Wonderbook: An Interview with Artist Jeremy Zerfoss

Jeff VanderMeer • October 21st, 2013 • News, Uncategorized

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(Watch the Wonderbook video, by Gregory Bossert, in HD.)

As readers may know, last week Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction was released, along with the debut of the related website, Wonderbooknow.com (created by Luis Rodrigues). The main artist on the project was Jeremy Zerfoss, who worked with me on it for almost two years. Zerfoss is best known for his innovative and bold line of book covers for Cheeky Frawg Books. He has also done art and design work for Symantec, BullSpec Magazine, Shared Worlds and RDS Press. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he runs Tenno Art House.

You can find some very cool coverage of Wonderbook in the form of a preview at FastCreate and a lengthy interview at B&N Review. In addition, Wonderbook is a Amazon.com October selection, and a selection of several other prominent booksellers and media outlets. Writers can enter this contest about getting the end of the journey at Booklifenow.com (worldwide; includes Booklife too) to win a copy.

Here’s an interview between me and Zerfoss that gives you a little bit of a sense of the scope and approach of the project…

Jeff VanderMeer: When you first emailed me, did you ever imagine it would result in a book collaboration?

Jeremy Zerfoss: I had no idea. It was just a really horrible, crappy time of my life and I randomly thought—well, why don’t I just send him some artwork of mine that’s suitably creepy and maybe he’ll get a kick out of it. Even just receiving a reply blew my mind at the time. I yelled a bit to my parents about it, all excited yah know.

Jeff: I remember how I’d been searching for new art, a new approach for our Cheeky Frawg e-books and also just in general, wanting something that had more of a pop-art feel but with depth and weirdness. I clicked on the link you sent thinking it’d be the usual crap, and was blown away….So, we did work on some smaller projects before this one, but nothing that could prepare anybody for Wonderbook..How would you describe the process of working on Wonderbook?

Jeremy: Right out the gate it was a huge honor of course, to even be considered. But it was crazy, in a good and frustrating way. First of all, nothing was set in stone and the book and the projects and art were constantly evolving, depending on your ideas and at times my input or thoughts. I’d get these crazy emails from you to STOP RIGHT NOW DO THIS OMG! It was very chaotic and fun and horrifying. It felt like a wolverine trying to mate with a tornado… we shotgunned quite a few emails back and forth.

Jeff: Do you think it could’ve been a more efficient process?

Jeremy: At times, yes. If I wasn’t juggling a 9-5 at the same time and had a bit more time to focus on long projects it would have gone smoother—working with you was an experience worth noting, both fun and exasperating in differing degrees. I’m sure it was mutual, h aha. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything though—I liked what we were doing. I think we needed to do more phone calls, but our schedules hampered that.

Jeff: And I felt every time we had a phone call that it didn’t work, just ‘cause I hate phone calls. And then your gmail would do what gmail does and disorganize everything. What did you enjoy the most…and the least?

Jeremy: What I liked best was getting these, just…whack-a-doo sketches and getting a chance to do new styles and techniques and concepts I would have never thought of. I still think every sketch should get put into a book on its own—call it Blunderbook: Or How I Learned to Trust My Gut. I really liked nailing a concept or maybe adding my own spin and we’d just go back and forth about how great Wonderbook was going to be—the times where you and I were ‘wonderbookin’.

What I liked least was the times where I just could not get. The. Damn. Art. Correct. I was stressed, you were stressed…setbacks. There were times where I felt so down because I couldn’t get the gold out of the mountain. I never gave up though, and I’m glad you never gave up on me.

Jeff: I loved the fact you just kept going with every nutso idea that came down the pipes—and then out of the blue would come up with something like the image that became the cover. So that was fun.

Jeremy: Getting all sorts of funny postcards is a hoot, but mainly you will work through issues and yer flexible to suggestions. Yer one hell of a cheerleader as well.

Jeff: I thought for sure you’d say it was ‘orrible. Was there ever a point when you just wanted to walk away?

Jeremy: At no point did I ever want out of the gig, but there were quite a few times I felt out of my league, both in my skills and my handling of your ideas, those moments when creating both the layout and the art started to really hamper each other—I was bummed that I had so little experience in some areas, and had to do quite a lot of emergency studying to even understand the systems I was working through. I did quite a bit of, uh… loud creative discourse with you (in spirit) when you’d change your mind on something. I should have recorded myself. Mostly I was just really frustrated with my own foibles.

