Over at The Atlantic: A Southern Reach Tell-All

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Over at The Atlantic’s website, you’ll find my 6,500-word behind-the-scenes essay about writing and touring behind The Southern Reach Trilogy. It’s a kind of tell-all and as such that comes with certain risks.

Revealing weakness or eccentricity can influence a reader who then goes on to read the novels. Being candid about the life of a full-time writer—which is both fraught with uncertainty and one of the best jobs you can have—is also dangerous, especially when many think book tours don’t happen any more and that most writers self-publish. Encountering a narrative suggesting that traditional publishing is still going strong can be bracing. Encountering a narrative suggesting that you can be a full-time writer can be bracing, too. (Full disclosure: I’ve been full-time since 2007, but sometimes made my living from editing anthologies and writing nonfiction, and until recently I supported only myself, with a firewall between my finances and my wife’s finances—for her protection.)

The issue of all three novels being published in one year led off a New York Times article on “binge reading,” which raises the question, too, of “binge writing.” Yet any writer will tell you that you can spend a decade writing a bad novel and nine months writing a good one. Depends on the situation and the novel. In my case, I was lucky to have more uninterrupted time to work on the Southern Reach than ever before, if in a slightly compressed number of months. Although not mentioned in the essay, I was given additional time, too, during the editing phase. FSG was kind enough to let me make substantial changes long after the proof pages would be locked down in a simple proof-read. That, and a disciplined day-to-day writing schedule—something that in its sheer repetition doesn’t make for good reading in an essay—brought me through and meant the novels as-published are exactly as I meant for them to be.

Along the way,  I had really amazing editing from Sean McDonald  and great support from everyone over at FSG. Publicist Alyson Sinclair was amazing, too. When you know you have that kind of support, it makes the writing and revising very easy. You’re willing to take more risks and you relax into the writing. It also helped that I had a partner in my wife, Ann, with whom I could discuss scenes in progress and novel drafts when finished. She also took a lot of other projects off of my plate, meaning she did almost all the work on our time travel anthology and took over management of other book projects, too.

I’m also truly blessed and fortunate that so very many readers have embraced the Southern Reach trilogy. So, what the hell–why not a tell-all? It’s certainly in the tradition of my usual “debriefings,” including this one about City of Saints and Madmen. (Thanks to the Atlantic for their enthusiasm, too–really great people over there.).

Soliciting Your Suggestions: The Big Book of Science Fiction From Vintage

We are editing The Big Book of Science Fiction for Vintage and would like to solicit your ideas between now and the end of March of this year. This is a massive anthology of more than 500,000 words scheduled for 2016 publication.

As we conduct our own research, we would love your own recommendations. We know readers of SF are passionate about what they read. You can email us at [email protected] Due to expected volume of emails, we cannot reply but rest assured we will read all recommendations. Please read this entire post before sending us a recommendation. – Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

–The Big Book of Science Fiction will publish short stories originally published during the period 1900 to 2000.

–We define short story as any work of fiction under 10,000 words. Works under 6,000 words will have the best chance.

–We define “science fiction” very broadly, from realistic hard SF all the way to surreal material with a science fiction flavor. This includes what might be called “science fiction myths.” However, we do not define SF as including traditional stories about ghosts, zombies, werewolves, vampires, unicorns, etc.

–Whether recommending the stories of others or your own work, please provide: the title of the story, the author’s name, the date of original publication and the publication source. 

A sentence or two describing the story and author would be helpful–as well as why you are recommending the story. You may make multiple recommendations in one email, but whether single or multiple please list at least the author last names in the subject line of the email.

If recommending your own work, please limit yourself to three stories.

–As possible, attach a scan, PDF, Word, or RTF document of the story. If the story is online, a link is sufficient.

–We are very interested in international SF originally written in English.

–We are very interested in existing translations of international SF originally published in a language other than English. (In such cases, the date of original publication, not the translation date, must fall between 1900 and 2000.)

–We are very interested in commissioning a limited number of new translations. We would love recommendations if you read in a language other than English and have encountered a mind-blowing story. (We have translator resources in place already.)

If the story appeared in a Nebula Award reprint anthology, or an anthology edited by Judith Merril, Michael Moorcock, David Hartwell, Damon Knight, Kathryn Cramer, or Robert Silverberg, we are probably already aware of it.

–Keep in mind that we are already aware of the best fiction by iconic writers like Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Bradbury.

