Wednesday, November 30, 2005


From Jay Lake, who got it from somewhere else.

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don't speak often) please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you want - good or bad - BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE.

When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

(Evil Monkey: "Ah--that explains that stupid story you told in the last posting." Jeff: "It wasn't stupid. It actually happened to me. Jay wasn't involved, though." Evil Monkey: "How have you managed to live to the age of 37?")

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Ann and I had a good Thanksgiving, even if I did pick up a cold and also skin an elbow playing basketball against my younger brothers.


I didn't do any writing, but I did touch a lot of stuff, which is a form of research for writing. I've been so busy, I'd forgotten to do a lot of running of hands over surfaces and objects. Which sounds weird, but texture, feel, is an oft-forgotten way of describing things in fiction. Even, perhaps, a way to write your way into a story.

I always like to touch stuff when on vacation, to get a sense of the textures of a place. Australia was a gold mine for this kind of thing. As was, today, picking up a Buddha's hand, pictured above. It's a fruit, but it looks a bit like a squid! And it's a nice combination of smooth and rough! With little pinprick ends to the tentacles.

Jay Lake

I don't know why, but that reminds me of a story about Jay Lake. Back in the day, when Jay was going to the University of Florida in Gainesville (he got kicked out, but that's another story entirely, and I really think the so-called injured party was to blame), he and I got it into our heads one Halloween to dress up in a costume and get some candy. We were out of my minds on moonshine a friend's mother had given us, and we didn't have time to buy a real costume. So instead we cut holes in a white sheet and put the sheet over an umbrella to give it some structure and figured we'd go trick-or-treating in this garb. Only problem was, coordinating two people shambling around under a sheet turned out to be more difficult than we thought, and the eyeholes didn't quite match up--not to mention we had very little peripheral vision. Even worse, we were over at Jay's "apartment" (an abandoned, crumbling motel in which he squatted) and it was right next to a four-lane highway. To get to the residential areas where we were going to score candy, you had to cross the highway. So off we went in our sheet, trying to coordinate our walking (or stumbling) and at the same time see well enough not to get killed. We made it to the median strip okay, but then Jay stepped on the edge of the sheet (he claims I did) and we went sprawling. The sheet was really too big. So we're struggling in the sheet, trying to get up and shouting out "Don't hit us!" As if the people in the cars could even hear us. And at the same time, we're also rolling toward the other side of the street, hoping that at least we can make it to safety that way. I bruised Jay's ribs that way, by accidentally rolling on top of him. But we didn't make much progress. So finally we hear this screech of brakes and somebody cursing and we finally get out of the sheet and there's this irate cop looking down at us. Our costume was so bad and our babbling about the whole incident so incoherent he had no idea what the hell we'd been up to. So he arrested us both and took us down to the sheriff's office, where they released us but lectured us about creating a public nuisance. Shortly thereafter, Jay left Gainesville and I didn't speak to him again for fifteen years. Each of us was convinced the other one was responsible for the whole debacle.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Over here in the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving. It involves eating turkey and marking the beginning of a genocide, basically. Rather odd when you think about it. We're celebrating a bunch of religious nutcases' one moment of peacefulness, followed by a hundred years of aggression. Weird.

This blog will be on hiatus until Monday. To all and sundry: I owe you secret lives, I owe you writing critiques, I owe you comments, I owe you emails, I owe you copy edits, I owe you PR materials, I owe you presents, I owe you phone calls. All of this you shall have in the fullness of time.

Meanwhile, having once again endured a rather intense personal trainer session, I will hobble off down to Gainesville with Ann for Thanksgiving with my dad, stepmom, and (admittedly no longer little) two brothers, Francois and Nicholas.

So I leave you with this photo of my Dutch puritan forebears, above, which my cousin David was kind enough to send to me. Severe!

(Evil Monkey: "They look a little like, I hate to say it, vampires." Jeff: "Everybody looked pale and pointy-ish back then. It was a black-and-white world." Evil Monkey: "My forebears have more hair and they never were able to stand still long enough for the family photo." Jeff: "Do you have any family members you'll visit at Thanksgiving?" Evil Monkey: "I have an adopted family. I'll be visiting Ben Peek, Nick Mamatas, and Harlan Ellison over the holiday." Jeff: "Sounds like fun." Evil Monkey: "It will be! We all like to throw our poo up against the wall!" Jeff: "Well, okay, er, on that note--see ya Monday.")

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


He walked into the cat trap and we rushed him inside. He's howling like you wouldn't believe and he's bloody on his face and paws, and he keeps wanting to get out through the front door, but he's back! We're gonna take him to the vet tonight if we can and have him checked out.

Thanks to everyone for your advice and kind thoughts.


Monday, November 21, 2005


Winner: Mr. If-You-Build-A-Fence-They-Won't-Get-In Colin Hanna

It's only Monday and you've already chosen a jackass of the week?

Evil Monkey:
It seemed pretty clear to me that no one was going to top this guy. I could be wrong.

Let me get this straight. Mr. Hanna wants to build a fence all along our border with Mexico? Like, a six-tiered fence with a security road, barbed wire, the works?

Evil Monkey:
Yeah. It takes a pretty big jackass to suggest that, don't you think?

But those evil Mexicans are just jonesing to blow up stuff in America!!!

Evil Monkey:
Right. Now you're the one flinging your own poo against the wall. And winding me up. This jackass actually thinks that walling off a whole country like some twisted 21st century Poe story is going to stop terrorism. Just how many terrorist attacks have been launched from Mexico so far? I'm just a(n albeit evil) monkey and I know this is pretty flaky.

I dunno. Seems pretty reasonable.

Evil Monkey:
Well, then, why don't we fence off our coasts, too. Why don't we search every container entering this country by sea. Why don't we fence off our border with Canada--

I think that's next on Hanna's agenda. He's been a city commissioner--he knows what's what!

