Culture

Taylor F. Lockwood’s New Death Cap Ale

Jeff VanderMeer • May 4th, 2012 • Culture

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Mushroom expert Taylor F. Lockwood has new plans afoot…

Death Cap Ale…it only kills ye if you ye want it to…

Books Being Read: The Eclectic List, for Your Perusal

Jeff VanderMeer • April 4th, 2012 • Culture

It’s been a busy week of deadlines and I’ve been more active on facebook than here, but I’ve wanted to post some photos of the books I’m reading or have set aside to read, because I think all of these titles are fairly fascinating. Some of them are perfect for dipping into, like the nature titles. The Tim Robinson books are magnificent in that regard—the finest I have ever read. Others like the Nabokov and the Perec are re-reads: books that certainly deserve and reward the effort. Dalkey Archive Press continues to bring us great translated works, and you can see a Michael Cisco title peeking out there. The Vanishers also looks quite intriguing. Rondo I’ve started and it’s very promising. Click through the links to check out more about all of them.

What book piles are you currently working your way through?

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Fiction from Georgia edited by Elizabeth Heighway

Walaschek’s Dream by Giovanni Orelli

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Transparency by Marek Bienczyk

Dadaoism: An Anthology edited by Justin Isis and Quentin S. Crisp

Lectures on Russian Literature by Vladimir Nabokov

Celebrant by Michael Cisco

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

Engines of Desire by Livia Llewellyn

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Rondo by Kazimierz Brandys

The Towers of Trebizond by Rose MacAulay

Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage by Tim Robinson

Stones of Aran: Labyrinth by Tim Robinson

Ice Trilogy by Vladimir Sorokin

Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec

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Dra- by Stacey Levine

The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts and What Remains by Barbara Hurd

Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination by Barbara Hurd

Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling through the Dark by Barbara Hurd

Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction edited by Brit Mandelo

The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits

Incoming Books: Polish Dying Earth Antho, Dalkey Archive, Blake Butler, and More

Jeff VanderMeer • March 27th, 2012 • Culture

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Just a few of the incoming books in the last day or two. The book in the upper left is the Polish edition of the Songs of the Dying Earth antho edited by Gardner Dozois and George RR Martin, including my story that I now call “Grod Impatient With All.”

Below the cut you’ll find new titles from Lazy Fascist press, Lethe, and Dalkey, among others. To be honest, the titles from LF and Lethe use this kind of uncoated matte cover stock that feels unpleasantly like slightly rough latex. It’s very hard for me to hold them for even a couple of seconds as the texture makes me nauseous. I’m going to have to rip the covers off to read them. Does anyone else have this reaction to that texture? Ann doesn’t. The books themselves look cool.

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Treasures From Abroad: Secret Europe, Tartarus Press, Eric Orchard Art

Jeff VanderMeer • March 7th, 2012 • Culture

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Lots of incoming mail, but just a few gems to show off for now…

Eric Orchard is selling the original, large, hand-painted pages of the comic art he did for my story “The Situation. He was kind enough to send me this one, but you can still buy a page if you’re interested, I believe.

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Tartarus Press spoiled me by sending these beauts, which we’ll feature on Weirdfictionreview.com soon: work by Aickman, William Hope Hodgson, and a Jason A. Wyckoff collection that looks interesting. You can buy all of these and more at their website.

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Ex Occidente sent Secret Europe, an oversized limited hardcover collection by John Howard and Mark Valentine, which we’ll also be featuring on Weirdfictionreview.com. You can order the book here. A couple more shots of this beautifully crafted tome…

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Eric Basso Week at Weirdfictionreview.com

Jeff VanderMeer • March 7th, 2012 • Culture, News

Commander Galaxy
(Eric Basso in a lighter moment, and a different career…)

One of the great discoveries Ann and I made while editing The Weird compendium was the work of US author Eric Basso. His neo-Gothic, beautifully strange fiction, poetry, plays, and nonfiction are without a doubt essential reading for anyone who loves weird literature. He has had a cult following among avant-garde gothic writers since “The Beak Doctor” was first published by the Chicago Review in 1977. Since then he has published a novel, several plays, many poetry collections, and a book of nonfiction. In part, “The Beak Doctor” reads like a modern, more Joycean version of the first selection in The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Alfred Kubin’s “The Other Side,” in that the nameless city is plagued by a strange sleeping sickness.

So we’re very happy to be hosting a week of appreciating the works of Eric Basso over at Weirdfictionreview.com. If you’ve never read Basso before, or read critical essays on his work, you’re in for a treat.

We’re running more material tomorrow and Friday, but for now here are the relevant links, with teasers…

Our managing editor, Adam Mills, provides his thoughts on Basso, and welcomes readers: His writing is marked by a quality I would label as simultaneity. Oftentimes within even the same paragraph, there are details and cues suggesting actions taking places at different levels of action, possibly even in different locations. It is left up to the reader to try and maintain the order of events while they read his writing. More often than not, typical conceptions of time and causality cannot be taken as givens.

