Archive for August, 2014

The Southern Reach Trilogy at the Decatur Book Festival: This Sunday!

Jeff VanderMeer • August 29th, 2014 • News

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(Sneak peek at the slideshow for Sunday’s event)

“I’m loving the Southern Reach trilogy…Creepy and fascinating.” – Stephen King

“A masterpiece.” – The Guardian, on Acceptance

I’ll be appearing Sunday, August 31, 1:15 at the Decatur Recreation Center Gym, with my wife, Ann, for a Decatur Book Festival event. Afterwards, I’ll be signing books. Acceptance *will* be available there, two days early.

Touching on ecological themes and set in a transformed South, the Southern Reach trilogy chronicles the attempts of a secret government agency to discovery the mystery behind Area X, a pristine wilderness suddenly closed off from the rest of civilization by a strange event 30 years before. Award-winning editor Ann VanderMeer will interview Jeff VanderMeer after a brief reading from the third novel in the series, Acceptance. A Southern Reach slideshow will feature the real-life wilderness places that inspired the trilogy and show off the amazing variety of cover designs for the foreign language editions. (As featured in Entertainment Weekly).

UK Book Tour: The Important Part, the Books Acquired!

Jeff VanderMeer • August 28th, 2014 • Book Reviews

I’ll do a blog post about two weeks spent on the road in the UK doing book and book-like events. But for now, the important thing: The report on the books bought while over there! I think you’ll find some intriguing titles here…

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–The new Murakami novel is written in a plain style probably reflecting the kind of everyman main character. I’m about seventy pages in and enjoying it for the unfolding story rather than any particular element of the prose.

–Philippe Claudel’s The Investigation I discovered at the very dangerous bookstore at the Edinburgh book festival, and the cover alone was enough to make me buy the novel. But the Kafkaesque situation of an Investigator sent to a provincial town to report on a series of mysterious deaths at The Firm certainly didn’t hurt!

–Antwerp by Robert Bolaño, discovered in a discount bookstore on the fringe of Dublin’s Temple Bar. It’s got the concision of prose poetry and that dreamy quality, too. The last Bolaño to be acquired.

–David Vann’s Caribou Island was pretty exceptional, so I didn’t hesitate to pick up his Legend of a Suicide at Mr. B’s Book Emporium in Bath. The novel’s about a man still struggling with the death of his father, but as with all of Vann’s work the unique qualities are in his characterization, situations, and prose more than the over-arching story being told.

–Picked up at the Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and End of the World is one of two novels by this likely Nobel Prize winner I haven’t yet read. Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, btw, is a wonderful place to shop, with a collection of books in part curated by the awesome Ellie Wixon.

–My wife Ann selected The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson, also at Blackwell’s. A ruthless secret service. A woman run over by a drunken engineer. All of it apparently hilarious. (Speaking of novels with Girl in the title, Ann read The Girl With All the Gifts and liked it, although she said it started strong and got a bit weak by the end.)

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–Our friend Neil Williamson bought Kirsty Logan’s short story collection The Rental Heart for us, and, man, am I glad he did. I’m about half-way through and I love the stories. Quirky, sometimes fantastical. Strong, strong stuff–definitely seek it out.

–Since the Southern Reach trilogy started to come out, many readers have been recommending Jim Crace to me, so I finally picked up a couple of his early titles while on the road.

–Pascal Garnier is a dark, dark writer of gritty pseudo-noir and creepy kind of Decadent but realistic tales of down-and-out and downright strange people. Reminds me a little bit of the work of Derek Raymond, although in a slightly different register. All of these were picked up at Mr. B’s Book Emporium, recommended by the staff and by Peter Sutton and his wife Claire, who were our gracious hosts while in that part of the country. Mr B’s is a rather remarkable bookstore that I highly recommend. Lovely people work there, too.

