Friday, March 31, 2006


Eric Marin's Lone Star Stories has a new issue online, including one of my secret lives stories and other cool stuff.

Jason interviews me for FantasyBookSpot. It's pretty comprehensive. He asked really good questions.

Denver Post reviews me and Abraham. Good company! I like Abraham a lot. And he's a great guy.

I just got the second book in R. Scott Bakker's fantasy trilogy in the mail yesterday. I cannot escape the Bakker. Tomorrow, I'll be shaving and I'll look in the mirror and he'll be standing behind me...

Anyway, the book looks really good, but I'll have to go get the first one and start at the beginning. I like the stylized approach to his prose--it's all very much set continually on High Drama, but it seems to work.

Tomorrow: Surprises. Monday: Scalzi interview. Later in the week: Pirates, American Fantasy, and much else...


Friday night exercise:
20 minutes abs (crunches, obliques)
half-mile run
6 sets incline leg press (550 lbs)
4 sets leg extension (3 at 200 lbs, 1 right after 3rd at 100 lbs)
3 sets leg curls (1 each at 60, 55, and 50 lbs, no rest between, both legs)
5 sets calf raises (200 lbs plus body weight)
chest/shoulders (consecutive, no rest):
3 sets bench press, 2 50 lb dumbbells
3 sets flyes, 2 35 lb dumbbells
3 sets inverted chest/shoulder press, 2 35 lb dumbbells
3 military shoulder press, 2 35 lbs dumbbells
3 overhead dumbbell (chest/abs/etc), 1 65 lb dumbbell
3 sets pull down lat (left side, then right, isolated), 80 lbs
3 sets pull down lat (wide grip, using bar), 150 lbs
4 sets seated rows (left side, then right, isolated), 80 lbs
30 minutes on exercise bike (hill levels)
2 tenth-mile wind sprints

Thursday, March 30, 2006


As some of you may know, one of the projects Ann and I are working on at the moment is a documentary about the book business.

We've now got some great footage, and a few things that we know won't be in the film. And some things that will be used for other projects.

Here're a few of those. These are pretty low-res. I'm still working out the balance between the resolution and loading issues. Once I have those resolved, I'll repost the permalinks. But, in the meantime, use the option at the lower right of the video screen that has a solid rectangle inside of a line box. That reduces the size of the screen slightly and improves the pixel quality.


If you think your office is cluttered (er, much cleaner now...)

Mustering my troops

My KGB Shriek reading - the publisher rant

4-mile brisk walk

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I thought this was an extraordinarily brave and tough letter from Robert Jordan about his condition. I love his attitude and have a lot of respect for it. I'm sure his many fans will keep motivating him to fight this thing, but keep him in your thoughts even if you've never read his work.

Tomorrow, I hope to post an interview with Hugo nominee John Scalzi--great stuff.


Today's Exercise:
Full body workout, weightlifting, for two hours (same as last Wednesday)
25 minutes on bike

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


I've finally gotten around to blogging about my favorite music of 2005. There was a lot of it that's not on the list below. A lot of amazing stuff that others have written about already. But these particular CDs stuck in my mind more--I just simply played them more often, or select songs from them, more often.



every morning I've got a new chance
I wanna play the part of Eddie in The Stranger Dance
he makes love to the duke
he swordfights the queen
he steals the whole show in his last dying scene
no one sees the two sides of Monsieur Valentine
no, no one sees the two sides of Monsieur Valentine

What a beautifully strange CD, from the cover to the actual songs, with lyrics and music that take on a luminous, slightly decadent quality the longer you listen. The music has a coiled intensity that promises release but never quite gives it in the way you expect. There are songs here that could be about loneliness or being watched, songs that love ambiguity. From the very first notes of “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” you’re sucked into another place. The CD is textured—it has a unique voice, in which you can see flashes and sparks influence but the whole is alien and different and powerful. There are traces of sounds in these songs that suggest a horizon beyond the song—little quirks and background twitches that make you think about movies like Blow Up, where there’s something in the shadow that doesn’t quite want to come out into the light. If there’s a way for rock and pop music to suggest brush strokes, to suggest both paintings and something much more fluid and sensual/supernatural, this CD does that.

When I got this CD, I put it in my car CD player and I must have listened to it a hundred times before I got sick of it. And when I started listening to it again, a few months later, it was entirely new. Through the summer of 2005, which was very difficult for me, I don’t think I could have survived without Spoon’s song “The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine.” That wonderful rise in tempo toward the last part of the song, the kind of leap the music makes, the way the lyrics repeat and yet mean something different each time. I would take long drives late at night, playing “The Two Sides” and then switching immediately to “My Mathematical Mind,” with its parallel leap of energy, this time at the beginning of the song. Some songs transport you. Some songs make you think of defiance. Some songs make you want to write. Some songs simply have such an odd and enduring beauty that you’ll never get to the bottom of them. There are songs on Gimme Fiction that do all four things for and to me. And there are many pages of fiction I’ve written to this CD already. This may be my favorite CD of the decade so far.

great dominions, they don't come cheap
great dominions, they just want you to leave
I got the meaning the meaning sat tight
said it's not what you expected but it could be right


I wake up without warning and go flying around the house
In my sauvignon fierce, freaking out
Take a forty-five minute shower and kiss the mirror
And say, look at me
Baby, we'll be fine
All we gotta do is be brave and be kind

put on an argyle sweater and put on a smile
I don't know how to do this
I'm so sorry for everything
- Baby We’ll Be Fine

The other CD that annihilated me in 2005, that kept transforming my brain every time I listened to it, that rewarded repeated and intense listening, was The National’s Alligator. It’s hard to describe The National. They have a singer with a deep, world-weary voice—one of my favorite voices in music—and a sensibility that veers from slow to fast, from rock to something on the edge of alternative, but with beautiful melodies. The National’s lyrics are more direct than Spoon’s, less mysterious and yet they are, in combination with the music, luminous and something more than they seem on the page. Songs about desperate people, or people coming to terms with who they are. Songs that function as miniature character studies. All through the summer of 2005, this CD’s steady pessimism, its roll call of men and women trying to make sense of their lives, propped me up, got to me on a deeply emotional level. “Baby We’ll Be Fine” just blew me away—I can’t even describe the profound effect of this song on me.

The lead singer’s voice provides the heavy authority for the music—the voice allows the music to at times be understated, to be lighter as a counterpoint. And as the CD progresses, the stories seem to intertwine, seem to connect to one another. Just quite simply one of the great new American bands.

I think this place is full of spies
I think they're onto me
Didn't anybody, didn't anybody tell you
Didn't anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room
I know you put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses, I know.


My lover is in America
I'll reach out with one hand
And keep one foot on the platform

Well I know what I want if I know I can get it
I take what I want, un-hun, if it's there
Well I know what I want if I know I can get it
I take what I want un-hun, if it's there

I think of Robbers as Spoon with less esoteric lyrics and with release—the songs don’t coil the way Spoon’s songs coil. They break outward. It could be seen as a lack of discipline or just as a different way of looking at music. Although this band has unfortunately been called a Spoon rip-off, it’s mostly because the band’s lead singer sounds a lot like the guy from Spoon. Other than that, although they’re in the same subset, they couldn’t be more different. Except. Robbers also has a strangeness to their music, if not their lyrics. This strangeness comes out as a kind of surreal luminous quality, for me. (I tend to think the best rock-pop has this quality of otherness, of some odd feyness that is the equivalent of a strange gold-green light against the horizon of a fading sun.) Keyboards, jangly guitars, and a pulsing drum beat make for something with a much more solid foundation than the umpteen million New Wave Brit replicants stalking across the music scene right now. And these guys have rock swagger—in both their initial EP and the 2005 full-length. I listened to this CD as much as the Spoon and the National. Robbers aren’t quite as strange, but they are the real deal. Nothing against the Strokes and their ilk, but this band blows the Strokes et all away. (Oddly, I listened to Fine Lines, their first CD, while reading the Pullman books…and it was the best soundtrack! The six songs are like stars thrown out across a dark night sky, the perfect complement to Pullman’s fine descriptions and northern milieu.)

(Everything is so complete)
Until there's more than everything
(Everything is what you need)
So quit now
Could you even help with this one
While it's tied to me?
Bring on the terror, and give it to me


I’ll see you next fall
At another gun show
I’ll call the day before
Like usual.
But I—I wanted so much more.
I’ve got exodus damage bleed.
Could not commit.
Some things I’ll never be.

“Exodus Damage” on VanderSlice’s third CD in three years I first listened to while mountain biking in a thunderstorm that had come up suddenly. The trail was all shot to hell, I was miles from the exit point, I had sand and dirt in my eyes, under and on top of my contacts, I was protecting the ipod on my arm from the water with a couple of plastic bags that had held my supply of nuts and berries. Two inches of water on the trail and a steady incline and the red dust turned to mud. And I had “Exodus Damage” blasting in my ears and I had one of those epiphany moments where the song was making me strong so even though it was torture to keep biking I did and simultaneously the song was getting to me, and the world was getting to me and I really was in another place, miles from anything and glad of it and yelling into the rain to keep my legs pumping and the song just getting to me and getting to me. The whole CD is great, if hard to describe—it has a song on it that’s a letter from someone saying sorry for losing their bunny that’s funny and terrible at the same time. It’s got some of the oddest sounds and melodies on it, and they work with a kind of delicate beauty that has an underlying tensile strength beneath it. I’m not a musician, so it’s hard to describe the music in traditional terms. All I know is this is another one that got to me on a very deep level.

No one ever says a word about so much that happens in the world.
Dance, dance revolution.
All we’re gonna get
Unless it falls apart.
So I say go go go down
Let it fall down.
I’m ready for the end.


