Monday, June 30, 2008

Pastor Marcia's Journal

My friend, Rev. Marcia Ricketts, is working in a refugee camp in Mai La, Thailand on the border of Burma/Myanmar. She's there under the auspices of the American Baptists, teaching English and doing whatever else she can find useful to do.

Because Web access is sporadic at best in third-world refugee camps, Pastor Marcia has no blog of her own. But she's able to send e-mails on occasion to her friends in the States, and she's given me permission to post them for her.

So I've started up Pastor Marcia's Journal. I'll be posting the letters already received over the next week or so and I'll update it as the letters come in. Check it out. Should it inspire you to do likewise ... well, there's no shortage of good causes out there.

You probably thought I didn't know people like Marcia. Well, I do. We've been pals for years. There's a perfectly innocent explanation for why she refers to me as "the Prince of Darkness."

Oh, and also . . .

. . . the latest poem du jour, this one dealing with glistering and glittering.


Friday, June 27, 2008

My Career as a Chinese Columnist

Have I ever mentioned that I'm a Chinese columnist?

Absolutely true.  I have a monthly column in Science Fiction World, published in Chengdu.  It has the largest readership of any SF magazine in the world.

So how did this happen?  My last night in Chengdu, editor Jenny Bai suggested I write a column on writing advice for the magazine.  I wasn't warm to the idea -- it didn't play to my strengths.  But Jenny said, "I think you should think about it."  So I did.

(Later I found out that Rob Sawyer, who was also a guest at the convention, had once written a series of columns on writing SF and re-sold them to SFW.  They'd been wildly popular, but they'd come to an end.  So that's what put the idea in Ms Bai's mind.)

Back home, I suddenly thought:  Nancy Kress!  For sixteen years she wrote the "On Fiction" column for Writers Digest.  Nobody knows more about how to write or can explain it more lucidly than she can.  So I checked to see if it was all right with her, and then wrote Jenny Bai, explaining that Nancy would be a much better choice for the column than me.

Jenny wrote back, thanking me for the suggestion, which she took.  Then she wrote, "But I think you should write a column on other aspects of science fiction for us."

I don't recall that I ever actually said yes.  But I have Chinese relatives and in my experience, if a Chinese woman wants something, sooner or later she's going to get it.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Congratulations, Michael! You won a Hugo Last Night . . ."

. . . Tom Purdom said.

"No, I didn't," I replied.

This happened last Saturday.  A bunch of us were in Tom's apartment for our monthly gathering of local writers, and Tom dropped the above line on me.  Immediately, my powerful mind leaped into action.  I was certain that it was June and I was pretty sure that the Worldcon was in . . . July or August or something this year.  Anyway, I have plane tickets and a hotel reservation, and I was sure I'd remember it if somehow I hadn't gone.  So I was secure in my denial.

But Tom was, as always, right.

He was talking about the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society's yearly Hugo Panel, which was held last Friday.  The panelists (one of whom, Josh Varrone, is a friend of my son) read everything that was up beforehand, and then presented their thoughts on which work should win in each category.

And, as seems in retrospect inevitable, "A Small Room in Koboldtown" won handily.

"Of course," Tom said, "PSFS's choices never win the actual Hugo."

Incidentally . . . 

We don't have a name for the group that gathers monthly.  We're all genre writers (except for Marianne, who gets to attend because she's good company) and Tom Purdom is definitely the center and linchpin of the organization.  One of Tom's interests is military history, so Purdom's Rangers would be perfect, except that it lacks alliteration.

Anybody have any suggestions?

Bookshelves of the Gods!

The inimitable Henry Wessells dropped by my house the other day and took a snapshot of my bookshelves, which he posted in his blog The Endless Bookshelf.  Identified simply as "bookshelves on an upper floor in the house on the hill," the photo shows a fraction of the shelves covering one wall of my bedroom.  I had shown him the bookshelves in my office first, but he had no interest in photographing them.  They were too flashy, I suspect, and contained too many tchotchkas.  He was looking for something more sincere.

Sort of like Linus's pumpkin patch, I think.

