The Third Bear Up for Best Collection–World Fantasy Award!

Full ballot here.

Both the novel and collection categories are pure bliss, although I haven’t read the Kay. Everything else would’ve been on my own ballot. It’s a jump-for-joy ballot! (Would’ve only been more jump for joy of Avjaz and Michael Cisco could have joined them.) The Lord, Okorafor, and Jemisin were all on my own Amazon top 10 list for last year, and Beukes except for a pub date thing re the US would’ve been, too. The Joyce is amazing and would’ve been on my Amazon list if I’d read it soon enough.

In collection…wow, those are all extraordinary. For personal reasons and because it’s underrated, the Slatter collection gets my nod.

Best Novel
•Zoo City, Lauren Beukes (Jacana South Africa; Angry Robot)
•The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
•The Silent Land, Graham Joyce (Gollancz; Doubleday)
•Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada; Roc; Harper Voyager UK)
•Redemption In Indigo, Karen Lord (Small Beer)
•Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)

Best Story Collection
•What I Didn’t See and Other Stories, Karen Joy Fowler (Small Beer)•The Ammonite Violin & Others, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean)
•Holiday, M. Rickert (Golden Gryphon)
•Sourdough and Other Stories, Angela Slatter (Tartarus)
•The Third Bear, Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon)

Shared Worlds, 24-7 Redux: Week Two

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It’s a great week two here at the Shared Worlds teen SF/F writing camp at Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC). We’ve got Ekaterina Sedia and Minister Faust as guest writers, along with my wife Ann VanderMeer. Over 40 students, building worlds and writing in them. The job here is intense and very satisfying, and it means I won’t be blogging much until next week.

Feel free to tell me what you’re up to in the comments thread—i.e., plug your latest project, book, or something recent you loved.

If you’re not my facebook friend, send me a friend request if you want to see photos and whatnot from Shared Worlds. I’m mini-blogging there since it isn’t as time-intensive as “real” blogging.

Bull Spec Interview, Full Steam Brewery, and You on July 30

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This is just one of the coolest covers ever–Jeremy Zerfoss at Bull Spec editor Samuel Montgomery-Blinn’s request doing something that’s a kind of cabinet of curiosities based on our books. Really thoughtful. It’s in support of the Bull Spec/Regulator Bookstore Cabinet of Curiosities event at Fullsteam Brewery in Raleigh-Durham July 30–with all kinds of special guests, including Ekaterina Sedia, Mur Lafferty, SJ Chambers, etc. (More info in a separate blog post soon.)

Larry Nolen did the equally thoughtful interview, which isn’t just in Q&A format. Layout is quite nice.

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Shared Worlds: Totoro versus Moomins

Many at the Shared Worlds teen SF/F writing camp here at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, know about Totoro but not as many know about the Moomins. So I have created this handy and totally arbitrary guide that compares and contrasts them. – JV

***

Totoro is a giant creature featured in the movie My Neighbor Totoro. It can fly but sometimes likes to just stand by a bus stop so it can use unusual forms of public transit.

…or sometimes it just is a person in a sweaty mascot outfit waiting for a real bus.

THIS…is wrong. Very wrong.

Meanwhile, the Moomins are a family of large hippo-like trolls created by author Tove Jansson and written about in comics and books.

People in Moomin costumes aren’t often seen waiting at bus stops.

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Totoro seems to be happy enough to be around people, but that stare indicates Totoro would also be fine without them. Totoro seems to have friends, but not a whole lot of them.

Moomins have their family and friends and a lot of other people and animals that interact with them. If you sat down with a Moomin you might get a slice of berry pie. If you sat down with Totoro, he might give you a scary but exciting ride through the night sky….but you wouldn’t get any pie, just some stray acorns from between his toes. Totoro doesn’t appear to know how to cook…or care at all about cooking.

Moomin are deceptively cute…which means they tend to be very wise and if you are hoodwinked by their cute factor you might miss the wisdom. (Well, okay, sometimes Moominpappa isn’t so wise.) Honestly, I wouldn’t play cards with Moominmamma, either.

