Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A 1/2 Dozen for Jeff VanderMeer


the P. Diddy of Oddity

the Master of the Monstrous

the Reigning King of Weird

and the Keeper of the Greatest
Cabinet of Curiosity
in the World...

Open your eyes
and take a glimpse into
the VanderWorld of VANDERMEER*

Current obsessions -- literary or otherwise.

The cloud forests of Peru. The logistics of giant floating bears. The biology of a terrestrial sea anemone. How luna moths could actually be transmitters to alternative universes. The uses of komodo dragon spit. Why the geckos that replaced the anoles on our house’s outer walls have now been replaced by anoles again. Why a kiwi might have been loitering in our yard last week. The repurposing of spaces in occupied cities. The difference between meat-world book covers and ether-world e-book covers.

I despise the pervasive myth of inspiration – the idea that an entire book can exist simply because of an accumulation of inspired ideas – but I don’t deny that inspiration exists. There are things that have no other explanation. Was there a singular moment of inspiration for this book?

Yes. I realized suddenly it had been five years since I’d had a nonfiction collection out and I wanted to pair my fiction collection, The Third Bear, with a nonfictional counterpart, in this case Monstrous Creatures. All of the essays, articles, and reviews, several of which appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and NYT Book Review, are explorations of the monstrous in fiction and, in a few cases, in real life. Of course, this idea was somewhat diluted by a delay to the nonfiction book of about a year.

Some writers hate to write. Other writers love being engaged in the creative process. How would you describe your relationship with the page?

Nothing is better than writing. I love the rough draft. I love the re-envisioning, rewriting, revising. I love being immersed in the emotion of it and I also love the problem-solving later on when you’re faced with some kind of knot or snarl in the text or the story. I get very irritable when I’m away from fiction for very long.

What’s your advice to someone who’s fallen in love with a writer?

Get them to give you an account in your name containing $20,000 as a counterbalance to all of the financial instability they will bring into your life. Only then let them kiss you. This may sound mercenary, but you will thank me in the long-term. You will all thank me, in your multitudes.

What's your advice to a writer who's looking for a lifelong partner? Any particularly useful traits to suggest in said partner? (Do you want to tell us a brief love story here?)

Well, it would help if they were kind and generous and cute and funny and loved your work but could tell you when you’ve messed it all up and didn’t mind that you were moody sometimes and liked the same movies and music and always saw the good in you and never talked bad about you behind your back and were patience with the kind of absent-mindedness you develop when immersed in a novel and that you traveled well together, not caring if you got lost and instead of staying at the swank villa you wound up in some old farm eating rustic bread and chicken livers and home-made liquor with the farmer’s family. But that would just be like some kind of dream life, wouldn’t it?

What kind of child were you, inside of what kind of childhood, and how did it shape you as a writer?

I was a shy child with a goofy sense of humor growing up overseas as the child, with my sister, of Peace Corps parents who decided a divorce spread out over ten years would be a good thing. I was a moody little brat and developed a severe antipathy to being bullied or seeing others bullied, which meant I got into a few fights. We lived for awhile in Fiji, where my asthma acted up and I was allergic to the beautiful red-flowering trees, and I loved it there no matter what, and we would go out to the beach and look for shells and sometimes see the reef at night. I can remember, too, the traveling, and being on oxygen in Cuzco from the asthma and looking out my window, the hotel abutting a mountain, and seeing two hummingbirds, emerald-and-crimson, mating on the wing. And another thousand amazing things besides, so I think I’ll forgive my parents completely, and say that how it shaped me as a writer is simply this: life is bittersweet and miraculous and funny and sad and so many other things that you can never really get it all down on paper, but it feels good to try.

Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning writer with books published in over 20 countries. He is often cited as one of the best fantasy writers of his generation, and one of the internet’s next-gen “internet writer-entrepreneurs” along with creators such as Cory Doctorow. In addition to winning the World Fantasy Award twice, VanderMeer has won several international awards and NEA-funded grants. VanderMeer has worked with rock bands The Church and Murder by Death, 30 Days of Night creator Ben Templesmith, Dark Horse Comics, Halo, and Playstation Europe on various multimedia projects, including music soundtracks and short films. Over 200 short stories have appeared in a variety of year’s best anthologies and other venues, including Tor.com, Conjunctions, and Black Clock. His nonfiction has appeared in the Washington Post Book World, the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, and the Barnes & Noble Review. With his wife Ann, he is also an award-winning editor profiled on Wired.com and national NPR’s All Things Considered. Forthcoming anthologies include The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities (HarperCollins), and The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Fictions (Atlantic).

Jeff, that is. Not to be confused with the fantastic(al) Ann Vandermeer --
we'll get to her. All in good time.