I was born into the world in a hospital called ABC
I was born into the world a friend to every falcon, shark, and bee
I lived above a candy store
Behind a massive marble door.
I was born into the world in a city with volcanoes in the sky.
I was a friend to every lion, snake, and fly
I lived above a flower store.
Behind a massive iron door.

Supersystem used to be El Guapo, also a dance band…but I’ve never really heard a dance band like this one. It’s not the international influence, including Brazilian dance music, trance, jazz, punk—it’s the insanely surreal lyrics. The song I heard, playing over the sound system before a Deathray Davies concert, was “Six Cities” (lyrics excerpted below), which as one Amazon reviewer said is a bit like a series of miniaturist Calvino set-pieces. I started to kind of dance to the music and then I realized what I was listening to: I was listening to dance music with fantasy lyrics. Not only are the beats pulse-pounding and insanely infectious, but the lyrics are dark and strange and, in combination with the music, again have a kind of luminous quality. I bought this CD for the kinetic energy of it but kept listening to it because of the lyrics.

There was once a city that was made glass.
All the buildings you could see right through.
Each and every person had opinions and ideas,
And each and every one of them was true.

There was a city made of marble.
All the buildings were beautiful and cold.
The people had solutions for anything that failed,
So they spent their lives being helpful and alone.


When you hit those kinds of highs
you know you have to crash
When you hit those kinds of lows
you know there's further down
in the hands of forces
you just don't understand.

One of the first albums Ann ever taped for me was Graham Parker’s Squeezing Out Sparks, which blew my mind. The incisive, sometimes sad lyrics, the pure rock approach with a kind of punk attitude. Every song was a classic in my opinion, from “Discovering Japan” to “Local Girls” to “Saturday Nite Is Dead”. The honesty Parker brought to his work impressed the hell out of me. Since then, I’ve listened to all of his other work, including Mona Lisa's Smile and The Real Macaw (mostly love songs), which (along with the Furs’ Love My Way) are pretty personal and memorable to Ann and me. Then he dropped off my radar for awhile. I forgot about his ability to write the perfect rock-pop song. Which was a mistake. Because when Parker is on, his work is seamless. The songs don’t seem to have been constructed, but to have formed all at once, as if from a single piece of clay or from a cooled piece of molten magma. The sensation of sinking into his best work, of just letting the song take over, has been one of the joys of my life as a listener of music.

After a few hit-or-miss CDs, Parker popped back into my awareness with Songs of No Consequence, and especially with the song “Chloroform,” which I played as much as any song in 2005. It’s got all the classic Parker signatures—the downbeat lyrics with the upbeat, optimistic, hard-driving sound, the perfect melody, the effortless production. But also gritty and with lyrics that really spoke to me. And with the rest of the CD Parker showed me he’s still got it. (The upward lilt on the line “You remain ambivalent” from the song “Ambivalent” is one of my favorite moments on a 2005 single—perfect bliss.)

So where you gonna get your feelings from
after they've been removed?
Why didn't you see it coming, man,
from way down the pike.
There had to be a payback--
someone had to strike.


There could be literally dozens of honorable mentions, but these three are ones that stand out in particular. I also loved the new Franz Ferdinand, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, et al.

NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS - B-SIDES AND RARETIES. A three CD set. Of Cave's extra stuff. You know what? Most musicians would kill just to have created some of these B-sides. I've long wanted the Seeds rollicking version of Paul Kelly's "God's Hotel" on a compilation, as well as "Tower of Song" from the Leonard Cohen tribute CD, and "The End of the World" from the Wender flick. But it gets better. B-sides like "The Train Song" and an insane version of "O'Malley's Bar" from Murder Ballads. Not to mention a great orchestra-fueled version of "Red Right Hand" from the Scream 3 soundtrack. Basically, this is awesome and a must-buy.

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 - YOU'RE A WOMAN I'M A MACHINE. This is like some kind of weird hybrid of punk, electronic, dance, and grunge. It's also an all-out attack in terms of the sound, and I love it. The intensity of the sound is amazing, considering it's mostly bass and drums.

TIM BOOTH - BONE. I've loved James ever since Whiplash, and have sought out everything they've ever done since then. Now lead singer Tim Booth heads out on his own with Bone. It's a somewhat psychedelic, trippy effort, with the result that a couple of the tracks sound a little silly lyrically. But other than that, this is an excellent solo CD that avoids the somewhat cloying effect of his last non-James outing--Booth and the Bad Angel. Several tracks achieve a transcendent quality, even as several songs deal frankly with sex and gender. Yeah, yeah--he's a little flaky. Deal with it.

Today's Exercise:
6 mile jog in 47 minutes (4 miles up hills, 1 mile level, 1 mile downhill)
2 1/8th mile sprints (up hill)
30 minute brisk walk

Monday, March 27, 2006


Evil Monkey:
Wake up! Wake up!

What is it?!

Evil Monkey:
Look at this! Look at it. You ran out of questions, you dumb motherfucker!

I what? I what? Where? What the hell are you talking about? It's only 7am, you sick bastard.

Evil Monkey:
You. Ran. Out. Of. Questions. Ha! He nailed you.

Gimmee that!

Evil Monkey:
Read it and weep! He's got you dead to rights. You're a horse pulling up lame in the final stretch. He tore up his ticket in disgust. He was betting on you.

I'm a what? You're a jerk, that much I know…Oh—the Bakker thing in EC. Finally. I've been hearing about this for a month? Where's my breakfast in bed, stupid monkey?

Evil Monkey:
This IS your breakfast in bed. It's called humble pie. Finally, somebody nails ya!

Do you agree with him?

Evil Monkey:
No, but that's not the point. Somebody had to take ya down a peg. In resounding fashion!


Evil Monkey:
You're ugly.

You're evil.

Evil Monkey:
Just had my sixth cup of coffee this morning…

No kidding. Okay, let me sit down and read this thing and wrap my brain around it.

Evil Monkey:
I don't know if I have that much time…

What else do you have to do today?

Evil Monkey:
I gotta sword fight at ten, a lunch with Dame Krutchen at noon, and my afternoon is all tai chi, fang sway, and doin' some laundry.

You don't wear clothes. So just park your carcass for a sec…

[Ten minutes later.]

Man, it's still too early in the morning for this. Way too early.

Evil Monkey:
Hurry it up—I got a sword fight in an hour and I need to stretch first.

Okay, okay. So…he's unhappy with this paragraph from my original article:

Now, after stating all of this, you may realize I haven’t yet answered the question I posed before: Is it important for fantasy, or fiction generally, to be relevant in this way? The answer is a resounding No, it isn’t. The instinctual idea I had as a teen and young adult about Art for Art’s sake, the idea that character and situation are paramount, that some truths transcend politics — that’s all valid.

Even though I follow it up with this one:

But, for me, not because of 9-11 but because of everything since then — the hypocrisy, greed, and evil of government leaders, institutions, and private individuals — I cannot not react in a different way than before. These issues permeate our world, and if you do not internalize that, if it doesn’t affect your writing, then it lies like an unhealing wound in your heart, and you go a little bit crazy.

Evil Monkey:
Basically. Yeah. Man, if I'd known I'd be having a conversation with you this morning, I would have sharpened the sword last night.

What's he defining as politics, then?

Evil Monkey:

But…then the word is meaningless. You might as well just substitute "the human world" for "politics". I broadened the term enough as it was in my article.

Evil Monkey:
But you contradicted yourself! You spent all this time on politics in fantasy and then you stepped back and said art for art's sake ruled!

Not true. Maybe I should have revised the article to just say "Not necessarily" instead of "No, it isn't." But basically, the intent was to say politics is more important than people think and that "politics" is a broader thing than people tend to think. But that the whole art-for-art's-sake approach is valid, too.

Evil Monkey:
Paramount! And Bakker says this:

The choice is yours: either your writing is unconsciously political through and through, or your writing is consciously political as well. Pick your poison. But if every aspect of our lives is political in some way, and "truths" are one of those aspects, doesn’t that mean, contrary to VanderMeer’s resounding assertion, that no truths transcend politics? Isn’t VanderMeer trying to eat his cake and have it too? Sure he is. The important question to ask is why.

Hell, yeah. You know what? Writers get to do that—eat cake and have it too. And explode down the stretch. And disappoint ticket holders. Especially we get to be the object of clichéd metaphors.

Evil Monkey:
You're avoiding the subject. Why are you trying to take this delicious cake and also eat it?

I hate you. Well, what it boils down to is, I have this odd way of being able to hold two seemingly opposing views in my head at the same time without my brain exploding. How about you?

Evil Monkey:
I can hold up to five mutually opposing ideas in my head for about twenty minutes before my head explodes. But I have many heads!

No, but seriously. What I'm saying is: A writer doesn't have an obligation to hold to a particular philosophy on this level. I mean, each writer has themes or issues they deal with in their writing, but a writer can believe in the political and art for art's sake and it's no biggee.

Evil Monkey:
You gotta choose.


Evil Monkey:
You should have been more radical in your article. Mieville would have pounded it down everybody's throats. And sounded hot doing it.

I'm not that writer. I'm not certain about anything.

Evil Monkey:
You're a waffler.

Am not. Maybe I just sound like one when you try to pin me down on an opinion, because I can't really hold true to one way for very long.

Evil Monkey:
Wanna sword fight?

No! I want to sleep, actually.

Evil Monkey:
You wanna know another thing?


Evil Monkey:
That Bakker dude…He said this, too:

When you teach something like Popular Culture, as I did not so very long ago, the first thing you need to overcome is the common intuition that most commercial cultural products are examples of a magical thing called "Entertainment Pure and Simple" — what is essentially the mass market version of "Art for Art’s Sake."

Interesting way to look at it. I don't see how it's relevant to the rebuttal. I didn't say entertainment pure and simple was the opposite of art for art's sake. A writer may operate from the art for art's sake point of view and produce perfect entertainment. And entertainment and "literature" are irrevocably intertwined and occur in both high and low culture. Evil, did I once invoke "literary" versus "commercial" or "entertainment" versus "literature" in my essay?