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–Off the Map by Alastair Bonnett, picked up by Ann at the Edinburgh Book Festival bookstore, is an astonishing book. I’m about half-way through this collection of essays about lost spaces, invisible cities, forgotten islands, and feral places. Just stunning. The author is incredibly compelling in the tales he tells, and his central thesis about how the human imagination needs places off the map. Even just the bit about the US Navy sending out military vessels to expunge an imaginary island is surreal and fascinating. Other books on this theme have been published, but this is my favorite thus far. A 2014 release.

–It was my pleasure to blurb The Moon King, a first novel by Neil Williamson, and also a pleasure to receive a copy from him while in Glasgow. It’s a lovely hardcover edition.

–Owls by Mike Toms is one in a series of naturalist volumes by the imprint William Collins and it’s a fascinating book. A guide to owls, very comprehensive and well-structured. I picked it up in a lovely Waterstones store near Covent Garden.

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–I’ve heard good things about Ali Smith and this collection, Shire, with images by Sarah Wood, just begged to be bought. Stylish, nicely designed. I bought it at Topping & Company in Bath, along with the other books in that row. Topping, like Mr. B’s, is a rather amazing bookstore and I was delighted to be able to drop by and talk to their staff.

–Robin Sloan has a prequel to his famous Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and it’s rather smartly designed too, so I couldn’t not pick it up.

–I hadn’t encountered Bloomsbury Classics before, in these miniature editions. A tiny collection of Will Self fiction? Sign me up! Now I’m in danger of wanting the entire series.

–To my abiding shame, I had fallen behind on my Margaret Atwood reading and hadn’t yet gotten around to reading her MaddAddam trilogy, although I’ve read most everything else. Then I encountered these amazing trade paperback versions in Blackwell’s and I just had to have them. I read Oryx & Crake on the plane home and thought it was brilliant and sad and awful and tragic and wonderful and all of those things that a great novel should be.

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–I know absolutely nothing about Eduardo Belgrano Rawson or his book Washing Dishes in Hotel Paradise but when I saw the following quote on the back of the book I had to buy it: “Suddenly he spotted Borges waiting to cross the road…” Another Mr B’s purchase.

–Another Pascal Garnier, The Panda Theory, which I also read on the plane back. I loved the first three-fourths and then felt it fell apart. But I loved that three-fourths enough to recommend the novel. Some amazing turns of phrase and observations about the human condition.

–The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya is just barking mad in the best possible way, a future dystopia that reads in part like fairy tale, full of towering feats of the imagination. An untamed whirlwind of a novel–and that’s just the first ten pages! Can’t wait to dive into more of it. Thanks again to Mr. B’s for this recommendation.

–The Murakami with the, ahem, stickers inside. (Yes, it is being sent to you, Mr. DB, very soon.)

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–Fat Years by Chan Koonchung was an impulse buy by Ann that looks very interesting. About a month that goes missing in the near future. Another Mr. B’s rec.

–Lee Rourke’s Vulgar Things was gifted to me by The Fourth Estate while I was signing over at HarperCollins UK’s central offices. The novel just looked fascinating. A quixotic week on an island after the death of a relative of the main character. With some linguistic trickeration, among other things.

–I couldn’t resist The Exploits of Moominpapa by Tove Jansson in a beautiful hardcover, found in the Moomin Shop in Covent Garden, London.

–Technically, I received the Bolano Last Interview book from Melville right before I left, but I read it on the plane over to the UK. Really a great book about a brilliant writer’s work. Well worth checking out.

–Independence An Argument for Home Rule I bought not just because I support Scotland achieving home rule, but also because I cannot resist, ever, any book that has art from Alasdair Gray on the cover.

–Ann finally picked up The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, a novel we’ve both wanted to read for a long time…but I think you all know what it’s about, so I won’t tarry here…

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–Two John Wyndham novels, Trouble with Lichen and The Day of the Triffids, bookend this photo. Again, readers have told me to check these out ever since the Southern Reach novels started being published in February. Ann picked them up in a cool used bookstore on the edge of the Trinity College area in Dublin.

