Monday, November 30, 2009

The Lantern of Diogenes


Here's something I'll bet you didn't know about me:  I was an Eagle Scout.  God's own truth.  I earned it, too.  Nobody becomes an Eagle Scout without putting in a lot of hard work and acquiring a lot of useful skills.

So it was a particular pleasure Saturday to attend the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for J. Colin McCormick, the son of a family friend and the second of the McCormick boys to earn that honor.  Congratulations, Colin!

And totally unrelated to the above . . .

Saturday I also wrote stories for a lantern I bought for that purpose recently.  The lantern, pictured above and below, has a paper screen, so I wrote four short-shorts, one for each side, inspired by the lantern itself.  The stories ended up having a common theme:  They were all about women.

Specifically, the stories and their heroines were:  Tinkerbell, PersephoneLucifera, and Diogenes.

But I hear you thinking doubtfully, Diogenes?  You betcha.  Here, just so you don't have to take my word for it, is the proof:

by Michael Swanwick

            Admit it.  You never could figure out what the deal was with Diogenes.  Carrying a lantern in broad daylight?  Looking for an honest man?  What the fuck?
            Here’s the simple explanation.  Diogenes was a woman.
            Perhaps she was a cross-dresser.  Maybe the historians goofed.  In either case, she was a looker:  Eyes, mouth, breasts, hips, all in the right order and proportions.
            “Why the lantern?” a prospective suitor would say.
            “Because it’s night,” she’d reply.  Or:  “I need it to see in the daylight.”
            And if he agreed with her, she knew he was no good.
            This much is known and no more.  Did Diogenes ever find romance?  Did she die a spinster?  On this both history and philosophy are silent.



Andrew said...


Any chance of posting the other three? :)

Michael Swanwick said...

Um . . . well . . . see, my giving-away-of-stories is supported by my selling of stories. So the other three stories go into the Big Disk o' Unpublished and Unposted Short-Shorts. Occasionally I look through it and get an idea -- Divas of Fantasy, say -- and start yanking out fantasy flash with female protagonists and assemble a piece to sell to a fantasy magazine. "Tinkerbell" would definitely fit in there. Or I might do a chapbook take on the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece. In goes "Persephone." By such shifts and stunts do I manage to keep myself fed.

But, yeah, there's a good chance the stories will end up online eventually. Just not right now.