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Dispatches From Smaragdine
A column by Jeff VanderMeer
April 2007

[Editor's Note: Here you will find the other Dispatches From Smaragdine columns.]

Installment #6

Spring the Unexciting
An Interview with Felix Gilman
An Excerpt from Felix Gilman's Novel Thunderer
Thumbnail Reviews
Next Time
Contact Information

Spring the Unexciting, Except for Gilman...

Oddly, even Big Bad Bear, Horia Ursu, agrees that March is the most boring month in Smaragdine, perhaps because Backwards Month precedes it and the return to normal routines seems banal. Regardless, I got a lot of reading and writing done in March. I also learned from Felix Gilman that he signed a two-book deal with Juliet Ulman at Bantam. So it seemed like a good time to get to know this exciting new fantasist.

Felix.

Gilman.

Get used to the name. You'll be hearing a lot from him.

An Interview with Felix Gilman

Photo © Felix Gilman Felix Gilman

Who is Felix Gilman? Until recently, he was primarily a lawyer clerking for a federal judge in New York City. But in late February 2007, Gilman officially added "writer" to his resume. His debut novel, from what I've read, is a unique, vibrant addition to secondary world dark fantasy. Dare I mention the letter "N" perhaps followed by the letter "W"? Perhaps, perhaps not. In any event, the interview below is Gilman's first anywhere in the world, conducted before his novel had been accepted by Bantam for publication in 2008. It was done via email and provides a great introduction to an exciting new writer.

When did you start writing?

I wrote a lot as a child. I used to nick stacks of notebooks from school and fill them with the most god-awful crap, packed gangly handwriting, page after page. These days they would probably send you to a shrink for that sort of thing. (I wonder if those notebooks still exist?) Then puberty, and an access of self-consciousness, stopped all that. I faffed around from time to time with writing at university, but I never managed to finish or even really to start anything -- I put in whatever was the absolute minimum investment of time necessary to be able to think of oneself as, not necessarily a writer as such, but someone plausibly likely to turn into a writer at some future point. Ideally without conscious effort on my part, perhaps through the bite of a radioactive Amis, or being solemnly handed a glowing green typewriter by a dying alien... Then for a long time I stopped doing even that much. A little over a year ago I found myself with six months between jobs, enough savings to live on, no kids, a supportive spouse, and generally no excuse for not knuckling under and writing something. It was just too good an opportunity to let slide. The desire not to let the moment pass me by overcame my natural laziness.

Coward that I am, I told everyone I knew that I was taking the time to write law review articles -- that way I could be confident no-one would be interested enough to ask follow-up questions. I recommend it as an alibi or cover story should you ever have to spend six months in prison or something. I've been slowly admitting what I've been doing to a few people, good secret keepers, one by one, over the last year. But not everyone. Not everyone! Now I suppose this may end up on the internet. It's in your hands now. Alea jacta est.

Why do you write?
Answer (a): Bloody-mindedness: now that I've started, it's hard to stop. My ego requires vindication for the time and stress invested so far -- the fallacy of sunk costs has got me in its grip. Answer (b): as a display of petty, backstabbing spite toward the actually-existing world. Answer (c): I don't know. There are moments when I enjoy writing hugely, when I feel like something's working and I feel tremendously clever and pleased with myself, but those have to be balanced against the next morning, when you look at what you've written and realise what a wanker you are. Overall, writing gives you a pretty mediocre return on investment, fun-wise; much less good than drinking, about even with Xbox. From a utilitarian perspective it's confusing. I'm reluctant to say, the way some people do, that I feel compelled to write: given that I spent so long not writing it seems clearly false. (Do people really mean it literally when they say that? Surely not). On the other hand it's certainly true that these days I've gotten into a pretty obsessive writing habit: I get cross if I have to go more than a couple of days without writing anything, I come home every day with at least a couple of hours' worth of things I've thought about on the subway and have to get down on paper...