–In Bath, Tom Abba was kind enough to gift us with an amazing hand-made book with two chapbooks saddle-stapled to the interior of the amazingly supple single piece of worked wood that folds across both as a kind of hard dustjacket. It’s difficult to describe the intricacies of this project, so I’ll just guide you over here for more information. Just a stunning piece of conceptual art and also concrete book-making.

–Having just been brutally disappointed by Edward St. Aubyn’s lackluster Lost For Words (tip: if you’re going to do book culture satire, go for the jugular vein unless you want to up in some lukewarm purgatory of not-interesting-enough), it’s brave of me (yay me?) to dip back into another satire, but this title by Filippo Bologna looked very interesting. Another Blackwell’s purchase, Bologna’s The Parrots concerns three men preparing to do battle over a prestigious literary prize.

–Finally, another Philippe Claudel title, Brodeck’s Report. I’m a sucker for novels about reports, apparently. A stranger is murdered. The title character then files a report. Honestly, I think this will be great. Your mileage may vary depending on your love of reports in fiction….

Wonderbook Workshop at the Center for Literature in Miami

Jeff VanderMeer • August 12th, 2014 • News

Wonderbook

Before participating in the Miami Book Fair, I’ll be leading a workshop at the Center for Literature at Miami Dade College–November 19-21. Here’s information on the workshop. You can sign up here. Space is limited.

Wonderbook has been taught at Brown, the Yale Writers’ Conference, University of California, San Diego (Clarion), and many others. It is currently a finalist for the Hugo Award.

***

How do you balance the practical and the imaginative in your writing and revision? How can you merge the organic, subconscious elements of your fiction with the need to be analytical? Learn the answers as you critique manuscripts with and receive instruction from Jeff VanderMeer, author of the award-winning Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, the world’s first fully illustrated fiction-writing guide.

Exercises (some as take-aways) will include finding the autobiographical in the fantastical, use of freedom and constraint to energize even the most traditional approaches, and analysis of successful but atypical scenes as the jumping-off point for discussion of characterization, setting, and the numinous. VanderMeer’s critiques will provide you with detailed specific feedback on your story but also general analysis that will help you with all of your fiction. This workshop is suitable for-and welcomes-all modes and styles of fiction. Join what promises to be a diverse group of beginning and intermediate writers for a workshop that is fun, energizing, and uniquely illuminating.

Jeff VanderMeer’s most recent fiction is the NYT-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance), released in 2014. This highly-praised series lauded by the likes of Stephen King, Karen Joy Fowler, and Robin Sloan has been acquired by publishers in 16 other countries.

His Wonderbook, the world’s first fully illustrated, full-color creative writing guide, has won multiple awards, been featured prominently in national media, and is taught at many universities. VanderMeer has edited or coedited over a dozen iconic fiction anthologies, has taught at, among others, the Yale Writers’ Conference and the University of California at San Diego, lectured at MIT and the Library of Congress, and serves as the co-director of Shared Worlds, a unique teen writing camp located at Wofford College. Previous novels include the Ambergris Cycle, with nonfiction titles including Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer and the essay collection Monstrous Creatures. Through an imprint VanderMeer founded he publishes award-winning fiction in translation, primarily from Finland and Sweden. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, the noted editor Ann VanderMeer.

Acceptance Southern Reach U.S. Book Tour: Mark Your Calendars

Jeff VanderMeer • August 10th, 2014 • News

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(Barn owl)

“I’m loving the Southern Reach trilogy…Creepy and fascinating.” – Stephen King

Acceptance officially comes out September 2–the concluding volume of my trilogy about the increasingly urgent search for answers about the mysterious Area X. I’ll be touring behind the novel’s release, with some expectation that copies may be available in time for the Decatur Book Festival, too. Here’s the general information so you have it early, with specifics and possible additional events to follow.

Most of these events are some combination of reading and Q&A, with anecdotes about writing the books that range from strange wilderness experiences to weird workplace experiences. With slideshow where possible. If you need more information on the series, this lovely roundup gives you maximum information.

