Monday, July 13, 2020

Puck and Till Eulenspiegel


Two old friends from my childhood have come to stay with me! That's Puck on the left and Till Eulenspiegel on the right. They're both dolls.

Till and Puck were gifts from Mrs. Kressner, our next-door neighbor, back in the 1950s. The Kresners were very good friends of the family and their son Bernie, several years older than me, was my hero. He built rockets, kept snakes (temporarily) in cages, collected butterflies, and so on. My sisters, Patty and Mary Carol and I knew that we could drop by Mrs. Kressner's house anytime and she would give us cookies or other treats she had baked herself.

I have no idea why Mrs. Kressner decided to give Puck to my sister Patty and Till Eulenspiegel to me. But I know that they survive to this day because my mother, who was a doll collector in a minor way, confiscated them both and kept them safe in a cabinet with her own dolls.

When I went off to college, I realized that I was going to be traveling light for the next decade, and I gave Til to my sister Mary who, I knew, would appreciate him. And that was that.

Until a couple of weeks ago, when out of the Blue Mary Carol sent me Till, which I thought extremely generous of her. Then, learning of Mary's gift, Patty sent him Puck. Which knocked me flat.

So Till and Puck are united. I haven't found the right place of honor in which to display them yet, but I will.

Both Puck and Till Eulenspiegel are tricksters and as such, a secret but very real presence in my fantasy. I thought of them often when I was writing the Iron Dragon trilogy.


Friday, July 10, 2020

The Book of Dragons


I'm in print yet again! My story, "Dragon Slayer" is in Jonathan Strahan's new anthology, The Book of Dragons. 

Back when I was a teen, I really needed this book--and nothing at all like it existed either. Stories about dragons were as scarce as... well, as scarce as dragons. When I first conceived of being a writer, one of my ambitions was to write a dragon story someday. A dragon story for adults, I mean, not one of those charming, served-up-with-a-tolerant-smirk things they fed children.

And now, after writing three dragon-haunted novels, I find a story of mine in the book I needed and couldn't have all those long years ago.

But I'm supposed to give you a hard sell for this thing. So here it is:

This book contains stories and a couple of poems by:

Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Seanan Maguire, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, me, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang.  Beautifully illustrated by Rovina Cai (the cover is below but there are also interior illos for every story).

You can find the announcement here.


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Vacuum Flowers EBook Salw TODAY ONLY!!!


Open Road Media, my very active ebook publisher, is having a one-day sale of Vacuum Flowers. TODAY ONLY (that's  Thursday, July 9) it goes on sale for $1.99. So if you've always been curious and like to read ebooks, this is your chance. Vacuum Flowers is loads of fun and ever so well written.

And that's as close to a hard sell as I'll ever get.

And here's the boilerplate:

ISBN13 Title Author Promo Type Country Start Date End Date Promo Price
9781504036504 Vacuum Flowers Swanwick, Michael ORM - Early Bird Books NL US 2020-07-09 2020-07-09 $1.99
9781504036504 Vacuum Flowers Swanwick, Michael ORM - Early Bird Books NL CA 2020-07-09 2020-07-09 $1.99

You can subscribe to the newsletters at the links below so that you will get the direct link to the deal on the day that it appears.

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Monday, July 6, 2020

"Artificial People" in Clarkesworld


I'm in print again! My story "Artificial People" is in the current issue of Clarkesworld. 

"Artificial People" was plotted out during Sparks and Embers: a Lyric Fest concert at  The Academy of Vocal Arts. The concert was described in the program book as "Imaginative song pairings to ponder the spark of new life, new seasons and new love, with the embers of endings."

So now you know where stories come from and what my story is about.

 You can find my story here. Or just go to and wander about.

And while I'm lockdowning . . .

I have often observed that when I'm my most productive, I look the least so, and when I'm the least productive is when all the stories in the pipeline appear. Right now is the exception. "Artificial People" is the first of several stories coming out soon and I'm simultaneously working on at least a half dozen projects at once.

