Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Every month, I send out the VanderWorld Report to subscribers. The VanderWorld Report includes news about what I've been up to, but also book, movie, and music reviews, as well as excerpts from fiction I'm working on, links to funny or weird websites, insider news on forthcoming books or book sales, and reports on conventions and conferences I attend. Below find the August 2004 report as a sample. There's another sample from last year here.

If you'd like to subscribe to the report, visit my website and click on the link at the bottom left. You'll get one email a month. It's not a discussion list so there won't be lots of emails clogging up your inbox. The September report will be emailed next week.

POB 4248, Tallahassee, FL 32315 USA
Comments? Suggestions? Criticisms? Email

Music Reviews
Movie Reviews
Book Reviews
Excerpt from The Zamilon File

It's been a weird month. A lot of good things have happened (see VanderNews), but I've also been fighting my way through bouts of insomnia. I have managed to catch up on my reading and to get a final-final manuscript of the new novel, Shriek: An Afterword, to my agent. I hope to have very good news concerning Shriek in the next couple of months.

August in Tallahassee is as hot and humid as July, although the afternoon rains tend to become only intermittent, not a constant. Every once in awhile, you'll wake up to a lull in the heat: a breeze, a slight drop in the temperature, and you'll have a sudden premonition of fall. Football season is only a couple of weeks away, meaning that this town will erupt into frenzied bouts of Florida State University Seminole fever—and I, as a member of the arch-enemy race, the University of Florida Gators, will need to once again grit my teeth and play nice. (I will also once again break my promise to myself that I will not spend entire Saturdays positioned in front of the television watching college football...)

I hope you have all had a good summer. In fact, if you have any interesting stories about "What I Did Over the Summer," email them to me at and I'll include them in the next VanderWorld Report...


I'm sure this schedule will fill up with more events shortly, but I had to take a break from events to focus on writing and haven't ramped up my exploration of possibilities for 2005 yet.

(Vancouver, March 20 - April 2). I've been invited to participate in a panel on the novella, along with Jessica Treat, Rosalind Stevenson, etc. I hope to plan a reading at Elliot Bay Book Store in Seattle before the conference. More details on that later.

WORLDCON 2005 (Glasgow). Ann and I plan to make it to WorldCon next year in Glasgow, perhaps with a stop-over in Prague beforehand in support of Veniss being published in the Czech Republic.


Veniss Underground is a finalist for the World Fantasy Award in the best novel category. (It is also a finalist for the Southeast SF/F Achievement Award.)

The fake disease guide is also a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, in the best anthology category.

German publishing house Klett-Cotta has acquired the hardcover rights to City of Saints and Madmen, for publication next year as part of a literary fantasy line. I'm not at liberty yet to say what other books are in this line. Let's just say I'm excited to be rubbing shoulders with some of my favorite books from the last few years. Klett-Cotta is one of the largest publishers in Germany.

Another large German publishing house, Piper, has acquired the hardcover and paperback rights to Veniss Underground.

The Czech Republic's Laser Books has acquired the rights to Veniss Underground, in a deal that includes publication of all Veniss-related stories with the novel. Laser Books will also be publishing K.J. Bishop's Etched City, and is one of the Czech Republic's most respected houses for genre fiction.

The UK mass market paperback version of Veniss Underground will be released
by Pan Macmillan in October-December. It includes a bonus for readers unfamiliar with my work: the related novella "Balzac's War." This novella can also be found in my collection Secret Life.

The fake disease guide will be released in the UK by Pan Macmillan in November (in hardcover). Advance buzz in the book trade is excellent, and book club deals are in the works. (Bantam Books will release the US trade paperback in May 2005.)

Garry Nurrish is putting the finishing touches on the design of the City of
mass market paperback for Pan Macmillan. I think the format will demand dropping a little bit of text but make up for that by having a full (except for the last paragraph) decryption of the encrypted story.

Eric Schaller and I are working on a secret project called "Are You Dead?" that will combine illustrations and text.

Through September, I am making a special Secret Life offer through Ziesing
books wherein anyone who buys the collection from Ziesing gets a mini story detailing their own secret life. Visit their web site for more details.

