Monday, May 25, 2020

Three Roses on Memorial Day


It being Memorial Day, Marianne and I went to Levering Cemetery for the flag-raising ceremony. We cut some roses from the back yard and left them on two graves and a memorial. The white one we left on Hetty Jones' tomb. Technically, she wasn't a soldier, but I don't think any vets would mind. She was one of many young women who volunteered to serve as nurses in the Union field hospitals. In Virginia, she caught one of the diseases that ripped through the wounded and died.. Her family  reared an elaborate marble tomb in her memory--clearly they had money. Every time I see it, I think of what a long and comfortable life she might have had if she hadn't put the welfare of others before her own.

We also left a rose on the memorial to the Virginia troopers who were killed not far from the cemetery by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. They were trapped in a barn and, if I have this right, given no opportunity to surrender. This was during the bloody mess that was the evacuation of Philadelphia, followed by the Battle of Germantown, and the retreat to Valley Forge. This was probably the darkest moment of the war for the American forces, and the men buried here, so far from their homes, might well have believed their cause was lost.

Finally, we left a rose on the grave of Choban Hoxha. He was never an American soldier but during WWII, he was captured by the Germans, so he was probably fighting for the Allies. He spent time in a Nazi prisoner of war camp and then, upon its liberation, was carried away to the Soviet Union  to labor in a work camp there. Somehow, he escaped and made his way first to Istanbul and then to America. He was a gentle, wounded soul, who made a living selling pretzels. Until his final year, no one knew his name or his story, so he was known as Pretzel Pete.

He died penniless, so the community collected money to buy him a stone and the cemetery donated the space. On the stone are the name we all knew him by and the he bore before war came along and swept him away.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Marianne on Dragonstairs Press, Me on the Couch Beside Her


Yesterday, my wife, Marianne Porter, was Zoomterviewed--is that a word?--by Mike Ziper for Fast Forward. She was witty and informative and I tried not to manterrupt--is that a word? I guess once the question is raised the answer is obvious--too much.

Anyway, Marianne was a great interview and I got to talk a little about the forthcoming City Under the Stars, the last novel by Gardner Dozois, co-written with me. The half-hour just flew by.

But don't take my word for it. You can see the interview up above.



Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Live Zooming Dragonstairs Press!!!


This is cool. Tomorrow, Marianne Porter and I will be doing a Live Zoom conversation with Mike Zipser for Fast Forward.

There have been no limits set on the conversation but I expect it to focus chiefly on Dragonstairs Press, Marianne's micropress (or, as she likes to say, "nanopress") empire. It's possible something will also be said about City Under the Stars, the last collaborative novel by the late Gardner Dozois. But whatever is said, I expect it will all be great fun.

In brief, then:

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020
1:30 p.m.
a conversation with Marianne Porter
(and Michael Swanwick)
at the Fast Forward YouTube channel

You can find the Fast Forward Channel here.

And I believe it will be archived there as well. But I couldn't swear to it.


Friday, May 15, 2020

Introductions for Gonnabes


Yesterday, I noted that I had written an introduction for The Mysteries of the Faceless King, the first book of the two volume collection The Best Short Fiction of Darrell Schweitzer. I meant to also write a few words on the art of introductions for the sake of as-yet-unpublished writers who will be facing the chore themselves someday. Alas, I was getting some productive work done on a short story so I didn't have the time.

Today, if I keep my remarks brief, I may be able to patch something together.

Blurbs and introductions, if they are effective, must have two things in common: The must be complimentary and they must be true. It does less than no good at all to slap "Like P. G. Wodehouse on giggle gas!" onto the cover of King Lear. Which means you'll have to sit back and analyze not just why you like the work in question, but what the kind of people who will be happy they bought it are looking for.

This is even more difficult when you're writing an introduction--particularly for a "best of" collection--because the reader has already bought the book, probably read it, and almost certainly formed their own opinion of its virtues.

The solution to that problem I'll leave up to you. Each book, if it's worth introducing at all, is unique. So I'm afraid I can't help you there.