But am I content? No. Because I'm not currently working on a novel.

Gonnabe writers, take this lesson the heart: You will never be happy. I once heard George R. R. Martin complain that a story of his wasn't going to make it onto the Nebula ballot, while holding two fresh-won Hugo Awards in his arms.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

a writer's diary

I finished a story on Friday but had mixed feelings about it. It seemed simultaneously too weird and yet ultimately not strange enough, not enough of a challenge to our common beliefs, to justify the liberties I had taken with it. So I showed it to Marianne and Sean. Marianne was unsure what she thought, but expressed hesitations. Sean, of course, knew exactly what he didn't like about it and told me.

I had been planning to shove the thing in the pie closet and forget it for a few years. But their comments, when put together inside my skull, made me realize how to fix it. So I jotted down a few notes and I'll do the revision Monday morning. Then put the story into the pie closet for God knows how long.

Marianne thinks it may be unpublishable, for reasons that seem eminently sensible to me. But this has never been a sensible occupation. Anyway, if it isn't publishable, it will give scholars something to find in my papers. A small frisson for them, a little joke for me.


Monday, June 29, 2020

My Virtual Weekend


I had two virtual events over the weekend. One I saw but did not actively participate in. The other I anticipated in but did not see.

First was the Locus Awards Ceremony. I watched some panels and then the ceremony itself. My novel, The Iron  Dragon's Mother was up for Best Fantasy Novel... and lost. Which happens rather a lot. Marianne got curious and went to Wikipedia, where she found that only Robert Silverberg, Gardner Dozois, and Ellen Datlow have more Locus Award nominations than I do, though many others have more wins. 

So I'm the loser-est. Woot!

Anyway, it was fun. I wore my most colorful shirt (that's it up above) , and I wholeheartedly congratulate all the winners.

Meanwhile, in China, it was Youth Art Week.  So the Future Affairs Administration partnered with the China Academy of Arts to present a forum with the theme "Bits, Genes, Arts, the Future and Past of the Human Mind." Which is, you'll agree, a pretty big theme. For my part, I was asked to do a ten-minute presentation on communicating with human beings a thousand years in the future. So I did, and it came out pretty well.

If you're curious, you can see a video of my presentation here.

Like everyone else, I'm beginning to think this whole coronavirus pandemic thing is pretty boring. So it was pleasant to feel connected, briefly, with friends on the West Coast and in China. I'm grateful for that.

And speaking of Connie Willis . . .

As always, Connie Willis did a wonderful job emceeing. She makes it look effortless. In fact, she did so good a job, I think she should consider taking a leaf from the Romans by having a minion standing by her shoulder while she's entertaining the crowds to occasionally murmur, "Remember you're writer."

Just so she keeps on with the novels and stories.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Devil's Ways


I'm in print again! My quite charming story "Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown" has been reprinted in Devil's Ways, a Dragonwell Publishing anthology assembled by Anna Kashina and J. M. Sidorova. I haven't seen a copy yet, but just look at those names!

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about it:

The Devil goes globe-trotting in this eclectic anthology that explores the many guises of the Dark Lord across cultures and ages. Persephone D’Shaun’s shocking “Nzembe” is a twisted tale of zombie-like creatures set in the plains of Africa with an ending some readers will find hard to stomach. An unnamed girl tries to steal back her heart from her winged lover in R.S.A. Garcia’s lyrical “Fire in His Eyes, Blood on His Teeth,” which draws from Caribbean folklore and the legend of Nanny of the Maroons. Feminist themes carry through many of the tales. Imogen Howson’s “Frayed Tapestry,” which follows an amnesiac woman and her manipulative husband, is a bit too on the nose, but elsewhere gender dynamics are handled more gracefully, as in “Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown” by Michael Swanwick, in which 15-year-old Su-yin follows her father into hell, where she must endure a series of horrible dates in order to save him from eternal damnation, and in Nancy Kress’s brilliant “Unto the Daughters,” a powerful reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve. Though horror fiends may be disappointed to find little blood-curdling terror, there are very few duds among these wide-ranging tales. Readers are in for a devilish treat. 

