Prior to this month’s BOTMC selection, my exposure to the literary genre known as New Weird was limited to the works of China Mieville (The Scar being a personal “If I Was To Be Stranded On A Deserted Island And Could Only Bring 25 Books With Me This Is One of the Books I’d Choose“ favorite). While I knew that author Jeff Vandermeer was a pioneer of the avant-garde movement, I’d never had occasion to read any of his work. Until City of Saints and Madmen, a book that, while apparently a fine example of “New Weird”, is, in my mind, an equally fine example of the more traditional definition of the word: weird. And wickedly so.

The City of Saints and Madmen is a collection of short stories, research papers, and historical studies with a common thread: the fantastical city of Ambergris, a magical and mercurial metropolis part Lankhmar, part New Crobuzon, and a whole lot Arkham. It’s a place as corrupt and decadent as some of its curious inhabitants – an obsessed squidanthropist, a mad artist, a scheming dwarf with a map of the world tattooed on his head – who casually go about their business as ancient mysteries stalk the streets and political factions wage open battle against a Rabelasian backdrop rife with love and death in all its forms. It’s Edward Gorey meets H.P. Lovecraft in a Byzantine bazaar.

Author Vandermeer has created a brilliant work of postmodern fantasy in which the different layers of an elaborate narrative tapestry weave in and out of each work, shedding light on future entries, shaping past ones. Puzzles are presented, hints dropped, clues concealed within the text. This is textured, sophisticated storytelling that makes demands of the reader. And those willing to invest the time and the patience will be rewarded with a book that is clever, humorous, and fiercely unique.

The first story, “Dradin in Love”, is the tale of a lovestruck missionary who enlists the help of a suspicious-looking dwarf as matchmaker. Ultimately, he ends up with much more – and much less – than he expected. It sets an ominous tone of what’s to come.

The following entry, ‘The Hoegbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris”, was, for me, the highlight of this collection – a historical study of the city of Abergris. The dark history of Abergris is fascinating in itself, but the footnotes that accompany the accounts of mushroom people, mass disappearances, and wholesale slaughter offer up some amusing insights into not only the historian himself, but history in general and its intrinsically variable nature. In fact, this idea of the pliability of textual evidence as influenced by the unreliable narrator is something Vandermeer plays without throughout The City of Saints and Madmen, presenting a shifting narrative open to interpretation, misinterpretation, and reinterpretation. In “King Squid”, the enormous glossary that concludes the study in itself presents a telling backstory while the “Strange Case of X” blurs the line between fiction and reality, bringing the reader along for the ride. Hell, even the About the Author bio that caps the book can’t be taken at face value, to say nothing of the Note On Fonts sectionthat offers such gems as:

“Caslon Old Face, used for the body text of “The Book of Ambergris” is artfully structured, with classic textures and aromas. Redolent of fine leather, sandalwood, and cinnamon, Caslon is dry yet velvety, its gossamer qualities offset by enough backbone to satisfy even aficionados of such terse fonts as Nicean Monk Face and Cinsorium Ironic.”


“The font Dr. V uses for his correspondence is known as “Mother’s Typewriter” because it is indeed generated on his mother’s typewriters…”.

The collection shifts effortlessly from humor to horror, licentiousness to inventiveness, often within the individual entries themselves. And, above all else, there’s a caginess in the storytelling that engages the reader beyond the typically passive act of reading.

Moody and melancholy, delusory and deep, City of Saints and Madmen is, without a doubt, one of those 25 books I’d be bringing with me if I was to be stranded on a deserted island.

What did everyone else think? Loved it? Hated it? What were your thoughts on the other stories that made up the collection? Weigh in with your comments, and post your questions for author Jeff Vandermeer.

So what, many of you have been asking, IS happening with the SG-1 and SGA movies? Well, at last report, Carl was about 20 pages away from a first pass of the script which will then find it’s way onto Brad’s laptop where he will do his pass. The Atlantis movie is still an outline but Paul and I will be starting work on the script in the coming weeks and hope to have it completed by April. An official production start date for either movie has yet to be announced. More detailed discussions on both movies will be taking place in the coming weeks and, hopefully, I’ll have more definitive news for you then regarding everything from actor participation to a preliminary schedule.


Shirt ’n Tie writes: “Any bites from the LA Pilot Season trip last year??”

Answer: Alas, no. But looks like we’ll be heading south for another round of feature talks before long.

Theparanoidone writes: “ I am a UK actress (24yrs) currently without representation, how would I get my info on the SG table?”

Answer: The truth is we rarely consider overseas actors unless: a) they are well-established, or b) we are looking for a series regular. When all is said and done, if we have to go outside Vancouver for talent, we look to the very deep pool in L.A. which, quite frankly, is considerably closer and wouldn’t incur the same travel costs as Europe. Sorry about that.