Sometimes, you get the sense that Totoro might be hiding a little bit of a temper…

Angry Moomins are rare, but because of that fact angering a Moomin doesn’t seem like a good idea. If you anger a Moomin, you would probably get punished within the confines of the law, and have a fair trial, because that’s what the Moomins would approve of. But that Moomin would make darn sure he or she had an iron-bound case against you and your ass would be in jail for a long time for whatever offense you had committed.

angry moomin

Many have wondered what would happen if Totoro and Moomins came into conflict. (Well, okay, just me.) These fingers found randomly on the internet indicate Moomins might at first be outnumbered.

This photo indicates that Totoro might spawn dozens of tasty Cupcake Totoros to infiltrate Moomin territory…

This might lead the Moomins, especially given Totoro’s superiority in the air, to temporarily retreat via boat to a remote island with a lighthouse.

But this photo reveals that the Moomins eventually would counter with an army of cardboard robots built out of hundreds of discarded whisky boxes.

The Moomins would also find a way to unleash their reluctant secret weapon The Groke…

…before inviting Totoro over for tea so that the Moomins could talk some sense into Totoro.

…or attempt to cook him (in a respectful way)….

…which would only infuriate Totoro and his allies and lead to more bad blood.

…like this propaganda film created by Totoro wishing ill-will toward Moomins, deliberately spelling their name wrong, too.

Regardless of how this conflict made up in my head turns out, one thing is for sure: they both look good on a t-shirt!

Movie: Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing

One great thing about limited TV access while teaching here at Shared Worlds (Wofford College) in Spartanburg, SC, is that I’m spending my evenings reading and watching movies on Netflix. I’ve decided to go a little esoteric and catch up on some flicks that aren’t exactly Hollywood blockbusters.

Case in point, Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing, starring Theresa Russell and Art Garfunkel. It’s got all of Roeg’s signatures: unusual use of montage, unusual ideas about how to cut, frame, and bookend scenes. In this case, rather than at the service of a horror story (Don’t Look Now) or a SF movie (The Man Who Fell to Earth), he uses these devices to film a script about a terribly mis-matched couple—Russell plays a kind of hedonistic soul who lives in the moment, and Garfunkel plays a psychologist who is attracted to Russell but is exasperated by her lack of commitment. The movie opens with Garfunkel accompanying Russell’s character to the hospital in an ambulance, and then cuts back and forth between the past and present, often doing so several times in a few minutes without ever being confusing.

So there’s the mystery of why Russell’s character is going to the hospital, the mystery of the complexities of their relationship, Garfunkel’s connection to the military, why Russell’s character keeps going over the border into Czechslovakia…and, really, it all revolves around their personal story no matter how the film tries to throw you off with the idea that it might become some kind of political thriller.

Some scenes are absolutely wonderful in the way they exemplify why mastery of technique can result in increased emotional resonance. When a detective examines the woman’s apartment after she’s in the hospital, Roeg cuts back and forth between the detective and a scene between Garfunkel and Russell months earlier. So the detective, for example, peers around the corner of a room and then Roeg cuts to Garfunkel staring out from the bed like he’s looking at the detective, but he’s looking at Russell. And so on. It might seem artificial, but in fact Roeg is basically just operating the way memory can work, and the pointing out the ways in which we interact even when we think we aren’t. The detective might not see the couple, but he can sense the ghosts of their arguments.

Cutting a scene like that jolts the viewer out of customary ways of seeing without seeming disjointed or random. The film editing here is very sophisticated and quite frankly made me want to weep thinking about your average run-of-the-mill Hollywood drama.

Bad Timing ironically enough runs out of steam the more provocative it becomes—which is to say there’s a kind of decadent-era inevitability to what happens. Throughout Garfunkel is more than adequate, but it’s really Russell who shines here. A couple of scenes in particular are painful to watch in the sense of seeing a person who seems genuinely wanting to break out of the kind of shackling roles people are sometimes made to play, in part because of the image of them in their friends’ or lovers’ heads.

