Photos from Fiji, Romania, and the Backyard…

(Part of the Suva market.)

I posted some photo sets on facebook this past week, which you can access through the following links, I believe:

Fiji photo set—Our parents were in the Peace Corps and my sister and I spent a substantial portion of our childhood in Fiji. My dad taught chemistry at the University of the South Pacific and my mom did biological illustrations of endangered sea turtles and other flora and fauna. My dad also studied the rhinoceros beetle, which was a danger to coconut trees. Although I lived in Fiji, I’ve never really been able to write about it in fiction to any great extent. I think it’s mostly likely a subject for nonfiction for me, for whatever reason. (I recently bought a slide converter, so will have other photo sets from our other travels as a kid soonish. The photos are all from the 1970s)

Romania photo set—We were lucky enough to go to Romania for a book tour, along with six other countries, back in 2006. Our hosts, including Bogdan Hrib and Horia Ursu took us all over the place, including to the north and then down the Danube. It was a real bonding experience and by the time we left we knew we’d made lifelong friends.

“Backyard” photo set—Images from the hill trail I walk regularly at San Luis Park, which is about five minutes from where we live, here in Tallahassee.

Some sample photos beneath the cut.

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The Trippy 1970s Science Fiction/Fantasy Album Pentateuch: Prog-Rock Multi-Media


Check out this UK double album The Pentateuch by Patrick Woodroffe and Dave Greenslade from 1979—from my wife Ann’s huge record collection. It’s crazy prog-rock SF world-building that comes with what amounts to a coffee table book of new-age speculative philosophy, fiction, poetry and art in the middle, as well as ideograms and more…




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Drawn & Quarterly: Pablo Holmberg, Kevin Huizenga, and Brecht Evans

(OMG–are those mushroom dwellers?!?!?)

Thousands of books arrive at our house every year because of the various reviewing gigs like the NYT and Omnivoracious, and because of Ann editing Weird Tales. Some publishers, time and again, become anonymous in that context. The books all look the same, or there’s something about the format that becomes anonymous.

Others stand out by a mile because they’re recognizably coming at readers from a unique or interesting perspective, and because they vary their formats and design approaches while remaining true to some central focus.

Drawn & Quarterly always puts out cool books. When they come in the door, I can’t just throw them on the stack.

Today, for example, we got Eden by Pablo Holmberg, The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga, and The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens. The art style of each, the world view behind each, and the size of each book are entirely different. But they share the D&Q vision. They’ve all got great end papers. They each are in the format best-suited for them (Wild Kingdom as a little hardcover, cover image printed on the boards, for example.) Take a look at some samples below, and definitely look for all three. Extremely awesome stuff—and am enjoying the kind of “eavesdropping on party conversation” style of the Evens.

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Random Stuff in Our House

(Awwww, cute animals. Awww…erm, actually, there’s something kind of creepy about this image.)

Ann: So what’s your blog post called? Random Crap Around the House?

Jeff: Yessssss…

Ann: [not repeatable]

Can you tell there’s a deadline looming? Final work on the Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. So your Sunday/Monday post is…Random Stuff in My House. That’s right—when I get busy but still feel the urge to post, you’re not going to the forced content of ill-conceived rants or snark. You’re gonna just get random photos of stuff in our house. Some of it out-of-focus. Enjoy! :p

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Expelling All My Internal Organs: Links and Such


(The awesome Taylor F. Lockwood, fungi expert extraordinaire, from the e-card he sent over the holidays that I don’t think I ever responded to, alas. Check out his latest photos of bioluminescent mushrooms–I think from his latest trip to Brazil.)

I often joke that one of my writer defense mechanisms, if cornered at a con party (being shy) or about to be mugged (being prudent), is to expel all of my internal organs like a sea cucumber and flee in the resulting confusion and disgust.

Relatedly, I haven’t expelled the contents of my “Links to Blog About” folder in quite awhile–like, months, so here goes. Unlike the scenario below, it should in fact be an enjoyable experience. If you pick through it, as I work back through Time, I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.