But I can help with the format.

Long ago, the late, lamented, and extremely useful editor Jim Turner asked me to write an introduction to a collection of stories by a writer I admired immensely. This may have been the first such I ever wrote. At any rate, I gave it my best and sent it to him. And he immediately sent it back to me.

"Don't be clever!" he told me angrily. "This isn't about you. It's about the fiction. Say something substantive about each story in the collection. Then stop."

So I wrote a new intro from scratch. I found something  to say about the virtues of each story in the order they appeared. When I was done, I found that I'd described everything I admired about the writer's work.

It's as simple as that. You also have to come up with a beginning and an end to tie the whole thing together. But I'll trust you to take care of that little detail on your own.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Introducing the Best of Darrell Schweitzer


Look what came in the mail today--The Best of Darrell Schweitzer. It's a two volume set by PS Publishing, The Mysteries of the Faceless King and The Last Heretic, both beautifully made with coves and endpapers by World Fantasy Award winning artist Jason Van Hollander. 

I was given a set of the signed limited edition because I wrote the introduction to volume 1. Here's how my intro begins:

Once upon a time . . .
None of the stories collected herein begin with those words, though some come close. But they might as well. For Darrell Schweitzer writes a very traditional sort of story. His fiction is almost always fantasy, which is a mode nested deep in the roots of Story; usually horror, a mode as old as nightmares; and very often weird fantasy, a much more recent mode but one that is dear to his heart. Most could have been written a hundred years ago—or, with equal ease, a hundred years in the future. This is not a criticism. Timelessness is precisely what he is after.

And it goes on from there. I said a lot of things that were complimentary and I hope satisfying to Darrell's soul, all of them completely true. But what I said isn't important. The mere fact that there's a two-volume set (again,  beautifully made) of the best short fiction of Darrell Schweitzer tells you already if you want it or not. If you're a fan of Darrell's work, you'll probably buy it tonight. 

You can buy Volume 1 with my introduction here. You can buy Volume 2 with Paul Di Filippo here. Or you can Google PS Publishing and spend an hour or two wandering about the website, admiring.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Death of Aubrey Darger


To begin with, this is not a new story. What I did was to take the opening chapter of Chasing the Phoenix, the second novel-length Darger and Surplus adventure, and lightly edit it. Et voila! The Death of Aubrey Darger--a perfect, stand-alone short story.

Marianne Porter has made of this story a perfectly lovely chapbook, bound in black paper, with a label modified from Abraham Lincoln's death announcement. This is a hand-stitched, signed, and issued in an edition of 100.

She is selling the chapbooks, as usual, for far too little money. $12 in the US and $14 internationally, postage included.

More information, including how to buy one, can be found at

And if you want one . . .

I asked Marianne how many Dragonstairs publications (chapbooks, cigar box assemblages, and related forms) there have been. She told me that prior to this one, there have been 2,694 individual copies of 43 separate titles. Of these only 40 individual copies of three titles (12 of Winter Solstice, 27 of The Third Frankenstein, and 1 of Cigar Box Faust) remain.

As of an hour and 17 minutes after publication, roughly one half of all available copies of The Death of Aubrey Darger are still available.

'Nuff, as Stan Lee used to say, said.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Ten Minutes With ME


How much can I say, of any serious interest in ten minutes?

Rather a lot, as it turns out. Gary Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan, over ats at Coode Street Podcast have a series going where they ask questions of various science fiction luminaries for that brief period of time and then make the answers available on the web.

I talked about The Iron Dragon's Mother and the forthcoming City Under the Stars, of course. But I also recommended books by Carl Schoeder and Roger Zelazny that I think pretty much everybody would enjoy.

And for those of you who are on the way to become famous writers... I explained why you shouldn't hoard ideas.

You can find the podcast here. Or you can simply go to the Coode Street Podcast site here and poke around. They're interviewing a lot of interesting people. Elizabeth Hand, most recently.