The Time Traveler’s Almanac: Update and Open Reading Period

As mentioned earlier, Ann and I have sold The Time Traveler’s Almanac to Nic Cheetham at Head of Zeus (a new commercial UK publisher; US publisher yet to be announced). It’s going to be a 600,000-word anthology covering about 100 years of time travel fiction. Also included will be illustrations and some fanciful nonfiction about time travel. We’re excited because many of the stories we want to use have, oddly enough, never been reprinted in a time travel anthology before. We also believe this will be one of the largest time travel anthologies ever published. (Sick of the words “time travel” yet?) Publication is scheduled for next year.

Although the space for unsolicited reprints will be small, we are committed to having an open reading period for The Time Traveler’s Almanac. The reading period will occur sometime after the World Fantasy convention, so most likely November 15 through the end of the year. (Watch this space.) It will be for reprints only.

Details on the Omnidawn Fiction Contest I’m Judging

I’m judging a fiction contest for Omnidawn, with the winner getting a $1,000 prize and publication in chapbook form.

There can be only one winner here, so it’s stiff competition, but we always take note of interesting writers and many times wind up using them for other projects.

Lindsay Stern’s Town of Shadows

Every once in awhile something exceptional pops up unexpectedly—in this case Lindsay Stern’s Town of Shadows, which was published this past month and which I just learned about last week. Stern’s still in college, but the book reflects a mature voice and is of definite interest to anyone who likes the darkly fantastical.

Going into overdrive, our managing editor Adam Mills has interviewed Stern for Weirdfictionreview.com, have posted an excerpt, and also posted a review. Check it out. This is why we get excited about fiction. This is the cool stuff. (Like what you read at Weirdfictionreview.com? Donate!)

Latest Book Sales and Updates on the Feminist Spec Fic Anthology

Two new book sales to report, as a stop-gap blog post as I work on deadlines…

The Steampunk User’s Manual, to be written with co-author S.J. Chambers. It’s a follow up to The Steampunk Bible but will focus on the bleeding edge across a variety of media. Neither of us expected to do another steampunk coffee table book, but the concept was too mind-blowing (details later) not to pitch. Our editor will be the most excellent David Cashion at Abrams Image.

The Time Traveler’s Almanac, edited by me and Ann VanderMeer, is a reprint anthology almost as large as The Weird, covering the breadth and width of time travel fiction from the last century or more. We will have an open reading period for reprints for this anthology in November. Our editor will be the magnificently amibitious Nic Cheetham at the new major UK publisher Head of Zeus.

Thanks very much to our agent Sally Harding and to her UK counterpart Ron Eckel, at the Cooke Agency. More information on both books in a month or so as everything comes more and more into focus.

In other news, we will have updates on the ODD anthology series and the feminist speculative fiction anthology shortly. If you submitted fiction to the feminist anthology, please note we haven’t yet made any decisions—it might be another month to six weeks.

Molly Gloss’s Phenomenal “The Grinnell Method” at Strange Horizons

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“She followed Grinnell’s famous method of note-taking: Her notebook, small enough to slip in her pocket, was an abridged record of bird sightings, cryptic behavior notes in a shorthand of her own invention, quickly-sketched drawings and maps, details of weather and vegetation, travel routes and mileage that would be difficult to remember with precision later in the day. It was scribbled in pencil, and none of it well organized—it all ran together….The Journal, written in pen at the end of every day, would be considerably fuller and neater, her notes organized, sorted out, edited, expanded, with detailed observations of behavior recorded at the back, on separate pages for each individual species. For the Journal, and for Species Accounts, she created a narrative, free of sentiment or much personal reflection—a scientific document, not a diary, but with the skeleton of facts dressed in the clothes of complete sentences, so as to be readable by any stranger looking over her shoulder. All manner of facts might prove important to a student of the future, this was Grinnell’s belief. Nothing in nature should be assumed insignificant.” – From Molly Gloss’s “The Grinnell Method”

Sometimes you encounter a story that speaks to you on many levels at once, in which you recognize something very personal. Molly Gloss’s “The Grinnell Method,” serialized (Part 1 and Part 2) at Strange Horizons the last two weeks, is one such story for me. “The Grinnell Method” does many things wonderfully well, but at the forefront is its ability to convey a sense of the natural world in a clear yet lyrical way. I recognize, transported to a different terrain, many of my own hikes at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge here in North Florida. I recognize also those elements of silence, surprise, observation, and strange beauty that one encounters when immersed in that world. The details in Gloss’s story feel personal, they feel lived-in, and they reflect a profound sense of place. These are remarkable achievements that also push back against ideas of false urgency in narrative and the idea of what is or is not interesting in fiction. “Nothing in nature should be assumed insignificant,” she writes, and she makes the reader experience the truth of these words. There are so many tour-de-force descriptions that I’ll reference only one and let you read the rest in the story, because that is, in part, the point of the story: “When she came out of the trees onto the bayshore, a great flock of wigeons and pintails flew up in unison against the dark sky, turning so the undersides of their wings caught the seam of sun at the horizon. The tide was out, and her shoes left a trail of shallow pug marks in the narrow strand of bayside beach. Crab molts were thick, and the mud was stitched with the lacy tracks of sanderlings and plovers as well as the spoor of deer, who liked to come down to graze the tidewater marshes at evening.”

