“An Officer and a Gentleman,” the Romulus Buckle Prequel Short Story

My “An Officer and a Gentleman” short story is available for download from Amazon. The tale is set in the world of my Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin steampunk adventure series, and in it the young Lieutenant Romulus Buckle faces his first great test under fire when his armed trader airship Bromhead is attacked and boarded by pirates.

An Officer & a GentlemanIn writing “An Officer and a Gentleman” my primary focus was to give a series reader the rousing action and adventure they expect but also to reveal a crisis point in Romulus Buckle’s earlier life which can be considered important to the development of the older character they know in the novels. I had long been ‘aware’ of this event and its ramifications but it was illuminating to sit down and flesh it out so specifically. Things popped up that I didn’t expect, elements that inhabited the threads of the story tapestry all along–it was just that I, the storyteller, hadn’t consciously discovered them yet. The events are bloody, tragic and heartwrenching, and Romulus’ experience aboard the Bromhead very much colors the way he handles romantic love and danger later on. The reader also gets an opportunity to see a little more of his beloved sister Elizabeth who has been a mysterious figure so far.

If you are new to the Pneumatic Zeppelin series please read the series book introductions below, and I have provided links to the first two full-length novels.

City of the Founders CoverRomulus Buckle and the City of the Founders: in a post-apocalyptic world of endless snow, eighteen-year-old Captain Romulus Buckle and the stalwart crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must embark on a perilous mission to rescue their kidnapped leader, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the impenetrable City of the Founders. Steaming over a territory once known as Southern California–before it was devastated in the alien war–Buckle navigates his massive airship through skies infested with enemy war zeppelins and ravenous alien beasties in this swashbuckling and high-octane steampunk adventure. Life is desperate in the Snow World–and death is quick–Buckle and his ship’s company must brave poisoned wastelands of noxious mustard and do battle with forgewalkers, steampipers and armored locomotives as they plunge from the skies into the underground prison warrens of the fortress-city.

Captain Romulus Buckle must lead the Pneumatic Zeppelin and its crew of never-do-wells on a desperate mission where he must risk everything to save Balthazar and attempt to prevent a catastrophic war which could wipe out all that is left of civilization and the entire human race.

Cover for Engines of WarRomulus Buckle and the Engines of War. The frozen wasteland of Snow World—known as Southern California before an alien invasion decimated civilization—is home to warring steampunk clans. Crankshafts, Imperials, Tinskins, Brineboilers, and many more all battle one another for precious supplies, against ravenous mutant beasts for basic survival, and with the mysterious Founders for their very freedom.

Through this ruined world soars the Pneumatic Zeppelin, captained by the daring Romulus Buckle. In the wake of a nearly suicidal assault on the Founders’ prison city to rescue key military leaders, both the steam-powered airship and its crew are bruised and battered. Yet there’s little time for rest or repairs: Founders raids threaten to shatter the fragile alliance Buckle has risked everything to forge among the clans.

Even as he musters what seems a futile defense in the face of inevitable war, Buckle learns that the most mysterious clan of all is holding his long-lost sister in a secret base—and that she holds the ultimate key to victory over the Founders. But rescuing her means abandoning his allies and praying they survive long enough for there to be an alliance to return to.

Romulus Buckle III Final Luminiferous AetherRomulus Buckle and the Luminiferous Aether (COMING Spring, 2015) Romulus Buckle’s search for Elizabeth, his missing sister, takes him into the treacherous depths and political intrigues of the great underwater steampunk city of Atlantis.

SteampunkUsersManual-850Also, if you are a steampunk fan I’d highly recommend The Steampunk User’s Manual by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovitch. It is a sumptuously designed book which explores various aspects of the steampunk movement/universe and also features a wonderful diagram of the airship vs. kraken battle (by artist Jeremy Zerfoss) from Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War.