Thank you in advance for sharing your opinions–we appreciate your time. We wish we could reply to all emails. However, we will be in touch if we have questions or further interest.

(Art by Richard Powers, just ’cause we love his work.)Richard Powers art

Sweet, Cute Ann and Beastly VanderCurmudgeon Featured in Origins Magazine

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Origins Magazine asked Ann and me what makes a relationship work. Ann said plenty of drugs while I’m talking helps and $$ penalties for putting up with my stupid. Or maybe we both said laughter goes a long way long-term. As does mutual respect and sharing the same passion for certain things.

Here’s a photo from a recent workshop we ran that demonstrates that wearing serious hats is of use, too.

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It also doesn’t hurt that Ann’s smart, cute, hilarious, and much better with a tool kit than I am.

Anyway, the issue hits newsstands this week and it’s kinda cool to be featured as one of their top couples. (Thanks, Nancy H., for recommending us, and thanks to Francesca Myman, who took the photo that’s in the mag.)

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The Morning News Tournament of Books, Current Reading, Odds ‘n’ Ends

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If you came here via facebook or twitter, please note that while I won’t be on social media much this year, I will be blogging–and those posts should auto-populate to my fb and twitter accounts.

Last week, the Morning News announced the 16 titles for its 2015 Tournament of Books. Annihilation is one of them and, as my editor said, it would be only appropriate for Annie to be knocked out in the first round and come back as a zombie. But we’ll see. It’s one of those situations where you say it’s an honor to be nominated…and you actually mean it. In non-morning news, thanks to Joe at Book People for choosing Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy as his book of the year. Thanks also to The Stake for making the publication of the trilogy it’s pop-culture event of the year. You can find highlights of Area X best-of-year honors here.

Since the Southern Reach tour ended, I’ve been spending time at home relaxing and reading–and thinking a lot about the next novel, Borne. I tend to take a fair amount of time living with the characters in my mind before writing a rough draft. But I’ve also made good progress on a draft. Part of that progress is always about what you surround yourself with reading-wise. In this case, Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects, which Matthew Cheney talked about here. I’m also slowly savoring William Vollman’s rather brilliant Imperial before tackling his 7-volume work on violence–meanwhile devouring Zizek’s much smaller tome on violence, Violence.

Some of this feeds into what I will talk about at the Sonic Acts 2015 Geological Imagination Festival in Amsterdam next month. Ostensibly I’m reading from the Southern Reach trilogy and participating in a Q&A, but I’ve decided to preface that with some comments on the ways in which fiction has failed to keep current with what is happening to the world–as well as delineating those pathways and approaches that seem to hold promise.

Speaking of the former, I have to say my most depressing current fiction reading has been in the post-Collapse or mid-Collapse genre–which most commonly now takes the form of a novel in which some virus wipes out all but X percent of the population. Never all but 1 percent, though, since no doubt that would be confused by reader with The One Percent. Almost inevitably, these novels reduce down their character lists to a pretty generic and non-representative core sample of the population and proceed to get on with the Nostalgia Show, the longing for the life before–i.e., the unsustainable one we’re living now, which is also a misery for so many–whilst discreetly hiding the bodies of millions and millions somewhere offstage. Incredibly, in most of these books global warming is just a kind of nebulous thing, no hyperobject or true catastrophe but perhaps responsible for some storms and such off in the distance. In any event, real life–and the future we live in right now–is much more effective a critique of this approach than anything I could say here.

On a more pleasant note, there are some books I read over the holidays that I liked quite a bit and I’ll blog about them soon. As Ann and I read and research more for The Big Book of SF (Vintage), I’ll talk about that as well.

In addition to the Amsterdam conference, this spring I’ll be appearing at the University of Buffalo, Tallahassee’s Word of South lit-music festival (with Vernon Reid!), and at MIT. Over the summer Ann and I will teach at the Yale Writers’ Conference and at the Shared Worlds teen writing camp. I’ll post a full schedule sometime in the next week.

Outside of that, it appears I’ll probably be on NPR’s Science Friday (February 6) if all goes well and The Atlantic online will be publishing a long tell-all about the story behind the Southern Reach. My interview with Richard House, author of the fantastic novel The Kills, will post at The Millions next week. I’ve also turned in an introduction for Melville House’s edition of the Strugatsky Brothers Dead Mountaineer’s Inn, am working on another intro for a Ligotti reprint from Penguin Classics, and will complete an intro for PM Press’s reprint of Moorcock’s Breakfast in the Ruins later this year as well.

