Saturday, April 28, 2007


Congrats to Toni Jerrman and the staff of Tahtivaeltaja for producing their 100th issue. As many readers of this blog know, I am a huge fan of this Finnish pop culture/genre magazine. Many times I've lamented the fact we don't have an English-language version of Tahtivaeltaja, with its mix of a punk-pop-low/high culture mentality. Anyway, congrats to Toni. He and his staff put a huge amount of work into this publication.

This issue of Tahtivaeltaja includes an insert pamphlet of the Finnish version of King Squid, using John Coulthart's layout and translated into Finnish by Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo, the talented translator of City of Saints & Madmen. (She also added a couple of entries to the bibliography.) When we have another book sale in a month or so, I'll be able to offer some copies of the Finnish King Squid for VanderCompletists.

The 100th issue also includes a long interview with me conducted by that collosus among men, a genuine treasure and frog wrestler, Jukka Halme (who, by the way, you definitely need to help send to Japan). JAPAN DEMANDS JUKKA HALME (and Australia would also probably really like Johan Anglemark).

Anyway, congrats to all involved!


Friday, April 27, 2007


UPDATE: Paul Di Filippo has a short account of the memorial service, and a POB where you can write to Mike and Jeri.

LaGrange College, where Michael Bishop teaches, now has set up the

Jamie Bishop Scholarship Fund in Graphic Arts
c/o LaGrange College
601 Broad Street
LaGrange, GA 30240

Designate the name of the fund on your check, should you wish to send a donation.

This scholarship fund has the family's full support.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

SHARED WORLDS CAMP--now open for registration

Wofford is doing a Shared Worlds camp (link in blogger isn't working, so: )--one of the coolest ideas in a long time. A multi-discipline approach to creativity, it's for rising 8th graders through 12th graders who want to spend a week creating their own world, with advice from visiting faculty (including myself, Stephen Leigh, and Christie Golden), along with guest speakers such as Greg Keyes, Jack McDevitt, Laura Resnick, and Scott Nicholson. Registration is now open. This is going to be so much fun. It's not just writers--it's video game creators, cartographers, you name it!

I'll be available to students in an advisory capacity and probably also doing a few extra things. I have a lecture on fantasy worldbuilding, for example.

Anyway, it's pretty reasonably priced and like I said--it's a wonderful concept in applied imagination. (Thanks to Dave Keck for giving me the info and Jeremy Jones for getting me involved.)



Looks like I'm up for an imaginary award in France. ;)


Monday, April 23, 2007


I'm in love with the Dungeon graphic novel series, by Trondheim, Sfar, and others. I'm unabashedly in love, and completely in love. Just the sheer imagination in the art, let alone the imagination in the storytelling, the humor, and insanity and sometimes the profundity of it, really make me want it to be endless. I think I'd rather read this than any heroic fantasy novel series out there, possibly the George RR Martin included. I say this not because it's true necessarily--comparing apples and anvils here--but to let you know how serious I am about how good this is.

If you haven't experienced this, you need to, because it's amazing. And I really am serious about preferring it in many ways to anything out there in this particular genre (swords-and-sorcery?) because it puts to shame most of us novelists working in the field in its level of endless invention, the way it mixes in humor with characters who acquire depth and wisdom (and pratfalls) in their quests.

Yes, this is a satirical fantasy series, but it is more serious than one might expect.

No, I'm not on drugs.


(Evil Monkey: This, on the other hand, is heinous. I think I feel a little sick. Jeff: Hey! You've been gone a long time. Where've you been? Evil Monkey: I took a tour of stupidity in the world. It took for-ev-err, man. Jeff: Good to have you back. Evil Monkey: Whatever.)

Friday, April 20, 2007


I still haven't really had time to process Vonnegut's death, but I hate the fact that in some quarters he's being viewed as a kind of fossil and in others as a pop icon, which is ironic given his dark sense of aburdism, or, perhaps, in an odd, twisted way appropriate. First and foremost, Vonnegut was a writer who documented the absurdism, horror, and humanity of our modern world. All of his novels, in the ways they deal with evil profound, casual, or banal, and individuals trying to find their way in a world that tries to dehumanize, are completely relevant today.

Two things disgusted me in particular, though. One, the Fox News obituary for Vonnegut, digesting him into propaganda, unwilling to even let a dead man have his truth. The second was a list of the Essential Vonnegut in Entertainment Weekly that had four offerings: Slaughterhouse Five, Cat's Cradle, Mother Night, and Back to School. Yes, that's right: Back to School, the Rodney Dangerfield movie. Whether the result of a lack of imagination, an idea that backfired, or whatever, I just found that to maybe sum up how ridiculous the world is right now.

Somehow it also made me think of a question a student at Trinity Prep asked me about politics. He observed that I liked to make artists and writers into politicians of a kind, or to wield political power, and that this was unusual in the real world. To which I replied with some anecdote about how Austin invested in culture and business followed while Tallahassee invested in business and became a bit of a backwater culturally, by way of proving a point I've forgotten. What I should have told him is that we in America are often dysfunctional in our idea that politics and other important matters of governance should fall to people who are either lawyers or businessmen. In Europe and in other places, it's not uncommon for writers or other creative people to run for public office, even if they don't always succeed. Here, it's treated more like a freakshow.

