VanderMeer, Jeff 1968-
VanderMEER, Jeff 1968-
Born 1968; married Ann Kennedy, 2002. Education: Attended University of Florida. Hobbies and other interests: Racquetball, wallyball, soccer, collecting first editions.
Office—c/o. Ministry of Whimsy Press, P.O. Box 4248, Tallahassee, FL 32315. E-mail—[email protected].
Ministry of Whimsy Press, Gainesville, FL, founder, 1984; Infinity Software Development, Tallahassee, FL, technical writer/project administrator.
Council for the Literature of the Fantastic (founding member).
Rhysling Award, Science Fiction Poetry Association, 1994; World Fantasy Award for best novella, 2000, for "The Transformation of Martin Lake"; Florida individual artist fellowship; Fear magazine's best-short-story award; finalist, ReaderCon best-short-work award; Theodore Sturgeon Award finalist; Philip K. Dick award finalist (with Forrest Aguirre), 2003, for Leviathan 3.
The Book of Frog (stories), Ministry of Whimsy Press (Gainesville, FL), 1989.
The Book of Lost Places (stories), Dark Regions Press (Concord, CA), 1996.
Dradin, in Love: A Tale of Elsewhen and Otherwhere (novel), Buzzcity Press (Tallahassee, FL), 1996.
(Editor with Luke O'Grady) Leviathan: Into the Gray, 1996.
(Editor) Leviathan 2, Ministry of Whimsy Press (Gainesville, FL), 1999.
The Early History of Ambergris, Necropolitan Press, 1999.
City of Saints and Madmen: The Book of Ambergris, Cosmos, 2001, revised hardcover edition, Prime, 2002.
(Editor with Forrest Aguirre) Leviathan 3: Libri quosdam ad scientiam, alios ad insaniam deduxere, Ministry of Whimsy Press (Gainesville, FL), 2002.
Why Should I Cut Your Throat: The Selected Nonfiction, Cosmos, 2002.
Veniss Underground (novel), Prime, 2003.
Also author of The Exchange. Contributor to books, including Novel and Short Story Writers Markets, Magill's Guide to SF and Fantasy Literature, Best New Horror 7, The Year's Best Fantastical Fiction, Dark Voices 5, Dark Terrors, The Year's Best Dark Fantasy 2001 and Nebula Awards 30. Contributor to periodicals, including SF Eye, Tangent, Nova Express, New York Review of Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, Asimov's SF Magazine, Third Alternative, Weird Tales, Silver Web, Interzone, and Magic Realism. Editor, Jabberwocky.
Jeff VanderMeer is "one of the most remarkable practitioners of the literary fantastic in America today," according to Nick Gevers of the SF Site. VanderMeer has published numerous short stories, many collected in City of Saints and Madmen: The Book of Ambergris, has edited the anthology series Leviathan, and has published the novel Veniss Underground. Keith Brooke of Infinity Plus explained that "VanderMeer is a writer I admire immensely, even if he's not always a writer I wholeheartedly enjoy. In a publishing age where it can be so easy for a writer of talent to make the safe commercial bets … those individuals who doggedly plough their own furrows should be cherished. And VanderMeer's furrow is quite unlike anyone else's."
VanderMeer began publishing poems and stories in the small press scene of the 1980s. These early works, Brian Stableford wrote in The St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, "range from quirky comedies to striking contes cruels and vividly surreal horror stories." Among these early stories is "Greensleeves," about a magician who liberates the dreary inhabitants of a city library from their boring lives. "Although it is not a horror story," Stableford noted, "this colourful work retains a dark element, which imports a Decadent sensibility into its breezy bizarrerie."
This decadent sensibility reappears in much of VanderMeer's more recent fiction as well. City of Saints and Madmen: The Book of Ambergris is a collection of stories set in the mythical city of Ambergris, a place of cruelty and beauty populated by thieves and artists. A critic for Publishers Weekly found that "this beautifully written, virtually hallucinatory work isn't for every taste, but connoisseurs of the finest in postmodern fantasy will find it enormously rewarding." Among the stories contained in this collection is "Dradin, in Love," about an unemployed missionary who sees a woman in a window while walking through Ambergris and becomes obsessed with her. Brooke described the story as a "yearning, lyrical character study edged with darkness. 'Dradin, in Love' is full of bizarre imagery, and baroque description of a warped, Dickensian city, the prose is poetic and powerful, underscored with heartfelt passion and incisive wit." Also included is "The Transformation of Martin Lake," a winner of the World Fantasy Award, which tells of an artist who undergoes a disturbing turning point in his career following a masquerade titled "Invitation to a Beheading." Allen B. Ruch, reviewing the collection for the Modern Word, noted that "although the Ambergris stories fall under the rubric of fantasy—or 'Dark Fantasy,' as some prefer—they are substantial works of postmodern fiction, and sit comfortably on the shelf between Angela Carter and Gene Wolfe. Like many of his influences, VanderMeer's work has roots in pulp fiction as well as literature, and he brings an irresistible sense of fun to his writing, playing every card in the postmodern deck with a cheerful sense of abandon." Brian Evenson in the Review of Contemporary Fiction noted that "the work here is often marvelously dark and grotesque, and VanderMeer's creation of his world is complex and convincing. To read this book is not merely to read a story, but to enter into a complex and vivid world."