Author Stant Litore Cometh, Bearing Gifts of the Terrible Fantastic with ANSIBLE

Hello people of the digital aether! I’d like to welcome sci-fi author Stant Litore back to the Bag of Good Writing Blog once again, and this time he comes bearing some high-cool-factor gifts. Stant has just begun a free offer promotional tour of his haunting, fantastic ANSIBLE STORIES (Ansible 15715, 15716 and the soon-to-be-released 15717) sci-fi horror series and that’s what we are here to discuss today. I’ve read these tales of brave new worlds and they are amazing in their imagination, emotion and scope. Stant is always a great interview, so let’s take a peek inside the Ansible crucible and other things Stant Litore.

Oh, and Stant’s first Gift of the Terrible Fantastic is here: get the first Ansible (15715) on Kindle FREE at this link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JTJVRPK

Litore Ansible“Please hear me. We are all in danger, the most terrible danger; we are all going to die terrible deaths. If you can hear me, if anyone can hear me, remember these words. Please. Pass them on to your children, and to theirs. You are our one hope…” (Ansible 15715)

The Interview

Q) Welcome back to A Bag of Good Writing, Stant. Since you are offering free downloads of your Ansible books in succession, plus close to bringing out a new installment in your Ansible short story series (Ansible 15716, perhaps the best of the amazing installments so far), I thought we’d focus on that for a bit. I’d like to ask you about the inception of the series: what was the idea, thought, image, etc. which first lit up your brain as to the possibilities of creating the world and characters of Ansible?

A) My brain is a place of strange, random connections. I was reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At the Earth’s Core (which is nothing like Ansible); it was my first time reading it. The species of predatory pterosaurs fascinated me, and my brain took off on a random chain of brainstorming about predation and predatory species, and that started me imagining the world that we visit in Ansible 15715. Below the surface, I was probably haunted by images and ideas from William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, a work of weird fiction from the very early twentieth century. Around the same time, I was bothered by the way that my countrymen and countrywomen are deeply fearful of Islam and yet seem to know nothing about it other than a few media stereotypes. Religious studies is my passion, and that always feeds my fiction.ansible15716_small
Those three things – the concept of a predatory species living off humanity and what that might actually look like; creepy images from The Night Land; and a subconscious thought that scifi should be doing more to grapple with our neighbors in the world and their legacy in the future – that all boiled together into one infernal brew and produced Ansible 15715, the first of a series of stories about twenty-fifth century Islamic explorers who become marooned in alien bodies on alien worlds, and have to wrestle with that experience.

In this future, the wheel of history has spun round again, and as in Europe’s early Middle Ages, the center of knowledge and learning and science in the world is once again the Near East, not the West. The world is slowly recovering from environmental devastation, and a research facility known as the Starmind Project is sending humanity’s first explorers out by transferring their minds across time and space. What they encounter out there is always stranger than they expect, and in these encounters, our intrepid explorers have to face how strange they are becoming to themselves.

Q) Do you have a finite structure for the Ansible series? Do you know how many stories it will contain and exactly what pieces of the puzzle they are? Or is Ansible open-ended and now, once the scenario is set, you write about whatever stories and characters come to you from the creation-mists?

A) The series is open-ended with several future plot points and ideas that I will keep carefully secret. I know where it is going in broad outlines, but I am discovering along the way what strange worlds we will visit as a part of that. Like the Ansible teams, I am groping in the dark. But it is marvelous. I don’t know how many stories there will be; certainly more than ten, probably more than twenty. We will find out together!

Q) Without spoilers, what new element(s) does the latest story 15717 bring to the Ansible universe?

A) A fierce rain forest planet that truly will astound you; an array of characters – unlike our previous explorers, the heroine of Ansible 15717 is among other survivors of her team; a haunting look at loss and change, both cultural change and environmental; some really beautiful vistas; and a deeper portrayal of a strong Muslim woman.