I'm just rambling now, but I guess my point is, in another world Kurt Vonnegut would have been an elder statesman not just figuratively, but literally. I read his novels from an early age because my dad read them and left the paperbacks lying around the house. Some of them had lurid covers and even though I didn't understand everything I read him them, I was drawn to them. When I read them later, I felt a kinship in the absurdism if not the style and enjoyed his work for many, many years. I still remember my delight in Hocus Pocus, a later novel that Salman Rushdie uncharitably slagged in the NYT Book Review. It did not deserve the abuse.



Paul Di Filippo has posted an email from Michael Bishop.


(For those who, having read City of Saints and Shriek, might be interested...)

The gray caps have brought me through a seemingly infinite series of rooms. The first were tiny—I had to crawl into them, and even then barely squeezed past, banging my head on the ceiling. These rooms had the delicate qualities of a damaged illuminated manuscript created by some strange, utterly unique culture. Golden lichen covered the walls in intricate patterns, and the textures of even the most solid surface seemed to pulse and hum.

Strangely, in these rooms I felt as if I had unlimited space in which to move and breathe. Each room we entered that was larger than its predecessor made me more and more ill at ease. I sensed that these were living quarters, despite the absence of chairs, tables, and bookshelves. They smelled of lime. They smelled of stone and earth. Slowly, what little light we had became greener and greener, until we were all just shadows passing through it.

As the curious rooms expanded, so to the precision of my senses, so that I would spend hours examining the patinaed surface of some ancient artifact, unsure whether it was stone or living tissue. Or find myself locked in thought at the sight of a trickle of water along a mineral fissure...This continued for days and days, until I became numb to even the most amazing wonders.

We continued on. When hungry, we broke off pieces of the golden walls and ate of them. When thirsty, we squeezed the odd fleshy lampposts and greedily drank the drops of mossy elixir that came from them. Eventually, we would push open the now immense doors leading to the next room and see only distantly the far wall...

Then, just when I thought this journey might never end—and yet surely could not continue, the gray caps brought me through one final door (as large as many of the rooms we had passed through).

Beyond this door, it was a kind of odd day-dusk, lit by the dimly seen stars, and we had come out upon a hill of massive columns, through which I could see, below us, a vast city that looked uncannily like Ambergris, surrounded by a forest.

Above, the immense sky, darkening in a way the land below did not—and I thought, I thought, that I had been brought above ground, for the entire world seemed to spread out before me. But no, I realized with sinking heart, for far above me I could see, when I squinted, that, luminous blue against the blackness, what I had taken for stars, for the arch of the heavens, was in fact a distant ceiling, and that I was in yet another room, if one so large I could not begin to guess its dimensions.

When I Iooked back, the door we had come through was gone, replaced with mere façade.

Strange people and things moved in the distance.

Bridges reached into nothing and nowhere. On the horizon, I could see the beginnings of some vast inland sea.

Although the way was strange and difficult, it was to that sea we went, and on its ancient shore that my captors spoke to me one last time…

They spoke to me in clicks and whistles. The language of the mad. And I did not understand them, and they still did not understand me.

I looked out into the water and saw in its reflections a thousand alien and exotic images. And thought with weariness of how far I had come to end up here, lost and with no friend beside me.

And finally they made me to understand that they are done with me, and I am free, in a sense. In a few minutes, they will take this journal from me. Leaving me only the shore and a tiny cockleshell of a boat in which to cross this sea.

What shall I do now? Among the islands that spread out before me, a light beckons in the distance. It is a clear light, an even light, and because light still, to me, means the surface, I have decided to travel toward it in hopes, after all this time, of regaining the world I have lost. I may well simply find another door when I find the source of the light, but perhaps not. Perhaps not.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


From Nathan Ballingrud's livejournal, itself refering to a post by Ellen Datlow on the Night Shade Boards: Virginia Tech will be setting up an annual scholarship in Jamie Bishop's name for German majors. Donations can be made to the Virginia Tech Foundation for the Jamie Bishop Scholarship at

Virginia Tech FoundationUniversity Development
902 Prices Fork Road
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Also being set up is the Jocelyn Couture-Nowak Scholarship, given annually to French majors. Couture-Nowak, another victim in the shootings, taught French.



Photo by Jackie Estrada; from left to right: Chris Reilly, Whitney Matheson, me, James Sime, Robin Brenner

The Eisner finalists have been announced. I really enjoyed meeting my fellow judges and spending a weekend doing nothing but reading comics and discussing comics. I think the list is diverse enough to both please and irritate everyone, but it also accurately portrays the diversity of what's being done in comics today. All of us are very happy with the final list. As with all judging assignments, of course, each of us probably had a favorite that didn't make the list, but we're all thrilled with these finalists.

