Summer Reading Lists: Southern Reach Influences, Tove Jansson, Rachel Carson, and More

Jeff VanderMeer • May 27th, 2014 • News, Uncategorized

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(Google honoring Rachel Carson, born on this day in 1907)

For your summer reading consideration…first off the HuffPo list of ten influences on the Southern Reach trilogy, including Under the Sea-Wind by Rachel Carson:

This was the famous naturalist’s first book, and it contains her observations of several coastal environments in the 1930s. Taken just as an intricately detailed account, Under the Sea-Wind has a mesmerizing rhythm that places the reader under a spell. But not only does this book fascinate with its documenting of the lives of animals and the environment around them, it describes pre-World War II landscapes that today do not exist in quite this complexity. This chronicle is thus also an important account of our natural history.

I also contributed to a Conde Nast Traveler list of summer reading, along with David Sedaris and several others. I chose Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book as my classic summer read. Go check out the other recs.

My novel Authority made this New York Post list of the 29 best summer books, along with work by Emma Straub, Haruki Murakami, and more.

Authority’s also on this Tampa Bay Times best-of summer list, along with intriguing titles by Emma Donaghue and John Waters.

GQ’s list of May recommendations includes…um, you know, Authority, but also some *other* books that might be of interest.

If you’re looking for some rock-solid trade paperback fiction, the latest New York Times’ bestseller list includes quite a few interesting titles, including David Eggers’ The Circle. In a first for me, Authority also pops up on the list.

I should also point out this Coode Street podcast if you want some summer listening, in which Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan have a conversation with me. I think it turned out really well. Other recent episodes feature the likes of Joe Abercrombie. (I also highly recommend any of Bookworm’s interviews, except the one they did with this bastard.)

And, if you have a question through early June, I’m answering them over at Goodreads–at least one a day.

Finally, FSG Originals has a roundup of some of the great press for my novel, for those who are interested.

Annihilation: The Questions a Translator Asks

Jeff VanderMeer • May 25th, 2014 • Writing Tips

Having been involved as a publisher and as an editor in commissioning translations, I know what a difficult job it can be—and how the best translators are seeking a kind of truth about the words and the work so that they can convey it properly.

Every once in a while I’ll get questions about my novels from a translator commissioned by a foreign language publisher. I value these interactions because translators have to be careful readers. I tend to learn something about my own work. Sometimes, too, a translator will find an error, which I can then correct in the English-language editions.

Recently, Cristiana Mennella, the translator for the Italian edition of Annihilation, emailed me a series of questions. She needed, she said, to “make sure that I got everything right to do justice” to the book. While completing translations “all sorts of doubts come to mind…I don’t know if other translators do the same as me (meaning: are a nuisance like me), but I really need to get attuned to your writing as much as I can, also in anticipation of Authority…”

It’s not a nuisance at all, but a blessing—as it is any time you get to correspond with someone immersed in something you’ve written.

But I did think it might be interesting to readers to have a sense of what questions translators ask. So, with Mennella’s permission, you’ll find the bulk of her questions and my replies set out below.

Mennella has previously translated works by Edgar Allan Poe, Kathy Acker, William Vollman, George Saunders, Doris Lessing, and many more, so I believe I’m in good hands.

Annihilation and the rest of the Southern Reach trilogy will be published by Einaudi in Italy.


(Mennella)

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Star Wars: The Crazed Gruntbark Nesting Dolls Version

Jeff VanderMeer • May 25th, 2014 • Nonfiction

Popular Mechanics asked a number of writers, including me, for our thoughts on what the next Stars Wars movie should be–and you can read their thoughts here.

Mine, on the other hand, were too revolutionary and way too subversive to make it into the feature. As a practicing curmudgeon, and someone fairly ambivalent about the Star Wars franchise in general, I wasn’t too surprised or at all concerned about this development. BUT the truth must be told. So, here’s my idea for the next Star Wars movie in all of its amazing glory…GRUNTBARK MUST HAVE HIS DAY!

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A worm-hole in time opens up and the actions of the resistance result in Ewoks never existing. Meanwhile, a resurrected Darth Vader, cloned from a ham hock and a piece of loose scrotal skin, becomes obsessed with mazes and builds a death star around another death star, and then puts a death star around the outside of that, replicating this action until it threatens to encompass the known universe. The resistance must stop Scrotal Ham Vader from surrounding them with a death star from which they can never get out. This leads to a huge battle that features dozens of Vader replicants that have been deployed on the various death stars in place of the ineffectual storm-troopers. Only Chewbacca’s great-great grandson Gruntbark can find the secret celestial sentient light saber foretold of old, the knowledge obtained from a message sent from the past by Yoda on an ancient un-hackable 8-track cassette. As a new horror concocted by Vader—mobile, roving garbage compacters—crushes rebels left and right as they try to delay the expansion of the death stars, the fate of the universe hangs in the balance.

