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JV
Posted on Monday, March 01, 2004 - 07:23 pm:   

This'll be the thread for news and discussion of Secret Life, my new story collection from Golden Gryphon, official release date, June. Yes, that's right, June. And it's only March. But what the hey--I've been looking forward to this for a long time.

JeffV

http://trashotron.com/agony/news/2004/03-01-04.htm#030104
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red steve
Posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - 07:05 am:   

What a fab cover! Congratulations, young feller!
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JV
Posted on Friday, March 19, 2004 - 12:26 pm:   

A new promotional feature for the book at:

http://www.goldengryphon.com/secret-postcard.html

Order early and often!

There may be additional perks for those who preorder from GG. We'll see. WOrking on a couple of things.

Jeff
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Trent W
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 10:20 am:   

Did you revise any of the stories from their previous appearances? If so, which?
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JV
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 10:46 am:   

All of them are revised from their previous appearance. Somewhere between 30 and 100 line-edits on each story. (Some of them not yet made on the spiral-bound typeset version sent out to some reviewers such as yourself.)

For example, In "Flight is For Those..." I'd over-described the main character's wife, so I pared down some of the physical description so the reader could bring a little more to it. I also toned down the dialogue, because in the context of the events in that story, it was coming off as a little overdone. So, basically, fine-tuning. In "London Burning," I changed even more terms to make sure historical accuracy was served. Marty Halprin suggested lots of edits, too, many of which I took.

I think that "Festival of the Freshwater Squid" had the most radical revisions, however--a lot of structural changes. And I wrote some new stuff for that one.

JeffV
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Trent
Posted on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 02:44 pm:   

Thanks, Jeff.

I truly admire writers who constantly aim to hone their craft. Join the Auden/Yeats club!

(This information will also help me to stop reading from the original publication.)
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paulw
Posted on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 03:16 pm:   

Jeff, I gotta second red steve on the cover.

In fact, it's a good thing I'm no longer abusing hallucinogens, or I might never get past the cover!
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, May 04, 2004 - 06:59 pm:   

I've got copies of Secret Life in my hands now--it's wonderful. I love the typesetting and the green boards, etc., etc.

jeff
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, May 05, 2004 - 09:03 am:   

In fact, this means if you order direct, you can get it right now.

http://www.goldengryphon.com/forth.html#sl

Not available from Amazon/distributors until June!

Jeff
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JV
Posted on Saturday, May 15, 2004 - 10:38 am:   

Fantastica Daily's review of Secret Life:

http://www.mervius.com/book_review.php?bID=188
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JV
Posted on Saturday, May 15, 2004 - 02:26 pm:   

Another review

http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/
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Jason Erik Lundberg
Posted on Sunday, May 16, 2004 - 09:03 am:   

I just saw the original painting for the cover art at the gallery that Scott Eagle has at Artspace in Raleigh. It was really neat to see the painting in the flesh (as it were), to look at his brush strokes and uses of color.

Oh, and I'm looking forward to the collection too!
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Erik J.
Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - 01:14 pm:   

I bought my copy of "Secret Life" at one of my local SF/F bookstores in Mpls. The few stories I've sampled so far are all good reading, and each is accompanied by a brief intro from Mr. V (much like the intros from Joe Lansdale in "High Cotton") which adds interesting background context. And the book's physical presentation is worthy of the content. High recommendation! Go buy one now!

ErikJ.
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mike bishop
Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 01:08 pm:   

Jeff,

Have you seen the May 24, 2004 issue of the New Yorker? It contains a good piece by David Grann, a staff writer, called "The Squid Hunter," about New Zealander Steve O'Shea and his efforts to capture a giant squid by catching paralava and keeping them alive so that one or two or a few actually grow into the creature that otherwise seems so elusive. Good stuff. And right up your aquatic research lanes . . .
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JV
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 09:17 am:   

Mike:

I'm tracking down the New Yorker article--thanks.

Several bits of Secret Life news.

