Wednesday, June 20, 2007


This has been a fine old blog, but it is now officially an archive. The new blog, which is really an all-in-one website, is now at - please come visit and check out the new digs. And update your blog rolls and links accordingly.

Come on by...there's even more fun to be had...

Jeff VanderMeer


On the plane back home last night, the world looked like it was coming to an end through storm. Three in the morning, the window in that half light stained an odd green as if a port hole in a ship on rough seas. And out in the distance this distorted, baleful factory of electricity and swirling clouds, dark against gray, rising thousands of feet in the air, the hungry lightning jagging through again and again, every second, the light lashing out like the discharge from a huge forge. And, below, on the ground, these gorgeous snakes and beads of burgeoning light that were cities but looked like the life support of some future space station. The whole tableau was as mesmerizing and alien as anything in a novel or movie set in outer space. I felt as if it were something overlaid on reality and if my fellow passengers had woken up, there would have been a sudden dislocation, a twitch, and it would all have disappeared replaced with mere blackness. And for the first time, too, I understood the meaning of the word "maelstrom".

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I'm reposting this old post from a few years back because Cisco's The Traitor is finally going to come out--from Prime Books. Don't miss it. Very sorry Ministry went on hiatus before we could publish it.


Michael Cisco is a criminally underrated author, in part because his work is sometimes difficult (in the best sense of the word), sometimes morally ambiguous, and because he's an original. It hasn't helped that many of his manuscripts have been tied up at various publishing houses for literally years and years--or that Mythos Books has been lethargically slow in putting out a Cisco short story collection that when it now appears will be hopelessly out-of-date, no longer reflective of the writer's progress.

In late 2004, or early 2005, the Ministry will publish Michael's novel The Traitor. I just finished reading the manuscript, and all I can say is that he's somehow managed to create a unique existential horror story, complete with beautiful, blood-curdling scenes--it's an amazing mix of Gene Wolfe, William Burroughs, and Samuel Beckett, with a touch of Thomas Ligotti. I'm excited about all of Michael's work, but I'm very excited about this novel--I think it's a true classic in the making.

I'll leave you with an excerpt. The Traitor is set in an imaginary land in which spirit eaters exist to literally absorb and thus get rid of spirits that would otherwise harass the living. The spirit eaters must then discharge the "ectoplasmic" energy they "eat" by letting it flow into other people, usually in a way beneficial to those who receive it (healed wounds, etc.) The Traitor describes the life of the spirit-eater first person narrator and his interactions with a spirit eater called White. White is a renegade. He does not discharge the energy from eating spirits. Instead, he keeps it for himself--it makes him incredibly powerful, but it also burns him up from the inside. Among the many stunning scenes in the book is the one where the narrator, part of a group charged with bringing White to justice, begins to catch up with White:

Whenever I picture White to myself, I picture him running in the cold humid air between the trees. We caught sight of him time and again, always in front of us, sometimes off to one side and then almost immediately he would be off to the other side. I could make him out only as an obscure patch moving in and out of view in the distance. There was no place he did not seem to be. He appeared and disappeared. I saw him only intermittently, but despite this, I could see very clearly that he was somehow on fire. He was enveloped in fire. A transparent flame played about his body from head to foot, and his body seemed to emit, even in complete silence, as I discovered later, a thunderous, inaudible roar that made the air shudder rigidly as he passed through it. At one point, he appeared close by. He jumped from a bluff overhanging a dry riverbed, and landed on his feet with a deafening report, and the sand around his feet flew back in a circle. White merely straightened himself and vanished into the trees again. The men pursued him, and I followed. They were frightened, and eager, and carried rifles which they held low to the ground, hovering just above the ground. We were all going faster every moment. At this point we had fanned out in a long line several riders deep. The dogs, and the birds in the trees, together with the hooves of the horses and the random shot, were all I could hear - except that at times I would hear White scream from far ahead, this from the great effort he was making. White's screams were brittle and metallic, and they hung motionless in the air, they hung motionless in the air like hanged men. I was terrified, but unable to control my horse, and it followed the others. We were so deep in the woods that on all sides there were nothing but trees, very old, very black, and their boughs closed out the sun, whose light was greyed, flattened and diffused by the clouds. White was all around us, he seemed to flash in and out among the horses, and I saw his pale ghostly face, glaring, furious, flashing past ahead of me in the shadows of the trees. Wind flooded over me and I saw it brought with it the flavor of something invisible that was coming, and then I heard men and horses screaming ahead of me, and dogs howling, my horse jerked back as if he'd been shot and I was nearly knocked from my saddle, leaving me hanging from its side, and I jumped down. My horse staggered back past me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I have to admit. I've never been that big a fan of The Sopranos. To me, it was mostly melodrama with a perhaps inspired mishmash of prior mafia movies and shows driving it forward. But, at the very least, it had a animal energy to it in the early years.