Mills also interviews Basso: “I was a great admirer of the principles of Surrealism, the daring mind-experiments they performed on themselves, which really carries back to Rimbaud. So I began, at nineteen, to experiment on my own consciousness, particularly the process through which we pass from the conscious to the unconscious every time we fall asleep. What most would regard as an eccentricity became a discipline with me. I was able to remember and recount the bizarre and illogical journey that takes place, on a daily basis, in our heads. I learned to lie still, immediately after waking from a dream, so I could seize the memory of it before it slipped away.”

An exclusive excerpt from Basso’s most famous work, “The Beak Doctor”: Before the mask. I must at least go through the motions for as long as the antitoxin can keep me awake. An increase from 0.5ml. of a 2,000 million per ml. vaccine, given as the first dose. My eyelids are get¬ting heavy. A little while, and yet a while longer, to follow the tick of the clock (corner-of-the-eye hallucinations: livid specks that seem to jump out of the walls before a glance decomposes them), and I will have begun to dream. A window impossible to distance. Somewhere beyond the grimy panes there was, there is, another room, high above Promontory Wall, where he used to spend his time.

Larry Nolen’s 101 Weird Writers appreciation of Basso and “The Beak Doctor”: As the story unfolds and the narrator wanders through a city afflicted with a strange sleeping sickness, he encounters strange sights, such as a “headless shirt with no visible legs. One bare arm reaches slowly for the glass stem. Suddenly the hand draws back, as though a spark had passed from the smoky helix through the tip of one of its fingers.” There are even deeper, weirder mysteries to be encountered as he moves on through the city.

Weird fiction icon D.F. Lewis chronicles his real-time encounter with Basso’s Beak Doctor: Imagine the almost endless ‘sweep-shot’ of the Dunkirk madness in the film ‘Atonement’?–?here densely textured, bememorised, TS Eliot blended with Dickens, a cruelly fog-masked synaesthetica of a journey over variegated surfaces and amid befogged characters towards an inconclusive ‘Roundhouse’, a bookful journey by the I-Narrator doctor (interspersed, say, with a cat’s journey (Maybury’s cat?)), a stumbling rite-of-passage through a modern (post-holocaust?) world become Dickensian again as transcended by a discrete imagination that is granted you by the author as your imagination…

Part 1 of Basso’s own brilliant essay “Annihilation”: The human head may be taken as an ideal model for the contradictions inherent in animastic annihilation. Consider the case of a corpse newly dead and in full habit; that is, of one who has died without suffering the ravages of starvation or disease. The flesh lends itself readily to a close, pore by pore examination; its finest details gain an incredible sharpness by virtue of their immobility. Nostril hairs, commissures of tooth and gum, shallows between half-open lips where the tongue curls in the dry cavern of the mouth, these are subtleties that go far beyond even the most skillfully crafted waxworks effigy, though the skin, through the slow gravitation of blood to a lower depth, assumes the pallor of dulled candlewax. Often, as in litera¬ture, a physiognomy much troubled in life can ransom a few lost years from the brief repose preceding rigor mortis; fretlines may yield to a smooth, unaccustomed complexion as the eyes flatten under their lids, settling fast in the skull’s sockets.

Matthew Pridham’s excellent dissection of Basso’s work, from the Beak Doctor on to several other texts: Basso’s oeuvre is a challenging one, filled with odd states of consciousness and mutable, disorienting realities, as well as a referential, grimly poetic style. These pieces reward careful attention and a willingness to temporarily surrender some of one’s expectations. I hope that new trends in critical theory and genre tastes will bring his work the broader readership it deserves. Those who delve into it will come away with an enhanced sense of what is possible in fiction as well as the sensation of having briefly visited a strange new, yet oddly familiar, world.

Selected poetry from Basso:

what I could feel on my eyes
blank spatulate tips of stone
cold against the heaviness of the lids
hands caked with coal slivers and dust
and no ointment to salve the horror
of the haunting ground below

And, finally, Larry Nolen’s “Caught in a Moment,” providing some insightful thoughts into Basso’s poetry: Throughout “Villa of the Mysteries,” references to “dreams” and “blindness” abound. There are references to dreams that foretell horror and doom, dreams of separation. Blindness lurks in the dark caverns, in the personified monster, in fates that are unseen by others. Both are bound together in the person of Tiresias, whose own fate figures in several Greek poems and myths. “Villa of the Mysteries” grabs attention quickly because it cuts straight to the heart of the matter: we often enter labyrinths that confuse us, upset us, and make us turn our heads away in shame and eagerness to forget what we have just encountered.

Tomorrow we’re running part 2 of Basso’s essay “Annihilation” and a great appreciation by John H. Stevens…

Support a Worthy Cause: The SF/Fantasy Translation Awards

Jeff VanderMeer • February 28th, 2012 • Culture

Cheryl Morgan notes that her fund drive for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards is entering its last day or so. You can easily donate by clicking the paypal button on this post. We’ve contributed some cool stuff to the cause, but there’s a ton of great material. Help them reach their goal!