>>>Topical! Current! Important! Drawing—eReaders for Carl Brandon Society. One dollar tickets. You buy them, the Carl Brandon Society pulls five at random as winners of eReaders loaded with stories and poems by writers including N. K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Terence Taylor, Ted Chiang, Shweta Narayan, Chesya Burke, Moondancer Drake, Saladin Ahmed, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and more. The proceeds from the drawing benefit the Butler Scholarship, a fund that sends two emerging writers of color to the Clarion writers workshops annually. (Ann and I can tell you personally how valuable those scholarships are, having taught at Clarion San Diego this past year.)


>>>Glory for Toni Jerrman, editor of Finnish magazine Tähtivaeltaja (among our favorites, even though we can’t read it—the layout is kinetic, beautiful, perfectly positioned between punk and genre), who has won the Rakkaudesta kirjaan Prize, which comes with a cash prize of 5,000 euros. We’ve known Toni for awhile now, and not only is he a class act, but he’s a nice guy and a great talent. The judges of the prize agree: “[Toni] has selflessly and in a long-standing manner worked to promote science fiction, fantasy and horror literature for more than 25 years. Because of his determination and enthusiasm, these literary genres, which have not always enjoyed uncritical admiration and have traditionally only been accepted by marginal groups, are now well-known among the reading public. As the editor-in-chief of Tähtivaeltaja magazine, newspaper critic, radio journalist and lecturer, Jerrman has worked to present the history of the genre and promoted the books of high-quality writers that have previously been unknown in Finland.” Congrats, Toni! (Note: earlier this year, Hal Duncan’s Vellum won the Tähtivaeltaja-award for the best SF book published in Finland.)

>>>Karen Rider guest blogged over at Booklifenow as a working parent who is also a writer. She has been using my strategy guide Booklife to help prioritize and in other ways to maximize her time and effort. Check out Booklifenow for recent features, too, on the Altered Fluid writing group and a whole lot more, most of the content generated by that work horse Jeremy L. C. Jones (thanks, Jeremy.)

Turns out Bookmarks Magazine listed my novel Finch as one of their top 50 best reads, from books reviewed in 2010.

>>>From Bar to Bar has been publishing some of the more creative author interviews you’re likely to find anywhere. Check it out—and note that next up are Ekaterina Sedia, Charles, and moi. (I’m bringing the Mord, so watch out—it will indeed get dangerous…)

>>>Despite this trailer worrying me a little bit, the new Predators movie, just out on video, has not even the tiniest bit of influence from my Predator novel in it. Indeed, Predators is a pretty banal and mediocre flick that neither Ann nor I recommend. Lawrence Fishburne was the best part of it, but he’s not in it for long. And was it just us or did the setting seem to get cheaper and cheaper looking as the film went along? Anyway, blah. Not worth your time.

>>>Fascinating interview here , including awesome book cover graphics, with Franz Rottensteiner, who has written and edited many books in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, especially about European fiction.

Jha links to all kinds of current stuff, including tons of (gasp) Steampunk posts.

>>>Dustin Monk emailed me a very considerate personal micro-submission for Lambshead, based on my story Errata: “Two Pearl-Handled Revolvers – 5-chamber handguns; single action; polished; no sign of rusting. The guns were discovered next to the decaying corpse of a penguin with apparent gunshot wound to the head in a rundown condo near Lake Baikal, Siberia, by a travel journalist friend of Dr. Lambshead. The travel journalist included a note with the guns; it reads, ‘both revolvers have been fired twice…awful smell in the freezer…can’t look…several copies and errata of magazine Argosy…scribbled notes by disappeared midlist writer Jeff Vandermeer in a black book…final page, written in all caps ‘WHERE IS MY EPIPHANY, JAMES OWEN?’ The travel journalist ended his note with a post-script, as follows: ‘Ed says there’s a lot of vodka in this condo, Thack. I may never leave.’ …should read…’So much vodka in this condo, Thack, and a shaman named Ed who wants to show me the Book. I may never leave.'”

>>>The mighty Yoshio Kobayashi wrote to tell me that my story “Fixing Hanover” will be in a special Steampunk edition of Hayakawa’s SF Magazine. Good. My anti-Steampunk story keeps anti-colonizing.

>>>Sir Tessa sent me these awesome photos from Argentina, some of which may be deployed for…stuff…projects…things. Stop pushing me! You’ll just have to wait and see.




>>>Simon Sellars (back in February of this year!) sent me links to interviews with the crazed, debauched monsters that run the delightfully perverse Savoy Press: Michael Butterworth and David Britton (divided into two parts, like a common magic trick).

