Wednesday, July 31, 2019

My Worldcon Schedule


Wow. In less than two weeks, I'll be back in Ireland! Wandering the desolate beauty of the Burren. Discovering the Ring of Kerry for the very first time. Returning to Tara. Drinking Guinness in a Dublin pub.

Oh, yeah, and there's this Worldcon thing.

The Dublin Worldcon committee have given me my marching orders, and I have to say that it's a pretty nice schedule. It's spread out over three days, gives me a reasonable amount  of free time, and includes a reading, a kaffeeklatsch, and an autographing session. Also, the panel topics are pretty interesting.

So kudos to the scheduling people. I really do appreciate their hard work.

Here's my schedule:

Friday, August 16

Unwritable stories
Format: Panel
14:30 - 15:20, Stratocaster BC (Point Square Dublin)

Every author has that perfect story that just refuses to be written. From wilful characters to wandering narratives and gaping plot holes, our panellists share the stories that would have even defied the Greek muses themselves. What made these stories so hard to write? What traps did they hold? And whatever happened to those old untold tales? Will they ever see the light of day or will they remain locked away in a hidden drawer?

Jacey Bedford (M), Karen Haber, Nina Allan, Jay Caselberg, Michael Swanwick

Saturday, August 17

Reading: Michael Swanwick
12:00 - 12:50, Liffey Room-3 (Readings) (CCD)

Autographs: Michael Swanwick  
 15:00 - 15:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

Kaffeeklatsch: Michael Swanwick
17:00 - 17:50, Level 3 Foyer (KK/LB) (CCD)

Sunday, August 18

The author as a fellow traveler on the hero's journey
Format: Panel
10:30 - 11:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin)

Many authors, unsurprisingly, form a strong emotional bond with their characters, experiencing the joys and frustrations of the story along with them. How does this affect the writing process itself? What about the impact on the writer's critical engagement with their own work? How much does an author's engagement depend on their personality, their approach, or the type of story being written?

Dr Kristina Perez (Macmillan ) (M), Michael Swanwick, Karen Simpson Nikakis (SOV Consulting LLC -SOV Media), Naomi Kritzer, Daryl Gregory


Monday, July 29, 2019

Carol Emshwiller, Remembered


Saturday I went to New York City for a memorial in the honor of Carol Emshwiller. I will not enumerate who was there and what transpired, other than to note that her children and other family members did her proud.

I was one of those who stood up to talk about Carol. Here, roughly, is what I said:

I won't try to compete with Gordon [Van Gelder, who spoke immediately before me] in analyzing Carol's fiction. She was a very fine writer, with a vision all her own, and I am particularly fond of Carmen Dog, but I want to talk about her as a friend.

I don't remember when I first met Carol. But I vividly remember being at some-damned-event-or-other when she saw me and exclaimed, "Michael! It's so good to see you!" We then proceeded to have a really splendid conversation about pretty much everything on earth.

Later, I told all this to Marianne and a little bemusedly said, "So I guess Carol and I are good friends."

We were, too. Carol wouldn't kid about something like that.

Every time I saw her, she always greeted me by saying, "Michael! It's so good to see you!" And after we had parted, I always found myself thinking: Maybe I should try being a better person. It seems to work for Carol.

The last time we met was at the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series, when her eyesight was so diminished that when I said hello, she had to ask me who I was. But one thing was certain: Whoever I was, she was glad I was there.

Carol was that rarest of creatures, a writer who could talk matter-of-factly about her own fiction. One time, I saw her first and said, "Carol! It's so good to see you! What are you up to?"

"I'm in mourning," she said. "I just finished writing a novel"--this would have been Ledoyt--"and all these people I've been living with for years are gone. It's like they all died! I'm bereft." Then she asked, "Doesn't it feel that way to you, too?"

I considered the question seriously. "No," I said. "When I finish a novel, I feel like I've stopped persecuting my people. I imagine them running down the street, waving their hands in the air, saying things like, 'I'm free!' and 'I'm going to eat a hamburger--and nothing will happen to me!' and 'I'm going to move to Albany and get a job in a hardware store!'"

But maybe that's just because she was a better person than me.

Now she's gone. And I'm bereft. I'm in mourning.

I'd like to think that that's because I've become a better person. But no. It's because Carol was alive in a way that no fictional characters can be. In fact, she was alive in a way that very few living people are. She had a gift for life. She was good at it. It was not wasted on her.

