Friday, September 30, 2016

Inspirational Quote du Jour


Look what Marianne found! A website called quotefancy has turned a handful of quotes from me (and a very odd handful they are, too!) into inspirational wallpaper. Up above is a handful of words I'm proud to have put together.

You can find the quotes here. Or just go to and poke around.

And speaking of mythological geography...

As always, I'm on the road again.

Marianne and I are going Down the Shore, as we say in Philly, for an inactivity-filled week at Undisclosed Location. (Motto: Where Nothing Can Ever Happen -- And Usually Doesn't.) Leaving the house in the care of My Son the Black Belt and ourTrained Attack Cat.

I expect to continue blogging while on vacation. But I can't guarantee anything. I've got a lot of doing nothing to catch up on.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This Glitterati Life -- Part 31,473


This appears to be the reading season. On Sunday, I made what may be my last public appearance to promote Not So Much, Said the Cat. Which is, as you know, my newest and most lavishly-praised collection of short fiction. The reading was in Wayne, PA at Main Point Books. This is a really lovely independent bookstore, which I celebrated by buying a book (Cixin Liu's  Death's End, as it happens).

I read a story, answered questions, chatted with patrons (some of them friends it was good to see again), and autographed books.

Then, yesterday, I went to the downtown Barnes & Noble to see Fran Wilde and Chuck Wendig read from their latest books, answer questions, chat with patrons (some of them friends), and autograph books.

Book events are, with rare exceptions, free and pleasant entertainments. I encourage you to attend as
many as you can. And remember that if you get a book autographed, it increases its value as a collectable if you ask the author to add the date -- but only on the year of first publication or on a date when the author does something significant like win a major award or commit suicide.

I always tell my friends that if if they ever find me signing and dating all my old books, they should buy me a drink and try to cheer me up.

And if you can read Hungarian...

I got quite a lovely review (even when viewed through the lens of Google Translate) from SF Mag.  You can read it here.

Above: There I am, reading. As is traditional, I have taken off my shoes.

Above right: Fran Wilde and Chuck Wendig. As befits rebellious youth, they performed their readings completely shod. They'll grow out of it.


Monday, September 26, 2016

My Geek's Guide to the Galaxy Interview


For everything there is a season and as we move gratefully into autumn, the promotional season for Not So Much, Said the Cat is drawing to a close. And what better way to close out the season than with a good long interview at Geek's Guide to the Galaxy?

The interview focuses on the collection, but it covers a lot of ground along the way. Here's an excerpt:

“I have one story which I began in 1973 and I still haven’t finished it. … I wrote a story with William Gibson back in the early ’80s, called ‘Dogfight.’ We did the ‘hot typewriter method,’ which is where you hold onto the story for a month, and during that month you can make any changes whatsoever—you can change the main character’s gender, you can change the plot, you can change anything. And then at the end of the month you send it to the other person. … So there were things that I put into the story that Bill Gibson just took out. He’d send it back to me, and I’d put that thing back in and send it to him, and he would take it out again. … And when the story was done, I had a number of things that he had taken out, and I came up with a different idea for a story and I started writing it. … And I have not found the central plot of it yet. It’s a story called ‘Robot.’ So that’s about 33 years old, that story.”

You can hear it here or read parts of it here.

And speaking of closing out the season...

My final public appearance promoting the book was also my first such in the Philadelphia area. It was held yesterday at Main Point Books in Wayne. It was a very pleasant event and I ran into some old friends there.

Main Point Books moved recently, and their new store is beautiful. If you're in the area, I encourage you to stop by and read a book. I bought Death's End by Cixin Liu. Because I wouldn't tell you to do something I wouldn't do myself.


Friday, September 23, 2016



The world, as Robert Lewis Stevenson famously said, is full of a number of things...

Today, I am happy as kings because Marianne gave me a reproduction of Marcel Duchamp's "Boîte-en-valise."

The original "box-in-a-valise" was a museum in a box, containing miniatures or reproductions of all of Duchamp's most famous works. It was created in the 1940s and Duchamp eventually made (with the help pf Joseph Cornell) and sold some 300 of them.

Duchamp is best known, perhaps, for signing a urinal and submitting it to a major art exhibition under the title "Fountain," an act widely taken as establishing that art was anything an artist said it was. (To my mind, it would have been a far more subversive act had he signed the urinal with his own name rather than a scrawled "R. Mutt," but that chapter of the art history books has already been written.) But "Boîte-en-valise" was a shrewder response to the artistic winds of his times.

An artist I know likes to say that the history of art in the 20th Century is all a hysterical reaction to the inventions of photography and mass-produced images. Who needs a Courbet when an Instamatic and a willing subject will get you the same results at a fraction of the cost? Why spend a fortune on an original Paul Émile Chabas when a mail-order poster looks just as good? 