First, Peter Straub has been so kind as to offer this blurb:

"SECRET LIFE, an utter dazzlement, demonstrates one of this literary era's defining truths, that in the hands of a brilliant writer like Jeff VanderMeer, writing fantasy can be a means of serious artistic expression. In VanderMeer's hands, it is also playful, poignant, and utterly, wildly, imaginative." - Peter Straub

Second, Secret Life will be a featured selection in the Barnes & Noble Explorations newsletter for July, along with being featured on the B&N web site.

Third, The Tallahassee Democrat did a big profile piece in the Sunday edition:
http://www.tallahassee.com/mld/tallahassee/living/8830832.htm

Fourth, I'll be doing a reading and signing at the 621 Gallery here in Tallahassee Wednesday night (7:30pm)

Fifth, I'll be doing a signing at The Explorer's Club here in Tallahassee Saturday, June 19th.

Sixth, I'm doing a special promotion for the book through the Ziesing Book catalogue. Check it out through their web site.

JeffV

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JV
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 12:14 pm:   

The (positive, but mostly summary PW review) includes these lines:

Perhaps the finest of the Ambergris stories is “Learning to Leave the Flesh,” the tale of a writer who makes his living crafting individual perfect sentences whose life is transformed when he’s assigned to write an epitaph for a dwarf who has committed suicide. Among the Veniss stories are “Balzac’s War” and “Detectives and Cadavers,” with their monstrous, sentient flesh dogs, and strangely mutated human beings. The title story may be the best of all, a surreal fable about the intrigues and battles among the employees who work in an office building, a struggle cut short when one woman’s trumpet vine infiltrates the crawl spaces and ventilation shafts of the structure, pulling it down on the heads of everyone within.
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JV
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 12:19 pm:   

...and two reviews in Locus:

Faren Miller: "better than a day at the movies with a big tub of popcorn and your pockets stuffed with Snickers"

Nick Gevers: "To read Secret Life is to understand radical new possibilities of fantastic narrative...It may well be a landmark."
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JV
Posted on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 01:11 pm:   

A nice review of Secret Life on Emerald City:
http://www.emcit.com/emcit106.shtml#Short

And SF Site is currently running an excerpt and interview:
http://www.sfsite.com

JV
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Jim Rockhill
Posted on Monday, July 05, 2004 - 08:10 pm:   

I enjoyed "The Exchange" and portions of the Prime Books edition of CITY OF SAINTS & MADMEN a few winters ago before having to set the latter aside due to various urgent matters attendant upon earning a living here in the Midwest. Finally had a chance to return to CITY OF SAINTS & MADMEN (wishing I had the expanded UK edition) during this holiday weekend after being delighted by the recent LAMBSHEAD POCKET GUIDE and SECRET LIFE. Now, I wonder about the fate of a few other works about which I have read good things:

"Henry Dreams of Angkor Wat"
"Welcome to the Masque"
"Falling Into the Arms of Death, He Found a Beautiful Place" (a.k.a. "La Siesta Del Muerte")
"The Ministry of Butterflies"

Do you have any plans to reprint these tales, or are they being incorporated into other works?

Thank you,

Jim
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, July 06, 2004 - 06:15 am:   

"Henry Dreams" is in my collection The Day Dali Died from Prime.

"Welcome to the Masque" is appearing in the Best of Deathrealm and also in an antho from Cemetery Dance. I don't mind the story, but it just didn't fit the vibe of Secret Life at all, unfortunately.

"Falling into the Arms of Death" I still think is a good story, but there wasn't room for it in Secret Life.

"Ministry of Butterflies," I thought, required a lot of revision and I just wasn't up for it. I could be wrong about it, of course.

Both stories are in my first story collection, The Book of Lost Places from Dark Regions Press.

I might put them online at some point. I'm not sure.

Glad you liked the books!

Jeff
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Jim Rockhill
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 03:19 am:   

Thank you for the information.

Jim
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 01:23 pm:   

Sure, Jim. If you really want to see one of those, let me know and I'll send you a copy.

In other news, Secret Life is a featured selection on Barnes & Noble.com this month!