That, my friends, is what we call a rave review.

My congratulations to Anna Kashina and J. M. Sidorova for having created what looks to be one splendid book. When it arrives, I plan to put down whatever I'm reading and devoour every word of it, from cover to cover.

Except for my story, of course. I already know how that comes out.

You can find the book on the Dragonwell Publishing page here. Or, you know, have your local independent bookstore order it. Those guys are on the front lines of civilization and we want them still in business when the coronavirus is no more.


Monday, June 15, 2020

Gulliver's Wife... from Dragonstairs!


If there's a silver lining to this coronacloud, it's  that the self-enforced lockdown has led Marianne Porter to work on some interesting publications for Dragonstairs Press.

Case in point: Gulliver's Wife. This is a story I wrote in nine single-page chapters, based on illustrations by W. T. Horton. For it, Marianne has created a hand-sewn, signed, limited edition of 50, most of which will be available for purchase. From her press release:

When Gulliver was lost at sea, his wife did not stay at home, wringing her hands, but went out in search of him. Her voyage to the Moon and back and what she learned in the process are recounted in nine swift chapters, inspired by the Golden Dawn visionary artist, W. H. Horton. 
 Gulliver's Wife will be available for sale at, on Tuesday June 16, 2020 starting at noon, Eastern DST. 

The chapbook will cost, if I recall correctly, $13 domestic and $15 out of country.

Marianne does not take advance orders.

And if this is your sort of thing . . .

You might want to set your phone alarm for noon, if you hope to buy a copy of Gulliver's Wife. The last time Marianne offered a chapbook in an edition of 50 for sale, it sold out in 16 minutes.

She hates it when I tell her I expect this one to sell out even faster. But I do.


Monday, June 8, 2020

Retro-Review: "The Bucket of Blood" by John O'Hara

The Cape Cod Lighter by O'Hara, John

Sometimes I feel out of touch with all the world. Nowhere is this more obvious to me than in my admiration of John O'Hara's short fiction.

In his heyday, O'Hara was known for writing scandalous fiction in which adults had sex with people they were not married to and didn't necessarily like. Worse, he based much of his work on the sins and lives of people he knew. Consequently, for decades, his name was anathema in Pottsville, PA, his hometown. After his death, he was pretty much written off as a sociological writer of upper-middle-class East Coast America. If this makes you feel no obligation whatsoever to read his work... well, you're far from alone.

But then there's "The Bucket of Blood." The story begins as a profile of Jay Detweiler, alcoholic and former carnie, who becomes the owner and proprietor of the eponymous dive bar. It pauses to explain why the bar doesn't deserve that title and give the history of the other bar in town so-named and why it does. In wonderfully granular detail, it explores the interrelationships of the police, the politicians, and the underworld. It examines how a man can run an honest business in a dishonest world. This is a story such as Joseph Mitchell, the author of Up in the Old Hotel, might have written, had he devoted his life to fiction.

(Footnote: If you haven't read Up in the Old Hotel, order it now, via your favorite independent book store and read it as soon as it comes in. You'll thank me.)

This is as small-town a story as it's possible to imagine. Midway through it, Jay reflects, "It amused him to think back over his first year and to realize that in all that time he had lived in an area that was roughly four blocks by three," but in that space O'Hara created a world. One with vivid people--a criminal too stupid to live, an honest-enough crooked cop, a prostitute who has unrealistic ambitions that no honest reader could blame her for--and a small but carefully examined life spent as wisely and well as you and I can hope for our own.

Bob Dylan famously wrote, "to live outside the law, you must be honest." If you're like me, a little voice in the back of your head said, "Oh, yeah? Prove it!" This is John O'Hara's proof, written long before the first word of "Absolutely Sweet Marie" was penned. O'Hara had a reputation as a cold and sardonic writer. But this story has heart. It recognizes the accomplishment and virtue of a man most of us would never acknowledge exists. It grants him the same absolution that we, in our heart of hearts, devoutly pray for ourselves.

