Friday, October 21, 2005


Some people are posting the first lines of works in progress. I might get around to that, but in the meantime here are the first paragraphs of a couple of stories recently completed.


[Title Withheld]
I am writing this sitting in the half-submerged lobby of a rotting, half-finished condominium complex surrounded by cavorting fresh water seals, two pearl-handled revolvers in my lap, a bottle of vodka in my right hand, a human body in the freezer in the kitchens behind me, and a rather large displaced rock hopper penguin staring me in the face. Upstairs, on the second floor, is the room I’ve made my headquarters. It has a bidet but no bath. The toilet seat refuses to stay up. The wallpaper has succumbed in places to a grainy black fungus, despite the moderate climate. I smell mold everywhere, and fish. (Because, you know, fish have appeared in the lobby on occasion.) Sometimes the electricity works, but mostly I hope it doesn’t because I’m convinced what with all the water everywhere I’m likely to be electrocuted, perhaps even while I sleep.

A New Face in Hell
What do I know about Terry Tidwell? I know we watched him for over three years. No real suspicions, just general surveillance. "Secrets and scandals of deceitful type proportions," as they say. But there wasn't much to find out, and we've since stopped watching him, for reasons that will become clear. And for one other reason: I was following him so much that I began to think like him, to become him. This could be termed an occupational hazard. My superiors were not pleased.

The Great Bat Expedition
The Great Bat Expedition from Camp Crystal Lakes started out well enough. Nick, his sister Nikki, and their best friend Tom gathered outside Nick’s tent in the mid-afternoon. One by one they went through their list.

“Flashlight?” Nikki asked. She always kept the lists.

“Check,” said Nick. It was one of his favorite words. Sometimes he would say it all day long. Those were the days Nikki and Tom would try to avoid him.

Masha and the Bear
Once upon a time a talking bear found a girl named Masha wandering through the forest looking for wildflowers. Her parents had told her not to go out into the woods, but she'd ignored them. She was very surprised to see the bear—almost as surprised as the bear was to see her.

"Hello to girl," said the bear.


At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bears and bats and seals, oh my!

No, no my son. You still have your squid, and you've barely touched your meercat. No more animals to make weird with 'till you've finished your plate!



At 4:45 AM, Anonymous Alinta said...

"My superiors where not pleased." Awesome ending.

And that Nikki and Tom avoidance thing was cute.

Just can't take the smile off my face now, I'm going to giggle about those for the next two hours.

Meh, I'm easily pleased.

At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Paul Jessup said...

Weird. I had just finished re-reading Dradin:In Love (mostly because I have this weird hunch about it sharing an assload of themes with Heart of Darkness), and must say that comparing it to these new pieces (even in early form)you can see a vast improvement.

Not that Dradin was bad, but it was rough and raw, like a punk song. These have this shiny sheen to them that makes them very enjoyable.

Yay on previews. And junk.

At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I can't say I agree at all. "Dradin" is not at all like a punk song. It's the exact opposite. The new stuff is less formal, less lush, and therefore...less shiny.


At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Paul Jessup said...

Well, I guess we differ exactly on our definition of shiney. I agree Dradin was much more lush, but I consider punk music much more lush than music put out by a major label.

Note also, punk to me will always be that raw earthy sound from bands like the Television, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, the Pixies, etc. Layered, raw, full of lush fluffy sounds that break out and wash over you.

To me that's how Dradin feels- like being washed over by raw sounds. While this new prose is cut and distinct, shiney like a piece of metal, one that has been cut and worked and worn into shape. One without the layers and the noise. Without that raw earthy tang.

The new stuff is discreet, professional and modern.

But, this is just my interpertation. That's the wonderful thing about books and etc- each person takes with it a different impression, a different experience altogether.

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous kellys said...

Paul: I don't think a change of style signals an improvement or deterioration in a writer. At a guess, none of these four new stories take place in Ambergris, and therefore their more spare style reflects a different milieu as opposed to an "improvement" or maturation in writing. And after reading one paragraph, it's impossible to say whether these will be greater achievements than "Dradin."

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Honestly, I don't know what the heck you're talking about. Or why you'd compare or contrast an Ambergris novella to what are mostly fairly light short stories and one novella metafiction.

What would make more sense is to compare the style in Dradin to the style in the new novel, Shriek.

I'm not defending Dradin or the new stuff. I'm not talking about the quality of any of it, one way or the other.

But Dradin ain't punk. And the new stuff ain't necessarily slick.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter and I certainly am glad you're reading the work and enjoying some of it.

But another point I'd make: if, as a writer, you choose not to repeat yourself, you don't necessarily "improve". You may get more comfortable with constant shifts of focus or whatever, but I don't believe in a linear progression of improvement. It's more starts and stops and retooling and whatnot.

Anyway, thanks for the comments. I think I tend to disagree with you about half the time, as you know, so... :)


At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey--one of them is a talking bear story. It ain't gonna be as good as Dradin, but for what it's a darn good talking bear story. LOL!


At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Paul Jessup said...

Anyway, it doesn't really matter and I certainly am glad you're reading the work and enjoying some of it.

I'd rather say I'm enjoying almost all of it. But, I'll leave it at that, and move on, just because as a reader my thoughts differ and my own personal experience of your work differs from anyone else's personal experience of your work.

Even though each work is seperate with it's own distinct voice, it's still written by the same person, and I think can be compared. And I do believe in a sort of linear progression of a writers work (well, more circular with unfolding rings towards an out concentric thingy, but that's just me and everyone has their own each theory on writing, it could be said that for each writer lies a new theory for work in itself).

Now I'm rambling. I guess I think Dradin and most of the older Ambergis stuff is raw. I thought it at the time I had originally read Dradin so many years ago, back when I never even heard of Jeff Vandermeer, and I still think of it as raw now.

But that's just me. I actually like the fact we disagree so much. It keeps me thinking and rethinking.

At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I googled my own name and found this site. I'm Terry Tidwell. What did you see?! What exactly have you seen?


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