| Dispatches From Smaragdine|
|A column by Jeff VanderMeer|
| June 2007 |
[Editor's Note: Here you will find the other Dispatches From Smaragdine columns.]
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.
"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.
"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.
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.
An interview with the author of Acacia.
If you would like to send me things for review, or even complaints, hints, suggestions, or other feedback, please do so via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my U.S. snail mail address:
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.
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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