Jeff: I’m sure I cursed you a few times, but not in any sense other than how family does, if that makes sense. Seriously, though, why didn’t you walk away?

Jeremy: I was having too much fun—regardless of how bad it seemed at times. I knew it was a big opportunity and I really wanted to be a part of it. Quitting wasn’t an option in my mind.

Jeff: Was there one illustration that was tougher than all the rest? Why?

Jeremy: That cover, hands down—which was also the first step we took and the one that hit me hardest right off the bat. At the risk of sounding like a dope, all I ever draw on my own time is usually desert flora, so when you wanted this lush, verdant jungle the first thought in my head was, “Trees?! I don’t know how to draw —— trees!” I still don’t—I kept looking at these simple friggin’ drawings online and just ramming my head in to a wall. We went through so many false starts for weeks—I had horrible artist block for a month; you even got really worried for a time, which made it worse, ha ha.

Jeff: I was worried, but I was worried mostly that I had gone down the wrong path, that I was trying to force something, which is never a good idea, But I didn’t have another idea for the cover, so when you came up with the whale, that kind of made everything come into focus. Besides the cover, what else gave you the most satisfaction?

Jeremy: The evolution of the author piece because I learned a new way of doing art I had never really done—most the details are invisible but I’m really proud of those two. That was when this project clicked in my head and I felt that maybe, just maybe I could do this justice.

Jeff: What did you think when you finally held the book in your hands?

Jeremy: It felt so surreal. Just weird. I remember chatting to you about it and we both were going on about how weird it was to be done finally, two years or so of work. Mainly I was proud—it really turned out amazing, and people have been so into it already.

Jeff: Would you ever work with me again?

Jeremy: Aren’t I at this very moment? Of course! I almost threw yer gift basket onto an effigy though – “Burn the VanderMan! Arggggghhhh!”

Jeff: LOL! Is there anything else you held back from telling me during the process of working on Wonderbook?

Jeremy: There were definitely some points where I just wanted to vent, but I’m the kind of person who tends to forget they’re miffed, and then I forget that I was miffed to begin with. I’m pretty sure there were a few days where I just said, “Screw it!”, and played Battlefield III, or just went and read a book. I’ll admit I should have maybe brought up that working a job on a computer all day and then going home to work another 8 hours on the book was getting to me, but hey, what’s a few 48 hour straight non-sleeps, really? Conversation starters! Oh and one day I rebelled and just got totally drunk, but that ended up culminating in one of the better pieces for Wonderbook – I was wonderbookin’.

Cheeky Frawg’s Finnish Selections (and a Swede)

Jeff VanderMeer • September 14th, 2013 • News

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Our Cheeky Frawg publishing house has made a strong commitment to Finnish fiction, while also offering Swedish writer Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath. We hope to expand that commitment past 2014, and to expand to Nordic fiction in general, but obviously 2014 will be consumed mostly by our Leena Krohn omnibus (to be published late in the year).

Here’s what we have on offer, with Datura, The Explorer, and the Finnish fantasy anthology all out in October and November….

Print and E-book

Datura by Leena Krohn, translated by Anna Volmari and Juha Tupasela. Our narrator works as an editor and writer for a magazine specializing in bringing oddities to light, a job that sends her exploring through a city that becomes by degrees ever less familiar. From a sunrise of automated cars working in silent precision to a possible vampire, she discovers that reality may not be as logical as you think—and that people are both odder and more ordinary as they might seem. Especially if you’re eating datura seeds. Especially when the legendary Voynich Manuscript is involved. Where will it all end? Pushed by the mysterious owner of the magazine, our narrator may wind up somewhere very strange indeed. “Datura is luminous–at once a secret history of losers, dreamers, and quacks, and a lyrical argument on the nature of reality. I thoroughly enjoyed it.” – Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria

Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck. Enter the strange and wonderful world of Swedish sensation Karin Tidbeck with this feast of darkly fantastical short stories. Whether through the falsified historical record of the uniquely weird Swedish creature known as the “Pyret” or the title story, “Jagannath,” about a biological ark in the far future, Tidbeck’s unique imagination will enthrall, amuse, and unsettle you. How else to describe a collection that includes “Cloudberry Jam,” a story that opens with the line “I made you in a tin can”? Marvels, quirky character studies, and outright surreal monstrosities await you in the book widely praised by Michael Swanwick, Ursula K. Le Guin, China Mieville, and Karen Joy Fowler. Winner of the Crawford Award and shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. Introduction by Elizabeth Hand.