Answer (d): I really don't know. Ask me again in a year? It's hard right now to disentangle my thinking about this from the question of will the bloody thing get published, which is very much on my mind at the moment. Those issues should probably be separable, but not just now, not just now.

Who are your influences?
Thank you, I will take your question as an invitation to embarrassing self-indulgence. Mervyn Peake. Michael Moorcock. Philip K. Dick. G.K. Chesterton. William Gibson. Jorge Luis Borges (especially the claustrophobic delirium of The South). Lanark, which I think I found by way of Iain Banks' The Bridge. These are common touchstones, right? I'm sure in fact I'm most influenced by things I read as a child, of which most are things I no longer consciously remember -- but John Masefield, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, John Wyndham, the Le Guin of Earthsea, H. Rider Haggard, all float to the surface a lot; all those writers shaped my sense of the eerie and the uncanny, which is what it's all about, really. 2000 A.D., why not? The Borribles: did Borribles ever make it over to the States? First-rate stuff. I remember those books so vividly, but I had to google for the author's name: Michael de Larrabeiti. And indeed in googling I see both China Miéville and Hal Duncan enthusing about Borribles. Well, shit -- I'd like de Larrabeiti somehow to be deservedly famous and rich and yet also remembered only by me, me, me. C.S. Lewis, too, who gets a bad rap these days, I hear. And well, yes, yes, I'm sure he was a horrible old-fashioned old bastard, just as one hopes one day all our beautiful enlightened post-human grandchildren will be able to look back on all of us breathing now as horrible old bastards, but I remember Aslan's death and rebirth in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as one of the most unearthly powerful moments in all fiction. I have not re-read it since I was a small child. I do not want to hear that it is not actually as good as I remember, O.K.? I will not deny Clive Barker and Stephen King... I think a lot, when writing, about things like the free-wheeling pulp mythmaking Salman Rushdie of The Moor's Last Sigh and the tight, weird Rushdie of Grimus, or the darkness and romanticism of William Vollman's Seven Dreams series or Rising Up, Rising Down, though I don't know whether that's at all discernable in the final product. Grant Morrison! Or writers who are full of ill-humoured or blackhumoured nihilism: Iain Sinclair, J.G. Ballard, Celine, Saki. Anthony Burgess. Thomas Pynchon, for that sense of paranoia and immanent ecstasy. I doubt that Philip Larkin is in any way an influence as a writer, but he shaped my sensibilities generally to a degree that I'm sure is not healthy. Oh god, somewhere along the line when doing this one crosses from echt influences into idols and imaginary fantasy friends. Lit'ry MySpace. Awful. Clammy. Best cut my losses now, I think.

I did read China Miéville before starting to write, but not really a lot else that falls into the whole New-Weird-Slipstream-Infernokrushor-What-You-Will category. Miéville's books were instrumental in encouraging me to get started writing, in part because he showed that you can write something really wonderful around the skeleton of a very basic, B-movie pulp structure: i.e. sometimes your characters' motivation for getting from A to B can be we are being chased there by a monster, and that's O.K.

I've actually never read a huge amount of fantasy, in relation to the amount of other stuff I read, which is a lot, because I do not like to go outside in the sun. Ever since I started rather unexpectedly writing fantasy -- and I do see myself as writing genre fiction, I do want it to work as genre -- I've been on a remedial reading course. I've found a lot of people I'd like to cite as influences, but can't, yet: e.g. M. John Harrison.

Here's an odd sort of influence, I think: sitting right here on my desk is my huge traffic-hazard-yellow copy of Mary Ann Caws' Manifesto, which is a collection of artistic and literary manifestos from the late 19th and 20th century -- most of the action's in the 10s and 20s, of course.

I open it at random, and here's Tristan Tzara back in 1920:

Here's to the undertakers of combination!

Every act is a mental gunshot-the insignificant gesture or the decisive movementare just so many aggressions -- (I unfold the fan of knock-outs to distill the air that separates us) -- and with words set down on paper I enter, with great solemnity, toward myself.

