Monday, March 19, 2018

Dragonstairs! Dragonstairs! Dragonstairs!


Every now and then I like to remind people that Dragonstairs Press, with which I am so closely associated, is not my imprint that of Editor, Bookbinder, and Sole Proprietor, Marianne Porter. Who is, admittedly, my wife. But does that give me the authority to tell her what to do?

It does not.

But as long as I'm on the subject, Dragonstairs has two new projects going.

The first one is titled Blue Moon. Inspired by the small Icelandic publishing houseTungli├░, which publishes books in an edition of 69, sells them for one day only, and then at the end of the day burns all those that haven't sold, Marianne and her in-house content provider (me) are going to do much the same thing.

With two significant differences:  First, the chapbooks will be published only on a blue moon. (Hence the title.) Second, to make things more interesting, we'll be doing a variant on the make-a-comic-book-in-24-hours thing. On March 29th, I'll write the text. On March 30th, Marianne will design, print, and stitch the chapbook. And on March 31st, they'll be put up for sale.

At midnight, Dragonstairs will cease honoring purchases and all unsold copies will be burned in the early minutes of (appropriately enough) April 1, which is also (appropriately enough in a different way) Easter.

If all goes as planned, we'll put up a video of the fire shortly thereafter.

Chapbooks will be ten dollars, postage included. No pre-orders.

You can read about the wondrous Reykjavik press here.

And you can read the Scandinavia and the World comic where I first learned about moon books here. SatW's original purpose was to explain Scandinavian culture to the rest of the world, so the protocol of reading the comic is different from what you're used to. First you read the comic, then you read the text below to find out what it's all about. I'm a big fan.

And second . . .

For the first time, Dragonstairs is selling a book made by somebody else. Being Gardner Dozois is a book-length interview I conducted with Gardner covering every story he'd ever published, from his first to the latest at the time of the interview -- what worked, what didn't, and why.

Gardner is the only writer I know who can talk objectively about his own work. I began this interview because I learned so much from my conversations with him and felt it was a shame more writers couldn't benefit from them. Marianne feels this is a book most writers will benefit from reading. I agree to a point -- it's not a how-to book. It won't tell you how to plot, how to make your dialogue scintillate, or any of that stuff. It's more of a graduate-level book. If you're already writing publishable prose, have literary ambitions, and are hoping for insight into the workings of a world-class writer, well, here it is.

This is the Old Earth Books hardcover (Michael Walsh publisher and International Man of Mystery), new, and autographed by both Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick. It costs twenty-five dollars plus four dollars shipping within the United States. Alas, shipping anywhere else, even to Canada, is ridiculously expensive. It used not to be, but that was a long time ago.

You can order the book directly from Dragonstairs Press here.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Free Movies (and Panel) Next Week


Just a reminder.  One week today, I'll be taking part in a bioethics panel for U of P's Third Annual Bioethics Film Festival here in Philadelphia at International House. Here's the schedule:

Tuesday, March 20:  Bride of Frankenstein

Wednesday, March 21:  Young Frankenstein

Thursday, March 22:  Blade Runner  (I'll be on the panel for this one.)

Each evening begins with a 5:30 reception. The movie starts at 6:00. And the panel discussion is either before or after the movie, I'm not really sure.

Either way, I'm expecting to have a blast. We'll be talking about Philip K. Dick, after all. Now there was an interesting man.

Oh, and I should mention that tickets to the movies are FREE. You do have to go to the site and register for them. But that's easy. Just click here.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Le Chat C'Est Moi


Look what came in the mail!

This is the Russian edition of my short fiction collection Not So Much Said the Cat. The cat in question being Beelzebub ("Not the famous one, obviously," as he himself observed) from "Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown." In the story, a young woman named Su-lin follows her father to Hell and tries to win him back. Beelzebub was a "scrawny, flea-bitten, one-eyed disgrace of a tomcat" with a trashy way of talking. Quite frankly, he's my favorite character in the study.