VanderMeer's anthology series "Leviathan" presents "Postmodern playfulness and solid storytelling," according to a critic for Publishers Weekly. Gathering stories by contemporary writers like Michael Moorcock and Jeffrey Ford, as well as reprints of classic tales from the nineteenth century, the "Leviathan" anthologies have managed to transcend genre and appeal to a wide range of readers. "In seeing how many ways the bounds of the 'real' can be stretched, the anthology also reaffirms how uncategorizable literature can be when practiced as a freewheeling art-form," Steve Tomasula wrote of Leviathan 3: Libri quosdam ad scientiam, alios ad insaniam deduxere, in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. Ray Olson in Booklist remarked that "the third entry in this small-press anthology series is good and clever enough to send readers and librarians scurrying to find its predecessors."
In 2003 VanderMeer published the novel Veniss Underground, a story set in a subterranean city much like that of his earlier Ambergris. Veniss is "a decadent, far-future city where Living Artists craft monstrous works of biological art," as a reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted. Nicholas, who hopes to become a master Living Artist, disappears after following the directions of Shadrach, who tells him how to navigate through the many levels of Veniss to the home of the greatest Living Artist, the notorious Quin. Nicholas's adventures in the city's underworld echoes those found in Dante's Divine Comedy. "VanderMeer's eye for just the right gruesome detail brings his nightmarish landscapes and bizarre, partially human creatures alive in astonishing profusion," a Publishers Weekly reviewer maintained. According to Olson, the novel's "milieu recalls Philip K. Dick, its passages of prose poetry Edgar Allen Poe, its wry fatalism Jim Thompson. Wow." Speaking to Gevers of the SciFi Site online, VanderMeer explained that "Veniss Underground is a far future baroque fantasy, one part Portrait of the Artist as a Raw Nerve End of Envy, one part hall of mirrors, and one part balls-to-the-wall action-adventure story. Like most of my fiction, it's at base about love and death."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Analog, December, 1996, Tom Easton, review of Dradin, in Love: A Tale of Elsewhen and Otherwhere, p. 149.
Booklist, July, 2002, Ray Olson, review of Leviathan 3, p. 1833; August, 2002, Ray Olson, review of Leviathan 3, p. 1939; March 15, 2003, Ray Olson, review of Veniss Underground, p. 1286.
Locus, May, 1989, review of The Book of Frog, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, May 6, 2002, review of City of Saints and Madmen, p. 40; July 8, 2002, review of Leviathan 3, p. 36; February 3, 2003, review of Veniss Underground, p. 59, and Michael Levy, "Underground Author Rises to the Surface," p. 60.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1996, Lance Olsen, review of Dradin, in Love, p. 192; fall, 2002, Brian Evenson, review of City of Saints and Madmen, p. 148; spring, 2003, Steve Tomasula, review of Leviathan 3: Libri quosdam ad scientiam, alios ad insaniam deduxere, p. 149.
Science Fiction Chronicle, October, 1996, Don D'Ammassa, review of Leviathan: Into the Gray, p. 80; June, 1997, Don D'Ammassa, review of The Book of Lost Places, p. 45; August, 1999, Don D'Ammassa, review of Leviathan 2, p. 46; June, 2000, Don D'Ammassa, review of The Early History of Ambergris, p. 59; January, 2002, Don D'Ammassa, review of City of Saints and Madmen, p. 23.
Small Press Review, April, 1997, Wayne Edwards, review of The Book of Lost Places, p. 7.
Washington Post Book World, April 7, 2002, Paul Di Filippo, review of Leviathan, p. 13.
Infinity Plus,http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (March 16, 2002), Keith Brooke, review of City of Saints and Madmen; (October 12, 2003) Jeffrey Ford, interview with VanderMeer.
Jeff VanderMeer's Official Web site,http://www.vandermeer.redsine.com/ (October 12, 2003).
Locus Online,http://www.locusmag.com/ (October 12, 2003) Rich Horton, review of Leviathan 3.
Modern Word,http://www.themodernword.com/ (August 13, 2003), Allen B. Ruch, review of City of Saints and Madmen.
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (May, 2002), Nick Geners, "Our Man in Ambergris: An Interview with Jeff VanderMeer"; (October 12, 2003) William Thompson, review of City of Saints and Madmen, and Leviathan 3.
Tangent Online,http://www.tangentonline.com/ (November 9, 2002), Jay Lake, review of Leviathan 3.*