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Dispatches From Smaragdine
A column by Jeff VanderMeer
June 2007

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

Installment #8

Sweltering Summer in Smaragdine
Solaris
An Interview with George Mann
Next Time
Contact Information

Sweltering Summer in Smaragdine

In the last day of May, my friends Horia Ursu and Michael Haulica were sitting with me by the banks of the Danube, hoping a breeze might waft up while we watched the Smaragdine Navy at work. A couple of dinghies and an old fishing vessel armed with machine guns patrolled the river while fireworks lit up the, um, noon sky. We were all melting. Even my cowboy hat wasn't working.
Smaragdine's Navy
Due to the litigious nature of the government, this may or may not be a government authorized publicity photo of a vessel in Smaragdine's Navy.
(Note the Logorrheic Coelacanth net at the bottom right.)

"Is it always this hot?" I asked no one in particular.

Michael was mumbling to himself, something about "Freak magnet."

"Yes, always," Horia said. "Perhaps you'd prefer the winter instead."

"Now, I would. Then, not so much."

Michael suddenly stood and said, "I can't take it," and dove into the Danube.

"Where's he going?" I asked.

"Anywhere but here," Horia said, and jumped in too.

The water was muddy and dark. The sky was a searing blue scrape.

What the hell, I thought, and dove in.

It's a long story that I'd rather not relate now, but about fifteen minutes later the Smaragdine Navy had to fish us out. Bogdan Hrib, another (more responsible) friend was in the lead vessel.

"I was having fun, dammit," Michael said as they kicked us off the fishing boat and back onto shore.

"You maybe, not so much that fish," Horia said.

"Yeah," I said suddenly mad, but not at them.

"You swim like a rock, by the way," Horia said to me, shivering.

"Thanks, Horia."

"You're welcome, Jeff. Just remember: I'm always there for you."

"Shut up shut up shut up!" shouted Bogdan who had been standing there silent the whole time. "I fish you out. Just because you were bored you have to bring the entire navy to your aid? And me, too, who has a million more important things to do? I make sure you aren't dead and still this rubbish coming out of your mouths. Why do I bother?!"

"Time for beer and alcohol, Bogdan," I said. "On us. You saved our lives. Sound good."

Bogdan sighed, shrugged. "Okay. Why not?"

Then we went back into the city and knocked back some shots in a sidewalk cafe as a torrent of cars, buses, and motorcycles honked their way past. All of us encased in suits of sweat. It was a good time. It was a great time. I think of it often.

There are a few more months of this, I think.

I feel as lazy as a sun-torched turtle, and yet still there is work to do.

Solaris

Deadstock Every few years, a new imprint bursts on the scene with energy, ingenuity, and follow-through. Solaris Books is one of those publishers. Launched this year and headed up by UK writer and editor George Mann, Solaris publishes new science fiction, fantasy, and dark fantasy in classy mass market editions, most all of which are distributed in the United Kingdom and North America. The mix of established and new names assures diversity, while projects like The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction and The Solaris Book of New Fantasy (forthcoming), edited by Mann, celebrate the best of the short form.

Among the most impressive of current titles is Jeffrey Thomas' Deadstock, which builds on the success of a prior Punktown novel and a couple of collections. Punktown is an edgy SF city that is diverse enough to include supernatural elements. Often, it reads as much like fantasy as SF. Add to that mixture noir detective tropes and you have an idea of the appeal of Deadstock. Part mystery thriller, part SF novel, existing between pulp and the literary, Deadstock reminds me in some ways of Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon. Both books are hybrids that gain strength from the cross-pollination of genres.

Other exciting books from Solaris in the first half of 2007 include work by Brian Lumley, Natasha Rhodes, Emily Gee, and Eric Brown. Later in the year, Solaris will publish Infinity Plus: The Anthology, edited by Keith Brooke and Nick Gevers, along with what looks to be an exciting new novel by Chris Roberson, Set the Seas on Fire. In a very short time, Solaris has established itself as a vital new imprint worth readers' attentions.

