Jeff VanderMeer

We went to see Jeff VanderMeer speak at Vanderbilt last night. It was really interesting. He was speaking as a part of some kind of ecology series, so his talk was a lot about writing about nature and global warming.

One thing that I thought was especially provoking and that I intend to make time to talk to the Professor about is that he argued that it’s important for fiction writers to engage with philosophy and, especially, to not get it, to flounder and be mistaken about it. To fall short and be wrong. I would go so far as to say that he sees it as equally valuable for writers to read philosophy and be mistaken about it as it is for them to read it and understand it. That as uncomfortable as being wrong is, that there’s value in wrestling with something you can’t get.

He is currently wrestling with Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects (which, go, Minnesota!) which is about how things like global warming, which are literally too big for humans to wrap their minds around, are causing all sorts of breakdowns in philosophy and such. VanderMeer put up a slide that had some of Morton’s ideas about what a hyperobject is–huge, atemportal, not located any specific spot, but having specific instances, beyond comprehension, etc. (I didn’t take notes, so those aren’t exactly right.) But, basically, “what is a hyperobject?” is the same question as “Where is Tanis?”

I haven’t read VanderMeer’s Southern Reach books yet, and I intended to buy one before the speech, but didn’t and then, afterwards, the talk was so good, I bought all three. So, oops.

I’m also going to try to get my hands on Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam. When I learned she won a Tiptree, I was like “Then why don’t I recognize her name?” But she won the same year as Caitlyn Kiernan did for The Drowning Girl, so that explains where my attention was.