Friday, January 28, 2005


I continue to make steady progress on the secret lives project. For those of you waiting for yours through the Ziesing book catalog, thanks for your patience. They're getting longer and more convoluted, and stranger, and more beautiful. It's good for the project, but bad for my deadlines. The book probably won't be out until June. Until then, here's a secret life I finished last month.

The book can be ordered from the Prime Web site. Only 4 of the 26 signed, lettered limited-limited editions are still available.

A couple of advance blurbs have come in, based on the manuscript in progress.

"Awesomely bizarre, hilarious to the point of inducing injury - Jeff VanderMeer's strange and hair-raising histories will make anyone who reads them want a secret life of their very own...." – Liz Williams

"Whimsical, funny, touching, magical - Jeff VanderMeer lifts the lid on the rich eccentric worlds below the surface of ordinary life. These are the secret lives we all live - perhaps, for a few of us, in the real world; for the rest, in our imaginations; but few have imaginations to equal VanderMeer's. I wonder what his secret life is like?" – K.J. Bishop



Rick works as a commercial credit officer at a bank and has an obsession with H.P. Lovecraft. This might be why he refers to the bank’s managers as “The Old Ones” and believes that at night they creep into the vault and shed their human disguises, shuggothing and writhing about, bathing in the money that carries the secret Masonic Old Ones symbol on it. In his secret life, unknown even to his good friend Peggy, Rick is a 24-7 Lovecraft apologist. In a secret bungalow outside of the city, Rick keeps sophisticated tracking equipment so that he can monitor the media day and night. Whenever he comes across a negative reference to Lovecraft, he fires off a missive via snail or e-mail, using one of his many aliases. He considers this his holy duty. For example, when in the summer of 2004 the writer Jeff VanderMeer scoffed at the hideous effectiveness of the giant penguins in Lovecraft’s In the Mountains of Madness for a Locus Online article, Rick immediately sent a letter to the editor under the name “Gerald Rebarb” that stated in part, “Clearly VanderMeer has never set foot in the Mountains of Madness.” It is a little-known fact that 90 percent of all letters and emails to the editor concerning Lovecraft originate with Rick.

Meanwhile, his friend Peggy ostensibly works as a stylist, making drab products look beautiful for advertisements. In truth, her main job is protecting Rick from the Old Ones that work at the bank. As the great-great-great granddaughter of Dexter Ward, and privy to all of the secrets of the Mad Arab, Peggy has considerable experience in this area. Using as her latest cover the search for a new house, Peggy spends a lot of time saving Rick’s ass from various plots by the Old Ones. For it is Rick’s fate to be an unknowing nexus, or portal, into the Old Ones’ universe, which is the real reason he obsesses over Lovecraft. He cannot escape his fate yet has no inkling of it. He certainly doesn’t understand Peggy’s worries about his belly button. “Keep it clean of lint,” she repeatedly tells him. “Make sure your pants or shirt covers it at all times,” she says. “Who knows what might come out of it?!” Rick’s fairly sure nothing is coming out of it, but Peggy knows better. One day, an entire universe might devour our own.

Sometimes Peggy is even behind the bank building, battling the green tentacular strength of the Old Ones, while oblivious Rick works in the front, attending to clients. Naturally, this takes a lot of energy and physical prowess on Peggy’s part, so it’s only understandable that she might from time to time get irritated. When Rick asks how her house search is going, Peggy says between gritted teeth, “It’s going fine.”

It’d be going much better, she thinks, if the Old Ones didn’t gravitate toward you like bears to honey pots. It’d be going much better if you weren’t such a portal!

Still, she’s his friend for the long haul, and it could be worse. At least he’s not writing missives day and night in support of Lovecraft or something nuts like that, she thinks. Unlike the crackpots Rick’s always pointing out to her in the letters-to-the-editor columns of various respected periodicals.