Evil Monkey:
Far be it from me to influence your brilliant prose, but you've got to work this into a short story or something. "The Man Who Wanted to Fence Off the World."

We should fence off the sky! Mall it all off! Fence! Fence! No gate! No gate! Wall! Wall! Viva el wall? Viva la wall? Viva fence! Viva loco!

Evil Monkey:
You're nuts.

Sorry about that. So, this jackass feature really going to be a weekly thing?

Evil Monkey:
Until I get bored. Then I might learn French. Or take over the world. Whichever seems easiest. Or run for Congress. I think a monkey could make a real difference in Congress.


People lie. Writers fabricate. True, writers are people, too. But they’re people who, like Hemingway, can observe a car accident and start scribbling notes about the details even while they’re trying to help the accident victims. They’re people like Vladimir Nabokov, who would publish a poem under a pseudonym, then write a letter to the editor blasting his own poem and then come to his own defense under yet another name. They’re people who, like Henry James, will stop someone at a dinner party in the middle of a story and ask the storyteller not to tell the ending so they can come up with a better one. Now, it’s true that “storyteller” and “writer” are sometimes two different vocations, but they do come together at times.

I don’t think writers do this just because they’re compulsive liars. I think it’s more a way of practicing for the short stories, novellas, and novels. I think it’s more a sense of play and a sense of liking a good tall tale. In other words, it’s usually pretty harmless. And if you’re lucky, you tell some yarn and the people you’re telling it to add to it, or use at their own.

So I thought it might be time to start a little internet meme about the stories we fabricate in real-time, in real life. If you do decide to follow on from this post, let me know and I'll post the links to your own fabrications in a future blog entry.

Anyway, here are the top lies…er, fabrications I’ve told in the “real” world. Not included is one pulled on me by my stepdaughter Erin, the oft-told Hannukah Bear Story, which I blogged about last year.

Val Kilmer’s Left Buttock

Several years ago Ann and I were visiting my dad in Gainesville. We were staying in a Cabot Lodge and one night we turned on the movie The Doors. Ann wondered why they’d gotten Val Kilmer to play the role of Jim Morrison and I casually said, “It’s because they have the same physical deformity.” “Really?” Ann asked. “Yeah—they both only have half of their left buttock. In Morrison’s case it’s a birth defect. In Kilmer’s case it was the result of an accident involving an arrow in gym class as a kid. They’ve both had to wear prosthetics their whole lives, and since the physical aspect is one way Oliver Stone gets into his movies, he cast Kilmer.” And this went on for awhile, until final Ann threw a pillow at me. I’ve told this story about ten times since and about half the time I get away with it for the first couple of minutes.

Brian Stableford’s Wooden Leg

After staying at Brian Stableford’s house for a day or two on one of our England trips, we met up with Mark Roberts, Keith Brooke, Neil Williamson and others in London. We were standing on a crowded street corner while Ann got money out of an ATM when they asked me about Stableford’s house. I told them all about his wall-to-wall books, his generosity as a host, and then about how he was especially generous considering he had a wooden leg. “What?” they exclaimed. “Yeah—he has a wooden leg. That’s why he’s often photographed with his hand in his left pocket—because the mechanism that animates the leg comes up through a cut in that pocket. It’s also why he seems a bit stiff from time to time.” Etc., etc. With that crowd, I only got about forty-five seconds of belief, though.

My Paper Plate

For some reason at my old job when people asked me about myself I kept telling them I was a former super middleweight fighter who had given up a national title shot to join the army and serve my country just when the Grenada excursion happened. As the story went, I was a paratrooper and landed badly and hurt my head. But the army was too cheap to give me a metal plate, so they put a new-fangled half-plastic half-paper plate in my head. That because it’s not a permanent plate and my health insurance won’t cover anything else, I have to have it changed out every three or four years. But it upsets my balance so I can never box again. A couple of people seemed to buy this, so then I’d launch into my Val Kilmer story.

The Giant Iguana

This is one that my stepdaughter and I used to create together when she was little and her friends would come over to play. Her friends would be petting the cats and I’d ask Erin, “Where’s the giant iguana?” And she’d say, “I think it’s under the bed.” Thus would start our little monologue about our pet iguana, rescued from a zoo. That her friends shouldn’t be worried—it didn’t bite much. Sometimes we’d vary this when she wanted to get off the phone with a friend. I’d shout out, “Erin—it’s time to feed the iguana!” Erin would say to her friend, “Sorry—gotta go. I have to feed the iguana,” and hang up. Over time, we created all kinds of subsidiary information about the iguana—how we took it for walks on a leash, how it ate a dog once, etc. Eventually, we had to stop because some of her friends actually got frightened.

The Frog Fairy

I got tired of being the tooth fairy where Erin was concerned, so she started getting money from the frog fairy. The frog fairy was always either short of cash or only had foreign currency, because of traveling all over the world. So, she’d get a letter under her pillow from the frog fairy that explained all the places he’d been that night and here were some Chinese coins because that’s all he had in his pockets. Sometimes there would be a long apology if the frog fairy hadn’t given her anything but the tooth fairy had. Usually it also included insults to the tooth fairy. Alas, one night, as the frog fairy was creeping up on her to put the letter under her pillow, she turned over, saw us (we had actually been creeping—I mean, like we were straight out of a comic book or Scooby Doo), gave a big smile, and then turned over again. So I had to retire that fabrication.

National Literary Bird Award

Ann and I were bored one day so we fashioned some stationery from some kind of national bird society and sent a letter to our friend Nathan Ballingrud via Joe Nigg, who has written several books on mythical birds. In the letter, Nathan was told that he’d won first place that year for his use of birds in his short fiction. The letter went on and on about the use of birds in various works of literature, from Faulkner to Hemingway, and how integral they were to the plots of various books. Accompanying the letter was one of Joe’s books. To this day, I’m not exactly sure what Nathan thought about all of this. But it’s not a fabrication we use very often.