And As Always . . .

The poem du jour is up.  This time, it's by -- brace yourself! -- John Milton.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another Reason for Me to be Happy

Big news first . . . "A Small Room in Koboldtown" has received the Locus Award. I could not be present, but my good friend Leslie Howle graciously accepted in my place. Although I was strongly tempted to have her read my Nobel Prize acceptance speech, I behaved myself, and so she ended up thanking Sheila Williams, everyone at Asimov's Science Fiction, and of course the good people of Locus itself.

There are a lot of positive things to be said about the other prize winners, but I will content myself with a small anecdote about Terry Pratchett, the winner for Best Fantasy Novel (Making Money):

A Small Anecdote

I won my first Hugo in absentia. The Worldcon was in Australia and my travel funds were tapped out, so I stayed at home. Friday night I went to bed wondering if this would be the year I was awakened by the infamous Drunken Phone Call. Saturday morning I woke up to the sure knowledge that I'd lost yet another rocket.

Sean's D&D buddies had been over the night before, so there were teenage male bodies sprawled all over the floor downstairs, among the empty pizza boxes and Pepsi bottles. So Marianne and I began tidying up. In the process and thinking nothing of it, I picked up the phone, which the lads had knocked over in a fit of joie de gaming, and put it back on the hook.

The phone rang. It was my pal, Jack Dann, calling from Australia, to give me the news.

The gamers were beginning to groggily rise from the floor. "Hey, guys!" I said. "I just won a Hugo."

And, being well brought up young men, they said, "Congratulations, Mr. Swanwick. That's very nice for you."

I listened to Jack some more, and then reported that it was Terry Pratchett who had presented it to me.

Their eyes got huge. "Wow!"

So there's where I stand, relative to the Bard of Discworld. It would be annoying if I didn't admire his stuff as greatly as I do.

Because I'm your friend and I care for you . . .

. . .
I'm urging you to rush right out and see Mongol on the big screen. This is a joint Russian-Mongolian production, the first of a projected three movies on the life of Genghis Khan, and it is flat-out wonderful. The realities of contemporary American cinema being what they are, the movie will probably be gone in a week. So you've got to move fast.

The story is grim, epic, and immersive -- and told entirely from within the worldview of the Mongols. Odnyam Odsuren is a knockout as the young Temudjin. And Khulan Chuluun is not only beyond gorgeous as Borte (known to history as "Borte of the Grey Eyes") but her very hard life in a very sexist society is presented in a surprisingly respectful manner.

And, believe it or not, what we have here is a delicate and moving love story.

But, oh man, you have got to see what Mongolia looks like widescreen and Cinemacolor -- vast, bleak, beautiful, terrifying, heroic. If you wait until you can watch Mongol at home, you'll be missing the best part of the movie.

And . . .

In Saturday's poem du jour, Richard Wilbur gets politicaL


Friday, June 20, 2008

Another (Yawn) Starred Review

We're coming up on the end of the promotion cycle for The Dragons of Babel, which means that I'll be downsizing this blog soon. More on that later.

Meanwhile, I just got another starred review from School Library Journal. So I can put it next to the starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal. I gather, from the way my agent and my editors react whenever I get one of these things, that this is a big deal.

Anyway, here's the review:

*SWANWICK, Michael. The Dragons of Babel. 318p. CIP. Tor. 2008. Tr $25.95. ISBN 978-0-7653-1950-0. LC 2007034918.

Gr 9 Up–An unusual combination of Faerie, postindustrial Earth, and biblical places, The Dragons of Babel will immediately capture readers’ interest. A war is going on, but the “dragons” involved are part machine and part magic. One crash-lands near a Faerie village and declares itself king. Teenaged Will, part mortal, is forced to become its lieutenant and carry out its commands to the villagers, which eventually causes him to be driven out after it is killed. He is rescued by female centaurs during a battle of giants and ends up on the train to Babel accompanied by Nat Whilk and his adopted daughter, Esme. The three of them wind up in underground Babel (think New York City with a postindustrial fairy twist) where he helps the downtrodden. In a world full of every fairy imaginable (and maybe a few that aren’t), Will becomes the center of Tower of Babel itself. Readers will empathize with the teenager, who is struggling to find his place in this world, and growing both in stature and knowledge, and the zany characters who accompany him. Earthy, bawdy, and often brutal, it’s a story that will keep science fiction/fantasy fans involved till the end.–June H. Keuhn, Corning East High School, NY.