Fargate One writes: “I am still alive and happy to be. Last Thuesday Jan the 24th my heart stopped because of electric mal function ( syncopes in french) While at the emergency in the hospital my heart stopped for more than 15 seconds. Now I lived with a pacemaker!”

Answer: Scary. I’m glad to hear you’re doing alright now.

Platschu writes: “When can we hear some news about the female cast of SG:U?

How many female character will be in the crew of Destiny?

Do you have an exact number of the complete Destiny crew or will you introduce new, ealier unseen people as the story needs them?

When can we expect some official team and set photos?

Did you plan the fate of the main and secondary characters for seasons ahead? Is there any chance to have a flash-forward type episode?

Will every gate system have an own chevron color? Will you keep the old gate size and form? Some fans worried about this after the short teaser trailer.

How long will the team stay in the same galaxy? I ask this, because if they fly only through them, than how will you introduce recurring enemies and allies? Will they follow them through the gate system or by ships?

Will you tell us some new episode names?

Sanctuary season 2 will begin October 9th, than Universe’s double premiere will be aired on October 2th?

Is there any chance that Kari Wuhrer (Nancy Sheppard) will be in SG:U? Maybe the role of Camilla Wray could be re-written to her.

Can you name some popular non-SG actor, who will be guest star for season 1?”

Answers: An official announcement on the female cast will be made whenever we’ve finished casting the roles. It’s hard to say how many female characters will make up part of the crew. We don’t have an exact number of the complete Destiny crew and prefer it to be vague at this point. No idea on the release of official team or set photos. We have a pretty good idea of where we’ll be going with the main characters and a few of our secondaries, but a lot will depend on how things come together onscreen. No plans for a flash-forward type of episode. No official gate info at this point. With regard to ship travel, we’ve discussed the possibility that each season would take place over the course of a voyage through a different galaxy. No new episode names for now. No idea when SciFi plans to air the premiere. As much as we love Kari, there are presently no plans to include her (or any Atlantis characters) in SGU. At this point, it’s too early to be announcing guest stars.


60 thoughts on “January 26, 2009: City of Saints and Madmen, by Jeff Vandermeer

  1. Ok, ok…I’ll pick up this book! I looked at it online & didn’t think it would really capture my interest. Your critique piqued it enough for me to run out on my non-existent lunch hour tomorrow & get lost in a bookstore.

    I’m still waiting for the ice cream flavors….. *poke* 🙂

  2. Hmmm, book sounds interesting. Love the Note on Fonts. I have a stationery issue which also incorporates a font problem too. It’s like an OCD.

    With the anthology you are contributing your short story to, do you know/can you divulge what other author’s will be joining you?

  3. I humbly suggest that you insert some nifty discourse concerning branes and m-theory when characters are discussing the new ships drive systems. Maybe brane cosmology and 5-dimensional warped geometry theory could play a part in the working of the drive. Just a thought….

  4. Thank you for your SGA update, there are a lot of nervous people out there (me being one) that think it was all to shut us up and watch SGU which will work for some not all. I am putting my faith in you which is something I don’t do to people often.

  5. Last three stores I went to didn’t have it in stock. Good for Mr. VanderMeer but I’m worrying I won’t get it purchased, let alone read, in time.

    This snot-nosed brat eyeballed me, too. My damned business if I feel like getting lost in Austen.

  6. I sincerely hope that the one SGA movie takes precedent over the third SG1 movie.

  7. City of Saints and Madmen is without a doubt the strangest book I have read in a very long time and may well be the strangest I have read to date. It is not a book to be undertaken lightly.

    I think Michael Moorcock’s introduction sums up the proper approach to the book: “… we should admire the rare texture of the writing, the engaging vividness of his description and the quirks of his idiosyncratic mind which conducts its network of realities with celebratory panache.”

    While can’t say I always found the book fun to read, it was certainly never dull. Stylistically, it is simply amazing. Jeff VanderMeer varies his writing style dramatically as the “authorship” of each section changes and even changes typefaces to enhance the effect (the description of the various typefaces at the end was very amusing).

    And now a word or two about the stories: I did not get off good start with this particular book. After reading the extremely dark, violent and depressing “Dradin, In Love” I was a heartbeat away from tossing the book into the reject pile; not the stack of books destined to be passed along to a friend, but the ones doomed to go to the next charity who called looking for donations.

    But the next story, a pamphlet entitled “The Hoegbotton Guide to the Early History of the City of Ambergris”, complete with footnotes (which are the highlight of this section of the book) exhibiting a pleasantly dry wit, redeemed the book and kept me reading.