For my part, favorites on the list include Moomin, ALIEEN, Fun Home, American-Born Chinese, Freeze, Wonderland, Truth Serum, Japan, Scarlet Traces, The Ticking, Onion Head, Ironhide Tom, Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, and...well, hell, truthfully, if I keep going I'll just be naming ALL of the stuff below all over again.


Nominees, 2007,Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards

Best Short Story
”The Black Knight Glorps Again,” by Don Rosa, in Uncle Scrooge #354 (Gemstone)
“Felix,” by Gabrielle Bell, in Drawn & Quarterly Showcase 4 (Drawn & Quarterly)
“A Frog’s Eye View,” by Bill Willingham and James Jean, in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Vertigo/DC)
“Old Oak Trees,” by Tony Cliff, in Flight 3 (Ballantine)
“Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man,” by Stan Lee, Oliver Coipel, and Mark Morales, in Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man (Marvel)
“Willie: Portrait of a Groundskeeper,” by Eric Powell, in Bart Simpsons’s Treehouse of Horror #12 (Bongo)

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
Batman/The Spirit #1: “Crime Convention,” by Jeph Loeb and Darwyn Cooke (DC)
A Late Freeze, by Danica Novgorodoff (Danica Novgorodoff)
The Preposterous Adventures of Ironhide Tom, by Joel Priddy (AdHouse)
Skyscrapers of the Midwest #3, by Joshua Cotter (AdHouse)
They Found the Car, by Gipi (Fantagraphics)

Best Continuing Series
All Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC)
Captain America, by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (Marvel)
Daredevil, by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, and Stefano Gaudiano (Marvel)
Naoki Urusawa’s Monster, by Naoki Urusawa (Viz)
The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard (Image)
Young Avengers, by Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung, and various inkers (Marvel)

Best Limited Series
Batman: Year 100, by Paul Pope (DC)
The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M, by Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier, and Ben Templesmith (Desperado/Image)
The Other Side, by Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart (Vertigo/DC)
Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli (Dark Horse)
Sock Monkey: The Inches Incident, by Tony Millionaire (Dark Horse)

Best New Series
Criminal, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel Icon)
East Coast Rising, by Becky Cloonan (Tokyopop)
Gumby, by Bob Burden and Rick Geary (Wildcard)
Jack of Fables, by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Tony Akins, and Andrew Pepoy (Vertigo/DC)
The Lone Ranger, by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello (Dynamite)

Best Publication for a Younger Audience
Chickenhare, by Chris Grine (Dark Horse)
Drawing Comics Is Easy (Except When It’s Hard), by Alexa Kitchen (Denis Kitchen Publishing)
Gumby, by Bob Burden and Rick Geary (Wildcard)
Moomin, by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly)
To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel, by Sienna Cherson and Mark Siegel (Simon & Schuster)

Best Humor Publication
Flaming Carrot Comics, by Bob Burden (Desperado/Image)
Onionhead Monster Attacks, by Paul Friedrich (Hellcar)
Schizo #4, by Ivan Brunetti (Fantagraphics)
Tales Designed to Thrizzle, by Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics)
Truth Serum, by Jon Adams (City Cyclops)

Best Anthology
Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, by Bill Willingham and various (Vertigo/DC)
Hotwire Comix and Capers #1, edited by Glenn Head (Fantagraphics)
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, edited by Frédéric Boilet (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
Kramers Ergot 6, edited by Sammy Harkham (Buenaventura Press)
Project: Romantic, edited by Chris Pitzer (AdHouse)

Best Digital Comic
Bee, in “Motel Art Improvement Service,” by Jason Little,
Girl Genius, by Phil Foglio,
Minus, by Ryan Armand,
Phables, by Brad Guigar,
Sam and Max, by Steve Purcell,
Shooting War, by Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman,

Best Reality-Based Work
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
I Love Led Zeppelin, by Ellen Forney (Fantagraphics)
Mom’s Cancer, by Brian Fies (Abrams)
Project X Challengers: Cup Noodle, by Tadashi Katoh (Digital Manga)
Stagger Lee, by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix (Image)

Best Graphic Album—New
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
Billy Hazelnuts, by Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics)
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
Ninja, by Brian Chippendale (Gingko Press)
Scrublands, by Joe Daly (Fantagraphics)
The Ticking, by Renée French (Top Shelf)