But it's jumped the shark for awhile now, probably at least two seasons, and the glimpses I got this year didn't change that opinion much. Tony Soprano (aka "Old Bloat") has been huffing and puffing his way around the stage wherever the writers wanted him for awhile now. Seeing Old Bloat smother his dying son just seemed like a rote action, frankly.

However, it's the ending to this final season that made me nauseous. The total lack of irony in the ending, the nausea-inducing playing of Journey in the background, the black wall of closure that leaves Old Bloat and his family looking like, hey, your All American Family. Because showing the true ending of Old Bloat would be too true to the beginnings of the show. Because, like Six Feet Under (or heck, even like Seinfeld), the creators of The Sopranos began to believe their own press clippings. They clearly thought they had to deliver Profound, not Fitting. And in doing so, they betrayed whatever was good about the show.

But, like I said, the Sopranos has been that way for a long time. A crime drama from the mafia family's point of view that began to think it was Shakespeare or something.

Still, this wasn't nearly as bad as the interminable end to Six Feet Under, which Ann and I were laughing during, as we get to see all of the characters' deaths, one after another, sometimes in really crappy old-person makeup.

Death sped up is just slapstick. Death deferred, as in The Sopranos, is gratuitous lack of gratification.


Monday, June 11, 2007


My latest Bookslut comics column is now up, along with the rest of the June Bookslut. Can you guess which graphic novel I was talking about here?

It's hard to pick a favorite from among the stories -- almost everything is a gem. In fact, I don't even care if the writer made it all up. It's entertaining, fun, and sometimes wonderfully serious.

How about here?

The ugly monotone pages, ranging from army-soldier green to pumpkin-shit brown, don't compel a reader to venture farther than a few pages. The crude dynamism of the illustration is largely snuffed out by those color choices.


Saturday, June 09, 2007


My sister's on the right.



Yep, as stated I'm doing a Predator novel for Dark Horse. Here's the FAQ.

Why are you doing this?
Because I've always wanted to write a thriller set in the real world and this allows me to do that. Because I always thought Predator was a cool idea and even liked Predator 2 (the Predator 2 that existed beneath the smarmy production values). And, now that I'm 100% freelance, I can do many more different kinds of projects. In addition to a new novel of my own, you can also expect a writing guide, travel books, etc. And probably more mainstream non-fantasy fiction. Part of growing as a writer is really pushing yourself in terms of form and type.

What's the novel called?
Right now the working title is something like Predator: South China Sea or Predator: The Island.

What's it about?
I'm not sure how much of the plot I want to give away, but it does feature a huge transplanted African crocodile, an ex-Khmer Rouge colonel, a Romanian crime boss, a really pissed off Thai pirate, and, er, a rather unique Predator. Among other things.

Going to need any help with weapons research?
Dave Larsen, who did props for the Shriek movie and a knife that appeared in City of Saints is going to provide me any necessary information.

Would you consider doing other tie-in novels?
Probably not, just because there's a certain freedom with a Predator novel. I don't need to absorb backstory on tons of other existing characters or read up on previous installments (although I have read them for texture and approach). I don't think I'd be able to do a novel of this type that had pages and pages of stuff to bone up on.

Do you think it's odd to follow up Shriek, which is unabashedly literary (some would say ridiculously so), with a Predator novel?
Frankly, as Richard Morgan said to me, it's probably the perfect thing to follow up with. Something completely different. But with its own challenges. Heck, is it odd to be doing Best American Fantasy and a pirate fiction anthology? Just depends on your perspective.