Ansible 15717Q) Have you considered writing a novel set in the Ansible universe? Was that something you considered early before deciding to attack it as a short story series? Or was the short story series immediately suited to what you wanted to do from the beginning, because of Ansible’s episodic/mission-based structure—it certainly works well in that format.

A) I love short fiction, and that form is well suited to Ansible, but I certainly have some interest in a possible longer story. I don’t know what that story will be yet, but this is a distinct possibility. I actually started, though, with just one brief story in mind; a story that I wanted to make so unnerving and so beautifully horrific that it would crawl inside the minds of its readers and live there for a while. I’m afraid it was so much fun, though, that once I started I couldn’t stop, and I was thinking up more stories.

Q) You have become a member of the online Patreon program. Can you tell the readers a bit about that, and how they can support you if they so choose?

A) Patreon is a huge part of my writing career. Patreon members see all of my work first, they get copies of everything I write, they get to participate in early conversation with me about new stories and new ideas; they also tip me on a monthly basis (at an amount they each choose) for my fiction. Royalties are, for most writers, a very tiny flow of income; Patreon allows me to reimagine what it means to live and work as a writer, it provides the funding to try riskier (and more worthwhile) stories, and it allows me to connect more closely with my fans. That’s hugely important to me. Storytelling is a communal act. If you are interested on joining me in this adventure, come take a look at: http://www.patreon.com/stantlitore

Q) If you can pick one writer—and I know this it tough—but pick one name of a writer whose work has amazed and inspired you.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeerA) I’ll just pick the most recent, then. Jeff Vandermeer. His Southern Reach trilogy is honest, bold, breathtakingly beautiful. He is one of several living writers that I go to when I want to really learn what you can do with a story. And his Southern Reach really affected me emotionally as a reader, with its sad beauty and its inescapable reminders of how much of our ecosystem we are losing or will lose or will risk losing.

Q) As you know I am a huge fan of Jeff VanderMeer as well. Tell us a bit about Mr. Stant Litore. What is your favorite drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)? What is your favorite local restaurant? What/where is your sanctuary from the world?

A) Sangria. I drank a glass of sangria up in the Pyrenees Mountains talking with good people and watching the mists, a long time ago. Ever since, that drink has been special to me.

My favorite local restaurant is the Little India, because it has such good food – they bring you plates that steam and kill you with anticipation – and because I met my wife there and I fell in love there.

Q) The new Ansible 15717 is about to be unleashed upon the cosmos. What’s next?

litore_sitlA) More Ansible stories! There are some dangerous things happening in that universe, and my readers are anxious for more. I also have in mind a couple of projects in the world of The Zombie Bible, my series of novels and novellas retelling biblical tales and church legends, placing periodic zombie epidemics in our distant past. (Think The Walking Dead, 3000 years ago, and you will have some idea.)

The Ansible Stories will be my playground for a while. Discovering unexpected worlds, watching an array of characters wrestle with the vastness and the strangeness of our universe, and putting on the page some of the creepiest, most unnerving experiences I can imagine … with each story, I get to find new things and try telling stories in new ways. I’ll do it until I run out of ideas. I never want to tell the same story twice.

End of Interview

*(All of the Ansible series book cover art was created by Roberto Calas)

Stant Litore Biography

Stant Litore 2Stant Litore is the author of The Zombie Bible series, Dante’s Heart, the Ansible Stories, and the novella The Dark Need (part of the Dead Man series). He has an intense love of ancient languages, a fierce admiration for his ancestors, and a fascination with religion and history. He doesn’t consider his writing a vocation; he considers it an act of survival. Litore lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters and is at work on his next book.

 

www.stantlitore.com

http://www.facebook.com/stant.litore
@thezombiebible
zombiebible@gmail.com

Interview with Jeremy Zerfoss, Locus Award Winning Illustrator Extraordinaire

As people who rub shoulders with me probably know, l am a huge fan of Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, which just won this year’s LOCUS Award for Best NonfictionWonderbook-coverThe author of the book is Jeff VanderMeer and the main illustrator is Jeremy Zerfoss (a serious congratulations to both of them is in order). Jeremy has been super kind enough to guest on A Bag of Good Writing today, so let’s get to it.