Best Graphic Album—Reprint
Absolute DC: The New Frontier, by Darwyn Cooke (DC)
Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley (Fantagraphics)
Mom’s Cancer, by Brian Fies (Abrams)
Shadowland, by Kim Deitch (Fantagraphics)
Truth Serum, by Jon Adams (City Cyclops)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips
The Complete Peanuts, 1959–1960, 1961–1962, by Charles Schulz (Fantagraphics)
Mary Perkins On Stage, by Leonard Starr (Classic Comics Press)
Moomin, by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly)
Popeye: I Yam What I Yam, by E. C. Segar (Fantagraphics)
Walt & Skeezix, vol. 2, by Frank King (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books
Abandon the Old In Tokyo, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly)
Absolute Sandman, vol. 1, by Neil Gaiman and various (Vertigo/DC)
Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900–1969, by Dan Nadel (Abrams)
The Eternals, by Jack Kirby (Marvel)
Ode to Kirihito, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
A.L.I.E.E.E.N., by Lewis Trondheim (First Second)
De:TALES, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
Hwy 115, by Matthias Lehmann (Fantagraphics)
The Left Bank Gang, by Jason (Fantagraphics)
Pizzeria Kamikaze, by Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka (Alternative)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Japan
After School Nightmare, by Setona Mizushiro (Go! Comi)
Antique Bakery, by Fumi Yoshinaga (Digital Manga)
Naoki Urusawa’s Monster, by Naoki Urusawa (Viz)
Old Boy, by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi (Dark Horse Manga)
Walking Man, by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)

Best Writer
Ed Brubaker, Captain America, Daredevil (Marvel); Criminal (Marvel Icon)
Bob Burden, Gumby (Wildcard)
Ian Edginton, Scarlet Traces: The Great Game (Dark Horse)
Grant Morrison, All Star Superman, Batman, 52, Seven Soldiers (DC)
Bill Willingham, Fables, Jack of Fables, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Vertigo/DC)

Best Writer/Artist
Allison Bechdel, Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin)
Renée French, The Ticking (Top Shelf)
Gilbert Hernandez, Love and Rockets, New Tales of Old Palomar (Fantagraphics); Sloth (Vertigo/DC)
Paul Pope, Batman: Year 100 (DC)
Joann Sfar, Klezmer, Vampire Loves (First Second)

Best Writer/Artist—Humor
Ivan Brunetti, Schizo (Fantagraphics)
Lilli Carré, Tales of Woodsman Pete (Top Shelf)
Michael Kupperman, Tales Designed to Thrizzle (Fantagraphics)
Tony Millionaire, Billy Hazelnuts (Fantagraphics); Sock Monkey: The Inches Incident (Dark Horse)
Lewis Trondheim, A.L.I.E.E.E.N. (First Second); Mr. I (NBM)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
Mark Buckingham/Steve Leialoha, Fables (Vertigo/DC)
Tony Harris/Tom Feister, Ex Machina (WildStorm/DC)
Niko Henrichon, Pride of Baghdad (Vertigo/DC)
Michael Lark/Stefano Gaudiano, Daredevil (Marvel)
Sonny Liew, Wonderland (SLG)
Steven McNiven/Dexter Vines, Civil War (Marvel)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)
Nicolas De Crecy, Glacial Period (NBM)
Melinda Gebbie, Lost Girls (Top Shelf)
Ben Templesmith, Fell (Image); The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M (Desperado/Image); Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse (IDW)
Jill Thompson, “A Dog and His Boy” in The Dark Horse Book of Monsters; “Love Triangle” in Sexy Chix (Dark Horse); “Fair Division,” in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Vertigo/DC)
Brett Weldele, Southland Tales: Prequel Saga (Graphitti); Silent Ghost (Markosia)

Best Cover Artist
John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men (Marvel); The Escapists (Dark Horse); The Lone Ranger (Dynamite)
Tony Harris, Conan (Dark Horse); Ex Machina (WildStorm/DC)
James Jean, Fables, Jack of Fables, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Vertigo/DC)
Dave Johnson, 100 Bullets (Vertigo/DC); Zombie Tales, Cthulu Tales, Black Plague (Boom!)
J. G. Jones, 52 (DC)

Best Coloring
Kristian Donaldson, Supermarket (IDW)
Hubert, The Left Bank Gang (Fantagraphics)
Lark Pien, American Born Chinese (First Second)
Dave Stewart, BPRD, Conan, The Escapists, Hellboy (Dark Horse); Action Comics, Batman/The Spirit, Superman (DC)
Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #17 (ACME Novelty)

Best Lettering
Ivan Brunetti, Schizo (Fantagraphics)
Todd Klein, Fables, Jack of Fables, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall; Pride of Baghdad, Testament (Vertigo/DC); Fantastic Four: 1602, Eternals (Marvel); Lost Girls (Top Shelf)
Clem Robins, BPRD, The Dark Horse Book of Monsters, Hellboy (Dark Horse); Loveless, 100 Bullets, Y: The Last Man (Vertigo/DC)
Richard Sala, The Grave Robber’s Daughter, Delphine (Fantagraphics)
Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #17 (ACME Novelty)

Special Recognition
Ross Campbell, Abandoned (Tokyopop); Wet Moon 2 (Oni)
Svetlana Chmakova, Dramacon (Tokyopop)
Hope Larson, Gray Horses (Oni)
Dash Shaw, The Mother’s Mouth (Alternative)
Kasimir Strzepek, Mourning Star (Bodega)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
Alter Ego, edited by Roy Thomas (TwoMorrows)
Comic Art 8, edited by Todd Hignite (Buenaventura Press)
The Comics Journal, edited by Gary Groth, Dirk Deppey, Michael Dean, and Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)
The Comics Reporter, produced by Tom Spurgeon and Jordan Raphael (
¡Journalista!, produced by Dirk Deppey (Fantagraphics,