Penguin Phat

Our friend Eric Schaller called us recently and told us we wouldn’t be able to handle the New Hampshire weather when we visit over New Year’s. So I told him it wouldn’t be a problem—that we’d bought this product called Penguin Phat while in Madison for World Fantasy. “It’s great. It’s actually made from penguin fat and you just rub it all over your body before you put your clothes on and it protects you from the cold. It’s a little messy because you have to put on a really thick layer, but it does the job.” “Really?” Eric asked. “No,” I said. But I’ve since been told that there may in fact be such a product!


P.S. One I haven't put on the list is a fabrication my friend and work colleague Paul Larsen and I came up with about us being a dance team--ballroom, interpretive, synchronized swimming, you name it. The reason I haven't put it on the list is that it's free-form: you have to experience it to believe it. Although the apogee of the routine probably came during a team lunch. I had just described our experimental interpretative dance routine describing the march back from Moscow by Napoleon. "What did you wear?" someone asked. "White unitards, over our faces, too," I said, "to symbolize the snow, and then to symbolize the hunger, over top of that we wore..." And Paul cut in with: "Horseflesh. Pounds and pounds of horseflesh." I just about died.

(Evil Monkey: "Did you see this article on Locus Online? Riveting stuff!" Jeff: "Naw, I haven't seen it. You liked it?" Evil Monkey: "It's's like some kind of literary mystery. Listen to this quote: 'At this point, I made a key decision relevant to any effort to define science fiction. Shapiro planned to organize his book of quotations by authors, and I had agreed to follow his example, which would have made the task of editing relatively straightforward. Yet I now resolved to organize my quotations by topics, requiring me to create various topical headings and accordingly reorganize my thousands of quotations as part of the process of final editing.' " Jeff: "Hmmm." Evil Monkey: "It's not over. Then he writes, 'Admittedly, I was inclined to choose topical organization because I thought this would be more appealing to casual readers, who would more likely consult a book of quotations looking for quotations about "progress" instead of quotations by Ray Bradbury. However, I was also acknowledging the special nature of science fiction. If you group quotations by authors, you implicitly present your material as a collection of individual voices, each offering their own distinctive brand of wisdom. But science fiction writers are typically very much aware of their predecessors and colleagues, and their statements often are overt or subtle responses to statements by other authors.' " Jeff: "I can't believe I'm still awake." Evil Monkey: "What? Only you get to write boring, long self-absorbed articles about books you've done?" Jeff: "Point taken.")

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Two rather extraordinarily gifted writers have joined the blogosphere:

Nathan Ballingrud

Glen Hirshberg

Check 'em out.


(Evil Monkey: "Hey, slacker--when're you gonna update your blog links?" Jeff: "When my French translator stops interrogating me about City of Saints." Evil Monkey: "When will that be?" Jeff: "Two or three years." Evil Monkey: "Oh screw that--I'll do it...How do I do it?" Jeff: "I think I'm going to withhold that information." Evil Monkey: "What do you think I'd do?! Bring your whole blog crumbling down around your ears, frogboy?!" Jeff: "If you'd take a moment to stop flinging your shit up against the wall, I might be inclined to answer you.")

Friday, November 18, 2005


Some people have asked about the green dress Ann wore at the convention. Here's a photo of Ann taken by Beth Gwinn.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005


A couple of quick updates--January 18th I'll be reading at KGB in NYC as part of the Ellen Datlow-Gavin Grant run series.

In June, I'll be teaching at the Odyssey Workshop run by Jeanne Cavelos.


(Evil Monkey: "And I'll be teaching in the shadow of the Gates of Hell!" Jeff: "Pay well?" Evil Monkey: "Not as well as you might think!")


ALIEN CONTACT: The Online Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy is doing a special Vandermeer issue to coincide with the release of City of Saints & Madmen from Klett-Cotta in Germany. Check it out. Special thanks to Jeffrey Ford for letting AC translate and reprint his introduction from Secret Life.

A couple more links I let slip by, from SF Site:

Fake Disease Guide article (how it all came to be)

Interview with Glen Cook


(Evil Monkey: "Hey." Jeff: "Hey! Where've you been?" Evil Monkey: "Down Under. Kicking Ben Peek's ass." Jeff: "Why the cough?" Evil Monkey: "Bastard took me out with a foot to the throat. Been recuperating." Jeff: "Sorry to hear that." Evil Monkey: "Glad I got back in time to see you turn your blog into a non-stop links celebration, btw." Jeff: "I gotta, until the blog redesign goes into effect." Evil Monkey: "If you say so." Jeff: "How was Australia otherwise?" Evil Monkey: "Australia? I didn't go to Australia. I stole a page from Constantine. I fought Ben Peek under the Gates of Hell." Jeff: "You don't say." Evil Monkey: "It's hot down there, but I made a lot of friends." Jeff: "Great!" Evil Monkey: "...and they're all coming over for a poker game on Thursday. Hope you don't mind.")

Monday, November 14, 2005


UPDATE 11/16: Photos now posted here. Check 'em out.

Note: I might add stuff to this as I remember more. I'll re-post if so.