This explains a lot of things, including landscape art, performance art, and the flight from representation. 

Duchamp, more canny than most, embraced the mass-production of art -- to a degree. It was a shrewd move.

And there's no getting around the fact that the box is a fun little toy to play with.

Above: There it is, the distinguished thing. Not the miniature "Fountain" at the lower left.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

SUNDAY! At Main Point Books!!!


The promotional season for my newest and most highly-praised collection, Not So Much, Said the Cat, is drawing to an end. So what better time for my Philadelphia area book launch?

Authors of my generation are notoriously bad at self-promotion. So here's how the good people at Tachyon Publications put it:

Join five-time Hugo Award-winner Michael Swanwick in celebration of his new collection NOT SO MUCH, SAID THE CAT at Main Point Books (Wayne, PA) on Sunday, September 25 at 4:00 PM.

Main Point Books is a terrific bookstore and they've just moved into their new digs in Wayne. So this is your chance to scope 'em out, hear something from my collection, and decide if if's something you need to buy or not.

Told ya I'm lousy at self-promotion.

And since you're in the mood for an interview...

In just two days, you'll be able to hear me on Geek's Guide to the Galaxy. I was interviewed at length about the new collection. 

You can find the link here. Or just go to the webpage here and poke around. It's a very cool site.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Lexicon Under Construction


I am busily beavering away at The Iron Dragon's Mother these days. So I don't have a lot of news to report, except things like:

I moved my fingers on the keyboard a lot today.

More keyboard action.

Yep. Still writing.

But if you want to get a sense of what I'm up to, maybe the following partial lexicon will help. As I write, I keep a list of neologisms, proper names, and odd words as an aid to the eventual proofreader. Also to make sure I remain consistent.

Here's where the word-hoard stands at present:


the Abyss
the Academy
Aleister Crowley
the Amberwine
Lieutenant Anthea
Aurvang Hogback, Shorty (a red dwarf)


the Battle of Zhoulu
Ben Morgh
Bessie Long Gone
the Black Stone
the Bohemian coast
Bolshy Kitezh
the Book of Air
the Book of Steel
Brocielande, Brocielandean (adj.)


Caitlin of House Sans Merci, Caitlin, Katiboo
Château Sans Merci
Clever Gretchen, Gretchen
the Conquest of Penthesilea
Corpse-Eater Squadron
crone, crones
cyborg hounds


Daughter of Night
Daughters of Lilith
Declaration of Corruption
the Dogger Bank
the Dowager
Dunvegan, the flag of


Elektra, daughter of Olympia, daughter of Hephaesta, of the line of Hekate
elf, elf-lady, full-elven
the Empyrean
Eve, Mother Eve
the Examiner


Fingolfinrhod, Rod, Roddie, Fin-fin
Wing Commander Firedrake
fire spirits
Dame Fortuna


the Garden
Gatling gun
Louise Glück
the Governance of Babylon
Gretchen, Clever Gretchen [not Gretel!]
the Guardian of the Gate


the Hanged God
Lady Hel
Helen V.
Her Absent Majesty’s Dragon Corps
horned-god’s paintbrush
the horns of Elfland
Hot-Box Hannah


the Industrial Revolution
Innis Thule
Innis Thule AFB


jack roller
jungle buzzard


Kawasaki Fūjin
kobold, kobold’s carry


Lion City
Llys Helig
the Lords of the Forge
the Lords of the Rails, a Lady of the Rails
Lucius Shepard
the Lurker Within
lux aeterna


magic, magick, magickal, magicks (depending on usage)
Meririm Phosphoros
Mother Eve
Mother Sunshine  


Fata Narcisse of House Syrinx
Nettlesweet Underwood, Nettie
Nuit de Crystal




Patek Tank Américaine
Port Royal


Queen Mab’s lace
Quicksilver of House Carcassonne


Rabbit of House Oneiros


Sans Merci (Lord San Merci, Lady Sans Merci, Chateau Sans Merci, Charlotte of House Sans Merci, etc.)
Satie’s Gnossiennes
Scythian lamb
the Second Kentauroi War
Shorty, Aurvang Hogback
the Siege of Mount Othrys
snow sprites
old Spite
spirit candle


Thonis Heracleion
Tylwyth Teg, Teggish (adj.)


Ultima Thule
urym lens and thummyn stone




the Wędrowiec Zmroku  
white ladies (a flower)
the White Ladies
Word of Power
Worm (dragon)




Zmeya-Gorynchna, of the line of Zmeya-Goryschena, of the line of Gorgon, Zmeya-Gorynchna, 1108, the Worm, the dragon

The final list, I'm sure, will be much longer.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Reasons To Be A Writer

Actually, the list is extremely short. There are only two reasons anybody would want to be a writer.