The Explorer & Other Stories by Jyrki Vainonen. This sly book showcases the quietly strange, unsettling short fiction of this acclaimed Finnish writer. Vainonen is renowned for his Finnish translations of the works of Seamus Heaney, Jonathan Swift, and William Shakespeare. Vainonen’s first collection of short stories was awarded the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize and his work has been featured in such iconic collections as the Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy. This first English-language collection includes stories from Jyrki Vainonen’s three collections and is translated by J. Robert Tupasela and Anna Volmari, with one story translated by Hilde Hawkins. Introduction by Johanna Sinisalo. “Vainonen’s deceptively cool voice lured me into a world where horrors and wonders lurk just beneath the surface.” – Karin Tidbeck, Jagannath

E-book only

It Came from the North edited by Desirina Boskovich. This anthology of Finnish fantasy features fiction from Jyrki Vainonen, Leena Krohn, Johanna Sinisalo, Hannu Rajaniemi, Anne Leinonen, Tiina Raevaara and many more—also including Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen, author of the critically acclaimed The Rabbit Back Literature Society. What will you find within these pages? A photographer stumbles on a wounded troll, and attempts to nurse it back to health. A lonely girl discovers the flames in the family smithy are tied to an ancient portal between worlds. A modern woman excavates something sickening from the shower drain…and falls in love. A peculiar swamp holds restorative powers, for its avian and human inhabitants alike. It Came From the North offers a diverse selection of fifteen fantastical tales from some of Finland’s most respected writers, alongside up-and-coming talents who are redefining the rules of contemporary literature. Are you ready for a journey into the uncanny? Then come discover the strangeness lurking in the land of a thousand lakes.

Tainaron by Leena Krohn. The classic novel by an iconic Finnish author, a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. Tainaron: a city like no other, populated by talking insects, as observed by the nameless narrator, who is far from home. Afterword by Matthew Cheney. “The novel contains scenes of startling beauty and strangeness that change how the reader sees the world. Krohn effortlessly melds the literal with the metaphorical, so that the narrator’s exploration of the city through its inhabitants encompasses both the speculation of science fiction and the resonant symbolism of the surreal.” – Locus.

Forthcoming in 2014

The Leena Krohn Omnibus. A not-to-be-missed and unstoppable thousand-page celebration of iconic Finnish author Leena Krohn. This epic volume, to be issued in hardcover, trade paperback, and e-book editions, will include the short novels Pereat Mundus, Tainaron, Dona Quixote & Other Citizens, and Gold of Ophir, among others, in addition to a selection of short fiction, essays, and poetry. The omnibus will also feature appreciations by other writers.

Explorer
(Rough draft of The Explorer cover.)

Michael Cisco Novels–Now Available as Cheeky Frawg Summer Reading E-Books

Jeff VanderMeer • September 10th, 2013 • Culture, News

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(Click image for larger view.)

This month our Cheeky Frawg press released our 2013 Weird Summer Beach Reading E-books…all four of them by the American Kafka, Michael Cisco.

You can buy them at Amazon, or through either of these two preferred vendors (direct links):

Weightless Books

Wizard’s Tower (which is also offering all four at a special rate)

And if you go over to Weirdfictionreview.com, you’ll find we’re serializing The Divinity Student and generally having a celebration of Cisco. Part 1 of the Divinity Student and Ann VanderMeer’s appreciation as well as a general editorial.

The Divinity Student
The International Horror Guild Award-winning novel that launched the career of a writer sometimes described as “the American Kafka.” Struck by lightning, resurrected, cut open, and stuffed full of arcane documents, the Divinity Student is sent to the desert city of San Veneficio to reconstruct the Lost Catalog of Unknown Words. He learns to pick the brains of corpses and gradually sacrifices his sanity on the altar of a dubious mission of espionage. The divinity student’s strange adventures will haunt the reader long after finishing this unique and exciting novel. As Publishers Weekly wrote, “Cisco wields words in sweeping, sensual waves, skillfully evoking multiple layers of image and metaphor. Though his novel is brief, it is a gem of literate dark fantasy, concisely illustrating the power, both light and dark, of words and meaning.” Recommended for fans of Clive Barker, Thomas Ligotti, Gemma Files, Kafka, Leonora Carrington and other masters of weird fiction. With an introduction by Hugo and World Fantasy Award winner Ann VanderMeer.

