Thursday, April 3, 2014

Passage of Earth


I'm in e-print again!  But before I say anything about that, I should apologize for not posting yesterday.  Technically, I only ever explicitly promised to post on Fridays and Mondays, but I've been so consistent with Wednesdays that it's become a implicit promise.  So I apologize.

So why did I miss yesterday?  I was doing my taxes.

"Oh, you poor man," I hear you say.  "Don't tell us about it."


Anyway, my newest story, "Passage of Earth" is up at Clarkesworld.  And I find myself at a loss as to how to describe it.  If I tell you that a great deal of it is a detailed description of the autopsy of an alien worm, that might make the reading experience sound a bit more off-putting than I honestly believe it is.  And if I tell you that a section of it reads very much like a horror story, that would be misleading as well.  And if I try to tell you what classic story it most resembles ("like The Dunwich Horror, only with bunny rabbits," or "imagine Bears Discover Fire set on Mars and ending with the destruction of the universe"), I come up with nothing.

While I was writing "Passage of Earth" I thought it would end up in Analog.  But then I came to the ending, and there were two obvious ways to conclude the story, neither of which I could bring myself to write.  So I put it aside for a year or three, returning to it regularly to see what I could come up with.  And finally, recently, the current ending came to me.  It was one I didn't think I could sell to Trevor Quachri, but it pleased me enormously.  So I sent it to Neil Clarke, he bought it, and now you can read the story online.

The story is free for the reading, and if you do, I hope you like it.

You can find the story here.  Or you can just go to the magazine itself here and start poking around. 

Above:  Sunrise from Mars orbit, an image as beautiful as one of Chesley Bonestell's paintings.  But it's a photograph!  This is an era of greatness.


David Scrimshaw said...

I think the correct links are:

- Passage of Earth by MICHAEL SWANWICK

- Clarkeworld Magazine

Michael Swanwick said...

Thanks, David. I've corrected the text, too.

This is why nonfiction is my least favorite form of fiction.

HANNAH'S DAD said...

Sadly the two links are still wrong - the first is showing up as "about:invalidzf#Closures" which is one of the more interesting urls I've seen.

Off topic, but sure to make anyone happy, I found this clock the other day, and marvelled at how much body language can come from so little. It looks like a little medieval monk working away in his scriptorium. All that he needs is a little robot cat to keep him company:

Michael Swanwick said...

I think THIS attempt at updating the post worked. No idea why it kept reverting.

Off to look at the clock.

Mark Pontin said...

It's a good story, Michael.

A good, really dark SF story that belongs in that general lineage that includes Kornbluth, Tiptree and certain others. That, maybe, even does something new within that vein.

HANNAH'S DAD said...

> A good, really dark SF story that belongs in that general lineage that includes Kornbluth, Tiptree and certain others. That, maybe, even does something new within that vein

It is indeed - and I'm frustrated because I want to make one more comparison but I think it might constitute a spoiler. Bother.

Mark Pontin said...

'I want to make one more comparison but I think it might constitute a spoiler.'

Michael Shea?

HANNAH'S DAD said...

Mark Pontin: I was actually thinking of

Puneyvr Fgebff'f rneyl (naq V guvax orfg) fgbel, 'N Pbyqre Jne', juvpu unf gur cebgntbavfg jbaqrevat ng gur raq vs rirelguvat ur'f rkcrevraprq vf whfg cneg bs n arire raqvat fvzhyngvba eha vafvqr gur zbafgre juvpu ngr uvz.
( if needed)

but I have a lot of time for Michael Shea.

Mark Pontin said...

Oh, yah.

Mark said...

If your goal in "Passage of Earth" was when I finished the story to have me cross to the room to my wife and tell her how much I love her - well, "Mission accomplished".

Michael Swanwick said...

Mark, I can't take any credit for that. But it's always a good thing to do.

Texrat said...

*spoiler alert*

Just read this in the fantastic "Not so much said the cat" collection. I find the story utterly fascinating but I feel like an absolute idiot because I don't quite get it. He's eaten by a worm and recalling events as he's processed, but then, how to explain the end where he's willingly delivered up to be eaten (again)? I'm sure my tired old brain is missing a crucial clue.

One reviewer suggested the worms were consuming the universe and Earth was being crapped out, but then how to place the autopsy and denouement?

Sigh. I guess I'll reread until I get it...

Michael Swanwick said...

It's been a while since I read this, so my memory may not be exact. He's been eaten by the worm and the WORM is digesting his thoughts over and over, experiencing them in something analogous to what the reader is experiencing reading the story. But the human is so alien to the worm that it's having trouble... heh... digesting it.

The ending is meant to suggest hope for the narrator or the worm identifying with the narrator. You see.