Happy Holidays!



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.

How to Gift-Wrap a Book So It Doesn’t Look Like a Book


 (Thanks, Matthew Revert, for the great info-graphic.)

It’s a perennial problem, isn’t it? How to make that dang-blasted book look like something else when you wrap it, because otherwise what’s the point? It can be slathered in wrapping paper that’s covered in three-dimensional rainbow-colored topographical anomalies interspersed amongst Satanic dog-headed kittens and the person receiving the gift will still figure it out.

But don’t despair! As a public service, you can find my preferred method above. I finally admitted to this approach when NYT bestselling author Lois H. Gresh asked the question on her facebook page. Matthew Revert was then kind enough to provide an illustrated version as a holiday season mitzvah.

Of course, Gresh then had to raise some issues that point to a possible need for refinements in this approach. Specifically:

So let me get this straight. I use the Fishomatic to pulverize 12 dead fish. I dump the fish pulp into a 12″-diameter sphere-shaped ice tray (and good luck finding one of those). Then I push the book into the fish pulp. Clearly, a pulp title is best. I freeze. Carefully, I pop the frozen sphere from the “tray” and arrange it in a nest of fish scales. Then I put it under the recipient’s pillow in his/her bed. Oh, wait. That’s The Godfather Method of Wrapping a Gift Book.

This interpretation is a little time-intensive and perhaps limiting in terms of the type of book. And, granted, sometimes I will just strap the dead fish to the book and cover both with wrapping paper and hand that to the lucky recipient–especially if there’s no convenient sea nearby. Her next suggestion, however, may further streamline the whole process…

If I hide the book or toss it into the sea, and hence, the supposed recipient doesn’t know that he has this wonderful gift… then I can save my book money and give him something much smaller and cheaper, such as a pea. Yes, I can hide a pea and feel good, knowing that I intended to give him a book. After all, it’s the thought that counts!

I have no suggestions on how to hide a pea. Nor for wrapping an e-book. But for less avant garde suggestions on book-wrapping, here are a few links.

5 Creative Techniques to Wrap a Book

Google Image Search (less terrifying than you might expect)

Pinterest, suggesting disguises that will fool no one (like if you put a fake moustache on)

Of course, you could always just wrap the damn book using time-proven and careful techniques.

Or share your own secret ways in the comments below…

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

(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.

[Read more…]

Cheeky Frawg StoryBundle: For International Fiction and Helsinki’s WorldCon Bid

All Covers Large

Over at StoryBundle, you can now acquire nine titles from our Cheeky Frawg books for a very low price–unless you’re moved to pay more. You’ll be supporting not just our press, which specializes in international fiction and what you might call cult classics. You’ll also be supporting the Helsinki 2017 WorldCon bid. We’re donating a minimum of half of the publisher proceeds to that effort.

What are you going to get?

–The Philip K. Dick Award winning The Troika by Stepan Chapman

–Finnish fiction by Leena Krohn and Jyrki Vainonen

–The International Horror Guild Award winning novel The Divinity Student

–A collection of rare and out of print stories by iconic Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola

–Our Odd? anthology, which includes fiction by Nalo Hopkinson, Rikki Ducornet, Amos Tutuola, Brian Evenson, and more.

–Two selections of mine, a collection of micro fictions, Secret Lives, and also a NEW e-book, Komodo, a novelette that won’t be available in stand-alone e-book form otherwise until late in December.

We hope you’ll want to support our efforts–please share the link! And as a bonus–here’s the promotional video for ODD?

Reddit AMA now live

My AMA on Reddit is now live. To recap, an AMA (short for Ask Me Anything) is Reddit’s version of a Q&A. You can come and ask me any question you desire and I’ll be answering questions from 3pm to 5pm. The AMA link to ask me questions is here.



Publication Day: Area X Hardcover Omnibus from FSG Originals


Today is the official publication date for Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. For this hardcover collecting Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance, FSG has come up with yet another amazing, stunning cover design–the title page is pretty wonderful, too.

On the Farrar, Straus and Giroux site you can

–Read an exclusive “debriefing” conducted by my editor Sean McDonald

Visit the great splash page for the book, with all sorts of extra information.

–Access a great flipbook of articles, essays, and reviews connected to the Southern Reach novels. The flipbook really deserves your attention. It’s beautiful.

In other news, Library Journal put the trilogy on their year’s best list, while Kirkus and Amazon both had Annihilation on their top 100 books of the year. Annihilation has also made it to the final round of the Goodreads Choice Awards.

There are also a lot of features about the series this week.

–Suvudu’s posted an interview and also features the title page from the hardcover.

–Weirdfictionreview.com is running Southern Reach content all week. The kick-off interview includes an exclusive excerpt from a new Southern Reach story. They also ran features by Seb Doubinsky and Scott Nicolay.

–Electric Lit has my explanation of a mouse-washing scene in Acceptance, along with an excerpt and amazing exclusive images by Matthew Revert.

–Over at HarperCollins’ SF festival I talk Cronenberg, SF films, and the Southern Reach.

