week, along with photos and commentary on books bought or acquired during our European trip, and a lot more.

Right now, though, I’ve got to plan out the extended outline for the Shared Worlds/Single Vision writing book I’m turning in to Abrams in September.

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce: Brilliant Novel

I reviewed Graham Joyce’s Shirley Jackson Award-nominated The Silent Land: A novelrecently for The Washington Post. I thought it was a brilliant book, especially considering that two characters have to carry the whole thing. It’s also, from a writer’s perspective, an amazing example of control, and of writing skill, all in the service of the characters and the emotional resonance of the novel. Few writers have the chops to pull off what Joyce has pulled off, and I’ll be using chapters from The Silent Land in future workshops as examples of various writing techniques.

Here’s an excerpt from the review:

In Graham Joyce’s brave and ultimately heartbreaking new novel, “The Silent Land,” a young married couple trapped in a deserted Alpine village must come to terms with strange events that test the strength of their relationship. In its melding of the bizarre and the personal, this tour de force invites comparison to the work of Haruki Murakami and Ian McEwan.

Ann VanderMeer: A Photo Journey Through Finland and Amsterdam

My lovely wife Ann, editor of Weird Tales, has put together a photo-account of our recent trip to Europe, including her commentary on each photo. She’s posted it on her facebook, but you can access it whether or not you’re on facebook through this link.


Convention Truths?

Many of you are traveling to fiction/writing-related conventions this weekend. Here are some things I’ve learned about cons over the past 20 years, as both guest and attendee.

—A genre convention is largely defined by three elements: location, the quality and type of the group mind running the con, and the people, guests and attendees, who animate that location and vision.

—The plan of any con’s group mind butts up against the state of mind of the attendees and guests at the point of connection.

—Location can reflect the true desires of the group mind, but more often it reflects the strong desire to save money. (A website is also a location: what it says about a con may be that you’ll be time-traveling back to the 1990s.)

—When conventions isolate their attendees, it’s often stated that this is to make people focus more fully on the experience. Rarely is this the truth. Usually it has to do with some eccentricity of the creators of the con, or a control issue.

—Sometimes, when a convention moves to a new location, the group mind is fleeing some great catastrophe elsewhere, or simply trying to escape a location that new guests cannot understand was actually about a thousand times worse than the current purgatory.

—A con hotel in conflict with the convention committee may manifest as fits of pique: no tableclothes on the banquet tables, for example, revealing rough wood surfaces, splinters, and massive iron staples or even evil raising of room temperature…

—Con food depends on the hotel, how and where it is presented on the con. Levels of goodness depend on how thoughtlessness and thoughtfulness wrestle with each other in the con committee’s group mind (with expense always an issue, of course). A bad con mind will determine that, because they like candy for breakfast, the guests will too…

—Without a bar, a convention is starved for conversation. No introvert worth the name performs well without at least one drink…even if it’s just a glass of water.

—A good sign the con is in the wrong venue is if there are floors missing in the hotel.

—Wireless is like the pulse of a con location. Thready, ghostly wireless that dips in and out is like a thready pulse: a cause for concern.

—Con suites are sweaty stink-barges that provide a test for attendees: if you don’t notice, you have been assimilated.

—Panels without moderators are like con suites without ventilation.

—If you are invited to a con and then given lists of rules that boil down to making yourself unobtrusive and not putting on airs, perhaps you shouldn’t in future accept the invite to the United Socialist Workers Convention.

—If the stage hosting your presentation will in 24 hours be featuring David Cassidy and Engelbert Humperdinck, you are allowed to interpret this as a good or a bad thing depending on the state of your career.

—If the person reading before you goes over by 30 minutes, it is perfectly okay to enlist the help of the mighty John Kessel to clear your predecessor from the room.

—If your reading is not listed on the program and the location is only vaguely alluded to, it is okay if you wind up at the top of some creaky stairs in a room full of Jeffrey Fords, Gwyneth Jones, and Liz Williams, but no audience.

—This last observation is the most important: no matter how well or poorly a con is run, you will always have either good stories about bad things or good memories about great conversations.

The Tallahassee Tentacles: What Sports Team Would Your Favorite Fantasy World Support?

On the final day of our Finland tour, during the Helsinki convention known as Tahtivaeltaja Day, the Tallahassee Tentacles were born. Having learned our home town used to have a semi-pro hockey team and being very familiar with the amount of squid in my books, including City of Saints & Madmen, Finnish SF/F fans had come up with perhaps the most brilliant idea ever: hockey jerseys and t-shirts for a fictional team with a squid as the mascot.


So imagine our surprise on being presented with jerseys and seeing a good 40 people wearing either the t-shirt or jersey as we wandered around the con. I think I began to think the team must actually exist. Certainly, inasmuch as I’d also invented a fake freshwater squid and talked about intrusions of fantasy into the real world, it seemed utterly appropriate—and one of those acts of inspired imagination that makes me love SF/F readers.

(Front row: me, Ann, Jukka Halme, Sari Polvinen. Back row [from left]: Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo, Tapio Ranta-aho, Pasi Vihinen, Henry Soderlund, Tami Tietavainen, Juha Tupasela, Ninni Aalto [who did the logo], Pasi Valkkynen, Marianna Leikomaa, and Ari Seppi.)

So my question to you, dear readers, is: What sports team would you expect to find in your favorite fantasy world? Either there or intruding into the real world?


More on our Finnish trip here and here.