And, As Always . . .

The poem du jour continues, this time with a brief example of narrative poetry.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Quiet Wednesday

Well, I have been doing things, but they're none of them anywhere close to being ready for public presentation.  So . . . no news today.

Perhaps I shall spend the day working on my never-to-be-published children's book If You Give A Moose A Beer . . .  ("He's going to want to have a chaser to go with it.  Then he's going to want to go down to the tavern for another six-pack.  When he comes out, he's going to have a big sack of money and the tappie is going to be shooting at him."  And so on.)

A Certain Somebody

. . . has requested that his medical condition not be blogged.  It's a futile gesture, but so be it.  I am a respecter of people's wishes.  So all I shall say here and now is that there appears to be no bad news.

And As Always

. . . the poem du jour continues.  Most recently, Theodore Roethke's secrets cried alout.


Monday, June 16, 2008

In Which My Ego Goes on a Rampage

The good folks at Readercon have, as is their wont from time to time, gone completely mad. Specifically, they've expanded their request for information to go into the bio paragraphs in the program book to include:

. . . every book you’ve published, with the novels in chronological order followed by any short story collections. Include for each:

-- Title
-- Year and publisher of first publication (if the paperback publisher was different, you can indicate that as well)
-- If significantly different, year and publisher of the most recent edition
-- Any awards or nominations (collections should list the titles of stories that were nominated for or won awards, together with their year and category)
-- Genre if you write in more than one
-- Relation to other of your books if part of a series (which may be grouped together)

Please include forthcoming books (with their publisher and scheduled date) and works in progress, and significant forthcoming editions of existing books.

-- The titles of stories which were award nominees or winners, or which appeared in Best-of-Year anthologies, together with the relevant information
-- The title and editor of every anthology which contains uncollected short fiction
-- The names of magazines where uncollected short fiction has appeared
-- The title and location of a story recently appearing or about to appear

What kind of monster does this create? I'm glad you asked. Here's my extremely cut-down bio paragraph, cut together from the bio they already had and a quick run through my bibliography. I didn't include anything about uncollected fiction, because that's just plain bugfuck.

Michael Swanwick, a Guest of Honor at Readercon 13, is one of the most prolific and inventive writers in science fiction today. His works have been honored with the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards, and have been translated and published throughout the world.

