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VanderMeer, Jeff

Entry updated 16 October 2023. Tagged: Author, Editor.

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(1968-    ) US editor and author, married to Ann VanderMeer, who began to publish work of genre interest, after at least one story published in college, with "So the Dead Walk Slowly" in Fear for November 1989, and who is probably best known for the Ambergris sequence of novels and tales, which begins with two novellas, Dradin, in Love: A Tale of Elsewhen & Otherwhere (1996 chap) and The Hoegbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris by Duncan Shriek (1999 chap) – both assembled with considerable additional material as City of Saints and Madmen: The Book of Ambergris (coll 2001; exp vt City of Saints and Madmen 2002) – and continues with Shriek: An Afterword (2006) and Finch (2009). Although the City of Ambergris itself gives off a Dying Earth ambience, the series is not in fact fixed into an sf chronology, and reads as Equipoisal between sf and fantasy, adroitly unfixed to any genre bondage [for Dark Fantasy and Weird Fiction, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below; VanderMeer would almost certainly prefer to think of his work as contributing more significantly to the latter mode]. Shriek is a family romance of considerable intensity; Finch adds noir topoi to the previous admixture, featuring a human detective tasked with uncovering a double murder: one of a fellow human; one of a member of the "spore-based" species now ruling the city. Though the earlier stories assembled as City of Saints and Madmen show the influence of various writers, including J G Ballard, Jorge Luis Borges, M John Harrison and Michael Moorcock, these influences have been successfully absorbed in his more recent tales, where the agglutinations of earlier work are far more subtle.

VanderMeer's association with the tradition of weird fiction has been salutary, as his two central anthologies to date – The New Weird (anth 2008) with Ann VanderMeer and The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories (anth 2011) with Ann VanderMeer – have done much to formulate (and effectively to create) that tradition. The Weird is particularly important, as it comprises a vast and exceedingly ambitious attempt to represent weird fiction as a significant (and generically describable) spectrum of Fantastika (see New Weird); it won a World Fantasy Award as best anthology. Much of his fiction is not unnaturally best understood within the frame of this ongoing project; very little of it can be thought of profitably as pure sf, and is not here described in detail. The Veniss tales assembled in the various iterations of Veniss Underground (2003) [see Checklist for details] are a partial exception, though its Urban Fantasy architectonic [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] shapes the telling of the tale, whose various protagonists penetrate further and further Underground into the Parody City-scape far beneath Veniss itself, where they are transformed into Cyborgs and/or Monsters whose features and favours grotesquely ape their daylight natures. Increasingly, VanderMeer is shaping his work into a project of recognition whose focus is the times to come.

More concisely, and with greater narrative control, the Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy sequence comprising Annihilation (2014), Authority (2014) and Acceptance (2014), all three assembled as Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy (omni 2014), explores a similar venue, where Southern Gothic imagery combines with Urban Fantasy psychogeographies to generate a sense that Area X is a kind of Little Big Pocket Universe or Zone, accessible through Portals located somewhere deep in the northern swamps of what seems to be Florida [for Urban Fantasy, Little Big and Portal see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]; some of the imagery evokes the cosmic horror (see Horror in SF) of H P Lovecraft. Annihilation won the Nebula as best novel and was adapted for Cinema as Annihilation (2018), directed by Alex Garland. Borne (2017), which initiates the loose Borne sequence, is also richly concise, a narratively energized portrayal of a nameless City which, though the tale is designatedly set in a Near Future dominated (as in Southern Reach) by a mysterious corporation, generates a fecund Ruined Earth ambience, layers folding into more layers as the narrator discovers the eponymous talking cephalopod in the fur of a gigantic Genetically Engineered bear that ravages the city: and all, as it were, have their say. The first third of the loosely connected Dead Astronauts (2019) surrealized the sf Western, with three "gunslingers" plunged into a Time Opera quest through various rule-bound worlds (see Videogame) for what might be called the origin story of an inimical world-desecrating corporation known as the Company (see Climate Change). Later sections of the tale engage in typographical games that constitute a kind of body English of the abysses and the chaos created through the ongoing destruction of the world(s). The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead, a Young Adult sequence beginning with A Peculiar Peril (2020), features a young member of the Lambshead family [for the Thackery L Lambshead anthologies see Checklist below], whose adventures in a fantasticated Alternate World combine Steampunk and mythopoeisis in a mix far looser than the term Equipoisal would suggest; visitations from Jules Verne and H G Wells shake the cage of the premise, politely.

Increasingly, VanderMeer is shaping his work into a project in which it is increasingly possible to recognize a poetics for the new century; even a singleton like Hummingbird Salamander (2021), a thriller on Ecological themes set on the Near Future Pacific Rim, contributes to the ongoing project.

Another joint compilation with Ann VanderMeer, The Big Book of Science Fiction (anth 2016), won a Locus Award as best anthology. [JC]

see also Rhysling Award; SF Site.

Jeffrey Scott VanderMeer

born Bellefonte, Pennsylvania: 7 July 1968





  • Veniss Underground (Canton, Ohio: Prime Books, 2003) [Veniss: pb/Damon Andrews]
    • Veniss Underground/Balzac's War (London: Macmillan/Tor, 2004) [exp vt of the above as coll: adding "Balzac's War" which first appeared 1997 The Third Alternative #14: Veniss: pb/Larry Rostant]
      • Veniss Underground (New York: Bantam Spectra, 2005) [coll: exp vt of the above with additional material: Veniss: pb/Mike Dringenberg]
      • Balzac's War (Tallahassee, Florida: Cheeky Frawg Books, 2011) [coll: ebook: rev vt of the above adding "Jensible and the Metal Dragon": na/Jeremy Zerfoss]

Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy

  • Annihilation (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014) [Area X: Southern Reach: pb/Eric Nyquist]
  • Authority (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014) [Area X: Southern Reach: pb/Eric Nyquist]
  • Acceptance (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014) [Area X: Southern Reach: pb/Eric Nyquist]


  • Borne (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017) [Borne: hb/Tyler Comrie and Rodrigo Corral]
  • The Strange Bird: A Borne Story (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018) [Borne: pb/Sungpyo Hong]
    • The Complete Borne (Burton, Michigan: Subterranean Press, 2018) [omni of the above two and other material: Borne: illus/Eric Nyquist: hb/Vasily Polovtsev]
  • Dead Astronauts (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux/MCD, 2019) [loosely connected to Borne: hb/Alycia Rainaud]

The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead

  • A Peculiar Peril (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020) [Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead: hb/]

individual titles

collections and stories


works as editor



Thackery T Lambshead


Best American Fantasy

Big Book

individual titles

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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