Thursday, November 14, 2019

"Dragon Slayer"


Good news! Jonathan Strahan's new anthology, The Book of Dragons has just been announced. That's the cover up above.

The collection will be published this summer by Harper Voyager and has been years in the making. More so in my case, I suspect, than most of the others. Somewhere between several and many  years ago, I began writing my own contribution, "Dragon Slayer," with the words:

Every road and open doorway is a constant danger to a man of wandering disposition. Olav had stood on the threshold of his cottage one spring morning and the road had looked so fine that he couldn’t resist setting foot on it, and the next thing he knew it had carried him to the sea. There he chanced upon a merchant ship in need of a new hand. He learned the sailoring trade, fought pirates, killed a kraken, grew a beard, pierced an ear, and one memorable night won a handful of rubies at a single turn of the cards and lost them all to a barmaid who doped his ale. Two years later, he was shipwrecked off Thule and briefly married to a witch-woman who had blackwork tattoos on her face and had filed her teeth to points. 

Even the skeptical among us will have to admit that I didn't skimp on plot!

I made a strong beginning, moved Olav through several lands and pages and... came up against a wall. I had a dragon by then, but didn't know why it wanted what it did and what that meant. So onto the back lot of my hard drive it went, to languish with a hundred other partially-written stories, waiting for the day when inspiration would strike.

Then one day inspiration struck, in the form of Jonathan Strahan inviting me to submit a story to his dragon anthology. The attractive thing about the invitation was that he had a llong deadline--over a year. Surely, I thought, given that much time, I could figure out exactly what was going on.

And as it turned out, I could. It was a close thing, though. There is something lounging deep within my brain, looking like a cross between a gigantic lizard and Orson Wells, which says, "We shall write no story before its time."

And . . . 

I can't tell you what's in the collection because they haven't yet released the table of contents, but I can tell you who:

Daniel Abraham
Kelly Barnhill
Peter S. Beagle
Brooke Bolander
Beth Cato
Zen Cho
C. S. E Cooney
Aliette de Bodard
Kate Elliott
Sarah Gailey
heodora Goss
Ellen Klages
R.F. Kuang
Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirski
Ken Liu
Scott Lynch
Patricia A McKillip
Garth Nix
K. J. Parker
Kelly Robson
Michael Swanwick
Jo Walton
Elle Katharine White
Jane Yolen
J. Y. Yang

Which I think you'll agree is a pretty great lineup.

More info here.


Friday, November 8, 2019

My Philcon Schedule


Okay, it's on! And here's my schedule. If you're going to be at Philcon this weekend, be sure to say hi.

Sat 10:00 AM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Joan Wendland (mod), Chuck Rothman, Samuel Delany,
    Robert E. Waters, Eric Avedissian, Michael Swanwick]

    Authors talk about their own literary influences, and the works that
    inspired them to become writers

Sat 12:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Promenade (Gaming) (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Michael Swanwick (mod), Tess Kissinger, Phil Giunta]

Sat 1:00 PM in Plaza IV (Four) (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Brandon Budda (mod), Glenn McDorman, Michael Swanwick,
    Darrell Schweitzer]

    Best known for his masterpiece The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
    is the author of over thirty science-fiction and fantasy novels and
    hundreds of short stories. This panel explores Wolfe’s speculative
    worlds, his common themes and motifs, his most memorable characters,
    and (of course!) his magical prose

Sat 2:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Earl Bennett (mod), Michael Swanwick, James L. Cambias,
    James Beall, B. Lana Guggenheim, Russell J. Handelman]

    Remember when spaceships went whizzing through the ether? Remember
    the hollow earth? What obsolete scientific ideas shaped SF, and
    which ones still persist in it

Sat 6:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Bernie Mojzes (mod), Michael Swanwick, Samuel Delany,
    Karalyn Morris, Heather Hutsell]

    Who's done it well? When does it work for a story, when does it
    fail, and why


Thursday, November 7, 2019

"Bring Three Books To Read, Mom"


Because I didn't keep as careful a calendar as I should, I committed to speaking to a class in Ann Arbor (a beautiful city, by the way) on a day when I should have been volunteering to work the polls for the Philadelphia general election.