Secret Life was a Barnes & Noble featured selection in July. It was also
reviewed in the Denver Post, SciFi
, and Booklist:

VanderMeer's stories are clearly influenced by the magical literature of Borges, Garcia Marquez, and Calvino, and like theirs, VanderMeer's muse is equally at home in places real (Peru, Cambodia, Florida) and fantastic. The collection opener, Secret Life, is the history of a five-story building, surrounded by desolation, that houses thousands-- from the janitors in the basement to the mysterious "Shadow Cabinet" on the fifth floor--and is brought down by a vine; ingredients including murderous rage over a presumably stolen pen and VanderMeer's revealing endnote on inspiration make the piece delicious. In the closer, Experiment #25 from the Book of Winter: The Croc and You, a story won't cooperate with its writer because it has been inspired by an image that is irresistible but impossible to fit into a plot. In between, "The Sea, Mendeho, and Moonlight" provide a vital legendary background for VanderMeer's imaginary city, Veniss, and other lovely, fantastic places are so well conjured that their most surreal elements seem veristic.


Below find a bunch of cool links from the usual suspects, including, first and foremost, Paul Larsen, Luis Rodrigues, and Neddal Ayad.

Get yer mail-order husbands here

The Lord of Whimsy--one of the funniest sites I've ever seen, complete with

Click on the eggs

Make a face

This is the way you write fantasy

Neil Ayres has a new web site

Dan Read has posted new material on his site.

New Brothers Quay

Bioneered household appliances

Cool art

And, of course, I must continue to push frog land


This month, I recommend the following CDs.

THE HELIO SEQUENCE, Love and Distance - Lovely pop/alt that reminds me of something Death Cab For Cutie might do if they were actually good.

ROBBERS ON HIGH STREET, Fine Lines - Sounds just like the band Spoon, down to the lead singer's voice. Very strange, in that sense, but just gorgeous stuff. Sounds like a lost Spoon CD--brilliant. I can't say it's derivative because it's too good.

LLOYD COLE, Etc. - Lost songs from 1996-2000. Recommended for hardcore fans, like me.

JOHN WESLEY HARDING, Adam's Apple - A new pop CD from one of my favorite singer-songwriters. It's mellow in places at first, but the smooth/complex arrangements and many little changes in the music made me appreciate it more and more with each listen.


In the rather awful movie Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, one character explains to another that to "buckwheat" someone is to, without getting into the really disgusting details, shoot them in the intestines so they die slowly, in terrible agony. Since then, Ann and I have rated movies as "buckwheat" or "not buckwheat", or containing "some buckwheat" or "a lot of buckwheat". If you feel like you were gut shot when you left the theater, that movie was buckwheat…I'm afraid we haven't seen many movies lately, but here goes…

ALIEN VERSUS PREDATOR. An Aztec/Cambodian/Egyptian pyramid under Antarctica created thousands of years ago. Infested with aliens and predators. Things pop out of chests with astonishing frequency. Logic flaws. Men in predator suits. Men in alien suits. Boom! Crash! Sizzle! Need I say more? Well, yeah, I have to say one more thing. The scene in which Our Heroine accidentally impales an alien on a stick and then receives the top half of the alien's head and the bottom half of its spine in honor of her achievement from a Predator who then makes her an honorary Predator instead of blowing her ass into the next crappy priceless. Reminded me of Mean Joe Green in those Coke commercials throwing his jersey to the kid... (One hundred
percent, dyed in the wool BUCKWHEAT!!!!)

COLLATERAL. Throw out Jamie Foxx's excellent acting, some good set pieces, and some excellent cinematography and Collateral is just another Hollywood movie, rather than a worthy successor to noir films of the past. Coincidences, stupidities (unprotected witnesses the night before a big case against a drug lord), and the wooden past of Tom Cruise's assassin character drag the movie down from classic status to "who cares." Go see Narc instead for something with bite. (One-half buckwheat)

THE VILLAGE. Once you realize that almost every element in this movie has been set up for one reason and one reason only--to support the heinous twist ending--you want to strangle the director with your bare hands. In short, the director has twisted the story to fit his Twilight Zone needs and as a result created all kinds of tears and rips in the fabric of his narrative that only become apparent after you learn the truth about the dumb-ass village. One reviewer called it "The Village of the Idiots" and I don't think they are far wrong. The horrible thing about all this is that the acting has a certain gravitas to it, the cinematography is excellent, and
the scares in the early part of the movie are superb. But everything--and I mean everything--is undermined by the ending. (Two-thirds buckwheat; the first half is 25 percent buckwheat and the last half is 150 percent buckwheat.)


I have been doing a forced march to Bhutan on my blog with regard to book and story reviews, so I would refer you there ( and tell you to expect an average of one entry a day there for a month at least (except during and right after WorldCon).


Part of The Zamilon File, my next novel/novella, is in the form of diary entries. Here is one such entry from early on. Enjoy. (The Zamilon File takes place 500 years after the events in City of Saints and Shriek: An Afterword.) Remember--this is a rough, rough draft...

