Tag Archives: Ann Vandermeer

Weird Tales editor has insulted us all

The genres of SF, Fantasy, Horror and other styles of the fantastic have changed a lot in recent years. Those changes, to my mind, have been hugely positive. And if I can identify one cause at the heart of those changes it is this: diversity.

To use the Hugo and Nebula awards as a benchmarks, we have seen a marked increase in both women and black authors being nominated for the sector’s top awards. The discussion of genre writing online has become a great deal more politically aware, and while they were caused by failures in the sector, debates like #racefail highlight a growing awareness in our ad-hoc community. My own experience of attending conventions in the UK and America has been a happy one of encountering more and more writers from many more diverse backgrounds. A diverse SF world is a strong SF world, and should be both celebrated and protected.

But, as in the broader political landscape, not everyone in the SF community is happy about this. And I’m going to hazard a guess that one of the people it displeases is Marvin Kaye, the incumbent editor of Weird Tales, the oldest publisher of weird short fiction in the world. I’m basing this on Kaye’s choice to publish the opening chapter of the insane racist screed Save the Pearls in the next issue of Weird Tales. below is a promo video for Save the Pearls. And yes, that is a blacked up white person.

As if to highlight its growing political awareness the SF community crushed Kaye’s decision under the hammer blow of social media within 24 hours, prompting this complete retraction from Weird Tales publisher John Harlacher. Marvin Kaye himself is at the time of this writing still to comment. Let’s hope he is spending this silent time at some kind of spiritual retreat, learning some humbleness and preparing for the huge and complete apology which is his only remaining option. And even then, the background to Kaye’s decision makes me feel that nothing less than his resignation is likely to resolve the situation.

Weird Tales is one of the oldest publishers of weird fiction. A lot of what we now call horror and science fiction started in those pages. It began the careers of some cult figures in modern SF, not least H P Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu mythos and, unfortunately, petty minded bigot and racist. The genres of the fantastic are powerful ways to expose the deep dark human subconscious to the light of day and sometimes what they illuminate is nasty…and not in a good way. Were Lovecraft and other writers of his generation crusading members of the KKK? Probably not. Were many of them unreformed bigots and racists who encoded their fears in fiction? Yes, very sadly. And of course, there are still a lot of unreformed bigots and petty racists out there doing exactly that…do I need to point out that video of the blacked up white girl again?

Under the editorial direction of Ann VanderMeer, Weird Tales consciously steered away from the worse parts of its otherwise distinguished history. Ann found the best weird fiction by the most diverse writers. Weird Tales’ subscriber base tripled. It won a Hugo award. But perhaps more importantly, especially for us writers and core fans, Weird Tales came to symbolise what was good about the changes in the SF community. To put it simply, Ann VanderMeer at Weird Tales was doing good and important things, and those good and important things had only just started…

…when Ann was summarily removed as fiction editor and replaced by the new owner / editor Marvin Kaye. Kaye made it clear in his early statements that he wanted to take Weird Tales back in the Lovecraftian direction from which it had, in his view, strayed. And those of us who knew what that meant feared, it seems rightly, that what Kaye really wanted to do was exert a conservative influence and, in effect, go back to the petty bigotry that had sometimes characterised the magazine in the past.

What is most insulting about Kaye’s decision to publish Save the Pearls is that it was deliberately aimed at all those writers and readers who had loved Ann VanderMeer’s earlier editorial direction. It was an act of vandalism, taking something beautiful and pissing on it simply because you are too ignorant to understand what makes the beauty. It’s become clear the decision was both deliberate and premeditated. Kaye was explicitly warned what the outcome would be, and proceeded anyway because he wanted to deliver his insult to the magazine’s existing readership. There was no reason to publish Save the Pearls except as an an insult, and in the face of such a deliberate insult the outrage expressed towards Kaye is entirely valid and will continue.

Personally I will not be satisfied by an apology from Kaye unless it clearly communicates that he understands why what he did was so deeply insulting. Even then, I can’t conceive of any way I can continue to support Weird Tales in any form with Kaye at the helm, and hope he will find the decency to step aside and hand the magazine back to the community who it truly belongs to.

