None of This Is Normal: The Fiction of Jeff VanderMeer
How the otherworldly worlds created by the author of the Southern Reach Trilogy speak to—and even affect—our own
If ever a moment and a writer were made for each other, that time is now and Jeff VanderMeer is that writer. Reaching more and more readers as his fantastic fiction delves deeper and deeper into the true weirdness of our day, VanderMeer presents a unique opportunity to explore the cultural frictions and fault lines in today’s—and tomorrow’s— literary landscape.
In the first book-length study of this provocative writer, Benjamin J. Robertson focuses on the three major series that have propelled VanderMeer to prominence (his Vennis fictions, Ambergris novels, and Southern Reach Trilogy) as well as his recent stand-alone novel Borne. Most salient for Robertson is how VanderMeer grapples with the transformation of human meaning and being in the contemporary moment. None of This Is Normal reveals how VanderMeer creates fictions that directly address our Anthropocene epoch, in which humanity must reckon with the unprecedented nature of its impact on the environment and with the consequent obsolescence of its methods of representing itself in this altered world.
In Robertson’s reading it becomes startlingly clear that certain fiction, especially when willing to abandon humanist assumptions about history, has the power to not simply show us a world “out there” but to actively participate in that world. As realist fiction and even science fiction conventionally reduce the scale and complexity of the Anthropocene to human-sized dimensions, None of This Is Normal shows how VanderMeer’s work conjures what Robertson calls a “fantastic materiality”: a reality that stands apart from us as a model of thinking, irreducible to our own.
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