In VanderMeer territory

14 May

Arc 1.2, out May 28, is proud to feature the dizzying, moving fiction of Jeff VanderMeer.

An entrepreneur, publisher, editor and multi-award-winning writer, Jeff is best known as the godfather of the “new weird” – a self-made ur-genre for all those awkward, eccentric, iconoclastic voices that chafe at the edges of fantasy and science fiction.

For our second issue, Jeff has drawn on a lifetime of travel, dislocation and culture shock (his parents worked for the Peace Corps; there aren’t many places he hasn’t seen) to create Komodo, a story that packs science fiction’s sense of wonder into a dying woman’s words to a young child.

It starts in a strange place, I’ll admit, inside of a giant green plastic alien head. I was all dressed up. I was on my way to a party. Let’s say the party celebrated something like the Day of the Dead, and that I was in a hurry to get there.

The weight of the head made me stagger back and forth like a drunkard until I got used to it. The smell had a kind of intoxicating effect, which might also explain part of the staggering… and it made me feel a kind of extraterrestrial clarity coming on, like the mysteries of the universe might soon be solved, or some small part of them. So this is what it’s like to be free, was one thought, with this giant head on my shoulders, my arms pinned, and the second thought was: it’s so green out there. The birds were green. The garbage collectors were green, and so were all the cars. Did I say I was moving fast? Staggering, yes. Running, yes.

Angelic beings have given this ordinary woman an extraordinary afterlife. But having experienced what, in every sense, is the high life, she now runs the risk of becoming, day by day, less than human.

Our limits define us. Every being, however exalted, needs a skin. Happily, language offers us a way to explore the world beyond our boundaries. Throw the words back on themselves, heap meaning upon meaning, and language can begin to grasp the world’s sheer scale.

Jeff being Jeff, there’s a lot of fun to be had in this paean to poetry. Science fiction always struggles with the sheer amount of information it needs to convey. Most writers try to disguise this problem. Jeff flaunts it.

A Seether is something ancient from the future, a refutation of everything you think you know about physics. It is not exactly immortal but not exactly mortal; it exists in a state between, continually resurrecting itself from the memory of the ghosts of its own decay. For all I know it calls upon all the coiled energy of whatever black hole happens to be closest, too. You can forge an alliance but you must know that not all Seethers are sane. When even the angels don’t know what end game the celestial bears are playing, you have a right to be wary about the ally you’ve chosen… especially one you’ve bribed with rotting honeycomb and a bag of ghost frogs. (That was a lot to absorb, I know, but some of it has to come in bursts or we’ll be here all afternoon.)

Never mind the two World Fantasy Awards, the numerous nominations, or the fact Jeff’s been translated into over twenty languages. We reckon the editor of  The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases has entrusted us with his best short fiction in years, and that’s saying a lot.

Jeff’s Komodo rubs shoulders with Nick Harkaway’s Attenuation in Arc 1.2, available May 28 for phones, tablets, and e-readers and as a collectible print edition. Keep watching for further news, snippets and exclusives. Visit us on Facebook and bathe in the symphonic easy listening of @arcfinity’s tweets

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