Do you have any touchstones in mind for writing this novel?
I have always wanted to write a balls-to-the-wall action adventure novel. But those kinds of novels (and movies)--the good ones--always have very quirky, eccentric characters. So I'm envisioning this as half-way between one of those classic World War II quest films (with odd fellows teamed up on some Nazi gold caper), a good-old fashioned horror novel, and a dark SF movie, all with the structure and pacing of George RR Martin.

How do you get a gig like this?
A friend recommended me to the editor (who has been wonderful to work with) and she liked the initial concept and then the completed synopsis.

When will the novel be published?
It's due to be delivered and published in 2008.

Any promotional plans?
That's getting waaaay ahead of the game. I need to finish writing it, first. But Ann and I are determined to have a Predator novel release party here in Tallahassee at a local bar. Anyone who's in town at the time will be welcome.

Friday, June 08, 2007


I just blogged about Jeremy C. Shipp's short novel Vacation on the Amazon book blog.

This is a startling first novel by a refreshingly sharp talent. I can't tell you there aren't some rough edges here and there, but that's trifling compared to the originality on display. It's what I kind of hoped Gray by Armstrong would be.

Anyway, you really should check this novel out. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Too few writers out there display the sharpness and satirical acumen of Shipp.



At least two things about freelancing are a lot like prison: You have to make sure you don't get screwed and you've got plenty of time to work.

I've been lucky on the former and adhering to the latter. Since the beginning of the year, I've worked out/lifted weights at least four times a week every week but two. Sometimes six days a week. As a result, I've seen dramatic gains--from 135 lbs on latt pull-down to 180 lbs, from 120 lbs on bench press to 180 lbs, and things like being able to do 450 lbs on the leg press with one leg. Interestingly enough, the weight training has actually improved my cardio performance, I think because I'm actually getting my heartbeat up past 140.

Anyway, this is probably the main reason I have been able to get through this transition period--that and Ann's support and the support of friends and family.

And today was a great day--a very important client was very happy with my work. Every time that happens, I get more time to write fiction.

Oh, yeah, and I'm writing a Predator novel for Dark Horse.




Evil Monkey:
Hey, Jeff. How’s it going?

It’s going well. Just busy. I haven’t seen you around much lately.

Evil Monkey:
I’ve been here. You’ve just been too busy to notice me.

Sorry about that.

Evil Monkey:
Naw, it’s okay. It’s given me a lot more time to think.

About running for president?

Evil Monkey:
Oh, I’m definitely doing that. But I’m going to let some of these jokers impale themselves on their own stupidity before I launch my campaign.

It’s true there’s a lot of stupidity in the world.

Evil Monkey:
Yeah, like this stuff about SF writers advising homeland security.

I only glanced at that.

Evil Monkey:
I just noticed that the guy who came up with the Puppeteers is one of these advisors.

What’re Puppeteers?

Evil Monkey:
They look like E.T. only more dookie-like, if memory serves.


Evil Monkey:
Yeah, well, I was thinking, last thing I need is Mr. Puppeteer helping with homeland security. These jerks won’t consult real scientists on anything, but they’re using SF writers to help with our security?

Some of those writers are scientists.

Evil Monkey:
Some of those writers are major bullshitters.

Some of those writers I read and loved growing up.

Evil Monkey:
Some of those writers have been churning out bricks for years.

Some of those writers might hurt you if you’re not careful.

Evil Monkey:
But then writers in general are bothering me.


Evil Monkey:
Yeah. Like, did you read this article?

I glanced at it. I've been too busy getting up every day at eight, doing all my freelance fiction/nonfiction stuff, going the gym, etc.

Evil Monkey:
Yeah, well, this one woman blames her writing career for her being lazy and fat.

I did see that.

Evil Monkey:
Apparently, as soon as she got her advance and starting working from home she’d get up around ten or eleven and it was just a gorge-fest from then on. Bring on the ding-dongs. And it’s all because she’s a writer.

Not because she has no self-discipline, huh?

Evil Monkey:
That’s what’s wrong with this country right now.

Going to fix it?

Evil Monkey:
Either that, or make it so much worse that it’ll squash self-awareness into even the least self-aware.

Maybe you’re too self-aware, Evil.

Evil Monkey:
Would you vote for me?

