Weird Tales, Ann VanderMeer, and Utter Stupidity

Many of you may have seen the disappointing and sad and just plain stupid post by Marvin Kaye, editor of Weird Tales today—except wait! It was deleted (screen capture here). You may also have seen N.K. Jemisin’s great post about it.

Of course, there’s also an apology, including this really blithe and stupid comment from the publisher (yeah, this is all hilarious, John):

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Also, the website was hacked and he didn’t write that.

No, that’s not true.

Ann VanderMeer, my wife, was the editor-in-chief before being forced out by Marvin Kaye and his financial backer John Harlacher. She tried to be a team player because they offered her a role picking one story by a new writer every issue. This appealed to her because of her ongoing commitment to up-and-coming writers and new voices—it seemed like she could still do some good work. But ever since a meeting with Kaye and Harlacher in New York in June, it had become obvious that she would be extremely uncomfortable working with them. Although they did not consult with her on editorial decisions, they did mention during that encounter that they planned to publish an excerpt from a YA novel written by the wife of a film director about “the last white person on the planet trying to survive in a world of black people.” This seemed deeply problematic on the face of it, and Ann was kind—perhaps too kind—but adamant and firm in saying that they shouldn’t do this. Ever. During this meal, a startling lack of understanding about international fiction and other subjects was also evinced, to the point that afterwards both Ann and I wished we had not stayed for the entire meal. It was one of the worst experiences we’ve ever had. Still, Ann believed that John Harlacher had gotten the point and that perhaps a lesson had been learned. Clearly not.

Ever since that evening, Ann has been planning her departure, complicated by a few previous commitments to writers. Kaye’s plan to go ahead with publishing this excerpt has led to this statement of resignation on Ann’s part. I know from talking to her today that she is deeply upset about this entire situation—that it troubles her greatly and it also is personally devastating given that the new vision for Weird Tales seems to be so against everything that she envisioned for the future of the magazine. I am just quite frankly livid and utterly enraged.

We are also sickened by the fact we all didn’t just walk out of that dinner, the situation complicated by the fact that no one could hear what everyone else was saying and so none of us had the full picture until afterwards. We are clear on the fact that such a situation will never happen again.

This is Ann’s statement in leaving Weird Tales in any capacity.

Due to major artistic and philosophical differences with the existing editors, I have resigned from Weird Tales as a senior contributing editor, effective immediately. This resignation has been in the works for several months, ever since I was removed as the editor-in-chief, but was delayed by my commitment to writers whose work I had accepted for the magazine and to whom I felt a responsibility. I will, as always, continue to be an advocate for exciting new writers at Weirdfictionreview.com and my various anthologies.

Summer Road Trip Book Haul: More Than You Might Think…

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(An anthology of Bruno Schulz-inspired fiction ffrom Ex Occidente and the latest from Wendy Walker–check out Wendy Walker’s back catalogue.)

I never intend to buy books on trips, and I especially didn’t intend to on this latest one, where from July 10 through August 5, I went from the Stonecoast MFA program to ReaderCon to the Shared Worlds teen SF/F camp. But, as usual, no matter what I plan, books accrete to me without conscious thought…So here’s the run-down on what I acquired, or was gifted to me.

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On the Road: Stonecoast, Maine, ReaderCon

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(Core samples I have taken, which tend to manifest as organisms; thanks to Eric Schaller for his help with taxonomy, although all mistakes are my own.)

I am in New Hampshire at the moment, with a short break hanging out at Matt Cheney’s house before driving on to Newport and then to Richmond, Virginia, with the goal of winding up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, by Friday—in preparation for teaching at the Shared Worlds teen SF/F writing camp for two weeks.