August 29–31–Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, GA

September 21–Brooklyn Book Festival

September 22 – Housing Works (with Lev Grossman & Laura Beukes) in New York, NY

September 25, 7:30pm–Free Library in Philadelphia, PA (with live owl; additional event partners Geekadelphia and The Academy of Natural Sciences)

September 27, 6pm–Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, DC

September 28–Baltimore Book Festival

September 30–Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA

October 25–26–Texas Book Festival in Austin, TX

November 15, Functionally Literate reading series (with Usman Tanveer Malik) in Orlando

November 19-21–The Center for Literature, Wonderbook workshop (cosponsored by the Miami International Book Fair) in Miami – must sign up for the workshop

November 22–Miami Book Fair International

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Southern Reach U.K. Book Tour: London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, Bristol, Bath

Jeff VanderMeer • August 8th, 2014 • News

The Southern Reach U.K. book tour is locked in place. You’ll find the details below. Ann VanderMeer, the noted editor/anthologist and my wife, will be along for the entire tour and has her own list of events at WorldCon. We’re also doing some events together. Please note: Some bookstores will have the third novel in the Southern Reach trilogy, Acceptance, early and available for my signings. We’re excited about meeting old friends and making new ones. Don’t be shy at WorldCon, the Edinburgh festival, or Eurocon in Dublin!

LONDON

Thurs, Aug. 14, 4-5pm: Forbidden Planet reading & signing – I’ll talk a little bit about the Southern Reach trilogy and read from Acceptance, before signing books. Ann will be with me, so if you buy any of our anthologies you can get both of our signatures.

WORLDCON (ExCeL, London Dockland)

See the full list of panels Ann and I are on, below the cut. Here are the two non-panel events of interest.

Fri, Aug. 15, 7pm: Reading—I’ll tell some weird workplace tales, read from Authority and preview Acceptance; someone will win a free book and since it won’t go a full hour, I’m happy to sign people’s books afterwards. (London Suite 1, ExCeL)

Sat, Aug. 16, 6pm: Literary Beer—Sign up or drop by, not sure of the rules, and we’ll shoot the breeze for an hour. Wonderbook artist Jeremy Zerfoss might drop in. (The Bar, ExCeL)

EDINBURGH

Tues, Aug. 19, 8:30pm: Edinburgh International Book Festival event: Fantasy That’s Terrifyingly Believable…”He’s already an HBO scriptwriter who writes novels for teenagers. Now Edinburgh-based Charlie Fletcher has added adult fiction to his CV with The Oversight, a fabulous Gothic fantasy. The astonishing Annihilation is the first in Jeff VanderMeer’s ambitious Southern Reach trilogy of eco sci-fi novels, featuring the eerie Area X, and which will surely turn him into an international literary star. Chaired by Stuart Kelly.” (Tickets required.)

GLASGOW

Thurs, Aug. 21, 7pm: Glasgow Waterstones (Argyle Street). A talk with brief readings: Ann and Jeff VanderMeer with Neil Williamson, Amal El-Mohtar, and Hal Duncan. Tickets free; call to reserve. (This location will have Acceptance for sale for the event!)

DUBLIN

Sat, Aug. 23, 5-8pm: Eurocon, DoubleTree by Hilton, Dublin Burlington Road convention centre. Join Ann and me in the hotel bar to shoot the breeze. Note: You probably have to be a Eurocon member to attend. Hodges Figgs bookstore will be selling my books at the convention and I’ll be doing a segment on RTE Arena, an Irish radio program.

BRISTOL

Mon, Aug. 25, 7pm, at the Landsdown (8 Clifton Road): An evening with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. Small Stories have teamed up with Bristol Festival of Literature, Wizards Tower Press & BristolCon to bring you an evening with husband and wife publishing powerhouses Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. Ann & Jeff will be in conversation with Cheryl Morgan and will be answering those questions you’ve always wanted to ask an award winning editor and author. There will also be a chance to get your books signed. (Q&A, brief reading, performance; free, but tickets required)

BATH

Tues, 7pm, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights (14/15 John Street): In conversation with Jeff VanderMeer, including brief reading. Free, but a ticketed event.