    “The Transformation of Martin Lake” was a strange and wonderful story of an artist and may be my favorite. One thing in its favor is the fact that it did not obsess about either squid or fungus; and I liked the depiction of the Martin Lake and his mystical, hallucinatory transformation.

    “The Strange Case of X” was interesting, but became even more so after I read the appendiX and its additionally appended story “The Release of Belaqua” wherein the other shoe dropped.

    “King Squid” returned, as you might guess, to the squid obsession with a vengeance; but I liked the way the writer’s descent into madness played out in the references that followed the body of the treatise. I loved the descriptions of squid making sport of unsuspecting land dwellers by shooting jets of water them and the squid walking around with water-filled helmets on their heads.

    After I had been lulled by the charming and nostalgic narration of “The Hoegbotton Family History” the saga of the Hoegbotton family continued on a more personal level in “The Cage”, another grim and disturbing tale with enough slime and fungus to make me want to go take a nice, long, hot shower after reading it; but it did have a strangely satisfying and almost uplifting ending.

    I liked the way the stories/treatises/local guides/etc were linked by internal cross references and I must admit that I have never found footnotes and references and glossaries so much fun to read. I’ve always been a fan of the Cthulhu mythos and have read all of Lovecraft and Derleth, and I could appreciate the Cthulhuesque King squid and strange underground culture of the Gray Caps and the Arkham feel to the city of Ambergris itself.

    But much of the time that I was reading I had the nagging feeling that there was some inside joke to which I was not privy; a joke that, if I could only discover it, would open up the world of Ambergris to me and let me fully enjoy it. I kept reading, always hoping that the next story would let me put it all in perspective. But, alas, it was not to be and I remained merely an outsider looking in on a bizarre world I couldn’t really understand. Maybe that is the nature of New Weird.

    I guess I didn’t really enjoy the book as much as you did, Joe. Perhaps New Weird is just not the genre for me. Well, now I’ve admired the rare texture of Jeff VanderMeer’s writing and visited the world of Ambergris, but I don’t think I’ll make a second trip there.

    Questions for Jeff VanderMeer:
    1. I think I understand the squid, which seem to be inspired by Cthulhu, but what was your inspiration for the fungus and Gray Caps?
    2. How did you come to create Ambergris?
    3. I loved Martin Lake – was the character based on a particular artist?

  8. How is it I managed to go through nearly five years of college to get a Literature degree and yet have before never heard of an entire genre of fiction? I think I should e-mail my university and complain.

  9. Ugh, I think you also hooked me with this “New Weird” genre and review of the book. Amazon, here I come…

    On the SGU front, I know you don’t have a complete cast finalized yet, but is the Destiny’s crew more like SG-1 (in that you heard very little accents) or more like SGA, with its international flavor? Is Robert Carlyle going with his natural speaking accent, or will he use a different one?

  10. Sounds like Destiny’s crew is going to have the LOST problem: you only have a limited number of survivors, so how do you (if ever) introduce new characters? There was a bit of an uproar when new characters were introduced on LOST (Nikki and Paolo; Ernst) so much so that the characters had to be killed off! Here’s hoping that y’all can find legitimate ways to introduce people as the need arises!!!

  11. Hi. I’ve haven’t yet read “City of Saints and Madmen” (It’s on hold from the local library. The likelihood of losing my job in the next couple of months has led me to cut back on actually purchasing books. eek), but in response to dyginc’s question yesterday about things to do in Vancouver.

    I’m not a local but do manage to get up to Vancouver for a few weeks every year. Here’s a few suggestions:
    – Take some time to explore downtown, and while you’re there walk along the seawall and explore Stanley Park.
    – The Museum of Anthropology at UBC ( ) is worth checking out. Sadly, it appears to be closed through early March. Oh well. But… if you’re heading out towards UBC and if you and your sister are SERIOUSLY geeky (I am), take a tour of TRIUMF (Canada’s national nuclear and particle physics lab ). 2-hour guided tours are free and open to everyone. Giant walls of blinky light units, massive magnets, control rooms with big red buttons. Who could ask for more. 🙂
    – Hop a ferry somewhere, maybe to Bowen Island, and explore a bit. You might also want to go over to Vancouver Island, but I actually find Victoria a bit boring.
    – If you’ll have a car (or a full day to deal with public transportation) take a side trip to Steveston in Richmond. Touristy, yes, but you can stroll the docks, pick out your own fish, and get good fish and chips at Dave’s.
    – North Vancouver has some good sights — Grouse Mountain skyride is expensive and can be crowded, but IF it’s a clear day there are some nice views from the top.
    – If you ski or snowboard (I don’t), there are opportunities.
    – Finally, grab a good local guidebook (I’m partial to Lonely Planet, but that’s me.) and read up in advance so you’ll have a few ideas before you arrive.