Evil Monkey:
I don't believe you did, actually. Sword fight soon!

So he's making me out to be a literary snob?

Evil Monkey:
Oh, this conversation is boring me now, but—no, not necessarily. I think it's more benign than that and I think he shot his wad in the first part of the essay. Everything else is just kinda "okay—sure, whatever."

Sometimes I feel like we're all mired in terminology we don't really mean or that always means something different to each one of us.

Evil Monkey:
It's the Mad Hatter's Sword Fighting Party!

Hmm. This part intrigues me:

Well, if you think anything is simple, you’re the victim of an out and out illusion. If you disagree with me, a good way to test your intuition is to go to a local university and enroll in as many courses as you can. Or simply go the library, or do a web search. Everything is more complicated than it seems, trust me. The only thing that makes anything seem "simple" is the limitations of our particular perspective. We literally can’t see what lies outside our point of view, and we all share the bad habit of assuming that what we can’t see either doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.

Evil Monkey:
Doesn't intrigue me. What's your point? I've only got another five minutes for this shit.

Well, this bit in particular: "We literally can’t see what lies outside our point of view, and we all share the bad habit of assuming that what we can’t see either doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter." In terms of fiction, what we can't see because it's not in there isn't the reader's fault. Like, I don't give a shit if the writer did all the research in the world if what's on the page doesn't work. But it also sounds as if he's just making the case for a lack of a consensus reality, which would render the whole discussion moot since there're then a million parallel universes in which his article and mine are interpreted in a million minutely different ways.

Evil Monkey:
That's way too deep for me.

I kinda feel like he just appended some crap on to what was initially a rebuttal of my original article. Cause he's ending up in a space that I neither agree nor disagree with, really. It just kinda exists. Like, "Yeah, that's kinda true. I could buy that."

Evil Monkey:
But you wouldn't walk a mile through a shit storm to buy it?

…Er, there's very little I would walk a mile through a shit storm to buy, frankly.

Evil Monkey:
A first edition Nabokov?

Maybe you should go sword fight now.

Evil Monkey:
Oh, but I have questions, like Bakker has questions:

The point, of course, is that meaning is powerfully conditioned by context. Ask yourself, what will your so-called "obvious truths" mean to your descendants in 1,000 years? How about 10,000? Like it or not, everything we say or write is pitched against a potentially infinite horizon of contexts, the vast majority of which don’t seem to exist. This is why the greatest geniuses of 10,000 years ago couldn’t even imagine the bulk of what we now take for granted. And this is why questions are so much more powerful than answers, why they can muddy things that otherwise seem "pure and simple" in the span of a few short seconds. Questions force us to take a step sideways, to reconsider our perspective. Questions make our ignorance visible, which is to say, they reference contexts — perspectives — that didn’t seem to exist simply because we couldn’t see them.

Yes, I began to see the massive hammer he was planning on using to squash my head when I reached that paragraph. But then why does he want to reduce it to a simple either/or earlier? I don't get it.

Evil Monkey:
Maybe he ran out of questions?

No! I ran out of questions! Read his damn article.

Evil Monkey:
So why did you pull your horse up short of the finish line?

I wanted Mr. Bakker to have something to write about.

Evil Monkey:
No, seriously.

I'll tell you why. Because, as Mr. Bakker says:

If this strikes you as outlandish or impossible, you’re literally stuck in your perspective — you’re just not asking the right questions. And if asking such questions seems to make an uncertain mess of things, it’s because that’s how things are, an uncertain mess, no matter how much our innate tendencies to over-commit and to over-simplify dupe us into thinking otherwise. Culture is soupy, and the delicious bits of fantasy floating around in it soak up the political broth just like everything else. It’s when people think their views, their truths, magically rise above the soup — that things are racially, politically, economically, or theologically simple — that the problems typically begin.

Because if you begin to believe too much in one thing as a writer, instead of a truth. If you believe in an absolute—in politics or anything else—then you're dead. You have to keep moving. You have to keep testing and questioning. Why was I reluctant to say politics, as I defined it—much more narrowly than Bakker, although not by much—trumped everything else at the end of my article? Because just using the word "politics," just by using words, we already begin to make judgments and assign values to things. Yes, that's what words are for, but writers need to be as fluid as possible. At the same time, I was expressing my deep need to write about the overtly political in a non-didactic way.

Evil Monkey:
Stop making nonsense!

Okay, I'm babbling. But this whole thing is ridiculous. It's pointless. Bakker and I are not in disagreement, except you'll note that he says politics is all encompassing and then he will say something like "racially, politically, economically, or theologically," which means the word "politics" can't take as much weight as he thinks it can, or he just got sloppy.

Evil Monkey:
I'm going to relish the sword fight after this discussion.

I know. It's exhausting me, too. And somehow I think Nick Mamatas is going to come along and say something cogent that makes both Bakker and me look like idiots.

Evil Monkey:
Okay, one last thing. So he nails you to the wall at the end:

So why did VanderMeer pull his horse up short so close to the finish line? Why does a part of him remain stuck in his teenage perspective believing that some truths do transcend politics, that something, anything, can be for its own sake?
He ran out of questions.

Yeah, well, that makes me think that my original terminology is possibly flawed. Can't you write about politics and still be making art for art's sake? I'm beginning to think all writing about writing is bullshit at heart.

Evil Monkey:
Monkey shit.

Yeah, that too. So—who are you sword fighting?

Evil Monkey:
Michael Crichton and Anne Rice. To the death. And then after that, if I survive, I will have a chocolate milk shake with Ape Gone Wild.

Sounds like fun.

Evil Monkey:
What're you going to do?

Go back to bed and then go out and pick up some Bakker. I think he's as fucked up as me when it comes to writing these political articles, so we should have a lot in common.

14-mile hike Sunday
3 sets chest, shoulders, triceps weightlifting Monday
3 mile walk Monday

Sunday, March 26, 2006


It's celebrate Nick Mamatas, uh, evening! Er, uh, hour!

Anyway, I love Nick because although he's ruthless and sometimes even mean in his online persona (a complete softie in person), he tells it like it is and he's also absolutely hilarious and often spot-on in his analysis.

Lately, he's been killing with his posts even more than usual, in particular these three gems. Great stuff. I agree with about 99.9% of it. So does Evil Monkey!


On The Recent Spate of Writing Advice

You're not gonna be raped by some pomo homo boho hobo if you acknowledge that some people, somewhere, might actually write well and even write successfully while wearing black or living cheaply off of writing or getting his or her mail delivered to a café.

On the Hugos

Best (Horrible) Related Book
SHOULD win: No award, and random nominee plucked from audience and disemboweled for Ba'al. WILL win: Workshop by Kate Wilhelm. This is like getting a gold (plated) watch and a ham dinner at the Lion's Club for having perfect attendance at your library job for fifty years.

On V for Vendetta

V is great. He's improperly socialized and rather self-involved. He is imperfect, a trickster rather than a father spirit guide. He stumbles a bit, watches old movies and fences with himself like an excited kid. He gets shy around the girly Evey (Natalie Portman) and can't ask her to dance at first, but has no problem torturing her to bring her through the next level of enlightenment.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


What's upcoming on the blog? I know it's been a goddawful lot of stuff about what I've been up to, but you can expect the following :

- Interview with Hugo nominee John Scalzi (congrats, John!) and several others
- Evil Monkey's reaction to Bakker's reaction to my reaction to the political on Emerald City (just as soon as the Bakker is live).
- My favorite music of 2005 (a little late).
- Audio and video of various readings and interviews.
- Guest bloggers from all of the countries I'm visiting this summer, to occur while I'm in Europe. I think this feature will give everyone a better view of publishing and books in those countries. Should be fascinating.

And a few surprises, I'm sure.

A few people have asked seriously about an Evil Monkey Guide to Fiction Writing. I'm pretty serious about writing this, because adopting EM's persona somehow will allow me enough distance to comment seriously and comically about this subject--from both a craft and career POV. Probably sometime in 2007-2008.

More information on Leviathan 5 will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, as well. And I hope to announce a major new editing project very, very soon.


Sat. Exercise:
40 minutes on the bike
(tomorrow a 14-mile hike)
diet adjustment: lower carb, no beer, lots of water


The movie script for Shriek is progressing nicely. Here's a close-to-final draft of the opening (some wording/dialogue will, of course, change)...I should mention this script is a collaboration between myself and Juha Lindroos (who is also directing the movie). Juha is very movie-savvy and it's been wonderful to bounce ideas back and forth.

Again, this is just the set-up. There's stuff on the war, on the Shift, and much else. But transformed--it's been interesting changing events and characters for the movie and made me appreciate much more just what you need to do to make something like this successful.

The movie will be a combination of old public domain footage, new live-action footage shot for the movie with actors, and still photography.



Black screen. Male voices, distant but getting louder, with even more distant sounds of a bar crowd beneath the voices.

Male Voice #1:
Do you think she can see us from in there?
Male Voice #2:
Naw—she’s busy.
Male Voice #1:
She’s deep in thought, she is—but what could she be thinking about, do you think?
Male Voice #2:
About the next word she puts her finger to.

Green light pixilating in the middle of the black screen, as voices continue, now with a light background sound of TYPEWRITER keys clacking.

Male Voice #1:
What can she be typing so furiously?
Male Voice #1:
How long’s she been in there?
Male Voice #2:
Seven days. I bring her food and drink. I take it out again. She’s got enough paper in there to last another week.

Male Voice #1:
Does she tip well?
Male Voice #2:
Well enough. I don’t mind her. She’s no trouble. Not like you lot.
Male Voice #1:
That’s a rough thing to say.

