My Fiction This Year: Borne, Strange Bird, Trump Land, Monsters

(art for “this world is full of monsters” by armando veve)

It’s been a busy year for me fiction-wise–here’s everything I had out in 2017 in terms of original fiction. Most all of it deals in some guise with human-nonhuman interactions and the consequences of not reaching some new accommodation with our environment, one that acknowledges we are not separate from it. That it is not just a backdrop or something for us to be “stewards” to or exploit.

BORNE – The flagship of my efforts, a novel about a giant flying bear, a blob of intelligent biotech, and a woman just trying to survive in a science-fantasy city of the future. Lots of great reviews–including from the New Yorker, NYT, LA Times, Washington Post–with the trade paperback out in late February.

THE STRANGE BIRD – A Borne-related novella that follows the harrowing adventures of a biotech bird who has escaped from a laboratory. Characters like Mord, Rachel, and Wick enter into the narrative, and the novella provides a deeper understanding of the Magician from Borne. This is probably my most overt attempt at seeing the world from the view of the nonhuman. That included trying to think of landscapes as vertical rather than horizontal–to a point. To have committed to that approach completely would’ve resulted in something too experimental for the story I wanted to tell.

THIS WORLD IS FULL OF MONSTERS – A long story, novelette really, that follows the narrator through the aftermath of a strange invasion that transforms both him and the world. This is not an Area X story, but I do see it as a successor, in a sense, in that whereas the Southern Reach trilogy stops short of showing what the full transformation of the world might look like, “This World Is Full of Monsters” is fully about that. It’s based on study of a lot of weird biology, among other things. Also, if we really want to talk about the “post human,” it’s as likely to occur on the biological sense as the virtual, AI sense.

TRUMP LAND – I don’t think this year could’ve gone by, for me, without directly tackling the subject of Trump, in this case through a short story for Slate about the building of a folly that’s an amusement park in the shape of Trump’s reclining body. It’s tough to do satire in the current era of false news and the conflation of the political and entertainment, so I chose to create a story in which the satire becomes subsumed by the real, placed in the wider context of the environment, by the end. I really don’t think I could stand living in the world of a novel about Trump–the time to write that–but I will continue to explore narratives at shorter lengths that take on Trump and related issues in a direct way.

As for what’s in works…Trump’s election seems to have been a kick in the pants for me. I’m more productive than ever. In addition to working on the YA novel Jonathan Lambshead and the Golden Sphere, which continues to explore animal and political themes, I’m also working hard on Hummingbird Salamander, the next adult novel. In addition, various stories and novellas are in stages of completion or full rough draft, including “The Journals of Doctor Mormeck,” “Nice Is Another World for Terrible,” “Drift,” Depth,” “Bliss,” “Drone Love,” “Constellations,” and “Subject 680.” Percolating in the background are two new Area X novels, Absolution and Abdication. (These are just placeholder titles.)


4 comments on “My Fiction This Year: Borne, Strange Bird, Trump Land, Monsters

  1. Lisa says:

    I read the Southern Reach trilogy this year and am very keen to read the rest of your novels. I love your perspectives.

  2. Dawn C. says:

    Thank you for Borne. It’s had a profound emotional impact on me. It’s hard to put into words how powerfully it affected me, but I feel like my life can be divided into two periods: pre-Borne and post-Borne. (I wrote a review on Amazon on Sept. 30.)

    The trilogy was also brilliant. I’m looking forward to the next installments.

    Thanks also for leading me to Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan. I read your review in The New York Times.

  3. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Thanks, Lisa! And thanks, Dawn–I really appreciate that and also thanks for posting a review. And Lidia is awesome!

  4. Ethan says:

    Finally (!) spent the morning with This World is Full of Monsters (& tea & a blanket, as one does). Can I say “surreal?” It reminded me very much of Duncan Shriek’s experience below Ambergris, & I felt like I was on familiar territory. Thank you, & thank as well for making it available to us.

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