"I remember that people asked me a lot in 2005--why a smoking bunny? Why photographs? I told them I didn't know. But look at me now." - Jeff VanderMeer, 2050, in an interview with Smoking Bunny Nation

The 2005 World Fantasy Convention was an oddly fragmented experience for me, because I'd set up so many meetings with people beforehand. So I was continually leaving to go to some breakfast/lunch/dinner or returning, and thus coming in on and leaving conversations in the bar and on the sixth floor (party central) so that I tended to float over the top of things. Like, walking into a party late Friday night to find Alan DeNiro dancing in a wig (well, he was wearing clothes, too). How had this come to be? Why was he so fucking happy? And what was with the big gloating grin on Matt Cheney's face? And who was the guy in the chair giggling? Okay, so maybe that was Nick Mamatas, and maybe he was giggling because he's just a twee kind of guy. (Meanwhile, lurking in the shrubbery, that shadowy figure in the dark blazer—that was Sean Wallace, I was pretty sure. And that Devil gibbering and drinking and calling me "Vanderthing," that had to be the notorious Jay Caselberg.)

The main point being, Ann and I generally hadn't had as much alcohol as those we were joining and had missed whole long conversations about venom cocks and twee anthologies, among other things. However, everywhere we went, we brought with us the Smoking Bunnies. And not just any Smoking Bunnies: The Pimp Daddy Godfather Disco Inferno Collectors' Edition. This tended to help us catch up for some reason.

Still, I pretty much remember the convention as a series of events rather than a continuous narrative—all framed by Ann's car accident.

The night before we left for Madison, Ann was in a very bad car accident. She turned left against three lanes of traffic. Two had stopped and waved her on. In the third, a car came speeding through and hit her in the side. T-boned her, a term we'd never heard before but we heard about fifty times over the next few days. ("Oh—yeah, I got t-boned once." "Yeah—you got t-boned." "Oh. T-boned. That's tough." "T-bone." "T-bone." I was seeing the word in my sleep. I'm sure Ann was, too.) The car completely caved in—totaled and thrown forward into a decorative pond outside of the drycleaners Ann was trying to get to. She was knocked unconscious and when she came to, the police and emergency medical personnel had arrived at the scene. She called me, scaring the shit out of me, and I drove over as quickly as possible. When I saw the car, I just about lost it because it didn't look like anyone could have survived the accident. But then I saw Ann on the protective stretcher next to the car and could see that she wasn't bleeding and seemed to be talking to the police.

In fact, she was basically telling them, "I don't have time for this shit—I've got to be in Madison tomorrow for the International Horror Guild Awards." I don't know if this made the paramedics believe she was less or more lucid than when they first pulled her out of the car. Making it worse, they asked her basic questions like what day it was and who the president of the United States was. Instead of answering the second question, Ann just grimaced, so they had to repeat it, "Who is the president of the United States?" At which point I said, "She knows who he is, she just isn't fond of him."

After she got checked out at the hospital and they found that she was bruised and banged up but had no internal injuries or broken bones, I took her home and told her we should just cancel the trip so she could rest up. But she wasn't buying that. "I'm going to be just as sore and messed up here as in Madison, so I might as well go to Madison and try to have some fun." I knew she really didn't want to miss the IHG Awards ceremony, since she was supposed to say a few words about Gahan Wilson, the living legend award winner and help out in general, as well as see some old friends. And it didn't really make sense for her to stay at home, since lying down made the pain worse.

So we loaded up on painkillers and went to Madison anyway. I had to make sure to ask Ann how she was doing several times a day because she has a high pain threshold and is often too tough for her own good. (If I seemed distracted sometimes, it's because I was, with good reason!)

We're both glad we went—we had such a good time. And Madison is a great city.

I know I'm not going to mention everybody and I apologize in advance for that (just no time to do a long report), but the things I remember most are:

* Surprising Jim Minz Thursday afternoon as he was unloading booze from his car by stepping in front of his assigned helper and taking the box from Jim.

* Breakfast with Rusty Morrison & Ken Keegan of Omnidawn Press and Eric & Kelly from Rain Taxi at a breakfast place called Marigold's. They're all such great people, and the food was wonderful.

* Playing pool with Juliet and Anne from Bantam. My Ann was hurting from laughing so much—laughing was hell on her ribs, but, as she said later, worth it. We went to this place called Cuenique, which I was calling Cuetical by mistake, which might be why it took so long to find. Everyone played well, but Juliet, despite not playing for awhile had an uncanny precision in figuring out the angles—I could see her doing the geometry in her head. Which is kind of how she is as an editor—sharp, sharp, sharp!

* Ann moderating the relationship between reader and writer panel. You could tell that the panelists thought they were tanking in places, even though they were all giving incredibly interesting answers. I thought this was one of the strongest panels of the convention, but sometimes what's strong to the people attending can be an endurance test for the panelists, because the topic is one for which answers cannot always be easily articulated.

* Forrest Aguirre leading a group of us on a tour of Madison Friday night. Our group included Mark Kelly, Rajan Khanna, Rajan's friend Gigi, Trevor Stafford, Deborah Biancotti, Matt Cheney, Liz Gorinsky, Rusty Morrison, Ken Keegan, Kameron Hurley, Kameron's friend Jenn, Tina Anghelatos and her partner Charley, and probably a few I'm forgetting momentarily (forgive me). One of the funniest things was entering the student union and smelling a rather bizarre smell that I hadn't experienced before. Turned out it was pot mixed with popcorn, since both substances were prevalent there. Forrest was a great guide—telling us all about The Onion and how that august publication used to get its writing done. Specifically, by gathering together as many caffeinated beverages the night before the deadline, then drinking them until four in the morning. At four in the morning, they'd start writing and not stop until their noon deadline. We also peeked into a cheese shop that had hats made of cheese. You could even get a bust of yourself done, carved from a huge block of cheddar cheese.

* A reader coming up to me after a panel and telling me he disagreed with my blog comments dissing George R.R. Martin's work. "What comments?" I said. "Sand Kings kicked ass and was a major influence. I haven't read the fantasy novels but I hear they're good heroic fantasy." "Oh—well, I heard on some message board you were dissing Martin's work." "Not true," I said. Mind you, this guy was polite. Just repeating something bogus. (Reminded me of some quote attributed to Paul Di Filippo about how if I know a writer I can't read their work because I heard their voice in my head. Also not true. Only holds true for one or two writers.)

