Memories of the Silly Season

Matt Cheney writes about current awards-complaining in the context of just being named a judge himself.

It brought back memories of being a World Fantasy Award judge. I still remember when they announced our consensus winner, Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore I was sitting in the banquet room with a prominent NY editor for a genre imprint right in my line of sight. As Murakami’s name was announced her face twisted into a mask of anger and disbelief. Which along with some general muttering made me worry about getting out of the room unscathed.

Later, another editor generously tried to rationalize the decision by finding six degrees of separation between Murakami and the genre subculture, as if membership in that subculture was a prerequisite for receiving the award. Someone else told me it wasn’t right the award had gone to someone who wasn’t one of us—again, referring to the subculture. I then had to sit through a lecture from a fellow writer about how Kafka on the Shore wasn’t the best Murakami, and ergo wasn’t worthy of the win…despite the fact at the time I’d read everything Murakami had ever written and thus could at least be said to have some perspective on it all…and definitely not in need of the lecture. Later still, some stuck the “blame” for that choice on me, even though it had been a book put forward by another judge and the decision had been unanimous.

All I know is…that year we read thousands and thousands of pages of material and also exchanged over 5,000 emails as judges. We gave it all our undivided attention and debated all of it, and dealt with it all honestly.

There is always plenty of room for debate and for honest differences of opinions, and it’s important when looking at finalist lists and the winner lists that for judged awards most of the time the judges spend hundreds of hours reading and re-reading and agonizing. And there’s no way to get it completely right. But for most judges, the process is one that creates a further love for fantastical literature and a determination to be as fair as possible.

ODD?’s Subscriber, Oddkin, Super Oddkin Search Continues!

Thus far, the response to our call for subscribers, Oddkins, and Super Oddkins for our new ODD? anthology series has been great! In fact, it’s been good enough that we’re extending our special discounts, listed below, through October 21. We have a real chance to provide stability for this series now, at its inception—thanks so much for your support of unique and exciting fiction.

You can also help us by embedded or linking to the video above and to this post so others can take advantage of this offer.

In other news, ODD will help to bolster content and discussion on our forthcoming weirdfictionreview.com site and check out the cool Greg Bossert backdrop for the forthcoming Cheeky Frawg/ODD website, coming soon:

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—Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

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Each volume of ODD? will contain surreal, weird, fantastical, strange reprints (some of them not available otherwise except in expensive limited editions), previously unpublished stories, and new translations of classic and hard-to-find stories. This first volume features, among others, Amos Tutuola, Nalo Hopkinson, Jeffrey Ford, Rikki Ducornet, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Hiromi Goto, Stacey Levine, and Jeffrey Thomas—with new translations by Gio Clairval, Larry Nolen, and Brian Evenson of such classic writers as Gustave Le Rouge, Leopoldo Lugones, and Karl Hans Strobl as well as a brand-new story by Leena Krohn! (Full table of contents here.)

The print versions will appear at the same time as the next e-book installment–i.e., ODD? Vol 1 will appear in print at the same time as the e-book of Vol 2. Every year starting in 2012, we will publish two volumes.

You can subscribe now and be assured of receiving each volume at a reduced price. It’s a chance to support a cool new project that brings you fiction from writers from around the world.

—For the 3 initial volumes in e-book form, $19.00 (regularly $21)
—For all 3 initial volumes in trade paperback form, $42 (regularly $45)
—For the next two volumes in e-book form and all three in trade paperback form, $51 (regularly $59)

—Shipping and handling within the US is included free for print volumes; outside of the US please add $25

Or, become one of our valued “Oddkins” for $65 and receive the e-book and trade paperback versions *plus* all kinds of…odd and unique extras…with the delivery of your trade paperbacks. (US only offer: Extend it now to an additional year for only $110 total.)

—Oddkins living outside of the US alas must add $30 to cover shipping.

A “Super Oddkin” at $275 receives every volume until we die or the series is discontinued (this $275 value is guaranteed with books of equal value written or edited by us should ODD? end early) For those outside of the US, a Super Oddkin status is $400.