Green light coalesces into a vertical crack against the black background, still with the sound of typewriter keys, as JANICE SHRIEK starts speaking:

Janice Shriek:
They are beginning to annoy me. I can't keep them out of the text. Everything around me is going into the text—every dust mote, every nick in the floor, the unevenness of this desk, the clouded quality of the windows. I can't keep it out right now.

The vertical crack widens and within it an EYE, looking out, blinking. The voices continue, louder, and the crowd noises are almost gone.

Male Voice #1:
Wasn’t her brother the mad historian who went digging into the secrets of the gray caps? Didn’t he go under the city?
Male Voice #2:
He’s there now, some say, along with the snails and the gray caps.
Male Voice #1:
What’s she do, then?
Male Voice #2:
She’s an art gallery owner. Or was. Not much of anything now. Used to always be seen with that friend of hers—Sybel, I think.
Male Voice #1:
What’s she writing, do you think?
Male Voice #2:
The story of your life. A history of pubs and bars. How should I know?
Male Voice #1:
Whatever it is, it must be important. To her.
Male Voice #2:
Funny. That typewriter’s like an echo. It falls away when we stop talking.

Brief pause, during which the green light continues to widen against the black screen and the eye fades and typewriter keys can be seen in the widening space, very close up. Then:

Male Voice #1:
Yes, yes it does. Do you think she’s…?

The typewriter keys become more visible and audible:

Janice Shriek:
She’s what? Typing your inane speech, perhaps?
Male Voice #2:
Naw—I must be wrong. She’s not typing us. Hasn’t got anything to do with us.
Janice Shriek:
My hands are cramping. My stomach growls. The clock on the wall tells me I’ve been here much longer than I thought. And I’m sick of these fools. Even ghosts can take a walk, so why not me?

All the sounds die away and the green light completely fills the screen. The typewriter appears in its entirety, covered in FUNGUS. To one side, words appear. The CHURCH’S soundtrack begins to play.


Direction & Cinematography: Juha Lindroos
Script by: Jeff VanderMeer and Juha Lindroos
Music by: The Church
Janice Shriek played by ___________
The credits fade, leaving just the green light and the typewriter. Most dialogue from here on out is by Janice.

I was beginning to sound like a character in a book. I had to escape the words. I had to get away. From the typewriter keys. From my wrinkled hands. From the faces staring through the green crack where the corridors come together to form a fracture of seeing. From the feeling that I had begun to parrot on these pages, blandly reciting facts.

As Janice says “from the feeling…facts.”, the typewriter fades and the green light lessens as the screen opens up into a SERIES OF CITY SCENES, contrasting dark and light shots , vaguely based on what she’s saying—STREETS, BUILDINGS, then COMMUNITY SQUARES, etc. A jumble of styles and approaches, but still coherent. There should be a definite sense of movement, and of progression.



Okay, it's just about time to be thinking about the World Cup, for those of us who are serious soccer...I mean football! And to that end, I would encourage those of you in whom the interests of writing/reading and football converge to post over on the messageboard I've set up for this very purpose...and to spread the link far and wide.

Also, via Alistair Rennie, check out this World Cup predictor.

I have to say upfront, and apologies for appearing unpatriotic, that I'm not confident in the United States' chances. Nor do I particularly care for the style of football they play. I much prefer the various European styles, the Brazilians, and the high-risk African styles. The US still seems somewhat two-dimensional and unimaginative in the way they bring the ball forward, relying on athleticism and basic skill more than the kind of thing that made, for example, the Czech Republic so fun to watch in the European Championship awhile back (even though Greece beat them).

The other thing I love is an amazing defense (like the Greeks displayed in the European Championship).

It's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere in Europe during World Cup and I'm glad I'll be over there for at least part of it.


Friday, March 24, 2006


Jenn Reese has published the Growth Cycle of a Writer. As she says, it doesn't apply to every writer, so this post is not meant to castigate her for outlining her own course as a writer--what she's saying is, of course, perfectly valid. (Even though she mixes stuff about career and stuff about the actual writing--which are two different animals that must be kept in different cages so that they do not devour each other or you.)

But since a few people seem to be taking it as a general blueprint, there are a few comments worth making.

(1) If that sense of excitement she cites in Step 1 ever fades, just shoot yourself in the head and get it over with. The primary impetus and joy of creating is that sense of excitement.

(2) A writer can be at several stages of the growth cycle at once, can regress, can leap ahead, and can stall out. There's no such thing as a clean, clear progression.

(3) One element of the growth cycle not mention is the writer plucked too early and labeled for greatness before his or her time. This is also known as the What the Fuck Will I Write for A Second Novel Cycle. Or, in some cases, the Crash-and-Burn Where Are They Now Cycle.

(4) Disillusionment is actually a factor all along the way, not an early stage. The disillusionment has nothing to do with the writing. It has to do with moving higher and higher up the ladder and finding out time and time again that your goals are, in fact, either meaningless or that they do not mean what you thought they did. There actually is no external validation that will satisfy a certain kind of writer for very long. This is actually very healthy for a writer. Once you are not disillusioned, you need to take yourself out back and shoot yourself in the head. (Of course, some writers find a level of bullshit they're willing to accept as truth and do quite well existing at that level.)

(5) Stage 8 on Reese's growth cycle is "Professional." I say, god for fucking bid any of us ever become professionals. God forbid any of us become competent or brimming over with confidence. You know what the most important thing you need to keep going and keep doing interesting things as writer (once you've mastered the basics)? The ability to put yourself in a place where when you start a new novel or a story, you feel almost like the first time you wrote a story or novel--like you know absolutely fucking nothing. And to push against the fear of that by being as fearless as you can be (because the only knowledge you do have is that you did complete a story or novel in the past). If you sit down to write and you think you know everything you need to know, well, great for you, but I don't think it works that way for writers who want to push themselves.

(6) Conversely, every time you sit down to write, if you've been doing your homework, you have more ways to tell a story. You have an over-abundance of competence in a sense, and thus it gets more and more difficult to write because you've accumulated such an arsenal. Back when you only knew one way to tell a story, it was fucking easy. "I'll tell the story this way...cause, well, that's all I know. Sorry."

(7) Envy is an idiot's game, even though we all play it. If you find yourself primarily motivated by envy of other writers, you will never find any kind of true fulfillment. But this is not a stage in your growth cycle. It's something you fight against forever and try to spend as little energy on as possible. No one who starts out being envious ever really ends up not being envious of somebody.

Oh--and one last thing. In a world resonating with articles about word counts and production and words-per-day, know when the fuck not to write. The world really doesn't need all those words. Try choosing just the right ones instead. In other words, shut the fuck up a little. ;)

Have a great Friday night, my litul monkeys!

Evil Monkey

Jeff's Friday Exercise:
Exact same as Wednesday


At ICFA I bought Wolfe's Soundings and although I haven't read the reviews section of the book yet (although it looks enticing), I did read the introduction, which I thought was superb--very thoughtful. It says some thing that are important for reviewers, readers, and writers to keep in mind at all times.

Now Locus Online has posted Wolfe's introduction. You really should read it--and buy the book. People think of Locus' reviews as being disposable because it's a monthly trade magazine, but they're really not in many cases, and Wolfe's a good example of why not.


Exercise, Thursday:
Day off

(Evil Monkey: " write any fiction this week?" Jeff: "Yeah." Evil Monkey: "How much?" Jeff: "I dunno--a bit." Evil Monkey: "How many words?" Jeff: "Well, I guess 322." Evil Monkey: "That's terrible! That's a horrible output!" Jeff: "Fuck you. They were the right 322 words.")

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I'm a guest of honor at Finncon 2006 and am beginning to ramp up efforts for that. (Justina Robson is the other international guest of honor.)

If we're lucky, the Shriek film will debut at Finncon, among other cool stuff. Also beginning our trip planning for the entire European experience--eight countries in about five weeks. It should be a wonderful adventure. More on that in this space soon. In the meantime, check out the Finncon 2006 homepage.

Part of going away for a month is getting in tip-top shape in the meantime. In part because the trip will have its enticements, but also so I can perform at max. potential at readings, etc. I've had no luck writing out my exercise routine in hardcopy journals, so for the next few months, I'm going to record it at the bottom of my posts. You can just ignore it, but I figure a blog is also a diary of sorts and it shouldn't bother anyone too much if I use it to keep track of this kind of thing. Eventually, it'll become a short-hand that takes up no space at all.


Wednesday, March 22
20 minutes abs (crunches, obliques)
half-mile run
6 sets incline leg press (500 lbs)
3 sets assisted squat (270 lbs)
4 sets leg extension (3 at 200 lbs, 1 right after 3rd at 100 lbs)
chest/shoulders (consecutive, no rest):
3 sets bench press, 2 45 lb dumbbells
3 sets flys, 2 35 lb dumbbells
3 sets inverted chest/shoulder press, 2 35 lb dumbbells
3 military shoulder press, 2 30 lbs dumbbells
3 overhead dumbbell (chest/abs/etc), 1 65 lb dumbbell
3 sets pull down latte (left side, then right, isolated), 75 lbs
3 sets seated rows (left side, then right, isolated), 75 lbs
3 sets seated rows (both sides), 150 lbs
triceps (consecutive, no rest):
1 set tricep pre-tire using bench and own weight
3 sets tricep pull-downs (150 lbs)
2 sets triceps with dumbbells (2 35 lb weights)
2 sets triceps push up over shoulder (20 lb dumbbell)
3 sets barbell curls at 45 lbs ("21's"--7 lower half, 7 upper half, 7 full motion)
2 sets barbell curls at 65 lbs
2 sets isolation curls with dumbbells (30 lbs, and then down until completely tired)
30 minutes on exercise bike (hill levels)
2 tenth-mile wind sprints


Michael Moorcock has finally finished what I think is his most ambitious and successful "series"--his account of the jaded anti-Semite Pyat and his various plots, machinations, and adventures. It is a stunning and merciless accomplishment. John Clute's review in SF Weekly is spot-on.