Oh, and I just want to say . . .

As a writer, I can look at a story and have a good idea of how much work went into it. Some of O'Hara's fictions, works that anybody would have been proud to write, could have been tossed off in an afternoon. Not this one. It took blood, sweat, and toil.

It was a work of love. And that love was the love of literature.

Which is why I admire this guy so much. Because he deserves it.

Above: I never have known why the collection was called that.


Gene Wolfe and Me

.ReReading Wolfe

I was interviewed recently for the ReReading Wolfe podcast on the subject, obviously enough, of Gene Wolfe. I cannot claim to have been a close friend of Gene's but I am proud of the fact that I was a friend. I first met him in the 1970s, corresponded with him off and on, and I've read pretty much all of his work. So I have opinions about him and, without falling over into the sin of idolatry, they're pretty much all admiring.

James Wynn and Craig Brewer did a great job with the interview. The questions were all spot-on. The answers were... well, I don't listen to my own interviews, so I don't know. Marianne tells me I did fine.

I do remember that I talked about Gene Wolfe's one big contribution to my novel Stations of the Tide, and that I told the story of the time when Carol Emshwiller told me she was in mourning because she'd just finished a novel and all the characters in it, with whom she'd lived so long, were gone. At a very minimum, that one is worth hearing.

You can hear the podcast here. Or go to the podcast site and poke around.


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

What I'm Working On Today


That's it up above--what I'm currently working on. This is all front-burner and middle-burner stuff. There's a lot more on the back burners, much of which will probably never get written.

Even through the fog of the Internet, I can see you doubt me. So I'll do a partial list. All stories but one are incomplete and some are only a few pages:

The small black book and smaller red booklet on the top are notebooks. I'm rarely without a notebook and I use them to jot down ideas and notions.

Loose papers below that: The text for a Dragonstairs Press chapbook, Phases of the Sun and Moon, which I'm currently working on. The blue folder immediately below that contains materials related to that project.

Loose paper sticking out: Notes for "Alice in the Night World." This is the story Marianne believes to be unpublishable. We'll see. It's coming along pretty well.

Tan folder: "Dream Atlas." Currently out on submission. So I'll take a moment off right now to file it. (Done! One of the pages had to be reprinted.)

Blue Folder: "Alice in the Night World."

Pink Folder: A Sherlock Holmes story.

Yellow Folder: Collaboration with a writer begun many years ago, which I'm trying to bing back to life.

Loose page: From an early draft of "Artificial People." Into the waste basket!

Brown accordion file: Research for an unbegun story set in the Permian.

Tan file: Gardner Dozois' brief notes for what became The City of God, our collaborative novel and his last. The book comes out from this August. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with his notes.

Pink folder: "The Last Days of Old Night."

Pink folder: My Mars story. Long, long ago Kim Stanley Robinson imposed an agreement on me (I never actually agreed to it; he did that for me) that I wouldn't write anything set on Mars and he'd leave the Moon to me. Since then he's set fiction on the Moon, so I figure I'm under no obligation to keep his promise.

Loose sheets: "Puck and the Lady," notes toward a story set in Winooski, Vermont, and outtakes from a story based on a concert by Lyric Fest at the Academy of Vocal Arts. Since there were two stories, I"m not sure which one.

Green folder: A Christmas story.

Green folder: "Annie Without Crow." This one is going pretty well, so I'm moving it to the top of the pile.

Tan folder: "Winter's King." I've been working on this for a decade or two, without much progress. But I still think there's something there.

Tan folder: "Coyote in Lublin." A Mongolian Wizard story.

Yellow folder: "Interview With the Robot."

Tan folder: Non-fiction piece. I'm aiming to have it done for 2027.

Green folder: Gulliver's Wife. a sort of mock-up with the illustrations. I just now printed out the final text and filed it. Marianne's Dragonstairs Press will publish the chapbook soon, probably next week.