I’ll talk to you, but I’m not sure I’ll vote for you.

Evil Monkey:
Why not?

It might be like voting for Ralph Nader. A psychotic, feces-throwing Ralph Nader.

Evil Monkey:
I’m too bored to pretend to be hurt.

I’m too busy to pretend to give a damn.

Evil Monkey:
I’m too bored to care about taking things for granted.

I’m too busy to care about the words you are using.

Evil Monkey:
I’m too bored to bother taking this fork out of my eye.

I’m too busy to call an ambulance.

Evil Monkey:
I’m too bored to stop these flames from shooting out of my ass.

I’m too busy to fan them.

Evil Monkey:
I’m too bored to finish this sentence.

I’m too busy to finish this sentence.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


I'm in Spoon Bliss. Ga ga ga ga ga.

Coming in July. Streaming here now, song by song by ga ga ga ga ga...


Sunday, June 03, 2007


UPDATE: Here's the weblink.

I believe the NPR summer recommended reading segment on All Things Considered that mentions Best American Fantasy will run tomorrow sometime. There should be info on the website tomorrow, too.

I'm working on several deadlines, so blogging will be spotty for the next week.


Thursday, May 31, 2007


So I noticed one of our cats, Shoshona the Speckle-Bellied Monkey Cat, coughing and wheezing earlier. It didn't sound like the normal kind of hairball. I had also noticed yesterday that Shoshona had been mysteriously drawn to a particular corner of the living room, Blair Witch-style.

Mystery solved. I heard her hacking up, went over and discovered she'd thoughtfully placed a rather moist art installation near the couch.

Oh, I thought, just another hairball. Odd. Right in the middle of the pool...that looks like a green-covered head. Wait. That is a head.

Somehow, Shosh had managed to hack up the remains of an eaten lizard in such a way that the severed head and neck landed right-way up like some kind of horrible bust, with the disembodied tail curled artfully around the foundation. All coated in a substance a bit like yellow curry. It was all a bit like a miniature Hannibal Lecter-created tableau

Thank you Shosh for grossing me out. Thank you SO much.


Evil Monkey: Eh. I've done worse.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Best American Fantasy reviewed in the May 28th Publishers Weekly:

In a genre where yearly “best of” volumes often repeat one another, the first in Prime’s new annual fantasy anthology series is a breath of eclectic and delightfully innovative fresh air. While the VanderMeers have included such fantasy veterans as Kelly Link and Elizabeth Hand, most of the 29 stories are by nongenre authors as well as gifted newcomers. Among the more memorable tales are Tyler Smith’s “A Troop [sic] of Baboons,” about a troupe of unruly baboon thespians, and Tony D’Souza’s whimsical “The Man Who Married a Tree,” about a man in love with a birch tree. This outstanding entry in the crowded “best of” stakes may not be the most commercially successful fantasy anthology of the year, but genre and mainstream fiction fans alike will be pleasantly surprised by these unconventional short fiction gems.

I just wish they'd mentioned that Matt Cheney is the series editor, since that is a weighted position that greatly influences all of the contents.

BAF should be on bookshelves around mid-July.



Gawd willin' and the crik don't rise, Sony Playstation, as part of its sponsorship of the 2007 Manchester International Festival, will be making an animation/cartoon out of my story "A New Face in Hell," to coincide with the launch of Perverted by Language, the anthology based on songs by The Fall. The animation should be widely available on the internet, and a couple of other writers will also be featured (more info on that soon).

Here's more info on the anthology:

Mechanical ducks, shark women that taste of liquorice, perverted sexual shenanigans in cramped office spaces, double-crossing Nazi apologists, bald-headed cultural subversives and celebrity deer-culling - this is just a glimpse into the wonderful and frightening world of Perverted by Language. Twenty-three writers choose a song by The Fall and use it as inspiration for a short story. Kicking off with Niall Griffiths' scalding take on the 1978 single, "Bingo Master's Break-out", the book culminates with Rebbecca Ray's devilishly saucy take on "I Can Hear The Grass Grow". This work is published in association with the inaugural Manchester International Festival (28 June-15 July 2007), the world's first international festival of new work, created by leading artists from across the spectrum of popular culture, innovation and music.

My story revolves around a mechanical duck...