Friday, January 27, 2012

Pushkin the American


I have a story coming out soon in the latest Postscript anthology, #26/27 Unfit for Eden. It's the second of two stories that I dreamed up while I was in Yekaterinburg, Russia.  The first one was "Libertarian Russia," and every time I meet a √©migr√© Russian who's read it, he or she inevitably takes me aside to demand I explain what I meant by it.

I'm expecting an intensified version of this reaction for the second story.  It's called "Pushkin the American."

Here's how it begins:

The American, whose name has since been forgotten, came to Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains in the year 1817.  He was a young man and whatever disgrace had driven him so far had been left behind in his native Philadelphia.  Somehow he had found work as the secretary of an American industrialist who, along with his wife, was making a tour of Russia with a particular eye to the natural riches of the Ural Mountains.

You probably know this already, but suggesting that Pushkin was an American is like saying that Shakespeare was French or George Washington was a spy for the British, or possibly some combination of the two.  It's every bit as impossible as a libertarian Russia, while running the risk of being taken as an insult to a national hero.

But of course the story has nothing to do with Pushkin at all.  I conceived of it on my last day in Yekaterinburg.  I'd been pushing myself hard, trying to see as much as I could during my stay and suddenly, less than half a mile from a museum that held some Kandinsky paintings I very much wanted to see, discovered I could go no further.  Totally exhausted, and feeling that strange psychological pressure that comes from being immersed in a language you cannot speak, I asked myself:  What if I couldn't go home?  I'd have to get a menial job in order to support myself and I'd also have to learn Russian.  But if I was ever to become a writer again -- ever to become myself again -- I'd have to know Russian as well as a Russian does.  I tried to imagine what that would be like.

Of course, nobody would want to read a story about Swanwick the Russian.  But the idea had its talons in my imagination.  So I wrote about Pushkin the American instead.

The Russians are one of the most literary peoples on earth.  I hope they understand that this story was written with nothing but admiration for their literature and their culture.

And as long I brought it up . . .

Here's the table of contents for the anthology.  If you can't find something there to like, you're far, far pickier than I am.

# Michael Bishop - Unfit for Eden
# Darrell Schweitzer - True Blue
# Mike Chinn - Saving Prince Romero
# Richard Calder - Madeline Smith
# Quentin S. Crisp - Non-Attachment
# Matthew Hughes - The Scribe of Betelgeuse V
# Eric Brown - The Room Beyond
# Thomas Olde Heuvelt - The Boy Who Cast No Shadow
# Christopher Harman - The Reader
# Robert Reed - Emergence
# Greg Ouiring - The Man Who Hated Shakespeare
# Amber D. Sistla - The Summer of Our Discontent
# Mike Resnick - A Weighty Affair
# George Hulseman - The Sea Witch
# Vaughan Stanger - First and Third
# Lavie Tidhar - Black Gods Kiss
# Robert T. Jeschonek - Warning! Do Not Read This Story!
# Steven Utley - Crime and Punishment
# Simon Unsworth - Borough Station
# Jessica Reisman - The Bottom Garden
# Kit Reed - Tasmin
# Andrew Drummond - Dr. Calvin’s Grand Illuminated Bestial Pleasure Dome
# Michael Swanwick - Pushkin the American
# Michael Kelly - Conversations with the Dead
# Eric Schaller - The Parasite
# Neal Barrett, Jr. - Trash
# Matthew Bialer - Found Fresh Footprints Again

Above:  There's the cover.  



Vaughan Stanger said...

I look forward to reading your story, which sounds very interesting.

(We're sharing the ToC.)

Michael Swanwick said...

Congratulations on the sale, Vaughan. Postscripts is a good market.