Pink folder: Another critical essay for Dragonstairs Press, rather like The Third Frankenstein.

Blue folder: "Smoking Gun."  After years of neglect, I picked this up last week, put in a lot of work, improved it immensely, and decided I was not satisfied with the basic premise. Back to the bottom of the heap it goes.

Tan folder: "Venice Rising." Anybody remember Stan Robinson's "Venice Drowned"? When it first appeared, Gardner Dozois suggested I write a story with this title. I've been trying to make it work ever since. It's got some good stuff in it. Haven't given up yet.

Loose papers: The introduction to a book I'm not permitted to tell you about yet.

Blue folder: "A Writing Contest With God." Someday I'll make this notion work.

Tan folder: A major essay I've been meaning to revise and shop around for a couple of decades now.

Pink folder: "Puck and the Lady." I've reunited the loose version above with the one in the folder. I'll see what I can do with them later this afternoon. The opening is really quite nice. But where it goes from there remains a mystery.

Tan folder: A secret.

Tan folder: A Chrismoose Carol. One of many Christmas stories I've told in the past, this one starring the Misinformation Moose.

Blue folder: Research for a story I promised C. C. Finlay years ago when we were both at Launch Pad. Soon, Charles! Soon!

Tan folder: "Three Graces." Text for a story I wrote on an R. Crumb poster and gave away. I labeled the poster "1/2" and someday when I have the time I'll write it out on a second poster I kept for myself and have one of only two copies of the finished work.

Black Baen folder: Script for a table talk on how I wrote "Radio Waves" that I'll get around to filming someday.

Loose: Text for the next Dragonstairs Press Christmas chapbook. Also the text for next Autumn's written-on-leaves story.

Tan folder marked "Misc.": One-page openings to several short stories, including "The Maniac's Coin-Silver Ring, an intriguing title suggesting I once had an idea for the plot which I've completely forgotten.

Tan folder: A complicated and pretty damn cool (if I say so myself) promotional item for a friend's novel that she assures me now will never be finished. I'm trying to figure out a use or market for it.

Tan folder: A project I am not at liberty to tell you about.

Blue folder: "Dreadnought." I finished this story last week but I'm putting it in the pie closet to cool off because I still have worries about it. Marianne and Sean both think it's done, though, and their judgment is usually solid. We'll see.

So there you have it: Far less non-fiction than I usually have on my plate and swarm of uncompleted fiction. I honestly believe that most of it will be written someday. The stuff on the back burner, though? Most of it, probably not.

And to answer the obvious question . . .

This is how I write. Do I recommend that gonnabe writers do this as well? God, no! But this is how I write and I'm stuck with it.

Go thou and do not likewise. Unless, like me, this is the system you're stuck with. In which case, you have my profound sympathy.


Monday, May 25, 2020

Three Roses on Memorial Day


It being Memorial Day, Marianne and I went to Levering Cemetery for the flag-raising ceremony. We cut some roses from the back yard and left them on two graves and a memorial. The white one we left on Hetty Jones' tomb. Technically, she wasn't a soldier, but I don't think any vets would mind. She was one of many young women who volunteered to serve as nurses in the Union field hospitals. In Virginia, she caught one of the diseases that ripped through the wounded and died.. Her family  reared an elaborate marble tomb in her memory--clearly they had money. Every time I see it, I think of what a long and comfortable life she might have had if she hadn't put the welfare of others before her own.

We also left a rose on the memorial to the Virginia troopers who were killed not far from the cemetery by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. They were trapped in a barn and, if I have this right, given no opportunity to surrender. This was during the bloody mess that was the evacuation of Philadelphia, followed by the Battle of Germantown, and the retreat to Valley Forge. This was probably the darkest moment of the war for the American forces, and the men buried here, so far from their homes, might well have believed their cause was lost.

