Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"We Are All Heroes..."


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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. 




Alexsh said...

Hi Michael,

I found this post on the SciFi-stack exchange (link below) that mentioned your short story "Radio Waves." This quote really grabbed my attention:

"The antenna farm was visible from here. I could see the Seven Sisters spangled with red lights, dependent on the earth like stalactites. Where are you running to, little one?" one tower whispered in a crackling, staticky voice."

After looking at your Wikipedia page, at the bottom I see it says that you are from Philadelphia. I am too! I currently live in the Manayunk/Roxborough part of the city and from my bedroom, I can see the 7 antennas of the Roxborough Antenna farm! I can't help but imagine those are the very antennas from your story.

Even though I haven't read Radio Waves (I would love to, just can't seem to find it anywhere online), I want to thank you for adding a bit of excitement to my life. I've been stuck at home since covid started, due to poor health after multiple bouts of cancer in my late teens, and just reading that quote adds a bit of thrill to my day whenever I look out my window.


PS, I tried sending this via your website contact me page but kept getting a 403 error when I tried to submit.

Michael Swanwick said...

Hello, Alex.

Yes, I live in Roxborough too. I can see the Seven Sisters from my front door.

If you go to the Internet Science Fiction Database, you'll see that my story has been reprinted many times. None of these are on available free on the Internet, but I'm sure you can find an affordable copy.

The story is a kind of love story to Roxborough/Manayunk. I hope you look it up.

All best,