The Golem
Struck by lightning, resurrected, cut open, and stuffed full of arcane documents, the Divinity Student constructs a golem replacement to pursue his love underground, with lyrical consequences. As Publishers Weekly wrote, “Cisco wields words in sweeping, sensual waves, skillfully evoking multiple layers of image and metaphor.” Recommended for fans of Clive Barker, Thomas Ligotti, Gemma Files, Kafka, Leonora Carrington and other masters of weird fiction. With an introduction by Paul Tremblay.

The Tyrant
From the author of the award-winning The Divinity Student comes an audacious dark novel detailing a battle in a phantasmagorical hell. Full of amazing scenes and images, The Tyrant has become a cult classic of weird fiction. Recommended for fans of Clive Barker, Thomas Ligotti, Kafka, Leonora Carrington and other surreal masters. “Michael Cisco’s works immerse the reader in worlds that are not simply dreamlike in the quality of their imagination but somehow manage to capture and convey the power of the dream itself. The Tyrant is his masterpiece.” — Thomas Ligotti. With an introduction by Rhys Hughes.

The Traitor
As Publishers Weekly writes, “Cisco (The Tyrant) ups the ante for provocative dark fantasy by giving this coming-of-age tale a subtle metaphysical edge. While still a boy, sensitive Nophtha realizes that he’s uncommonly empathetic and able to see the world from the perspective of others. Tutored by his uncle, Nophtha apprentices as an itinerant spirit eater, or someone who absorbs lingering ghosts that congest the surrounding atmosphere and converts their essence into formidable healing powers. One day, Nophtha crosses paths with his alter ego, Wite, a soul burner who hopes to evolve to a higher level of being by gorging himself on the souls of the living.” Things get worse from there. Recommended for fans of Clive Barker, Thomas Ligotti, Gemma Files, Kafka, Leonora Carrington and other masters of weird fiction. With an introduction by Jeffrey Ford.

Resurrection House and Night Shade

Jeff VanderMeer • September 10th, 2013 • Culture

Writer Beware just posted something about Resurrection House. This is a kind of supplementary post. Writer Beware has a lot of the relevant Night Shade links. I would preface my remarks with the statement that I have nothing but love and respect for my fellow writers and editors. I am proud to be a part of a vibrant and lively publishing ecosystem.

Recently Mark Teppo created Resurrection House, a new publishing company aimed at recruiting new, up-and-coming authors. What isn’t as clear from the website, although it is in a private post that Teppo put on the Night Shade message boards, is that Jason Williams, one of the founders and operators of Night Shade has been hired as an editor there. Now, Teppo says Williams is not an investor in the company—although he won’t say who the investors are—and that Resurrection House was not created while Night Shade was imploding and authors were having to decide on taking lesser terms and in general suffering a lot of stress because of Night Shade’s poor planning and decision-making. (Teppo, meanwhile, was a Night Shade author.) What is also clear is that Williams is no longer with Skyhorse, the company that acquired Night Shade; I have no information on why. (And this post is *not* about Skyhorse—I do not know much about them and have only had communication with them that I would consider professional and courteous.)

So let’s talk about Night Shade a bit…Depending on which Night Shade author you talk to, NS was guilty of lesser or greater sins. Some didn’t get paid. Some didn’t get paid and suffered a lot of passive-aggressive behavior. Some didn’t get paid and had to threaten lawsuits and received crappy, unprofessional behavior. And yet others got paid, didn’t suffer any or hardly any unprofessional behavior. With the result that a whole bunch of writers, none of whom had everyone else’s story at hand, projected in tweets, facebook messages, and blog entries varied impressions of why Night Shade was in trouble and what should be done about it. Some defended Night Shade and others did not based on their own experience. Ann and I, for example, decided never again to deal with Night Shade after doing our pirate anthology with them—despite getting paid. Ann was treated at best rudely by Night Shade and at worst in a sexist way—that project became a living hell for her. Basic things that should be done with a book, like sending out ARCs, were not done and we wound up publishing ARCs ourselves to try to salvage the situation. The book tanked in part because of Night Shade’s negligence—although Ann says “Night Shade didn’t really neglect the pirate anthology as much as they made a conscious decision to not promote it. This was their MO, to not promote certain books they bought.” When we heard about other people’s experiences with NS, some of which were much worse, this solidified our opinion. (We’d had a prior negative experience with Night Shade when they published our Ministry of Whimsy books for a while, but at the time we had been willing to put it down to personality clash and two book cultures that were not compatible.)

