Monday, July 13, 2020

Puck and Till Eulenspiegel


Two old friends from my childhood have come to stay with me! That's Puck on the left and Till Eulenspiegel on the right. They're both dolls.

Till and Puck were gifts from Mrs. Kressner, our next-door neighbor, back in the 1950s. The Kresners were very good friends of the family and their son Bernie, several years older than me, was my hero. He built rockets, kept snakes (temporarily) in cages, collected butterflies, and so on. My sisters, Patty and Mary Carol and I knew that we could drop by Mrs. Kressner's house anytime and she would give us cookies or other treats she had baked herself.

I have no idea why Mrs. Kressner decided to give Puck to my sister Patty and Till Eulenspiegel to me. But I know that they survive to this day because my mother, who was a doll collector in a minor way, confiscated them both and kept them safe in a cabinet with her own dolls.

When I went off to college, I realized that I was going to be traveling light for the next decade, and I gave Til to my sister Mary who, I knew, would appreciate him. And that was that.

Until a couple of weeks ago, when out of the Blue Mary Carol sent me Till, which I thought extremely generous of her. Then, learning of Mary's gift, Patty sent him Puck. Which knocked me flat.

So Till and Puck are united. I haven't found the right place of honor in which to display them yet, but I will.

Both Puck and Till Eulenspiegel are tricksters and as such, a secret but very real presence in my fantasy. I thought of them often when I was writing the Iron Dragon trilogy.


Friday, July 10, 2020

The Book of Dragons


I'm in print yet again! My story, "Dragon Slayer" is in Jonathan Strahan's new anthology, The Book of Dragons. 

Back when I was a teen, I really needed this book--and nothing at all like it existed either. Stories about dragons were as scarce as... well, as scarce as dragons. When I first conceived of being a writer, one of my ambitions was to write a dragon story someday. A dragon story for adults, I mean, not one of those charming, served-up-with-a-tolerant-smirk things they fed children.

And now, after writing three dragon-haunted novels, I find a story of mine in the book I needed and couldn't have all those long years ago.

But I'm supposed to give you a hard sell for this thing. So here it is:

This book contains stories and a couple of poems by:

Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Seanan Maguire, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, me, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang.  Beautifully illustrated by Rovina Cai (the cover is below but there are also interior illos for every story).

You can find the announcement here.


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Vacuum Flowers EBook Salw TODAY ONLY!!!


Open Road Media, my very active ebook publisher, is having a one-day sale of Vacuum Flowers. TODAY ONLY (that's  Thursday, July 9) it goes on sale for $1.99. So if you've always been curious and like to read ebooks, this is your chance. Vacuum Flowers is loads of fun and ever so well written.

And that's as close to a hard sell as I'll ever get.

And here's the boilerplate:

ISBN13 Title Author Promo Type Country Start Date End Date Promo Price
9781504036504 Vacuum Flowers Swanwick, Michael ORM - Early Bird Books NL US 2020-07-09 2020-07-09 $1.99
9781504036504 Vacuum Flowers Swanwick, Michael ORM - Early Bird Books NL CA 2020-07-09 2020-07-09 $1.99

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Monday, July 6, 2020

"Artificial People" in Clarkesworld


I'm in print again! My story "Artificial People" is in the current issue of Clarkesworld. 

"Artificial People" was plotted out during Sparks and Embers: a Lyric Fest concert at  The Academy of Vocal Arts. The concert was described in the program book as "Imaginative song pairings to ponder the spark of new life, new seasons and new love, with the embers of endings."

So now you know where stories come from and what my story is about.

 You can find my story here. Or just go to and wander about.

And while I'm lockdowning . . .

I have often observed that when I'm my most productive, I look the least so, and when I'm the least productive is when all the stories in the pipeline appear. Right now is the exception. "Artificial People" is the first of several stories coming out soon and I'm simultaneously working on at least a half dozen projects at once.

But am I content? No. Because I'm not currently working on a novel.