    Enjoy your trip! Oh, and bring a raincoat.
    – KB

    P.S. Bridge Studios are on Boundary Road right at the border of Vancouver and Burnaby, south of Lougheed Highway. If you’re taking public transportation Gilmore Skytrain station is closest.

  12. I have a quick question, if you have time.

    You were talking about an outline for the SGA movie. Did Paul and you write the storyline or was it handed to you and you both ran with it? It’ll be fun to watch no matter what!

  13. sorrykb–thanks for the recommendations as well as directions to the studio…in all honesty i would love to hit every spot that BSG, 4400, SG1, SGA hit…they all seemed to use the same places a lot. Would not mind running into the Supernatural cast either. That would be the ubergeek in me. I am counting the days until vaca!

  14. Platschu writes: Some fans worried about this after the short teaser trailer.>

    What teaser trailer?!?!

    Anywho. Regarding the book, I’d hoped to get it read, but haven’t yet. Alas. It sounds interesting; I will definitely get to it soon. Ish.

    Sorry to hear about the no response on the pilots. But good luck on the next round! You’ll have to keep us updated again.

  15. Dear Joe,

    Do you know when Paul is gonna enlighten us about the ZPM situation for SGA? More specifically, whether or not the Area 51 ZPM was destroyed or not and whether or not we will ever see the Tria and the Dagan Potentia in the Movie Project twilight.

    Thank you

    By the way do you any good restaurants to try out in the Boston Area… I’m heading to see a friend this weekend and I was wondering where is a very nice place to have him invite me 🙂

  16. I was just wondering if you get your books at a book store you can trade them in for new books etc. or do you use a library.How many books do you read a year? Once you read a book do you keep it?

    How do you pick the books you read, by author, title, word of mouth?

    Just wondering…

  17. Hi again Mr M!!

    Thanks for the mailbag. Another trip to LA LA land eh? Don’t forget your sunglasses this time!!

    Glad to hear all well. Thanks for the info re: SGU.

    Didn’t have time to read City of Saints and Madmen. I usually just pick one book from the selection, it’s as much as I can cram in. Am currently trying to finish up another book for another book club (all general fiction).

    Re: Pics of books : Glad to see you have Flann O Brien (Myles na gCopaleen!) The Third Policeman is a riot!! Very good!!

    Silly Question Alert: What happened to AU Shepp’s car from Vegas? As you might guess, we don’t get to see a lot of American Muscle cars here in Ireland, and between The Rockford Files and Knight Rider, the old Pontiac Firebird was a favourite!! Just curious to know what happened to it? I know you guys try to re-use stuff, so I’m betting it may appear in the SGA movie.

    Thanks again for the mailbag

    Best to all


  18. Hi Joe:

    There is a rumor afloat that Dr. Jackson himself, Michael Shanks will be guest staring in the opening episodes of Star Gate Universe. Is this true?

    Patricia (AG)

  19. The mailbag prompted another question:

    Have you ever switched a gender on a planned character? Because of an outstanding actor/actress that you thought could do the character more justice? Just to shake up things? (For example, like Starbuck being a female in the later version of BSG when he was a “he” originally.)? Or for any other reason?

  20. Did you just say Edward Gorey? (interest is piqued). I adore that man’s work and have it pasted all over my office. If you have never been to his house on Cape Cod I recommend it. Ever see pictures of his Dracula set? Awesome.

    I see that “Sanctuary” was mentioned. I was just introduced to that show this past weekend and am loving it. The opening title sequence for the webisodes is nothing short of stunning and brilliant. I very much hope that a soundtrack gets released and the whole notion of a 13 episode season gets forgotten in favour of the more conventional 21 or so.

  21. Quick comments on JJA’s zombie book: loved most of the stories — hey, they feature zombies; does a horror story really need anything more? My favourites were Dan Simmons’ contribution, with the school teacher who takes up teaching zombie kids. I loved the upbeat ending to the story, which left me with a sense of hope. So often zombies = apocalypse/end of the world scenarios that it was nice to see that in this one instance, that wasn’t necessarily the case.

    Other stories which stood out (and apologies for the lack of author names or titles — my copy of the book has been donated to my local library in anticipation of my upcoming move, so, alas, I can’t refer back to the contents page) included:
    (1) the tale wherein zombies act as consciences to politicians (mostly because I loved the slow reveal of the narrator’s tragic past, and his connection to the little dead girl, Dana)
    (2) Zombies as an overt form of the state of one’s soul. People who sin, even if it’s sinning by omission, end up with a bunch of zombie followers, kind of an external visual cue to others that they’ve been judged wanting. I love the way the narrator starts off horrified, and ends up humbled. Again, a story with left me with a sense of hope that I appreciated.

