Friday, November 20, 2020

Virtual Philcon 2020



Philcon begins today and normally I'd be in an out of the Cherry Hill hotel, shmoozoing, nursing a drink at the bar while chatting with old friends, checking out the books in the huckster room, and sitting on the occasional panel.

 All of that has been coronavirused into the past. Save for the panels. I'll be virtually participating in the virtual events this weekend with great enthusiasm.

 Here's my schedule:

 Friday, November 20

6:30 Reading: I'll be reading "Nirvana or Bust," which is, despite the title, not a wacky comedy satire of New Age enlightenment-seekers but a thoughtful science fiction tale of infrastructure and the future of humanity. With robots!

Saturday, November 21

10:00 a.m. Heinlein's Third Rule of Writing

7:00 p.m. Pandemic Fiction Versus Pandemic Reality

Sunday, November 21

11:30 a.m. Ray Bradbury Centennial


See you there!



Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"We Are All Heroes..."


Add caption

Recently, Vasily Vladimirsky interviewed me for Gorky Media in Russia. The article is online and English speakers can get a rough idea of what was asked and what was said by using a translation engine. 

Machine translation is not yet an exact art, alas. It's miraculous that it can be done at all. So if you read it in English, I should warn you that what I meant to say got distorted from time to time. Here, however, are two questions and answers from the original English:

Five Hugo awards went to you for short stories and a Nebula award for novels. What is the difference between working with a small form and a medium form from working on a novel?

Short stories are verbal machines constructed to deliver a single result: to make the reader laugh, cry, think, wonder, whatever. So they should be clear and clean, with an absolute minimum of moving parts and no wasted words. A novel is a great shaggy wandering beast. There’s room in it for small jokes, scenes of random beauty, dialogue whose sole purpose is to be entertaining to the reader. So long as the plot keeps on moving forward, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the most efficient way of getting where you’re going. A short story is an experience and a novel is a world.

Howard Waldrop put it best when he said that a short story is about the single most important event in the protagonist’s life and a novel is about the most important period in the protagonist’s life.

As for the difference in writing them, a novel allows the writer the pleasant experience of living in somebody else’s life for a long period of time. But a short story has the potential to achieve perfection. I’ve written several perfect short stories. Nobody’s ever written a perfect novel.

Your novel "The Iron dragon's Mother", the final part of the "Iron Dragons" trilogy, is published by Azbooka publishing house this month. More than a quarter of a century has passed since the first novel of the trilogy was published. How has your view of the world described in Dragon novels changed during this time?

I don’t think it has. I saw the world as a beautiful, alluring, dangerous place back then and I see it as beautiful, alluring, and dangerous now. Life is full of pain and loss and ecstasy. It’s no place for wusses. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again here: There should be a sign by the womb door reading: HEROES ONLY.

We are all heroes, descended from thousands of generations of heroes.

You can read the original interview, in Russian, here. 



Thursday, November 12, 2020

A Story or Two from the Scribbledehobbledehoydenii



Last night, I was idly writing microfictions on collages I'd made in my notebook (as one does), finished the one above, and read it aloud. My son Sean, who had dropped by, suggested I post it here. So that's what I'm doing.

You can't possibly read the text since it's blue ink on a dark blue background, so the fiction in its entirety is below:

When I was a boy, I shot holes in traffic signs with my .22. When I graduated from high school, I took my sweetheart out in the pickup truck I'd been workiing on for years. She got pregnant, we got married, and I got a job. Fifty years later, I look back on my life and think: Not bad, Boy. Not bad at all.

This is not autobiographical but it is the life story as it was played out by a lot of boys in Winooski High School, back when I lived in Vermont. Except for the pickup truck. They all had sedans with big back seats. 

At the time, I was appalled at the thought of having your entire life signed, sealed, and delivered at age 18. But age has a way of mellowing harsh judgments. So I was glad to be able to give a happy ending to some of those guys. I hope it's true.

And in case you'd like to see another story . . .

Here it is:

If you look carefully, you can see the story written on the woman's face.

Above, top and bottom: Scribbledehobbledehoydenii is my collective title for my notebooks. The singular is Scribbledehobbledehoyden. Some have individual titles, others don't. This one doesn't. Yet.



