The Museum of Intangible Arts and Objects: Reza Negarestani, China Miéville, and the Gallows-horse

Jeff VanderMeer • July 9th, 2011 • Lambshead Cabinet Features, News

(Image by China Miéville)

One of the great treats for Ann and me while working on The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiositiesanthology was not only to include fiction and art by China Miéville but also a remarkable story based on Mieville’s art by Reza Negarestani. The author of the incredibleCyclonopedia (which I wrote about here), Negarestani often blurs fiction, nonfiction, and philosophy in mind-bending ways. He’s one of those writers whose genius is that the images and ideas in his work take over your brain and alter your perception of the world. We’re forever indebted to China for introducing us to his work.

As part of the continuing celebration of the Lambshead anthology (official release date July 12), I asked for some thoughts on his story, and have posted both that and an excerpt from “The Gallows-horse” below. One of the strengths of a book like the Cabinet antho is that it can, with ease, encompass both traditional storytelling and the avant garde…

Lambshead Cabinet


Lambshead Cabinet Anthology: Attack of the Clockroach!–Mike Mignola, Cherie Priest Exclusives!

Jeff VanderMeer • July 8th, 2011 • Lambshead Cabinet Features, News

As part of the pre-launch for our fiction-and-art antho The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists, you can now read an exclusive excerpt from Cherie Priest’s story, with a reveal of Mike Mignola’s art. “The Clockroach” is one of my favorites from the anthology. Mignola created four originals for us and then gave us the names of writers he’d like to work with. Priest then wrote the story and in the process named the artifact pictured “The Clockroach”. The other three writers who created stories to Mignola art are Michael Moorcock, China Mieville, and Lev Grossman.

The excerpt shows the more serious side of the story to some extent, while in the book Priest’s frequent footnotes add darkly (and not so darkly) humorous context. And to show the synergy that sometimes occurs in these situations, the clockroach may appear in a Lambshead-related novel I’m working on in the near future.

More coverage of the anthology later today—and next week, a special, ultra-cool surprise to coincide with the official release date.

Ooooh! Could that be part of the Clockroach?!

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Can Artifacts Be Disgruntled?

Jeff VanderMeer • July 7th, 2011 • Lambshead Cabinet Features, News

rikki ducornet
(Image from the “A Brief Catalog of Other Items” section of the Lambshead anthology)

HarperCollins’ link to retailers for the Lambshead Cabinet.

Today kicks off a week of blogging about the new anthology The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann VanderMeer and yours truly. Contributors include Holly Black, Greg Broadmore, Ted Chiang, Amal El-Mohtar, Minister Faust, Jeffrey Ford, Lev Grossman, N.K. Jemisin, Caitlin R. Kiernan, China Mieville, Mike Mignola, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Cherie Priest, Ekaterina Sedia, Jan Svankmajer, Rachel Swirsky, Carrie Vaughn, Jake von Slatt, Tad Williams, Charles Yu, and tons more.

A lot of our favorite writers and artists are in this book, including the dual-threat Rikki Ducornet, an amazing surrealist writer who also paints. For the Lambshead Cabinet, she gave us a cheeky image entitled “Disgruntled Artifacts”. I’ve posted it above, and you can click on it to see it much larger.

Although Rikki’s having fun with the image, it is true that artifacts can be disgruntled, in the sense that one reason we thought a “cabinet of curiosities” concept would work is that people are attached to objects. There’s often an emotional resonance in our connection—either because of who made it or who gave it to us. There’s also the question of context—artifacts taken out of context can be harmless or fraught with echoes and linkages. You cannot see a sarcophagus in a British museum, for example, without thinking about why it’s there, how it got there, and why it isn’t somewhere else.

There are plenty of reasons for us to project “disgruntled” onto artifacts, though. Sometimes an artifact is in the wrong context to begin with—for example, “The Clockroach” in our book, story by Cherie Priest and image by Mike Mignola. That was never going to end well.

On the other hand, recontextualizations can “cook” certain types of for lack of a better term, “disgruntilization”. Russian painter Vladimir Gvozdev’s depictions of mechanical animals, two of which are included in the Lambshead Cabinet, repurpose the example of a German mechanic who lived in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. says Gvozdev, “After Germany’s defeat in the First World War, the mechanic went mad and was held in a lunatic asylum for life. There he began inventing vergeltungswaffe, a German term for ‘vengeance weapons.’ I never saw his blueprints, but I liked the story so much that I tried to make via my blueprints a sort of portrait of the inventor himself—to create a little museum out of the mind of that German mechanic.” The results are hybrids that take the sting out of the original idea without being any less interesting.

(Gvozdev’s art has appeared in our Steampunk Reloaded anthology and The Steampunk Bible, in addition to the Lambshead Cabinet.)

Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead: Where Did It All Start? With a Great Quail and a Fake Medical Guide

Jeff VanderMeer • July 5th, 2011 • Culture, Lambshead Cabinet Features


With features on the new Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities (pictured above) being posted later this week, it seemed like a good time to get in the old time machine and remember how this all started…with a Great Quail, Mad Quail Disease…and a fake disease guide titled The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases.


The article “How I Became Dr. Lambshead’s Medical Assistant”, published in 2005 at SF Site, goes into the origins of the fake disease disease guide and how what was meant to be a chapbook blossomed into a unique fiction anthology first published by Night Shade Books and then picked up by Bantam Books (Juliet Ulman, editor). Since the article came out, the anthology has been reprinted in the UK, Greece, and Portugal, with more editions in the works. The original edition was a finalist for the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award, among others. It’s a great example of when something quirky goes viral. Not to mention the ways in which Dr. Lambshead took on a life of his own—something carried over to the new book, as we shall see later in the week.


