Jeff VanderMeer

  • culture July 07, 2017

    The Gift by Barbara Browning

    Barbara Browning’s The Gift is a deeply relevant and timely novel, in part because the underlying “gift” of the title refers to the struggle to be our better selves and to expect a better collective self from our institutions. Browning also recognizes that societal wellness lives in our understanding of and generosity toward our own bodies, and that, when all else fails, our bodies—what we do with them—harbor resistance.

    Now that we’re in the midst of accelerating climate change, runaway consumerism, and the rise of Donald J. Trump, approaches to fiction that appeared relevant a decade ago are in the process of being rendered escapist, if not downright quaint. At first glance, Barbara Browning’s The Gift, with its focus on performance art and the relationship of creative people to the elements of their own existence and physicality, might appear too focused on arcane matters to speak to our moment. But this novel, it soon becomes clear, is deeply relevant and timely, in part because the underlying “gift” of

  • Mercury Station

    Although science fiction is known as a “literature of ideas,” many recent novels in the genre have been stuck in a rut of fun but safe geek technophilia or retro “boy’s adventure” stories. In a way, then, Mark von Schlegell’s Mercury Station feels both fresh and dated, because it ignores most of the current scene. Instead, the novel harks back to the heyday of such New Wave giants as J. G. Ballard, as well as such glorious eccentrics as Ursula K. Le Guin, John Calvin Batchelor, and Philip K. Dick, while shooting off stylistic fireworks reminiscent of Vladimir Nabokov.

    In 2150, Earth is an