    Quick comments on City of Saints and Madmen: Alas, I did not get to finish this book on account of working, travelling and moving, but mostly because I stupidly left my copy of this book in Houston last week. Still, on the positive side, I’ll have something to read when I go back next week. *grin*

    I’ve enjoyed what I did read, mostly because Ambergris sounds like quite the place to visit, but did find the book slow going. It’s an incredibly dense read, with lots of sensory detail, and that sometimes pushed me out of the story.

    I am dying to know if anyone solved the number puzzle towards the latter half of the novel. I must have spent a good twenty minutes right before sleep trying to crack the code — is it even crackable? Do I need to read all the stories first to figure out the key?

  22. Bonjour Joseph!

    Me revoila!

    Désoler mais je n’ai pas eu d’éléctricité,de chauffage, de téléphone fixe, de téléphone mobile et d’internet depuis 3 jour. C’etait l’horreur!!!!

    Mais heureusement je suis revenu à la civilisation =)

    Bonne journée! A demain.

  23. I thought this book was brilliant and have already ordered Veniss Underground which I hear is even better. Some questions for Jeff Vandermeer:

    1. What do you think of the term New Weird? Is it something you embraced after a time because, in a way, it places your work in an exclusive sub-category of literature? Or is it, as some have suggested, an unsuccessful attempt to pigeonhole works that defy easy classification (ie. It’s not quite fantasy and not quite horror so let’s call it New Weird).

    2. I found the book incredibly unique not just in terms of the writing but the presentation as well (ie. the different fonts, illustrations, etc.). It really looks and reads like a labor crafted
    of love. How long did it take you to assemble the collection and why did you choose to assemble it this way? What was the initial reaction to the book’s publication?

    3. What authors inspired you to write and influenced your writing?

  24. @iamza: I didn’t try to crack the code, but I would be interested in knowing whether anyone else did.

    @Joe and other China Mieville fans: I’m still trying to come to terms with the whole New Weird genre and am thinking about giving China Mieville a try. Can I just read “The Scar” or would would you (and anyone else who has read the books) advise me to read “Perdido Street Station” first to really understand what’s going on?

  25. Alas, I have once again failed to read the BoTM selection (which, honestly I would rather be doing than my actual work). This one looked really interesting, though I admit I was a little off-put by the strings numbers to be decoded by using the text to make more text. I tend not to be able to let that stuff go.

    I encourage everyone to ask good questions, since I have so obviously failed to come up with my own.


  26. Fargate One: Glad you’re still among us SG/Mallozzi fans, and hope you stick around a decade or ten.

    Onto City of Saints and Madmen. This was my first sampling of this “New Weird” genre, and I believe that it will most likely be my last. I readily grant that Mr. Vandermeer is very good at writing. I just don’t find this particular style or genre very appealing. I recognise it is art, but in this case a form of art that does not appeal to my sense of curiosity or wonder.
    Part of the problem for me may have been the first offering. I found Dradin, in Love, to be VERY hard to finish. The first few pages went by quickly enough, as I tried to get the feel of this fantastical city of Ambergris. Initially, despite the title, I for some reason expected that the story would shift from Dradin, to some other character or characters. But the further into the story I went, the clearer it was that I was doomed to follow Dradin himself.
    In any tale, I like to be able to empathise with the characters. Or even pity them. But in this tale Dradin brings out the worst in me. His obsession, self centeredness, and sheer stupidity had me all but cheering when Dvorak finally revealed his nasty side. But by this point I was so disengaged from all the characters that I just didn’t care what happened to any of them, deserved or not. There was only a sense of dull relief that I had actually managed to finish the story.
    The Early Guide to Ambergris was an improvement. The extensive footnoting was amusing rather than annoying, and provided as much, if not more entertainment than the text itself. But even after reading this (and I admit to skimming over the last dozen or so pages) I can’t say that I found Ambergris or its universe beguiling.
    The Transformation of Martin Lake was the most intriguing offering. For me, it read almost like a classic horror tale than a fantasy one. Here Mr. Vandermeer’s vivid wordcrafting was at its best, and I found it easy(if uncomfortable) to visualize both Lake’s artwork, and the events he participated in. If any of these stories will disturb my sleep, it will be this one.
    The Strange Case of X left me cold, however. However cunningly done, this psychdrama failed to hold my interest or offer me the vivid mental images that Martin Lake had. Again, this one was a flat out chore to read.
    I’ve read most, but not all of the stories in the appendix. And I’ve faced the same seesaw reactions to them. While I admire Mr. Vandeermeer’s turns of phrases, too often the subjects of the stories leave me disinterested. Where I’d merrily book a flight to a Lankhmar, or Arkham, or even Anhk Morpock, ultimately Ambergris fails to come to life for me. I’m glad others have enjoyed this book, but its primary lesson to me has been in letting me know what my limits are in terms of literary tastes.

