Authority News: Bookworm, City Lights, NYT Bestseller List, Entertainment Weekly’s Must List, Teasers, and More

(Me with Eric J. Lawrence and Michael Silverblatt in back.)

–Read the first chapter of Authority here.

–Interactive map and other Authority goodies here.

Authority, the second Southern Reach novel, has gotten off to a good start–I’m told it’s made the next New York Times bestseller list!! This on the heels of Annihilation topping Locus Magazine’s trade paper bestseller list for May.

In addition, Bookworm broadcast their interview with me, conducted while I was in California for the LAT Festival of Books. Michael Silverblatt’s program has been a favorite of mine for a while–check out these great interviews with Will Self and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for example. This time around Eric J. Lawrence, who does a music program out of the same radio station, sat in and contributed to the conversation. I had a lot of fun, and both hosts were very kind as we talked for about 20 minutes before doing the interview, about a variety of fascinating topics–I kinda wish that bit had been recorded too. For one thing, they got me past this kind of wince I’d developed expecting the genre-vs-mainstream question. I was also quite touched that Silverblatt had brought into the studio every book of mine he’d been sent, stretching back to the 1990s.

I also annotated this excerpt from Authority for PoetryGenius–I’m rather happy with how this turned out, with “found objects” I added. Hope you’ll check it out.

So on top of all of that, you can imagine how surreal I found this: Entertainment Weekly picking Authority for their Must List along with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Steve Carell–this after their enthusiastic review in the magazine itself and a shout-out to Annihilation on their site’s Shelf Life feature.

Interviews have appeared at Raw Story, BuzzFeed, Bookmunch,, My Bookish Ways, and LitReactor. I’ve tried to put a lot of care into my responses, and I hope you enjoy them. Radio/podcasts have included Studio 360 and Rick Kleffel’s awesome Agony Column.

In addition to Authority making several best-of-month lists, I’ve also been blessed with some truly great reviews, including those by Michael Matheson, the Raging Bibliophile, Nisi Shawl at The Seattle Times, The Times (UK), Pete Sutton, Rick Kleffel at The Agony Column, My Bookish Ways, Bookmunch, and Geekadelphia. Also, this piece about What Writers Can Learn from Authority.

There’s a lot more coverage coming, a cool new project I’m involved with that’ll be announced next week, and also an interview on To the Best of Our Knowledge, among other things.

I also just want to say–I really appreciate your support for these trippy, weird novels. It means a lot. If you enjoy them, please keep recommending them to friends, neighbors, and even enemies and frenemies.

Finally, here are some out-of-context paragraphs from Authority for your enjoyment. You can hear me read them out-loud on this City Lights podcast, along with an exclusive excerpt from Acceptance, the third novel, out in September, and, of course, a reading from Annihilation.


She’d already managed to attach an ironic weight to his name, so he felt as if he were the sinker on one of his grandpa’s fly rods, destined for the silt near the bottom of dozens of lakes.

This, too, had at one time been new, perhaps sometime in the Cretaceous Period, and the building had probably been there then in some form, reverse engineered so far into the past that you could still look out the windows and see dragonflies as big as vultures.

Along the walls, at shoulder height, both rooms were lined with flaccid long black gloves that hung in a way that Control could only think of as dejected.
He had a sudden impression of there being two Whitbys, one lurking inside the other. Or even three, nestled inside one another.

Then he thought he detected a faint murmur of the tone of the kinds of sloth-like yet finicky lunatics who stuck newspaper articles and internet print-outs to the walls of their mother’s basements. Creating—glue-stick by glue-stick and thumbtack by thumbtack—their own single-use universes. But such tracts, such philosophies, rarely seemed as melancholy or as simultaneously earthy yet ethereal as these sentences.

They were huddled around the world’s smallest conference table/stool, on which Control had placed the pot with the plant and mouse.

