The beginning of a new year seems like a fitting time to talk about Wonderbook. Partially because if there was ever a fitting time to take up writing or tackle it with new fervor it’s now; partially because as we look forward to the next year I always find myself looking back. I received my copy of Wonderbook in 2013 as a gift from my dad. It came to me at a time when I was still learning what my voice looked like as a writer, and I devoured it.
Written by Jeff Vandermeer of Anhillation fame, Wonderbook is an illustrated guide to writing science fiction and fantasy. I have yet to find in the past 9 years a book that feels more essential to someone interested in writing speculative fiction. Vandermeer is one of the biggest contributors to the New Weird genre, and it shows in the way that he assembled this book. It’s wall to wall useful prompts and advice, but it’s also just full of incredibly strange and inspiring illustrations. I go back to this book all of the time, even still.
In 2018 the book was revised and expanded, so the edition we carry in the store isn’t exactly the same as the one I have marked up, dog-eared, and well kept on my own shelf. And honestly? Thumbing through the revised editions makes me want to pick up a new copy. A few things are missing from the original edition, but in their place are all new writing exercises, illustrations, and modules (plus, if you really want to see the stuff that got cut, they have it available for free on their website).
If you write speculative fiction, or you think you might want to give it a shot, do yourself a favor and pick up Wonderbook. I guarantee it’s worth it.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab is a remarkably whimsical experience, taking you through lives and centuries, and it filled my heart with wonder for the world.
On the night of her wedding, Adeline LaRue, a twenty three year old girl living in France in 1714, finds herself dreading the idea of marriage. She is to be married off to someone she does not love, and all that Addie longs for is freedom, adventure, and the ability to leave her small town and travel wherever she wants. Moments before her wedding is to begin, Addie sneaks out to the woods, where she had been praying to ancient gods to relieve her of the trap she found herself in. When none of these gods answered her in her moment of need, and the darkness settled in around her, Addie decided to do what she had been warned against: pray to the gods that come out at night. It’s then that she is answered by something much more sinister than she meant to contact. And in her desperation, when this devil offers her a deal to live freely and as she chooses, even at the expense of her soul, she takes it.
But what Addie does not know is that this wish was more of a curse. She became immortal, and doomed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. She can befriend someone, earn someone’s trust, but the moment they leave the room, they will have no memory of ever meeting Addie. Though she can walk through life freely, and do as she pleases, she is trapped in a never ending cycle, until she agrees to relinquish her soul to the demon to whom she called upon. For three hundred years, she has been wandering the earth, visiting country after country, experiencing life in different ages, but one thing has always stayed the same: she is never remembered. That is, until she meets a young man named Henry in a bookstore in New York City.
This book is incredibly enchanting, the writing haunting and melancholic. Every sentence has something beautiful about it, and the author uses metaphors seamlessly. Addie and Henry were very interesting and well written characters that I truly felt for and grew attached to. Schwab does a wonderful job of letting you into Addie’s world, of pulling you deeper and deeper until you lose yourself in the pages. Her story tugs at your heartstrings, and is devastating at points, but is something that I truly believe is worth reading.
Amidst the heartbreak and loneliness that takes place in the book, there is also hope, and the reminder that life can be filled with unbridled joy. I felt a bit mournful when it came to an end, because I just wanted the story to continue, for the magic of Schwab’s words to never cease. Even though this story is all about a girl who is cursed with being forgotten, this book will stay with you long after you’ve finished it.