  27. strong>@ Das
    LOL, Das. Glad to see that you are feeling better! – or at least well enough to care about “spiders” and shoot and post a photo for us. You said you were going to work from home for a while. Do your parents run a tax prep firm?

    @ belouchi wrote:
    Do you know when Paul is gonna enlighten us about the ZPM situation for SGA? More specifically, whether or not the Area 51 ZPM was destroyed…

    In EatG, when Lorne and two of his men come back from off-world retrieval of Todd’s ZPMs, he opens a case. In the case are 2 ZPMs. You can see the other two soldiers, dressed in the same military gear and tac vests, exiting stage right. They each carry a case identical to Lorne’s. That’s 6 ZPMs, in addition to Atlantis’ original one, for 7 total. (Sound right, Joe?)

    In Paul’s Q&A (Jan. 15th), he says the Area 51 building that housed the chair is gone, and maybe the puddle jumper from “Moebius.” In EatG, Sheppard assumes the chair is gone and flies his jet right inside the hive, on a suicide mission that, happily, isn’t. But since we know anything can happen in sci fi, the chair and its ZPM could still be all right. It depends on what happens when the next script starts to gel. (When Cap’n Joe takes us to school, we do listen. Really we do.) 🙂

  28. The above should be:

    @ Das

    I can type the silly html tags, but apparently have problems with cutting and pasting. Looks like I need to go back to kindergarten. 😀

  29. Hello Mr. M:

    I have been reading all sorts of rumors and speculation online in recent days that the Stargate Atlantis movie is now temporarily on hold because of financial reasons…

    Hopefully this is just a rumor but can you confirm whether or not this is true?

    ….and as always….

    Have A Very Stargate Day!


  30. Having read and inwardly digested what others have had to say about this months BoTM I’m going to pass and continue with Terry Pratchett’s Nation for the simple reason that I have a natural aversion to short stories to begin with but I grant there are one or two samples I’ve read some I’ve enjoyed but for the most part I like to have an epic in front of me, time to get to know the characters, to watch them grow and short stories really and truly don’t “do” it for me on the whole, I may try New Weird at some time but right now its not top of my agenda when there are so many “epics” I haven’t read yet.

    I found it interesting that it is apparently the marmite of literature. You either love it or hate it.

  31. Mr M

    First, did you try the haggis? Most of the posters want to see a video clip of this from the comments on this blog.

    Can you put a stop to the rumors of the indefinite shelving of the SGA movie, which also means no SG-1 movie. Tell us SGU isn’t sucking up all the financial resources from MGM and Sony. Somehow I don’t see MGM short of cash. They did release the Bond movie last year.

    Someone put SGA out to pasture early so SGU can start up. I could understand the TPTB making a creative decision. But why siphon off resources for an untested series while the profitable direct to DVD movies languished. If the movies are not in pre-production soon, the acting talent might not be available.

    I still think SGU is the A-team in a space setting. The SGU cast list mirrors the A-Team cast list and weekly bottle adventures in different places. Not really interesting.

  32. Heya Joe,

    I’m not sure if you remember, but a few weeks back I asked if you had a ritual cleansing for a year that’s started off badly?
    Just wanted to see how you are going with that?
    Or, if you were the kind gentleman that we all know you are and did something, can you please stop?

    It’s annoying/painful things going wrong, but I have this feeling of foreboding that it’s preparing me for something big.

    Now that I’m married have I gone from having individual karma to couples karma?

    Example: I found a huge but interesting bug in our house. So I caught it and put it outside. Usually that equals good karma and I’d be saying in a week, “Hey, how lucky was it that <>”.

    Last night I saw exactly the same type of bug, pointed it out to Hubby, he screamed “Cockroach!” (which it wasn’t), grabbed it off the wall and stomped on it.. repeatedly. Remind me in the future to NOT point out anything interesting to him that has more legs than him and would like it to live.

    This morning he woke up to a white tail spider crawling on him (he’s not sleeping again for at least a week) and I had our timber venetians fall off the wall and land on my wrist. Just happened to be the same wrist I broke in five places about 10 years ago. Be prepared for comments made up of mostly letters from the left-hand side of the keyboard. Conversations relating to stewardesses, bread, cats, trees, people called Fred are all acceptable topics until the digits on my right hand start working properly again.