Next, let’s talk about SFWA…What does seem clear is that SFWA probably didn’t follow best practices in trying to monitor and correct Night Shade’s behavior. They put Night Shade on probation, then took them off in part based on information received from Night Shade that may not have been correct—or at least needed to be better researched and not taken on face value. At the very least, for example, if you poke around on the inside of the publishing industry you’ll find varying accounts of why Night Shade lost a key distributor. Writers were still owed money at that point, too. Meanwhile, writers like myself didn’t post about our experiences because we assumed (and were relieved to assume) that SFWA was on top of it all…although the fact it got to such a crisis point seems to indicate they weren’t really on top of it in a meaningful way. But I am not privy to the inner workings of SFWA so I can’t know their deliberation process—and that, perhaps, is a bit of a problem: transparency levels seem to need to shift a bit or be thought about more fully. Otherwise, individual writers take the brunt of “whistle-blowing” and don’t benefit from the umbrella protection of an organization like SFWA.

My point in writing this post, which I did not want to have to write because it would be useful if an organization existed out there that could provide transparency in these kinds of situations…my point is simply to say: a founder of Night Shade is now an editor at Resurrection House. And that writers should know this, should look around the internet for information on Night Shade, and then should form their own opinion on whether Resurrection House is a publisher they want to send their manuscripts to. Without knowing the history, and the debate, and with it not being clear from Resurrection House’s website at this time that Jason Williams is on board with this press, it seems like there needs to be some public note about this.

But a larger point cropped up while talking about this on twitter. Steven Gould, president of SFWA, tweeted on his personal twitter account that rumors were false that Resurrection House had been raising funds while Night Shade was imploding and writers were suffering a lot of stress and financial difficulties because of it—i.e., the possibility that a Night Shade founder had been actively involved in a new company while the old one had become so dysfunctional. When I asked him how he knew this, he replied that he had asked Teppo and Teppo had told him it wasn’t true. And then Gould had tweeted, without sourcing the info until I asked him to. (Gould wasn’t SFWA president during the Night Shade debacle, btw.)

I hope it’s clear why it is problematic that Gould simply received information from Teppo and then retweeted it, without any attempt at a fact check. It’s not that I have any opinion on whether Teppo provided accurate information or not. I really don’t, and I’m *not* saying Teppo provided inaccurate info. It’s that no documentation was asked for. Now, could Teppo reasonably be expected to provide such documentation? There might be reasons why he might not, but Gould’s approach, to me, just reflects that SFWA does not have best practices in place when it comes to these kinds of situations. Let me say also that if Gould thought he was acting not as president but just as a writer, you should still apply best practices to such situations.

I think any reasonable person would hope the best for a new publisher, so long as they treat their writers well. I think one would also think that SFWA could be a better watchdog in all of this as well. I do not know if they conducted any kind of internal review of their practices and made adjustments afterwards because, again, just about everything related to these kinds of issues is done either privately or through the SFWA messageboards, which are restricted to SFWA members. But when SFWA backs a plan, like the one that made the shift to Skyhorse, it affects more than just SFWA members. Which is another reason secrecy becomes an issue.

The point here is not to blame anyone for this situation. The point is that in these kinds of situations organizations *must* have best practices in place so that individuals do not have to come up with proper procedures or to exhibit individual heroics to get to the desired result. Which is always: to protect writers, to nurture writers, to make sure writers don’t bear the brunt of things like this…


For the record, I was a member of SFWA for a year over a decade ago, but did not renew my membership. I have no plans to become a member.

Also, we have nothing but good things to say about every other publisher we have worked with over the last 20 years.
Comments are closed because I have a novel to finish and not enough time to moderate, etc.

Wonderbook Contributors Redux (yes there are more)

Jeff VanderMeer • September 7th, 2013 • News, Writing Tips

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Well, you’ve seen the table of contents for my forthcoming Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction and I’ve also shared the list of artists and illustrators. (I should also note that the mighty John Coulthart stepped in and provided necessary expertise, balance, and stability for the page layouts. Matthew Cheney served as a consultant on the text, although any errors are mine and any enhancements are his…)

Now I thought I’d share additional information on contributors to the book. The fact is, the coffee table format allows for a lot of layering effects. So in addition to the material found in the main text—quotes and whatnot—there are things like Disruption Dragons and Revision Snakes…about which you’ll find more information below. The website will also have exclusive content, as noted by the website symbol found throughout the book.