George Mann, Solaris Editor An Interview with George Mann, Solaris Editor

You publish a pretty diverse list of books. What's the guiding focus behind Solaris?
It's pretty simple really -- first and foremost they have to be great books. More than that, I suppose, we're focusing on the traditional end of the genre; high fantasy and widescreen science fiction. That's not to say there's no room for innovation on the list, too, but simply that we feel there's not enough core SF and fantasy being published at the moment, the stuff that genre fans are really looking for. Of course, we're looking for exciting books too, and innovation is certainly alive and well in our anthology line-up. That's one of the reasons why we're publishing a range of anthologies alongside the main novel line; it enables us to try out some left-of-centre stuff that otherwise wouldn't fit in the main list at the moment.

What gets you excited about a book?
At its core, it goes back to story again. A book and an author have to make me care what happens next! But also characters, good ideas and, fundamentally, good prose. Because we only publish about fifteen new titles a year, we tend to work by committee; if one of the team (of four) finds something they like, they champion it to the others. It's only if we're all excited about it that we decide to go ahead and publish it. What you get from Solaris, though, as an author, is a commitment that if we're going to publish your book, then all of us are behind it and we'll do everything in our power to make it a success. Essentially, we publish great books that we'd want to read ourselves!

The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction

Do you enjoy editing anthologies? What's fun about doing it?
The anthologies have been a revelation for me, personally. I've always adored the short form and these books (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction & The Solaris Book of New Fantasy) have given me an opportunity to work with a whole host of authors whom I probably wouldn't have been able to work with in any other capacity. Not only that, but there's a real thrill involved in reading a new story for the first time, knowing that you're probably the first person other than the author to read it. It's nice to flex the fanboy muscle from time-to-time too!

The Summoner

Have you made any writer discoveries as an editor? Any new writers we should know about?
As an editor I've focused predominantly on the short story anthologies, but as a team we've made some excellent discoveries, and we have a couple of outstanding editors to thank for that: Christian Dunn and Mark Newton. Gail Martin, author of THE SUMMONER and the forthcoming THE BLOOD KING has been a real star, and is quickly establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with. James Maxey, author of BITTERWOOD, has delivered one of the best fantasy novels I've ever read. And that's not spin! More than that, though, there's a whole host of authors who deserve so much more attention than they've had in the past, or are rising stars on the verge of a huge breakthrough in the genre. I'm taking about people like Jeffrey Thomas (DEADSTOCK, BLUE WAR), Eric Brown (HELIX, KETHANI) and Chris Roberson (SET THE SEAS ON FIRE, THE DRAGON'S NINE SONS), amongst many others. All of these writers have enormous talent and deserve a much wider audience than they've had so far. Hopefully Solaris can help them achieve it.

What's in the future for Solaris?
The future is very bright indeed! We have a stunning line up planned for the rest of the year, including SET THE SEAS ON FIRE by Chris Roberson, the vast INFINITY PLUS anthology from Keith Brooke and Nick Gevers, APLINTER by Adam Roberts, DARK LORD by Ed Greenwood, WAR MACHINE by Andy Remic and THE SOLARIS BOOK OF NEW FANTASY, edited by yours truly. Next year we see Jeffrey Thomas return to Punktown with BLUE WAR, Gail Martin follows the massive success of THE SUMMONER with the sequel, THE BLOOD KING, Chris Roberson kicks off his epic Celestial Empire sequence in grand style with THE DRAGON'S NINE SONS and debut writer Justin Gustanis gives us a contemporary urban fantasy in BLACK MAGIC WOMAN. Plus there's a second volume of THE SOLARIS BOOK OF NEW SCIENCE FICTION. Exciting stuff indeed!

Thief With No Shadow Dante's Girl: A Kayla Steele Novel Bitterwood

Next Time

An interview with the author of Acacia.

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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