Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's Zoran Zivkovic day at the blog!

Zoran Zivkovic the speculative fiction writer, not to be confused with Zoran Zivkovic the Serbian Prime Minister, is an extremely talented writer and a nice guy on top of that. I published his excellent short piece, The Astronomer on RevolutionSF early on in my tenure, and recommend you go and read it now.

So why am I going on and on about a neat-o writer who is not the political leader of a Balkan state? Why, because he has sent me two excellent pieces of news in the last few days that I feel compelled to share with you good readers:
Zoran Zivkovic Signs with New Publisher
Aio Publishing Company Will Publish the European World Fantasy Award Winner

Charleston, SC – Zoran Zivkovic’s work can be hard to distill into a few sentences. Interzone perhaps gives it the best shot: “[T]his is sophisticated, philosophical fantasy of the highest order.”

Zivkovic, who has been variously compared to such luminaries as Italo Calvino, Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, and Stanislew Lem, has signed with Aio Publishing Company, LLC, for the American and Canadian release of three of his highly acclaimed mosaic novels, with more likely to follow.

Zoran Zivkovic's omnibus 'The Writer' and 'The Book.'Zivkovic won the 2003 World Fantasy Award in the novella category for The Library. Although he has been steadily building an American fan following, h is work has not been widely available in the American trade market until now. Consequently, publisher Tiffany Jonas of Aio says she’s pleased to announce that Zivkovic’s mosaic novels Seven Touches of Music, Impossible Encounters and Steps Through the Mist will be published under the house’s imprint starting in 2006, bringing Zivkovic’s works to a much wider North American readership.

The works will each appear as a standalone volume. “Zivkovic’s works each have such conceptual richness and depth,” says Jonas, “they really merit a significant breadth of space of their own. The thoughtful reader will want to taste the surface—to roll it around the tongue, so to speak, then let the ideas breathe. It takes time to fully digest the philosophical underpinnings and the wonders beneath the surface of each story, and that’s what we’re trying to provide.”

Zoran Zivkovic's 'The Fourth Circle'Equally artful and distinctive are the presentation formats favored by Aio. The publishing house recently won an award for its design work on Ian R. MacLeod’s novel The Summer Isles. The design was honored at the 2005 Chicago Book and Media Show, where it took top honors in the general trade category. “We’d like to push ourselves to another level with Zoran’s works, something along the lines of the quality of The Summer Isles,” says Patrick Jonas, the house’s art director, “but a bit more innovative, to match the uniqueness of the author.”

In Seven Touches of Music, seven stories revolve around music as a shared theme: a teacher of autistic students, an ordinary librarian, the buyer of a music box from a consignment store, an elderly woman in a train station, a retired scientist-turned-painter, a dying professor, and a violin-maker’s apprentice each privately encounter music in a uniquely powerful experience. In Impossible Encounters, six men in separate stories face either an impossible choice or a stunning revelation delivered by a stranger, only to find that despite his choice, his fate does not lie in his own hands. And in Steps Through the Mist, five women separately encounter time or reality twisted to startling effect.

Zivkovic and the publishing house were first connected through reader and critic William Thompson, who recommended the author to Aio after receiving a copy of The Summer Isles. The sale was made through Zivkovic’s literary agent, John Jarrold.

This is great news, in that Zoran's works will now be readily available to U.S. audiences. I've read all the above books (with the exception of Music) and have to say they're quite good, and also unusual in tone and approach to the fantastic, taking a slipstreamish/magical realism approach. It's great that more people will be able to find his work now--I mean, the English editions from Polaris were nice and distinctive, but only devoted fans of Zivkovic even knew they existed.

The other news comes via Infinity Plus, a vibrant British SF site that knows good literature when it sees it:
Talented Dreamer: an appreciation of the fiction of Zoran Zivkovic
by Tamar Yellin

Every philistine who questions what art is for should be hit over the head with a book by Zoran Zivkovic and then made to read it. The blow won't do much damage--Zivkovic is a master of concision who never wastes words or pages--but the reading might do some good. It might not, of course (philistinism is the most intractable of bigotries), but it's always worth a try, and Zivkovic himself is nothing if not an optimist.

Of course, one could make use of his fat compendium, Impossible Stories, due out in February 2006 from PS Publishing. A lusciously beautiful edition with an introduction by Paul Di Filippo and cover art by Hawk Alfredson, it contains his first five collections, Time Gifts, Impossible Encounters, Seven Touches of Music, the World Fantasy Award-winning The Library and Steps Through the Mist. Its appearance is cause for celebration, not only among Zivkovic's existing devotees but for those who will now have the opportunity to enjoy his wonderful storytelling for the first time.

Those earlier collections, or story-suites, or mosaic novels (the latter term is probably the most appropriate, since in each case the stories are deftly The Fourth Circle by Zoran Zivkovic linked to create a narrative and thematic whole), produced in a rush of inspiration after the completion of his first novel, The Fourth Circle, between 1997 and 2003, together form what I would call the first phase of Zivkovic's fiction. Teasing and clever, fantastical, witty and dark, they get the reader thinking but wear their deep themes lightly; they are mysterious, sometimes even enigmatic, but always accessible. With his later works--Hidden Camera (just out from Dalkey Archive Press), Compartments, Four Stories Till the End and Twelve Collections and The Teashop (the first two of these being available in PS Publishing's Postscripts magazine, and the last forthcoming in 2006) he has entered a new phase--more surreal, more elusive, more challenging and more strange.

And there's much more in the Infinity Plus article. So, now that you can buy these books, you should. Now. Everyone on your Christmas list you haven't bought anything for yet? Here's your answer.

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