Michael is the author of IN THE DRIFT (Ace Books, 1985), VACUUM FLOWERS, (Arbor House, 1987), STATIONS OF THE TIDE (William Morrow and Company, 1991) a Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee and Nebula Award winner as well as a New York Times Notable Book; GRIFFIN'S EGG ( Century Legend, 1991) a Hugo and Nebula nominee; THE IRON DRAGON'S DAUGHTER (Millenium, 1993), a World Fantasy Award and Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee; JACK FAUST, (Avon Books, 1997), a Hugo nominee; BONES OF THE EARTH (HarperCollins Eos, 2002), a Hugo and Nebula Award nominee, and, this year, THE DRAGONS OF BABEL (Tor Books, 2008). His short fiction has been collected in GRAVITY'S ANGELS (Arkham House, 1991); A GEOGRAPHY OF UNKNOWN LANDS (Tiger Eyes Press, 1997), a World Fantasy Award nominee; PUCK ALESHIRE’S ABECEDARY (Dragon Press, 2000); MOON DOGS (Ann A. Broomhead and Timothy P. Szczesuil, eds., NESFA Press, 2000); TALES OF OLD EARTH (Frog Ltd., 2000); CIGAR-BOX FAUST AND OTHER MINIATURES(Tachyon Publications, 2003); MICHAEL SWANWICK’S FIELD GUIDE TO THE MESOZOIC MEGAFAUNA (Tachyon Publications, 2003), THE PERIODIC TABLE OF THE ELEMENTS, (PS Publishing. 2005; “Cecil Rhodes in Hell” was reprinted in: David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, eds., Year’s Best Fantasy 3, Eos, 2003); and THE DOG SAID BOW-WOW (Tachyon Publications, 2007). Non-fiction books include THE POSTMODERN ARCHIPELAGO (Tachyon Publications, 1997); BEING GARDNER DOZOIS, (Old Earth Books, 2001); and WHAT CAN BE SAVED FROM THE WRECKAGE? (Temporary Culture, 2007). His first published story, "The Feast of Saint Janis", (Robert Silverberg, ed., New Dimensions 11, Pocket Books, 1980; reprinted in: Gardner Dozois, ed., Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year, 1981: Tenth Annual Collection, Dutton, 1981) was a Nebula Award nominee, as were his second, "Ginungagap" (Triquarterly 49, 1980), and third, "Mummer Kiss" (Terry Carr, ed., Universe 11, Doubleday, 1981; Zebra, 1981). "The Man Who Met Picasso" (Omni, Vol. 4: No. 12, September, 1982) was a World Fantasy Award nominee. “Marrow Death", (Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Vol. 8: No. 13, Mid-December, 1984) was a Nebula nominee, as was "Trojan Horse" (Omni, Vol. 7: No. 3, December, 1984). "Dogfight", a collaboration with William Gibson (Omni, Vol. 7: No. 10, July, 1985; reprinted in: Gardner Dozois, ed., The Year's Best Science Fiction: Third Annual Collection, Bluejay Books, 1986), was both a Nebula and Hugo nominee. "The Gods of Mars", a collaboration with Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (Omni, Vol. 7: No. 6, March, 1985) was a Nebula nominee. "Covenant of Souls" (Omni, December, 1986) was reprinted in Gardner Dozois, ed., The Year's Best Science Fiction: Fourth Annual Collection, St. Martin's Press, 1987. "The Dragon Line" (Terry's Universe, Beth Meacham, ed., Tor, 1988) was reprinted in: Gardner Dozois, ed., The Year's Best Science Fiction: Sixth Annual Collection, St. Martin's Press, 1989. "A Midwinter's Tale" (Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Vol. 12: No. 12, December, 1988) won the Asimov’s Readers’ Award. "The Edge of the World" (Lou Aronica, Shawna McCarthy, Amy Stout & Patrick LoBrutto, eds., Full Spectrum 2, Doubleday, 1989; reprinted in: Gardner Dozois, ed., The Year's Best Science Fiction: Seventh Annual Collection, St. Martin's Press, 1990, and Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling, eds., The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Third Annual Collection, St. Martin's Press, 1990) won the Theodore Sturgeon Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, Hugo Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. "Cold Iron" (Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol. 17: Nos. 12 & 13, November, 1993) was a Nebula nominee. "The Changeling's Tale" (Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol. 18: No. 1, January, 1994) was a World Fantasy Award nominee. "Radio Waves” (Omni, Vol. 17: No. 9, Winter 1995) won the World Fantasy Award and was nominated for the Sturgeon Award. "Walking Out" (Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol 19: No. 2, February 1995) was a Hugo nominee. "The Dead" (Starlight, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, ed., Tor, 1996; reprinted in Gardner Dozois, ed., The Year's Best Science Fiction: Fourteenth Annual Collection, St. Martin's Press, 1997, Gardner Dozois, ed., The Best New SF 10, Raven Books, 1997, and Gardner Dozois, ed., The Best of the Best, St. Martin’s Press, 2005) was a Hugo and Nebula nominee. "Radiant Doors" (Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol 22: No 9, September, 1998) was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards. That same year, “Wild Minds” (Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol 22: No. 5, May, 1998) was also nominated for both the Hugo and Sturgeon Awards, and "The Very Pulse of the Machine" (Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol. 22: No. 6, February, 1998) won the Hugo. The next year, "Ancient Engines", Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol. 23: No. 2, September, 1999; reprinted in David G. Hartwell, ed, Year’s Best SF 5, Eos, 2000) won the Asimov’s Readers’ Award and was a Hugo and Nebula Nominee, and “Scherzo With Tyrannosaur"(Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol. 23, No. 7, July, 1999) was nominated for the Nebula and won the Hugo. “Moon Dogs” (Moon Dogs, Ann A. Broomhead and Timothy P. Szczesuil, eds., NESFA Press, 2000) was nominated for the Hugo. "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy-O" (Tales of Old Earth, Frog Ltd., 2000) was a World Fantasy Award nominee. “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Vol. 25: Nos. 10 & 11, October/November, 2001; reprinted in: Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber, eds., Science Fiction: The Best of 2001, ibooks, 2002, David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, eds., Year’s Best SF, Eos, 2002, and Gardner Dozois, ed., The Year’s Best Science Fiction, St. Martin’s Press, 2002) was nominated for the Nebula and received the Hugo. “Five British Dinosaurs” (Interzone, No. 177, March, 2002) was a BSFA Award nominee. “‘Hello,’ Said the Stick” (Analog, Vol. CXXII, No. 3, March, 2002) was a Hugo nominee, “The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport” (Asimov’s, Vol. 26: Nos. 10 & 11, October/November, 2002) was a Hugo nominee, and “Slow Life” (Analog, Vol. 122: No. 12, December 2002) won the Hugo Award. “Legions in Time” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Vol. 27: No. 4, April, 2003) also won the Hugo. “Coyote at the End of History” (Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol. 27: Nos. 10 & 11, October/November, 2003) was reprinted in David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, eds, Year’s Best SF 9, Eos, 2004. “Lord Weary’s Empire” (Asimov's Science Fiction, Vol. 30: No. 12, December 2006; reprinted in: Jonathan Strahan, ed., Best Short Novels 2007). “A Small Room in Koboldtown” (Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May, 2007) is currently on the Hugo ballot. A monthly column appears in Science Fiction World, published in Chengdu, China. He has also written eleven unique stories sealed in bottles. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Swanwick lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Marianne Porter. A retrospective collection of short fiction, THE BEST OF MICHAEL SWANWICK, is forthcoming from Subterranean Press. He is currently at work on a novel featuring Postutopian con men Darger and Surplus.