I thrust my sixty fingers in the thick hair of ideas and brutally convulse the draperies, the teeth, the articulating hinges.

I close, I open, I spit. Watch out! This is the moment for me to tell you that I was lying.

I don't know what that means, but I dare anyone not to be influenced by it.

Which reminds me that the McSweeney's edition of Michel Houllebecq's Against the World, Against Life came along for me at just the moment when I was thinking seriously about what and how to write:

Life is painful and disappointing. It is useless, therefore, to write new, realistic novels. We generally know where we stand in relation to reality and don't care to know any more. Humanity, such as it is, inspires only an attenuated curiosity in us. All those prodigiously refined notations, situations, anecdotes ... All they do, once a book has been set aside, is reinforce the slight revulsion that is already adequately nourished by any one of our "real life" days.
Damn straight.

Where did you grow up?
Chislehurst, Kent, England, which is in or outside South London, depending on how you reckon London's borders -- nearest respectably dense & sizeable conurbation is Bromley, which, for the benefit of non-UK/SF people, is a dreary commuter-belt suburb chiefly notable for being the birthplace of H.G. Wells. There's a big mural on the High Street, starring technicolour tripods. (I wonder if it's still there?) Via the Wells connection, Bromley also features heavily and wonderfully in Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time.

Update! Googling to fact-check the H.G. Wells datum, I learn that Bromley was also, for a while, home to Aleister Crowley and Peter Kropotkin. Bromley? I can't fully communicate how wonderful it is to learn that. Did those feet in ancient time...

What do you most like about writing?
When you sit down to write a scene with no real idea what's going to happen, or what it's about, beyond the crudely instrumental ("I need to give X something to do here, or everyone's going to forget who she is...") and you peck away randomly at the keys for an hour or two, and then suddenly you realise what has to happen, what the point of the scene has to be, and by the end of the day you've decided you've found, quite by accident, the key not only to the scene, but to everything that wasn't working in the whole text up to that point, and you begin, cackling, to tear up and re-write great chunks of it... But see supra, re: waking up the next morning to realise what a wanker you are.

What do you bring to fantasy that you feel is unique?
An exceptionally solid & intuitive grasp of federal habeas jurisdiction in the wake of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. I mean, haha, god, no, there's just no way I can answer that question non-evasively. Deep down I believe in hubris and nemesis as real physical forces. Like death in Final Destination. I ain't messing with that.

Felix Gilman's first novel, Thunderer, will be published by Bantam in Spring 2008.

An Excerpt from Felix Gilman's Thunderer

This excerpt is the beginning of the novel, scheduled for release in 2008.