Tuesday, November 3, 2020

A Fine Clear Cold Day for an Election


With my lungs and, it has to be said, age, I'm a prime candidate to die from Covid-19, so with immense reluctance, I'm not working the polls in this election. As anybody who has put in the exhausting fourteen-or-more hour days doing so knows, it's exhilarating. You get to watch democracy in action. You get to help keep it honest. 

Alas, this year I'm on the sidelines.

But if Marianne and I can't work the polls, we can still do our bit as support staff. So we dropped off our son, the judge of elections, at Ward 21, Division 19 early this morning and are keeping our cell phones close so we can supply sudden needs that arise. So far, Sean has put in a request for cola, an iced coffee, and gloves for the outside worker who forgot to bring a pair. The weather is raw and when Marianne arrived with the gloves, she could tell by the red hands who she'd brought them for. 

He received them gratefully and said, "How much do I owe you?"

"Not a thing," Marianne said. And it was true.


Monday, November 2, 2020

All of Jack Frost's Wake On One Page.


My apologies for not posting this yesterday, All Saints Day, as promised. "Old Dusty," my trusty CRT monitor, abruptly died and by the time I had acquired a new flat screen monitor (the smallest and cheapest one they had, which is to say, huge) and installed it and undone all the new buts attendant thereunto, it was late and I forgot my promise. Mea culpa.

But to make up for that, here it is now, the full text of . . .


Jack Frost's Wake

Jack Frost dances merrily through the trees, turning green leaves brown, red, yellow, orange. All the world is his canvas.


Not only is Jack an artist, but he’s an avatar of Death as well. In his wake, plants die, insects die, birds die, mammals die. Occasionally, people too. This is why we close the shutters tight when the nights grow cold and the windows are rimed with frost.


But Jack has his playful side. Sometimes he writes words on leaves: AUTUMN, perhaps, or DEATH. He’ll take twin leaves and label one ORIGINAL and the other COPY. People find his handiwork scattered behind him by playful winds. No harm done.


Other times, he’ll write an entire story, leaf upon leaf. Passing through a graveyard, you snatch up the first word and then the second. It might be a ghost story or it might, like this one, tell of a gathering of werewolves, witches, ghouls, and other ghastlies to toast the memory of some departed soul. Oh, it gets rowdy then! Cemetery wine is poured and drunk, and whiskey from Hell’s own cellars. They dance and leap and howl. They perform dreadful deeds. A good time is had by all.


Scurrying after Jack Frost’s coattails, you grab each leaf as it falls, reading avidly. It is only as you reach the final paragraph and, indeed, the ultimate sentence that you realize that the dead soul whose wake they’re celebrating is you.


Michael Swanwick, September 25, 2020








Saturday, October 31, 2020

Jack Frost's Wake (Part XXXI)


Jack Frost's Wake (part XXXI)

The End


Plain text: is you.


 And in the spirit of the season . . .

Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope you enjoyed this year's story as much as Marianne and I enjoyed creating it. I'll be posting the entire story in plain text on All Saints Day.


 Immediately above: Yes, that's me, standing where someday I will be buried in a shallow grave.



Friday, October 30, 2020

Jack Frost's Wake (Part XXX)


Jack Frost's Wake (part XXX)


Plain text: that the dead soul whose wake they're celebrating


And just a reminder . . .

The second-ever blue moon chapbook put out by Dragonstairs Press goes on sale tonight at 5:54 p.m. Philadelphia time. That's moonrise. After moonset tomorrow morning, 7:17 a.m. tomorrow, no more copies will be sold. At midnight Saturday, any unsold copies will be burned.

Because the blue moon and Halloween overlap, Blue as the Moon contains several seasonal horror flash fictions. It will cost $12 within the US and $14 elsewhere, postage included.

You'll be able to order it via Paypal tonight at the Dragonstairs website here. But not before 5:54 p.m.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Jack Frost's Wake (Part XXIX)


I had another glowing review the other day for The Iron Dragon's Mother. Which was richly deserved, of course, but I was still grateful to see it. It was given by Rich Horton over at his blog, Strange at Ecbatan. Here's the (potential) pull quote, from the end of the review:

I don't think I've come close to doing this book justice. But I can say that I loved reading it, and that it deserves as wide a readership as it can get.

I could quote gobs of the interview here. But I'd rather you read it in context. You can find the review in its entirety here.


And because we're almost at the end of the serial . . .

Jack Frost's Wake (part XXIX)




Plain text: and, indeed, the ultimate sentence that you realize


And just so you remember . . .

