The VanderMeer Year in Review: Fun, Hard Work, and Thanks

Photo on 2011-12-23 at 09.45
(Grandson Riley and daughter Erin posing with Weird Tales…all images in this post from Ann’s Weird Tales scrapbook…I hope I won’t embarrass the folks spotlighted too much, and apologies that I can’t post all of them.)

It’s that time of year when you take stock of what happened, celebrate your victories, and lick your wounds, while looking toward the future. The anemic number of entries on this blog might attest to how busy a year it was, but here’s a run-down. (Posting probably won’t uptick for a while—too much writing to do—but I will be on facebook a bit.) I should note that we started the New Year in New Hampshire with our good friends Eric Schaller and Paulette Werger and Matthew Cheney, during which I presented my wife Ann VanderMeer with a scrapbook celebrating her five-year tenure at Weird Tales, with images and original fiction contributed by a ton of people including Garth Nix, John Coulthart, Richard A. Kirk, Rachel Swirsky, Lavie Tidhar, Michael Bishop, Charles Tan, China Mieville, Warren Ellis, Cheryl Morgan, Lauren Beukes, and many more (hundreds and hundreds). This post is illustrated with images from that scrapbook. By then we had also switched agents, going with Sally Harding of the Cooke Agency, who has proven to be savvy, smart, and strategic.

Weird Distress 2
(John Coulthart’s contribution)

My wife Ann had a great year personally and professionally, despite the whole stupid, pointless Weird Tales fiasco. hired her as a fiction editor and she released her first anthology not edited with the curmudgeon (i.e., me), Steampunk Revolution—a great book, with a diverse contributors’ list, from which a couple of stories were picked up for year’s bests anthos. She also, along with me, co-edited, which posted a ton of great content this year. Our co-edited The Weird also came out in North America this year, and we won a World Fantasy Award and British Fantasy Award for the anthology, in addition to going to BEA and a Minneapolis book fair. And, she assisted me with Cheeky Frawg, our imprint that published the critically acclaimed Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck (among others). She also taught at the Shared Worlds teen writing camp, as the editor in residence, and we both attended ICFA and participated in that most wonderful conference. This in addition to coordinating the Cheeky Frawg party at World Fantasy, which was a huge success. Ann also wrote the introduction to Centipede Press’s edition of Michael Cisco’s The Divinity Student, a book she originally published through her Buzzcity Press.

Perhaps most crucially, we were guests at a Steampunk convention in Victoria on Vancouver Island and subsequently went on an adventure to the western rim of the island, in Tofino, which included a trek up a mountain. Despite wild cattle, an abandoned creepy village, getting lost, crawling up a ravine of fallen cedars, something that growled at us from a den, and sudden rainfall muddying the steep ascent, we somehow made it down and survived it.

(Richard A. Kirk’s contribution)

My year was taken up with a number of different solo projects for the most part, beyond (full props to Adam Mills, managing editor, who did a stellar job keeping WFR going). I worked on and finally turned in Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction (Abrams Image). I also got bad bronchitis in February and, slowed down and inspired by a weird dream, wound up, in a state of delirium, writing the novel Annihilation, the first volume of the Southern Reach trilogy. I also wrote a long story, “Komodo”, for Arc 1.2, a great new British magazine, a long essay on fakes for the New Haven Review, and a story “No Breather in the World But Thee,” which sold to John Joseph Adams’ Nightmare magazine for publication in 2013. In addition, the graphic novel version of my story “The Situation,” art by Eric Orchard, ran on early in the year. (Hopefully, it’ll be remembered by Hugo voters.) I started work, too, on the second volume of the Southern Reach series, Authority, and mapped out the third, Acceptance.

(Ann’s son Jason with Weird Tales.)

In terms of publishing projects, our Cheeky Frawg imprint published not just Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath, but also Don’t Pay Bad for Bad by Amos Tutuola and Tainaron by Leena Krohn (going live in a day or two). Jagannath has made many year’s best lists, been enthusiastically blurbed by Mieville and Le Guin among others, got a rave review on NPR’s All Things Considered, and received many other great reviews. We also firmed up a schedule for 2013 that includes a 900-page omnibus of Finnish writer Leena Krohn’s fiction and a new novel of Krohn’s translated into English, Datura. We also facilitated Wyrm Publishing/Ministry of Whimsy publishing putting out an ebook of Stepan Chapman’s The Troika, which we originally published in the 1990s and which won the Philip K. Dick Award. All of these books had covers by Jeremy Zerfoss, who did a wonderful job. The ebook interiors were all done by Neil Clarke. Our staff for Cheeky Frawg included Teri Goulding, Adam Mills, Dominik Parisien, Val Grimm, and Desirina Boskovich.