Finally, we left a rose on the grave of Choban Hoxha. He was never an American soldier but during WWII, he was captured by the Germans, so he was probably fighting for the Allies. He spent time in a Nazi prisoner of war camp and then, upon its liberation, was carried away to the Soviet Union  to labor in a work camp there. Somehow, he escaped and made his way first to Istanbul and then to America. He was a gentle, wounded soul, who made a living selling pretzels. Until his final year, no one knew his name or his story, so he was known as Pretzel Pete.

He died penniless, so the community collected money to buy him a stone and the cemetery donated the space. On the stone are the name we all knew him by and the he bore before war came along and swept him away.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Marianne on Dragonstairs Press, Me on the Couch Beside Her


Yesterday, my wife, Marianne Porter, was Zoomterviewed--is that a word?--by Mike Ziper for Fast Forward. She was witty and informative and I tried not to manterrupt--is that a word? I guess once the question is raised the answer is obvious--too much.

Anyway, Marianne was a great interview and I got to talk a little about the forthcoming City Under the Stars, the last novel by Gardner Dozois, co-written with me. The half-hour just flew by.

But don't take my word for it. You can see the interview up above.



Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Live Zooming Dragonstairs Press!!!


This is cool. Tomorrow, Marianne Porter and I will be doing a Live Zoom conversation with Mike Zipser for Fast Forward.

There have been no limits set on the conversation but I expect it to focus chiefly on Dragonstairs Press, Marianne's micropress (or, as she likes to say, "nanopress") empire. It's possible something will also be said about City Under the Stars, the last collaborative novel by the late Gardner Dozois. But whatever is said, I expect it will all be great fun.

In brief, then:

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020
1:30 p.m.
a conversation with Marianne Porter
(and Michael Swanwick)
at the Fast Forward YouTube channel

You can find the Fast Forward Channel here.

And I believe it will be archived there as well. But I couldn't swear to it.


Friday, May 15, 2020

Introductions for Gonnabes


Yesterday, I noted that I had written an introduction for The Mysteries of the Faceless King, the first book of the two volume collection The Best Short Fiction of Darrell Schweitzer. I meant to also write a few words on the art of introductions for the sake of as-yet-unpublished writers who will be facing the chore themselves someday. Alas, I was getting some productive work done on a short story so I didn't have the time.

Today, if I keep my remarks brief, I may be able to patch something together.

Blurbs and introductions, if they are effective, must have two things in common: The must be complimentary and they must be true. It does less than no good at all to slap "Like P. G. Wodehouse on giggle gas!" onto the cover of King Lear. Which means you'll have to sit back and analyze not just why you like the work in question, but what the kind of people who will be happy they bought it are looking for.

This is even more difficult when you're writing an introduction--particularly for a "best of" collection--because the reader has already bought the book, probably read it, and almost certainly formed their own opinion of its virtues.

The solution to that problem I'll leave up to you. Each book, if it's worth introducing at all, is unique. So I'm afraid I can't help you there.

But I can help with the format.

Long ago, the late, lamented, and extremely useful editor Jim Turner asked me to write an introduction to a collection of stories by a writer I admired immensely. This may have been the first such I ever wrote. At any rate, I gave it my best and sent it to him. And he immediately sent it back to me.

"Don't be clever!" he told me angrily. "This isn't about you. It's about the fiction. Say something substantive about each story in the collection. Then stop."

So I wrote a new intro from scratch. I found something  to say about the virtues of each story in the order they appeared. When I was done, I found that I'd described everything I admired about the writer's work.

It's as simple as that. You also have to come up with a beginning and an end to tie the whole thing together. But I'll trust you to take care of that little detail on your own.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Introducing the Best of Darrell Schweitzer


Look what came in the mail today--The Best of Darrell Schweitzer. It's a two volume set by PS Publishing, The Mysteries of the Faceless King and The Last Heretic, both beautifully made with coves and endpapers by World Fantasy Award winning artist Jason Van Hollander. 