>>>Ann Kjellberg (also back in February!) sent me this email, along with the link to her new journal: “I’ve worked at the New York Review since the 80s, and before that at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and the journal of the Swedish Academy, Artes. I am also the literary executor of the poet Joseph Brodsky and have published two editions of his work in translation. I felt the need and the opportunity for a serious and not medicinal literary journal. I hope you’ll have a look and want to order a copy and perhaps consider signing up for the various connective ways of being involved. The first issue includes new work by Seamus Heaney, Padgett Powell, Lydia Davis, Les Murray, Paul Muldoon, Tim Parks, Derek Walcott, Glyn Maxwell, Durs Grünbein, Robin Robertson, Mary Jo Salter, Robert Wrigley, Karl Kirchwey, and William Wadsworth, as well as several people you probably have not heard of. I would welcome your attention and I hope you will like it.”

>>>J.K. Stephens (back in January!) sent me a photo of his compleat VanderCollection (whoa!):


>>>Jim Hall, yes we’ll be on Cultpop TV, just as soon as we finish these deadlines; email soonish.

>>>Matt Staggs (also back in January!) informed me that when I posted three youtube videos in one blog entry, synched to comment on one another, I was ahead of my time, youtube having finally caught up.

(Su Lynn Cheah—thanks for the thanks for the holiday card [December 2009!] and sorry I never got back to you!)

>>>This guy emailed to say he suspected I might be the next Michael Swanwick. I never responded. Sorry.

>>>Mother Jones believes fungi can cure small pox. Unfortunately, it leaves you with Large Pox, because fungi are perverse that way. Oh, yeah, and S.J. Chambers sent me a photo of stuff in her front yard:


>>>Finally, there’s a Portuguese version of the Lambshead fake disease guide, with additional contributions from Portuguese writers, including these diseases emailed me by Luis Rodrigues, a great friend and translator. Here are the translated titles:

* Fulminant alomorphia, aka Metamorphosis (lots of references to Ovid and Kafka, naturally)
* Meme cancer
* Cerberitis, aka Kerberitoa Exigua
* Circumambulation
* Lovecraft’s Disease, aka Fish Plague, aka Piscis Pestis
* Egophobia
* Newborn silico-lacteous enteropathy, aka Rubbery Milk Syndrome, aka Valentino’s Disease
* Agnostic Spondylosis of the Geographic Membrane, aka Travelling Sneeze Flu
* Felix Influenza, aka Happiness Flu
* Lexical Hypersensitivity, aka Lexiconis Sensus Acerrimus
* Hippopotamus perperam animadvertu (the delusion of being always in the presence of hippos)
* Insideout, aka Organismus inversionem
* Legisreia (dictatorship as a disease)
* Omnianthropocogniscite (narcissistic paranoia, the desire to be known by all)
* Y Pandemic
* ABS (Absolute Blame Syndrome, the delusion that you’re to blame for everything that happens)
* Slan’s Syndrome, aka Convivial speculophilia syndrome (this one’s Rodrigues’s—it’s the science fiction fandom as a disease)
* Superman Syndrome, aka Superius Superio

>>>Luis also sent me photos of this book that I never posted…and that’s it. I think I’ve expelled all of my internal organs. Keep the links and emails coming, now that I’m caught up…

Photo on 2010-03-14 at 02.06

Photo on 2010-03-14 at 02.07 #3

Photo on 2010-03-14 at 02.08 #2

The Smell of the Weird: Sniffing Books

In going through our library and acquiring books for our reading for The Weird antho, I’ve noticed once again the smell of books, and in particular the smell of the weird. Herein I disclose Part 1 of my findings, with a relatively small sample.

Jean Ray’s Ghouls in My Grave dates from 1965, and thus there’s a full-on must surrounding this slim paperback. The cover’s foxed and there are a couple of peculiar gray stains on the binding that add to the ambiance. The scent surrounding the book like a mist is a subtle yet sharp melange of cigar smoke, mold, gravel, and something in the background I can’t quite identify no matter how long I sniff Ghouls. Dry earth? Anyway, this is a classic case of the aging of a book creating the perfect smell for its subject matter. Indeed, one might speculate from this sampling that some reading experiences will only have the appropriate tactile element after an aging process has occurred. (Taken to its furthest extreme, Kerouac would require steeping in years of cross-country buses and cars and anything by Bukowski would need to be marinated in a bar for decades.)