JEREMY: Sweet.

RICHARD: You live in Las Vegas: were you born and raised there or are you a transplant from somewhere else?

J: My home city is actually Coon Rapids, MN. I also lived in Nebraska for two years but the majority of my life was either in Boulder City, NV for most my childhood and then we moved to Henderson, NV which is bordering and mixed into Las Vegas, NV.

Jeremy Zerfoss ARTR: I have a retired aunt who lives in Henderson, near the Green Valley Casino. Ah, Vegas! Las Vegas has a powerful look and feel to it. Does the place where you live influence your art in any way, or not at all, as far as you can tell?

J: I love the desert and big empty spaces, so in that respect absolutely I have been influenced by the Mojave – as far as Vegas the city is concerned I think it’s had some effect on my art – I love goofy, cheesy crap with bright lights and whirly things.

photo 1b

 

R: If your art is cheesy then it’s a cheddar with one hell of a bite. Can you tell us a bit about your Tenno Art House?

J: Tenno Art House is my kinda art company – I have a deep seated love of drawing weird creatures in weird houses and I thought that’d make a cool company name. My old biz cards had this lumpy thing just hanging out in this simple boxy building and I just went from there. My friends give me a ton of grief about it though.

R: You create images with great striking power. What artists and, more specifically I suppose, illustrators, have had the strongest influence on you? I won’t be surprised if you mention Salvador Dali.

photo 5aJ: Dali is definitely an artist that I respect – he did so many things that I love, in terms of photos, paintings, art projects, etc. He really did it all.

My other main influences in terms of scope are Clive Barker’s art, along with Stephen Gammel (Scary Stories), Tim Burton is a huge one, HR Giger, Zdzis?aw Beksi?ski, Stephen Kellogg, Bill Watterson, “Berke” Breathed,  and oddly enough, Norman Rockwell.

R: The Norman Rockwell doesn’t surprise me. I think that all artists have anchor influences which inform their works in ways that are not immediately obvious, or even visible at all on a conscious level. How would you describe your art?

Jeremy Zerfoss ARTJ: I had zero formal art training (which shows, HIYOOOOO!) so I’m not even sure what to call my style – maybe surreal pastiche? Depending on what I’m doing, as in the more detailed stuff, I am learning how to properly digitally paint so instead I texture art using a mix of scanned and real world textures, pretty much the same way you’d skin textures in older 3D art. So much of it is a mix of photos and textures and scans of my skin, whatever works.

In terms of feel — goofy horror.

People have noted that I draw horrible things happening to cute creatures that just don’t seem to mind it. I always get stumped when people ask me what my style is… I landed the gig with Wonderbook because Jeff liked that I could do designs in many styles without being locked in to one main direction.

Jeremy Zerfoss ART R: That’s right up Jeff’s alley. Do you work best in a quiet, controlled environment or in a madhouse of scattered chaos? Or is it a mixture of both?

J: I’ve had to do both but my best stuff seems to come from frantic timelines with people breathing down my neck – most times it’s just sitting hunched over a desk with music cranked. My house always looks like a bomb went off – I still have reams of Wonderbook edits lying on the floor from a year ago.

R: You work a lot with sci-fi author Jeff VanderMeer and your first project together, I believe, was building the immense, sprawling and complicated visual worlds of Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. (I love this book) How did you get the job and what was your experience trying to create and execute so many artistic concepts all at once?

J: I actually lucked out on this one. A few years ago I randomly sent Jeff an email with some art after reading his short story ‘The Situation’ for the first time and picking up Finch and City of Saints and Madmen. It was just some drivel about loving his books and I thought he’d like some pieces I had made.