–My Bookish Ways has run my “Tidal Pool Rules” post, complete with annotations by a real marine biologist.

–Time Out NY ran an interview with me about the Southern Reach.

–Jason Sanford is kind enough to recommend the trilogy.

–Largehearted Boy has my thoughts on several Southern Reach playlists.

–Eric Nyquist is also selling prints of his amazing art for the FSG trade paperback editions.

Not to mention, in the past couple of weeks, my essay on weird fiction at the Atlantic and an “in conversation” piece between me and the wonderful designer and writer Peter Mendelsund, over at Boing Boing.

If you like the Southern Reach trilogy and want to support this new edition, please recommend it to family and friends, write a review on your favorite book seller’s website, and/or tell your library to order it.

Thanks so much for your support! This trilogy started out as a dark horse, an underdog, and it’s become a juggernaut–all because of you. Word of mouth has been astounding and I feel very blessed and humbled by just how many people have gotten into this series.

The Steampunk User’s Manual: Free Game and Steampunk Story Download


Post-Halloween, it’s time to clear the cobwebs and get back to making things–and one of the things I helped make is The Steampunk User’s Manual. This is a unique look at Steampunk fashion, fiction, art, making, and much more that takes a practical and whimsical approach. There are projects you can do and projects nobody can ever do but that are fun to speculate about: like a giant steam-powered mecha-penguin commissioned specially for the book. Steampunk creators in all fields give their advice in ways that will be of use to those looking to enter the Steampunk world, but also general enough to be useful to anyone who is creative. As a full-color coffee table book, The Steampunk User’s Manual is also just darn pretty to look at. You can check out our website for more details and my esteemed coauthor has also written a pretty spiffy “7 Reasons Why Steampunk Is Totally Now.” In addition to this interview I did for the Royal Museums, Greenwich. The perfect book for you to order or to give as a gift this holiday season.

It also just so happens we’ve provided some free stuff online to supplement the book.

–Storium’s Will Hindmarch created a whole Steampunk RPG for the book’s release, which you can check out here.

—Author Richard Ellis Preston Jr. has been kind enough to allow readers to download his new story set in his popular Romulus Buckle Steampunk universe while we also showcases his giant kraken vs airship battle from a Buckle novel. (Offer good until November 9; direct link here) Featuring original art from Wonderbook’s Jeremy Zerfoss!



The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction–At The Atlantic

(“How Doth the Little Crocodile” by Leonora Carrington)

Today The Atlantic posted my essay on weird fiction. The essay focuses on the ways in which beauty and humor coincide with the bizarre in this kind of fiction, using my experience coediting The Weird. Among the writers I mention or discuss are Murakami, Leena Krohn, Clive Barker, Thomas Ligotti, Leonora Carrington, Helen Oyeyemi.

Here’s a short excerpt. Please go read the essay and share it if you like it.

The intel begins to takes on an almost luminous quality—hidden linkage and lineage interwoven with literary resonance to reveal a greater, deeper sense of the complexity of the world. Confusions of writer and work become inevitable and can even be clarifying….Yet, I also began to have the sense, fostered in part by the cross-contamination of research, that around the world enclaves that never knew one another—writers who could not have read each other—still had communicated across decades and across vast distances, had stared up at the same shared unfamiliar constellations in the night sky, heard the same unearthly music: a gorgeous choir of unique yet interlocking imaginations and visions and phantoms. At such times, you wonder as both a writer and an editor if you are creating narrative or merely serving as a conduit for what was already there.

P.S. David Davis has some further thoughts on the weird based on the essay, over at Weirdfictionreview.com. And my prior essay, posted on this blog, “Bear vs Texting Man,” has some relevance as well.

Book Release Day: Julia Elliott’s Sublime The Wilds

The Wilds

Julia Elliott’s phenomenal first short story collection is out this week and I hope you will buy it. I hope you will buy copies for your friends. The Wilds is wonderful in every way. The stories range from mainstream realism and magic realism to surreal science fiction—all unique, all demonstrating Elliott’s wonderful ability to see the absurdity and seriousness of life in equal measure. In a tie with Laura Van den Berg’s The Isle of Youth, it’s my favorite collection of the year.

Here’s an interview I did with Elliott for the Tin House blog (excerpt below). Go read it. Go buy the book.

Jeff VanderMeer: What do texture and tone mean to you when writing a short story? And do you have to get them right before you can finish a rough draft?

Julia Elliott: As a hedonistic texturist, my initial impulse is to cram every particle of a story with texture and tone, so that each and every sentence bursts with perfumed, purple language like an overripe fig—an oozing, fermenting, parasite-infested mess of a fig. When I return to early stories, I’m struck by the electric, visceral moods that end up going nowhere—especially plot-wise. Although I’m now more ruthless about gagging and straight-jacketing the bad poet within, I don’t feel at home in a narrative unless I’ve created a palpable texture that I can inhabit as I work out character motivations and plot, elements that occur less instinctively for me.