Contributors to the Main Text

The main text, written by me, is about 90,000 words. The Appendix includes features on LARP and Games in the context of fiction by Karin Tidbeck and Will Hindmarch respectively, in addition to a 7,000-word exclusive interview on craft with George R. R. Martin.

Here’s the full list of writers who have short essays (sidebar articles and spotlight features) interwoven into the layout. Most are original to Wonderbook.

Joe Abercrombie
Lauren Beukes
Desirina Boskovich
Matthew Cheney
David Anthony Durham
Rikki Durcornet
Scott Eagle
Karen Joy Fowler
Neil Gaiman
Lev Grossman
Ursula K. Le Guin
Stant Litore
Karen Lord
Nick Mamatas
Nnedi Okorafor
Kim Stanley Robinson
Peter Straub
Catherynne M. Valente
Charles Yu

I also conducted a lot of interviews for Wonderbook, and also used some material from interviews I’d done for other venues and quotes from conversations with writers who saw various parts of Wonderbook in a beta version. One advantage of the longish gestation period for the project is that I could discuss sections with various people and then change the text if I thought something had been left out or could be better expressed.

So within the book you’ll find wisdom and experience from the following writers, listed below. Some interviews for the book, like ones with James Patrick Kelly, Stant Litore, and Leena Krohn, will appear exclusively on the (in progress) Wonderbook website. (I also made use, with permission, of substantial material from lectures by Karin Lowachee, Nick Mamatas, and Ekaterina Sedia.)

If someone has an asterisk by their name, Wonderbook interview Q&A that didn’t make the book will probably be posted to the website.

Tobias S. Buckell
Matthew Cheney
John Chu
John Crowley*
David Anthony Durham*
Matt Denault
Junot Díaz
Brian Evenson*
Jeffrey Ford*
Lisa L. Hannett
Will Hindmarch
Jennifer Hsyu
Stephen Graham Jones*
Caitlin R. Kiernan*
David Madden
Michael Moorcock
Ian R. MacLeod*
Kate Maruyama
Haruki Murakami
Cassandra N. Railsea
Thomas Ligotti*
Johanna Sinisalo*
Vandana Singh*
Catherynne M. Valente
Kali Wallace
Charles Yu*

In addition, many writers’ work is quoted from, including that of Amos Tutuola, Brian Evenson, Elizabeth Hand, Greer Gilman, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Lisa Tuttle, Premendra Mitra, and Lewis Carroll.

Not including dozens of brief references and mentions (prominent amongst them, Carol Bly, Samuel R. Delany, Vladimir Nabokov), there is more extended analysis of works by:

Ian M. Banks
John le Carre
Angela Carter
Tamas Dobozy
Brian Evenson
Leena Krohn
Mervyn Peake
Joyce Carol Oates
Kim Stanley Robinson
Amos Tutuola
Colson Whitehead

Wonderbook--SF Signal

Also, in terms of analysis, Wonderbook includes an extensive masterclass on the opening of my novel Finch, which lays bare the entirety of the decision-making process, including several false starts.

Not to mention other elements in Wonderbook…

Disruption dragon

Disruption Dragons

Basically, after there was a rough draft of the entire book in a near-final layout, I sent a PDF to various writers and asked them to create a “yes, but” statement for sections where they thought additional interrogation was needed or where they disagreed with the text in some way. This, to me, begins the necessary process for readers of thinking about what’s being read and reacting to it, not simply accepting what is put in front of them. So you’ll find very wise and useful Disruption Dragons in the page margin from:

Nathan Ballingrud (x2)
Kelly Barnhill
Matt Bell
Desirina Boskovich
Kij Johnson (x2)
Brian Francis Slattery
Sofia Samatar
Karin Tidbeck

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Revision Lizards

For the revision chapter, I thought I’d ask some writers about their specific experiences revising a particular novel. The results are capture on two pages of somewhat whimsical Revision Snakes, with their eyes showing the number of revisions. You’ll find accounts from:

Daniel Abraham
Aliette de Bodard
Tobias S. Buckell
Jesse Bullington
Jim Hines
Simon Ings
Stephen Graham Jones
Richard Kadrey
Nicole Korner-Stace
Karin Lowachee
Ian R. MacLeod
J.M. McDermitt
Nene Ormes
T. A. Pratt
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Patrick Rothfuss
Sofia Samatar
Pamela Sargent
Delia Sherman
Peter Straub
Jeffrey Thomas
Lisa Tuttle
Carrie Vaughn

Editorial Roundtable—Website Only

Finally, I must also mention one feature meant to be in Wonderbook that couldn’t be added because layout-wise it just wasn’t working, and we were also running out of pages…It’s an entire editorial roundtable, with some of the best editors in the field making specific and general comments about a promising but flawed short story: Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, James Patrick Kelly, Nick Mamatas, Ann VanderMeer, and Sheila Williams. In addition, Liz Gorinsky and Gardner Dozois provided general comments.

