Friday, July 31, 2009

Fast Forward


The good people at Fast Forward have just posted their most recent interview with me online.

Here's what they have to say about it:

FF#225, July 2009, Michael Swanwick interview

The interview for the July 2009 episode of Fast Forward is now available online. In this interview host Mike Zipser talks with author Michael Swanwick about Hope-in-the-Mist, his new biography about author Hope Mirrlees. He also discusses receiving the Alex Award for his novel, The Dragons of Babel, and his Hugo Award nomination for the short story, “From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled

The complete cable TV episode of Fast Forward also includes:

Colleen Cahill’s review of Danny Birt’s novel, Ending an Ending, from Ancient Tomes Press.

Marianne Petrino’s review of the Japanese anime series, Kurau: Phantom Memory

You can find the episode here.

And if you're not particularly interested in hearing what I have to say, but are interested in intelligent television coverage of the science fiction book world . . . well, then Fast Forward is pretty much made for you. Their home page is right here.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Dragon Crush!


Dragon Crush has just posted an interview with yours truly, titled Michael Swanwick…The Man, The Myth, The Dragons.

And what, you ask, is Dragon Crush? It's a free online dating service for fantasy fans. It's brand new. And for some reason they thought an interview with me would help matters.

Well . . . maybe it will. If you go to the main page and look down at the bottom, there's an odd, smirky photo of me which I blush to admit is perfectly accurate. Yep, that's what I look like. So I figure there's got to be any number of guys who are feeling a little insecure who will look at that and say, "Hey, if a guy who looks like that can find true love, anybody can!" and give the thing a whack.

Of course, those who take a chance may well end up lucky -- with somebody who looks like Catherine Asaro, for example. Shown above in a blurry snapshot taken at last Friday's Philly Fantastic meeting at Moonstone Arts Center in Philadelphia, where she did a reading and then gave a short concert of her own songs, written for her most recent novel. Catherine's also a really-o, truly-o physicist. You have no idea how much of an underachiever she makes me feel.


Friday, July 24, 2009

And Today I Am . . . a GENIUS!


I got an email from Kyle Cassidy the other day, saying:

When was the last time you were called a genius in WIRED magazine?

Unless it happened again after page 45 of this month's issue, it would be"page 45 of this month's issue".
He was referring to the item in this month's issue shown above, number ten in their "what's wired" playlist. Which reads in its entirety:
While visiting Michael Swanwick's home, photographer Kyle Cassidy charmed his way into taking a peek at the sci-fi author's workplace. Cassidy ways he felt as if he'd "cracked open Swanwick's skull and seen inside his genius." Thus began a project: snapping photos at the lairs of award-winning writers like Joe Haldeman, Gregory Frost, Piers Anthony, and Neil Gaiman (above). It's Cribs for the literary set.
And I, of course, immediately wrote back to Kyle, saying:

Wait, wait. You do all the work, and I get the praise? Maybe I am a genius after all!
Kyle, of course, is not only a photographer but also a writer. Which makes him that rarity of rarities, a super-genius, and thus entitled to employ the suffix 124c41+.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Human Genre Project

So the human genome has been mapped. Cool. Just how much do you know about it? Practically nothing, right? Well Ken MacLeod is taking care of that. Ken is currently writer-in residence at the The Economic and Social Research Council Genomics Policy and Research Forum, but is best known to you and me as one top-notch science fiction writer. He was looking at the Human Genome Landmarks poster (described by The Scientist as "a graphical depiction of selected genes, traits, and disorders associated with each of the 24 different human chromosomes") and happened to think of my own Periodic Table of Science Fiction. Why not, he thought, do the same?

Hence the Human Genre Project, to be found here. It is accreting poems, stories, and whimsies about all identified genes. You can read what's already been posted on site. Or you can write you own and submit it.

The Scientist has just posted an article about the project. You can read it here.