Stonecoast: Memory and Fantasy

It’s been an eventful and fun time on the road thus far. I started out in Maine, giving a presentation at the Stonecoast MFA program and then doing a reading that night. I had a wonderful time. The Stonecoast house is near the water and the grounds are lovely. I stepped out of the car and all of the stress in my body just left me…and then came back as I came to realize we wouldn’t be able to print the notes to my presentation. But someone—someone miraculous whose name I’ve lost—managed to do a kind of split screen thing where the slides showed up for the audience and my notes, on the same computer, just showed up for me…

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(Art by Myrtle Von Damitz III)

The presentation was on Memory, History, and Fantasy: Urban Landscapes and Characterization, focusing on my novel Finch—basically swooping down from an eagle-eye view to a street-level view to talk about the ways in which characterization and settings interact. It’s not presented like Finch is the be-all and end-all, as that would be presumptuous, and indeed I told the audience that what I was about to show them was predicated on an ideal of the novel, including thoughts I’d had about it since publication. Since it was an MFA group, I thought I’d just bring it re the complexity and have the visual element and some bullet point lists strewn throughout help make it not too dense.

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One of the central ideas of the presentation is that spaces and buildings are not neutral, inert things in novels—or shouldn’t always been seen as such. That in fact structures are important opportunities in fiction, related to characterization. I tie this into the following idea, a note from the presentation: “Everything we see around us, whether functional or decorative, once existed in someone’s imagination. Every building, every fixture, every chair, every table, every vase, every road, every toaster. The world we live in is largely a manifestation of many individual and collective imaginations applied to the task of altering reality.” I like to pull back to the abstract level here because it helps the audience to envision these elements as not inert but as kinetic and alive at the level of idea and metaphor.

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Cheeky Frawg News: Stepan Chapman’s PKD Award Winning The Troika

Troika cover

Stepan Chapman’s incredible 1997 novel The Troika, winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, is now once again available to readers—in e-book form. Originally published by my Ministry of Whimsy Press, this new, definitive author’s version has been published as a joint venture of Ministry of Whimsy (now an imprint of Neil Clarke’s Wyrm Publishing) and Cheeky Frawg. Neil has a post about how to order it. (Thanks to my Ministry partner back in 1997, Tom Winstead, for making it possible to publish the book.)

When it came out, the novel was perhaps the most reviewed science fiction novel of the year, garnering a ton of critical praise. It was also the first independent press title to ever win the PKD Award. Beneath the cut, find a teaser from my original introduction to this new e-book edition…

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Hiking Lone Cone Trail: Ann’s Top Five Observations

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Recently, we hiked the Lone Cone Trail up the mountain on Meares Island, near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. You have to hire a boat to take you over to the island—on a wave-smashing ride—and it’s a very difficult trail, with a steep incline, and many times we didn’t even think we were on a trail—you couldn’t really tell trail from non-trail. It usually takes about five hours, but it took us over six due to the truly treacherous conditions—it was one muddy, aggressively ascending, tree-blocked, gully choked amazing experience. The craziest part is having to clamber up a ravine of huge fallen tree trunks and limbs…like, literally crawling up it over top of these fallen trees. We’ve hiked mountains in Australia and California but nothing like this.

I asked Ann what she learned from the experience and these were the top five things:

1—Little trees are my friends.

2—Rocks with green moss are not my friends.

3—Not all mud is squishy.

4—I can climb over a sh*tload of solid tree trunks on an extreme incline.

5—Jeff’s feet are bigger than mine, so I can follow in his footsteps.

More about the hike under the cut…

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(Yep, that’s part of the trail…a more benign part.)

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ICFA in Orlando–12 Days of Monsters Continues…

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(Ann’s monster socks, which she’ll be wearing at ICFA)

We’re headed down to the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (Orlando). Thursday morning, I’m reading from my monstrous novel Borne and Friday Ann has two panels (editing/copyright) and I have one (rethinking the canon). Looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

Meanwhile, our celebration of the ICFA theme of the monstrous continues over at Weirdfictionreview.com. Everyone from Kelly Link and China Mieville to Genevieve Valentine and Ekaterina Sedia, Lisa Tuttle and Theodora Goss. Free downloads, fiction, nonfiction, and more.

What Cheryl Said

Pretty much everything Cheryl Morgan says here about panels makes sense to me. It’d be really nice, too, if con organizers as a rule got ahead of this issue and didn’t put participants in the position of having to suggest female panelists or to point out the problem.