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Shared Worlds Book Haul: Hub City Bookstore, You’re The Best

Jeff VanderMeer • August 5th, 2011 • Culture, Uncategorized

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(Ann bought me the sea slime book as a b-day present…)

During two readings at the Hub City Bookstore in Spartanburg, the Shared Worlds teen writing camp students bought a ton of books—just like last year, when Hub had only been open a few weeks. It’s just an amazingly good bookstore, mostly because the staff does such a great job of selecting the right books. When I walk in there it’s almost as if they’ve been reading my mind.

And now comes the news via Publishers Weekly that they’ve outstripped projected first-year sales by quite a sum. Nice job. Such a great place for a reading, too, and such a great resource for the students.

So the students weren’t the only ones to come away with a book haul. Here’s what I bought, with a few books thrown in that came from the Blue Bicycle in Charleston.

Which ones should I read first? Which have you read and recommend?

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Shared Worlds: 24-7

Jeff VanderMeer • July 19th, 2011 • Uncategorized

Light blogging here for awhile, as I’m completely immersed in the Shared Worlds SF/F teen writing camp. Still, above is the cover art for the SW teen writing book and below a couple of photos. More soonish.

Release Week: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities and How You Can Get Involved!

Jeff VanderMeer • July 12th, 2011 • Lambshead Cabinet Features, News, Uncategorized

Lambshead Cabinet

Today our anthology The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists is officially on sale, although we’ve gotten reports of sightings in the wild starting the end of last week. All this week I’ll be posting original content here at Ecstatic Days, including material from contributors S.J. Chambers, Rachel Swirsky, and Caitlin R. Kiernan–as well as the story of how we found and acquired a piece by famous Czech animator Jan Svankmajer.

How You Can Help!

If you like the anthology—an LA Times recommended summer reading selection—and want to support unique ideas like hybrid fiction-art books, here are some of the things you can do to help:

Buy the book. It’s currently selling on Amazon and elsewhere for a ridiculously low price for a fully-illustrated oversized hardcover. Buy it for friends. Buy it for family.

Review the book. Blog, review site, or on a sandwich board in front of your local bookstore. Any mention, especially noting whatever you really liked about the book, helps immensely. And a limited number of additional review copies are available for review sites; email me at vanderworld at hotmail.com if interested.

Review it on Amazon. Go to the Amazon sales page for the book and tell other readers what you liked about it. A quick and easy way to help get the word out and create interest.

Make sure local booksellers carry it. The anthology seems to have a strong presence in bookstores, but you can always encourage booksellers who aren’t stocking it. You can even tell them its by some of the same people who brought them The Steampunk Bible, which has done very well.

Request it from your local library. Making sure your local library knows about the anthology not only increases library orders but allows multiple people to enjoy the book.

Spread the word through twitter and facebook. Tell people about the anthology through social media, using one of the links below. Lots of excerpts have been posted in various places—choose your favorite.

Come to the author events (more to be scheduled). We’ll be having lots of fun, including telling tales out of school, so to speak. Current schedule here. (We should have at least one prominent West Coast event to announce soon.)

NOTE: Bloggers (non-contributors) who post the link to their mention of the antho in the comments thread will be in the drawing for a free copy of the book, signed by the editors, as well as a copy of the coffee table book The Steampunk Bible, along with a few surprises…

More Info on the Anthology
I think by now, if you’ve followed this blog, you know the idea behind this unique anthology, but in case you missed it…

After the death of the famous Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead at his house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England, a remarkable discovery was unearthed: the remains of an astonishing cabinet of curiosities. In keeping with the bold spirit exemplified by Dr. Lambs¬head and his exploits, HarperCollins now proudly presents fully illustrated highlights from the doctor’s cabinet, including exciting stories of adventure and reproduced museum exhibits. The Cabinet anthology is a secret history of the 20th century, an art book with over 70 images, and a treasury of modern fantasy containing work by over 85 creators, including some of the genre’s most exciting names. Suitable for both YA and adult library collections.

Contributors include Holly Black, Greg Broadmore, Ted Chiang, John Coulthart, Rikki Ducornet, 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, James A. Owen, Helen Oyeyemi, J.K. Potter, Cherie Priest, Ekaterina Sedia, Jan Svankmajer, Rachel Swirsky, Carrie Vaughn, Jake von Slatt, Tad Williams, Charles Yu, and many more. Eighty-five in total!!