Monday, July 20, 2009

What Information Really Wants


Lately, I've been writing short-shorts in my spare time again. Since I don't have a ready paying market for them, what I've done in place of publication is to print out a very small copy of each story and display them in small frames in my house. Here are three of them, sitting on Marianne's desk.

So why don't I simply post them here for free? I'll let one of the stories answer that for me. As follows:

What Information Really Wants

Information sits weeping in a darkened room. She feels cheap. She feels used. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with you ever again. You’re baffled. You thought you knew her. You thought you knew what she wanted. But you never understood information at all, did you? No, you did not.

Even worse, she’s locked herself in. You hammer on the door. “C’mon, baby, open up!” You’re trying to be reasonable. “I need my entertainment. I need that research material. I’ve got twenty bucks riding on the Nicks game and I need to know if I beat the spread.”

Information wails.

It’s all your fault, too. What the hell were you thinking? “Information wants to be free” – what a stupid thing to say. She gave herself to you because she thought you thought she was special. Then you as good as told her she was a slut. Finally, you bellow, “Just tell me what you want!”

Suddenly the door opens and there information stands, eyes blazing with scorn. Angrily she says, “I want to be alone.”

And slams the door in your face.

– M. Swanwick, 7/18/09

Meanwhile, back at the Moon . . . is celebrating their one-year anniversary by posting brief memories by various science fiction writers of where they were forty years ago today when human beings first landed on the Moon. You can find my own humble contribution here. Or you can simply go to and browse through all the posts.

Oh, and they're giving away free stuff too.


Friday, July 17, 2009



Just how manly do you have to be to see a hat this silly, put it on, and pose for the camera? And how manly do you have to be to take off the hat and then, when the person with the camera says, "I flubbed the shot," put it back on again?

As manly as Allen Steele, that's how manly.

Pictured above: Allen at Readercon, setting the standard for manliness that the rest of us can only strive to live up to.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For Gonnabe Major Writers Someday Only!


Are you going to this year's Worldcon, Anticipation? And are you an aspirant writer? And, if so, would you like to workshop your fiction with big-name writers who really know their stuff?

If so, check out this email I just received from Gregory Frost:

The situation is as follows:

The Anticipation website is SNAFUed and they can't put up the writing workshop announcement. Just can't. Don't ask me why. Maybe they have radiation poisoning in Canada or something.

The point of this email beyond my own personal brand of snideness is to request that you link on your blog to the blog entry listed below so that we might use the power of the internet to spread the message far and wide, as you will have far more readers of your esteemed blog than either I or my friend Oz do. And time is short because (surprise) everything is behind schedule.

If this is your sort of thing, click here. I took a quick glimpse, and all I can say is: Twenty bucks, for Nancy Kress's input into your fiction? It's raining soup!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Charles Brown, 1937-2009


In retrospect, I shouldn't be so shocked. Charles N. Brown, Locus's publisher, editor, and co-founder (the magazine's punctiliousness in acknowledging the part played in its creation by his first wife, Marsha Elkin, is a good indicator of the standards he established) died in his sleep on his way home from Readercon. Charles' health had been fading in recent years. His mobility suffered. His skin had an unhealthy pallor. He occasionally seemed to be having a bit of trouble breathing.

And yet, Charles was so full of life that none of that registered. You'd see him zipping about a convention, hunched over the handlebars of his power chair as if it were a motorcycle, one side of his mouth quirked up in a half-sardonic grin, and it would never occur to you that he couldn't go on like this forever. The last time I was interviewed by him, I was warned by one of the Locus staffers not to be shocked by how much his mental acuity had dimmed. Which made it a little humbling that he was clearly still a lot sharper than I was.

I spoke to Charles couple of times at Readercon . . . nothing profound or deep or meaningful, just chitchat. He was, as almost always, visibly happy, just digging the hell out of everything. I think he saw the Mirrlees interview. I know he was planning to. It was exactly the sort of thing he liked most -- food for an avid and wide-ranging mind.

And now, alas, he's gone. Vaya con Dios, Charles. May you enjoy the next life every bit as much as you did this one.