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At the Mountains of Weirdness

(I was too ill to link this from my blog when it was published on The Guardian online, so here it is now.)

 

 

I am forced into speech because men of letters refuse to act without knowing why. It is altogether against my will that I tell my reasons for opposing the publication of this tome – with its dangerous unearthing of such potent weird tales – and I am the more reluctant because my warning may be in vain. Doubt of the real facts, as I must reveal them, is inevitable. But the hitherto ignored evidence – the madness of the many authors contained in its pages and clearly inhuman determination of its “editors” – must surely count in my favour.

The Weird. The first intimations of the terror awaiting the unwary reader must surely be the inhuman scale of the tome itself. Seven hundred and fifty thousand words are contained in its pages. The Necronomicon itself has not half as many! A hundred and sixteen of the century’s weirdest fictions; the transcribed ravings of those lunatic creatures known in the mortal tongue as “writers”. Algernon Blackwood. HP Lovecraft. Franz Kafka. Ray Bradbury. Jorge Luis Borges. Mervyn Peake. Angela Carter. Michael Chabon. Through these its emissaries the weird has penetrated deep into the very fabric of our reality. And now it threatens to tear it altogether asunder.

Few are there, even among even the true adepts of the weird, that might gather such a cohort of its mouthpieces in one tome. Few with the singular willpower to perform such a fell deed of sorcery. And but one, Ann VanderMeer, the witch queen of weird herself, and the muttering curmudgeon she keeps as her familiar, with the audacity to enact such devastating events. But the blame must rest with those of us who divined their purpose but did nothing to prevent it. Long have the VanderMeers mustered their forces, honing their editorial craft in the pages of the New Weird and Steampunk anthologies, reopening the cursed pages of Weird Tales magazine that had been long forgotten. They have gathered to their banner a warrior cult of weird writers in preparation for their onslaught against reality.

Do not be fooled by the tome-like appearance of The Weird. It is a mere illusion, formed to satisfy the limited capacities of your simian flesh brain and memetic mind structure. Open your third eye, gaze into higher dimensions of the multiverse, and you will see its true manifestation. Its pulsing opalescent body. Its beaked, gaping, chewing maw as it feeds upon reality itself. Soon the chrysalid will form, and The Weird itself will burst into the the world as a radiant winged moth of metaphysical doom!

I meant only to pry apart the covers, to take the briefest glance, deluding myself that my long exposure to the weird would inure me against the tome’s most potent effects. But the portal opened vistas of weirdness I had not dared even to conceive. The Hungry Stones of poet and mystic Rabindranath Tagore and Eric Basso’s The Beak Doctor. I was shown the eruption of true weird in the work of otherwise mundane writers including Daphne du Maurier, Ben Okri and Joyce Carol Oates. And I could not ignore the ever more dangerous domination of the weird over the popular imagination of mankind through the work of its tireless servants Neil Gaiman, Stephen King and Haruki Murakami. I have no sense of how many were the days, the years, the infinities of time I wandered through the dimension of weird which this portal opened to me.

Above all else, I must warn you to fear the Miéville. His path has been prepared by the Moorcock and the Harrison and now he is among us, the anointed messenger of weird on earth! Until now he has been satisfied to bide his time, but in The Weird the full horror of his plans are revealed. For even as I record these words, the fragile tissue of fictionyou call “reality” is being eaten away by the weird’s greedy jaws and the ravenous hunger that it feeds, set free in our world by the VanderMeers through the portal of their giant tome. A sick fascination will lure the great minds of the literary establishment, wriggling and writhing like blind maggots to the brink of the portal, where the weird will infect them forever. The discourses of the academy will be replaced with insane rantings of the weird. The grand narratives of science, politics, history, that have for so long dammed the waters of reality, will burst open as the beliefs on which they were founded are undermined. And the Miéville will sit upon a throne of tentacles and look upon the the shivering masses of fandom in judgement. Only a few will be chosen to walk beside him in the weird realms beyond reality. Bow now before the Miéville. BOW! BOW! Oh help me Gaiman, my will has finally crumbled before the onslaught of the weird.