Carol freely shared her friendship and with her joy. But in life nothing is really free. This is something you learn, if you live long enough. The price for someone's presence in your life is the pain you feel at her absence. When she's gone, the only question that matters is: Is the joy her life brought you worth the sorrow you feel at it ending?

In Carol's case? Yes. Yes, it was.

It was worth every tear.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Of a Swallowtail Farm and the Final Image Book Picture


Pictured above is Marianne's swallowtail farm on the front porch. She didn't set out to raise butterflies. But it turns out that swallowtails love parsley. So they come unnoticed to lay their extremely small eggs, which hatch into extremely small caterpillars, which then proceed to eat and eat and EAT. Growing all the time.

Remember reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar when you were small? Something like that.

The caterpillars put away an astonishing amount of parsley and grow to a respectable size. Then they disappear. Sometimes during the night, they crawl away from the pot and go... somewhere. We've never been able to determine where.

The world is full of mysteries. One of them is on our front porch.

Marianne also has a second patch of parsley, which is used in her cooking. There's something unspeakably cool about going out in the middle of winter to brush the snow off the parsley and bring in a few sprigs for garnish.

When she finds a swallowtail caterpillar on her cooking patch, Marianne plucks it off and removes it to the pot on the porch.

And from the Image Book . . .

This is the very last image in the book. Put there because it's obviously a photo of the Triune Goddess. Most of the images of women taken from fashion and art magazines are far more glam than I would have liked. This one has the right edge of scariness. These are three dangerous women.

I first saw this image in an ad for the Cafe Luxembourg (West 70th St., NYC) in, I think, the New Yorker. It definitely raises in the mind an expectation of a rather louche drinking hole, probably somewhere high up in a skyscraper. Imagine my surprise when I ate there and discovered a cheerful, street level eatery with fish and chips and grilled rack of lamb on the menu.

Ah, well. The sinful bar of my dark imaginings surely exists somewhere in New York.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Young Caitlin


This is one of the saddest images in the entire book. Caitlin did not have a happy childhood. Which is why it's hardly ever referred to in the novel.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Things Simmering Away


This glitterati life! I've been signing tip-in sheets for an unannounced future project. It sounds glamorous. But five reams of signature sheets is a lot of work.

Every now and then, Marianne will ask if she can sign just one of the sheets for me. "No," I say.

"But it'll be much rarer than the others!"

"Speciously put, but no."

I cannot remember ever saying no to Marianne on any other request. But the people buying an autographed book expect it to be autographed by the author. I won't betray that trust. Even for a mischievous wife.

And in the Image Bopk . . .

The top image is labeled A MAP OF THE WORLD.

Below, where it says "the Crown of Thorns," is actually a label for tomorrow's image.

This is the last page of the book, incidentally. Only the inside and outside back covers to go.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Great Footnotes of Western Literature


If I were an organized man, I would have carefully saved all my favorite footnotes in a series of notebooks and be well on my way to pitching The Oxford Book of Footnotes to a doubtless receptive publisher.

Alas, I am far from that organized. Still, occasionally a footnote rises up to charm me. Most recently, it happened in a paper I'm reading titled Lud-in-the-Mist as Memento Mori: Existential anxiety and the Consolations of an Aestheti Theology in Hope Mirrlees's Fantasy Novel. Here's the footnote in question:

2 Brian Attebery notes that Lud-in-the-Mist has never been "read as an important Modernist text, not even in an article on Mirrlees as Modernist poet (Boyde) or in a book-length study of Jane Harrison's influence on Modernism (Carpentier)" (Stories 59). Given the religious argument I advance below, I would suggest that this oversight springs in part from a distaste for "things religious" among those who have shaped the Modernist canon.
Which is a nice, tight, two-sentence essay. To it I would only add that in my experience most academics find the novel baffling simply because it is fantasy, a genre they tend to be poorly read in. They're like early travelers to a distant land. They don't understand the customs and the language... well, it's weird.

Above: Only a few more excerpts from the Image Book to go.


Monday, July 22, 2019

A Day in the Life


There are all kinds of interesting projects simmering away on a variety of metaphoric stoves. None of which I can talk about yet. So I'm forced to fall back on What I'm Doing Today.