(I swiped the above picture of Charles from Locus Online. Which is something I ordinarily wouldn't do, but in this case I'm sure they don't mind. You can read their preliminary news item here.)


Monday, July 13, 2009

And It Was a TRIUMPH!


Readercon's Guests of Honor (l-r): Greer Gilman, Miss Hope Mirrlees, Elizabeth Hand

I am returned but newly from some ultimate dim Burlington, Massachusetts, where Marianne and I staged the single most spectacular event of the convention -- an interview with Hope Mirrlees, the brilliant but long-dead authoress of the fantasy classic Lud-in-the-Mist.

Do you doubt me? Then be patient. I'm trying to get hold of the video footage of the event, and if and when I do, it will be posted online where you can find it.

I'm tempted to snip the thunderous applause (and cheering!) from the end of the audio recording and podcast it here. But instead, I'll simply post the transcript of one of the questions-and-answers:

The book that most people here want to hear about is your sole fantasy novel, Lud-in-the-Mist. How did you come to write it?

My father died suddenly in Buenos Aires in 1923, and that got me to thinking about fathers. My father was a successful man, but you would not say he was a happy one. There was some dark secret there, some injury or incident which cast its shadow over him . . . I was thinking about death and how it’s a kind of fairyland, dark and glamorous and mysterious, and of course I was thinking of what Jane wrote about sirens:

The Sirens stand, as it would seem, to the ancient and the modern, for the impulses in life as yet immoralised, imperious longings, ecstasies, whether of love or art, or philosophy, magical voices calling to a man from his “Land of Heart’s Desire,” and to which if he hearken it may be that he will return no more – voices, too, which, whether a man sail by or stay to hearken, still sing on.

Then, too, there were the literary influences, Keats and so on. Oh, really, too many things came together to list them all. But a blossoming sense of mortality must be given the lion’s share of the credit for this book’s existence.

Needless to say, the brilliance of the piece was all in Marianne's performance. Though some were kind enough to say that my stiff and wooden reading reading of the questions set her up quite nicely.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Three Reasons to be Happy

I'll be on the road early tomorrow, driving up to Burlington, Massachusetts, for Readercon. So please consider this Friday's post.

A couple of days ago, Tom Purdom sent me an e-mail pointing out that the year was half over. I immediately wrote back, saying that as an optimist I felt that the year was only half begun. Yes, believe it or not, I am an optimist. And here are three reasons to be happy.

1. If you're a birder . . .

The hot news in Delaware is that there are now two roseate spoonbills wandering about! The one I blogged about a couple of days ago was unprecedented. I believe it was the first confirmed spotting in the state. So two is even unprecedenteder.

Also, I believe that some ingenious birder found a location in Maryland from which he was actually able to spot the first roseate spoonbill. By the byzantine laws governing bird lists, even though the bird itself was in the air above Delaware, that allows him (almost certainly a him) to add it to his Maryland life list.

2. If you're going to be at Readercon . . .

You'll have the opportunity to buy a copy of my soon-to-be-fabled and sure to sell out shortly biography of Hope Mirrlees, Hope-in-the-Mist. The book launches tomorrow afternoon. I will be there. And so will the subject of my book.

Which brings us to the third reason to be happy.

3. If you're going to be at Readercon and you always wished you could have met Hope Mirrlees while she was still alive . . .

You're in luck. I'm going to interview the late authoress and poetess in person. Not just anybody could have arranged this. I'm not sure exactly when it's scheduled, nor if it made it onto the final schedule (the provisional one has it for 2:00 Sunday afternoon, at which time I'll be on the road home), but supposedly the interview will be held on Friday at either 5 or 6 p.m.

