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Jeff Vandermeer

AKA Jeffrey Scott Vandermeer

Born: 1968
Birthplace: Pennsylvania

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Author

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Book of Lost Places

Author Jeff Vandermeer is best known the darkly humorous and somewhat surreal fantasies Dradin, in Love (1986), The Book of Lost Places (1996), City of Saints and Madmen (2001), and Veniss Underground (2003). As the founder of Ministry of Whimsy Press he has helped publish a string of unusual and innovative works, including Stepan Chapman's award-winning The Troika. His articles and reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, SF Eye, The New York Review of SF, and various other print and online publications. Along with co-editor Mark Roberts, he won the 2004 World Fantasy Award for The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases, an anthology of slightly twisted speculative fiction. A Locus Online poll ranked him in seventh place among currently working sci-fi and fantasy writers.

Jeffrey Scott Vandermeer was born in Pennsylvania in 1968 but spent much his childhood abroad. He grew up in the Fiji Islands, where his parents served in the Peace Corps, and spent an extensive amount of time in India. His time abroad, which also included travels through Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal, Kenya, and Peru, formed in his mind an early impression of the world as a place of strange beauty and magic. Coupled with this were continual bouts of asthma, allergies, family strife, as well as the usual challenges of travel and life abroad.

His family eventually returned to the U.S. and resumed a more typical mode of life, a development that was itself a kind of shock for him. Still, even in this setting he developed a knack for ferreting out strange and interesting places, and for turning the mundane into something unusual. He recounts for example how he and his sister would turn afternoon bike riding into a quest to get from one side of town to another without being seen, taking hidden trails and passages through woods and city.

By age seven or eight he was producing a fair amount of poetry and by sixth grade he had written his first short story, a fable of two clever foxes. Impressed with the Greek adventures he was reading about in school he also began he own heroic tales, based on an Atlantean, Draco. By college he was clear about his desire to take up writing as a profession. Originally he had entered the University of Florida to major in journalism, but he became disillusioned with the quality of instruction available in many of the courses. At the same time, Vandermeer admits, he was, by nature, poor at applying himself to subjects that didn't appeal to him. The creative writing department at the University of Florida, or rather its staff, also did not appeal to him, so he dropped out.

Vandermeer set out instead on his own unusual career path, perhaps inspired by the example set by his parents (his mother, who holds an M.A. in East Indian Folk Art is a painter and biological illustrator, working a Ph.D. in French graveyard art). Eventually he founded his own small publishing house, the Ministry of Whimsy Press, which he operated independently for quite some time before being taken under the wing of Night Shade books. There has been some indication that Vandermeer might to return to more thorough control and management of Ministry of Whimsy; however his growing success as an author and an editor, had dictated the need to put the press on hiatus.

Wife: Ann Kennedy (m. 2003)

    World Fantasy Award

Official Website:

Author of books:
Dradin, in Love (1986, novel)
The Book of Lost Places (1996, collection)
City of Saints and Madmen (2001, collection)
Veniss Underground (2003, novel)
Why Should I Cut Your Throat (2004, non-fiction)

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