The Russians, in my experience, always make attractive-looking books. One thing I particularly liked about this one was how demonic Beelzebub came out. The character was inspired, in part, by the demon cat Behemoth in Mikhail Bulgakov's great novel, The Master and Margarita. Bulgakov's character wore a bow tie, toted a Browning automatic, and, frankly, was a greater creation than mine. But Behemoth's blood flows in Beelzebub's veins.

I'm pretty sure the illustrator spotted that. And I'm grateful for it.

And, oh yeah...

In the same mail were contributor's copies of the Russian translation of Dancing With Bears. This was the first Darger & Surplus novel and I'll confess to being curious as to what the Russian SF readers make of it. In their first adventure, back when they appeared only in short fiction, my two Post-Utopian con men accidentally set fire to London and then set off for Russia to pull the con of their careers on the Duke of Muskovy.

An American and a Brit single-handedly invading Russia? As Napoleon once said, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Or, as Marx said, "History repeats itself -- first as tragedy, then as farce." I wish I'd thought to use that as an epigram for the book.

Here's the cover, steampunk samovar and all:


Monday, March 5, 2018

For Gonnabe Writers: Being Edited

Some years back, I had a conversation with a young writer who, almost by accident (an agent was involved), sold a story to one of the major slick magazines. These things happen, though not as often as we like.

"I thought it was a terrible story," the writer said. "It was an experiment that really didn't work. But it sold and the money was good and my agent said the exposure would do me good, so I let them have it."

Then the editor sent back corrections to be made. "And I fought like a fiend against every one of them!"

I know that you like to think that you yourself would not behave like that. But let's be honest. That is exactly how you'd behave.

So when your get your first set of  proofreading notes or editorial notes (emotionally, your reaction will be exactly the same), you should do these four things:

1) Take a deep breath. Literally. Oxygen will help calm you down. If you or your spouse has ever taken birthing classes, think "cleansing breath."

2) Recognize that each publishing house has its own style sheet. The distinction between "grey" and "gray" may matter passionately to you, but is invisible to the reader.

3) Remember that the editor is nowhere near as dogmatic and unreasonable as you. If you have good reasons for your position, he or she will probably give in reasonably. So there's no need for you to work yourself into a rage.

4) Cultivate a sense of humor. Bitter, bitter, bitter humor.

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again. More on this when I get home. Unless there's something else to talk about.

Above: I'm traveling with a palmtop/netbook which doesn't upload and download pictures well. Hence the lack of an illo. I'll put one in after I get back home.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

"Ice Age" in China!


I'm in print in China again. Science Fiction World Translations has published an early story of mine "Ice Age." In it a young couple, freshly moved into a new apartment, discover first a woolly mammoth the size of a horsefly frozen into an ice cube, and then that there's an entire civilization in the freezer compartment of their refrigerator.

The cover of the magazine went to Derek K├╝nsken, whose first novel, The Quantum Magician, has the singular honor of being simultaneously serialized by SFWT and our own Analog. I met Derek in Chengdu last November and he's a nice guy, so good for him. I bought the issue of Analog with the first installment and I'll be reading it just as soon as I can figure out where I left it.

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again! More than likely I'll be posting about parts of my trip, along with the usual shenanigans next week.

Above: The illo is mine, the cover Derek's.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Let's Launch Sputnik Again!


SpaceX has made the claim that with their new Falcon 9 rocket, they're able to lift satellites to low Earth orbit for a thousand dollars a pound and eventually, the Wall Street Journal reports, fifty dollars a pound.

Let's repeat that: Fifty dollars a pound. If true, that's astonishing. The biggest barrier to moving into space is the cost of moving matter into orbit and beyond. If it's not Elon Musk talking through his hat, that's revolutionary.

At that price, you could put an exact replica of Sputnik into orbit for less than ten thousand dollars.

Which is something I think we should do.

The first artificial satellite ever was launched into space in 1957. It was, yes, part of the Cold War competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. It was also one of the greatest accomplishments of the human race. That can never be taken away from the nations -- Russia foremost, but the others should not be forgotten -- that did the deed.