I was given a set of the signed limited edition because I wrote the introduction to volume 1. Here's how my intro begins:

Once upon a time . . .
None of the stories collected herein begin with those words, though some come close. But they might as well. For Darrell Schweitzer writes a very traditional sort of story. His fiction is almost always fantasy, which is a mode nested deep in the roots of Story; usually horror, a mode as old as nightmares; and very often weird fantasy, a much more recent mode but one that is dear to his heart. Most could have been written a hundred years ago—or, with equal ease, a hundred years in the future. This is not a criticism. Timelessness is precisely what he is after.

And it goes on from there. I said a lot of things that were complimentary and I hope satisfying to Darrell's soul, all of them completely true. But what I said isn't important. The mere fact that there's a two-volume set (again,  beautifully made) of the best short fiction of Darrell Schweitzer tells you already if you want it or not. If you're a fan of Darrell's work, you'll probably buy it tonight. 

You can buy Volume 1 with my introduction here. You can buy Volume 2 with Paul Di Filippo here. Or you can Google PS Publishing and spend an hour or two wandering about the website, admiring.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Death of Aubrey Darger


To begin with, this is not a new story. What I did was to take the opening chapter of Chasing the Phoenix, the second novel-length Darger and Surplus adventure, and lightly edit it. Et voila! The Death of Aubrey Darger--a perfect, stand-alone short story.

Marianne Porter has made of this story a perfectly lovely chapbook, bound in black paper, with a label modified from Abraham Lincoln's death announcement. This is a hand-stitched, signed, and issued in an edition of 100.

She is selling the chapbooks, as usual, for far too little money. $12 in the US and $14 internationally, postage included.

More information, including how to buy one, can be found at

And if you want one . . .

I asked Marianne how many Dragonstairs publications (chapbooks, cigar box assemblages, and related forms) there have been. She told me that prior to this one, there have been 2,694 individual copies of 43 separate titles. Of these only 40 individual copies of three titles (12 of Winter Solstice, 27 of The Third Frankenstein, and 1 of Cigar Box Faust) remain.

As of an hour and 17 minutes after publication, roughly one half of all available copies of The Death of Aubrey Darger are still available.

'Nuff, as Stan Lee used to say, said.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Ten Minutes With ME


How much can I say, of any serious interest in ten minutes?

Rather a lot, as it turns out. Gary Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan, over ats at Coode Street Podcast have a series going where they ask questions of various science fiction luminaries for that brief period of time and then make the answers available on the web.

I talked about The Iron Dragon's Mother and the forthcoming City Under the Stars, of course. But I also recommended books by Carl Schoeder and Roger Zelazny that I think pretty much everybody would enjoy.

And for those of you who are on the way to become famous writers... I explained why you shouldn't hoard ideas.

You can find the podcast here. Or you can simply go to the Coode Street Podcast site here and poke around. They're interviewing a lot of interesting people. Elizabeth Hand, most recently.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

"Paris, a Poem" in SWEDISH!


Yet again, something astonishing has arrived in my mailbox. This time, it's a chapbook titled Paris ett poem, containing a Swedish translation (surely the first) of Hoope Mirrlees' modernist masterpiece, Paris, a Poem. Mirrlees, you'll recall, is best known in genre circles for her fantasy novel Lud-in-the-Mist, in academic circles for being on the fringes of Bloomsbury, and in poetic circles for this poem.

Ylva GislĂ©n translated the poem, wrote an introduction, provided explanatory notes, and created two collages for inclusion in the chapbook. All of it, clearly, a labor of love.

Quite a lovely  book. Published by Ellerströms.

And Speaking of Good Things . . .

The Temporary Culture chapbook assembled by Henry Wessells, "She Saved Us from World War Three," was reviewed by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post. Here's what he said:

Besides being one of the stars of “The Booksellers,” Henry Wessells is also the proprietor of the micro-publisher, Temporary Culture. His latest booklet, “She Saved Us From World War Three,” brings together an interview, essay and two letters highlighting the friendship between Gardner Dozois, the longtime editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and Alice Sheldon, the former Washington intelligence agent whose intense, sometimes feminist sci-fi — no one ever forgets “The Women Men Don’t See” — was written using the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr. In one letter Sheldon explains that she has pretty much stopped writing because “the stories were getting to hurt too much.”