It’s not Roeg’s best film, but it’s intelligent, finely acted, and thought-provoking.

George R.R. Martin–and The Delighted States, Now with Lit Mags!

IMG_0121(What do lit mags have to do with Martin? You tell me.)

My review of George R.R. Martin’s new novel was published by the LA Times on Tuesday. By late Tuesday, Reuters was reporting on the book and quoting me on the subject, except I never said that. I suppose I should say it here so as to make it true, but I won’t. Even though I agree with the quote, and also did an Omni feature about the novel here. It’s a great book. So much of a great book I spoofed it on Facebook as part of our Lambshead promotion (see SF Signal’s great review of the Cabinet):

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But mostly this post is about luring you in with “George R.R. Martin” in the title and then telling you about other things. (Maybe all of my informational posts will from now on include his name in the subject line…)

Like, Green Mountains Review, the latest issue of which has, in addition to great poetry and prose generally, a lot of translations in it. I can’t guarantee that all of it has a speculative element, although at least one is a fairy tale, but is having a dragon plopped down in the middle of your narrative all that important? Isn’t it more about the story? Hmmm? Anyway, here’s the translation section. Those who argue about the need for lit mags, many of which are supported by universities, should think about how such funding can be a potent source of fund for translations…

–Aandaal—“Tiruppavai” translated by Ravi Shankar
–Eugene Dubnov—“Winds of Estonia” and “Sparse Snow Upon the Beach,” translated by John Heath-Stubbs and Anne Stevenson, with the author
–Daniil Kharms—“A Fairytale,” translated by Katie Farris.
–Vladimir Mayakovsky—“They Don’t Understand a Thing,” translated by by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky
–Simona Popescu—excerpt from “Night and Day,” translated by Adam Sorkin and Claudia Serea

Meanwhile, Tin House, which always has a great mix of fiction and nonfiction, has its summer reading issue out and on newsstands now. They were the ones who put out the Fantastical Women issue I blogged about back in 2007.

I also picked up the 27th issue of the intriguing Salt Hill, a literary journal with excellent fiction this time around by Brian Evenson and “On Voyage,” a series of excellent short-shorts by the 2010 Calvino Prize winner Sharon White. This is some stunningly awesome surrealist/fantastical stuff by White–you gotta check it out. Not to mention great poetry in translation by Raul Zurita. You can order the mag right off of their website, too. Do it now.

Not to mention, the latest issue of my favorite mag I can’t read, Tahtivaeltaja, is now out, featuring Nalo Hopkinson.

What does any of this have to do with The Delighted States, the book? Not sure, except I’m reading it right now and it is indeed putting me in a delighted state, along with the Martin and the lit mags mentioned above. Maybe it’s all connected because all of it gives pleasure. Isn’t that a good enough connection? I think so.


(Click image to find out more)

Lambshead Cabinet: Win Jake von Slatt’s Mooney & Finch Somnotrope!

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Um, HarperVoyager is doing something incredibly cool in connection with the release of our antho The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities—and they’re only able to do it because Jake von Slatt, one of our contributors, is a really nice guy. He’s providing his machine-artifact the Mooney & Finch Somnotrope, created for our book, as the prize in a sweepstakes. That’s right—you could wind up owning a von Slatt original, and all you have to do is buy the book!

What is a Mooney & Finch Somnotrope anyway? Well, we gave a photo of the artifact to Charlie Jane Anders, and she wrote this micro-fiction, included in the book:

Mooney & Finch Somnotrope – These sleep simulators have become rare artifacts—even though they were mass produced in the Mooney & Finch Sheffield facility, each one of them emerged as a unique object due to the pressures of the oneiric centrifuge. However, they were only sold for three months, prior to the first reports of somnambulance addiction and peripatetic insomnia. The idea of experiencing four or five hours of sleep within a mere few minutes held almost unlimited allure for the world’s busiest captains of industry and harried matrons. But few were prepared for the intoxication of the Somnotrope’s soothing buzz, the sheer pleasure of watching its central piston raise and lower, gently at first and then with increasing vigor, until your mind flooded with dream fragments and impression of having sailed to the nether kingdom and back, all in a few minutes. It only took a few unfortunate deaths for the whole line to be recalled. (Charlie Jane Anders)

