From April 24 through December 1, I will have limited internet access and only be checking my email sporadically, so I can work on my novels. If you have a query related to book rights, please contact my agent Sally Harding at the Cooke Agency. If you have a question regarding event bookings or an urgent matter that cannot wait, please email my wife, Ann VanderMeer, or use the contact form here on my blog.
Bob Kelly and his cohorts at Tribe have wanted to do a stage production of “Dradin, In Love,” from City of Saints & Madmen, my book set in the imaginary metropolis of Ambergris, for awhile—and now they’re doing it! May 22-25 of this month at The Granary in Cork, Ireland. They’ve trained with a very physical theater group, so it should be an interesting production.
I’ll have more information and inside looks at the production next week, but for now here’s a link to the description on The Granary’s website and also, below, one of their more esoteric (and fun) fliers for the event, incorporating text from City of Saints.
I can also share that they’ll be using my story “The Exchange” as an interlude between acts.
I just thought I’d say that: Publishing is full of creative, interesting people. For an industry that’s supposedly dying–something I don’t believe–I certainly have met some of the most interesting and dynamic individuals over the last few days. Invigorating and inspiring.
In other news, German rights to the Southern Reach series have sold, with more to follow. The note about the series from the German editor is one of the best I’ve ever received–hopefully might share a bit of it later if he doesn’t mind. (I’m motoring along on Authority, the second novel in that series.)
I’m also happy to say I’ll have news on a stage production of my novella “Dradin, In Love,” set in Ambergris, in a few days. It’s sprouted up as quickly as a mushroom, which seems appropriate.
Right. Back down the rabbit hole.
So, there has been more good news for the Southern Reach series (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) on the foreign rights front. The Spanish rights have sold to the absolutely first-rate publisher Seix Barral and the Dutch rights have sold to the equally high-class De Bezige Bij. Just as good: Andrea Cannobio at Einaudi took the Italian rights. They all publish some of my favorite authors.
Some more information on the deals mentioned in a prior blog post. The trilogy went to Nicholas Pearson at Fourth Estate, in a six-figure pre-empt; to Iris Tupholme at Harper Canada, in another six-figure pre-empt, to Intrinseca in Brazil, in a pre-empt as well.
Hungarian rights have also sold, but I’m waiting for details before posting about that, and a few other deals will come through in the next week or two. I’m just…well, stunned, appreciative, over-the-moon–these are just powerhouse publishers.
I’ll also have more information on the publication schedule for the Southern Reach trilogy through FSG in the U.S. and, hopefully, some updates on the progress on the possible movies.
I’m currently digging in to finish off the second and third novels in the trilogy. But I’m also hoping in the coming weeks to blog more–and not updates but actual posts about craft, along with some reviews of books read recently. I’m off of social media until November, and only on the internet very rarely now. One nice thing about being off the internet for long stretches is you find your attention span comes back to you, and I’m having a great time diving into some very long, very convoluted, and very satisfying novels.
P.S. Karen Joy Fowler asked for a wild animal encounter–I gave her this post about seeing a Florida panther. It kind of fits with the Southern Reach series, since the landscape, transformed, is really the North Florida trails I’ve hiked for the past 15 years.
One reason I’ve been so quiet here on my blog is that I’ve been working nonstop on Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. This is the world’s first fully illustrated, full-color guide to creative writing, with many of the images replacing instructional text. Jeremy Zerfoss did most of the art; his instructional diagrams are based on my rough sketches. The remaining art comes from over 30 artists from all over the world. More than 80 writers contributed to the book through sidebar essays, spotlight features, or just quotes in the main text. (I’ll have a full TOC posted closer to the publication date.) There are over 250 images in Wonderbook.
I cannot thank Abrams Image, my publisher, and David Cashion, my editor, enough. They gave me the budget, time, and support to go off and create the entire 352-page book from scratch–overseeing all aspects of the art and design–and to deliver it to them complete. I cannot think of another time that this has occurred, and it may never again. I feel incredibly lucky.