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Links to Unique Content!

Here are links to some of the coverage so far, with more planned on at the Huffington Post, SF Signal, Suvudu, Fangoria, and many, many others.

Kirkus Reviews–Exclusive Mike Mignola image and Lev Grossman excerpt

Amazon’s Book Blog–Exclusive Mike Mignola image and Cherie Priest excerpt

Barnes & Noble Book Club–Rave review by Paul Goat Allen

i09—A table of contents feature with exclusive Greg Broadmore image

Weird Tales—My lovely co-editor talks about the more macabre side of the cabinet anthology, with excerpt from stories by Kiernan and Michael Cisco and Aeron Alfrey art.

Weirdletter—A view from Italy

Ecstatic Days—Right here on my blog I’ve posted an exclusive excerpt with commentary from Reza Negarestani (with China Mieville art)and a disgrunted artifacts image created by Rikki Ducornet.

Contributor Posts—Posts by contributors have included interesting glimpses into the cabinet by artist Aeron Alfrey, artist John Coulthart (with many images), writer Amal El-Mohtar, and writer Jayme Lynn Blaschke.

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* Note: I stole some of the general “help out” info from Cat Valente’s livejournal.

My Fungal Weapons Versus Your Dragon: Fantasy Mortal Combat

Jeff VanderMeer • July 9th, 2011 • Uncategorized

So I’m bored today. So I’m gonna ask you a question. If any fantasy/SF authors got in a battle against one another and they had to fight through proxies like weapons, allies, etc, and were able to summon up anything weapon-y from their novels, including beasties as allies, to use in that conflict…what match-ups would you find interesting, and whose weapons would help them win?

Personally, I’d like to see Pern dragons versus GRRM dragons, sand worms versus Smaug, space squid versus…something.

If everybody mentions just male authors, I’m gonna send my fungal weapons after you. And they burn.

GRRM’s Dance with Dragons

Jeff VanderMeer • July 4th, 2011 • Uncategorized

Only thing I really didn’t get is Tyrion Lannister and most of his kin being flayed alive by the Iron Kings and their skins used to create an airship for the dragon queen to travel to Westeros in. Kinda weird.

Shared Worlds Teaser

Jeff VanderMeer • June 29th, 2011 • Uncategorized

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Just a little something Jeremy Zerfoss is working on for Shared Worlds teen writing camp this year. The students will get visits from guest writers Nnedi Okorafor, Minister Faust, Ekaterina Sedia, Will Hindmarch, and myself, along with editorial guest Ann VanderMeer.

Shh. Top secret.

Context? Meaning?

Jeff VanderMeer • June 21st, 2011 • Uncategorized

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Fire and Ice: I Doth Not Apologize for My Cheatery

Jeff VanderMeer • June 12th, 2011 • Culture, Uncategorized

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(The messages on the cover of the GRRM advance reading copy are NOT from the author, but a hoax I played on my facebook friends. I repeat: A forgery.)

For the record, I am not going to apologize for pulling out all the stops in my prep for reviewing the new George R.R. Martin novel A Dance with Dragons. That means I have been rapaciously feeding off of all applicable Wikipedia entries, revisiting the fifth book, watching the HBO series based on the first novel, and in all possible ways trying to once again get a handle on this vast, sprawling cast of characters and situations. What? Sansa’s name changes? Wait. What? That dead character is actually kinda alive? Ewww. Oh, Iron Isles, why doth you have so many possible pretenders to the throne?

I defended the house from an assailant the other day with the Dance with Dragons advance reading copy. The assailant, with a long gray beard and carrying a leather-bound leviathan of a Bible, came running up the driveway with book held high, like some kind of bibliophilic hedge knight, and I met him with my Dance of Dragons, and we struggled mightily to an impasse, whereupon he gave up with a curse and we went and got some lemonade while I complained about how freakin’ huge and long this new novel is…

But. I do not apologize for my cheatery.

Overlays: The Value of Temporary Structures

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

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(Critics who use in-progress process posts as proof of anything in finished books are jerks and will not be tolerated.)