Which is pretty good coverage for a micro-press.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Zero Notebook 10: Helen


Our revels now are ended. These our images, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air...

But before we go, one more page, the back inside cover to be specific. It contains two more images of Helen. One is a publicity shot from a period she was going to leave out of the autobiography she never wrote, when she made a brief, ill-fated stab at acting. The other is from a dark period in her middle age.

She was far better-looking than she'd ever admit to being.

And what, you ask, does it mean . . . ?

To find that out, you're just going to have to read The Iron Dragon's Mother, now aren't you?

Above: Tenth image. Tout finis!


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Zero Notebook 9: Dragon Skull


Dragons are, as everybody knows, half fighter jet and half fire spirit.

Here's the skull of one.

Above: Image Nine. One more to go.


Monday, May 4, 2020

The Postutopian Adventures of Michael Swanwick


Look what came in the mail! My contributor's copies of The Postmodern Adventures of Darger and Surplus. Which I can now honestly tell you are beautiful books. Marianne--owner, reditor, and sole entrepreneur of Dragonstairs Press, remember--especially admired the texture of the endpapers.

This is the first Darger and Surplus collection of short, and it collects everything except the two novels. But I should caution you that it is a slim book--five previously published stories, four related short-shorts, and "There Was an Old Woman..." a story written expressly for this collection.  Bloated this volume is not.

Subterranean Press has created, as I said, one lovely volume. It costs $40, because it's a high-quality collector's item, published in a limited edition of one thousand. But for a high quality collector's item, published in a limited edition of one thousand, that's pretty cheap.

Here's the table of contents:

  • Mother Goose’s Errant Sons
  • The Dog Said Bow-Wow
  • The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport
  • Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play
  • Tawny Petticoats
  • There Was An Old Woman
  • Appendix:

  • Introduction to Appendix: A Little Smoke and a Mirror or Three
  • Smoke and Mirrors: Four Scenes from the Postutopian Future

If you're interested, you can buy a copy of the book here.

Or you can buy an e-book version for $5 here.

Oe you can simply go the the Subterranean website and poke around here.  Mine isn't the only book there you want. Far from it.


Friday, May 1, 2020

"She Saved Us From World War Three"

Very few people in the science fiction community ever came face to face with Alice Sheldon, who wrote SF under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr, much less met her tarantulas. One of those very few was Gardner Dozois. When he sold his papers to UC Riverside (the proceeds went to keeping his wife, Susan Casper, alive for several years longer than would otherwise have happened), bookman Henry Wessells became aware of the correspondence between Sheldon and Dozois.

Now, Henry has created a chapbook, She Saved Us from World War Three, containing the two most significant letters from that correspondence. The first is from Sheldon, telling Gardner that the secret of her identity was about to go public and that she was not a man but a woman. The second is her relieved response to Gardner's assurance that they were still friends.

Which understates how Gardner felt about Sheldon/Tiptree. He was in awe of her as a writer and remained so after the murder-suicide that ended her life.

To go with the letters and give them some context, I interviewed Gardner about his friendship with Alice Sheldon and this introduction now forms the bulk of the chapbook.

Today is the publication date for She Saved Us from World War Three and it is currently available for sale. It costs $20, which is not cheap for twenty pages of prose but is cheap for a beautifully made limited edition chapbook with fold-out facsimiles of the letters themselves.

Those of you who need it know who you are. Me, I already have my copy. I'm going to dig up the oversized paperclip which Sheldon gave to Gardner  as a souvenir of their meeting and Gardner gave to me because souvenirs meant nothing to him and keep the two of them together. This is a very meaningful publication for me.

You can find ordering information here.

Above: The chapbook's cover. Photo by John DeChancie and used with his permission. John is a Mensch. I esteem him highly.