Best Comics-Related Book
The Art of Brian Bolland, edited by Joe Pruett (Desperado/Image)
Cartoon America: Comic Art in the Library of Congress, edited by Harry Katz (Abrams)
Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodle Book, by John Hitchcock (Octopus Press)
In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists, by Todd Hignite (Yale University Press)
Wally’s World, by Steve Sarger and J. David Spurlock (Vanguard)

Best Publication Design
Absolute DC: The New Frontier, designed by Darwyn Cooke (DC)
Castle Waiting graphic novel, designed by Adam Grano (Fantagraphics)
Lost Girls, designed by Matt Kindt and Brett Warnock (Top Shelf)
Popeye: I Yam What I Yam, designed by Jacob Covey (Fantagraphics)
The Ticking, designed by Jordan Crane (Top Shelf)

Hall of Fame

Judges’ Choices (2): Robert Kanigher and Ogden Whitney

Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
Dick Ayers
Bernard Baily
Matt Baker
Wayne Boring
Creig Flessel
Harold Gray
Irwin Hasen
Graham Ingels
Joe Orlando
Lily Renée (Peters) Phillips
Bob Powell
Gilbert Shelton
Cliff Sterrett


The Eisner finalists will be announced later today, with a few tidbits of information leaking out here and there already. As soon as the information is public, I will post the full list.


PS As soon as there is definitive information on a memorial fund or charity to contribute to in Jamie Bishop's memory, I'll post about it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Ann and I were out of the loop news-wise this weekend, being in San Diego. I just learned a few minutes ago that Michael Bishop's son Jamie was killed in the Virginia Tech shootings. I can't even tell you how sad this makes us, and how horrified. I only corresponded with Mike's son a few times, but he was a really nice guy, even in just a few emails, and Mike's such a wonderful person, as is his wife, that I can't imagine his son being any less wonderful. Our thoughts are with the family right now. I can't even imagine what they're going through.



I'm back from Eisner judging. My fellow judges, James Sime, Whitney Matheson, Chris Reilly, and Robin Brenner were just AWESOME. Just great, sweet, nice, knowledgeable people. I was proud to be serving on a judging panel with them. I'd say more, but I think James sums it up here.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


UPDATED April 12--Answers

(Heading out the door at 5 in the morning tomorrow to San Diego. Should be fun--sequestered in a hotel suite with the other Eisner judges, reading comics. There's even some radio guy coming by to interview us. Now *that's* how you run a judged award, by gawd! ...In other news, Kurt Vonnegut has passed away. He was always a huge favorite of mine and his sense of absurdism was an influence. But I don't really feel sad. He had a long, productive, happy life. He did everything he wanted to do. How can you feel sad about that? Instead, I think we should just celebrate what he left us--some amazing novels. And remember that even after people had written him off as past his prime, he produced one of my favorite novels: Hocus Pocus.)

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous said...
Hi Jeff, haveing read "City of Saints and Madmen", "The Strange Case of X" always remembered me about Doris Lessing's "Briefing for a Descent into Hell"; I'm wondering whether this link is just coincidence?Oliver

Answer: In this case, it's a coincidence. Some have also seen Harrison's "A Young Man's Journey to Viriconium/London/Unescapismville" (really, if you have to labor it that much, why bother?) as an influence. This is also not true. But now I really want to check out the Lessing!

Updated April 11--Answers

(Back in Tally, but out to the Eisner judging in San Diego on Friday. Trinity Prep was awesome, with great student writing, great questions from the English classes about "Martin Lake," which they were studying, and just a wonderful atmosphere all the way around. A former Trinity student who has been a real supporter of my work, Angela, even showed up for the reading. More on Trinity when I get back. Keep bringing the questions... - Jeff)

At 10:41 AM, Rajan said...
Can I ask another one? I was just reading something about BSG and I was wondering if you had continued to watch the rest of the season and, if so, what you thought about it in the end? Did they redeem themselves at all in your eyes?

ANSWER: We got so bored with BSG we haven't watched it for at least five episodes. Balth's trial? Who gives two shits?

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous said...
I have a minor question for you, Mr. Vandermeer. It concerns epic fantasy. What do you, as a writer of "weird" or "strange" fiction that is not "traditional" fantasy a la Tolkien think of Tolkien's modern children. Say the works of Martin, Bakker, Erikson, and countless more. Do you still think it can be a unique way to express yourself, or do you consider everything under the epic label copy-cats who don't invent any new tropes?

ANSWER: I'd like to get away from either-or thinking. There are crap-ass authors in "New Weird" and crap-ass authors in epic fantasy. And there are also great ones in both. I love Martin's work and haven't read enough of Bakker and Erikson yet to comment on theirs.