In blurbing news, I’ve been happy to blurb Kelly Link’s forthcoming story collection, Leah Thomas’ first novel, and Rikki Ducornet’s latest nonfiction collection.

And, I’ve not really had time to blog about it, but Italian editions of the Southern Reach Trilogy will come out this year. Indonesia, Finnish, and Czech Republic rights recently sold, too–meaning Area X will appear in a total of 22 countries.

And, also, happy to see Jenn Brissett’s Elysium made the PKD Award finalist list. Congrats, Jenn!

Finally, why is there a photo of our cat Neo at the top of this post? Just because.

Happy Holidays!

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Happy Holidays, everyone! I’m going to hibernate for a little while, but I wanted to thank all of the readers, booksellers, reviewers, and publishers (here and abroad) who have helped make this year so special for me, and made the Southern Reach Trilogy one of the most talked-about series of 2014.

Highlights lately have included making Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 and the LA Times Gift Guide, as well as Buzzfeed’s favorite books of the year.

Special thanks to my wife Ann, agent Sally Harding, and Sean McDonald and everyone at FSG.

Enjoy the season!

The Southern Reach Trilogy: My Year in Indie Book Stores

Jeff VanderMeer reading at Elliott Bay--Annihilation tour

(The start of it all: At Elliot Bay in Seattle, this February; photo by Todd Vandemark.)

Over on Farrar, Straus and Giroux’s Housekeeping site, they’ve posted my year in indie bookstores. I was fortunate enough to spend much of 2015 on the road in support of the Southern Reach Trilogy, and a big part of that was reading at or signing in independent bookstores.

Head on over and check out my notes on Bookmark It, Book Passage, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Booksmith, Book Soup, Chop Suey, City Lights, Elliott Bay, Fountain, Kramers, Green Apple, Housing Works, Hub City, Inkwood, Malaprops, McNally Jackson, Mysterious Galaxy, Politics & Prose, Powell’s, Quail Ridge, WORD, and more.

A special shout-out here to Kathmandu Books for handling the limited edition S.R. chapbook, Subterranean for various kindnesses, and for Borderlands for providing books for the Writers With Drinks event I did in San Fran–one of the best events ever.

My Favorite New Publisher, Burrow Press: Community-Driven, Forward-Thinking, Terry Gilliam-Connected

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(A favorite Burrow Press cover.)

One highlight of my year-long book tour in support of the Southern Reach trilogy was doing a Functionally Literate event in Orlando, Florida. The organizers did perfect pre-event publicity, had their own built-in PR through their own radio show/podcast. They also knew exactly what details to take care of to make my life easier after having been on the road a lot, and the gig itself was impressive as hell. From the venue to the format to the dedicated, extremely large (and enthuastic) audience of regulars–with great back-up from the awesome independent bookstore Bookmark It–Functionally Literate had pretty amazing organization, logistics, and support. (I highly recommend this reading series to all writers and their publicists–I put in a good word for them with Farrar, Straus and Giroux.)

They also had books they’d published–beautifully designed books, smartly edited, imaginatively conceived, featuring really interesting writers. I got a sampling of them at the hotel they’d put me up at. They all bore the Burrow Press logo. Burrow, you see, is the driving force behind Functionally Literate. And Burrow quickly has become my favorite new independent press.

After only three years and 10 books published, with four more scheduled for 2015, Burrow Press  has become a prominent part of the Orlando literary landscape. One recent title, the story collection Train Shots by Vanessa Blakeslee, blurbed by Laura van den Berg, won an IPPY in addition to being long-listed for the Frank O’ Connor International Short Story Award and named a Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award Finalist.

Burrow Press seems poised for continued and sustained national attention–especially with its release of the novella on which Terry Gilliam’s latest movie is based. Indeed, you could say that Burrow Press is both reflecting a revitalized Orlando culture scene and helping drive that revitalization. It was energizing to see, and reminded me of ancient days back in Gainesville, Florida, where my cohorts and I founded one of the first significant indies in that city. (Today morphed into Cheeky Frawg.)

With the year coming to the end, and in celebration of the indie press/bookstore renaissance that seems to be sweeping the U.S., I thought I’d interview Ryan Rivas, the publisher and co-founder of Burrow Press. His writing has appeared in decomP, Annalemma, Prick of the Spindle, Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, and elsewhere.