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Clarion San Diego SF/F Writers’ Workshop 2014: Selected Sentences

Jeff VanderMeer • August 1st, 2014 • News

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(Click for a larger version.)

Ann VanderMeer and I have finished anchoring the last two weeks of the Clarion San Diego SF/Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. The instructors in the other four weeks were Gregory Frost, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne M. Valente, and N.K. Jemisin. Thanks to Shelley Streeby and Laura Martin, who run Clarion on the UCSD side, for doing a great job.

We had a great time with these students–not just great writers but also really interesting people–and we are just so happy about now sitting back and getting a chance to read all of the amazing fiction they’ll be writing post-Clarion. This is one of the privileges of teaching creative writing: to come into contact with imaginations and world views that are unique and full of life and depth.

Wednesday at our Mysterious Galaxy reading, Ann read a sentence from each student, and I’ve posted them below so you, too, can get a small sample of what’s in store for the future. Take note of these names, because you’ll be hearing a lot more from these writers.

So, congrats to the Clarion class of 2014–it was a real pleasure and honor to get to know you and be able to read your stories. We learned a lot from you. Much love from both of us.

***

Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi: And though it had been sixty years since Margaret had fed Kane, she knew instantly, absolutely his favorite things to eat were the seeds of mesquite, creosote bush and prairie broomweed, precisely the plants that were growing wild in her yard.

Martin Cahill: He descended on the town like a star from Dark Heaven, salamander six-guns shining like twin suns, a flask of firespice ringing against his hip like a bell that tolled of his coming.

Ryan Campbell: The two men at the door look like little buildings: one poorly made and beginning to crumble; the other new and modern and glassy with a smile like a receptionist.

Amin Chehelnabi: This sudden moment was three things to Ashraff: the silence between words, the pauses between breaths, and the eternal quiet of the Olympian Gods in council.

Nino Cipri: His first cellmate nicknames him Maps, because that is what Sal hangs on the walls.

Vida Cruz: Sit beneath the shade, child, and I, Saha, will tell you how the mango came to be.

A.J. Fitzwater: In the third month after the cities collide, the girls dance out of the walls.

Noah Keller: I know of a jewel of dust, in a creaking drawer in a dresser with a thousand knobs.

Leena Likitalo: Ocelia, my little sister, I will reclaim your feathers.

Zach Lisbeth: After an epic battle (which has already been approximated in several oral traditions) Maggie defeated the Boneless Emperor and his Band of Belligerent Boys (most of them turned out to be more misguided than belligerent, but such is the fickle nature of alliterative names).

Haralambi Markov: The kiss that came well before love and whose memory outlasted every definition of the word.

Manish Melwani: I digest the cosmos, fermenting star-stuff in my infinite guts.

Kristen Roupenian: She had carried her daughter home to David for safekeeping, but David—half-mad with fear, not knowing what he had—had lost her: yes, he said, please, take care of this for us, and so Lily’s body disappeared into a basement furnace and burned along with waste and needles and other unloved things, and when Anna woke up and opened her arms for her daughter, David had nothing to give her.

Ellie Rhymer: I dreamed about the moon last night, so full that it burst its seams, and you and I ate pears from orchards watered by the silver moonbeam deluge.

Kayla Whaley: Sunlight trailed in behind us, as if light could stick to your sneakers as easily as mud.

Marian Womack: One believes in mirages because there are no dreams, and one must believe in something.

Tamara Vardomskaya: And as we lie, in bed in his arms, on the carpet floor alone with the TV show still chattering empty stupidities, we seek to find our centre and we can’t.

Sarena Ulibarri: The Elders said that lightning used to follow the wires from one side of the world to the other, until the sun reached a finger across space and snapped the wires with a single flick.