| Dispatches From Smaragdine|
|A column by Jeff VanderMeer|
| September 2007 |
[Editor's Note: Here you will find the other Dispatches From Smaragdine columns.]
Anyone in Smaragdine who, as a child, dreamed of writing a novel learns almost from birth a series of complex dance steps whilst wielding a miniature sabre -- steps that have been part of ritual for nearly a thousand years. Sabre dueling, too, is taught to these prospective literati, so that by the time any of them becomes eligible for and appointed to the List of the Twenty, as it is called, they are ready for the moment.
The dance is the Dance of Synchronicity, performed on a high plateau overlooking the city, with spectators like myself, Michael, Horia, and others gathered on the hills to all sides. The Twenty, dressed in traditional green-and-gold garb, complete with tassels, take their places and perform a clockwork series of steps, sabres held waist high, pointing up. Many of them have old sabre scars on faces, hands, arms, and legs.
After twenty gyrations or rotations of a ridiculously complex sort, mixed with a kind of monk-like chanting, the Dance gives way to the Battle of Elusion, in which each participant must simultaneously seek to give non-lethal harm whilst also avoiding it. The simplest of slashes parting sequined cloth and you are out of the Sabre Battle. Similarly, if you stop for even five seconds to attempt offensive maneuvers, the black-clad-and-hooded, heavily-padded referees remove you from the contest.
Those who have fallen, line the plateau, watching those who are left with a yearning that goes beyond culture, beyond pride. Until, finally, there is only one, and even this winner is soon subsumed by the dusk and the lantern light, and the laughs of children playing in the dust.
Spotlight on Tachyon Publications
Steadily, slowly but surely, Tachyon has made a real impact on the SF/F world, and made an impact on readers. Now, publishing new and reprint books from Michael Swanwick, Harlan Ellison, Tim Powers, and many others, Tachyon has to be considered one of the highest quality indie presses in genre fiction. Underscoring this fact is that while Tachyon doesn't take many chances on new authors, they do take a chance on short story collections by more established names, along with having the vision to publish a series of definitive fiction anthologies on Slipstream, post-Cyberpunk, New Weird, etc.
In addition to Weisman, Tachyon boasts the talents of the dynamic and creative Jill Roberts, the managing editor and chief publicist for the company.
I interviewed Weisman via email in September.
What's Tachyon's main focus?
We publish about ten very carefully selected books a year. Because our line is not huge, each of those books -- and authors -- receives a great deal of personal attention from us. From cover artwork to interior design, we give a tremendous amount of consideration to detail. We work with amazing contractors who turn in stellar work. Most of our books are designed by John D. Berry. John isn't just the best type designer in our field, he's recognized as one of the leading typographers in the entire world. Our books are as high-quality as possible, which definitely shows.
We consider our authors and editors to be full collaborators (or maybe co-conspirators), and we regularly solicit their input. So the people we work with really enjoy the experience of working with us. I think it's really rare in this day and age to give authors/editors so much participation -- and we're really proud of it.
The company that began life as a one person operation publishing one or two books a year, now employs several people, and last year we published eleven titles. There has never been any time in the last twelve to thirteen years where we have ever stopped changing or growing.
The high point? There's at least one every day. This is what I've always wanted to do. I had a teacher in college who made me read David Hartwell's The Age of Wonder. David, at the time, was editing Timescape. I remember thinking, that's what I want to do when I grow up. I think I've grown up now, sort of. It's going great. Thanks, Jacob.
I'll be talking to Peter Crowther from PS Publishing, catching up on books with some short reviews, and keeping you up to date on what's going on in Smaragdine.
If you would like to send me things for review, or even complaints, hints, suggestions, or other feedback, please do so via email at email@example.com 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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