When Jeff Ford's collection came in the mail a couple of days ago, I literally let out a deep sigh of satisfaction. I haven't had as much time as I'd like to read short fiction in the last couple of years, so I have the wonderful experience ahead of me of catching up with Ford's gems. I love Ford's fiction because it is simultaneously familiar and deeply strange. I want to reserve a good three-to-four hour stretch to just luxuriate in this collection.


PS Also pretty happy about having a short piece called "The Magician" accepted for Pete Wilde's new anthology THE FLASH (he's the editor of Bookmunch), fiction under 800 words:

To be called THE FLASH, 100 writers write a piece of flash fiction of between 300 and 800 words. There are no royalties as all ofthe proceeds will go to a charity nominated and voted upon by the contributors. Confirmed contributors to date include (deep breath!)... Jess Walters, Charlie Williams, Steve Almond, Fred Dutton, Christopher Fowler, Danny King, Bob Thurber, Jonathan Lethem, Nick Johnstone, Sara Gran, Ben Myers, Kevin MacNeil, Mitch Cullin, Hiag Akmakjian, Samuel Ligon, Daren King, Rick Moody, Matthew De Abaitua, Christopher Brookmyre, Clare Dudman, Ewan Morrison, Dermot Bolger, Andrew Holmes, Laird Hunt, Scott Mebus, Martin Ouvry, Barry Yourgrau, J Robert Lennon, Kitty Fitzgerald, Rebbecca Ray, Arthur Nersesian, Katherine Dunn, Gina Ochsner, Robert Shepherd, Chad Taylor, Ian Sansom, Kevin Sampson, Colette Phair, Steve Aylett, Matthew David Scott, Paul Di Filippo, Jeffrey Ford, Richard Evans, Emily Maguire, Jeff VanderMeer, AM Homes, Niall Griffiths, Nick Stone and Kevin Sampsell, Steve Sherill, Stella Duffy, Tim Lott, Jackie Kay, Matt
Thorne, Nicholas Royle, Christopher Coake, Stav Sherez, Susan Elderkin, Geoff Dyer, Kate Pullinger, Nic Kelman, Candida Clark, Ailsa Cox, Cintra Wilson, Mark Dunn, Stuart David, Aimee Bender, Elizabeth Baines, John Ashbrook, Stephen McCauley, Patricia Duncker, Ben Richards, Matt Haig, Simon Crump, Percival Everett, William Sutcliffe, Laura Hird, Dennis Cooper and Sam Lipsyte ...[and now, Matt Cheney]

From the Magician:

The stupid sad tricks that dripped from his hands with a loose insolence, the laissez faire shuffling of the cards, the way he flexed the singing saw before he cut his lackluster assistant (a sad-looking dog) in half—these were just the decoys to distract us

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I absolutely loved Laird Hunt's contribution to the non-realist fiction panel at AWP. Now, Matt Cheney has posted the entire piece. It's a great read.



I'm pleased to announce a new, as-yet-untitled project with Payseur & Schmidt.

Housed in a specially made slipcase, it will consist of one volume of my uncollected new fiction, one volume of my uncollected new nonfiction, and one volume of a complete annotated bibliography of all of my published work dating back to, er, middle school. Each volume will be perfect-bound. Probably included with this package will be a ten-inch 78rpm record with music related to my fiction. Readers will be able to buy the whole package or the individual volumes, as they wish.

The god...the design is going to insanely beautiful. The whole thing is going to be like a dream.

Anyway, that's the basic idea--details will, no doubt, change. Planned publication is for sometime between September and November 2007.

This is just an informal note for now. Eventually, there will be a page on the P&S site with more information.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


In this world, you never know if this is innocent or some kind of clandestine furry conference, unbeknownst to the meerkat center people...

The visitors from this group hailed from four different countries. One man was from France, one from Finland, another from Canada, and the last from the United States. They each flew to Los Angeles where they met at the airport and rented two vans. Each vehicle carried large, mysterious boxes in the back. These men, it turns out, have a delightful hobby. They all have chosen a special animal as their "alternate" personality and designed elaborate, custom costumes for their individual characters; much like the ones you see at Disneyland or other theme parks. The man from France told us he had a meerkat costume and he wanted to have an "up close and personal" encounter with our critters dressed as his favorite animal. Shortly after the visitors arrived, our guest from Paris disappeared into the visitor's cottage with an enormous box. Soon, the biggest "meerkat" that has every graced Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center emerged from the cottage.

All joking aside, though, I highly recommend the meerkat center. We almost always sponsor a meerkat there...And, yes, I have submitted the link to BoingBoing.

In addition, there are the alien baby photos from the same center, from the VanderWorld site...


(Evil Monkey: "Just how naive are you, Jeff? OF COURSE those are FURRIES!" Jeff: "You're sure." Evil Monkey: "You don't come all the way from France with your elaborate costumes to visit a meerkat center and NOT be a furry." Jeff: "But, maybe they were on vacation and--" Evil Monkey: "At a furry convention, probably." Jeff: "Well, it could all be innocent." Evil Monkey: "Those poor, poor defiled meerkats..." Jeff: "And what if they were furries? Nobody got hurt. It's harmless." Evil Monkey: "IF they were furries, they were there under kinda false pretenses, don't you think?" Jeff: "I dunno. I just like the dislocation of the giant meerkat with the small one...spooky.")


In no particular order, a few written/printed things from the flotsam of ICFA materials and correspondences...

Can a landscape be both metaphysical and physical in a work of fiction? [A question I didn’t use for the Landscapes of Fantasy panel.]

Brian Aldiss is one of the legendary writers in the field and likely needs no introduction. He was awarded an O.B.E. last year for "services to Literature." He regards this as Buckingham Palace's euphemism for science fiction. "I was being paid off." Nevertheless, he is still in there pitching, working on a new Penguin Books anthology and with two novels awaiting publication. [The intro Aldiss provided me with for the Landscapes panel.]

Sisko Ylimartimo (1945 - ) – Sisko Ylimartimo was born in Pudasjarvi, Finland. Now she lives and works in Rovaniemi. She has studied a.o. Finnish and history (Master of Arts degree 1974), art history (licentiate degree 1996), history of graphic design (Doctor of Arts 1998) and literature (Doctor of Philosophy 2003). In 1971-1996 she worked as a teacher of Finnish, literature, history and art history in different school grades. Since 1996 she has been a senior lecturer of art history in University of Lapland and since 2003 as a docent of children’s literature in University of Oulu. She has written books and articles about picture book illustration, fairy tales, arts and crafts and sacral art. Recently published books are a.o. about H.C. Andersen. Now she is writing a book about the illustrations of Thousand and One Nights. [Found in the room before the start of the Landscapes of Fantasy panel; part of a longer biographical note with art examples.]

Art as Fantastic – Art can be construed as fantastic or containing fantastic elements when there are recognizable degrees of representation with, within a culture, a recognition of some measure of displacement from the range of conventionally established objects and models of representations of those objects. [From the handout “Definitions and Principles”. Also defined, “Representation,” “Aesthetic Focus,” “Exterior vs Interior Focus,” “Types of Objects,” “Medium of art focused.”]

I also enjoyed the opening panel you moderated [on the Visual Arts and the Fantastic] didn't get to see this, but something from that opening panel paid off beautifully in the banquet on the final evening. You remember Inge talking about how much he admired Vess's Snow White story? Well, Saturday was Inge's birthday, and Vess gave him a present...a remarkable present: he gave him the original artwork for the ENTIRE Snow White story. Inge was utterly floored, and those of us who were there to hear him talk earlier in the week about his feelings on this artwork were, too. [Attendee Joe Sutliff Sanders, emailing me after the conference.]

Also cancelled. Thursday: 2:30 Bertram: Stevenson: A Child’s Annotated Demonology. [From the March 13th Errata Sheet]

Remember that paper reading times are strictly limited to 20 minutes, followed by a 10-minute question period. All presenters are asked to please observe this conference guideline, to ensure adequate time for everyone. [From the ICFA-27 Reminders page]

After Florida Atlantic University pulled its support from Journal of Fantastic in the Arts, we lost mailing and printing support from the business manager and a 20-hour-a-week grad assistant as well as a considerable subvention. So I personally packed and mailed JFA 15.3 & 4 last summer. We have since changed printers to Odyssey Printing in New Hampshire and are currently working out the problems in the changeover from Word to Indesign… [From the JFA Report 2006, Bill Senior, editor]

Find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your association. Hear about the challenges facing us in the future. Find out how you can become more involved in IAFA. [From the flier advertising the IAFA Business Meeting]

Please comment on the quality of the papers presented at this year’s conference. Do you have suggestions for improving the referee process? Or for improving communication between participants, session chairs, and division heads? [From the Conference Evaluation Form]

The ICFA was really quite excellent this year; I actually sold most of the books I brought, my ego was inflated to maximum expansion during the "new directions in horror" panel, all the panels I intended were lively and educational, and I got a lot of business done, getting good ideas and a few invitations to send things to people here and there. Right on. [Attendee Mike Arnzen, emailing me after the conference.]

Representing the Other: Gender and Sexuality in the Fantastic [theme of next year’s conference]

(Evil Monkey: "Here, I made this for you: 'Dark and absurd humor ... register[s]—they are ... funny ... outrageous ... The revelations ... whet the reader's appetite ... to... entice ... Readers ... will ... appreciate ... the ... profound ... Nabokovian intellectual exercise ... exceptional ... work.' - Strange Horizons." Jeff: "Gee, thanks."}


If I'm going to point out the good, then I also gotta point out the bad. It's simply not fair otherwise. Now I've got something for the "Not Very" reviews column on the forthcoming Shriek website.