    So I pose the question, is the universe now dishing out what’s due on the merits of us as a couple?

    Excuse me while I go and get out the frozen peas for some more ice time on this wrist.

  33. Hmmm…… was just watching On Set with Joseph Mallozzi (on the set of Harmony). The chair thing was adorable. You should write comedy.

    Cheers, Chev

  34. Hey Narelle,

    Sorry to hear about your wrist – hope it’s OK. Your hubby was lucky not to get bitten by the white tail. They are nasty.

    Sounds like your house is dangerous.


  35. Hey Joe.

    Out of all the blog posts you written over the last couple of years, which one sticks out in your mind the most? I like the very first one your wrote…just because it’s the first….

    I re-watched Tracker today and noticed for the first time that Rodney mentions being in a scouts club or something in Fort McMurray……2 feet of snow today! Do remember when I came and met you at the studio in the summer and I said I drove all the way from Ft. Mac…….is that where you got the idea to include it in the episode????? Or not….

    Thanks Joe!

  36. Thanks Chev. He was lucky. I can assure it was beaten with a Blundstone to the point of it returning back to it’s original molecular state. He said he hoped he hadn’t been bitten, but as someone that’s been bitten by two (and still have my limbs thankfully) you certainly know when they put their fangs into you.

    It’s the combination of the extreme heat, the resulting extreme dry and we decided to lift our decking boards up over the long weekend which has brought out all the creepy crawlies.
    We have old, big trees surrounding us so things just tend to fall out of them too.

    So yeah, a bit dangerous at the moment.

    Hope you’re keeping cool in this heat!

  37. Hi Joe,

    Now that I’m caught up on your blog posts…. Thank you for reviewing that maple liqueur, I was thinking about trying it but I think I’ll pass after your description of the plasticky aftertaste. :-p

    In regards to absinthe, you might consider checking out the reviews of various absinthes at the Wormwood Society’s webpage. Absente (the brand in your alcohol post back in December) doesn’t score too well in their ratings and you might consider finding a local bar to try a good absinthe prepared properly; I would think Fuel would be able to fill that bill. I recently tried the Lucid brand (the only half decent absinthe available without driving two hours) and it was only all right when I first opened the bottle a couple of weeks ago, vaguely similar to Jägermeister, but with no horehound, less sweet and with more fennel and anise and a hint of wormwood. Now that the absinthe has been exposed to the air and left to rest for a while, it has mellowed considerably and has a slightly sweeter, smoother taste. I’m looking forward to trying different absinthes eventually, as the budget allows, particularly the Marteau, which is distilled down in Portland, Oregon.

    As for haggis, I loved the stuff that I tried. I had the commercially produced haggis in a sausage casing but would love to try traditional haggis one of these days.

  38. Hey Joe,

    Just sent you an email, and wanted to be sure you got it!



  39. Just a note that although I don’t really self-identify as New Weird and as J noted much of the book is just plain weird or postmodern or Borges-influenced…i did edit an antho with my wife Ann called The New Weird that has short fiction and also nonfic in it. it wld answer all of your questions about the subgenre.

    City of Saints tends to elicit all kinds of reactions because it uses so many different styles–it’s cool if some of you don’t like it. But just a note that no two books of mine are the same. looking forward to the questions. best, jeff

  40. My first exposure to Vandermeer as well, and it won’t be my last – even though I can’t find any of his other books at my local shop. I loved the fact that this book stood alone, unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Even the stories that made up this collection stood alone despite their thematic link to Ambergris. An enjoyable metafictional journey that had me deeply involved throughout. Being a struggling artist myself, my favorite story was The Transformation of Martin Lake. How true that a single event can be so transformative.

    My questions for Jeff Vandermeer:

    Hello, Jeff. I was wondering what kind of jobs you held prior to your first published work. Were there any job experiences that reflected the off-the-wall nature of your writing (for instance, did you ever work in the fields of cephalopods or fungus. If not, did you have a prior interest on either subject prior to writing City of Saints and Madmen or was it part of the research done for the book?

    As I said, I’m not familiar with your other work and I was wondering how you’d compare it to City of Saints and Madmen. Are they also collected works along the same vein? Are they Abergris-related.

    Finally, can you tell me a bit about your writing process. I, for instance, find I’m more creative at night – between two and four a.m. usually. As an established author, do you tend to keep more reasonable hours? Do you set a certain amount of time each day to write?

    Thank you.


  41. I’m disappointed I haven’t had the chance to read the last two books in the BoTM. I used to read avidly but lately I just can’t find the time. Still, I started Jeff’s book last night and I’m building up a little list of books to be read

    Thank you for letting us know the state of the SGA movie. I hope it comes to fruition.