The United States successfully redefined the competition in space as a race for the Moon, which we consequently won. But there was no serious commitment in the US to space exploration until the Soviet Union demonstrated they were far, far ahead of us on that front. Which is to say, we won the race in 1969 -- but we wouldn't have been anywhere near the Mare Tranquillitatis then if it hadn't been for the fierce but peaceful competition between two great powers.

Now, there are 71 space organizations, thirteen of which have launch capability and six of which have full launch capability (Russian, the United States, China, Japan, Europe, India), plus rather a lot of private concerns. It's a good time to honor our past.

Just wanted to put that thought in your head.

And as always...

I'm on the road again. More when I get home.


Friday, February 16, 2018

The Third Annual Bioethics Film Festival -- And Me!


This is a pretty good deal for people who live in Philadelphia and enjoy watching science fiction films for free. The University of Pennsylvania is holding theThird Annual Bioethics Film Festival this coming March 20-22. They'll be showing (in order) The Bride of Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein, and Bladerunner. 

There's a reception before each movie and a discussion of the ethical issues raised at some point in the evening. Afterward, I'm guessing.

The panel on Thursday, March 22, will consist of Dominic Sisti, moderator, Stephanie Dick, an authority on AI (and no relation to PKD), and... me.

I think it'll be a fun discussion.

Tickets are free but you have to reserve them. Which is easily done by going to the website here.

And for those going to Boskone this weekend...

I posted my schedule yesterday. Scroll down and check it out.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

My Boskone Schedule


Boskone is this weekend and yet, oddly enough, it looks like there won't be a blizzard. I really don't know what to make of this.

Nevertheless, here's my schedule. If you see me, why not say hi?

My Final Schedule for Boskone 55

Jurassic Park and Dinosaurs v. 5.0

17 Feb 2018, Saturday 10:00 - 11:00, Marina 2 (Westin)

Twenty-five years ago, an islandful of dinosaurs tore up the Hollywood box office. Four flicks later (in June, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will make five), these reptile relics continue to slay us. Why is the thought of a dinosaur theme park still so cool? (And by the way, what’s funny about the concept of dinos in space?) More broadly, why would the idea of the prehistoric past colliding with our present/future hold such fascination? And would we be better off letting sleeping saurians lie?

Bob Eggleton, Elise Sacchetti (M), David McDonald, William Hayashi, Michael Swanwick

Autographing: Michael Swanwick

17 Feb 2018, Saturday 13:00 - 14:00, Galleria - Autographing (Westin)\

Breaking the Laws of Magic

17 Feb 2018, Saturday 14:00 - 15:00, Harbor III (Westin)

Brandon Sanderson, in his First Law of Magics: "An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic." George R. R. Martin: "I want hints of the unknowable. I want awe and wonder. I want mystery. I want to discover but also be unsure of what I’m about to encounter. I guess that means I want magic!" Is it important to have a system of magic? Once you've defined a given magic system's limits, is it OK to break them?

Faye Ringel (M), Walter Jon Williams, Julie Holderman, Michael Swanwick, Clarence Young

Kaffeeklatsch: Michael Swanwick

17 Feb 2018, Saturday 17:00 - 18:00, Harbor I - Kaffeeklatsch 1 (Westin)

Something Old/New/Borrowed/Blue

18 Feb 2018, Sunday 13:00 - 14:00, Burroughs (Westin)

Expand your to-be-read list, as well as your horizons. Our intrepid panelists will recommend a classic SF book, a current SF book, something brought in from outside SF that is a must-read — and, if they wish, something sexy as well!
Fred Lerner, Paul Di Filippo, Geary Gravel, Michael Swanwick, Edie Stern (M)


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

La Romance d'Ariel


Sunday, I went to the Academy of Vocal Arts, here in Philadelphia, for a recital of songs by Claude Debussy. On admittance, I was given a handout with the texts of all the songs in English translation Perhaps it was rude of me, but as a five-finger exercise I tried writing a short-short story for each of the songs as it was being sung. There were 23 songs and I managed 22 extremely short stories. The last was so beautiful I couldn't bring myself to write anything.