(Evil Monkey: "Aren't ya crushed?" Jeff: "No. She just didn't like the book very much." Evil Monkey: "I'd be crushed." Jeff: "You should see the scars I've got from the reviews of Why Should I Cut Your Throat? Nothing phases me now." Evil Monkey: "Good point." Jeff: "This is going to be a very long campaign and some reviewers are going to hate this book. Period. There's nothing to be done about it but move on, really." Evil Monkey: "Hey--is this guy as pompous as he sounds." Jeff: "How pompous does he sound?" Evil Monkey: "100 percent." Jeff: "Then in person you either magnify that effect by 50% or you decrease it by 50%.")

Monday, March 20, 2006


Jeff Ford's posts about the current political situation in the US are always spot on. Here's his latest. I couldn't say it better myself.



UPDATED UPDATE: HOW TO GET TO AMBERGRIS. Peggy Hailey, Jonathan Stephens, and Keith Johnston have all been there...

UPDATE: Dragon Page interview with me about City and Shriek is now up. If I sound breathless, it's because I was pacing back and forth the whole time. The interview starts around 7:55 on the audio file.

More on the aftermath of ICFA soon, but in the meantime, I'm absolutely over the moon re these latest Shriek reviews, excerpted below. The first one is being syndicated in regional papers all over the UK. (I don't yet know who the reviewer is, but right now I'd like to kiss him or her right on the forehead.) The second is from the self-proclaimed "best science and technology magazine in the world," a glossy periodical published by the BBC. (Thanks to Iain Rowan for forwarding that to me.) Both reviewers have totally gotten where I'm coming from with this book. It's very satisfying. Also check out my interview with Keith Brooke on SF Site, an excerpt from his new book from Pyr, and Jacob Schmidt's review of City of Saints (which originally appeared in German). Not to mention the recent City commotion on Locus with contest, etc. (Fantasy Bookspot just ran a contest, too, and got 300 plus replies.) And a blurb from Jeff Ford for Shriek: "Political, philosophical, many textured, and multi-layered, the history of fantasy's most intriguing city, Ambergris, is brought vividly to life. The perfect balance of conscientious invention and subtle, comic irony -- VanderMeer fearlessly walks a tightrope to delivers an enthralling read."

"It is, in short, exactly the sort of book which ought to be in contention for major literary prizes - except that it is set in an imaginary city beset by malevolent fungus, and non-genre award panels tend to get scared of such books. In this case, such fears are misplaced; Shriek is a fantastic book, and a fantastical one. For lovers of the uncomfortable and slightly unhealthy work of a Will Self, or the fractured cityscapes of M John Harrison, Shriek is a delight." - Birmingham Post (and several others)

"Five stars! A stunning and very different fantasy novel from an author who should be turning heads in the 'serious' literary world. Vandermeer concerns himself with the life of a notorious historian whose investigations into a subterranean race known as 'grey caps' may hold the key to an ancient mystery. In reality, however, the book cleverly plays with the ways in which an author can manipulate an audience. But it's far less heavy and more entertaining than that makes it sound." - Focus Magazine (Dave Golder)

Friday, March 17, 2006

ICFA--Friday: Death March Pilgrimmage to Crab Shack

Grimly grimly marched the hammers down the newsprint on the tables. Stamping, arbitrating, finalizing the disposition of crustaceans, unyielding yielding carcasses piled high in bits and bleats.

Wooden hammers. Really. Violence to crabs. For sure. Where? Here.

But 'twas the trek that ballads may be sung of in the future (or not). For, we set out in high spirits, hungry and bellies empty it is sure, but certain Crab Shack we would see before too long. But long it was, and treacherous the journey. We were, among others, moi, my wife Ann, Cheryl Morgan, Graham Sleight, Jennifer Stevenson (direct, no-b.s., knows tons about author PR), Mark Wingenfeld (and his two charming but, as it would turn out, bloodthirsty children, and his mom, less bloodthirsty), Mary Anne Mohanraj (charming, fun, knowledgeable, and we seemed very much on the same page writing-wise, which was really exciting), Irma Hirsjarvi (honestly? my favorite new friend--cannot wait to have a chance to talk more to her in Finland), and several additional brave souls who also cracked crab.

The trip was fine, if boring, until we turned down the street, sidewalkless, at the far end of which stood the Rustic Inn Crab Shack. As we walked down that street, we passed broken glass, a dead bird, cars whistling by at deadly speed, and an ambiance that was half prison yard, half town-gone-bad. There was an abandoned school bus by the side of the road. Mark said, "Look, kids--a school bus." They frowned and said, "That's not a school bus--it's black!" Yes, it was black. Burned black or painted black, I could not tell.

Finally, however, we did make it to the restaurant and proceeded to have a wonderful dinner, all sixteen of us, although I was throughout the whole experience feeling a bit guilty about having perhaps misrepresented the journey there as short and safe, to Mark and his kids. But worse was to follow in that regard as Jennifer, myself, and Mary Anne, along with a few others, proceeded to have a conversation about sex in fiction--with the kids just barely out of earshot. It was an interesting discussion, with many stereotypes bandied about--for example, that men prefer a quick fuck to being seduced, that women are more into the slow stuff. I have been curious about sex in fiction for a few years now, since the Ambergris novel I'm working on after Zamilon File is part detective story, part erotic novel. How do you incorporate graphic sex without losing your balance in your narrative? I.e., the sex overwhelms the text, the reader seeing the sex as standing out from the rest of the text. How does one convincingly use sex to speak to character? What is the best way to describe sex in a fiction? Etc. Like I said, an interesting discussion and one that I was glad to enter into with other writers as opposed to just thinking about it.

Luckily, I needn't have worried about Mark's kids--they were happily using their wooden mallets to bang on the table quite cutely, even though they had no crab.

The crab itself was a revelation, since I'd actually never had crab in that form before. Mary and I traded a bit of food (she'd ordered the crab while I'd ordered shrimp stuffed with crab as a way of cheating...) and I was soon happily smashing away at the crab, too, even if I did halt for a moment when a bit went flying and hit Graham in the cheek. "I'll never review Jeff VanderMeer again," he said in mock outrage, while I replied, with a wink, "Is that all it takes?" Graham had wisely chosen the steak, but still got to participate in the crab experience.

Revelation also the birthday custom: to ask all customers to bang hammers on table rapidly, creating a vibration and loudness of mallet-smashing sound that stunned me each of the five or six times it occurred.

At the end, it was just a table piled with the alien remains of some extraterrestrial creatures who had beamed down to Earth only to discover that we find them delicious!

It was a great meal and I made new friends, for which I was very happy. Many thanks to Cheryl for suggesting the trek in the first place.


So the Ambergris Rough Guide presentation went well, despite some miscues on the music side. Still, all day today people kept coming up and saying how much they enjoyed it, so they must not have noticed the little snafus. Irma came up and gifted me with a bottle of Finnish vodka right before I started; was much tempted to drink some, but was good...

It was a hell of a day, just truly wonderful. It started out with interviews of Charles Brown and Peter Straub for the documentary--just lovely stuff. Great stuff, in fact, from both of them. And then sitting with Farah M. at the banquet lunch for Inge, the scholar guest of honor. Inge talked about the influence of Mad Magazine artists within the larger context of post-50s culture. Of course, this was after being served cabbage and corned beef and bread pudding, so it was only natural a few people fell asleep despite the interesting topic. Andy Duncan was scribbling something in a notebook, presumably a story.

Followed by an interesting and relaxing afternoon talking to people, then the panel on Landscape and Fantasy, which I unfortunately thought was only an hour long and so opened up to questions after 45 minutes. But it went well enough. Brian Aldiss was pretty entertaining even when he wasn't on topic. To be honest, I don't remember much of it. I was so exhausted by that point it could have been crap and I wouldn't have noticed. After that, we interviewed Jennifer Stevenson.

Then it was the expedition to the crab shack, followed by a lovely time in the bar talking to Irma and Mark and later Michael Arnzen and Jennifer Stevenson and her husband, along with Liza Groen Trombi from Locus and a brief but nice conversation with Jim Kelly, who I hope to see over the summer. Ann and I had a great time. The whole Friday evening experience was probably my favorite of the whole three days, to be honest.

I like ICFA a lot. My initial reluctance to get with the swing of things was mostly just the effect of back-to-back trips and being kind of mentally tired. But I did enjoy it more and more as it went on and thought it was well-organized and had a lot of meat to the content. I think I'll start going more regularly.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

ICFA--Thursday Afternoon

I'm sitting in the corridor outside the main ballroom, in which Kathleen Ann Goonan is doing her reading and being interviewed, I believe. I'd be in there except I'm doing my Ambergris presentation next and not only need to do a few things to prep but also need to move around before doing it. Somehow sitting in a chair for an hour before I do this thing usually saps me of energy. So, Kathleen, if you're reading this. The rude man in the hall wasn't actually rude, just preppin'.

We got to ICFA just around 10:30 today, in time for my reading opposite Patrick O'Leary and Elizabeth Hand, both of whom read great stuff, Patrick a short story that was incredibly honest and vulnerable, Liz the beginning of her new novel, which just blew me away. Great reading, too. Then I read my publisher rant from Shriek and the whole attempted suicide scene, which I think went over well, too. I was still reeling from the kind of open emotions of the first two readings and it was difficult for me to summon the requisite energy for my own. Still, like I said, I think it went well. When I tell people Shriek is about a little of everything, they don't always believe me. When I do excerpts, they begin to see how I might be right.

Afterwards, Ann and I headed to the pool area to have lunch with Cheryl Morgan and Irma H, a Finn who is involved with Finncon. Cheryl was her usual pleasant and knowledgeable self, and I really enjoyed meeting Irma, who was just a very nice and interesting person. We talked about a lot of different things. Ann and I were curious about Finnish writers and Helsinki. We're planning on spending some vacation time in Finland after Finncon.