But as we finish up on the book–we’ve turned in the layouts to the publisher, and are just working on a last few images–I thought I’d share some teasers here from the book so you can begin to get an idea of it. I’m not going to post much from the innovative instructional diagrams, but you can probably still get some sense of the scope. Basically, this book is meant to be of use to any beginning or intermediate writer, but its foundation is in the fantastical. Most general writing books use realism as their foundational stance…
Announcing…IT CAME FROM THE NORTH, Volume 1, edited by Desirina Boskovich, to be published as an e-book by Cheeky Frawg. This will be a sampler of Finnish speculative fiction. Here is the relevant information…
Submissions can be sent to: email@example.com. The deadline is May 30 of this year. Open to both reprints and originals, 10,000 words or less. Must be available in English translation. Boskovich says, “Anything with a speculative or fantastic or weird bent is welcome (though those boundaries will not be rigidly applied). People should also feel welcome to send suggestions to that address, as well as any questions they have.” Normal reprint rates apply. If the e-book is successful, there will be additional volumes featuring Scandinavian countries—and the volumes may be collected in a print omnibus.
We realize that this is a tight deadline, but the e-book will be published alongside our publication in October of books by two Finnish writers: Leena Krohn’s Datura and Jyrki Vainonen’s The Explorer & Other Stories.
The Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) has sold in three separate rather stunning pre-empt deals: Canadian rights to HarperCollins Canada, Brazilian rights to Intrinseca, and UK rights to The Fourth Estate (which also publishes Michael Chabon, Hilary Mantel, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). I’m thrilled because they’re all three great publishers. As the London Book Fair approaches, I should have more news about other deals. This on the heels of the FSG book deal and Paramount movie rights deal. Many thanks to FSG and to my agent Sally Harding for their continuing awesome belief in this series.
I do plan to blog more here, but I have a few deadlines to take care of first.
As part of my attempts to be more consistent about blogging, I thought I’d share some relevant info and links about my Southern Reach series, which is coming out from FSG in 2014 and was just optioned by Paramount Pictures and Scott Rudin Productions. The novels are, in order, entitled Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. The subtext and thematic concerns of each play off of those titles in what I hope are somewhat sneaky ways. All three are also words used as hypnosis cues by one character to maintain control over other characters.
I posted a short synopsis of Annihilation, the first book, awhile back on this blog—as well as a short, rough-draft excerpt of the opening back when I finished it. A little later, I posted a bit from a section on the main character.
The mysterious Area X, a seemingly pristine wilderness protected by an invisible border, in which odd things are occurring, is heavily based on the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. I’ve hiked there for over 15 years now, and the 14-mile trail I do is basically (transformed) the setting for Annihilation. Although none of the strange things in the book have occurred to me while hiking, some form of them has. For example, being charged by a wild boar or the peculiar dislocation of encountering dolphins in freshwater canals beside the trail. Other sections of the novel are based on exploring Botanical Bay on Vancouver Island. And there are other real-world affinities that make Annihilation very personal to me. (You can find nonfiction about me hiking in St. Marks in this blog entry.)
Meanwhile, the second book, Authority, is set back across the border, in the world we all know. The main character goes by the nickname of “Control” and has just taken over as the new director of the Southern Reach, the secret government agency that oversees the often ill-fated expeditions into Area X, trying to find out what’s going on. Control is another character, like the biologist, who goes his own way, but has been protected by his pedigree as a third-generation spook. What he finds in the Southern Reach is an agency that, over 30 years, has become more and more eccentric and less logical in its approaches. Not only does he have to negotiate his way through a toxic, Kafkaesque work terrain, but new information from Area X makes his job, and the tasks before him, ever more perilous and important. This situation combines with the odd notes left by the former director and newly uncovered video footage from the first expedition to go into Area X to give the novel the outward texture of a thriller. Learning more about the invisible border and other elements also makes Authority rather tension-filled.
That’s pretty much all I’m willing to share about book two for now, except to say that it starts with a few shocks and just ramps up from there, but all of it firmly grounded in Control and his viewpoint on things.
Here are some other links of possible interest.
—Happy to see someone getting the texture/tone of the Southern Reach series right.
—Speculation here about how quickly the movie rights to the books were picked up. In actual fact, they read the first novel and loved it.
—Short piece that talks about the books not being YA. This is true. But the generalizations about YA speak more to the fact it’s a catch-all category than the actual quality of individual YA books.