Gonnabe writers, take this lesson the heart: You will never be happy. I once heard George R. R. Martin complain that a story of his wasn't going to make it onto the Nebula ballot, while holding two fresh-won Hugo Awards in his arms.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

a writer's diary

I finished a story on Friday but had mixed feelings about it. It seemed simultaneously too weird and yet ultimately not strange enough, not enough of a challenge to our common beliefs, to justify the liberties I had taken with it. So I showed it to Marianne and Sean. Marianne was unsure what she thought, but expressed hesitations. Sean, of course, knew exactly what he didn't like about it and told me.

I had been planning to shove the thing in the pie closet and forget it for a few years. But their comments, when put together inside my skull, made me realize how to fix it. So I jotted down a few notes and I'll do the revision Monday morning. Then put the story into the pie closet for God knows how long.

Marianne thinks it may be unpublishable, for reasons that seem eminently sensible to me. But this has never been a sensible occupation. Anyway, if it isn't publishable, it will give scholars something to find in my papers. A small frisson for them, a little joke for me.


Monday, June 29, 2020

My Virtual Weekend


I had two virtual events over the weekend. One I saw but did not actively participate in. The other I anticipated in but did not see.

First was the Locus Awards Ceremony. I watched some panels and then the ceremony itself. My novel, The Iron  Dragon's Mother was up for Best Fantasy Novel... and lost. Which happens rather a lot. Marianne got curious and went to Wikipedia, where she found that only Robert Silverberg, Gardner Dozois, and Ellen Datlow have more Locus Award nominations than I do, though many others have more wins. 

So I'm the loser-est. Woot!

Anyway, it was fun. I wore my most colorful shirt (that's it up above) , and I wholeheartedly congratulate all the winners.

Meanwhile, in China, it was Youth Art Week.  So the Future Affairs Administration partnered with the China Academy of Arts to present a forum with the theme "Bits, Genes, Arts, the Future and Past of the Human Mind." Which is, you'll agree, a pretty big theme. For my part, I was asked to do a ten-minute presentation on communicating with human beings a thousand years in the future. So I did, and it came out pretty well.

If you're curious, you can see a video of my presentation here.

Like everyone else, I'm beginning to think this whole coronavirus pandemic thing is pretty boring. So it was pleasant to feel connected, briefly, with friends on the West Coast and in China. I'm grateful for that.

And speaking of Connie Willis . . .

As always, Connie Willis did a wonderful job emceeing. She makes it look effortless. In fact, she did so good a job, I think she should consider taking a leaf from the Romans by having a minion standing by her shoulder while she's entertaining the crowds to occasionally murmur, "Remember you're writer."

Just so she keeps on with the novels and stories.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Devil's Ways


I'm in print again! My quite charming story "Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown" has been reprinted in Devil's Ways, a Dragonwell Publishing anthology assembled by Anna Kashina and J. M. Sidorova. I haven't seen a copy yet, but just look at those names!

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about it:

The Devil goes globe-trotting in this eclectic anthology that explores the many guises of the Dark Lord across cultures and ages. Persephone D’Shaun’s shocking “Nzembe” is a twisted tale of zombie-like creatures set in the plains of Africa with an ending some readers will find hard to stomach. An unnamed girl tries to steal back her heart from her winged lover in R.S.A. Garcia’s lyrical “Fire in His Eyes, Blood on His Teeth,” which draws from Caribbean folklore and the legend of Nanny of the Maroons. Feminist themes carry through many of the tales. Imogen Howson’s “Frayed Tapestry,” which follows an amnesiac woman and her manipulative husband, is a bit too on the nose, but elsewhere gender dynamics are handled more gracefully, as in “Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown” by Michael Swanwick, in which 15-year-old Su-yin follows her father into hell, where she must endure a series of horrible dates in order to save him from eternal damnation, and in Nancy Kress’s brilliant “Unto the Daughters,” a powerful reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve. Though horror fiends may be disappointed to find little blood-curdling terror, there are very few duds among these wide-ranging tales. Readers are in for a devilish treat. 

That, my friends, is what we call a rave review.

My congratulations to Anna Kashina and J. M. Sidorova for having created what looks to be one splendid book. When it arrives, I plan to put down whatever I'm reading and devoour every word of it, from cover to cover.

Except for my story, of course. I already know how that comes out.

You can find the book on the Dragonwell Publishing page here. Or, you know, have your local independent bookstore order it. Those guys are on the front lines of civilization and we want them still in business when the coronavirus is no more.