Goodreads’ Ask the Author: Q&A Featuring the Southern Reach, Atwood, Allende, and a Host of Others

Jeff VanderMeer • May 22nd, 2014 • News, Uncategorized

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(Check out the FSG site for Authority with interactive map here.)

Goodreads has all the info on their site, but basically they’ve launched a new section where you can ask authors questions directly. What amounts to the beta launch includes a plethora of writers, including yours truly. You can see what questions I’ve answered and ask me a question yourself. Below find the links for the other participants.

I’ll be answering two or three questions a day through early June, at the very least. Although I’m laser-focused on the Southern Reach trilogy, feel free to ask me anything you like. I’ve already asked my own questions of Robin Sloan, Margaret Atwood, and Isabel Allende. (Click on images to enlarge.)

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Spanish-Language Annihilation–from Destino!

Jeff VanderMeer • May 20th, 2014 • News

On the heels of the news that Authority has made the NYT bestseller list, the Spanish edition of Annihilation is being released–today, in fact! I’ve previously blogged about how much I love these editions from Destino. The care and work they’ve put into the Southern Reach series–the enthusiasm and the smarts–has me really energized!

Destino has a great page for the Southern Reach here, including a cool video, and you can find them on twitter, too: @_Southernreach

The OF Blog has already weighed in on the translation, calling it “terrific.”

There have been a lot of pre-pub mentions and reviews in Spanish media, and soon I hope to collect and link to them. I’ll also be posting an interview with the artist responsible for those great covers: Pablo Delcan. In the meantime, here are some highlights from the US publication of Annihilation in case you missed them. Annihilation was an Amazon and GQ pick, among many others, and blurbed by Warren Ellis, Kelly Link, and Karen Joy Fowler, among others.

–”Binge-reading,” front page of the NYT

–Cover iterations, NYT slideshow

–The Power of Nature, USA Today interview

–Music Notes, at Largehearted Boy

–Reviews by the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, NPR.org, The Globe & Mail, The Guardian, and Salon.com (Laura Miller)

–Radio interviews with Bookworm and Studio 360, as well as a Wired.com podcast and print interview with Buzzfeed.

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

Jeff VanderMeer • May 16th, 2014 • News

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(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, Tor.com, 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.

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The Southern Reach Goes Retro with Covers by Matthew Revert

Jeff VanderMeer • May 12th, 2014 • News

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(Click for larger view.)

With Authority, the middle book of the Southern Reach, launching this month, I thought it was a good time to reveal these “Go Retro” covers for the Southern Reach trilogy. Designed by the extraordinary Matthew Revert, they don’t appear as the covers for any of the actual editions of the novels, but one can hope. I’m a big fan of Revert’s design style and these covers came about as the result of a conversation we had about cover design after he did some work for my Wonderbook last year. Besides, it kinda fits if you read this review of Authority or this Big Idea feature. Yeah, there’s a fair amount of seventies and early eighties influence in these books, repurposed and assimilated. For an excerpt from the novel, check out the first chapter at io9 and this excerpt at PoetryGenius featuring image-heavy annotations from yours truly.

I like the idea of these editions being found by readers in some dusty ill-lit corner of a used bookstore in the early 1970s. An unexpected find, like the ones that led me in the 1980s to find authors like Edward Whittemore and Frederic Prokosch. I still haunt used bookstores looking for those kinds of unexpected discoveries, and I still make finds that I treasure to this day.

To do these covers justice, I’ve created my own new book descriptions modeled on back cover copy from several 1970s mass market paperbacks in my library. Granted, they’re teetering between serious and satirical…

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ANNIHILATION: A mysterious wilderness in which the animals are changing! A tunnel into the earth, not on any map! An expedition divided against itself! In an adventure unlike any other, will the old ruined lighthouse guide them to safety or wreck them on the rocks? Come visit Area X with the biologist on the twelfth expedition. Nothing is at it seems, and nowhere is safe…

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AUTHORITY: Beware the rabbit–especially when there are two thousand of them tasks with clandestine special ops. Heir to a spy dynasty, John Rodriquez will pass through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole when he takes over as director of the super-secret Southern Reach agency. Charged with discovering the mystery behind Area X, Rodriguez is running out of time and the clues just keep multiplying like the rabbits in the Southern Reach’s bizarre experiments. Reality is a fractured mirror in this game of parsing truth from untruth.

