City of Saints & Madmen holds a number of unique pleasures for readers with a strong sense of play and literary adventure. At least two or three elements of the hardcover have rarely, if ever, been attempted before in fiction.
"I like the idea of books as artifacts, a concept that sometimes slips away from us in this electronic era. I had a lot of fun putting this book together--working with artists, graphic designers, for example. The encrypted story turned out to be more involved than I thought it would be. The numbers in the encryption refer to words in the four main novellas. I quickly found that using an 'of' from one section of a novella created a different emotional resonance than from other sections. The reader who takes the time to decrypt the story will be rewarded by seeing both the decoded story and the four main novellas in a different light."
Readers have been beguiled by VanderMeer's strange and ancient metropolis, a city that developed in the author's imagination almost by accident. "I never set out to create Ambergris - it just sort of happened. One night, I woke up at about midnight and suddenly had this image in my head of a busy street and a missionary looking up at a woman in a third-story window. I sat down and typed out the first few pages of Dradin, In Love. After I finished that piece, I realized the setting had infinite possibilities. I've been gratified by the response from readers and critics. And I've tried to build on the original novella and flesh out a complete setting while still retaining a sense of mystery."
As Michael Moorcock writes in his introduction, "Examining VanderMeer, one is reminded of the glories of Angkor and Anudhapura combined with the bustle and swagger of Captain Conrad's Indonesia, the adventurous intrigues of Byzantium and Venice, the brutal Spice Wars of the Dutch. But sometimes it is as if Proust intrudes, insensed and reminiscent. VanderMeer describes a world so rich and exaggerated and full of mysterious life that it draws you away from any intended moral or pasquinade deep into the wealth of the world's womb."
The "mysterious life" alluded to by Moorcock manifests itself most uniquely in the form of the gray caps or "mushroom dwellers," the indigenous race slaughtered and driven underground by the first settlers of Ambergris.This event, the subsequent retaliation, and the uneasy co-existence with dangerous subterranean neighbors, has shaped most all historical and social issues in Ambergris.
"The thing that most intrigued me about Dradin, In Love, when I tried to distance myself from the text, was the presence of the gray caps. Who they are and how they fit in is something I've given a lot of thought to and will continue to explore even in the material I'm writing now."
VanderMeer's work has appeared in ten languages in 17 countries, including in such magazines and an-thologies as Asimov's SF Magazine, Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Interzone, The Third Alternative, Nebula Awards 30, Best New Horror 7, The Year's Best Fantastical Fiction, Infinity Plus: The Anthology, Dark Terrors, and The Year's Best Dark Fantasy 2001. Forthcoming books include the mass market paperback Veniss Underground, also from Prime, and the nonfiction collection Why Should I Cut Your Throat? from Cosmos. VanderMeer has also completed work as co-editor on two ambitious projects: Leviathan 3 (Ministry of Whimsy/ Prime) and The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases (Chimeric). He is 33 years old and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....Continua