Ed_Round--graphic

(This feature will be available on the Wonderbook website in the fullness of time.)

Wonderbook--appendix1
(Sample page from the appendix…)

Book Murderer Novel Excerpt

Jeff VanderMeer • September 3rd, 2013 • Fiction

Every once in a while, I briefly turn back to the novel I’m working on after the Southern Reach trilogy. Here’s the latest excerpt. No, the Book Murderer is not a very nice person, but then neither is the world.

The Book Murderer believed in the study of history, and this was no different when it came to writer communities, or “tribes” as they were sometimes called by the less self-reflective of the general “clan” of scribes. Historical study of writer communities revealed the full extent of their corruption. Inevitably institutions corrupted, but with a slothfulness (for the internet age) that meant the participants, steeped and marinated in their own ethical diseases, never seemed to realize what had happened to them—or cared. In online forums and elsewhere one or another Decaying Orbit would pontificate upon the health of the tribe as if just saying it was so and keeping other things unsaid would make it so. And under the cover of these Houses of Shusher, which periodically with a harrumph and a kind of shrug put on show trials with wrist slaps, an endless revolving door recycled personalities who, discredited and booted with comfy pillows out the front door, were resurrected through the back door mere months later. Sometimes with the ritual sacrifice of monies or of status still a bright flare in the internet night sky, that flare yet to slowly, lazily fall through the blogosphere to the forgetful ground. Some symbolic event allowed the normative to again be acceptable and those who had angrily decried a situation quietly or boisterously returned to the fold. Thus, over time, the basic corruption that was writing became a ten-fold corruption, whereby resurrected real thugs and thieves moved with ease amongst the writer sheep-thugs and the sheep-thieves who were so fond of bleating “tribe tribe tribe” that they contributed to their own figurative slaughter.

Wonderbook: The Images (and TOC)

Jeff VanderMeer • September 2nd, 2013 • News

Wonderbook cover

SF Signal posted the table of contents for my forthcoming release Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction today (out October 15 from Abrams Image). The listings for the main text, instructional art, and sidebar text by other writers is so extensive that going into the artwork more deeply was just impossible, so I thought I’d do that here.

In addition to Jeremy Zerfoss’s original art and diagrams (about 150 individual pieces) and author photos for sidebar essays, the following artists and photographers are represented in Wonderbook. Many have multiple pieces in Wonderbook. If someone known only for their writing is listed, I’ve put the nature of their artistic contribution in brackets. If the art was commissioned specifically for Wonderbook, I’ve put an asterisk by the name. The artists are primarily from North America and the U.K., but also France, Finland, Spain, Serbia, and Poland, among others.

Wonderbook is the world’s first fully illustrated writing books, and one of the only general writing books of use to any writer that takes its examples from fantastical rather than mainstream literary sources (although those are in there, too!). There’s an example of a page spread below, and a few more sneak peeks in this blog post. I’m not sharing much of the unique diagrams for now, though.

ART

Ninni Aalto*
Joe Abercrombie [map]
Hawk Alfredson
Aeron Alfrey
Mo Ali
Kristen Alvanson
Gregory Bossert*
Michael Cisco [diagram]*
R. S. Connett
Molly Crabapple
John Coulthart
John Crowley [writer’s journey diagram]*
Leo and Diane Dillon
Rikki Ducornet*
Scott Eagle
Stephen Fabian
J.J. Grandville
Richard A. Kirk
Stant Litore [diagram]*
Tomasz Maronski
Ian Miller
Nnedi Okorafor [art/novel structure]
Victo Ngai
Matthew Revert*
Óscar Sanmartín
Eric Schaller
Dave Senior
Ward Shelley
Ivica Stevanovic*
Ben Templesmith
Jason Thompson
Ben Tolman
Sam Van Olffen*
Charles Vess
Myrtle Von Damitz III*