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/newsletters/newsletters_cds2.asp?userid=i98Bw6e9kh &cds2Pid=796&PID=1400&linkid=298918

JeffV
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Jim Rockhill
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 05:20 pm:   

I would love the opportunity to read any of these tales. Congratulations on making the Barnes and Noble featured title list.

Jim
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JV
Posted on Monday, July 12, 2004 - 06:59 am:   

The booklist review. Just back in town, Jim. I'll send you the stories soon.
Jeff

From Booklist
VanderMeer's stories are clearly influenced by the magical literature of Borges, Garcia Marquez, and Calvino, and like theirs, VanderMeer's muse is equally at home in places real (Peru, Cambodia, Florida) and fantastic. The collection opener, "Secret Life," is the history of a five-story building, surrounded by desolation, that houses thousands-- from the janitors in the basement to the mysterious "Shadow Cabinet" on the fifth floor--and is brought down by a vine; ingredients including murderous rage over a presumably stolen pen and VanderMeer's revealing endnote on inspiration make the piece delicious. In the closer, "Experiment #25 from the Book of Winter: The Croc and You," a story won't cooperate with its writer because it has been inspired by an image that is irresistible but impossible to fit into a plot. In between, "The Sea, Mendeho, and Moonlight" provide a vital legendary background for VanderMeer's imaginary city, Veniss (see Veniss Underground [BKL Mr 15 03]), and other lovely, fantastic places are so well conjured that their most surreal elements seem veristic. Regina Schroeder
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JV
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:27 am:   

Denver Post review:

http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~26~2288919,00.html
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JV
Posted on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 06:25 am:   

Short review at SciFi Dimensions
http://www.scifidimensions.com/Aug04/secretlife.htm

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JV
Posted on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 12:37 pm:   

A very cool review on Bookmunch:

http://www.bookmunch.co.uk/view.php?id=1464

JeffV
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EricS
Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 10:20 am:   

Ben Affleck!? I say again: Ben Affleck!!!!? (or rather bookmunch says it)

so this is the real you spent so much time in boston this past week. You've been leading a double life.
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JV
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 07:28 am:   

http://www.sfsite.com/09b/sl184.htm

Another review.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 06:16 am:   

new review

http://trashotron.com/agony/reviews/2004/vandermeer-secret_life.htm
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 06:16 am:   

new review

http://trashotron.com/agony/reviews/2004/vandermeer-secret_life.htm
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echo echo
Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 08:18 am:   

new review

http://trashotron.com/agony/reviews/2004/vandermeer-secret_life.htm
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 01:51 pm:   

Vincent Scarman hates me. And others...

http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A2CK0VXUDVXGMN/ref=cm_cr_auth/102-76 79222-1722519

LOL!

You know, I spend all of this time putting in my contracts that *no editors* can edit my deathless prose, I spend all of my other time polishing my deathless prose and living it and breathing it and now someone has the audacity to post a bad review of it on Amazon?!?!? After all the work I put into it?!?! How dare he! I think I will write a long, long rant about crappy Amazon reviewers. Or maybe I will just weep into my brandy...

JeffV

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Kathy S.
Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 07:53 pm:   

Jeff --
You're in a good company. According to this reviewer, The Year's Best is also boring, and Ellen Datlow knows nothing about editing fiction. I think the most telling quote is, "...authors who seem to have no idea how to inspire wonder in the mind of the reader. As a writer of such genre fiction myself, I am offended and appalled that these stories were published anywhere."

This is an interesting point though, that sense of wonder bit. I heard it mentioned many times, but I don't think I understand why exactly it is better than other emotions. Any thoughts on that? After you're done weeping quietly into your brandy, that is. :-)

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JV
Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 08:02 pm:   

I don't know. I like my sense of wonder carefully marinated with a true sense of what life is about. A sense of wonder is fine, but it can be a good way to let your reader and your characters off the hook, destroying the integrity of the story. I prefer a sense of wonder, too, that's really a sense of the mystery of the world mixed with a sense of epiphany. But, you know--I just write the stuff. I'm not an expert on what it means or how readers should react or shouldn't.

