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04-21-11: Jeff and Ann VanderMeer Chat With Terry Bisson at SF in SF on March 12, 2011

"For me, it's a way of bringing people together."

—Ann VanderMeer

Well, of course it is! Reading is the most intimate connection two people can have this side of sex. And you don't need to be in the same room, or even know one another personally to do it. But when you read a book, the author is in your mind and you are in the author's mind. I do not think you can get much more together than that!

Of course, Ann VanderMeer was not talking about the reading experience, but about bringing internationally-based writers together. That in itself is a pretty amazing talent. The drive that she brings to Weird Tales is significant. Sure, she is definitely leaving the weird in Weird Tales, even while she is using it to forge a new sort of world "litrachur," a "litrachur" that is deeply artistic, socially relevant — and here's the best part — fun to read.

Now, you can thank Jeff as well, at least if monsters constitute part of your vision of weird — and fun. But Jeff also has a very serious side and he, too understands the long-reaching literary merit of the work he and his wife are doing.

Add to this the probing questions of Terry Bisson, based in part on his years in the publishing business and his work as a writer of speculative and literary fiction. Then as well, toss in an audience liberally sprinkled with professionals and literate readers. Send me out of the house if I have a coughing fit. Then, in the fullness of time, you can sit back in your comfy chair and listen to the carefully recorded and archived MP3 file of the VanderPanel at SF in SF on March 12, 2011.

04-20-11: Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (sort of) Read at SF in SF on March 12, 2011

"There had to be a two-page spread of a flaming submarine."

—Ann VanderMeer

Leave it to Ann and Jeff VanderMeer to take the not-so-stolid setting of SF in SF (after all this is Science Fiction in San Francisco) and do something really weird with it. Not surprisingly what they did involved art, technology and gumption. And as I write this, some time later, I realize that the VanderMeers have made a career out of gumption. They take chances, and more often than not, they succeed.

The VanderMeers were in town for FogCon, presumably a convention about using insect de-foggers as a means of ridding one's self of what seems to be an epidemic of bedbugs sweeping the nation. While I know this sort of epidemic is a problem, and particularly for traveling writers, the idea that there would be a "FogCon" is rather strange to me, but so be it.

I guess I should have found it strange as well that their presentation concentrated on literature and not the serious business of insect killing, but that's the charm of the VanderMeers. They have an amazing capacity to multi-task, as demonstrated by the many literary works they described in the "coming soon" part of their presentation. It is possible that they were using a subtle fogger during the presentation, lulling the audience with a mildly poisonous gas that caused us to have a sort of group hallucination; images on the screen, the tentacles that Jeff brandished from beneath his armpits during one part of the gig, the time that what appeared to be a bat fluffed up out of Ann's hair, only to simply drop dead when she pointed a finger at it.

I was indeed glad that no such finger was pointed at me, and I might gently suggest that audience members who do not want to find themselves bombarded with guano might sit a couple of rows back. So yes, some visual aspects of the show might go undocumented in the linked MP3 audio file, but then again, I presume the microphones might have picked up the sounds of dead souls screaming in terror as Jeff flashed the last images of their lives on the screen.

04-19-11: Jeff VanderMeer Interviewed at SF in SF on March 12, 2011

"I don't see monsters as necessarily, by definition, an evil thing."

—Jeff VanderMeer

Welcome to the club Jeff! But then, you're not just a member here, but probably one of the owners. The problem with monsters, so far as I'm concerned is what I'd call "The Jaws Effect." That is, that all monsters must conform to the limitations set down by a memorable quote from Jaws, a middling monster movie at best: "Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine."

When you reduce monsters down to simple eating machines, then you lose vital opportunities for the characterization of the alien and the grotesque. Which is a shame, to my mind, because if you take a couple of steps back, humans are both very alien and very grotesque.

Jeff VanderMeer sort of seems to understand this. He surely realizes the literary implications, and as a result, you get 'Monstrous Creatures' and VanderMeer's own sense of monsters. When it comes to monsters in the regular sense, VanderMeer is your man, no question about it.

But the Man has a pretty significant monster growing on his own back, one he has regular conversations with and about, never realizing the monstrous nature or intent of the critter. He and I had a lovely discussion at SF in SF on March 12 about his monstrous schedule.

VanderMeer is like a literary queen alien, leaving eggs everywhere that incubate into projects that he ends up managing and managing well, but at some point they must actually eat his brain. Perhaps his brain grows back quickly at night. I can imagine he goes home after an event like SF in SF, or back to his hotel room, only to see the smooth sides of his skull collapse.

That must be the case given all the stuff we talked about in a mere twelve minutes. I can imagine that he was probably taking notes or writing in his mind an introduction to another collection while we spoke. I just hope all the puffing up and collapsing of the cranium does not involve any long-term damage. In the event it does, you can find one of his last coherent conversations by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

04-18-11: A 2011 Interview with Paul McComas

Click image for audio link.

"You've got to show them something else when they turn the corner."

—Paul McComas

The first thing you're going to notice is that Paul McComas is not just a writer; he's a performer and it is evident from the get-go that this seeps into all of his art. Writers are often remote from their readers, in that they need never connect personally with the reader.

But McComas is a musician and a performer, and he does need to connect. It makes his writing — and his interview — a lot more fun. Think of it as rock and roll science fiction. And horror. And humor.

McComas was in town to promote his latest collection, 'Unforgettable,' which is a spiky, thorny grab bag of everything you can imagine and a lot you cannot. The cover is an appropriately garish blend of animé fantasy and science fiction. Remember, one of the pieces in this book is a screenplay titled "Spaceslime!" We are not — thank the mechanical God on the cover — talking about Masterpiece Theater here.

In point of fact, we're talking about something considerably closer to my heart, Chiller! This Los Angeles-based show ran on Saturday afternoons, right after The Outer Limits. Now here's the funny thing: Chiller! was my introduction to Francis Ford Coppola. They must have run his Dementia 13 about 13 times a year.

While McComas in the interview is pretty much all about the fun, he does indeed write for the best reasons; he has something he must say. And if he can only say it in Blood of the Wolfman, well, that's a feature! To tune in to the full-length feature interview with Paul McComas, just follow this link to the MP3 audio file.

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