What is the story about? It is in a sense irrelevant because of the way the story lives in both the moment and the past; this is not what some call a “plot driven” story, even though that idea comes fraught with all kinds of faulty assumptions. But the details are these: in the early 1940s, a woman naturalist is cataloguing bird and other life in a Pacific Northwest coastal landscape when she encounters an odd phenomenon. This phenomenon appears to the main character in the constrained, narrow way in which it must: to be observed and documented but without a wider explanation. To say the story is not plot-driven and that it contains indelible portraits of the natural world does not mean that “The Grinnell Method” isn’t aware of the era it depicts—exactly the opposite. We are made aware of it abruptly and pointedly from the beginning when she “sat on the dirt like a Jap”—this from the perspective of the young boy who helps transport her gear for her expedition; Gloss does an excellent job of remaining in a place with regard to point of view where she can be tight-in on her protagonist but also open up at times to give us glimpses of other people’s thoughts and opinions. (For example, both a postal worker and a girl who may want to also become a naturalist.)

We are also aware of the role of women in the world—the ways in which her interaction with the natural world are impacted by the world of humans beyond. For example, the observation a few pages in that “Universities don’t mind teaching girls, they just don’t like to hire them”; this in reference to the woman’s attempt to pursue a scientific career as a naturalist. Indeed, throughout the story she conveys the recognition that in order to survive in that world she must be a magnitude better at her job than her male cohorts; thus, the careful way in which the story opens, in which we are presented with her careful observations of nature, the great care that she takes with everything. It is not just the marker of someone good at what they do, but also someone who has to be superb at their job. And this: “Employment opportunities would disappear completely if she were to marry, and therefore she would never marry.” The awful power of this—that this means so much to her, despite the possibility of an impulse for another life—is not undercut by sentimentality. This is just the way things are—and the very descriptions of nature undercut sentimentality, explain the allure of her work; the “backdrop” is foreground in part for this reason.

This immersion in nature from the first page to last is not just about understanding the natural world but also about understanding character: this is the world the woman works in and has developed a deep understanding of. Immersing the reader thus makes it all the more startling, all the more wrong, when the strange phenomenon makes its appearance. It is a feeling of wrongness that permeates the page in a way it would not otherwise. Merging with the sense of something wrong is the way in which Gloss weaves in the past, in the tragic story of the woman’s brother, and his impact on her life. By the time the reader comes to the last pages, the story has added momentum and depth and sense of mystery. There is a thematic, subtextual confluence with the surface of the story that feels unforced and natural.

“The Grinnell Method” will leave the reader with questions about the inexplicable, but all of the answers the story provides are there, in the moment, for readers who understand that some tales satisfy utterly and completely in this sentence, and this one, and the one after that.

(Still, I would follow this woman anywhere, across any landscape, and some small part of me hopes that she will reappear in some future story. I also hope that “The Grinnell Method” receives some awards consideration at year’s end.)

Cheeky Frawg Special Pre-Order Offer on E-Books from Tidbeck, Tutuola, and More

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Through October 1, you can pre-order the e-books of not just the stunning Jagannath but also the forthcoming Don’t Pay Bad for Bad, and Tainaron for one low price of $13.00. At this time, we are not offering these books for pre-order separately. Add Amal El-Mohtar’s The Honey Month (see listing here) for just $2.00 more.

You can order directly through paypal to vanderworld at hotmail.com, noting whether you prefer epub (Nook, etc.) or mobi (Kindle) formats. You can also mail a check made out to Jeff VanderMeer, to POB 4248, Tallahassee, FL 32315 USA. Make sure to include your email address with the check. When the titles are available, they will be emailed to you.

Some information on the forthcoming titles…

Don’t Pay Bad for Bad & Other Stories by Amos Tutuola—A selection of previously uncollected and rare tales by the Nigerian master storyteller. Introduction by Tutuola’s son and afterword by Matthew Cheney. (E-book only.) “Tutuola’s work is under-celebrated, overwhelming, deliciously mad and many times just plain hilarious. In his worlds, Death isn’t even safe from misfortune. His tales are both local and universal. If you are a fan of speculative literature, Don’t Pay Bad for Bad is required reading.” – World Fantasy Award winner Nnedi Okorafor (E-book only; $4.99 when to be released in October)

Tainaron by Leena Krohn—This World Fantasy Award finalist short novel by one of Finland’s most highly regarded writers is a personal favorite of ours, detailing an anonymous narrator’s trip to a strange city whose inhabitants consist of intelligent insects. “Krohn is a writer of the first rank—comparable to Kafka, or a more generous Lem. The novel contains scenes of startling beauty and strangeness that change how the reader sees the world.” – Locus Online, year’s best article (E-book only; $4.99 when released in October)