Mord, Interviewed About Appearing in Novel “Borne”

Jeff VanderMeer • July 2nd, 2011 • Fiction


Mord appears in Borne, the short novel I’m working on. In the novel, Mord is a huge floating bear-creature terrorizing a ruined post-apocalyptic city in which an anonymous dysfunctional Company still creates bioneered creatures for places far-distant that haven’t yet become failed states. The thing known as “Borne” is found by the viewpoint character, Rachel, who lives in a trap-strewn fortified underground stronghold called the Balcony Cliffs with Wick, a rogue bioneer who left the Company a few years ago.

I thought it might be interesting to interview Mord about the experience of appearing in the novel.


Borne Goop: Repurposing the Goop

Jeff VanderMeer • June 8th, 2011 • Fiction, Writing Tips

Sometimes goop gets in the way. Working through my novel Borne, I’m exasperated by some of the exposition that feels inert even though it may not be—it may just need to be recontextualized, broken up, or made to do more work through half-scene. So, goop below. I keep coming up with new combinations, new entry points, to make this stuff work. And sometimes, you just have to throw almost all of it away. Even posting the stuff here is a way of getting a clearer view of it–different font, different location can equal a new way of seeing it.

(BTW–not all of my blog entries are posting to facebook, so don’t rely on facebook for updates.)


“The Quickening” from The Third Bear Story Collection

Jeff VanderMeer • June 5th, 2011 • Fiction, Uncategorized

The Third Bear, my story collection from 2010, is up for a Shirley Jackson Award. “The Quickening” is an original, new story included in the book. The story was posted as a PDF on the Largehearted Boy music site, but kind of got lost in the shuffle there…so I’ve posted it below for your enjoyment. As always, if you’re expecting some center-genre bullcrap, best not read. Cheers.


The Third Bear–Music Notes and Free Downloads

Jeff VanderMeer • January 19th, 2011 • Fiction, News

Largehearted Boy has posted a music feature about my 2010 collection The Third Bear:

At base, it’s a collection that’s about the search for something beyond what we know—a search either forced upon the protagonist or eagerly sought out by that person. It’s also an acknowledgment that certain things will always be beyond our ken. The stories, in terms of music, seem to me to be coiled and constantly turning in on themselves, with the counterpoint of moments that burst free from that maze. I don’t know if that makes any sense, because I’m trying to convey a feeling in my brain that probably can’t be put into words.

The feature includes an exclusive free PDF of the only original story in the collection, “The Quickening” (2010). This is also the only original story I had published in 2010*, in terms of awards consideration.

What’s “The Quickening” about? A rabbit that may not be a rabbit and some seriously effed up people. (I expect letters.)

The Third Bear has been one of the best-reviewed collections of 2010, with starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, among others. It was blurbed by Junot Diaz and Mike Mignola. It’s also made several year’s best lists. Here are the links to today’s feature plus some other relevant material:

Music feature

“The Quickening” PDF link

GeekDad link to the e-bear free PDF book of appreciations of stories from the collection:

All royalties received from The Third Bear will go to supporting the translation component of the Leviathan 5 anthology project. As ever, of course, a donation is your most direct option.

* Besides “A Secret History of Steampunk” in Steampunk Reloaded, which is part frame, part meta, and meant to highlight the work of others.



Lovecraft and the Ravens / Bellysnatcher / The Situation

Jeff VanderMeer • December 30th, 2010 • Fiction, News

Lovecraft and the Ravens

There are a few projects I’m working on inbetween the major stuff. One of these is something I started off posting on facebook photo by photo as a way of keeping my hand in fiction while editing anthologies. As it evolved, it became “Lovecraft and the Ravens” and included Borges and others as characters. It also began to include my own very primitive artwork, with some of the “pages” actually written on my hand. The plan as I finish this is to retake the photos that need to be high-res and to continue to write “pages” on all kinds of surfaces. So any final book would have to be a series of photographs. Above you’ll find an incomplete slideshow of the pages…


Another project I’m getting back to is Bellysnatcher. I jokingly used the word with the artist Eric Orchard, and then we got to talking and it seemed like a cool idea. Eric then filled a notebook with his paintings and drawings while on the road, sent it to me, and I’m in the process of creating a narrative around it. Samples below.

He found the journal in a pile of junk. It wasn’t food so he tossed it aside. But, eventually, he came back to it. “Bellysnatcher.” A cover smudged and dusty. Once, in his other life, he’d read a lot. He’d written a little, too. Now he was a nomad, had a backpack and dirty clothes and wasn’t sure what city he was in.

He took the book out at night, around the fire, with people watching. A risk, but he was a big man and had hands that made fists like clubs…Some of the pages disturbed him. At first he thought they frightened him, but that wasn’t it. Inside, in their muteness the pages made him want to create a story around them. To make what seemed random have meaning.

The Situation

And, finally, despite some delays, Orchard is working on The Situation. I think it’s just amazing. Here are some sample images from the work in progress—the lettering is placeholder.







Notes for Fiction in 2013-2014

Jeff VanderMeer • December 28th, 2010 • Fiction

Ambergris. Spoilers. Spoiling. You were warned.