Imagine if Robert Silverberg tried to put together such a thing! They'd have to print up a second program book just for him.

No News on the Howard Waldrop Front . . .

As of last I heard, the surgery's today. I'll keep you posted.

And as always . . .

The poem du jour continues apace. Saturday's was Yeats' epitaph for Swift.


Friday, June 13, 2008


It's not up on Locus Online yet, but Howard Waldrop has been admitted to the Seton Medical Center in Austin and is in the ICU.

He was having trouble breathing, which seems to have been pulmonary edema brought on by high blood-pressure. His heart catheterization showed that he has multiple blockages, and some heart damage from a prior heart attack that he didn't even know he'd had, what they call a "silent heart attack."

He's going in for bypass surgery in a couple of days, after they treat a bladder infection and try to get his blood sugar under better control.

Gardner Dozois has spoken with Howard and reports that he was "amazingly cheerful, taking it all as if it was No Big Deal. Muy macho. He'd have made a good masked Mexican wrestler."

I'll keep you all posted, as more news comes in.

Instant Update

Howard's bypass surgery is set for Monday.

And the Poem du Jour . . .

. . . continues. Yesterday's was Mehitabel the Cat's magnum opus.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One Fine Selection of Stories

There's simultaneously too little and far too much going on for a long posting today. Did everybody catch the stellar lineup of the 2008 Theodore Sturgeon Award finalists list?

Of course, nobody's going to be surprised by most of the names on the list. ("I am shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that Gene Wolfe and Karen Joy Fowler wrote some of the best stories of the year. Round up the usual suspects!") But how pleasant to see Johanna Sinisalo there. Sinisalo is one of Finland's foremost genre writers, but we see only those of her works which have been translated into English. So we owe the presence of "Baby Doll" to James and Kathy Morrow, whose SFWA European Hall of Fame brought many non-Anglophone works to our attention.

