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More Information About Jeff VanderMeer
About the Author
Born in 1968 and currently a resident of Tallahassee, Florida, Jeff VanderMeer grew up in the Fiji Islands, where his parents served in the Peace Corps. His travels abroad-to Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe-have heavily influenced his fiction.
In 2000, VanderMeer won a World Fantasy Award for "The Transformation of Martin Lake," a novella included in his most recent collection, City of Saints & Madmen. VanderMeer has also been the recipient of a $5,000 Florida Individual Artist Fellowship for fiction and been a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award and the ReaderCon Award. His short fiction has appeared in nine languages in over 20 countries, including such publications as Asimov's SF Magazine, Magic Realism, Weird Tales, Ikarie B, Megalon, Best New Horror #10, Infinity Plus One, and The Year's Best Fantastical Fiction.
VanderMeer's books include Dradin, In Love (in English, Yugoslavian, and Greek editions), The Book of Lost Places (Dark Regions Press, 1996), and The Exchange (Hoegbotton & Sons, 2001). Books in 2002 included an innovative hardcover version of City of Saints & Madmen (Prime Books, July) with over 60,000 words of new material and Why Should I Cut Your Throat?: Selected Nonfiction. In his role as an editor, two anthologies will appear in 2002 and 2003: Leviathan 3 and The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases. These anthologies include work by such noted writers as Carol Emshwiller, Jeffrey Ford, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Rikki Ducornet, and China Mieville. He also continues to serve as an editor for the Fantastic Metropolis Web site, along with L. Timmel Duchamp, Luis Rodrigues, and Zoran Zivkovic.
As founder of the World Fantasy Award and British Fantasy Award finalist Ministry of Whimsy Press, VanderMeer has published a number of innovative books, including Stepan Chapman's Philip K. Dick Award-winning The Troika. VanderMeer's nonfiction has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Review of SF, SF Eye, Tangent, Nova Express, and many others.
Recently, VanderMeer placed 7th on Locus
Online's controversial list of the top 10 short fiction writers in
fantasy and science fiction. Seven happens to be his lucky number.
An Interview with Jeff VanderMeer about His Novel Veniss Undergroundů
(exclusive to advance reader copies and venissunderground.com)
How did you come to write Veniss Underground?
I already had the idea and some of the scenes written as early as 1992. By 1994, however, I hit a snag when I couldn't visualize some of the underground sections of the city, specifically the organ bank. Luckily, my wife Ann and I took a trip to England that year and visited Chris Reed and Manda Thompson, who edit an indie magazine called BBR. They took us to York to visit the York Cathedral. I'd never been inside a cathedral before, and I had a true epiphany while there-a vision that transformed the Veniss underground forever: I saw the long, fluting supporting columns inside the cathedral as hollow, and filled with blood. This inspiration was so strong it nearly brought me to my knees. Suddenly, I could see the entire rest of the novel stretched out before me. I got sidetracked editing some anthologies, writing some of the material that would wind up in City of Saints & Madmen, then in 1998 I finally finished a good draft, then spent part of 1999 rewriting it.
Why did you decide to use three different points of view?
Given the connection between the three main characters, and the way the third section closes around the first two, it only seemed natural. I did want to make sure there was no overlap, however. The parts of a novel that always bore me are the ones where we see the same event from the point of view of different characters. Usually, this device just creates extra verbiage that should have been cut. I wanted each section of my novel to take up where the other left off. Of course, when the first two sections take place is not clear until reading the third section.
Your setting is a city-state in the middle of a desert. Does your setting presage ecological disaster for us in the here-and-now?
Yes. I am not much for distinctions between Fantasy and SF, or for needing to invest heavily in the science of your "Science" Fiction, but I do think some level of realism is required in a general way. My main beef with some far and near-future SF is that the authors ignore our current ecological peril. Given that some scientists believe life may not be sustainable on Earth only 300 years from now, it seems irresponsible at best, illogical at worst, for a SF novel written today not to address, or at least touch on, our current environmental woes. For my own part, I would not be able to suspend my own disbelief long enough to write a SF novel or short story that ignored such themes. This doesn't mean that writers should speak to the topic in a didactic fashion, of course. In Veniss, it's just the reality of the setting, whether the inhabitants of Veniss choose to deal with it or not.
Quin's Shanghai Circus is a novel by Edward Whittemore. Why did you choose this name for Quin's organization in your novel?
It just seemed to fit. There is no connection between Whittemore's novel and mine, except that they're both short. But I did like the name and somehow it allowed me to get into the mystery of who Quin was. Other references in the novel to authors serve the purpose of creating a sense of verisimilitude. The kinds of echoes any future world would have of the past, just as our present contains echoes of authors and artists from centuries now distant from us. The two references that most delight me are to James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks and to The Wizard of Oz.
What made you decide to use meerkats as the primary created species in the novel?
Meerkats as they currently exist are smart, resourceful, family-oriented, unselfish, and quite engaging. They jump immediately to mind for me when thinking of a non-ape animal that seems to be like human beings. Of course, in the novel these are transformed meerkats, mixed with the DNA of other animals.
Have you written other stories set in the same milieu as Veniss Underground?
Yes, I've written several other stories set in the same future setting. The Infinity Plus Web site at www.infinityplus.co.uk Keith Brooke, the editor there, has been kind enough to post many of them after their original appearance in print magazines.
Do you plan a "sequel" to Veniss?
I think the other stories I've already written, none novel length, do a good job of fleshing out the future of Veniss Underground. Most of those stories will appear in my forthcoming Golden Gryphon collection, Ghost Dancing. I can't say I'm much fond of sequels, anyway. Why repeat yourself if you can help it?