   Out of the bay's high sun, curving steeply down over the water, opening out ample wings: in the first instant of perception, it could be a cloud unfolding from the cloudless sky, streaming across the firmament like a white pennant. At once, it becomes a great bird, driving forward. Its wings are wide white planes, beating slowly. Nothing so huge should be able to fly, but it seems weightless. The sunlight shivers ecstatically in its wake.
   As it soars across the water, the bay's birds gather around it, circling it with boundless fluttering adoration. It turns in a loose, free arc, and beneath it, fish leap from the water, hanging for a second amazed by the air. The Bird-God brings the gifts of flight and freedom with it. It casts no shadow.
    The Bird drives over the bay and in towards the ancient city. A single brightly painted barque bobs here, waiting, far out in the bay. A red flare fires from its deck. A moment later, an answering flare appears over the shore, and deeper into the city, another follows. As the Bird passes overhead, the barque's sails burst with sudden air and it sets out after it; but for all the craft's borrowed speed, it's a hopeless pursuit.
    A close-packed, shifting maze of vessels sits before the docks. Under the Bird's wings, every sail applauds, snapping full for a moment. A babble rises from below: cheers, screams, canting charms and imprecations. Quickened into sudden motion, ships drift unpredictably in the crowded harbour.
    The harbour's crews fight to recover control. Word of the Bird's return has gone out, and they are well-prepared. The Countess Ilona's office crafted Rules and Regulations for the Ships of Ar-Mouth Harbour in the Event of the Return of the Great Bird, Praise Be, and for weeks her men have been posting them in every public house, flophouse, pleasure barge, market and church in the docks; and, then, stung by this presumption--who is Ilona to claim jurisdiction over the docks? How dare she?--the Marquis Mensonge, the Gerent of Stross End and a dozen other lords all had their agents post their own regulations, tearing each other's notices down or papering them over.
   It's been a difficult few weeks for the landlords of the docks; each of the city's great Estates wants to see their own rules posted up behind the bar, and no-one else's; so they've had to nail up the Countess's poster, ready to swap it quickly for the Gerent's if they saw his men come shouldering in the door; or vice versa. Of course, they're used to that sort of thing. The city's Estates are so very jealous, and there are so damn many of them.
   The docksmen mostly prepared themselves in their own way anyway. The old hands remember the last time the Bird came to the city, and what it brought with it.
   But nothing can be done to make the great Bird's return altogether safe. The harbour is full of foreign ships, and too many are unwarned and slow to react. The ships drift inexorably into their neighbours, hulls grinding painfully together.
   At the centre of the tangle of vessels, the great black fortress-hulk of the Dauntless lurches into motion. The ropes lashing it to surrounding vessels tear free and the juggernaut escapes ponderously seawards. No one knows how to stop it now. It bears down on an elegant barquentine from Akash. All hands stand on both ships' decks, yelling and helplessly gesturing. A passenger on the Akashic ship fumbles with a flintlock, firing a shot that smacks pointlessly into the Dauntless's hull.