So I filled out an absentee ballot and Marianne stepped in for me.

"Bring three books to read, Mom," our son Sean, who is the judge of elections for the 21st Ward 19th Division and for one day her boss, told her. The mayor of Philadelphia is chosen in this election but the city is so overwhelmingly Democrat that Kenney didn't bother to run. Nor did the Republican candidate. And almost all the other candidates were judicial. It can be a lot of work to get information on what judges to vote for and whom not.

So this election was widely be anticipated to be a snoozer.

Hoo boy. Were we--and everyone else--wrong! There were lines. The division had 594 registered voters, some of whom were almost certainly dead or moved, and 205 active voters. That's more than one-third! You have to work the polls to appreciate how extraordinary that is in an off year with no major office at stake.

And, according to the news, the same thing applied everywhere in the country.

The only possible explanation is that the entire nation is gearing up for next year's presidential election. Everyday citizens are taking their franchise seriously.

That makes me feel good about this country.

Above: The view from my airplane window as I came into Philadelphia. I think I'll stay put for a little while.


Monday, November 4, 2019

A For Really And Truly Ghost Ship


How's this for an eerie coincidence? Right after my story "Ghost Ships" appeared in the 70th Anniversary Issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a for really and truly ghost ship appeared on the the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

I am not making this up. That's it up above.

And here's the city's explanation.

Inspired by the nuanced and complex history of the Delaware River in the 1700s, Biangle Studio created the site specific, three-dimensional light and water-based public art installation Ghost Ship. The 18th-century ship appears on the Philadelphia Waterfront as Ghost Ship for the month of October to shine a light on the shared history of the Delaware River, and reflect on its role in shaping Philadelphia today.    
Which, if you read carefully, you will discover means that it's over. They've turned off the pumps throwing water into the air and  the lights projecting onto the droplets. Like all ghost sightings it's ephemeral... seen and then over.

But beautiful. It lingers.

And speaking of my story . . .

A good issue of a fiction magazine is like an enhanced anthology. There's a book's worth of short fiction, and a selection of reviews and non-fiction to boot.  One of the best anthologies of he year was F&SF's 70th Anniversary Issue, which has just gone off the stands.

Here's the table of conetnts:

September/October 2019
70th Anniversary Issue


“The White Cat’s Divorce” by Kelly Link
“American Gold Mine” by Paolo Bacigalupi
“Kabul” by Michael Moorcock
“Erase, Erase, Erase” by Elizabeth Bear


“Little Inn on the Jianghu” by Y.M. Pang
“Under the Hill” by Maureen McHugh
“Madness Afoot” by Amanda Hollander
“The Light on Eldoreth” by Nick Wolven
“Booksavr” by Ken Liu
“The Wrong Badger” by Esther Friesner
“Ghost Ships” by Michael Swanwick
“Homecoming” by Gardner Dozois


“Last Human in the Olympics” by Mary Soon Lee
“Halstead IV” by Jeff Crandall


Three Score and Ten by Robert Silverberg
Books to Look For by Charles de Lint

    This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
    Radicalized by Cory Doctorow
    Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski
    The Golden Age of Science Fiction by John Wade
    Dracopedia Field Guide by William O’Connor
    Best Game Ever by R. R. Angell

Books by James Sallis
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
Films: Love Death + Some Regression by Karin Lowachee
Science: Net Up or Net Down? by Jerry Oltion
Plumage from Pegasus: A Giraffe Yoked to an Ox: A Review of Flora Columbia: Goddess of a New Age by Paul Di Filippo
Curiosities: Science Fiction: Complete with Everything: Aliens, Giant Ants, Space Cadets, Robots, and One Plucky Girl by No-Frills Entertainment (1981) by Thomas Kaufsek

Cartoons by Mark Heath, Danny Shanahan
Cover by David A. Hardy

The issue has vanished from the stands like the ghost ships in my story. But you can buy individual issues from the F&SF website. Or, if you're the kind of person who likes to throw an Ipod loaded with their entire library into their carry-on bag just before making a spontaneous trip to Katmandu, from Weightless Books.

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again. I'll post my adventures, if I have any, from the wilds of Michigan.