Jeremy Zerfoss ARTThree weeks or so later I got a reply and eventually he asked to use a piece for his new book ‘Monstrous Creatures’ special edition through Raw Dog Screaming press. So I got to design that cover from the ground up and it worked so well I’ve been his off and on artist for lots of Ann VanderMeer and his Cheeky Frawg releases along with whatever projects or April Fools jokes he felt like doing, postcards and what not.

I also got to do covers and layout work for the Shared Worlds collections (a phenomenal writing course/camp for young adults and teens at Wofford College), Datura by Leena Krohn, Jagannath: Stories by Karin Tidbeck and a collection called The Explorer and Other Stories by Jyrki Vainonen.

Jeremy Zerfoss ARTHe offered me a chance to do the art and layout for Wonderbook after about a year or so of working together, which we do well at, and it became this crazy two year whirlwind of ideas and hard work and email email email phone email. Non-stop full forward.

It was tough, there’s no lie there – Jeff has fantastic ideas and he’d hike in the morning and come back with more every day, chapters would mutate, grow, divide, change, move and finally die, only to be resurrected later or evolved into other chapters or concepts. It really is a living growing text.

The art and the ideas were the same way – we’d try one style, go another, step back, try again. The workload got so huge that I had to hand off the layout to a more seasoned designer so I could focus on the art itself.

Jeremy Zerfoss ARTJeff, myself, all the collaborators and other writers and artists and the wonderful people at Abrams itself all worked like mad to create this massive tome of beauty – I still can’t believe I’m involved with such talented people.

R: Well, Wonderbook is a masterpiece, period. I use it a lot. I have heard mention of something called the “free texture community.” Are you familiar with it? Do you use it in your art?

J: I use a lot of textures in my art, from stuff I make myself to scans of lines, ink, dirt, flesh from people that upload these lovely hi-res textures online for use for whatever – I like to provide my own as I make them as well. This goes back to this pastiche method, which is really not the right term – it’s more like recontextualizing textures to make something new.

R: I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to have you illustrate something of mine, the airship/kraken battle in my steampunk novel Romulus Buckle & The Engines of War. I loved what you did with it! (I have included a little glimpse of Jeremy’s art here) A Zerfoss teaser of the kraken battleThe artwork is a part of a new project you’ve been working on with Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovich called The Steampunk User’s Manual: An Illustrated Practical and Whimsical Guide to Creating Retro-Futurist Dreams (releases 7 October, 2014). That title is a mouthful. How was working on this book different from your experience with Wonderbook?

J: Well, for one I was only in charge of doing some portions as opposed to the whole thing, so that was nice – I was thrilled to be a part of it, for sure. I had never worked on anything steam punk before so it was nice to try something new. I’m glad yah liked it – I was stressed on that one since I had never attempted anything like it. The response from your fans online was awesome.

SUMThe actual image is huge, almost 60 inches across I think and I got so distracted that I didn’t realize until it was finished how crazy huge it was – the kraken I had to do twice because I misread what was sent and realized I had missed the description in my email somehow, so there is the real kraken that was used, proto-kraken and the Zerfoss space jelly monster that was banished forever.

R: LOL. I’d like to see that Zerfoss space jelly monster sometime! (Jeremy did send it to me later, actually – its wild) I believe that you also made the maps for Area X for Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. Was there anything uniquely challenging about that?

jeff-vandermeer-southen-reach-commentary-area-x-map-Jeremy-ZerfossJ: Those were a lot of fun to do, another first for me so I spent hours tracing the coast of Florida and trying to make it look close to how a map would look for the period, then added layers and filters of grime and dirt to make it feel a bit more used and real.

The biggest challenge was just trying to capture the feel of a legit map and I think it worked ok for my first try – we also did tarot cards and warning signs and invented symbols for the various dangers of Area X. I have no idea how much will be used offline but the map found itself on the Spanish ARC so that was a trip to see.