  42. Narelle from Aus said:

    Hope you’re keeping cool in this heat!

    Got the day off today. Going to the pool this arvo. Nice!

    Cheers, Chev

  43. @ for the love of Beckett – My vision is all messed up because I’m wearing glasses instead of my contacts, and with my vision being so poor, my glasses have a lot of distortion in them. I’ve been seeing some really weird things lately…like decapitated Spidey head underpants. 😛

    As far as how I feel – felt like crap all day today, very tired, lots of congestion. Went back to the doctor because I have a low grade fever again, and though my lungs look a bit better, he put me on a second antibiotic. Guess I better stock up on the yogurt. 😛

    My dad has a HVAC & commercial refrig business. I am the office…soup to nuts, and a reluctant second in command. Dad’s pretty old now, so not sure how long the business will keep going. In some ways I wish he’d shut down tomorrow, but then I’d have to find another job, and with the current economy, that’s not likely to happen. In my dream world, I’d be married to a rich man, allowing me to be a housewife and a volunteer. I really don’t like working for money – I feel the end product should be the reward (clean house, nice yard, good dinner, better community, etc ), but until hubby hits it rich, I gotta be employeed.

    So, anyway – since I can’t get to the office, I’ll be doing some work from home, as soon as I’m up to it. Right now it’s mostly tax stuff, payroll, and billing. The only thing I can’t do is the billing – that’s all on the office computer – but I’ll probably be up to going back to work next week, so I’ll worry about it then.

    I am really not used to being this knocked down. I don’t like it. 🙁

    @ Perragrin – I know you’re lurking, and I did get your e-mail, just not up to much. How’s the shoulder?? Hope you’re feeling better! *hugs*

    @ Narelle – Yeah. NEVER gonna visit you…EVER! Freakin’ spider country. *shudder* Hope you’re wrist gets to feeling better…looks like everyone on the blog is taking a beating these days.

    @ sulien – I got your pm at GW – thanks!! 🙂


  44. And that’s ‘your wrist’…because, Narelle, I do not wish you to actually be a wrist. 😛


  45. I find it interesting that several readers reacted negatively to the first story but enjoyed the ensuing stories a lot more in comparison. It was more or less the same for me. Not that I didn’t like “Dradin in Love” (I thought it was beautifully written and full of striking, lurid imagery). It’s just that as strange as it was, it set a dark and creepy tone that was, to my surprise, upended by The Early History of Ambergris. There are brilliant flashes of humor throughout CoSaM and, as I kept reading, I found that it really complimented some of the darker aspects of the stories, making them all the more darker and creepy.

    My favorite story, by the way, was The Cage. Being a big fan of horror, I have to admit it scared the hell out of me.

    Questions that Jeff Vandermeer may or may not be able to/want to answer:

    1. Why were the mushroom people so docile and willing to give up their lives when the first settlers came to Ambergris, yet proved unwavering and cruel in exacting their revenge?

    2. What is with the mushroom people’s fascination with eyes?

    3. What was the significance of the strange symbols (footnote 23 in the history of Ambergris)?

    4. Who was responsible for the many wonderful illustrations?

    5. Pursuant to what Joe was talking about yesterday, if you could bring only 10 books with you to a deserted island, which 10 books would they be?

  46. das wrote:

    looks like everyone on the blog is taking a beating these days.

    Hmmmm, soooooo, what’s the one thing we all have in common? Alright Mallozzi, step away from the voodoo dolls…

  47. Thank re The Cage. I’m going to wait to answer questions as I think the Magic Mallozzi is going to bundle them for me, and that’ll help given current deadlines. I’ve got to finish up Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for 21st Century Writers and then head off for Australia Feb. 5th.



  48. I’m not surprised to see the diverging opinions on City of Saints and Madmen. It strikes me as one of those books that can be very polarizing just because it is VERY different. Some people will come away confused and frustrated while others will embrace its complex and erudite character. I count myself as one of the latter. This is my first book of the month club with you and it has spoiled me rotten. I thought it would take me a few days to read and I ended up spending two weeks, taking my time because the collection required the attention but also because I savored it like a fine wine. There were parts of the collection I didn’t like (I saw the end of The Strange Case of X coming well before its conclusion) but they didn’t stop me from appreciating it as a whole. Vandermeer is an extraordinary writer who defies convention and because of that, he may make some readers uncomfortable. Other readers love his work and have already picked up Venis Underground!

  49. has anyone figured out the number code at the end of X’s story about the writter who writes with his feet?

  50. I figured out the code! Woot! Not really that hard, but it wound up taking me a few hours.

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