Wonderful book, the SFWA European Hall of Fame, in every regard save its title. Which was forced on the Morrows by their publisher. Who thought it would be commercial. And was wrong. This is so very typical of this business.

A Footnote to Literary History

I won the Sturgeon, long ago, for "The Edge of the World," which is still one of my favorite stories, and was bemused to discover that, at that time, at the awards ceremony, the original trophy (shown above) was brought out and shown to the winner -- and then taken away again! The winner's name was added to a plaque on the trophy and the thing itself . . . I dunno. I guess it was kept in a trophy case outside the coach's office.

It was Frederik Pohl who quietly suggested that a certificate should be printed up, so that the winners would have something to put on the wall. A real Mensch, Fred. I spent some time with him that weekend, and he was constantly suggesting small improvements in the way that things are run, ways to make people happier, new angles for promoting the Good.

Starting in 2004, winners of the Sturgeon Award began receiving personalized trophies, designed by Kij Johnson. Beautiful things. The administrators were gracious enough to make them up for previous winners as well, so I was grandfathered in.

And on the Poetry Front . . .

The latest Poem du Jour has Uncle Walt not lying in the gutter, but definitely looking at the stars.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Unca Mike's Wicked Stories for Children

Where do all the years go? My son is a quarter-century old now, but when he was little I used to make up stories or him every night. Some of them we made into books. I wrote the text, Sean drew the pictures, and his mother bound them. The very best of these -- "Sam the Asteroid," "Free Moose!" and "The Two Buildings Do Lunch" are legend among the cognoscenti.

The other night I spontaneously made up another story and since Sean is too old for it, I present it to you below. The scansion's a bit ragged, but what the heck. It's not going to be made into a book anytime soon.

If you wind up reading (or singing) this to your kid, you're one sick puppy and I like you.

Moose on the Loose
Unca Mike

Scene: A bus. I picture this and the animals as if they were drawn by Richard Scarry. But you can imagine any other artist or style you like.

Characters: A bus driver (dog)
The moose
A cow with a purse
A policeman (bear)
A duck
A frog
A monkey
A pig
A cat
A reporter (fox)

The dog says “Look, here comes a moose!”
The dog says “Look, here comes a moose!”
“He’s on the town. He’s on the loose.”
Riding on the bus.

The moose says “Hi” and “How-dee-do.”
The moose says “Hi” and “How-dee-do.”
The moose says “Gee, but I like you.”
Riding on the bus.

The cow says “Hey! My wallet’s gone.”
The cow says “Hey! My wallet’s gone.”
“It was in my purse when I got on.”
Riding on the bus.

The moose says “Gosh, don’t look at me.”
The moose says “Gosh, don’t look at me.”
The moose says “I was up a tree.”
Riding on the bus.

The bear says “What’s all this row?”
The bear says “What’s all this row?”
The moose says “I blame the cow.”
Riding on the bus.

The cow says “You’ll not catch me.”
The cow says “You’ll not catch me.”
“I’ve got a gun and now I’ll flee.”
Riding on the bus.

The duck says “Put down that gun.”
The duck says “Put down that gun.”
The moose says “Golly, this is fun.”
Riding on the bus.

The cow says “Outta my way, Jack!”
The cow says “Outta my way, Jack!”
“I’ve been in jail. I won’t go back.”
Riding on the bus.

The dog says “Ow! She shot my leg.”
The dog says “Ow! She shot my leg.”
“Now I can’t sit up and beg.”
Riding on the bus.

The bear says “Don’t climb up there!”
The bear says “Don’t climb up there!”
“The Empire State Building’s tall, I swear.”
Riding on the bus.

The frog says “She grabbed a monkey.”
The frog says “She grabbed a monkey.”
The moose says “That’s kind of funky.”
Riding on the bus.

The pig says “She can’t go higher.”
The pig says “She can’t go higher.”
The pig says “She’s grabbed the spire.”
Riding on the bus.