Blue as the Moon, Dragonstairs Press's latest chapbook goes on sale tomorrow at 5:54 p.m.--that's moonrise for that rarity of rarities, a Halloween Blue Moon. In honor of this event, Blue as the Moon will only be available until 7:17 a.m. At the subsequent midnight, the manuscript, foul matter, and any unsold copies will be burned. The video of the immolation will be posted online.



Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Blue Moon -- from Moonrise to Moonset This Friday to Saturday Only!


What exactly is a blue moon? Well, the older definition was the fourth full moon in a single season. Later, it came to mean the second full moon in a single month. Both meanings are honored today but only the second one applies here.

In Iceland, there's a tiny imprint named Tunglið (Icelandic for Moon) that only publishes books on a full moon and always in an edition of 69. They offer them for sale only for the one day and burn all unsold copies immediately after

This so charmed Marianne Porter who is, I periodically have to remind people, not only the editor but the publisher, proprietor, and sole power behind Dragonstairs Publications (I am only the in-house content provider), that she decided to do the same. But because putting out a publication a month is a draconian schedule, she decided to publish a chapbook limited to 69 copies, with all unsold copies to be burned at the end of the day, once in a blue moon.


The first such chapbook, titled Blue Moon of course, went on sale March 31, 2018. The bonfire of the publishing vanity was held at midnight.

The next blue moon after that will be this week, on October 31--Halloween. So I wrote a horror-themed series of short-short fictions, flashes, for a new chapbook titled Blue as the Moon. It is 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches, hand-sewn, signed, and numbered. It will be available for thirteen hours, starting at 5:54 p.m. this Friday, October 30 (moonrise) to 7:17 a.m. on Saturday, October 31, 2020 (moonset). The fire and burning will be held at midnight on Halloween evening. Philadelphia time, it goes without saying.

Because Marianne is no fan of seasonal blue moons, the next opportunity to get one of these extremely ephemeral chapbooks will be on August 31, 2023.

Ordering information will go up on the Dragonstairs Press website on Friday. You can find it here

Oh, and it's $12 in the US, $14 out of country, postage included.

And because the serialization must go on . . .

Jack Frost's Wake (part XXVIII)





Plain text: It is only as you reach the final paragraph


Above: Blue as the Moon, then under construction. The chapbooks are now assembled, sewn, and stacked, and the matches are ready.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Jack Frost's Wake (Part XXVII)


Jack Frost's Wake (part XXVII)


Plain text: you grab each leaf as it falls, reading avidly.




Sunday, October 25, 2020

Jack Frost's Wake (Part XXVI)


Jack Frost's Wake (part XXVI)



Plain text: Scurrying after Jack Frost's coattails,



Saturday, October 24, 2020

Jack Frost's Wake (Part XXV)


Jack Frost's Wake (part XXV)



 Plain text: A good time is had by all.


Above: I hope it's obvious that a stone cemetery woman indicates the end of a paragraph. It is? Good.


Jack Frost's Wake (Part XXIV)


Jack Frost's Wake (part XXIV) 




Plain text: They perform dreadful deeds.



Friday, October 23, 2020

Jack Frost's Wake (Part XXIII)

.Jack Frost's Wake (part XXIII)




Plain text: They dance and leap and howl.



Thursday, October 22, 2020

Tachyon Thursday


Save for the serialization of Jack Frost's Wake (latest installment below), I haven't been posting much lately. Mea culpa. I've been busy as busy on a dozen projects of late, far too many of them non-paying. But while I've been away, Tachyon Publications has been taking up the slack.

Years ago, Gordon Van Gelder told me that when the Internet was new and hot, many writers saw its potential as a way of seizing hold of their own publishing destiny and asked their publishers for permission to do their own publicity.

To which the publishers replied, "Take it! Run with it! We don't want it! Thank God!" 
Publicity is still a function of publishing, of course, but not as large a function--and most of it, reasonably enough, is focused on the books they hope to make enormous amounts of money from.

Tachyon, being a small (-ish) press, has a more Old School approach. Their regular feature, Tachyon Tidbitss promotes their authors with news and bits of ego-boo gleaned from the Web. And yesterday's features seven worthy writers, one of whom was me!

You can find it here.


And . . .

Jack Frost's Wake (part XXII)



 Plain text:  Cemetery wine is poured and drunk, and whiskey from Hell’s own cellars.]


Top: Photograph by Beth Gwynn