* Sitting next to Al Duncan at the autograph session Friday night and realizing glumly that his schedule and mine were probably going to be so divergent this was the only time I was going to get to talk to him, and me about as low-energy as I would be the whole convention.

* Sitting down at the table for dinner with my agent, with Stephen R. Donaldson opposite me, and realizing the fly on my tux had been open the whole way from the hotel to the restaurant—in the middle of a downpour—and immediately hoping that it wouldn't be obvious in the photo Beth Gwinn had taken of all of us for Locus. And, before that, watching Ann get complimented again and again on her amazing sea-green dress, with train, her not caring at all about all those poor green-blue bruises on her arms. And, later, Jeff Ford making me, Jonathan Strahan, Ann, John, and Beth Gwinn bust a gut (and busting me on my nonfiction collection) and just generally cracking us up during the whole dinner. Later still, smoking a few good Cubans with my agent and Jeff. Latest, sitting down with Cat Valente, Nick, Matt, Eliana, and a couple hundred others, and listening to Matt explain "twee."

* Peter Straub and Graham Joyce having a great time emceeing the International Horror Guild Awards—the two of them were a laugh riot. And seeing Ann up there doing her thing, including show a bit of leg for the Locus photographers. I also really enjoyed Daniel Abraham's win. He's a great writer and he's a genuinely nice human being. Not to mention being thrilled that A Serious Life from Savoy Books won in the nonfiction category. I was also thrilled Lucius Shepard's Viator won and Brian Evenson's The Wavering Knife. I thought The Wavering Knife not being up for a World Fantasy Award was a major oversight in the best collection category, so was doubly glad it won the IHG Award. The anthology Acquainted With the Night winning multiple awards made me want to pick it up and see what all the fuss was about.

* The sweet brevity of Carol Emshwiller's lifetime achievement award speech ("I was happy before I won this. Now I'm even happier." [sic]) contrasted to the poignant length of John Picacio's speech. John's speech, in which he talked at length about each of the other finalists and their many virtues, really touched a lot of people in the audience. It may be the best speech I've yet heard at one of these things.

* Among many fine conversations at the Bantam table at the WF award ceremony, I really enjoyed talking to novelist Marina Fitch about characters and story structure. I haven't read any of her work, I hate to confess, but will now seek it out.

* Moderating the Fantasy on the Edges panel, just because there was such a wealth of talent among the panelists: Graham Joyce, Kelly Link, Patrick O'Leary, Carol Emshwiller, and Matt Cheney. That's a Dream Team as far as I'm concerned. I also really enjoyed coming up with fake bios for the panelists, since I'd decided we'd eschew the normal introductions as being boring and usual. Although Graham did start when I introduced him as "A previously unpublished author currently shopping a novel around, and a priest in the Anglican church." (I did feel sorry for Carol Emshwiller, who came in late and looked very bewildered when I introduced her as "An ex-boxer and pro wrestler who once did color commentary with Howard Cosell.")

This was one of those hour-and-a-half panels, starting at four in the afternoon. Except for Patrick, I think all of the panelists were tired, too, and about half-way through I was worried it had started to drag. But everyone who attended seemed to really enjoy it. I don't know if we accomplished anything, but we didn't devolve into talking about marketing or bemoaning the SF/F ghetto or any general whining. Most importantly, we didn't start any new movements. Nor did we invoke the terms "Slipstream," "New Weird," or "Interstitial" at any time during the hour and a half. That, my friends, is what I call a startling achievement. (I've already talked about the Aussie panel in a previous blog entry.)

* Lunch with the SF Site crew, including Rodger Turner, who shared quite a few interesting stories, even one about my agent! I don't know if people understand the kind of commitment it takes for a website like SF Site to put out issue after issue every two weeks, with clockwork precision. It takes someone like Rodger, for one thing.

* Meeting Kameron Hurley and realizing that her Brutal Woman persona is much more severe than her real-life persona, and having a nice, relaxing breakfast with her.

* Meeting Nick Mamatas and realizing again that he's about as harmless as a purring kitten in person. And just about as cute.

* Talking crap with Otto from Realms of Fantasy books. Otto cracks me up. He's always finding ways to take the piss out of me, like telling me Prime just sold him 30 copies of the City of Saints hardcover when it's contractually supposed to be out-of-print. Very funny, Otto. And just in general, doing the rounds of the dealer's room and picking up books and talking to the dealers. I love the dealer's room. I love talking to booksellers. But that Otto—don't trust that guy. He was marking up a Tartarus Press book up from $50 to $400 when I first saw him. (Actually, I can't think of a better guy to buy a book from.)

* Having a chance to finally sit down and talk to my editor Liz Gorinsky at Tor. Liz is so knowledgeable on music, theater, graphic novels, and books that it was a delight. She's also a great editor and a genuinely nice person. I think you're going to be hearing her name a lot more over the next few years.

* Getting Jason Williams from Night Shade Books to join me on a trip to get a cigar cutter and lighter down on State Street and just shooting the shit about publishing and remembering the bad old days when we were selling the crap out of the Night Shade edition of the disease guide. I like Jason because I can talk normal around him—which is to say, with all the fucking curse words left in.

* Breakfast with Cheryl Morgan at a little coffee house called Michelangelo's. Cheryl is an interesting conversationalist and we talked about a lot of different things, from Emerald City to politics. I know a lot of people think of Cheryl in terms of genre fiction and her interaction with it, but she's knowledgeable on a broad range of subjects and I always come away from talking to her energized. I enjoy the hell out of her.

* The briskness of the weather, the orange-yellow-brown of the leaves—such a relief after the summer of hell in Tallahassee. We genuinely enjoyed the cold weather, delighted in it, in fact.