At 2:45 PM, Mark Bukovec said...
Hey Jeff. Just a comment to the MFA question. I worked on poetry instead of fiction at grad school. Working in verse gave me a good sense of sound quality and line work (or sentences in fiction) and a focus on the emotional impact of what I'm writing. I don't regret majoring in creative writing, but I also did a double major as an undergrad to learn something else.From what I saw, genre fiction was actively discouraged. So was experimental fiction, sadly enough. I think the biggest drawback to doing an MFA is that it's two (possibly three) more years in school, when you could be out in the world having more varied experiences to draw from.I have a question for you: as an up-and-coming writer (as in coming up from the subbasement to the root cellar), how can I benefit from attending cons? I'm going to ReaderCon.Keep pimping Cat Rambo. I'm fortunate to be in a workshop with her, and she rocks!Thanks--Mark

ANSWER: I guess it just depends on what you want out of writing and a college education. As for cons--At cons, if you're new to it all, go to the panels, go to the parties, introduce yourself to people whose work you admire and talk to them about whatever comes up in conversation. Just don't force your manuscript or info about your work into the conversation. You can always follow up by email afterwards if you want to use the cons for networking. The bar's always good, too, or the book room. Talk to the book dealers, most definitely. The main point would be--just don't be a wall flower but don't be in people's faces, either. And be yourself and be relaxed.

At 6:44 AM, Jonathan Wood said...
Random question: will there be an Album Zutique volume 2?

ANSWER: It's in the back of my head to do one. Just depends on time available.

Updated April 9--Answers

At 12:26 PM, Rajan said...
I'll play. As a writer who is also, at times, an editor, what would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of doing both? Do both jobs play well together or do they create conflict?

Answer: They play well together because they're both an act of creation, organization, etc. They feed into one another because you learn a lot about writing through editing--both the editing of anthologies by choosing stories and the editing of individual stories on the paragraph level. The only disadvantage is that there are people who are unable to understand that you can wear more than one hat at a time. You can either be a writer or an editor. The idea that you might perform at a high level in both areas seems to be horrifying to some. And sometimes there is a lot of genre politics behind the scenes when you edit an anthology, especially because the antho field is so crowded right now. For me, I just like creating things and I try to ignore the naysayers. Also, Ann and I work well together editing. She's a great general editor and I'm good at getting into the guts and analyzing them.

Updated April 8, 5:30pm--Answers to questions

As promised, answers to questions you've posted to the comments area thus far...


At 10:26 AM, Caleb Wilson said...
Hi Jeff, I have a question. What do you think about genre writing in MFA programs? My experience so far is that the two don't mix (based, admittedly, solely on all my rejections to programs so far.) What do you think? Have any counterexamples? I'm basically looking for a variety of opinions before I decide if I want to apply all over again next fall.

Answer: One great counterexample would be Brown University, with Brian Evenson and Robert Coover on the creative writing faculty. I really do think this is a case of just finding the right program. However, it depends on why you're going. Although others might disagree, the main reason to go into an MFA program is to be able to teach once you're out. If you're not wanting to teach, I would strongly suggest just getting a good day job that doesn't stress you out and writing on the side, until the ratio of work-pay to writing-pay begins to swing toward the writing-pay part of your life. Some of the best advice I ever got was from Richard Wilbur, the National Book Award-winning poet. I asked him about college and graduate school, etc. He told me "Get a degree in science, in history, in English, in whatever, but don't get one in creative writing." Basically, he was telling me (and he's said this to a lot of people), get the most out of college by acquiring the most knowledge you can and apply it to your fiction. Anyway, that last part doesn't respond to what you were asking, but I hope the first part does.

At 12:55 PM, LTG said...
Hey there Jeff. I have read your books Veniss Underground, City of Saints and Madmen and Secret Life, in this order (and, by the way, they're relatively hard to find here in Greece). While reading the Veniss stories (the ones in Secret Life), I found their mood and imagery much more raw and brutal than Veniss Underground. Of course, the latter had its moments, but at least it was much more humane. Although I enjoyed both the stories and the novel, I wanted to ask whether this change of mood was intentional, and if the earlier stories reflected your feelings/thoughts at the time you wrote them. Also, in Veniss chronology, what is the distance between the novel and the stories?Thanks in advance, John.

Answer: Yeah, my first and last book in Greece was a story collection that tanked. Probably would've done better with a novel first. Still, very grateful to Oxy Publishing for their efforts there. Re the Veniss stories--most all of the stories were started before I started the novel, although some of them, like "Balzac's War," were finished after I finished the novel. I began as a horror writer and I think that's why the stories are more horrific. However, the stories--most of them--also occur in the future chronology much later in time during a bleaker time for humanity, so that's probably the main reason for it. I also think a novel is a much wider canvas and allows for more fluctuation of approach and emotion.

At 2:08 PM, Jordan Lapp said...
I have a question. I've recently started my own blog, so I'd like to ask "how do you create a successful blog?" I mean, "be interesting" and "content is key" is always good advice, and I'm doing that (hey, it's me!), but what other steps can I take to drive traffic to my blog?