Friday, November 1, 2019

What the North Wind Said


Well, it's November and the Halloween Season is over, all five nights of it. All through October, I've been serializing a story-or-prose-poem I wrote on leaves. Here it is, in its entirety:

The North Wind Speaks

My sister comes rustling through the birch woods.  Gentle she is, but restless, aloof, and intent on her search.

What is the East Wind looking for?  If only she’d tell us!  She has a thousand brothers and we are all devoted to her welfare.  Is it a faithless lover?  We’ll track the bastard down and kill him.  A lost child?  As good as found and returned.  The answer to a cunning riddle posed her by a sphinx?  We know everything there is to know.

But when we ask, our sister does not answer.  She shakes her head, smiles sadly, and moves on.

And in her wake – rain.

Above: The jack-o-lanterns have disappeared from the porch, leaving behind two pumpkin ghosts.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (conclusion)


It's Halloween--the day when pumpkins go bad. The two above were exemplary jack-o-lanterns a day ago.. Firm, solid, even cheerful. And now look at them! Their insides are black with mold, their expressions gothic with malign intent. Nobody dares reach inside them to recover what remains of the candles they've been eating night after night. We tell ourselves that it's--yuk!--the liquescence within. But honestly? Look at those mouths. Look at those grins. Life's too short to take such chances.

On Halloween all bad pumpkins are sent to the back yard so they won't scare away trick-or-treaters. They linger there, among the dead ferns for a day or three... and then they're gone!

Gone where? Nobody knows. To do what? We can only guess.

Do they grow bodies and stride off into the darkness? Do they turn to a black miasmic mist and float away in search of innocent lungs? I haven't looked into the question.

Nor should you.

And the conclusion to "The North Wind Speaks" . . .


Above: "The North Wind Speaks" is now complete. The full text will be posted here tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Halloween in Old Winooski


Tomorrow is Halloween and that brings to mind what the holiday was like in Winooski, Vermont, when I was young.

Back then, Halloween wasn't a day but more of a short season. It began with Bean Day, when boys (never girls; the gender lines were rigidly patrolled back then) smuggled pea shooters and boxes of dried beans into school to see how much chaos could be created before the shooters and ammo were spotted and confiscated by our teachers, the long-suffering nuns of St. Francis Xavier Elementary School.

That night was Clothesline Night. This must have been a very localized thing because you could always tell what families had come to Winooski within the past year--they were the only ones who didn't know to take in their clotheslines before sunset. Because after dark, young vandals went looking for clotheslines to cut into pieces so short they could never be tied together and used again. Even people who had come from other parts of Vermont were caught unaware.

Then came Gate Night. Originally, it was the night when mischief-makers stole gates off their hinges, tied them to flagpole ropes, hoisted them to the tops of flagpoles and then cut the ropes to make their recovery difficult. Easily-removable small town gates being a thing of the past by then, however, Gate Night had become Bicycle Night. There being only so many flagpoles in Winooski, you didn't see many bicycles hoisted into the sky the next day. But those you did see were memorably surreal.

The recreational vandalism reached a peak on Mischief Night, the only one of the lot that seems to be celebrated by all of America. The gold standard of mischief night was tipping over an outhouse. However, there was only one outhouse remaining in Winooski and it seemed to be retained out of nostalgia rather than for use. It was never, so far as I knew, tipped over. But I believe that one night a year its owners kept a watchful eye on it.

Mischief Night was a celebration of minor vandalism--soaped windows, hit-and-run doorbell ringing, egging, and the like. I heard of toilet-papering houses, of course, but it was only when I moved to Virginia that I actually saw a TP'd house. Winooski was not a rich town.

Then came Halloween. Back then, it was the children's holiday. We dressed up in costumes, went house to house demanding candy, and then ate ourselves sick. It was great.

Those kids who hadn't yet had their fill of destruction took the admonition of "trick or treat" to heart and kept track of which houses didn't fork over the goodies. Later that night they would return to reprise Mischief Night on the villains.

The day after Halloween was All Saints Day and marked the end of the short, destructive season. No tricks were scheduled for that day, of course. But if you left your jack-o-lanterns out after Halloween was over, come morning you'd find them smashed to pieces on the front walk.