* In general, the reactions of people upon being asked to hold a smoking bunny and while I took their photos. (And where are those photos? To be posted shortly...)

I'm sure more will occur to me later, but, for now, that's World Fantasy 2005...a wholly fragmented, fragmentary experience for me that bears no real relationship to what actually went on. At the end of it, we were, of course exhausted. We shared a plane part of the way back with Lou Anders of Pyr Press, and neither of us was able to do more than grunt a few words at each other between periods of semi-consciousness.

Luckily, Ann's injuries have gotten better and it looks like the only permanent damage is to the car, which we need to replace. All I can say is, Ann's a lot tougher than I am. Tiny but fierce, as I like to say.



The good people who run Finncon (Helsinki) have started a blog about the upcoming 2006 convention, at which I will be a guest of honor. I'm really looking forward to visiting Finland and attending this convention. I've been in correspondence with a lot of Finnish writers, readers, and editors over the past couple of years, all of whom have been not only exceedingly nice but also extremely talented and hard-working people. It should be a lot of fun.


Sunday, November 13, 2005


Back in the 1990s, when I generally couldn't sell anything to a high-profile market to save my life, Keith Brooke at Infinity Plus reprinted a lot of my stories and got me a lot more readers--and sales, as I've had more than one foreign market query me about reprinting a story after seeing it on IP. It's a great site for reprints, but it's also given writers like Anna Tambour a real boost earlier in their careers with a few selected original pieces.

Right now, IP is featuring my essay (nonfiction?) The Romantic Underground, which originally appeared in the Nebula Awards anthology earlier this year. I think this is probably my best (non)fiction work, although I must admit that the "supposed" quote from Michael Moorcock is actually from Mike. I hope you enjoy it.

IP is also featuring two reviews, one of the Bantam Veniss and the other of Monkey Brain's Why Should I Cut Your Throat?


Saturday, November 12, 2005


I love Google's translator, especially their translations from the German. City of Saints and Madmen, for example, translates variously as "The City of the Holy Ones and Crazy Person" or "The City of Priest People and One Crazy Individual".

City of Saints is doing very well Germany and for those of you who speak German, there are now reviews at SF Radio, First News, and a Vienna women's magazine (?!), among others.

It's really a gorgeous edition of the book, too. Thanks again to Klett-Cotta, translator Erik Simon, and my editor Hannes Riffel (truly a remarkable man).


Friday, November 11, 2005


I'm pleased to officially announce that I'm embarking on a new project, to be released over the summer: a short film (five to seven minutes) based on part of my new novel, Shriek: An Afterword. The film will be based on the internet on the Shriek site (; the site will go live in January, with the film coming later) but also be featured nationally through various prominent online venues (more on that later).

Jonathan Edwards, who created the cover photography used for both the Pan Macmillan and TOR (US) versions of the novel, will put the film together from my script. Jonathan also did the cover designs for Leviathan 4 and Album Zutique. He will also be designing the Shriek web site.

I'm also pleased to be able to announce that one of my favorite bands, The Church, has agreed to do an original soundtrack for the film. Over the past 25 years, The Church have had countless hits--in their native Australia, Europe, and, of course, in the United States with "Under the Milky Way," among others. More importantly, the quality of their output has been stellar over their entire career. Since I wrote most of Shriek while listening to tracks from The Church's entire catalogue, I'm really thrilled they've committed to this project.

I don't have particulars yet on the form the film will take, but it will probably be a combination of still photography, animation, etc. There are several cool things Jonathan and I want to try out. There will also be a voice-over, although I'm still firming up who will do it. My hope is that the film will be first and foremost a self-contained work of art, and only secondly a tie-in to my novel.

This will be my first venture into film of any kind and I hope to use it as a launching pad to do longer indie film projects.

As I have more details, I'll make them known.



First Dream of Falling Man is one of Scott Eagle's latest paintings. It's disturbing, somewhat confrontational, and I love it. I also love the fact that Eagle is continually changing his style and his approach to his art. He is in a constantly changing dialogue with the world. Check out the rest of his site. Some stunning work.


Thursday, November 10, 2005


I am working my way toward a con report. In the meantime...

At World Fantasy, I was thrilled to be able to present the acceptance speeches for A Serious Life by David Mitchell, in the International Horror Guild Award's nonfiction category.

The book, which I've previously blogged about, is a history of Savoy Books--which means it is also a history of alternative culture through the 1970s and 1980s. It is for this reason that both the author and Michael Butterworth provided me with speeches to read should the book win.

Savoy, as I've said before, publish some of the edgiest and fascinating books on the planet--in some of the most attractive packages I've ever seen. A Serious Life is no exception, with an amazing layout and design by John Coulthart. You owe it to yourself to pick up a copy before they're gone.


A Serious Life by DM Mitchell
(Acceptance speech by Michael Butterworth on behalf of Savoy Books)

These last thirty years have been a rough tough ride. Were we sane we would have repeatedly questioned what we were doing and perhaps, on one of those occasions, given up. But fortunately, or—depending on your viewpoint— unfortunately, evidently we aren’t sane, as this book proves.

It is a record of those years of fantasy, surrealism, science fiction, rock’n’roll and horror madness all melded into one that no rational person would have attempted. I don’t know if it is “horror” in the strict sense of the word. That might possibly have been decided here tonight. The book Dave Mitchell has written is as much an account of his own thinking as it is about Savoy Books. He draws original insights about a certain kind of horror fantasy literature, set in the context of a very personal Celtic vision of how he sees the world. As much as it is about us, as publishers of the strange and wonderful, we felt it was deserving of print.
Although we’re regarded by some as outsiders and misunderstood, in terms of our enthusiasms we’ve always considered ourselves as part of the great fantasy tradition – Lovecraft, Lindsay, Hodgson, Moorcock, etc. In this sense we’re not outsiders looking in. We’re coming from inside the genre, and Dave has articulated this.

