Monday, June 15, 2015

Looking Back at The Man Who Melted Jack Dann


Eleven years ago or so, I published a brief essay, one of a series I rather unimaginatively titled, "Brief Essays," which included the following passage:

I want to discuss a fannish word game – I don't know if it has a name – that's played with the titles of science fiction novels.

If you look at a book's spine, you'll see that despite divergent typefaces the title and author tend to run together. So that instead of THE MAN WHO MELTED by Jack Dann, the eye sees THE MAN WHO MELTED JACK DANN.  Rather than THE SHEEP LOOK UP by John Brunner, one gets THE SHEEP LOOK UP JOHN BRUNNER.  (Maybe they wanted to get together for a few drinks.)  After a while, one begins to see fugitive scraps of a story spread throughout one's bookshelf, so that THE MEN INSIDE BARRY MALZBERG end up DYING INSIDE ROBERT SILVERBERG.  (And what a long, strange trip that must have been!)  If you look through your own collection of paperbacks, you'll easily find a dozen more such.

Pretty straightforward, right?

But then, a month or three ago, on Facebook Gregory Feeley recorded that long ago he had invented the game. Since nobody else has ever claimed the honor, I can only presume this is true.  Still pretty straightforward.

Meanwhile, the game got loose in the world and people who don't read science fiction are coming up with such wonders as PARADISE LOST JOHN MILTON and (of course) THE JOY OF COOKING IRMA S. ROMBAUER.  There's at least one playlist of musical groups and their songs, SQUEEZER and BLUE JEANS being a notable example.

But today I was astonished to learn that the game has acquired a name and that it is none other than The Man Who Melted Jack Dann.  If you doubt me, you could go to Wikipedia and look it up. Which fact, combined with the possibility that my little essay may have had something to do with it,  is genuinely weird.

But at least if my old pal Jack ever meets Kevin Bacon, they'll have something to talk about.

Above: Jack Dann himself, not particularly melted. I wholeheartedly recommend his novel, incidentally. Even if you're not assembling a row of books to astonish the initiated.



Unknown said...

Mr. Swanwick the E3 video game trade show is happening and I just saw a game that had imagery I think you would dream up. Basically, a neo primitive girl who hunts robots for their bits: Thought you might get a kick out of seeing it.

Keep up the good work, already have you next book on pre-order.

Keith Ferrell said...

Occasionally, generally with franchise books, there's a triple, as with the just-published TOM CLANCY UNDER FIRE BY GRANT BLACKWOOD

Michael Swanwick said...

Keith: Wow.

Ian: Thanks for the recommendation. I enjoyed that quite a bit.

Jeremy E. said...

The Nielsen Haydens have a fun page of such titles at