Long before I ever saw the fabled towers of Zamilon, the fortress haunted my dreams. Now that I am here, I can say only that the dreams feel more real than the stone beneath my feet.

It was in the now far-gone city of my birth, Ambergris, that I dreamt of Zamilon. Although only 12, I did not know the name to give to the scene that played out inside of my head. A hot night in that tortured, martyred city, forever altered, defiled, transformed, by the War of the Houses and then by the rise of the gray caps. On that night, as on many others, I huddled by the window of our third-story apartment, waiting for my parents to return from a day of scrounging for food and medical supplies. That window, with its grimy gray frame, the glass long since shattered by gunfire, had become a kind of moving painting for me, as intense as any zoetrope. Below, our stretch of Albumuth Boulevard, once (I am told) one of the richest arteries of trade in the world, had become little more than a mess of rubble and blood. A day before, tanks and men had fought across that tableau, the light red, green, orange at their backs, their moans and screams matched to the colors' cruel intensity. I had watched unblinking, and did not realize until much later, from books that told of far more peaceful places, that this was not, in fact, the world.

A month earlier, a sniper had broken into the apartment while my parents were out. He ordered me to lie down on the floor and ran to the window, smashing it in with the butt of his rifle. A thousand shards of glass spread over me. The staccato recoil of his weapon--a sleek, sharp-looking semi-automatic--only echoed more loudly what I had heard all of my life. You could close your eyes forever and still never find yourself anywhere but where you were.

That was my window and I never told my parents how it got broken. I never told them about the sniper. I don't know why.

But the night I dreamt of Zamilon, I watched through the window to the customary places my parents hid in their zigzag path back to the apartment. Although I watched for hours, they did not come back. The light faded into as true a darkness as Ambergris will ever have: half-lit with fires, distant explosions, and the fuzzy subdued gold of mushrooms patterned across the wall of a half-destroyed building.

I grew sleepy. Below, silent and careful, the gray caps had begun to gather, moist and hunched and so utterly terrifying to me that I almost wet myself. The gray caps gathered at night because back then the city was not yet entirely theirs--points of resistance blossomed from between cracks in the pavement. A bullet-ridden bank, an abandoned hotel, a barricade made of timber and bricks: any one of these might hide a dozen snipers or even a tank. Frankwrithe & Lewden had won the War of the Houses. They did not intend to give up Ambergris so easily.

Rather than watch the gray caps, who unnerved me so and who might easily be able to see me despite their seeming ground-ward gaze, I went to sleep. My wish to await my parents' return defeated by my fear and my weariness. It is almost as wearying to wait as it is to take action. To wait while the gray caps' fungal technologies spread across the city and water seeps into Her from a thousand wounds. The smell of death, sweet and quivering in your nostrils, and the hope that some pale, clammy face will not rise to your window like an ill-fated moon.

So I drifted off...and in my dreams, I stood by my window and when I looked out I saw not Ambergris but the place I had long read of in my picture books and adventure novels: Zamilon. And not Zamilon as I see it now, sand in my boots and my tongue dry as salt, but a still-living Zamilon, the fortress-sanctuary of the Truffidian monks, redolent with centuries of knowledge, humming with a rich intellectual life--from the massive books on the shelves of its immense libraries to the chants of its inhabitants at the dawn of each new day.

They say Trillian the Great Banker once visited Zamilon. Voss Bender wrote about it. Martin Lake painted it from the words of others.

That was centuries ago, of course. No one lives here now but us, and we, we are only temporary, transitory, one might almost say...intermittent? We have stayed past our welcome. It is quite a stretch to tell you how I came to be here, more than to guide you back to the window of my youth, to the terrible truth that my parents never came back that night or any other night.

What shall I tell you of it that you might believe? Surely such a scholar as I should have no trouble putting pen to paper, save the paper's scarce and the ink is not so wet as it once was....And I wonder now if I was the only one who dreamt of this place or if all the sleeping denizens of Ambergris dreamt of it after a fashion.

I've read over my journal entries. They tell the story well enough. So be it.

I'll be back in September, probably late in the month. Remember, send me accounts of your summer adventures and I'll put them in the next report.

And, as always, I recommend the following:

For reviews, info on important authors, and much else, the Modern Word
For book orders, Mark Ziesing Books
For reviews, Rain Taxi
For reviews, Bookmunch
For fiction and nonfiction, Fantastic Metropolis
For news, reviews, and commentary, Locus
For reviews and commentary, The Agony Column


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