Here's the first one I wrote.

La Romance d’Ariel

Miranda thought nothing of it when song burst out of nowhere, praising her beauty, her virtue, the golden tips of her hair. For her this was normal. All her life it had happened. How could it not?

To love-struck Ariel, time was but another direction. He had sung of the wild roses of her forehead shedding their white petals on the day she was born. On the day she left Prospero’s Isle, he would turn around and dive back into her youth, carrying with him his unrequited desire. There he would dwell forever.

Eternally faithful, always unnoticed.

Copyright 2018 by Michael Swanwick. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In Print In China!


Look what came in the mail! I'm in print in China again.

This happens often enough to be flattering, but it never loses its thrill for me. People half the world away want to read my stories. I've met some of them. Some of them are my friends. This is a very big deal for me. 

The greatest reward a writer gets is being part of the community of writers. Yeah, the money is useful because it helps keep one from starving to death. But knowing that someone like Paul Park or Greer Gilman or Zhang Haihong takes you seriously as a writer is the real payoff. And of course there's always the thought that among your readers are probably some very remarkable people. About ten years ago, Haihong introduced me to a quiet but confident man named Liu Cixin who, she assured me, was the best science fiction writer in China. It was only much later, when I read The Three-Body Problem that I understood why she admired him so.

The book is World's Science Fiction Stories Collection II. It contains eighteen stories, all translated from English. My contribution to the book is "Steadfast Castle."

Above: Even the Dragonstairs Prss rug dragon is impressed by the collection.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Conversation Larger Than The Universe


I've been busy on a dozen projects, all of which will be interesting to talk about when done, but not yet. But last week I was in the Grolier Club for the launch of Henry Wessells' exhibition of books from his science fiction and fantasy collection, A Conversation Larger Than the Universe.

The Grolier Club is an organization for book fanciers. Not folks like you and me, mere buyers and readers and amassers of books, but serious bibliophiles. Researchers and scholars and people who make important collections available to their peers. The tomes and related papers on display are not necessarily rare -- though some of them are very rare indeed -- but, taken all together, present a sketch of the entwined genres as a whole, one slightly askew, for it is representative of the interests of a single reader but in its way comprehensive.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, also titled A Conversation Larger Than the Universe,and subtitled Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic. It includes images of I think all the books on display and Henry's graceful writing about the field: It can be read as a history of the twinned and mingled genres, though really it's best to think of as a series of windows opened into different times and concerns. Representative chapters include "Doc Savage & the 1930s," "Flying Saucer Rock and Roll" (not about the Howard Waldrop story but about the intersection of SF and rock), "Dark Science," and "Boucher and Borges." If these are topics of interest to you, I can only add that what is said about them is all lucid and engaging.

But I haven't time for a full-scale book review -- those dozen projects, remember? -- so I can only add that the book will be available early this month and can be preordered here.

And you can find review quotes and a description of the book here

And while I'm reminiscing...

Did you know that rock and roll used to be a very hard thing to sell to a science fiction magazine? Back in the early 1980s, both Gardner Dozois and I went about raving to every editor in the field about a wonderful unpublished story called "Flying Saucer Rock and Roll" by a wonderful writer named Howard Waldrop and the universal response was, "Rock and roll? Ick." (Eventually, a young editor named Ellen Datlow bought it for Omni.) Gardner and I wrote a science fiction story with Jack Dann in which Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley meet under mysterious circumstances and if it hadn't sold right off the bat to Penthouse, I have no idea where it would have gone. High Times, maybe. That's where Gardner and I sold "Snow Job," our time-traveling, cocaine-dealer con men story. Back then, our salvage markets paid a lot more than the SF magazines did.

But that, as they say, is another story, for another time.

Above: Henry Wessells and me. I apologize for the bluriness. The light levels in the hall were pretty low.