After lunch, we went up to the book room and sold some City of Saints and put out some ParaSpheres for Ken and Rusty and Omnidawn, then hung up in the empty bar downstairs, alternatively sleeping and prepping for the Ambergris Rough Guide presentation. We have added extra music at the last second, so who knows how it will go.

Then it was time to do a run-through of the presentation with the ICFA organizers, to make sure the technical stuff was all right. Honestly, when we do this, it's a whole day thing, between the storyboard prep, the technical prep, my reading prep, and then the actual event. We didn't even do dinner with anyone else, since I thought a large group would probably wear me out (although the half-assed dinner invite from a certain E.D. wasn't exactly special).

Out at the pool afterwards, we fell asleep on the deck chairs (honestly, is this con account about the same as describing paint dry, or what?) with our bottles of Guiness stout, but not before I had a chance to ask Ted Chiang if he was waiting in the booze line. Afterwards I thought, now Jeff, that doesn't constitute an actual conversation. Now you kinda owe him a beer, in an odd way. (Later, though, had a nice conversation with him in the lobby about SF and fantasy, about co-workers' reaction to the stuff we write, etc.)

So we sat out there in our deck chairs on the concrete near the pool while just a few hundred yards away lots and lots of noisy aircraft took off from the airport. I understand the rationale for having the ICFA location where it is, but it always feels like such a fakey pseudo-Florida atmosphere in and around the hotel. I'm always longing to go back to Ann's parents' condo on the beach.

Now it's time to prep some more for the multi-media presentation.

More scintilating con reportage tomorrow...



The ICFA reception took place in what looked like a little banquet hall across from the main hotel. Ann and I got there around nine and stayed until eleven. We had an interesting conversation with L.E. Modesitt about writing careers and other things. Modesitt says to sustain his career he writes about two books a year and relies on the selling power of his backlist. He also knows Matt Cheney, which led us to reflect on the fact there are about four degrees of separation between Mr. Cheney and almost anyone in the world.

We also had a chance to catch up with Michael Arnzen, a great guy whose new novel Play Dead (sic?) is getting good reviews. Arnzen, Ann, and I go waay back to before the collapse of the horror market--Michael was one of Jeanne Cavelos' discoveries at Dell Abyss back in the late 1980s. He's just gotten tenure at his college and will be going on sabbatical for a year starting in June. "When people ask me if I'm going to travel," he said, "I tell them, 'Yeah--to the Island of Sabbatica.'" Actually, he's going to stay home and write for a year.

David Hartwell found a novel way to keep watch on his kids but get them some sleep time--by using tableclothes to create a kind of tent in a corner booth area. It was quite ghostly, really, to see, out of the corner of one's eye, the sudden appearance of a hand or foot from beneath what one had assumed was an uninhabited area...

Mark Wingenfeld, book dealer and friend from way back, was also at the party and we look forward to seeing more of him in the next couple of days. Also Jacob W. from Tachyon Press, and the troika of Ted Chiang, John Kessel, and Jim Kelly in another corner, whispering to one another. I would have gone over but in that slight moment of hesitation in which I thought, "Yes, but Ted Chiang HATES Evil Monkey," someone else came up and started talking...

As for today, it's two readings. I'll be reading with Patrick O'Leary and Liz Hand (or Big Bird as I call her--long story)--two excerpts from Shriek--and then tonight the Ambergris Rough Guide multi-media extravaganza. Along with doing some interviews for the documentary.

Still can't quite get the Wonderland B&B out of my head.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006


We stayed overnight at Wonderland, which I call a "Bed &" not a "Bed & Breakfast" since they had a breakfast that was microwaveable or cold. It was a weird place--relaxing and yet creepy at the same time. The overlay of pink in the room and the paintings on the wall (literally on the wall) intended to be, I guess, romantic, were really Trying Too Hard. My favorite moment was when at the breakfast the very nice proprietor said that the pancakes were "handmade by chefs" but then shrink-wrapped "because of all the poisonings." Which she then explained was a reference to the Tylenol poisonings, which apparently changed the rules for B&B's in Florida and every bit of non-packaged food had to be shrink-wrapped? I still do not understand.

Anyway, after Wonderland we made it down to ICFA just soon enough to moderate the first panel of ICFA, the Visual Arts and the Fantastic, with panelists Charles Vess, Joe Haldeman, Judith Clute, and M. Thomas Inge. At first, things went a little awkwardly as my fake question "What is your favorite color?" was received more favorably than my real first question, "The panelists have been introduced, but to get to know them on a tactile level, I'd like them to tell us what medium they most enjoy working in, and if an artist, what that means in terms of types of paint, types of surfaces, etc." or something to that effect.

After that it picked up, with all of the panelists sounding quite knowledgeable about how the visual and written arts collaborate, what challenges face fantastical artists, what kind of approach to portraying the fantastic is most preferable, and how one goes about allowing the viewer/reader to be interactive with a visual as opposed to written text. I'm a little knackered right now, so forgive the lack of direct quotes. It was a good panel. Everyone did a nice job. Charles Vess is a very laid back and personable guest of honor and I thought Joe Haldeman did heroic duty with lots of relevant observations even though visual art is often at the periphery of his creative experience. Judith Clute's observations were always very specific and tactile, while Inge offered his considerable experience as a writer of nonfiction about these topics. Like me with fiction, Inge believes that all art is fantastical in a sense because none of it exactly replicates "reality".

Caught up with a few people--John Clute, David Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer, Farah Mendelsohn, Mr. Morse, and others. We're back at my inlaws to have dinner and then will go to the reception later tonight.

Tomorrow I do a reading with Patrick O'Leary and Elizabeth Hand in the morning and then the Ambergris Rough Guide presentation at night. I'm going to read two bits from Shriek in the morning. Some of which I've never read before anywhere, so I'm very excited. And the rough guide is very fine-tuned and polished and the people here really know what they're doing re the tech side.

Ann shot video of the panel, so will put that up in the next week.


Monday, March 13, 2006


It's almost here, my friends. Along with a lot of other things. Heh heh heh.

Eric Schaller designed and created the label. Text by moi. Beer by Todd Szuch, local to Tallahassee. A fine stout. It says "Smashing Todd's" across the top (cut off a little on this scan). This beer is mentioned in the forthcoming US edition of Shriek...



Austin bat, as opposed to...

The Associated Writers Program Conference is where I finally realized I need a break. Not a break from travel but a break from meeting people and always being “on”. I’d come to Austin after having spent a lot of time promoting City of Saints and Shriek, and just generally doing a lot of PR and making a lot of contacts. All of which I love to do—it really is fun on some level. But when I got to Austin I realized I couldn’t go from doing that 24-7 to being on the road and doing it 24-7 as well. (The flight to Texas was hellish--turbulence the whole way and people throwing up in the bathroom and the wings waggling a bit too much even during touch-down.)

So I went AWOL a lot while in Austin. (I also missed Ann, who couldn’t come with me.) I had a lot of great conversations with some great people, fulfilled all my obligations, and got a lot of value from the conference. But I also spent part of two afternoons walking along the river path—a wonderful green area stretching for miles, with ducks and swans and interesting people all along the way. It was a great stress reliever, along with finding time to use the weight room. (One odd note: lower humidity than Florida but I have to say, I sweated more in Texas than I can remember sweating anywhere. It was ridiculous.)

I also went off with my old friend Tom Winstead (who used to be my partner at the Ministry) and his wife Marty a couple of times—once to visit Mike Moorcock and then have fish tacos and beer, and another time to the fabled Salt Lick. The Salt Lick was literally in the middle of nowhere, about 20 miles outside of Austin. It’s a famous Texas barbecue place, with a parking lot that can, and needs to, fit hundreds of cars.

Oddly enough, a pagoda-style Hindu temple and compound had been built on the other side of the road just a fourth mile from the Salt Lick. Marty had warned me it could be disconcerting, but nothing prepared me for seeing it over the rise of a hill. “Oh my gawd,” I said with a quick intake of breath. Other anomalies: the road into the commune was lined with what looked like faux Victorian street lamps. The filigreed gate didn’t match the pagoda or the peacocks wandering around all over.

Matt Cheney and I had lunch with Eric Marin from Lone Star Stories and the writer Rick Whitten-Klaw, who works at Half-Price Books. (Rick recently wrote an article about his grandfather and his relationship to Betty Page.) I didn’t know what to expect from the outside, since it looked like it might only deal in remainders, but they had an excellent rare book room as well as plentiful and eccentric non-rare stock, and we had a pleasant lunch at a Thai place right next store. I resisted buying any books, though, since there are a thousand and one things Ann and I are saving for this year…and besides, the World Fantasy Award books are just beginning to pile up like driftwood after a hurricane.

That night was the reading at BookPeople and I was really excited. Reading with Moorcock, Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, Brian Evenson, and Matt Cheney was pure pleasure. Not to mention I got to meet Peggy Hailey, who was really nice. (Peggy and Rick are editors for Revolution SF.) I read a fun bit from Shriek, a piece of my story in ParaSpheres, and closed with a funny font note from City of Saints. It went really well. Everyone did a great job, but I think it was Matt, reading a new story, who really caught my attention. I was also quite embarrassed when I realized my drinking of a large chai not only necessitated a quick exit for a moment toward the end of the Link reading but also had given me those just wonderfully annoying burp hiccups when air bubbles collect in your throat (despite having to stifle the hiccups, I think, frankly, that I killed).

The event had been set up to feature ParaSpheres, a new cross-genre anthology from Omnidawn Press that I recommend highly. It’s 600 plus pages of high quality original and reprint material by an amazingly impressive bunch of names. You can buy it here. Ken and Rusty from Omnidawn were on hand to preside over the reading and also had a booth at the book fair, where I also hung out at off and on throughout the conference.

