‘Everything That Promised Glory Became Gory’: An Exclusive Excerpt From Jeff VanderMeer’s ‘Dead Astronauts’
The author of ‘Annihilation’ returns to the post-apocalyptic world of ‘Borne’
This is an exclusive excerpt of Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts, a surreal and speculative novel to be published on December 3. VanderMeer is the author of the Southern Reach trilogy, which began with Annihilation, and has long led the vanguard of the New Weird movement. Dead Astronauts takes place in the world of Borne, a world degraded and collapsed, a world dominated by the Company. Here, three beings — Chen, Moss, and Grayson — enter the outer limits of the City the Company once held.
Chen could see bits and pieces of the future, “but only in equations.” A frequent lament. Numbers could attack the flesh, the will, but rarely built it up. Morale for them never lay in the numbers. He made poetry out of his premonitions, his equations, because they’d proven useless to him as fact, because he was never sure whether he was actually seeing the past. A past.
Chen liked to play the piano and to down a hearty meal with a beer. Meals because he spent prodigious energy keeping his form. The piano because it made him remember to be careful — how watchful he must be of his own thick fingers. Or this is what he said, “It makes me limber-er,” when mostly it was a link to his history. Or what had been implanted in him as history.
There had been little enough of either lately. Pianos and hearty meals. He must take his sustenance from the molecules of the air with which he often felt interchangeable, and he compared notes with Moss, because their moves through fluid states were similar, even if his was a kind of fight against evaporation or ejection and hers an overabundance of accretion, a building up.
Flesh was quantum. Flesh was contaminated, body and mind.
Chen dealt in probabilities on one side of his brain and impossibilities on the other. Because the probability was always that he would disintegrate into his constituent parts sooner rather than later. He had come to think of himself as a complex equation and a symphony both, and, really, what was the difference?