R: Are you a big fan of comic books? If so, could you please list a few of your favorites?

Jeremy Zerfoss ARTJ: I was that kid who read all the weird stuff when I was a kid, like Aliens and Predator when my friends stuck to the Marvel and DC brands, but my fave comics are Hellboy and Great Teacher Onizuka. I read a lot of Junji Ito (another influence ) as well. I like anything Mignola and some select manga, along with whatever indie stuff quirks my interest.

R: What is your favorite restaurant in Las Vegas?

J: Crown and Anchor on Tropicana – great English pub and one of the few places that gets my annual Christmas cards. Great food, excellent service and the décor is awesome, plus dog friendly so you can take the pooches.

R: I’ll check out the C&A next time I’m there. What are you working on now, and what projects are on the horizon?

Jeremy Zerfoss ARTJ: Another cover I did just came out from Broken Eye Books called By Faeries Light, so that’s exciting and I’ll be working with them on some more books along with maybe doing some more tentative projects with other publishers and most likely a few more with Jeff as soon as we get back to normal working situations.

 I think Jeff had gotten a lot of clamour for more Wonderbook related work so there’s always a possibility he’ll call me back to that if the interest is high enough in that regard, but we have a running joke that he’ll give me a year off since we work together so much, but I like keeping busy so it’s all good.

Other than that I’m also working on a book for my family (who I owe so much too), trying to get more personal art done and looking at getting ready for Worldcon in London – Wonderbook was nominated for a Hugo and I’m in the running along with Jeff VanderMeer so I’m leaping across the pond and hoping to somehow convince them I need to hang with the Top Gear crew while I’m there.

I also might compare beards with GRR Martin.

…and I need to practice steam punk art, definitely.

 Looks like we’re done here – thanks for having me ^_^

R: Thanks, Jeremy! You’ve been an awesome guest!

Jeremy ZerfossJEREMY ZERFOSS BIO: Jeremy Zerfoss’s wild and crazy art is everywhere, including a fabulous line of stunning book covers for Cheeky Frawg Books. His prolific and abundant association with Jeff Vandermeer has produced scores of intricate and vibrant illustrations in Wonderbook and The Steampunk User’s Manual. He has also done art and design work for Symantec, BullSpec Magazine, Shared Worlds and RDS Press. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his dog Judge ‘Dredd’ and his cat Gizzer, where he runs Tenno Art House.

 OTHER LINKS

http://io9.com/5839535/jeremy-zerfoss-is-the-artist-who-never-sleeps/

http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2013/10/21/wonderbook-an-interview-with-artist-jeremy-zerfoss/

 

Brunch with author Jeff VanderMeer (and thoughts on the Book People)

Hi all,

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeerDuring the Los Angeles Festival of Books in April I was fortunate enough to have brunch with author Jeff VanderMeer and then wander old downtown in his company for a while. This blog entry is a bit of a travelogue, so here we go. Jeff was the development editor on my first two Romulus Buckle books (and the upcoming third installment) and he is a blast to hang around with. The first two books in Jeff’s new Southern Reach series, Annihilation and Authority, are blowing the lid off of the world, by the way (the third book, Acceptance, releases on 2nd September of this year). The books are intense and superb. But don’t take my word for it: look at mega-author Stephen King’s recent tweet below. Stephen King tweets Southern Reach

Wow. Jeff was in town for LATFOB and we met at the old Alexandria Hotel for brunch. The hotel’s regular restaurant, The Gorbals, hosts a weekend outfit called KTCHN DTLA and both Jeff and I agreed that the food was fantastic. I had the Habanero Scramble and I can’t remember what Jeff had, but yes, sir/madame, it all was great. After brunch we walked across the street (through a street fair) and wandered into the famous Last Bookstore, which is an interesting place to putter and hang out in. We chatted about a lot of things, about the state of publishing, steampunk, comic books and his injured knee (it was healing, I think), among countless other things. I brought along my copy of Annihilation for Jeff to sign and he even drew a picture (of what I’m not telling) in it.