PHOTOGRAPHY

Kyle Cassidy*
Patrick Eriksson
Leila Ghobril
Tessa Kum*
Angel Rodriguez
Jorge Royan
Paul D. Stewart
Henry Söderlund
Mariana Tavares*
Ann VanderMeer*
Robert K. VanderMeer*
Corrie White

Wonderbook--Ivica Stevanovic and Tolman
(Original art for Wonderbook by Ivica Stevanovic on left and Ben Tolman art on the right; also a typical non-diagram page spread)

Ann VanderMeer’s Worldcon Schedule

Jeff VanderMeer • August 30th, 2013 • News

Ann’s in San Antonio, at this year’s Worldcon. Here’s her schedule starting tomorrow.

She also has an advance copy of Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction with her, for those who might be interested in a sneak peek. (Check at Carrie Ann Baade’s booth at DragonCon this weekend as well–she has a Wonderbook display copy).

Here’s Ann’s particulars:

Friday, August 30
– 12:00-12:30 Signing at Tachyon Table in Dealer’s room
– 3:00-4:00 Creating Anthologies – How do you create a good anthology? With Ellen Datlow (M), Ann VanderMeer, John Joseph Adams, David G. Hartwell, James Gunn
– 4:00-5:00 Canon Formation: How Do We Decide What Becomes a “Classic”? – Canon formation takes place through awards short lists, juries, critical essays, and anthologies. What conscious processes inform these decisions, and how do canons form over time? With Karen Burnham (M), Ann VanderMeer, Jacob Weisman, Damien Broderick

Saturday, August 31
– 4:00-5:00 Alice Sheldon and Susan Wood: Can They Still Inspire Us? – Feminism caught fire in the SF community in the 1970s. The Tiptree Award, Broad Universe, Japan’s Sense of Gender Award. Do you feel the heat? With Liz Gorinsky (M), Mari Kotani, Ann VanderMeer, Pat Murphy, Catherynne M. Valente

Sunday, Sept 1
– 1:00 – 2:00 Intersection of Science, Space Exploration, and Speculative Fiction – with Astronaut Cady Coleman, Ann VanderMeer, John Chu, Marco Palmieri
– 3:00-4:00 Into Darkness: Horror and Dark Fantasy – Who’s doing great work with horror and dark fantasy right now? Where are the best places to find and read these works? With Lee Harris (M), John Joseph Adams, Greg Ketter, Julia Rios, Ann VanderMeer

The Southern Reach Trilogy: FSG Cover Reveal for Annihilation (with animation!)

Jeff VanderMeer • August 28th, 2013 • News

annihilation animation

Farrar, Straus and Giroux has revealed the cover for the first novel in my Southern Reach trilogy: Annihilation. Along with a description of the novel AND an animated version of the cover…Go check it out! And post a comment if you like it.

Helsinki’s 2015 Worldcon Bid and a Cornucopia of Finnish Speculative Fiction (free e-book)

Jeff VanderMeer • August 27th, 2013 • Culture, News

helsinkiworldcon_banner_2013 copy

We here at Cheeky Frawg had no idea that Helsinki would be vying to host the 2015 Worldcon when we started to acquire books by Finnish writers for our line, supported by generous grants from FILI, the Finnish Literature Exchange. We just knew that there as a rather amazing amount of talent in Finland when it came to speculative fiction, weird fiction, fantasy, SF—whatever you want to call it. And that this talent was backed up by a very strong and knowledgeable SF/F community.

But we now find the release of our books (in October) coinciding in part with Helsinki’s bid, and we’d just like to say how strongly we support that bid—in part because their home grown talent is so great. You’ll note the names on the image above, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And one reason we think a Helsinki Worldcon makes so much sense is the number of really interesting writers you’ll discover—as interesting in person as on the page.

In fact, in celebration of that bid, we’d like to offer, for free, an ebook of Finnish writer Leena Krohn’s World Fantasy Award finalist Tainaron, one of our favorite short novels of all time. Just through today, midnight Eastern Standard Time. Just email me at [email protected] with the subject line Free E-book and specify mobi (Kindle) or epub and I’ll send it to you. I’ll send them out in batches, so don’t worry if you don’t hear right away. All requests will be filled by tomorrow afternoon, tops.

Not only are we releasing Krohn’s Datura in October, but next year we are putting out a 900-page omnibus of Krohn’s collected novels in English, along with some short fiction and commissioned essays.