   But the Bird has passed on already, following the River Urgos up from the harbour. It coasts between the parliaments and anti-parliaments that stamp their marbled presences along the river's banks: a strange and clumsy blend of colours and forms, shapes and styles, gentle curves next to angular pillars and pediments, ornament rubbing up against austerity, all grown warily accustomed to each other over the centuries, all stained alike by the city's smoke. The city below stretches out from the river, rising endlessly north into the blue slopes of Ar-Mount. Sunlight glints off copper and brass domes, steel girders, white stone spires; many thousands of temples, and many thousands more things that might be temples. Perhaps everything here is sacred. From this soaring elevation, it all gleams. The dust in the ancient city's air glitters in the sun and rising wind. The wind smells electric. The city stands ready to be changed and remade.
   The Bird turns from the River Urgos to circle the spire of Monan's seminary, standing alone on the muddy ground by the river's banks. A cloud of pigeons bursts from the ragged spire, and joins the wheeling seabird chorus. The motleyed flock chases the object of their adoration in a squabbling mass, as the great Bird veers west toward the massive warehouses of Barbary Ward.
   By now, the procession of flares has alerted much of the city. Abandoning their midday meals, people are climbing on to Barbary's square roofs. Docksmen mix with the bohemians of the artists' lofts. When the Bird passes over, small but growing crowds cheer it, running wildly after it until the edge of the roof brings them up short. A few throw tributes of white cloth and silk in the Bird's wake.
    Countless painters decide to capture the Bird's image. It'll test their art. It's impossible to make out its details--before the eye can fix on it, it's moved on. It's huge, yes, but it's impossible to say how huge. It seems to be unthinkably distant even as it thunders immediately overhead--perhaps it's vastly further away and larger than it seems. Later, no-one will even be able to agree what kind of bird it is. Some see a storm of bright feathers; others only the graceful motion of its wings. Little more than a sense of easy, invincible speed remains. A dozen minds conceive abstract new schools of painting to capture the moment.
    The rooftops are already a painting, though, made an olive-white impasto by the shit-shower of the bird chorus above. One of the artists, a young man called Mochai, will later say drunkenly to his lover Olympia, shortly before she leaves him for someone less needy, that "what the gods are, is what they leave behind in the city. Isn't that what Holbach says? That that's their real substance? So that's how I'll capture It!" And he'll go out onto the rooftops, chisel in hand, to chip up stuff to spackle his canvases with; he'll have to fight over it with the street-urchins collecting for the nightsoil merchants, and with the Bird's worshippers, who'll want it to burn on their private attic altars; and then in the end, a mob of shaven-headed youths in white robes will tell him his shit-paintings are blasphemous and obscene, and burn down his exhibition. But that's all much later, of course, and the Bird is here now.
    The Bird has no church: its interventions into the city are too occasional and unpredictable, and it is utterly antithetical to order and structure in any case. But a handful of eccentric self-ordained devotees are here, wrapped in contraptions of linen and silk and balsa, ready among the sparse crowds, and as the Presence rushes by they run to the chasm between roofs, fling out home-made wings and plunge. In the moment of its passage, their wings catch flight, the Bird's power passing briefly into them, and they wheel up to join it, tears of joy and terror on their faces. Those who miss the moment fall to be broken in the alleys below. Down there, the city's no gleaming gauzy thing; down there it's hard and bruise-dark and stinking.
   