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Monday, July 6, 2009

My Readercon Schedule

Just a quick squib today, because I have much, much, much work to do. But if you're going to Readecon this weekend, and would like to meet me, here's where I'll be:


Either 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM: An Interview With Readercon's Memorial Guest of Honor, Hope Mirrlees, authoress of Lud-in-the-Mist, a book which I and both the living Guests of Honor (Elizabeth Hand and Greer Gilman) all agree was one of the seminal works of 20th-century fantasy, and of "Paris, a Poem," originally published by Virginia and Leonard Woolf's table-top press, long forgotten, and now increasingly recognized as an important modernist work. Miss Mirrlees died in 1978. Not everybody could have arranged this interview.

8:00 PM: The Career of Hope Mirrlees (with Greer Gilman, Elizabeth Hand, Donald G. Keller, and Erin Kissane)

10:00 PM: "Readercon 20 Grand Ceremony" -- It looks like they'll crowd all past and present guests of honor on the stage and we'll wave.


11:00: Group (in the sense that Eileen Gunn and I, taken together, are a group) Reading: An untitled but brilliant story about Zeppelins, radio science, and Naked Brains in glass jars.

2:00 PM. The Fiction of Greer Gilman (with Rachel Elizabeth Dillon, Lila Garrott, Donald G. Keller, Faye Ringel, and Sonya Taaffe) Actually, I don't think I have much to say about Greer's fiction, other than, "It's rilly, rilly good." But my fellow panelists are smart and articulate people, so I'll probably just treat this as having a particularly good seat to listen from.


12:00 Noon: Outsider Artists and Speculative Fiction (with Greer Gilman, Liz Gorinsky, Elizabeth Hand, James Morrow, and John Shirley) I may be on this panel. It'll be tight because I have obligations in Philadelphia, but we'll see. If I'm there, I'll discuss the original Henry Darger for a bit, and then shut up and listen.

Also, there may or may not be a Kaffeeklatsch. Readercon likes to program these things a little close to the vest.

If you're going to Readercon, and you see me in the hall, stop me and say hello. I'm not stand-offish and, unless I'm on my way to a panel, I don't have anything better to do.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Two More Reasons Why This is the Best of All Possible Worlds


Greer Gilman
has a new book out! This is reason enough for women to swoon and men to throw their hats in the air. Her first book, Moonwise, was an instant fantasy classic. Eighteen years later, she has a second. It consists of "Jack Daw's Pack," a story I found so intriguing that I did an interview with Greer about it which may have been longer than the story itself, "A Crowd of Bone," which was a World Fantasy Award Award winner in 2004, and "Unleaving," a new novel-length fantasy.

Let me caution you that Gilman's work is caviar for the cognoscenti. This is not a pun-filled, fast-paced romp through easily-digested lands of wish fulfillment fantasy. No. This is more like . . . like . . . did you ever wonder what Le Guin's dragons read when they're at home? Deep, cosmic, uncompromising and (let's be honest) difficult? Something like that.

That said, an intelligent teenager can read this book and be as blown away by it as I was. I honestly believe that Cloud & Ashes is going to profoundly change a few lives.

You can read what the publisher, Small Beer Press, has to say about it, and order the book as well here.

And Reason Two . . .

Click here. Just do it. Then click on the blank screen at the top so you can see the video. It'll be worth it. Honest.

You won't take my word on it? Gee whiz, I'm hurt. But, okay, I'm still your friend, so here's what the inimitable Greg Frost sent me about it. Not sure who wrote up the synopsis. But whoever did was absolutely right. Fabulous, fabulous stuff.

Lovin' an Elevator

Everyone's heard of a stairway to heaven, but how about an elevator? That's just what visitors to the Standard Hotel in New York will experience thanks to the incredibly cool art installation "Civilization" by artist Marco Brambilla-an amazing video mural that takes guests from fiery infernos to paradise as the elevator ascends.

Brambilla, who worked with Toronto-based production company Crush, integrated hundreds of original and movie clips (providing lots of "Hey, was that the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?" moments) that seamlessly glide from one landscape to the next. We're guessing the ride up might feel a little better (heaven) than going down to street level (hell), but in either direction, you'll want to linger before departing. The best part? You can see "Civilization" here without paying for a room.