–Indiewire places the Southern Reach series in the dystopia category. I think that’s legit from the brief descriptions of the novel out there, but I don’t view it as a dystopic vision, really.
I’m also happy to say I’m finished editing Annihilation for FSG, except for some mop-up, and I absolutely love my editor there, Sean MacDonald. Great notes and just the entire time I’ve felt we were on the same page. I think the novel is much better because of his involvement, and I feel very relaxed about the process of completing novels two and three.
A couple of people have asked me if I feel more pressure about completing the second and third novel after the movie deal news. The fact is, I don’t at all. If anything, I feel energized. It’s great enough that it’s Paramount, but Rudin’s production company has produced some of my all-time favorite films and they have a knack for turning novels into great movies, so it just motivates me even more. Nor does the idea of there potentially being movie versions out at all influence my writing process. I’m focused on doing what’s best for the novels, period.
So, in all possible ways, I think this is just a great situation to be in, and the only thing I’m grateful for is that it’s happening to me in my forties not when I was in my twenties or something. That twenty-something Jeff probably wouldn’t have been able to take it in stride, to be honest. Forty-something Jeff has pretty much experienced every possible scenario in publishing and it takes a lot to knock him out of his rhythm.
We meant to work all day while still here in Tampa, but took some time off this afternoon to go to the Cigar City Brewery and then Del Rio’s for dinner (a great Cuban place). But before that, we stopped by the Oxford Exchange Bookstore, which was recommended to us by Liz at USF (thanks!). What a great, well-curated, unique bookstore! Definitely worth it. I haven’t bought books in awhile, and I’m sorry to say I splurged. (Well, not too sorry.)
In this first photo, just a few notes. I’ve wanted the Lethem collection for awhile—can’t wait to dig into that. Snow I have in another edition, but the font was just not right for me, so this Everyman edition is a godsend. Weirdlife is about the search for unusual lifeforms. It’s a good refresher as I dive into the second Southern Reach novel, Authority, on a couple of areas of interest.
Peter Nadas’ sprawling novel set during the middle of the last century just was too enticing to pass up—just an amazing-looking book that I’m going to be immersed in, I’m sure. Ann wanted Miss Dreamville and the new Karen Russell collection, so I added on Swamplandia, to give it another go. The Nabokov biography I had to buy since I collect all things Nabokov, including nonfiction about him. This is probably around the 80th book in my collection. Its slant is that there is a lot of politics and whatnot in the backdrop and subtext of the master’s work. To which I say, well, DUH. Too bad a world-class style and verve can blind us to what’s staring out right in front of us.
Ann also wanted the New American Haggadah, which looks fascinating for a number of reasons. Viola Di Grado’s novel from one of my favorite imprints, Europa, just grabbed me from the first paragraph and I couldn’t pass it up. Similarly, Speedboat by Renata Adler, a reprint from the 1970s, captured me and wouldn’t let me go. It’s from another of my favorite presses, New York Review of Books, which does such a wonderful job of bringing fiction into the world that might not otherwise be in print. Buying How Fiction Works was another case of having an edition where I hated the font. This more portable, better-designed edition I’m already having more luck with. I don’t agree with Wood on everything, but it’s useful to engage with his ideas.
I was so happy to find The Best of Archy and Mehitabel—a lovely set of poems/adventures featuring a cat and a cockroach. Without Michael Moorcock mentioning Archy to me a decade ago I never would’ve discovered these too joyful miscreants. Ann wanted the Book of Nice, which I pointed out was from the same publisher has her perennial favorite Bad Cats. And the Oxford Exchange also has lovely notebooks, of which I purchased two.
The ambiance of the Oxford Exchange bookstore is rather amazing—the curating of the bookstore is eccentric in a meaningful rather than frivolous way. It is on the small side, but it makes the space count, and the selections seemed to hit my sweet spot rather more often than not. The many props, including manual typewriters and card catalogues, lend a real weight to the place as well. Beyond the bookstore is a more general gift store, a coffee shop, and a restaurant. All of it combined lends itself to a great experience—and across the street is the University of Tampa, with its steely minarets and nice river walk. I highly recommend you check out the bookstore if you are in the area.