   Jack Sheppard stands on the roof of the Barbotin House, legs tensed. His hands are occupied with his work, but his mind and eyes scan the sky. "Come on," he mutters. "Come on. Come."
    Beneath his tensed feet is an unthinkable weight of windowless iron and stone. He's been buried under it for too long. A moment of crisis is coming, a fulcrum around which he can pull himself up and out of the earth and across the sky. He can feel it starting already. Or is he imagining it? He's so young, still. (Fifteen, sixteen? He doesn't know exactly).
   He's pale, sharp, and a little rat-like, like all those raised in the House. He is accustomed to opening his eyes very wide to see in the darkness of the House's halls, and, on the rare occasions when he is out in open daylight--as he is now, working on the roof, on the laundry detail--he squints, making him look harder and fiercer than he really is. Like many of those who grew up working the House's silk-mills, he is missing a finger, and has other scars. He wears a grey cap, and a grey wool jacket, itchy in the summer heat.
   He is standing on top of Barbotin House. It occupies the length of Plessy Street at the edge of Barbary and Fourth Ward. Other workhouses in the city look like plain prisons; this one looks like a tomb, or like an iron puzzle-box with no solution. Heavy-riveted panels of gun-metal are plated over the concrete and stone, sullenly sealing all windows. Within, there are no lamps or torches or even candles. Desperate children might turn fire into a weapon against the House; and besides, the Masters explain, this is a House of Tiber: fire is sacred here, and these boys are not worthy. Generations of dust accrete in every corner, unseen. The House's silk-mills must be worked in the gloom. It's a dreary, dangerous business, and Jack's sick of it.
   The House is set far back from the surrounding buildings, across a field of high barbed fences. It looks like something only a lunatic would design, and indeed, Jack knows its history and knows that to be the case. No boy has ever escaped.
   Jack's pinning a dirty grey sheet to the line when he feels it whip slightly in his hands. He is intensely ready; he has schemed and fought to be here, at this time. When he sees the red flare, he knows what it must mean.
   There is one special sheet in the bundle in his laundry-basket. He snatches the bundle up and tenses himself.
    If he's wrong now, he'll never have another chance--he could have four, five more years here before they spit him back out onto the streets, exhausted. It does not occur to him that he might die in the attempt. He has not thought what he will do with himself in the city outside, if he does get free.
   Now, then: he launches himself into a mad run for the edge. He hurdles Carswell, who kneels obediently on the floor, folding a pile of grey cloth jackets. He bursts through a white line of sheets, thinking for a moment of the way the comedians at the Palace Cabaret, in his childhood in the days before the House, would come bursting through the velvet curtain and into the brassy stage light. He starts laughing. This is a show. "Laaaadeeeez an' Gennelmeeeeen," he shouts.
   Mr. Tar starts up and shouts, "What's this? Stop that boy!" Hutton, trying to curry favour with Tar, grabs Jack's arm. The older boy could hold Jack easily if he really tried, but he has no idea how desperate Jack is, so he stupidly turns his back and looks smiling for approval at the Master. He stumbles away a second later holding his bitten and bloodied ear. Jack swerves around a chimney and drops onto the slate slope of the lower roof. He stops for a second. When another boy comes up to the edge, Jack levers up a tile and throws it at his head. With a bark of triumph, he spins his rough cloth cap after it.
    He scans the sky anxiously. Nothing there, no speck in any direction. "Oh no. Come on. Come on. Come on."
    When it comes, it comes tremendously and all at once. Pigeons, rooks, gannets and gulls burst over the roof and scatter the sky. Unbelievably, men and women wheel among them. In the centre, the object of all attention, is the Bird.
    Jack shakes out the bundle of laundry and draws out a bedsheet. It used to be as grey and mottled as every other sheet in Barbotin, but Jack has stolen some silk-dyes and bleached it white. He understands that to be an important gesture. Into the sheet are stitched stolen rags and filaments of silk. He shucks off his jacket, quickly, roughly. Beneath it, his shirt is also bleached white, and ornamented with long brightly coloured threads of stolen silk. He whips the sheet around his shoulders. He looks as comical and pathetic as a flightless bird.
    Mr. Tar has climbed down onto the slope now. Jack salutes him, and runs to the edge. He slips on the steep slope for a second as a tile gives way under his feet, then rights himself. Jack's foot connects with the guttering under the eaves, and he kicks himself off into the air and throws his arms out.
    It works, Praise Be, it works, but not well. His magic is crude and makeshift: he had to do the best he could with the materials to hand. He imagined flying like a bird, like the Bird. Instead, it's as if, for a second, he's free of gravity and with each step he can kick off again higher, so beautifully poised is he: but in the next second gravity returns like a blow across his back and he loses his balance. He falls hard and scrapes his knees. He looks back in sudden despair. But Praise Be! He's on the next roof, separated from Barbotin House by a wide chasm. Behind him, Mr. Tar is on all fours at the edge of the House's roof. Tar is clutching the guttering with one hand to steady himself, and with the other holding Jack's talismanic silk-shot bedsheet, torn from his back.
    Jack's standing on the bare roof of another warehouse. There is a door in a square brick extrusion in the corner of the roof; but it's locked. There's no other way down. Tar yells and blows a whistle. There are answering yells from within the House. They'll find their way into this new building soon.
   Jack runs to the edge and looks over the abyss to the next roof. There's another door there, this one open, propped open, with a brick. A group of women stands on the roof waving after the departing Bird and its flock. One of the young ones turns and sees Jack run. She gives a quick little clap of excitement.
    He can't get to her. It's a whole street away and three stories down. His makeshift wings are gone. The Bird's presence is dwindling in the distance, drifting up over the escarpment that divides Shutlow from Mass How, and everything is very heavy again. The ritual is broken. There is no power left to call on.
   The Fire with it anyway. He runs to the edge, closes his eyes, and reaches out, snatching at the last threads of potentiality drifting in the air, and leaps, praying.