The Alexandria Hotel in Downtown LAWandering a massive bookstore with Jeff, the man whose brain generated both Ambergris and Area X, is as entertaining as it might sound. Jeff has a silly, funky sense of humor which I suspect brings a wonderful undercurrent of lightness (an unbearable lightness of being/) to the often dark and twisted tales he so brilliantly weaves. He is fascinating to watch: he is always looking, digging, seeking, supplying ideas for the storygrinder that lives in his skull. We haunted the Last Bookstore for an hour or so–it is refreshing to be in a store like this, one full of well-invested employees, a sense of fun and mountains of books (plus a few book sculptures), plus that comforting, slightly burnt old book smell.

Jeff VanderMeer at The Last BoostoreIt is unfortunate that many of our neighborhood used bookstores are dying off, but hopefully it’s simply because it’s time for the little guys, battered as they are, to invent a new business model. Yes, the online stores can offer more and offer it cheaper. I purchase books on Amazon all of the time. But I–and I am one of many–I am also capable of loving a brick and mortar bookstore. I’m not talking about a big chain, mind you, the massive cookie-cutter outfits with the neat racks and pre-made, new bargain books, cookie-cutter cafes and cd and dvd sections that overwhelm the books in many ways.  I think that local bookstores, if they avoid peddling endless junk like toy collectibles, can win their customers back if they offer a unique experience, knowledgeable staff and lots of BOOKS. Me at the Last Bookstore

Book People, at least almost all that I know, love physical books. Sure, one can love a Nook or Kindle, but I get a lesser experience from the digital screen than I do from real pages, the spring of the binding, the ability to navigate half-blindly by flipping paper around. Book People love stores with nooks and crannies stuffed with old hardcovers. Book People love roughly-defined subject sections and they want to dig around mountains of dogeared paperbacks stacked on the edge of categorical nonsense, hell-bent on the thrill of the hunt and of the finger-clutched discovery.Creativity is chaos. A bookstore should be a a triumph of navigable chaos, not organization. Instead of being led by the nose through well-marked racks, Book People want to dig through a hundred tomes that they would never had seen otherwise, sneezing from the dust, crouched, lost and loving it. JV in Book Tunnel

Book People love the condescending, pimple-faced bookstore employee, the way-too-young guy or girl wearing the holed Radiohead tie-dye t-shirt with the ragged copy of Camus in their pocket, who knows exactly where each copy of everything the store has is located, tucked or half-crushed.The head of Jeff VanderMeer

Sure, if your bookstore is cool and unique enough, sell a few bookmarks and t-shirts. But give us the goods, the straight-up, unadulterated, come-as-you-are, messy cornucopia of books, and I think your store will survive, even prosper. I don’t know. I’m not a businessman. Perhaps I am all wrong. I can only tell you what would bring me in, keep me coming back and paying more to get my books from you than from an online mega-giant. The Last Bookstore fits much of the above bill, though it’s size and fame do demand some concessions. I like The Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in Long Beach. When I lived in North Hollywood I was a big fan of The Iliad, though they did have to downsize and move.

JV and LA street rabbitAs our afternoon ended, Jeff bought me coffee at a nearby Cuban cafe and we sat outside, our table mere feet from the rumbling traffic and lines of Los Angeles homeless, and Jeff assailed me with stories of the writing and convention life so funny that my face hurt from laughing. He will write a book about his experiences one day, maybe when he is ancient and all of the goofballs involved are dead (surely such a man shall easily outlive all of us), and I’ll make him do it. You can’t take stuff that good to the grave with you–its not allowed, nor is it fair to the rest of us.

So, full of far more coffee than I was accustomed to (I didn’t sleep well that night), I did bid farewell to Jeff as he headed back to LATFOB, back to the readers who love his stories, back into the arms of the Book People.