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Guest Post: Michael J. Seidlinger’s The Face of Any Other

Michael J. Seidlinger is the author of a number of novels, including The Laughter of Strangers, The Fun We’ve Had and The Face of Any Other. He serves as Electric Literature’s Book Reviews Editor as well as Publisher-in-Chief of Civil Coping Mechanisms, an indie press specializing in unclassifiable/innovative fiction and poetry. He can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@mjseidlinger), and at michaeljseidlinger.com. Flavorwire recently called this unique writer “a kind of 21st century David Markson. He’s prolific and talented and we should all read together to try to figure him out.” I’ve long liked Electric Lit, Civil Coping Mechanisms, and the press that published his The Face of Any Other—Lazy Fascist Press (highly recommended in general). So I thought I’d ask Seidinger here to talk about his book…or, in this case, excerpt it. – JV

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When Jeff graciously offered this space to let me talk about my most recent book, The Face of Any Other, I was ecstatic—so much that I couldn’t come up with any ideas about what that guest post might be. I came up with all kinds of ridiculous ideas, from something “creative” (read – tacky) dealing with the book’s cover to writing some big behind the scenes (that would likely just go on and on and on), but ended up back where I started. With nothing else, I figured I might as well come clean, much like the unnamed main character of the novel: no personas or facsimiles. Just be myself; or, more precisely, let the book be the book. It gets weird, but that seems to happen to every single one of my books. The following excerpt takes place at the beginning of the novel, offering a candid look at the character’s skewed worldview. –Michael J Seidlinger

 

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Jeff VanderMeer’s Storybundle: Win a Secret Life & Area X and Promote International Fiction

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Over at Storybundle, they’re running a selection of our Cheeky Frawg titles, which include fiction from Finland and Nigeria. It also includes Stepan Chapman’s PKD Award-winning novel The Troika and an exclusive: my novelette Komodo as a stand-alone e-book, in expanded form.

Proceeds go to the authors, to the Helsinki 2017 WorldCon bid, and to us, the publishers. Our share will help fund more translations and support our huge forthcoming omnibus of iconic Finnish writer Leena Krohn’s short novels.

With 10 days to go, I’d like to make it even more interesting. One of the titles on offer is Secret Lives, which collects the flash fictions I wrote for readers as a thank you for buying a prior book of short stories.

Anyone who buys our Storybundle at the bonus level (all of the e-books) will be eligible for their own secret life. Three randomly chosen readers will win a flash fiction written by me that incorporates details of their lives as the starting point. Handwritten, personalized, and one-of-a-kind. No other copies will ever exist. in addition, those three winners will receive the Area X hardcover of my NYT bestselling Southern Reach trilogy, with a limited edition Southern Reach art booklet. (Anyone who has already bought the Storybundle at the bonus level will be entered in the random drawing.)

International fiction is important to us. Now you might just win some unique fiction yourself.

Please share the link. Go forth and acquire our Storybundle.

In addition to a secret life, here’s what you could win:

Southern Reach trilogy with chapbook

 

Book Deal Announcement: Space Oddities & Super Freaks: The Secret History of Science Fiction And Fantasy

I’m very excited to report that I’ve sold Worldwide Rights to my next coffee-table book, Space Oddities & Super Freaks: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy, to editor David Cashion at Abrams Image, in a robust deal via my agent Sally Harding (The Cooke Agency).

What is Space Oddities & Super Freaks?

The unexpurgated behind-the-scenes story of one of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment, from movie projects gone terribly wrong to mysterious rock-album SF worlds, from eccentric, flamboyant personalities to some of the most interesting art, performance, music, movies, and fiction of the 20th and 21st century…this is Space Oddities & Super Freaks.

…and not just the secret history, but also the story of the underappreciated, the eccentric, and just plain off-the-charts strange–across all forms of storytelling/media. The project will involve writers and artists from all over the world, like previous projects Wonderbook and The Steampunk User’s Manual. However, this is likely the most wide-ranging book I’ve done yet with Abrams–roving across decades and diverse points of view, involving research and a lot of interviews.

Sometimes books like this can be organized like encyclopedias. This is not that beast. This will have clear through-lines thematically and organizationally to focus on telling the most entertaining stories, and then hang other fascinating details off of that. Over 350 full-color pages and 120,000 words of text.

Working with Abrams Image has always been wonderful, and teaming up against with editor David Cashion and everyone else at Abrams is going to be great. My wife Ann will be involved with creating this book as well.

(Image below by John Jennings: a two-page spread from current Abrams project The Steampunk User’s Manual.)

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