And "The North Wind Speaks" (part 30)

And in her wake --

(concluded tomorrow)

Above, top: Jack-of-the-Porch, currently residing not far from our front door.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 29)


and moves on.

(continued tomorrow)

And I must apologize . . .

Other than my Autumn story, there hasn't been much new content on my blog this week. Mea culpa. I've been as busy as  busy. But I hope to have new material soon. And announcements! As they mature.


Monday, October 28, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 28)


smiles sadly,

(continued tomorrow)


Sunday, October 27, 2019

"The North Wind Speaks" (part 27)


She shakes her head,

(continued tomorrow)


Saturday, October 26, 2019

"The North Wind Speaks" (part 26)


does not answer.

(Continued tomorrow)


Friday, October 25, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 25 & to date)


                                                                   our sister

(continued tomorrow)

And because we're closing in on the end . . .

Here's the text of "The North Wind Speaks" to date:

 My sister comes rustling through the birch woods.  Gentle she is, but restless, aloof, and intent on her search.

What is the East Wind looking for?  If only      
she’d tell us! She has a thousand brothers   and we are all devoted to her welfare. 
 Is it a faithless lover?  We’ll track the bastard down and kill him.  A lost child?  As good as  found and returned.  The answer to a cunning riddle posed her by a sphinx?  We know everythingthere is to know.
 But when we ask, our sister... 

The story-or-prose-poem will be concluded on (of course) the 31st of October.

The North Wind Speaks (part 24)


But when we ask

(continued tomorrow)

And mea culpa . . .

I lost my phone yesterday. The leaf-story pictures were on it, so I was not able to upload them to my blog in a timely manner. I apologize for that. Today's (Fridaay's) blog will be posted this afternoon.

And today's diagrams . . .

These are the last of the lot. After this, I know where the plot is going and don't need to scry into the future with diagrams.

The top diagram shows the relationship between Aerth, Faerie, and the Empyrean. Souls move from Aerth to Faerie, dragons from the Empyrean to Faerie, and trains connect the three worlds. It didn't occur to me until just now that the three worlds are engaged in their version of the triangular trade that is the chief cause of America's original sin--slavery. But the past extends its roots deep into the present.

The middle diagram shows a simplified relationship of Earth, Air, and Sea. Though, as my notation says, in actuality The relationship goes beyond complex.

The bottom diagram plots Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos.  As the notation says:

One spews
 One chews
     One mops up

All three diagrams are probably simply aspects of the One True Diagram. But I'd be lying if I said I could map the elements against the worlds against the fates. So that will have to remain unexplained.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Tales of Old Earth -- E-Book Sale Saturday!

Image result for tales of old earth

I've just been told that the e-book of Tales of Old Earth will go on sale this Saturday for one day only.

So on Saturday, October 25, you can buy it for only $2.99.

This is a great opportunity for ebook readers who are not familiar with my short fiction but would like to be. You know who you are.

Here's the table of contents:
The Very Pulse of the Machine

The Dead       

Scherzo with Tyrannosaur   
Ancient Engines         

North of Diddy-Wah-Diddy 

The Mask      

Mother Grasshopper 

Riding the Giganotosaur  
Wild Minds  
The Raggle Taggle Gypsy-O 

Microcosmic Dog

In Concert   
Radiant Doors

Ice Age         
Walking Out   

The Changeling's Tale

Midnight Express    
The Wisdom of Old Earth     

Radio Waves

Which I feel, and I hope you agree, is a lot of fiction for the money.

And "The North Wind Speaks" (part 23) . . .

there is

to know.

And today's diagram . . .

This is a simple diagram showing Cat's and Raven's jaunt into the past. It starts and ends at the Witch House,  descends into Brocielande Station, proceeds to the Great River, crosses the Bridge and finally comes to the Village, there to encounter both Enna and the elders. You can tell I have a good idea of what is to come by how tidy it all looks.

Various thoughts are thrown off by the diagram and at teh bottom of the page is a rather rudimentary sketch of the Ruins of Ys. I had not yet a clear idea of what Cat would find when she gained her goal.