Getting to know Jeff VanderMeer

We have a fantastic author signing this Saturday (6/10) with Jeff VanderMeer. He wrote the NYT-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy. He has won the World Fantasy Award three times, in addition to the Shirley Jackson Award and Nebula Award. Annihilation, the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy, will be hitting theaters in 2018. Check out our interview with Jeff below and make sure to come out to our signing from 2-4pm. 

1. Area X has elements of the uncanny, specifically the doppelgangers. Could you elaborate on how you’ve incorporated elements of the uncanny to science fiction?

(J): I just thought about tropes and situations from uncanny, weird fiction traditions, which is what I come out of…and then the ways in which an encounter with the alien unknown would register as a haunting or something supernatural to the human beings that encountered it. So I think keeping that idea in my head helped the most. At base, too, I’m always thinking about what it means to be human and how we can look at the world in a different, more interesting way.

2. I'm  originally from Southwest Florida, and I really connected with the biologist in Annihilation and Rachel in Borne. I grew up by the ocean and took class trips to the Big Cypress National Preserve. I loved the incorporation of marine biology in these stories and I was wondering how you tried to capture the wildlife of Florida in your books? 

(J): I just tried to be true to the area by making sure the details were all first-hand details. I think there’s an extra weight and genuine quality when you do that that readers notice. I’ve also been charged by wild pigs out at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, had an encounter with a Florida panther, and other experiences from all of my hiking that make it into the books.

3. What advice would you give aspiring science fiction or speculative fiction writers?

(J): I don’t really think about things from a genre or non-genre perspective. When we teach, we have students who write all kinds of things. So the advice is the same: write what’s personal, what interests you, and don’t worry about trends or fads. Don’t look for easy solutions, either, in terms of revision and putting in the time on your work. You should learn to love revision as much as the white-hot-heat of inspiration.

4. How did you and your wife, Ann, go about selecting the stories for The Time Traveler’s Almanac?

(J): My wife did most of the work on that particular anthology. I know that her process included making sure to look at all of the usual classics included in prior anthologies but also to revisit more esoteric pieces of fiction and to be fairly liberal about what constituted a time travel story. So she was very much aware of the tradition in the field but also wanted to mix it up and provide a wide variety of types of time travel stories.

5. What brought you to Tallahassee? 

(J): Ann lived here and when we started dating, I eventually got tired of the commute from Gainesville and moved in with her. We’ve been together 25 years and just celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary. So it seems to have worked out!

6. Annihilation is going to be released as a movie next year, which is very exciting. How has this experience been? How did it come about and have you had any hand in the screenwriting process? 

(J): I didn’t have anything to do with the screenplay or casting, but Alex Garland, the director, has been kind enough to keep me in the loop. And Paramount seems excited about the release of the movie!

-Maddie