Tor author Jeff VanderMeer has been having REM-intensive disturbed sleep, resulting in nightlong extra-vivid dreams. I’ve gone through some rounds of that myself, and aside from the disturbed sleep, it’s a lot of fun. I think my favorite sequence was when I spent the night painting pictures drawn from traditional fairy tales. I remembered the paintings in detail when I woke up, and have recycled parts of them into cover art memos.Being an author, Jeff has of course been having dreams about literary politics, his publishing house, and the editors he works with. Being an author, he has of course written about it. The literary politics show up in the first dream:
Whiling Away the Hours in the New Weird Wing of the Old Folks HomeThen Cheryl Morgan drives up and says:
Variation #1: China Mieville, K.J. Bishop, and I are sitting in moldy lawn chairs amid a sprawl of yellowing grass. In front of us is a paint-peeled white picket fence, beyond which curls a road that looks like it came out of toad’s wild ride in Wind in the Willows. Beyond that is some kind of sickly looking river. It’s not much of a view. We’re all ancient. China’s bald and so am I. We’ve both got big beer bellies, are wrinkled as hell, and are wearing discolored white tank tops and Bermuda shorts. Kirsten has the mannerisms of Katherine Hepburn, which is beginning to grate on both China and me, and is wearing a huge white hat with a yellow flower design embroidered around the brim. She has a cane that’s got a huge fake emerald in the pommel. At our back is the New Weird Wing of whatever old folks home we’re in. But it’s not much of a wing—I know in the dream it was built by some reader benefactors and apparently they didn’t have much money, because it’s a bunch of muddy tents adjunct to the main old folks home, which is made of marble, and is strictly Off Limits to us.
I’m grousing about the New Weird, something along the lines of, “I never wanted to be New Weird—fought it, actually, and yet here I am, China. Wonder how that happened? Fossilized as a Old New Weird. In a stinking old folks’ home.”
China says something like, “Oh, fuck orf, will you. How many fucking decades do I have to hear this inane prattle? I said I was sorry!” And then goes on with his own rant—which is about how he invested in stock in publicly-traded Marxist communes, and when they all went belly up, he was reduced to near-poverty conditions.
And then I say, “How many decades am I going to have to hear about Marxist communes? How many times have I told you I could care less about Marxist communes?”Kirsten breaks in with, “My, my, you’re almost like an old married couple. How cute. And takes a sip from a huge mint julip that has magically appeared in her hands. Then says something like, “But just you wait. My memoirs are coming out this month, and that’ll make me rich—again—and I’ll be out of here, and I won’t have to listen to either of you for any more decades.” …
“I just thought I’d look in on you dears and see how you’re doing. Oh my—I say, you don’t look too good. Perhaps you might want to get out of the sun.”It goes on. JV says that in the other variation, it’s Cheryl who’s stuck in the New Weird wing with them, and Kirsten who drives up in a gold convertible. Then there’s the second dream, which he remembers only in flashes of bits of scenes:
I say to her, “Why the hell aren’t you in here, Cheryl? You were part of New Weird, too, on the reviewer side. How’d you escape from this fate?”
Cheryl says, “That’s a very unkind way to speak of the largesse of your admittedly dwindling pool of readers. Why, you’d all three be out on the street panhandling or busking if not for the New Weird Wing of this fine establishment.”
“How did you escape from all of this?” China asks.“I invested in [she says a word I don’t understand; I want to think it’s “mainstream literary” but I think that’s just my conscious mind interpreting - JV) with M. John Harrison. He’s got quite a posh place up the Thames.” …
Working and Living in Tor Headquarters in the Flat Iron BuildingSounds about right, especially the part about Liz in green cammie and an AK-47. She doesn’t own those things, but someone ought to give them to her.
Flash #1: I’m in Tor Books headquarters in the Flat Iron Building in New York City. The building is one of the narrowest in the world, but in the dream, no matter how narrow it is on the outside, on the inside it’s very, very wide. So wide that one of the administrative assistants actually walks to Argentina to hand-deliver copy edits to an author, without leaving the building at any time. My editor, Liz Gorinsky, is running around with an AK-47 under one arm, wearing an army uniform and a green beret. I don’t know exactly why she’s running around. David Hartwell appears around a corner, wearing a beret that’s paisley. I say, “What can I help with?” And they both shout out, “NOTHING.”
Flash #2: Liz and David are loading writers into a truck. The truck is down below and Liz and David are on the third floor and just literally throwing the writers through a window and down into the truck. None of them seem hurt. When it’s my turn, I say, “No thanks, I’d rather stay here.” But then I see that the whole inside of the building has turned into a volcano and I realize they’re not loading writers—they’re saving books. And when I look down into the truck, it’s full of books with writer’s faces on the front cover, with various looks of dismay on them.
Flash #3: I have been hired as a medium by the entire Tor editorial staff. I am to walk back and forth through the corridors, and any time any one of them needs a medium, I am to help them. I’m now wearing both Liz’s beret and David’s beret. They’re itchy. Patrick Nielsen Hayden pokes his head around a corner, beckons me into his office. There’s a huge orange the size of a medicine ball on top of his cluttered desk. “Tell me what the hell this is? Tell me where it came from. Tell me what it’s going to do.” I say, “I don’t know where it came from. And it has already done what it was going to do.” Patrick says, “That doesn’t help me. Try to focus. What-is-it-going-to-do?” I say, “It is going to explode.” Patrick says, “Really?!” I say, “No. I really don’t know what it is going to do.” Then it explodes.
Flash #4: It’s a war zone outside and we’ve all been issued automatic weapons. I don’t know who is out there and why we’re shooting at them, but it’s very important that we hold out. [I’m tempted to say here that in the dream David Hartwell was wearing belts of ammo and manning a mounted machine gun, but that didn’t happen in the dream. - JV] Liz is running spy missions through the front lines and coming back breathless and with information like, “They’re low in the weeds, but high on the fences. They’re down with the law, but up with the clouds.” Crazy stuff. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but Patrick and David nod like it means something, so I nod like it means something. Then I jump out of the building. I jump and keep jumping and re-jumping. No matter how much I jump, I’m still in the building. It gets to be fun. I’m laughing as I’m jumping. Liz and David and Patrick are looking at me like I’m a moron. “I am a moron!” I say to them. “I am a moron!”Flash #5: The entire interior of the building has been transformed into a lake and we’re all hanging on to desks. Patrick and Liz and David (and now Jim Minz appears, for a few seconds, clinging to a desk, too) keep working as if nothing weird has happened, but we’re floating in a lake, with the shore far away, and there are things in the water—like crocodiles and sharks and eels and all kinds of nasty things. But they take no notice. They just keep editing and talking amongst themselves. I’m bobbing on top of a desk and trying to write, but I can’t keep as cool as them. I keep wanting to say, “Don’t you notice we’re ON A LAKE?” But I don’t dare for some reason. Finally, David looks up at me and says, “Where there’s no fear, there’s no love.” “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I say. He says, “You’re the medium. Figure it out.” Then we’re all swimming, abandon desks!, and the scene dissolves in the water. …