The cat says “Here come the planes.”
The cat says “Here come the planes.”
“And now the Empire State’s in flames.”
Riding on the bus.

The cow says “Look out below.”
The cow says “Look out below.”
The monkey says “O no, O no!”
Riding on the bus.

The fox says “That poor, poor cow.”
The fox says “That poor, poor cow.”
“The monkey’s safe – I don’t know how.”
Riding on the bus.

The moose says “That was quite a show.”
The moose says “That was quite a show.”
“But I’ve got my wallet and I must go.”
Riding on the bus.

"Moose on the Loose" is copyright 2008 by Michael Swanwick.

Just A Reminder . . .

Saturday's poem du jour was by Yevtushenko.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Another Hippie Tool of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Chertoff arrived fashionably late.  He'd been held up at the White House, leaving an underling to vamp for time before an audience of defense contractors and DHS bureaucrats.  It might sound sycophantic to relate what a great boss he was, the flunky said, but by golly, it was true . . . 

Finally, the head of Homeland Security strode onstage, clutching a cardboard cup of Starbucks.  He looked like an aging and dissolute elf.  He hit his mark and delivered a well-polished set of platitudes about the stunning accomplishments of the previous year.  Then, while the same put-upon underling explained that there was no time for questions, he steered his cup of coffee offstage, away to unimaginably important business elsewhere.

It was clear that Michael Chertoff was unique among Americans in being perfectly contented with the job he had done as the Secretary of Homeland Security.

So what the hell was I doing at DHS conference?

The short answer is that I belong to Sigma, a science fiction think tank created by Arlen Andrews to advise government agencies pro bono when they have a need for some basic futurism.  We were invited to put on a panel in DC and I went.

The more involved answer is that I'm engaging with our times and our culture.  I'm not happy with what the post-9/11 gang have done to my country, and so I'm doing my minuscule bit to try to change things.  Right now, it seems clear to me, everybody in the government is so task-oriented, so focused on their "missions" that they're completely blind to overall goals.  Recently I met a mid-level bureaucrat (not, to be fair, in the DHS) who thought it would be a great thing if every packet of information on the Internet could be watermarked so that the government could keep track of everything posted online.

When I said that this would be a massive violation of privacy, he assured me that young people no longer valued privacy anyway.

So I was out there, thumping the Bible, telling whoever would listen that they should not be preparing the way for yet more defeats but striving for victories.  That every time a freedom was restored to the American people, that would be a victory.  That when the Canadian border was opened again, that would be a victory.  That when an American can travel to Europe without a passport, and without taking off his or her shoes, and return to be greeted by spouse and children at the arrival gate, those would all be victories.  I challenged them to work for the good of the American people and the world.

Was anybody listening?  Dunno.  But you can't say I'm not trying.

It may be that the most useful thing I did was to bring along a stack of Cory Doctorow's brand-new YA novel Little Brother and hand them out to all the DHS people I met.  The book is about a smart high school kid who gets swept up by the DHS in the wake of a terrorist bombing in San Francisco and imprisoned in "Gitmo-by-the-Bay."  After he's released, he decides to take down the DHS and restore freedom to American citizens.

A fabulous book and one that I think is going to make Cory a lot of money.  More importantly, it's like a tool kit for citizens yearning to breathe free.  If you know a smart high school kid with a healthy disrespect for authority, you know someone who needs this book.

I told the DHS guys (who I truly believe are honest and decent people, trying to do a very difficult job) that they should take special note that Doctorow spends not one sentence trying to convince the reader that the DHS would make a grab for power, given the chance.  It's simply what everybody already believes.

So What's the Photo Above All About?

It was forbidden to take photos in the exhibition halls, where the contractors displayed their techie wares, and I thought it prudent not to do so in the meeting rooms.  But Bud Sparhawk and I were talking to a woman at the Nevada Test Site (providers of fine chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive testbeds for over half a century) booth and when she asked who we were with, explained that we were science fiction writers.  A few exchanges later, she said, 'Wait -- you weren't kidding!" and was so impressed that she gave us each a souvenir NTB clock-and-paper-clip figurine.