We didn’t think we would make it this far. We certainly didn’t think we would survive long enough to begin the process of becoming veterans, which is what this award may be signaling. Dave helped start this process, and, very fortunately, there have been other people around—our representative who is reading this acceptance speech, Cheryl Morgan, Douglas Winter, Paul de Fillipo, the judges here at this award ceremony and otherswho have been very public in their appreciation of this book, who have proved us wrong, and to whom on behalf of Savoy Books I extend a big and heartfelt thank you. It is a great honour to have our work acknowledged—it has not been easy, but it has definitely been worth it. Our insanity is still intact. We’d do it all over again.

A Serious Life by DM Mitchell
(Acceptance Speech by the author)

Firstly I’d like to thank everyone involved for giving us this award. I say ‘us’ because this book was in reality a joint project. Mike Butterworth and David Britton gave up so much of their time to giving interviews, providing insights, revising texts and correcting them whenever I missed the mark and giving encouragement. And of course John Coulthart’s design and artwork constituted a crucial element, dignifying the project and unifying it in a way I’d never conceived.

I am hoping that this book receiving the award will bring some attention to Savoy’s labours over the decades and help to get them taken seriously by a broader readership.

There is no need to justify the merits of horror fiction (nor by extension of SF or fantasy) to anybody here – it is a genre whose contributors more frequently than not transcend the marketplace limits of the genre. But for the sake of making a point I’ll pretend that you can split horror fiction into two camps defined more by the reactions and attitudes of its readership than by the work itself.

One kind – which constitutes the larger camp – serves ultimately to reassure us. It is a sort of roller-coaster ride. It reminds us of death and darkness but ultimately returns us to a place of safety. This kind of work is cathartic and purging. It returns to us parts of our primal experience lost to the daily routine of what we call life. But the ultimate message is one of reassurance.

The other, smaller, camp reminds us equally of death and darkness but offers us no reassuring message. Their work disturbs, shocks (in a profound rather than prurient way) and pushes us to think about things that we had taken for granted. Some of them disturb subtly by analogy and allegory – Robert Aickman, Thomas Ligotti – some of them tear into us mercilessly – William Burroughs, Thomas M Disch. They feel that after unleashing their horrors, to turn around and tell us that ‘everything is really ok’ would be somehow dishonest. Bad Faith.

Savoy have always been members of the latter camp. They would probably acknowledge that both types of fiction are of value, but would claim that the first sort is somewhat over-represented. They have instead elected themselves the champions of the neglected – those forgotten in the rush to the cash registers. William Hope Hodgson, Henry Treece, Jack Trevor Story, David Lindsay – and others.

More recently their books centred on the character Lord Horror have attracted them much adverse attention. I believe that this cycle of books and comics is one of the most important works of the twentieth/twenty-first century, alongside Naked Lunch, Ulysses, Miracle of the Rose and others. My hope is that intelligent readers and writers will, in time, approach these books objectively and see them for what they are – a milestone in the development of modern literature and thinking.
So thank you to the IHG and thank you to Savoy for having lived a very very serious life.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Australian Ben Peek, a kick-ass writer whose first novel comes out next year from Prime Books, answered some of my questions for the Australian Fantasy panel I moderated at the World Fantasy Convention. I took the answers with me, but wasn't able to read as many of them as I would have liked due to the direction the panel conversation took. (I should also take this opportunity to thank Jay Caselberg for joining the panel, Garth Nix for his cogent comments from the audience, and the intrepid Justin Ackroyd, Deborah Biancotti, and Jonathan Strahan.)

Now, Ben has posted his answers on his blog. I think they're very interesting and I urge you to check it out. I wish I had been able to share more of it on the panel.


Monday, November 07, 2005


We're back from WFC.

Congrats to all of the WF Award winners, but...I gotta say--the one that made me jump up and cheer was John Picacio winning for best artist. That guy is a class act and one of the hardest working people in the business. Not only that, he gave the best acceptance speech I've ever heard.

Right now, we're eating cheese (hello, Wisconsin!) and drinkin' some good German beer. Ann's still in a lot of pain, but we're doing okay.

More soon.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Man, what a week. Monday I wound up skinning my knees diving for a candy corn whilst wearing an alligator head. Tuesday I literally couldn't stand up straight because I'd overworked my calves in a session with my new trainer two days before. Still hobbling.

And today, a real scare--Ann was in a serious car accident. I got to the scene, saw how badly the car was crumpled up and almost had a heart attack. Luckily, Ann's okay besides being banged up and bruised. I told her we should just stay home, but she wants to go to WFC, so we're going to WFC. She was cursing up a storm in the hospital about how she didn't have time for this. That's my Ann: tiny but fierce. I still don't know for sure if we'll feel the same way in the morning, but hopefully we will be in WFC, cause Ann feels like she's going to be sore no matter where we are. But if we're both walking pretty know why.

See you soon.


PS Here's a recap/update of my World Fantasy Con schedule.

THURSDAY, November 3rd

8:30pm - 10:00pm
International Horror Guild Awards (Capitol B room)
This year's World Fantasy Convention is also pleased to be hosting the 11th annual IHG awards presentations, recognizing creators in the field of dark horror and fantasy.
Presenters: Paula Guran, Graham Joyce, Peter Straub
(My wife, Ann, is a judge for the IHG. I've also been tagged to accept and read a speech should David Mitchell's A Serious Life (Savoy Books) win in the nonfiction category. This should be a great event with a lot of heavy hitters attending.)

FRIDAY, November 4th

2:00pm to 3:00pm
Manning the Prime Table
(I'll be available to sign books. I may not be able to make the autograph session, so this provides another opportunity on the off chance anyone needs a book signed.)