Like, if someone or something is trying to jam information inside your head using words you understand but a meaning you don’t, it’s not even that it’s not on a bandwidth you can receive—it’s much worse. Like, if the message were a knife and it created its meaning by cutting into meat and your head is the receiver and the tip of that knife is being shoved into your ear over and over again…”

If you quacked like a scientist and waddled like a scientist, soon, to non-scientists, you became the subject under discussion and not a person at all.

According to a labyrinthine hierarchical chart that resembled several thick snakes fucking each other, the Southern Reach was under the army’s jurisdiction here, which might be why the Southern Reach facility, closed down between expeditions, looked a bit like a row of large tents that had been made of lemon meringue frosting. Which is to say, it looked like any number of the richer Southern Baptist churches Control had been familiar with in his teenage years, usually because of whatever girl he was dating.

“Abuela to bishop’s seven” as a move had set them both to giggling.

“This is a box full of accusations,” Grace said, holding it toward him like an offering. With this jewelry box, I thee despise.

The screaming had gone on and on toward the end. The one holding the camera hadn’t seemed human. Wake up, he had pleaded with the members of the first expedition as he watched. Wake up and understand what is happening to you. But they never did. They couldn’t. They were miles away, and he was more than thirty years too late to warn them.

It was an old scar by now for Control, even if it seemed like a fresh wound to every scavenger that tried to dip their beak or snout into it, to tear away some spoiled meat.

To reanimate the emotions of a dead script, he had started thinking of things like “topographical anomalies” and “video of the first expedition” and “hypnotic conditioning”—inverse to the extreme where ritual decreed he hold words in his head like “horrible goiter” and “math homework” to stop from coming too soon during sex.

Sunday. An ice pick lodged in a brain already suffused with the corona of a dull but persistent headache that radiated forward from a throbbing bolus at the back of his skull. A kind of pulsing satellite defense shield protecting against anything more hostile that might sag into its decaying orbit.

“Well, it’s the high ceilings, isn’t it? Makes you see things aren’t there. Makes the things you do see look like other things. A bird can be a bat. A bat can be a piece of floating plastic bag. Way of the world. To see things as other things. Bird-leafs. Bat-birds. Shadows made of lights. Sounds that are incidental but seem more significant. Never going to seem any different wherever you go.”

The truth was, if the man who had looked like the high school quarterback had turned into something monstrous and torn him out into the night, part of Control wouldn’t have minded, because he would have been closer to the truth about Area X, and even if the truth was a fucking maw, a fanged maw, that stank like a cave full of putrifying corpses, that was still closer than he was now.

Now he would inhabit the very center of corridors. He would put no hand to any surface. He would behave like a ghost that knew if it made contact with anyone or anything its touch would slide through and that creature would then know that it existed in a state of purgatory.

Megalodon mad. Megalodon not happy. Megalodon have tantrum.

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(Image by Jeremy Zerfoss, featured in this John Scalzi Big Idea post…)

“VanderMeer’s masterful command of the plot, his cast of characters, and the increasingly desperate situation will leave the reader desperate for the final volume in the trilogy.” – Starred review, Publishers Weekly


  1. says

    Review of ANNIHILATION: This book reminds me of my two favorite science fiction films: STALKER and SOLARIS. STALKER – because Area X was produced by an unknown Event creating a dangerous region, like the Zone, where ordinary reality’s expectations and laws are flouted in unpredictable ways, perhaps due to the action of alien beings or artefacts. SOLARIS – because there seems to be a vast entity that may be experimenting on us or perhaps trying to communicate with us by incomprehensible means, including the creation of replicas with incomplete versions of the memories of the originals. Despite the constant sense of danger and the eerie deaths I did not feel that this book was a tale of Horror, even if the characters may have experienced horror. This is a different thing from us experiencing horror in reading it, which does happen but is not the dominant mood or emotion for me. What dominates is rather estrangement (Area X does not play by the same rules as ordinary reality), ontological and not just epistemological uncertainty (we do not know what is happening, but identities themselves become dubious constructs), and wonder (there is at least as much of the wondrous as of the horrifying).

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