It can't possibly hurt national security to show it to you, and so here it is.

And as Always . . .

The poem du jour blog continues apace.  Yesterday's poem was Allen Ginsberg's encounter with Walt Whitman in "A Supermarket In California."


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Kroki w Nieznane!

Writers are slaves of the mailbox.  Back in the day, I used to drop in on Gardner Dozois and Susan Casper fairly regularly, and sooner or later Gardner would always start for the door, saying, "I wonder if the mail has arrived yet."

"Gardner, we've got a guest!" Susan would say.  "Who cares whether the mail has come yet or not?  It'll keep."

Then Susan published her her first story, and for years Gardner never managed to make it to the mailbox first.

All of which is to explain why I felt so astonished to drop by my mailbox this morning and find a slip marked "final notice."  It turns out that the post office has been holding my contributor's copy of Kroki w Nieznane ("Steps into the Unknown" or possibly "Voyages into the Unknown"), a handsome anthology of fantastika containing my own "Wild Minds," for a long, lone time.  Apparently, it's been lingering in the back roome while I failed to claim it because the p.o. folks never put any notices in my box.

This may be why my copies of Science Fiction World haven't arrived yet.

Nevertheless,  Kroki w Nieznane has a terrific lineup.  In addition to my own moodly little meditation on what it means to be Catholic, there are stories by the usual suspects (James Patrick Kelly, Carol Emshwiller, Jeffrey Ford, etc., etc.) and worthy writers from further afield (Claude Lalumiere and Johanna Sinisalo) as well as two I'm totally unfamiliar with (Jose Antonio Cotrina, Maria Galina)  It's always a pleasure to find concrete evidence of science fiction literature outside of the Anglophone nations, and doubly so to find evidence of adventurous editors out there.

So Where Have I Been?

You may have noticed that I was away from my desk, traveling these past few days.  I'm still a little worn from the journey, so for the moment I'll only tell you that Marianne's favorite Baptist minister, Pastor Marcia, was appalled I was going to be doing this, and Sean's favorite retired high school English teacher, Mary Schroeder, was outraged.  My former-hippie-chick friend in Seattle, Leslie, on the other hand, assumed the best and approved entirely.

I'll tell you all on Friday.

And of Course . . .

Tuesday's Poem du Jour was by Anne Sexton.  Suicidal, yes.  But one hell of a great poet.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

My Busy Week

I'm on the road yet again. I don't know why I'm so busy these days, but I am. Even so, I'm making a couple of public appearances in passing. So, if you're in the Washington, DC or Norristown, PA area, and you've got the free time, why not drop by and say hello?

Very quickly, very briefly . . .

Can Science Fiction Save the World?

Tough question. The short answer is: It never has before. But that's also the theme of an appearance and book-signing in D.C. tomorrow and I'm going to be there.

Here are the details:

June 3, 7 P.M. SF writers, including Arlan Andrews, John G. Hemry and Michael Swanwick, discuss how science fiction can help defend the nation at Reiter's Scientific & Professional Books, 1990 K St. NW, 202-223-3327.

Can Libraries Make the World a Better Place?

This question, on the other hand, is almost too easy. They already have.

As a case in point, the Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library (1001 Powell St., Norristown) is hosting Author, Author, a cocktail reception, from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 5.

If you're in the area, this is your chance for hors d'oeuvres, wine, and the chance to make small talk with various regional authors. In addition to yours truly, there will also be such luminaries as Karen Abbott, Charles Adams, Bette Banjack, Robert Bell, Cordelia Frances Biddle, Nero Blanc, Bob Bloss, Michael Bono, Bernard Chavis, Mindy Starns Clark, Matt Cubbler, Ray Didinger, Robin Hathaway, Mary Hennessy, William C. Kashatus, Mary Lamba, Maryann F. Lenzi, Adam Levine, Ed Quigley, Elena Santangelo, Shane Simon, Joe Sindoni, Judith Skillings, Sheilah Vance, Hanna Kalter Weiss and Steve Zettler.

If you want to attend, you should call 610-278-5100, ext. 140, to make sure there are still openings.