Avast! When you return to a novel you last looked at a few months before and you’re like me—which is to say, there might be three typewritten alternative drafts and two explorations in handwriting—it takes a bit to get up to speed. Is this me complaining about my own work habits? Hell no. The whole point of my process is inefficiency. Getting too quickly to where you want to go, getting there too smoothly, is antithetical to thinking through complex issues. You want roadblocks, confusion, chaos, and doubt. Unexpected, wonderful things come out of this approach, too.

But I have indeed spent the whole day sorting through variations and looking at the structure of the 25,000 words I’ve got on the page. One thing that just kept annoying me beyond belief was the amount of really cool exposition I needed to cut to keep the foregrounded story moving forward. This is pretty basic stuff, but sometimes your description is doing a lot of other things, like deepening character. Other stuff just needs to go or be rearranged.

What I did find is that rethinking the structure of Borne helped a lot. I had thought of the book as being in two parts, and the sort of book where you get a lot of context up front. As I was looking over scenes with the title character, I realized I should experiment with a three-part structure, and suddenly the whole idea of what scenes had to go where changed drastically, as well as what kind of approach this novel needs in terms of context and divulging certain kinds of information.

First off, thinking of the novel in three parts, roughly corresponding to stages in Borne’s development, meant that scenes involving other characters could now be spread out across all three sections. Before, I’d been thinking in terms of the narrator’s story arc, but that’s not going to be the structural determinant for the novel, as it turns out. Unspooling Borne-related stuff also allows this other spreading-out noted above. It also, for some reason, now means setting context will be situated more node-like at regular intervals along the way. This means the first place I go into extended description is much shorter, and the space created fills up with more of the emotional lives of the characters. And I can relax into that knowing the rest of what I need is coming later, and isn’t needed for reader understanding due to the new pacing and the new ways in which the past and present communicate with one another in the text.

It doesn’t even really matter if I wind up actually dividing the book into three sections, or I just hold that in my head as a construct and do chapters 1 through 20 without any section breaks. The point is, the re-think has allowed for better, more useful ways to distribute scenes and info, while also revealing what material isn’t needed at all. Something about visualizing the novel as a two-parter was also obscuring unintended repetition and wastefulness in what was on the page.

This is all a very dry way of saying that structure isn’t actually an abstract thing. It’s also not always an organic thing, in that you try out different approaches mechanically in aid of getting to a place where everything in the text becomes effortless and organic.

As a kind of side note, I’ve also had a great time on more of a sentence level applying lessons learned from Steve Erickson’s (author of Zeroville) edits to the excerpt of Borne appearing in Black Clock magazine. In the context of finalizing the piece for his mag, I thought of the edits as regular copy-edits, but in the context of revising and moving forward on new sections of Borne at novel-length, I now interpret them as character-related instead. Which is to say, most of the deletions and changes affect how the reader perceives the main character. What is understated by the cuts emphasizes different elements. What is now brought to the front also creates different emphasis. This in effect makes subtle but important changes to the character…and in charting why I think these changes were made, I have gained a much better understanding about the person I’m writing about, and this also now radiates out into my editing of the rest of the draft as it stands.

The good news, from my standpoint, is that because several scenes now bleed into part two, I am much farther along on the novel than I thought. It means I have new scenes to write in part one, but that’s preferable to being more adrift in the middle. This, too, is the advantage of thinking about the structure differently: I no longer have concerns about sag in the middle because of the redistribution of previously front-loaded scenes into that section. The third act is crystal clear in my head, so that was really the last challenge in terms of how to present the material.

Especially in a short novel, like Borne will no doubt be, getting it all right on this kind of technical level is key to the emotional resonance for readers. Pacing, correct development, managing progression aren’t issues of craft—they’re issues intrinsic to success at deeper, more psychological levels. Graham Joyce’s The Silent Land is a perfect example—if Joyce’s craft weren’t brilliant, his insight into human relationships would be useless, because it would be deployed within a malformed novel.

And so instead of a post on the movie Carlos or another Doctor Mormeck entry, you have this, my little weirdlings. I hope you find it interesting. Or maybe I don’t hope anything. Mostly, I’m just happy to be writing.

“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.

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