Thumbnail Reviews

Starting with this installment, regardless of any main reviews, I will be listing, with short descriptions or analysis, several of the books I've received in the preceding month. A lot of interesting material comes in and I think it's only fair to try to list as much of it as I can for the benefit of my readers. A listing here doesn't mean a longer review won't follow, as some of these are advance reader copies (those with a release date rather than a description of book form (i.e., trade paper, etc.).

Harm Harm by Brian Aldiss (Del Rey, June)
The grand master's near-future take on our current political situation.

Bangkok Haunts Bangkok Haunts by John Burdett (Random House, July)
The latest novel from Burdett, wonderful suspense and mystery with a supernatural element. Highly recommended.

A Grey Moon Over China by Thomas A Day (Black Heron Press, hardcover)
This release from November 2006 interests me because it's gotten a starred review in Kirkus, made USABookNews' and ForeWord Magazine's lists of finalists for the best books of 2006 and yet apparently hasn't been reviewed by any genre publications. According to the cover copy, the novel is "the story of a disillusioned company of Army engineers, languishing in the Pacific during the energy wars" between Japan and the US who then "steal the plans for an energy device that could have ended the wars and the world's slide into environmental disaster." Contact Maureen Havenner (havenner at daycorp.com) if you're a reviewer and interested in this title.

Ink by Hal Duncan (Del Rey, trade paper)
The triumphant conclusion to the Vellum story. Or is it? A "sprawling masterpiece" as Rain Taxi put it. I will be putting Mr. Duncan to the test on my blog with a short interview.

Acacia by David Anthony Durham (Doubleday, July)
Epic fantasy from a writer known for working in the literary mainstream. A first glance reveals it to be very "paragraphy," which might be a good thing.

The Borderkind The Borderkind by Christopher Golden (Bantam Spectra, trade paper)
A new horror novel from Golden.

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman (Pantheon, July)
A very funny anti-super hero novel featuring Dr. Impossible. Highly recommended.

Portable Childhoods by Ellen Klages (Tachyon, April)
Featuring an introduction by Neil Gaiman, this is Klages first collection of stories. Nice cover, too.

Solaris Book of New SF Dawn by Tim Lebbon (Bantam Spectra, trade paper)
A new heroic fantasy from Lebbon, a change for him. Lebbon's brand of gritty realism should translate well to the fantasy genre, given George R.R. Martin's classic Song of Ice and Fire series, among others.

Solaris Book of New SF edited by George Mann (Solaris, mass market)
An anthology of new SF stories from dozens of the field's brightest stars.

Brasyl by Ian McDonald (Pyr, May)
The latest novel from the author of such classics as Out on Blue Six and many others. This time he's exploring a near-future Brasil.

Gradisil Thirteen by Richard Morgan (Del Rey, July)
I found the third volume of Morgan's Altered Carbon series disappointing, to be honest, but this near-future thriller looks fascinating.

Gradisil by Adam Roberts (Pyr, trade paper)
A space opera that is currently a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in the UK.

Keeping It Real Keeping It Real by Justina Robson (Pyr, trade paper)
Elfpunk SF/fantasy, a distinct departure from Robson's last couple of novels.

The Music of Razors by Cameron Rogers (Del Rey, July)
A new dark fantasy novel with angels, blurbed by Gaiman.

Ululu Clown Scrapnel by Thalia Field (Coffee House Press, April)
A surreal, experimental novel-ish thing combining text and image into an "operatic" mess? masterpiece? Difficult to tell, but it's definitely different.

Deadstock by Jeffrey Thomas (Solaris, mass market)
A new Punktown novel from Thomas, featuring a detective on a mission. It's getting great reviews and attention for an underrated writer.

Next Time

On the horizon I can see Elizabeth Hand, Solaris Publishing, Jeffrey Thomas, and much else.

Contact Information

If you would like to send me things for review, or even complaints, hints, suggestions, or other feedback, please do so via email at vanderworld@hotmail.com or via my U.S. snail mail address:

Jeff VanderMeer
c/o Smaragdine Dispatches
POB 4248
Tallahassee, FL 32315
USA

There will be a delay of about a month from receipt at the post office box to the arrival of your missive in Smaragdine, but to send direct would be folly as my stint at the hostel runs out at the end of the month and I don't know where I will be after that.

Copyright © 2007 Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer's reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, The New York Review of SF, Bookslut.com, and many others. VanderMeer writes the graphic novel/comics summation for The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror (St. Martin's Press) and is a guest editor for Best American Fantasy. Monkey Brain Books published his non-fiction collection Why Should I Cut Your Throat? in 2004.


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