Now, as is the case with several art pieces repurposed by the writers assigned to them, von Slatt had originally given the machine a working title and description to help him in conceptualizing it: “The other is a Bassington & Smith Electro-Mechanical Analog Brain, about as smart as a common house cat. It was built to manage the systems aboard an ocean liner and was salvaged from its wreckage. A rather predictable and foolish adventure, really. I mean, whose bright idea was it to put a cat in charge of a vessel that displaced 32,000 tonnes?”

Which just means you’d be winning two machines in one artifact! A Mooney & Finch Somnotrope and a Bassington & Smith Electro-Mechanical Analog Brain!

Lambshead Cabinet

The Bestiary Anthology: Sneak Peek

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Ann and I have (rather quietly) put together a unique new project over the past few month: a Bestiary with the imaginative working title of…Bestiary. In an A-Z format, with a couple extras, the anthology will contain all original fiction. Think of it as a cryptozoological text for the twenty-first century, although some entries go far back into history. (Ivica Stevanovic is on board as an artist.)

For this project we wanted to assemble the writers ahead of time and then sell the anthology, so a huge thank you to our contributors for being willing to send us material on such a speculative basis. The antho will make the rounds to editors in August.

Although we’re still in the editing phase, we do now have our final line-up, revealed here in its entirety for the first time. We think it’s a stellar group of writers. Certainly what we consider a kind of dream team, and in several cases our first opportunity to work with favorite writers who we hadn’t yet had a chance to publish. It’s a little overwhelming to think we have an original Michal Ajvaz—terrifically funny and pointed—and an original Vandana Singh and an original Karen Lord and Cat Valente and…well, if we keep going we’ll wind up listing everyone!

A: “The Auricle” by Gio Clairval
B: “Bartleby’s Typewriter” by Corey Redekop
C: “The Counsellor Crow” by Karen Lord
D: “Daydreamer by Proxy” by Dexter Palmer
E: “Enkantong-bato” by Dean Francis Alfar
F: “The Figmon” by Michael Cisco
G: “The Guest” by Brian Conn
H: “Hadrian’s Sparrikan” by Stephen Graham Jones
I: “Ible” by Brian Evenson
J: “Jason Bug” by Joseph Nigg
K: “The Karmantid” by Karen Heuler
L: “The Liwat’ang Yawa and the Litok-litok” by Rochita Loenin-Ruiz
M: “Mosquito Boy” by Felix Gilman
N: “N—– (Bolus Barathruma)” by Reza Negarestani
O: “Orsinus Liborum” by Catherynne M. Valente
P: “Pyret” by Karin Tidbeck
Q: “Quintus” by Michal Ajvaz
R: “Rapacis X. Loco Signa” by L.L. Hannett
S: “Snafu” by Micaela Morrissette
T: “Tongues of Moon Toad” by Cat Rambo
U: “The Ugly-Nest Rat” by Eric Schaller
V: “The Vanga” by Rikki Ducornet
W: “Weialalaleia” by Amal El-Mohtar
X: “The Xaratan” by Rhys Hughes
Y: “Yakshantariksh” by Vandana Singh
Z: “Zee” by Richard Howard
&: “Ampersand” by Karin Lowachee

(Not shown: a creature whose name begins with invisible letter, written by an anonymous writer who is not one of the editors…)

Karen Lord Has a Major Publisher in the US and UK!

I couldn’t be happier to hear the news that Karen Lord has signed a two-book deal with Del Rey! And also has a major UK deal with Jo Fletcher! I loved Redemption in Indigo, Lord’s first novel, and this is just great and wonderful. She also has an excellent piece in our forthcoming Bestiary anthology. Anyway, congrats to Lord, and to her agent Sally Harding, who is one of my favorites too.