Here they are:

1. There is no alternative. You absolutely have to be a writer -- and if you can't be a writer, you'll be a failed writer, one of those people who write every day of their lives and never get published.

2. You get to set your own schedule. If it's a hot, sunny day in September, you can just take off for the beach.

Speaking of which...


Monday, September 12, 2016

Thinking Outside the Universe Box


I was present, years ago, when Michael Dirda first visited Gardner Dozois' and Susan Casper's house. Michael examined the bookshelves and exclaimed, "Gardner, I don't think I've ever seen a collection of books looking so delightfully read!"

"I buys 'em to read 'em," Gardner replied.

Not all that long ago, Dragonstairs Press published Universe Boxes, a series of art assemblages containing a beautifully made stab-bound book of my novelette, "Universe Box." Each cigar box's contents were unique to that box (though some were common to all), they were quite reasonably priced as these things go, and only thirteen were made, of which ten were offered for sale.

Tres collectable.

But much in the spirit of Gardner Dozois, I writes 'em so people can read 'em. Particularly when a story is as much fun (it contains cosmic powers and giraffe wranglers) as this one turned out to be. So I resolved to sell it to one of the genre magazines just as soon as the collectable version sold out.

The Universe Boxes sold out in three and a half minutes.

So, long story short, I've sold "Universe Box" to Asimov's. Keep watching the skies! It'll show up one of these months.

Above: There it is, the distinguished thing. Credit for the boxes is equally split between Marianne and me; I wrote the story and she did everything else. That was a fun project.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Portrait of a Leaf


It's rushing the season, I know. But autumn is coming. And so...

Portrait of a Leaf

I planned to die young and leave a beautiful corpse. But when summer turned scorching, I did my small best to shade my comrades from the sun. This is the result.

But I do not complain. Others gave, and suffered, more. I did what I could. That's enough.

Above: Leaf, both text and image, copyright 2016 by Michael Swanwick. Today's post is a day late simply because I had no notion what to post. This happens, unfortunately.


Monday, September 5, 2016

The Best Fourth-Hand Advice About Writing You'll Read Today


In yesterday's New York Times, there was an article by movie-maker Mike Birbiglia titled "6 Tipes for Making It Small in Hollywood." I thought I'd pass on his Tip 2:

Don't worry about failing. There's a great video where Ira Glass explains that when you start in a few field, your work won't be as good as your taste. It will take years for your taste and the quality of your work to intersect. (If ever!) Failure is essential. There's no substitute for it. It's not just encouraged but required.

True that. I could name you dozens of promising writers who simply weren't willing to be terrible. But those names would mean nothing to you -- because they've never sold anything.

I could go on. But you get the message.

And for the numerate among us...

Yes, I know. My repeating advice from Barbigia which he repeats from Glass only makes it third-hand. But you don't imagine that Ira Glass came up with that himself, do you? I'm giving somebody the benefit of the doubt by not calling it hundred-and-ninety-third-hand advice. The author of Gilgamesh probably passed it on as something he'd come up with too.

Above: The Andromeda Galaxy in a composite photo of visible and IR light. From NASA, of course.


Friday, September 2, 2016

An Ice Volcano on Ceres


In Hal Clement's Half Life, people are dying off in droves from autoimmune diseases of unknown origin. Knowing they don't have long to live, a group of scientists decide to dedicate their remaining time to sheer hedonism. And what's the most fun you can possibly have? Obviously, basic research.

And, by God, he made an expedition to Titan to perform basic research sound like enormous fun. I admired that novel greatly.

Sometime later, I wrote a story called "Slow Life," which was set on Titan. In homage to the master, I named the spaceship the Clement and the lander the Harry Stubbs. Harry Stubbs being the rean name of the man behind the pseudoym. Sometime between the writing of the story and its publication, I ran into Harry and told him I'd done this and gushed about how wonderful his novel was.

Harry was pleased. "It's good to hear one of my other novels get praised for a change," he said. Referring obliquely to Mission of Gravity.

That was Harry's last Worldcon. Any other writer would have died just before I had the opportunity to pass along news of my homage. But Harry was a gent. And being there to hear my praise was his last gift to me.

And I say this because...

This morning came news that there's an ice volcano on Cerees! This is astonishing. The science fiction community has collectively assumed that the dwarf planet would turn out to be a dented hunk of rock -- much as we now know Vesta is. But Ceres keeps coming up with surprises.

And the first thing I thought of when I read the news was thatHarry Stubbs would have gotten a kick out of it.

You can read the Science article here.

The Scientific American article here.

The article here.

The Nature article here.

And there are plenty more to be found.

Above: Ahuna Mons. Not active. But still impressive.