Not much, as it turns out. Some time ago, I wrote a story called "Sparks and Embers," which I had decided was not a success and put it aside. This morning, I picked it up, changed the title to "Artificial People," did a light rewrite of the text, and gave it a new ending.

The result? Much better. Eminently publishable. Not one of my best.

Life is too short to waste on a story that isn't one of my best. So back into the pile mulching away on my desk it goes. I'll pick it up again sometime and see if I can make it sing. Until then, it simply must wait.

This is the glamorous, excitement-packed life of a working writer.

And from the Image Book . . .

Not a lot to be said about today's images. The typewriter is a reminder that artifice and lying are thematic to the novel. The murky figures, possibly drowned, are an evocation of the fast that Faerie is, in many ways, an inversion of our own world--which its inhabitants call Aerth.

Only five more of these to go, by the way.


Sunday's Blog Post: A Letter from the Goddess


Number 103 in a series of 108. The text reads:

"A Letter from the Goddess."

Dearest Cat,

[A series of indecipherable word-length dashes]

                                                Your loving persecutor,

And at the bottom:

"The Black Stone."


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Love, Death, and Emmys


This is nothing about me directly. But I've just learned that Love, Death,& Robots, the original Netflix cartoon series that included my short story, "Ice Age," has received two Emmy nominations for outstanding short form animated series and outstanding sound editing. 

I feel this should be celebrated for two reasons: First, because the series uses the streaming video concept brilliantly by animating each story at the length it properly should be. The Procrustean bed of television, which routinely pads stories that are too short for a fixed format or stints those that are too long, has at last been tossed aside. I( will continue this metaphor no further; that way lies disaster and Thog's Masterclass.) Second, because Tim Miller, co-founder of Blur Studio, did a lovely job of adapting my story, hewing very closely to what I wrote. The few changes he made were, I blush to admit, improvements.

I wasn't expecting that.

Anyway, kudos to all involved. I'll be rootng for them.

And in the Image Book . . .

Rather a dull one, I'm afraid. But at least it's not glamorous. Are you aware of how difficult it is to find archetypal images of women in popular culture hat aren't glam?  I'll be writing more about that later.

Above: Image 102 out of 108. Almost done!


Friday, July 19, 2019

Reading in the Rain


Yesterday, Marianne and I drove to Baltimore for the Charm City reading series at Bird in Hand Cafe, hosted by The Ivy Bookshop.  The weather was threatening. Then, an hour before the scheduled event time, the heavens tore open and produced a real frog-strangler. Rain so heavy that cars pulled off the road, wind that tore branches off the trees, and for a decorative flourish... lightning!

All the old hands at this kind of event will tell you that this is a recipe for disaster.

But while the turnout was much smaller than it would have been, there was a good sized crowd of mostly the core attendees. Leslye Penelope and T. Eric Bakutis and I read gallantly from our works, and received a warm reception, and afterward many of us went to the ramen restaurant next door.

So it was a good evening. I'm sorry if you missed it.

That's Leslye up above, reading from her Song of Blood and Stone.

And speaking of autographed books . . .
I autographed some of the stock for The Ivy Bookshop--and they do mail orders. So if you need an autographed copy of The Iron Dragon's Mother, you can contact them. Be sure to specify that you want an autographed copy, though. They also have the unautographed version, for those who prefer their books not scribbled in.

Their website can be found here.

And in the Image Book . . .

The text says it all: A glimpse of the Goddess. Not a goddess, mind you. The One That matters.

Above: For those who came in late, I've been posting images from my Image Book to help promote my recently-published and wonderfully entertaining novel The Iron Dragon's Mother. We're getting near to the end of the series. Only seven more to go!


Thursday, July 18, 2019

In Case You Die . . .


A lovely evening last night at Charm City. I'll blog about it tomorrow. Right now... breakfast and then the Visionary Art Museum. Which I may yet blog about the day after tomorrow.

And from the Image Book . . . 

This was just a joke. I saw the words In case you die... in an advertisement, was tickled by them, and added a goldfish and the words ...have a goldfish. It had nothing to do with The Iron Dragon's Mother.

Yet, strangely enough, the goldfish made it into the novel. Here, from a scene in the goblin market:

A luminous goldfish swam past Cat then darted back to join a dozen of its kind circling a silent smiling-mask-faced gorojumo.

 Mysterious are the ways of creativity.