—You may designate different delivery email/addresses for the print versus ebook versions if ordering both; i.e., give one version as a gift.

Send a check made out to “Jeff VanderMeer” to POB 4248, Tallahassee, FL 32315, or paypal to [email protected] - you must confirm via email before October 22 that you plan to take advantage of this offer.

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Book Lover’s Quest: Big Questions by Anders Nilsen Needed Big Book–Huge, Glorious, Awesome Book!

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Big Questions by Anders Nilsenand I have had only a passing acquaintance until now…when the awesome Drawn & Quarterly Press decided to drop a metric ton on me in the form of a huge hardcover book that has been lovingly and exquisitely designed. Wow wow wow—absolutely beautiful in all possible ways.

Huh? Wha? Why? Who? say those amongst you who care not for the tactile creativity that is a well-designed book printed on a real honest-to-god offset press as opposed to in html e-purgatory.

Let me then take you through a little guided tour of how the pleasure centers of the book lover’s brain light up when encountering this kind of artifact, especially so unexpectedly…

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Weird Comparisons

We’re not quite ready to reveal the full table of contents for THE WEIRD: A COMPENDIUM OF STRANGE AND DARK STORIES (Atlantic/Corvus), but we have finished the proofing process and provided the publisher with story notes, the extended copyright page, and the introduction.

In the interim before the reveal, I decided to go back and take a look at some of the best-of anthologies from the past couple of years and compare our table of contents to theirs. Below I’ve posted kind of a tease with regard to our book, revealing the number of stories overlapping ours, as well as the list of common writers. For the first two, I’ve put a line of ****** to indicate the year/story from which the antho correspond with our own list.

These other anthologies have a different but at times overlapping mission statement from THE WEIRD, which clocks in at 750,000 words. Our mission statement was to chart the best examples of weird tales/weird fiction over the past one hundred years. We took that brief to mean exploration of several different threads: the traditional weird tale, weird ritual, some weird SF, etc. We also took the opportunity to include weird fiction from beyond the U.S. and U.K., with 17 nationalities represented among the 116 stories . We saw Franz Kafka and H.P. Lovecraft as representing two main strands of weird fiction, etc., and also traced other sources of influence. We also used the opportunity to commission new, definitive translations of several stories and included novellas and short novels.Non-supernatural horror without an element of strange ritual, Gothic fiction, and traditional ghost stories did not fit our brief to select “weird fiction”. We also looked carefully at all public domain material, trying to be definitive but also not rely too heavily on it for the time period of roughly 1908 to 1922. Part of this process included re-evaluating the strength of certain authors and certain classic works.

The four books below have their own constraints and obsessions. The Century’s Best Horror Fiction chooses one story per year as the best from that year. It also contains only four stories not from Anglo sources, and ignores Kafka entirely, probably defining him as not really horror–it is largely concerned with comprehensively chronicling the horror impulse in the UK and US. The anthology also includes more naturalistic horror, selecting some fine authors that simply didn’t fit into THE WEIRD.

The Peter Straub American Fantastical Tales from Library of America has, of course, the constraint of including only stories by U.S. writers, going all the way back to Poe. However, Straub had the freedom to pick any kind of dark fantasy—weird, horror, etc.—meaning that traditional ghost stories are well-represented in his anthology, and correspondingly he has more women writers from the period of 1910 to 1950. He has also selected many stories from “literary” authors, which creates a nice mix of writers who might not always appear in the same volume.

The other two anthologies, The Very Best of Best New Horror edited by Stephen Jones and Darkness edited by Ellen Datlow, both cover roughly the last 20 years of horror fiction, and intersect with The Weird during that period only partially. Neither anthology looks at fiction from outside of the US/UK/Australia.

…THE WEIRD will be out in October and we will post the full table of contents prior to publication. In the meantime, with these story lists as a partial guide, do you have your own favorite weird tale?

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Donate to the World SF Travel Fund!

Go here. Find out about their peerbacker fund drive to raise enough money for a very worthy cause: bringing more international editors, bloggers, writers, etc., over to events in the U.S. or U.K. to promote cross-cultural exchange and communication. Donate!

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

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

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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.