Friday, February 20, 2009

In which Your Humble Correspondent becomes as one with the immortal Smoot!


The incomparable Kyle Cassidy, has a new project, in the tradition of his book Armed America (portraits of gun owners in their homes; which achieves its extraordinary power by not having an agenda -- you can be a member of the NRA or one of the organizers of the Million Mom March, and find this a fascinating book) and his War Paint series (photos of tattooed soldiers and vets). And he's given me permission to break the news! Second only to his own blog, of course. Thanks, Kyle.

Where I Write is a series of photos of (as Kyle puts it) "Fantasy and Science Fiction Authors in their Creative Spaces." Or, as a writer would phrase it, "ink-stained wretches in the squalor of their offices." He's been running about the country photographing people like Joe Haldemann and Piers Anthony and Harry Harrison and he has Fred Pohl and Audrey Niffenegger scheduled and he's currently actively hunting more famous faces to photograph. (If Harlan Ellison or Ray Bradbury cares to drop him a line, I'm sure it would make his month.) I'd be terribly jealous of him if I hadn't met most of these people already.

Oh, hell. Even knowing these guys, I feel that twinge. Fred Pohl! Harry Harrison! That's just cool.

A selection of the pictures is going to be part of the souvenir program guide for Anticipation, the 67th WorldCon, which will be held in Montreal this summer. (The folks at Anticipation appear to be up a lot of interesting stuff. But I digress.) There's also going to be a gallery show. And, assuming he finds a publisher, there will almost certainly be a book. Which we'll be permitted to buy!

I really want a copy of that book.

And not just because I'm in it.

Though that doesn't hurt.

But wait! There's more . . .

In fit of whimsy -- almost all of my friends are given to fits of whimsy; I wonder why that is -- Kyle recently sent out the following e-mail, which I quote by permission:

New pursuits often call for new words as dictionaries are found pauce repositories -- tools unfit for pioneers. In my case, I find people asking "Well, how did X's office look?" and unable to adequately respond, I realize that there need to be new words to describe authors rooms. Hence, the Swanwick Scale of Book Clustering. There are messy offices, there are neat offices, but "messy" and "neat" don't do for describing the semi-ordered piles of books I've been finding. A "messy" office brings up visions of chicken bones, half empty wine bottles and hastily discarded clothes intermingled with old computer cords and cassette tapes. Even "cluttered" suggests a morass of different items: lawn mower parts, cuckoo clocks, tv remote controls, and the like -- authors do not have these.
They have, I've noticed, a lot of _Swanwick_. Which is to say, piles of books, perhaps ordered chronologically, or by publisher's imprint, or perhaps sorted by geography of the author, but meticulously cataloged in the author's mind.

The Swanwick Scale of Book Clustering rates the level of Swanwick in any given office using Michael as a base -- much like the International Prototype Kilogram (IPK), stored in a vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Savres, France.

[See Above]

Based upon this, John Grant's office, despite his protestations and piles of broken keyboards, is about .54 Swanwick,

Greg Frost's front porch is 0.0 (though his upstairs office is a credible .2), and Joe Haldeman's chimes in a 1.3 on the Swanwick scale. The only reason it isn't higher is because it has paths between the door, the dictionary, the computer, and the emergency exit:

Ben Bova, who appears to dust daily, rates a paltry .1:

Harry Harrison, even when writing full bore barely registers on the scale, you could fit all of his Swanwick in a (stainless steel) file folder:

And Piers Anthony I'm having difficulty rating because his space is so large:

-- but I'm open to speculation, if anyone wants to make an attempt. (I have a lovely 360' panorama of his office which I shall show you soon.)


So there I am, as one with the legendary Smoot! It wasn't exactly how I planned to achieve literary immortality, but what the hey. You take what you can get.



Unknown said...

Or, as a writer would phrase it, "ink-stained wretches in the squalor of their offices."

Don't you mean "pixel-stained technopeasants"? ;)

Seriously, though, Kyle always has the most fascinating projects.

Victoria Janssen said...

I see your blindfolded World Fantasy Award is coyly visible....

Michael Swanwick said...

There's a tradition among WFA winners of making hats for the trophy itself, of which the blindfold (swiped from the cover of Jack Faust) is a variant.

If the Nebula is the most beautiful award in genre, then the World Fantasy Award must be the ugliest. Who in the world thought it would be a good idea to commission a bust of H.P. Lovecraft by Gahan Wilson? I mean, it looks like a bust of H. P. Lovecraft by Gahan Wilson!

Which is, I hasten to add, in no way meant to be a slam on the genius of Gahan Wilson. Just . . . it's the kind of award that makes you want to cover it up.

kyle cassidy said...

I'm a big fan of the Hugo. It might not be as pretty as the Nebula (which is incontrovertably gorgous) but it's got class. The base ... well, some years are better than others....

Unknown said...

Books, shelved or piled, are indeed a good measure of writeritude, but I've always thought the most accurate measure for a writer who's really stuck into one or more projects is the number of piles of paper in close proximity to the keyboard or writing pad. These should be measured in "Lydgates", for the Oxford don in Sayers' Gaudy Night who kept getting entangled in coccoons of her page proofs.

Richard Mason said...

I just finished reshelving all my books in a new house. I was both pleased and disappointed to find I actually have adequate shelving now.

You may be interested to know that I have ten of your books but have only read four point something. That is a lot but you trail Gene Wolfe (13 books of which I have read seven) and Iain Banks (20 books of which 14 read).

I have no Internet in the new place and am forced to use an iPhone to survive.

Michael Swanwick said...

I like the idea of the Lydgate, particularly since it's derived from the work of the ever-so-faintly disreputable Ms Sayers. One more win for the Bad Kids!

The first Hugo, incidentally, was created by Philadelphia's own Jack McKnight. A lovely man whom I had the honor to meet. He tried to steal my infant son, once. Always had impeccable taste, did Jack!