There is only one hope left for the billions who will suffer as reality collapses. Give yourself to the weird! Hurl your puny mortal body through the portal the VanderMeers have opened for you, join your lord the Miéville on the other side, give your heart and soul to the saints that stand at his feet, to the mad prophets that have prepared you for his coming. Open the pages of the new gospel of The Weird.

And for Cthulhu’s sake do not click this link.

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Steampunk Reloaded reviewed by Lauren Westwood

Lauren Westwood is graduate of Loughborough University’s MA in Creative Writing and was a project intern for the Writing Industries Conference. She is a young writer with a passion for SF and Fantasy, but had never heard of steampunk until accepting my challenge to review the Steampunk Reloaded anthology. Here she gives a fascinating insight in to how the genre seems to an outside eye.

Steampunk Reloaded
edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
reviewed by Lauren Westwood
 
I’ve grown up on a diet of Star Wars – I feed the habit often, unashamedly and without judgement. When it comes to being flung into galaxies far far away, I can’t get enough. But science fiction literature, it seems, is now an altogether different cauldron of aquatic vertebrates.
 
I’m interested sure, but I’m also the first to admit that I know next to naff all about it. Recently I’ve dipped an inquisitive big toe in the pool by sampling some Philip K. Dick; a name I’ve come to associate with ‘master’. But I’ve arrived at ‘soggy socks’ having only briefly paddled. To properly understand the genre I’m going to have get wet.
 
So, I’ve waded in with Steampunk Reloaded. I scroll along the list of names on the cover, a few of which I recognise. When I say ‘a few’, I mean it in the pure, unembroidered sense of the word. No recollection of the countless other names lining the page appear to be scrambling from the memory bank. Gibson. Baxter. But that’s it. So, where do I start? A vaguely familiar face or a stranger from the unknown? In the end, I opt to begin at the beginning.
 
What the heck is steampunk anyway?
 
Luckily, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, the architects of Steampunk and its sequel, are on hand to help explain. Modern steampunk, it appears, has derived from the Victorian fantasies which drew heavily from the steam-powered inventions that defined the period. I’m picturing a mad professor dreaming up his latest contraption over a mug of steaming PG tips. Although it’s possible that there’s slightly more to it…
 
Correct…And I’m only in up to my ankles!
 
William Gibson kicks things off with The Gernsback Continuum and doesn’t disappoint. The interconnecting realities of the alternate history he invents for 1930s America reveals that steampunk isn’t restricted by its Victorian roots. Instead it’s made relevant and resonates with a reader intrigued by new visions of a future that never was; I’m hooked.
 
Steampunk Reloaded offers a tangy taste of the genre; fab, retro illustrations set the ol’ cogs of imagination rolling in reverse and easily-digestible chunks of captivating fiction are crowned by a couple of essays about the culture itself. In identifying the connection between style and literature, steampunk author, Gail Carriger, asks Which is Mightier; the Pen or the Parasol? Here she refers to the fashion of steampunk, ‘the buttoned up brass beauty of old tech and new ideas’; an aesthetic concept that harmonises entirely with the overall design of Ann and Jeff’s anthology. It’s a work of art!
 
Having splashed about a bit, I’ve learned that steampunk is one of sci-fi’s many appendages, but it’s not a lifeless limb by any means. Alternate history, speculative fiction, time travel; these all exist under the gargantuan gazebo of literature that pokes and plays with known reality, and steampunk nestles in nicely, holding its own as a valued member of the gang. As the Vandermeers testify, the sub-genre is ‘alive and well and manifesting in a myriad of different ways’, and this collection demonstrates exactly that.

Buy Steampunk Reloaded on Amzon.com

Hugo Nomination for Weird Tales!

The Hugo nominations are out and my two of my favourite magazines, Interzone and Weird Tales, have been nominated! Both receive a nod in the semi-pro zine category. Good luck to Andy Cox and Ann Vandermeer both.

Electric Velocipede also scoops a nomination for best fanzine, so good luck to John Klima.

The John W Campbell award for best new writer is interesting as well. No idea who will win, but that is a list of writers I must look into.