And, of course…

JAGANNATH BY KARIN TIDBECK
Introduction by Elizabeth Hand
Afterword by the author

E-book (available in October; see pre-order special deal above; will retail for $6.99)
Trade paperback (available in November)

“I have never read anything like Jagannath. Karin Tidbeck’s imagination is recognizably Nordic, but otherwise unclassifiable–quietly, intelligently, unutterably strange. And various. And ominous. And funny. And mysteriously tender. These are wonderful stories.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

“Restrained and vivid, poised and strange, Tidbeck, with her impossible harmonies, is a vital voice.” – China Miéville

Enter the strange and wonderful world of Swedish sensation Karin Tidbeck with this feast of darkly fantastical stories. Whether through the falsified historical record of the uniquely weird Swedish creature known as the “Pyret” or the title story, “Jagannath,” about a biological ark in the far future, Tidbeck’s unique imagination will enthrall, amuse, and unsettle you. How else to describe a collection that includes “Cloudberry Jam,” a story that opens with the line “I made you in a tin can”? Marvels, quirky character studies, and outright surreal monstrosities await you in what is likely to be one of the most talked-about short story collections of the year.

Tidbeck is a rising star in her native country, having published a collection there in Swedish, won a prestigious literary grant, and just sold her first novel to Sweden’s largest publisher. A graduate of the iconic Clarion Writer’s Workshop at the University of California, San Diego, in 2010, her publication history includes Weird Tales, Shimmer Magazine, Unstuck Annual and the anthology Odd.

“In these wonderful, subtle stories, magic arrives quietly. It comes from the forests or the earth or was always there in your own family or maybe exists in another realm entirely…leaving you slightly dazed and more than a little enchanted.” – Karen Joy Fowler

“Jagannath heralds the arrival of a bold and brilliant new voice, which I see too few of these days. You must read Karin Tidbeck.” – Caitlín R. Kiernan

“In Karin Tidbeck’s collection Jagannath, the mundane becomes strange and the strange familiar with near-Hitchcockian subtlety. I loved Tidbeck’s clean, classic prose. It creates beautifully eerie music for a twilight domain.” – Karen Lord

“I can’t think of when I last read a collection that blew me away the way that Jagannath has, or one that’s left me somewhat at a loss to describe just how strange and beautiful and haunting these tales are.” – Elizabeth Hand (from her introduction)

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My Novella “The Cage”–Now Available at PodCastle as a Podcast

PodCastle has just posted the podcast reading of my novella “The Cage,” originally published in City of Saints and Madmen and reprinted in at least one year’s best. The story can also be found in The Weird.

I first had the idea for “The Cage” at a bar mitzvah party. I saw a strange-looking cage wedged high up in a corner of a ledge in the banquet area. It didn’t seem to fit. I worried that detail in my mind for quite awhile, not sure what it meant. Then one day we were traveling back from some event on the Florida coast and we passed by the University of Tampa, which is housed in part in an old former hotel. It was after hours, and we walked around that place, which was eerie and somewhat like The Shining hotel in both the decor and the way the silence was watchful. And behind glass, in an exhibit: another cage. At which point, something was sparked in my imagination and I suddenly had the core of the idea for the story.

Atlas by Dung Kai-Cheung

My google feed brought me this possible gem today: Atlas, by Dung Kai-Cheung. I’m buying it right now.

Here’s a description:

Set in the long-lost City of Victoria (a fictional world similar to Hong Kong), Atlas is written from the unified perspective of future archaeologists struggling to rebuild a thrilling metropolis. Divided into four sections — “Theory,” “The City,” “Streets,” and “Signs” — the novel reimagines Victoria through maps and other historical documents and artifacts, mixing real-world scenarios with purely imaginary people and events while incorporating anecdotes and actual and fictional social commentary and critique.

Much like the quasi-fictional adventures in map-reading and remapping explored by Paul Auster, Jorge Luis Borges, and Italo Calvino, Dung Kai-cheung’s novel challenges the representation of place and history and the limits of technical and scientific media in reconstructing a history. It best exemplifies the author’s versatility and experimentation, along with China’s rapidly evolving literary culture, by blending fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in a story about succeeding and failing to recapture the things we lose. Playing with a variety of styles and subjects, Dung Kai-cheung inventively engages with the fate of Hong Kong since its British “handover” in 1997, which officially marked the end of colonial rule and the beginning of an uncharted future.

Japan Times has this review, which reads in part, “The faux-scholarship in this section is beautifully done and is equaled, though in a different vein, in the next part, where we move from theory to The City, an entity approached not directly, of course, but through maps and documents such as Round the World on the Sunrise by John Smith, a chronicle of, among other things, Smith’s movements on Aug. 9, 1907, the day he spends in Victoria. In Smith’s account, with characteristic subtlety, Dung mocks colonial travelers and the memoirs that reveal their odd interpretations of cultures to which they can only condescend.”

Interview with the author here.