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ACCEPTANCE: In the triumphant conclusion to the Southern Reach trilogy, a desperate new expedition crosses the border into Area X seeking the truth. But will Area X oblige them? This mind-blowing climax is haunted by demons and shadows–and owls. Travel into the past with a lighthouse keeper and explore the history of the Southern Reach secret agency. Bear witness to horrors and miracles. Who will be chosen? Who will fall…and what will rise? Only the owl knows.

Spanish Edition of Annihilation: Pablo Delcan Art, Video, Skyping with Madrid

Jeff VanderMeer • May 10th, 2014 • News

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(Shot of bloggers/reviewers kind enough to chat with me via Skype from Madrid)

One thing I’m really excited about later this month is the release of the Spanish-language edition of Annihilation, from Planeta de Libros imprint Destino. The editors there, and everyone associated with the project, have been great to work with–and they have exciting ideas about how to market and promote the trilogy. It just feels like a great fit.

Earlier this past week, I Skyped with interested bloggers/reviewers who were kind enough to gather at a Madrid bookstore to talk about Annihilation. They asked some great questions, including one that stymied me: What animal from Annihilation would I like to be! It was a lot of fun, and I appreciated them taking time to discuss the novels.

As you can see, they’ve done an amazing job with the look-and-feel of the Southern Reach trilogy. They’ve also set up a Southern Reach twitter feed at @_Southernreach (note the underscore) and a great web page here.

Here’s the advance reader copy of Annihilation, presented in a modified slipcase with Jeremy Zerfoss’s map of Area X and other goodies. Below you’ll also find the full set of covers by Pablo Delcan–please check out his site. He’s a genius, in my opinion. Just such great work. (You can click on any image in this post for a larger version.)

If you read in Spanish, please check out the series. The Spanish editions have been created with love, attention to detail, and a lot of hard work.

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Wonderbook: Thanking the Contributors

Jeff VanderMeer • May 8th, 2014 • News

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In recent weeks, my Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction has won the British SF Association’s award for nonfiction and been named a finalist for the Hugo Award and the Locus Award. Congrats also to the main art contributor, Jeremy Zerfoss, for being up for a Hugo with me for Wonderbook. A special shout-out to main text consultant, Matthew Cheney, too, and my wife Ann, whose help was amazing on this project. As well as Luis Rodrigues who designed the website and Gregory Bossert who created the trailer.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to see such great reader reaction to the book–it’s being taught at more and more universities, including Brown. I’ll be using it as a text to teach from at Yale, Shared Worlds (teen writing camp), and the Clarion workshop this summer, too. Thanks to readers for making this a title that’s been hard for booksellers to keep in stock–and for engaging with the book’s sense of humor in such a marvelous way. I’ve also been pleased with how much Wonderbook has caught on as a general creativity guide outside of creative writing, and as a source of inspiration across media.

The main purpose of this post is to thank the dozens and dozens of text and art contributors to Wonderbook from all over the world. You’re the ones who help make Wonderbook work for so many readers, and also make it a reflection of the richness and depth of science fiction and fantasy, not just the reflection of one person’s perspective. So thank you–I’ve name-checked you below. Those readers who haven’t encountered some of these writers before, I endorse them all whole-heartedly. You should seek them out.

The accompanying Wonderbook website has a ton of content, too, all of which went up at the same time the book was published last October.

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Haunted by Rabbits: the Southern Reach and Authority–What’s the Big Idea?

Jeff VanderMeer • May 8th, 2014 • Writing Tips

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Over at John Scalzi’s blog, I’ve got a Big Idea post talking about how you haunt a novel. Apparently, it involves Stanley Kubrick, thousands of white rabbits, and you. You can also eyeball a great original piece commissioned for the feature: a bunny experiment diagram by Jeremy Zerfoss of Wonderbook fame.

The conspiracy theorists in Room 237 so firmly believed their version of the truth that I began to think at times that their ideas might have merit. But my own personal obsession with the documentary mostly concerned perception and technique. For example, in Kubrick’s slow fades as he cuts away to the next scene you often see characters and places coming into contact for a brief moment…hauntings created by juxtaposition. There’s also a scene in the movie with a television playing in the middle of a room…but the television has no cord, impossible for the time period. Watching The Shining, you may not consciously notice the lack of a cord, but your subconscious goes on red alert. Something is wrong, even if you can’t put your finger on it.

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