Afterwards, Ken and Rusty took us all out to a great restaurant and we proceeded to sample the local beer and have a great time talking about a variety of different subjects, including but not limited to, cats on leashes, cats not liking travel, the political situation, small press feuds, writer workshops, etc. But my favorite moment was when Kelly Link turned to me after dinner and asked, “Have you ever sturdled an armadillo?” Various visions of what “sturdled” could mean raced through my head—from the obscene to the simply gustatory. “No, I haven’t,” I said, probably with a look of alarm on my face. Not to worry, though, the word in question was “startled.” (And I still had not—although I was able to impart the information that armadillos can bloat up with air and then float across bodies of water, such as rivers.) I much prefer the question with “sturdled,” however.

The next day, Friday, Tom and I headed over to Moorcock’s place and spent a relaxing four or five hours having lunch and shooting the breeze with Mike and his wife Linda. The house is a historical building with a plaque and everything, and I was much dismayed when, after knocking on the front door and not getting a reply, I turned the doorknob and it came off in my hand!!!! At the same time, I heard Mike saying from behind the door, “We don’t open this one much—it’ll be easier if you come around the side.” Imagine my dual horror and relief. I’d just contributed to the decline of a historical building but I had time now to reattach the damn thing so Moorcock’s first view of me wouldn’t be one with me holding his doorknob in my hand. That accomplished, we went around to the side and proceeded to have a great afternoon.

Saturday was the nonrealist fiction panel, which I thought went great, and which I videotaped. My favorite presentation—just from its careful layering—was by Laird Hunt, whose books I must now pick up. But all of the panelists—also Link, Evenson, myself, and Cheney—did an excellent job. I was most struck by the subset of each presentation that overlapped the others, because no one said these same things the same way, and in the different ways these similar things were said, they became quite different, and you could see different parts of the audience reacting with more or less enthusiasm based on that fact. I think Matt may post part of Laird’s presentation, and talk about it further, so I will just direct you to that link when it becomes available. My own presentation was created specifically for speech-ifying and thus, as a bunch of talking points and bullet points, is not really right to reproduce here.

I was sharing a room with Matt (who could never quite get the soft-hard feature on his auto bed right, but that was his problem, not mine) and Saturday night we had dinner in a little local restaurant (which, ironically enough, had some of the worst live music I’ve ever heard) and then wandered around the capital building, the fabled party-atmosphere Sixth Street, and then stayed up talking and drinking (at which point, around 12:30 in the morning, I interviewed Matt for the documentary I’m doing—surprisingly coherent, I must say). That was a lot of fun.

As for the conference, I have mixed feelings about it. I loved talking to the people I met—like my fellow panelists and Richard Nash at Soft Skull Press and Allan Kornblum, the very knowledgeable founder of Coffee House Press, among many others—but just from the descriptions in the AWP Conference Program Book, I felt that some of the panels were trying too hard. There seemed to be a lot of extraneous bullshit that was just about filling another hour of time. That said, it was a huge conference and there were lots of great panels. I just didn’t feel like making the effort, which is more of a reflection on me than anything else. As you can tell from Matt Cheney’s blog there were definitely panels worth going to. And if you are a mainstream literary publisher—a university press, an indie press—it’s a conference you really much go to. I’m sure that Small Beer picked up a ton of contacts relevant to books they’re publishing this year, such as the Alan DeNiro. I got a lot of out of it too—interviewing several key people and getting some valuable insight into things related to my own efforts this year. But I’m not sure if I’ll go back next year or not. It’s a feather in one’s cap to say you’re a presenter at AWP, but, on the other hand, there were a good thousand of us presenting, so…

However, one thing I know for sure: I love Austin. Absolutely love it. It reminds me in climate, temperament, size, and culturally very much of all the best of Brisbane, Australia, one of our favorite cities. And it too has a river running through it. Except, their bats are much smaller than Brisbane's. They've got to work on bat size in Austin...

...Australian bat...

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Having just gotten back from a sweat-soaked, three-city plane ride back to Tallahassee from Austin, Texas, I have only a few initial observations, which will be followed by a longer posting tomorrow.

- BookPeople and Half-Price Books are fucking AWESOME.
- Reading with Mike Moorcock, Brian Evenson, Matt Cheney, Kelly Link, and Gavin Grant is fucking AWESOME.
- Sixth Street is a bit like Mardi Gras but with better/more diverse music (don't hurt me, Nawlins).
- Them bats? They's smaller than them Australian bats.
- The river walk/hike is freaking AWESOME.
- Austin reminds me of Brisbane, Australia (similar size, cultural hotspot, river running through it, etc.)
- An old friend, Tom Winstead and his wife Marty, took me to the Salt Lick, about 40 minutes outside of Austin. It was, you guessed it, fucking AWESOME. Salt Lick! The best barbecue in Texas! And there's actually now a five story tall Hindu gold-leaf anointed temple with peacocks right over the hill from the place. So just imagine that juxtaposition.
-Sitting up all night talking with Matt Cheney is the bomb.

More tomorrow, gentle folk.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I love Conrad Williams' fiction. My interview with him is currently posted on SF Site. Check it out. This guy is such a good stylist. Amazing.



Okay, so I wrote an email to a local coffee shop because the last five times I'd gone in there, serious breakdowns in service had occurred. As I said in my email, I'd go in there in a good mood and come out totally pissed off. And I wasn't going to do that any more. The last time I went in, no one was in the front for five minutes. I could have robbed the place. Then somebody came by and instead of waiting on me (and the people in line behind me) just walked into the back again. Finally, after about eight minutes, somebody came out of the back and waited on us. I mean, it was ridiculous. Meanwhile, they've added a crafts section and blocked off the main door so you have to walk by the crafts shop before you get to the coffee shop. It makes no sense at all.

But all that's neither here nor there. After two weeks, they responded. I've pasted the response below because it seems to come to me out of an alternate reality. Yeah, there's the offer of free stuff--immediately followed by a passive-aggressive defense of the highest order. Fantasy, really. High fantasy.

The fact is, just like in fiction, it's not your intent or the behind-the-scenes stuff but your outward actions that make the difference as to whether you're seen as competent or incompetent, good or bad, etc. So I offer this up as a shining example of a fantastical, alternate reality view of the world.

Note the totally condescending attitude toward their employees. Note also how completely the response is intended to make me feel like a total dick for complaining. I repeat: I could have ROBBED the place. Leisurely.

Evil, Jeff

Dear Jeff,

Thank you very much for taking the time to let me know of your dissatisfactory experience. First and foremost, I am very sorry. Your schedule and time are very important. I would like to send you a gift card in the amount of $25.53 which is equal to 5 chai teas and 5 $2.00 pastries, plus tax in hopes that you will visit again soon. If you would forward me your address, I will drop it in the mail today!

If I may, I'dd like to take a few minutes of your time to share the essence of my business philosophy. I gainfully employee workers of all calibers and qualifications. I try to see where their strength is and utilize those talents to help them gain confidence. Hence, not everyone has the mental or physical capacity to work the counter and run the register. Our register is a somewhat complex computerized system that requires significant training. Unfortunately, not all of my employees have the ability to learn this system. Therefore, when people are scheduled and not behind the counter, there is a specific reason. Within this last year of operation, I have staffed a terminally ill gentleman, three unwed mothers, a woman suffering from chronic pain and fatigue due to medications, a young man who taught himself how to ride a 2 wheel bike at age 17 and a convicted felon looking to turn her life around. I have 3 retired people who volunteer their time in order to still feel needed and valued and impart years of experience & wisdom

It is very important to me that the Bistro be immaculate. Therefore, many of my employees are hired with the sole purpose of cleaning the parking lot, bathrooms, doing laundry, sweeping, wiping tables, cleaning windows, etc. Therefore, they should not be behind the counter helping customers at any time. I believe customer service encompasses more than just quick service.

If it seems that I am making excuses, I am not. I just wanted to shed some light on this business that might not have been revealed in your five minute wait. Yes, I am here to serve our customers, but more importantly, my purpose is to serve our community as well.

In regards to our new entrance, I thought if people walked just a little bit further, they could justify eating one of our delicious homemade baked goods. In all seriousness, before the [current location] we were across the street in 860 square feet as a gift shop. With our new expansion, many of our customers missed that aspect so we expanded. In addition to our gifts, I am currently showcasing two stay at home mom's artistry as they are raising children and starting businesses. We also are promoting birdfeeders in the gift shop. They have been made by the children at G-- E--. All proceeds go back to the school as they are raising money to swim with the dolphins this spring. With over 200 people coming in a day, we have been able to offer wonderful exposure and to assist them in making their goal. However, we do keep our side door unlocked during business hours for a quick entrance if the gift shop entrance is not conducive. [Simply not true--Jeff]

In addition, [we have] been able to help support Tallahassee's non-profit organizations for over 16 years. As a small business, this is not always easy, but it is a way for me to thank the community for all that they do. We also make an effort to give 10% off menu items each month to specific groups of people that make a difference in other peoples' lives. For example: hospice workers, teachers, civil service employees, librarians, Sunday school teachers, etc. We also offered free boxed dinners complete with soup, drink and dessert for all of the people in shelters here from Katrina.

I have also devised a program called Making the Grade for my employees who are also full time students. I honor any GPA over 2.5 and compensate them financially each semester for doing well.

Please know I will personally check the employee schedule and see who was working on February 20th and speak with the employees working that day. Once again, I do apologize for your wait.

I look forward to being given another chance to serve you with excellence and make a difference in your day. You mentioned that you come in happy. Maybe you are being directed to come in to share your cheer with someone who may desperately need what you have. It is rarely about what we can get, but rather what we can give. Together, I know we can also make a difference in a multitude of other lives as well.

Most Sincerely,