4:00pm - 5:30pm
Fantasy in Unexpected Places (Capitol B room)
As more and more "cross-genre" work is published and as writers explore new territory, fantasy has become more diverse, harder to pin down. What is "fringe fantasy?" Can a novel or story be fantastical without anything magical happening in it? Where can readers find fantasy on the fringe? Who is writing it? Why is such work important?
Panelists: Carol Emshwiller, Matt Cheney, Graham Joyce, Kelly Link, Jeff VanderMeer (M)
(This is going to be a really wonderful panel. I'm so pleased with the panelists. I will be doing my best impression of invisible, as a moderator should, except for the occasional comment, since this is a topic close to my heart.)

8:00pm - 10:30pm
Autograph Reception (Capitol & University)
Meet, talk, and get stuff signed.
(Again, not really sure if I'll be able to make this. If so, it'll likely be later than earlier. Email me at vanderworld at if you want to confirm my availability.)

SATURDAY, November 5th

11:00am - 12:00pm
Fantasy Down Under (Capitol B room)
In the past few years, there has been a surge of powerful fantasy writers from Australia , all with distinctive and innovative voices. How did this come about? What constitutes a uniquely Australian writer? Who will be the next breakout writers from Down Under? Also talking about Australia and Australian writing generally
Panelists: Justin Ackroyd, Deborah Biancotti, Jay Caselberg, Jeff VanderMeer (M), and possibly...a mystery guest
(Having spent a couple months devoted to Australian SF/F and now having visited for three weeks and spent a lot of time talking about the subject with Australian writers, I thought this would be a good opportunity to extend my knowledge of the subject by running questions about what I've read and observed by a very distinguished and knowledgeable panel of Aussies. Again, as moderator--and especially on this panel--I'm gonna be invisible.)

2:30pm - 4:00 pm (Capitol B room)
The Reader: Foundation of Fantasy
None of this would be possible without our readers. A reader completes the cycle of writing by providing an audience for the work. Is the reader an essential part of the process of writing? How much attention to that audience is needed while doing the writing itself? In what ways have readers contributed to the journey that is writing?
Panelists: Hal Duncan, Liz Gorinsky, Jay Lake, Mary Rosenblum, Ann VanderMeer (M)
(My wife came up with this topic and has a great set of panelists to explore it with! Definitely check this one out as well. Hal Duncan is a powerhouse, my editor Liz Gorinsky kicks ass, Jay Lake is a monster of knowledge, and Mary Rosenblum is wonderful as well. Oh yes--and my wife is fierce but reasonable, so...)

4:30pm - 5:30 pm
Hanging out in the Dealer's Room
I should be in the dealer's room, at the Wheatland Press and Golden Gryphon tables, available for signing.

SUNDAY, November 6th

12:00pm - 4:00pm
World Fantasy Awards Banquet
Luncheon (by ticket), followed by presentation of the awards for the best works of 2004. Seating will be available after the luncheon for everyone interested in watching the award presentations.
(We will be attending the banquet at the Bantam-Spectra table.)

Well, here they are--the judges' picks. Thanks to everyone for playing, and we'll ship the prizes out after World Fantasy.


Judge Marmot's, Judge Possum's, and Judge Flying Squirrel's ‘This Here Cupcake’ Picks. With commentary from Paul (Marmot) and Possum (Leisa). Flying Squirrel (Meredith) declined to comment beyond making her picks.

Eric Marin

three kids dressed as ghosts
wander down fishhook alley
blood-stained sheets puddle

First prize.

Paul says: Nice dark tone with rich images. The development of the haiku from gentle to violent is just lovely.
Leisa says: I love this one for the story… the glimpse of Halloween (the film) and the visual it leaves you with. White stained with red….. the sharp points of the fishhooks.

Clare Dudman

Wing of decayed bat
shrivelled foot of old baboon
mmm squishy candy.
Second prize.

Paul says: Bats, baboons and the word ‘squishy.’ Three of my favorite things. Plus the ‘mmmm’ meter filler. Brilliant.
Leisa says: this one wins one of the top honors because of the gross-out factor. Clare captured the icky post candy pick up bleck and still conveyed a bit of fright night.

Dana Martin

candy candy corn
lets eat lots of candy corn
orange, yellow, white
3rd prize.

Paul says: Best use of candy corn in a haiku that seems like a cross between a playground taunt and a madman’s mantra.
LP says: this one because it best replicates the spirit of the candy corn haiku-fest that started it all. Dana "gets" the candy corn obsession. BTW, now is the perfect time to buy candy corn—discounted post Halloween!


shove extra copies
of Veniss up your arse, I want
Shriek: An Afterword

Honorable mention: Violence to VanderMeer Award. Given to the best suggestion for the bloghost to sodomize himself with his personal library.


French Maid, Cheerleader
Fantasy adult costumes
On sale at Target

Honorable mention: Thirsty Roofer Award (formerly Lucky Burglar Award). Given to the best adult role-playing haiku.

La Gringa

There would be far more
creativity here if
Peeps were the grand prize.

Honorable mention: Cross Holiday Candy Shout-Out Award. Perhaps Jeff can be persuaded to have an Easter contest.

La Gringa

Easter Bunny baked
into Halloween pot pie.
Somewhere, the Pope laughs.

Honorable mention: WTF Award. Thanks for tying the Pope and the Easter Bunny together with Halloween. This is a haiku I wish I had written. (Paul)

Punning Linguist

Autumn in Wyoming:
With a sack of costumes,
We circle the same house.

In your neighborhood,
A diabetic child
Is cleaning his gun.

Other honorable mentions: Despite the wounded meter, the imagery of these two warmed my heart. I toiled over a diabetic haiku and couldn’t form it.