Weirdfictionreview.com Features Kali Wallace’s Short Story The Liberators

Jeff VanderMeer • February 27th, 2012 • Culture

This week on Weirdfictionreview.com, I want to direct your attention to Adam Mills’ editorial about taking over as managing editor, Ann VanderMeer on Weird Tales, a great interview with Steve Duffy, and “The Liberators” by Kali Wallace, a new story from a rising star.

A trace of road skirted the dead city, the same road the platoon had followed months ago on the last days of their desert march. Bloody blisters had made every step agony, and the soldiers had passed nervous nights beneath the city’s walls and windows as aimless wind moaned through its streets. And during the day the sun, the blinding, inescapable sun had quivered from dawn to dusk, throbbing in Francisco’s eyes, peeling the skin from his neck and melding the scaled armor to his body like a carapace. When they rested, stinking of sweat and blood, the soldiers shared stories of what they might find in the city. Alien riches and encampments, enslaved colonists and mountains of human bones, every possibility more outlandish than the last.

Wallace was part of the Clarion San Diego 2010 class, during which Ann and I were lucky enough to be the instructors for the last two weeks. She has already had short fiction appear in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with a story workshopped at Clarion, the stunning “Botanical Exercises for Curious Girls,” and you can read an interview with her about that story at F&SF’s website.

In the comments on that interview writer Carolyn Ives Gilman rightly notes that “This was an awesome story. Creepy, yes, but really original. I’d never read anything like it, and that’s getting harder and harder to say. I want more.” We really love her fiction—it’s sharp, unique, always has depth, and it consistently surprises. She also has stories forthcoming this year in Lightspeed and Asimov’s SF Magazine, and made a cameo with a short entry in our Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities antho.

The 2010 Clarion class was incredibly talented, and as far as we’re concerned any or all of them could go on to have major careers— already readers are discovering writers from that class like Karin Tidbeck (Weird Tales, Unstuck), John Chu (The Boston Review), Tom Underberg (Weird Tales), Jennifer Hsyu ( Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress XXVI), Gregory Bossert (already published in Asimov’s before Clarion), and Tamsyn Muir (Fantasy Magazine and Weird Tales), to name just a very few.

We really count it a blessing to have encountered their work at Clarion and thus to be on the look out for all of the great writing they’re doing. I’ll be blogging about more writers from this class as the year progresses, I’m sure.

Reading the Weird: John H. Stevens with Eight Weird Thoughts

Jeff VanderMeer • February 23rd, 2012 • Culture

John H. Stevens has a wonderful contemplative piece on reading our THE WEIRD compendium up on SF Signal. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Understanding is not knowledge, but revelation: What’s the difference? Knowledge is “the name of that thing is Ook.” Revelation is “there are creatures like Ook in the world!” Weird fiction is about the recognition of what I discuss in #2 above. It is about coming into contact with things that are difficult, contentious, or impossible to know. It about prophecy, divulgence, consequence, afflatus. It is coming to terms with powerlessness, lack of vision, the cosmic smallness of humanity. It is learning the true costs of living, feeling it deep inside you, as in Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s “The Hell Screen.” It is what eats us from the inside out and impels us inevitably towards death, even as we struggle to come to terms with life.

Also, Stephen Graham Jones is teaching a class using THE WEIRD, and he’s had his students do flow charts about the reading experience. Here’s a teaser of Jones’ own flow chart. We hope to feature some of these at Weird Fiction Review later on.

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You can buy THE WEIRD here in ebook form, with the US print edition out in May.

The Liminal People: A Great First Novel

Jeff VanderMeer • February 13th, 2012 • Culture

Omnivoracious has posted my profile of first novelist Ayize Jama-Everett, whose The Liminal People is out from Small Beer Press. It’s a great book, and the author was a great interview subject (unless the jerk in the post directly below this one.) Go check it out!

Later, in college, he would hone his talent for dialogue by taking screenwriting classes, while a job at a comic book store after college gave him new insight into the possibilities of graphic novels. “God Bless Comic Relief in Berkeley California. It was the first place that introduced me to a higher level of graphic novels. Somewhere I still have a copy of William S. Burrrough’s Tornado Alley illustrated by S.Clay Wilson. I read Paul Aster’s City of Glass graphic novel illustrated by Dave Mazzucchelli, and Watchmen. I drooled over early Paul Pope work at the same time I discovered an amazing old series called Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children. I saw the medium as a vehicle and not a genre and knew that what I wanted to write would always be influenced by the literary culture I grew up in. So I stopped trying to find an artist to draw my scripts and started writing stories that I loved.”

Who’s on the Rack? Moi? I Don’t Think So…

Jeff VanderMeer • February 13th, 2012 • Culture

So I found the solicitation under the cut to be more than a little odd, and given the references to “brutal” and “rude” and “pressures” I’m under (?!), I thought I would respond as if I were a complete a-hole—take the offensive as it were and turn the tables. Only seven answers were posted to the On the Rack feature, but you can read the full interview below.

Note that the direct link to their On the Rack feature on me does not include anything about “brutal” or “rude”…thus making me look simply brutal and rude, I suppose….but I answered completely in the spirit of the context as I saw it, because what author worth their salt is going to just go along with the idea as presented?

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