Answer: I don't know, really. I began the blog as an outlet for my enthusiasm for certain writers, my curiosity about writing topics, and to let readers know more about my work. It's just kind of blossomed from there. I guess at the beginning I asked if other bloggers and websites would link to my blog, but I don't recall doing anything other than that. It's just that over a period of years more and more people visit the blog. (Right now, I can get more attention for something on my blog at times than on webzine sites.) I think beyond be interesting and having good content, having some kind of general focus is good. Also, it's good to have that focus be relatively unique, or have a unique perspective on it. "Be honest" is my general approach, and mix in a combination of the personal and the professional. I also try very hard not to just have this be a blog promoting my work. This will get easier when I move to WordPress, since News & Events will be a constant sidebar rather than individual blog entries. I wish I could be of more help.


Just got the edits from Jim Frenkel on my Year's Best Fantasy & Horror comics summation. Really good edits, but my favorites were (created by misplaced comma and context): "What is a brain sad frog?" "What are escalating toadmen?"

Although I've corrected the errors, I now really really want to know what brain sad frogs are, and escalating toadmen. I have a feeling they might be mortal enemies. And yes, I think I will be writing a story around this, probably called "The Brain-Sad Frog and the Escalating Toadmen".

I will have more internet access than I thought while gone, so will probably pop in from time to time.

My offer to answer questions (stolen, I must admit, from John Scalzi, who, as a result, may borrow Evil Monkey once or twice if he wishes) is still open. Questions on writing or anything you like.


Thursday, April 05, 2007


This weekend, Ann and I head off for Trinity Prep School in Orlando where I'll be doing a writing workshop with some of the students, visiting with their creative writing class, talking about "Martin Lake," which they've been reading, and doing my Ambergris multi-media reading/thingee. Then, after a brief stop home later in the week we're off to San Diego so I, along with the other Eisner judges, can decide on the finalists. While Ann gets to have fun! (Well, okay, so reading a lot of comics is going to be fun, too.)

So, for the next week to ten days, I'm not going to be posting unless something amazing or horrible happens. BUT I will have internet access, so...let's open up this blog to questions and to self-promotion.

You can either ask me or Evil Monkey any question you like--about writing or anything--and we'll answer it in the body of this post, or you can tell us about any creative project you have coming out in the next year or so that you want people to know about.

See ya!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007


A few odds-and-ends from the last few weeks. I also have just finalized plans to do a graphic novel sidebar column for Realms of Fantasy, starting with their October issue. Thanks to Paul Witcover for his help with that.

Cat Rambo has a story at Dark Recesses. Upcoming work this month includes "Eagle-haunted Lake Sammammish" in Shimmer and "An Appetite for Love" in Sybil's Garage.

Toni Jerrman editor of the cool Finnish mag Tähtivaeltaja emails to announce:

Tähtivaeltaja-award 2007 nominees

Tähtivaeltaja-award is given annually to the best science fiction book published in Finland during the previous year - it can be a novel or a short story collection; a translation or an original Finnish work. Tähtivaeltaja-award is given by Helsinki Science Fiction Society, which is also behind the Tähtivaeltaja-semiprozine. Of the sf books published the previous year five best books are selected for the short list. The winner is chosen by a jury of experts. The nominees for the best science fiction book published in Finland in 2006 are:
-Steve Aylett: Atomi (Atom)
-Stepan Chapman: Troikka (The Troika)
-Benoit Duteurtre: Tyttö ja tupakka (La petite fille et la cigarette
- Engl.: The Little Girl and the Cigarette)
-Michel Houellebecq: Mahdollinen
saari (La possibilité d'une ile - Engl.: The Possibility of an Island)
-J. Pekka Mäkelä: Alshain (original Finnish novel)

The winner will be announced in May at the Tähtivaeltaja-day

Think Galactic out of Chicago is having their first convention. You can find details here.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007


My story The Third Bear is up at Clarkesworld as part of their April issue. I'm rather fond of this story, which I'd had in my head since about this time last year. Hope you like it.


Monday, April 02, 2007


The modified version of the BAF introduction written by Ann and me is now posted on the Best American Fantasy blog. "Modified" in that we stripped out specific references to particular stories since the audience wouldn't have had a chance to read them yet in the context of the anthology. So it's pretty self-contained in this version.

Also note the following links:

An Interview with anthologist Jonathan Strahan at SF Site.

An Interview with and Excerpt from new writer Felix Gilman, who just signed a two-book deal with Bantam. This is a guy you'll be hearing a lot more from. Check out this first interview and the beginning of his first novel, Thunderer.


Sunday, April 01, 2007


John Scalzi is in for it now with his SFWA write-in candidate campaign in jeopardy due to threats by myself (original post directly below) and the following:

Jayme Lynn Blaschke has tossed his hat into the ring. How he will now protect himself from sunburn, I have no idea.