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Weird Loot, Entering the House

(Sleeping cats for a Friday.)

First of all, happy birthday to my wonderful wife, Ann!! (Okay, so her birthday is tomorrow, but I’m not online tomorrow.)

Second of all, I did an interview with writer and editor Maurice Broaddus on Omnivoracious. I really love this interview–it’s one of my favorites. Go check it out.

So…we went down to one of the local used bookstores yesterday, thinking “Maybe we can pick up a couple of anthologies or author collections of use for weird and other projects”…only to find more than 200 titles, mostly in old Doubleday or Book Club editions–part of a collection sold by an elderly man moving to a smaller house.

An unseemly feeding frenzy ensued, and close to half of that collection now resides in our house.

It’s fascinating going through these older books. First off, there’s not as much of a reliance on names–they’re absent from some front covers entirely–and more of an emphasis on “hey, you’re about to read some great stories.” New writers appear several times, and there’s a value assigned to publishing new writers expressed in the introductions to several of these anthos. I don’t find that to be the case, generally, with present-day anthologies from large publishers, which fixate on big names as the best or easiest way to generate sales.

And, yep, women appear in these books, sometimes in quantity (although I haven’t looked through all of them yet), and especially in Marvin Kaye’s anthologies there’s a good balance of type of story and also lots of great stories by writers like Joanna Russ, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Joyce Carol Oates, etc. Indeed, there’s at least one story by Rabindranath Tagore in Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown. In addition, there are translations either picked up in reprint or commissioned for a particular antho. (Full Spectrum 3 isn’t pictured here, but it features two translations.) In Foundations of Fear, not pictured here, edited by David Hartwell you can find stories by Daphne Du Maurier, Octavia Butler, and more.

This all by way of saying that with regard to the SFX stupidity in not featuring any women in its special horror issue…maybe we shouldn’t let a few asshats define how we think women in horror are or have been represented. Castigate the asshats, yes, but don’t let them define the overall experience. Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy Magazine have all published excellent creepy/horrific stories by women over the last few years, there have been many anthologies with great horror by women, and some of the top editors interested in horror include Ellen Datlow and my wife, Ann VanderMeer, just to name two. (Indeed, all SFX had to do is email Ellen or Ann and ask who to feature and they could’ve had a cornucopia of women.)

One other interesting note before the book photos…one of the books is Dreams that Burn in the Night, by Craig Strete, who writes using a lot of Native American themes. This collection comes with a blurb from Jorge Luis Borges as well as James Tiptree Jr, and one story is co-written with Michael Bishop. The stories, in my opinion, are among those that haven’t dated well. But, given that he apparently was up for the Hugo and the Nebula and no one’s really heard of him today (except for this mention; scroll down), it’s a cautionary note for all of us writer types–see also the Peter Tate collection (who?). Here today, gone tomorrow. Bwaahahahaahaha.

Any observations about these covers? They’re drab in many cases, but, honestly, I prefer drab to the pseudo-Romance covers so popular today, with characters represented. I really don’t want any image of the characters in my head other than the one provided by the words inside.

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Kornbluth Cover: Squidalicious

(Cover depicts a character from his insane Mind-Worm story)

Okay, is that a cool cover or what? I mean, I look at most of the covers in the SF/F section and I am bored beyond belief. But this? I’d buy that in a second.

The Reading in the Closet

Will Hindmarch is a freelance writer and designer. He also blogs at his home site, The Gist, and his game/story operation,

What’s happening here? This is Jeff VanderMeer perched and balanced above his audience during his reading in Manuel’s Tavern’s storage closet in Atlanta on Friday. Why have a reading in a bar? In the closet? Because at least it’s quiet.


Thanks to all who came out to the reading in Manuel’s on Friday. Thanks for following us into an unlikely venue and being great sports about it. One day we shall tell the others that you were there that day, for the readings on the closet ladder, atop the televisions, in the back room of an ATL bar. The others won’t understand, but that night wasn’t meant to be understood. It was meant for stories. So: Cheers.

Update: Here’s are nine more images from the night, on Flickr.

Got pictures from the event? Share them in the comments!