(Dustin Monk’s contribution)

In the middle of the year, I went off to teach at Stonecoast in Maine, and that was the start of a drive down the coast of Maine with Adam Mills, on our way to ReaderCon, which was a lot of fun. I read from Annihilation for the first time and participated on a lot of panels, had a lot of great conversations. From there I drove down the coast again all the way down to Newport, Rhode Island, where I did an amazing walk along the coast looking at mansions, it turning into a great adventure in the rain. I wound up walking about 15 miles to get back to the hotel and it was one of the best times of my life. From there, I continued to follow the coast as long as I could before turning in toward Spartanburg, South Carolina, there to teach for two weeks as the co-director of Shared Worlds, a unique teen SF/F writing camp, along with such wonderful guests as Naomi Novik, Tobias Buckell, Nathan Ballingrud, Will Hindmarch, Tobias Buckell, and more.

ann2--ramsey - Windows Photo Viewer_2012-12-18_12-34-09
(Ramsey Shehadeh’s contribution)

From there, it was home again to work on Wonderbook, which has taken most of my time along with promotion for Tidbeck’s Jagannath. We had one trip, to the aforementioned Minneapolis Book Fair (thanks, Tor), where we had the pleasure of meeting, among others, Kelly Barnhill and her family, William Alexander just weeks before he won the National Book Award, and the editors of Rain Taxi (sponsors of the event), who are old friends. I also almost met Mark Danielewski, but by the time we were at a dinner party together, the meter on my meet-and-greet had run out, and I contented myself with lounging in the living room looking from time to time at the back of his hat-topped head. Sometimes you just know when you’ve had enough. (I am also happy to report, on an unrelated note, that I got into far fewer internet arguments than in the past and in general managed to avoid getting sucked into endless tactical situations that just suck time away from the writing.)

leopard and man adjusted
(Rhys Hughes’s contribution–part of text-and-image retelling the tale of the time he carried Ann across a river.)

Ann spent much of the latter part of the year working on the as-yet-untitled feminist speculative fiction anthology, which has been delayed a couple of times but which we are making progress on. She also was acquiring stories for from exciting new writers like Kali Wallace and John Chu, among others.

By year’s end, too, we had several book sales through our new agent, for projects to be published in 2013 and 2014.

–My Southern Reach trilogy, about a strange “forbidden zone” on an unnamed coast, sold to Sean MacDonald at Farrar, Strauss & Giroux in a rather awesome three-book, six-figure deal. This deal means I’ll be writing fiction for the foreseeable future.

— The Steampunk Users Manual—about cutting edge retrofuturism—sold to David Cashion at Abrams Image in an excellent deal. This is a collaboration with S.J. Chambers.

–The Time Travelers Almanac—the ultimate 500,000-word reprint time travel anthology—sold to Nic Cheetham at Head of Zeus, a new commercial press in the UK (with US publisher to follow). This is another project with Ann. We will have an open reading period in January.

In addition, I had made more progress on other novels, including Borne, The Book Murderer, and The Journals of Doctor Mormeck. I expect that in addition to the Southern Reach trilogy, these three will be finished in short order over the next couple of years.

mail for ann
(Desirina Boskovich’s contribution.)

As ever, our mission throughout the year was to help foster community, to be of use in highlighting the history of non-realistic fiction, to help bring new translations to English-language readers, to help new writers, and to be committed to diversity of all kinds in our publishing efforts. We also continued to be guided by our mission of ignoring artificial divisions between so-called “genre” and so-called “mainstream.” allowed us to spotlight a lot of fascinating material from around the world, too.

(Erin Underwood’s contribution.)

With 2013 coming ever closer, Ann and I would just like to thank everyone for their support and enthusiasm for our writing and editing projects. There are too many of you to name, but know that any and all encouragement is very important—to know that the work is of use and also because we set a pretty fast pace for ourselves and it can be fatiguing. Ann was particularly moved by all of the support during the trials and tribulations involving Weird Tales. This meant a lot to her, and made her feel as if it wasn’t just her fight alone. I’d like to add that Ann always makes me proud to be her husband, but that the way she handled everything during that time was inspirational to me and just showed a ton of class.

So, thank you—and here’s looking forward to 2013!! Below the cut find writer/artist Leah Thomas’s really wonderful comics contribution to Ann’s Weird Tales scrapbook, which seems appropriate to post going into the new year.





  1. says

    Congratulations on all your successes and good experiences in 2012!

    May 2013 bring many more!

    Wishing Ann and you and the rest of your family a peaceful and relaxing Christmas celebration!