Cat Rambo has posted her own rebuttal of my candidacy, to which I say only that future fiction collaborations with her and her team of way-too-intelligent pets will be much more acrimonious than previously planned.

Will Shetterly is braving the cold waters of political candidacy as well and has further been heard to say in private that he's going to build a SFWA pirate ship.

Cheryl Morgan, through Kevin Standlee, nails down a few planks.

Paul Melko says he's gonna run--but doesn't have a plank to stand on.

Paul Di Filippo, on the other hand, reports that all of these candidacies may be for naught, as the cartoons take over.

Meanwhile, that damnable Bond Girl stirs things up once again by saying she is NOT running for SFWA president.

Jed Hartman lays down the gauntlet by calling John Scalzi, "Scizlo".

That Virtual derelict Jay Lake decides to take on responsibility for once, while Marly Youmans sends in the wombats and Jeremiah Tolbert complicates an already crowded field...

Finally, that despicable newt Skip Moles has also issued a communique regarding the presidency, trying to wrest it from legitimate candidates with his noxious bullying. To describe my feelings toward Skip as "hatred" would be like calling a mighty oak a sedgeweed.

In related news, Locus Online reports that Scalzi and his main rival decry the use of SFWA monies to fund rejection slip orgasm research. (Although I prefer this article by Buffo Tuelth about finding useful work for genre writers, since it speaks to SFWA's failure to provide active members with productive employment.)

I imagine more campaigns will come out of the woodwork during the course of the day. To all of them, Evil Monkey and I say: Bring it on, mofos.


For an update on other candidates who announced today, click here.

John Scalzi has ably put forth a platform for SFWA that makes a lot of sense. I agree with most of the planks, but I don't think it goes far enough. For that reason, I've decided to run for SFWA President as a write-in candidate. I know some people have already sent in their votes, but I'm counting on the procrastination factor. You have until 4/28 to get in your votes, so I think I still have a chance.

What would I do if I were SFWA president? First of all, I'd make it an automatic disqualification for any writer to lobby their friends to vote for them in any category for the Nebula Awards. In fact, I'd appoint a volunteer whose only job would be to ferret out voting corruption. If that didn't work, we'd take a good, hard, long look at scrapping the Nebula Awards altogether or making it a purely juried award. Further, to make the playing field level, if the awards were to be continued and be voted on, works from online venues would be placed under a five- or six-vote handicapping system to make sure that hardcopy-only fiction would not be placed at such a disadvantage.

As for the various SFWA publications, a special ombudsman would be appointed to monitor them. Any publication deemed after a year to be dispensing useless or criminally misleading information, or passing along too many nastalgiastic articles (otherwise known as "Back in the day, when what I knew about publishing was still up-to-date"), would be either discontinued or severely dealt with.

Florida's Sunshine laws with regard to transparency of government actions and meetings would be applied to SFWA. The SFWA online forums would become public forums. Only SFWA members would be able to post, but anyone could read the posts. Anyone who objected to this arrangement would be reassigned to a new closed Yahoo Group at (or whatever designation they want) and could gossip and e-blurt politically incorrect views to their heart's content.

In addition, I would engage in special fundraisers designed to raise the overall visibility of SFWA. For example, perhaps a San Diego fundraiser featuring handmade pinatas of famous SFWA members heads--Robert Silverberg, for example. I would also stage traveling sideshows featuring "SF Writers in Captivity" and "Writing Exhibitions for the Imagination Impaired".

SFWA would abandon efforts to get healthcare for members and instead focus on preventative exercise and diet, providing discounts on vegetables and fruit, as well as on gym memberships. Any SFWA member who lost 20 pounds in one year would be eligible for a free two-year membership in any functional organization of their choice. An "active member" would take on a totally different meaning.

As for professional credentials, we would change the requirements from being publication-based to being competency-based. A battery of experts already certified to conduct such an investigation--maybe Gene Wolfe and some of his frisbee golf buddies--would then review submitted writing samples and make the final decisions.

SFWA also needs a good logo--like an eagle with talons out, devouring a pig, which is itself devouring a lion.

Finally, SFWA would change its name to SFWW, or SF/F Writers of the World, and allow members from every country on God's green Earth. Every May Day, we would go to a different volcanic island and construct a garlanded May Pole that a select group of chosen writers would dance around, skipping merrily. After which, another selected group of writers would be bundled into a huge wicker representation of a nude Clark Ashton Smith. This Wickersmith would then be doused in gasoline, set on fire, and, after an appropriate delay, heaved over the edge of a very high cliff.

If all of these platform planks were carried out, I am fairly sure that SFWA (or SFWW) would become a unique and high-profile organization within a matter of months.

But do you have the guts, SFWA membership? Do you have the guts for this? I think you do. And that's why I, with help from Evil Monkey, will soon rule SFWA/SFWW and use it as my own personal piggy bank and ammo depot for my vendettas against anyone who dares oppose me in my nicotine/caffeine-fueled haze of paranoia and deepest, darkest neurosis. Because, ultimately, you know you want to see Rome burn just because it looks pretty on fire at night.