I was riffing off the Anne Rice thing, a bit, above.

And I just think that if I'm going to post the links to good reviews I should also post them to bad, and since this was particularly bad, I thought it appropriate...
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Kathy S
Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - 08:20 pm:   

Yeah, I got the Rice reference. I really agree with the necessity of "true sense of what life is about." This is the element which is largely missing from many of the SF classics.

I am by no means suggesting that you should explain your work, or tell readers how they should feel about it. But since the review mentioned 'sense of wonder', I grew curious as to what it meant to people. Slack jaw when things blink and change colors? Something deeper?

Anyway, I liked the book. Oh, and congrats on the Russian edition -- this publisher is rally good (at least, in terms of their book selections.)
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 06:58 am:   

Kathy:

They seem to be good in a lot of different ways. It was a significant chunk of money for a Russian sale. I'm looking forward to see what they do with it.

Okay, to seriously talk about "sense of wonder" for a second. Probably an "aw shucks--I just write 'em" response is kind of insincere. I know what effects I'm going for, of course. And they're mostly the ones I experience in my own life. It's not the moment in Spielberg's half-okay, half-not adaptation of Ballard's Empire where the kid is looking at the model planes in his room and this soaring music comes up. That's the kind of sense of wonder Disney would have you believe is something truthful.

Instead, it's either something on a smaller scale, that moment where you realize something about the underlying texture of the world that you didn't know before. For example, the best "sense of wonder" I can think of--I keep going back to this--is the one at the end of "The Dead".

What's your sense of it, Kathy? (If this becomes an honest to goodness thread, I'll probably move it to its own thread rather than continue here.)

JeffV
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Kathy S.
Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 03:04 pm:   

Jeff --

Cool. Are they getting a freelance editor, or do they have one on staff? If a freelance, do you know their name?

As to sense of wonder -- that's a hard one; I could probably write an essay about it. But for now, let me just say that for me it is usually a quiet epiphany, which comes when something familiar is cast against something strange, and thus acquires a new meaning. A description of a mile-long dragon leaves me cold; a description of a fern growing out of a dragon's shoulderblade (loosely referencing Mr. Shepards novelette here, "The man who painted the Dragon Griaule") is awe-inspiring -- precisely because I was shown something familiar, and forced to really look at it.

Disneyfied and CGI'd things don't do this for me, mostly because they fail on this deep level of recognition of familiar against the backdrop of the strange. They just show you the strange, and expect you to ooh and aah at the neat stuff, without giving you something to connect to on a profound, personal level. Did that make any sense?

Oh, and I hope this becomes a bona fide thread. I find this topic interesing.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - 07:57 am:   

A very interesting and generally accurate analysis of my story "Secret Life".

http://www.inchoatus.com/Critical%20Essays/Essay--The%20Office%20as%20Un-nature. htm

Jeff
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jeff ford
Posted on Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 07:20 am:   

Jeff: Over at SF Site, Secret Life is number five on the Editor's choice top ten list for 2004. Not too shabby. Congratulations!
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 07:29 am:   

Thanks, man! Just now checked it out. Full list here:

http://www.sfsite.com/columns/best05.htm

JeffV
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StephenB
Posted on Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 01:28 pm:   

Congrats Jeff.

Where's Trujillo? I'm not sure they read all the best stuff. On the near misses list, they have a Warhammer 40,000 novel -- now I haven't read it, but it's still dissapointing, considering the great books not even mentioned.
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JV
Posted on Friday, March 18, 2005 - 12:54 pm:   

http://ticonderogaonline.org/003March2005/reviews003.html#two

Another Secret Life review.

Jeff
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stephen beytebiere
Posted on Monday, March 28, 2005 - 04:10 pm:   

hi jeff
thanks for the reading.
did read secret life a time ago
thanks for my new secret life.
although i have quit a few of them
me and jan liked your time at Elliott bay books
that also is a secret life
stephen

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