Above: For those who came in late, as a way of drawing attention to my newly-published novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, I'm serializing the Image Book I put together as a way of helping me to visualize Faerie and its inhabitants. There are eight more images yet to come.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Yet Another Message from the Goddess


This was not deliberate on the creator's part. The page was smudged by the kind of accident common to all manner of printing. But I thought it profound.

So I pasted it into the Image Book and explained what was going on below it.

Then I thought, "Why be explicit?" So I scribbled over the explanation and drew an arrow to it with the explication everything explained.

So very very much of my fiction is about the silence of God.

Above: For those who came in late, as a way of drawing attention to my newly-published novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, I'm serializing the Image Book I put together as a way of helping me to visualize Faerie and its inhabitants. There are a week and a half more images yet to come.


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Greer Gilman's Little Kingdom


How did I spend your weekend? Funny you should ask. I was at a science fiction convention (oh, all right, it was Readercon), where I did a small amount of stagehand work in support of the first public reading of Greer Gilman's new one-act play Little Kingdom.

The reading was not part of the convention, which has such demands on its program time that it could only afford to offer Greer a half-hour. Alas, for a play 33 minutes long this was far from enough. So the participants invented a sort of Readercon Fringe by putting it on anyway, on the Terrace, as an independent production.

Greer Gilman played the part of Ben Jonson, "playwright, pundit, malcontent," while Marianne Porter was Ethel Smyth, "composer, suffragist, Sapphist."  The play records their first meeting on the Moon, the immediate dislike they take to one another, and how they come to terms with their fate and with each other.

It really was tremendously entertaining. Greer and Marianne played their parts with verve and brio, and everybody had a tremendous time. The audience, myself definitely included, loved it.

I also got to hang out with interesting people, meet old friends and new, buy books, learn much information of use and interest, and involve myself in yet more projects. Details as various matters become public.

And in the Image Book . . .

This is a great one . . . a picture of the Dowager herself.It brings out, I think, some of her glamour (in the novel, she is described thus: She was regally tall and imperially slim. She was also old, there was no denying that, but her face in age had taken on the mystique of a civilization lost in time and known only by rumor) and her darkness, but also the pain that made her into such a terrible individual. So I'm happy with it.

Above: For those who came in late, as a way of drawing attention to my newly-published novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, I'm serializing the Image Book I put together as a way of helping me to visualize Faerie and its inhabitants. There are less than a dozen more images yet to come.


Caitlin Escapes (Monday's Blogpost)


A big reminder here: I'll be at Charm City in Baltimore Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.

I'm not making many public appearances to support The Iron Dragon's Mother, so if you want an autograph, this is your best chance.

Also, it's going to be lots of fun. So why not?

And I apologize . . .

As always, I was on the road yesterday. I should have gotten this up sometime yesterday, but when I got home but I was kind of washed out by then.

Mea culpa, though far from maxima. It's just a blog, after all.

And from the Image Book . . . 

Cat Escapes. This is kind of a cheat because I'd already written that scene when I pasted in his book. But I couldn't resist.

Again, this is not what Caitlin of House Sans Merci literally looks like. But it's definitely how she feels at the time.

Above: For those who came in late, as a way of drawing attention to my newly-published novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, I'm serializing the Image Book I put together as a way of helping me to visualize Faerie and its inhabitants. There are only eleven more images yet to come.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Spite Goddess


This could well have been a pic of one of Caitlin's fellow dragon pilots. Rather, she became a Spite Goddess.

I think this deity plays a larger role in our world than is commonly acknowledged.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Ben and Ethel on the Moon


I'm at Readercon, relentlessly promoting my brilliant New fantasy nove!, THE IRON DRAGON'S MOTHER, and hobbling with various literary types. Alas, I cannot share any photos with you. My electronic devices won't cooperate. They never do.

It's not that I'm a Luddite. It's the MACHINES that are the Luddites. They refuse to work with me. They fear that if they do, I'll take over.

And I would, if I could. But they won't let me. Sure I can't.

Well played, machines.

And the highlight . . .

Undenably, the best event of the con has been not an official one but a Fringe performance. This was the first public reading ever of Greer Gilman's one act play Small Kingdom. Greer herself played Ben Jonson, "playwight, pedant, malcontent," and Marianne Porter was Ethel Smyth, " composer, suffragist, Sapphist. "

It was, in my unbiased opinion brilliant. Also loads of fun.

More, I hope, Tuesday, when I get back home, where my machines are more trusting.