Saturday, February 29, 2020

More Praise for the Novel No-One Is Raving About (But Everybody Should)


In the February 2020 issue of Locus, I somehow managed to miss the fact that Graham Sleight included The Iron Dragon's Mother in his list of "ten books of the year." So let me now note that happy fact.

Based entirely on those books on his list that I've read, I'm in extremely good company.

You can find Sleight's Year in Review here.

And I should explain . . .

The title of today's blog post is a paraphrase of something Jonathan Strahan wrote in that same issue of Locus:

The book of 2019 I loved most that no-one else seemed to be raving about (even though they should have been) was Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Mother. Ostensibly the third in a trilogy, in truth it's a standalone tale of a post-industrial fantasy which I loved very much and recommend.


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Pausing to Admire the Universe


What an extraordinary universe we live in! What an amazing time to be alive! When I was a child--no, we need not go back that far. When I sold my first story in 1979, the Solar planets were all mysterious fuzzballs of light. Pluto was a featureless dot. And now we get close-up pictures like the above of the atmosphere of Jupiter.

Over at Science and Nature, courtesy of NASA's Juno probe, there's a portfolio of fresh new close-ups of the king of planets. You can see them by clicking here.

Take a deep breath. Disengage from politics for just a minute or two. Any species capable of taking photographs like these can't be all bad.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Reading Letters from Amherst


I came back from Boskone with rather a self-indulgent pile of books and am now midway through the first, Letters from Amherst by Samuel R. Delany.

One of the stranger perks of dedicating one's life to the arts is being able to read a friend's private letters without involving oneself in a morally questionable decision. Chip's letters display all the virtues of his fiction. They're vivid, carefully observed, and the product of a particularly fine mind.

But I won't review the book here. Either the mere existence of a book containing five long narrative letters by Delany makes you determined to buy it, or else you don't want it. In the latter case, nothing I might say would convince you otherwise. In the first, nothing would deter you.

So I will simply say: There it is. You know whether you want it or not.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A First Review for The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus


Over on Reddit, my PS Publications collection The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus received its very first (so far as I know) review, from somebody who is probably named Mike. The review came under the rubric of One Mike to Rule Them All, anyway, so it seems likely.

Here's how the review begins.

So since my last read left rather a bad taste in my mouth, I wanted something fun for a palate cleanser. A book featuring a series of vignettes about a pair of charming con artists, one of whom happens to be a genetically engineered anthropomorphic dog, seemed to be just about the perfect speed. And that’s more or less exactly what it was.

And it concludes that mine is "a fun little book." It is little and it's meant to be fun, so I have nothing to complain about.  

You can read the entire review here.


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

My Boskone Schedule


As always, I'm on the road again. This time I'm off to Boskone for a weekend of intellectual adventure. Checking the weather report, however, I discover that we probably won't have the traditional winter blizzard to contend with.

I dunno. It just won't feel the same without being able to sit in the lobby bar, Martini in hand, watching the slow come in and obliterate the city.

Still, one stand up to adversity. Or the lack of it. In any case, here's my schedule:

Understanding the Future Through Hard Science Fiction
Friday 18:00 - 18:50, Marina 1 (Westin)

The driving force in hard science fiction is science that is not just possible, but highly probable at some point in a likely future. What actual predictive value can hard SF claim? What does it tell us about our near- and far-term futures, technologically speaking? Is it safe to assume that if we can dream it, future scientists can build it? And even if they can: should they? Finally, what line should be drawn between science and fiction, if any?

Vincent Docherty (M) Frank Wu, Dr. Martin Elvis (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory), Jon Singer, Michael Swanwick

Great Novels That Don't Work
Saturday 10:00 - 10:50, Harbor II (Westin)

Which marvelous masterpieces of science fiction, fantasy, or horror don’t really measure up? Why? Do they feature faults that genre fans forgive more readily than regular readers? Did these stories get sprinkled with plot hole dust by the That Don't Work Fairy? Are they still great, in spite of not working? Or even—as in the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, where flaws perfect the whole—because they don’t work?

Grady Hendrix (M),Allen M. Steele, Bracken MacLeod, Michael Swanwick, Brianna Wu

Developing Future Histories
Saturday 13:00 - 13:50, Marina 3 (Westin)

Is it still possible to write a future history? Is it still worthwhile? How do you build a future history, anyway? How about alternate futures based on alternate pasts? Let's dive into the great what-ifs and maybes of tomorrow!

Mark Olson (M), Dr Jonathan McDowell (Center for Astrophysics, Harvard and Smithsonian), David B. Coe/ D.B. Jackson, Sharon Lee (Liaden Universe), Michael Swanwick

Slightly Subversive Fantasy
Saturday 16:00 - 16:50, Harbor I (Westin)

In the words of Ursula Le Guin, "Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art — the art of words." Arguably, science fiction and fantasy are at their very hearts genres of subversion, challenging the status quo. Let's talk about the art of subversion, and how we as artists and readers support and promote social change through the creation of ideas and the power of imagination.

Paul Di Filippo (M), Walter Jon Williams (Word Domination, Ltd.), Jeffrey Ford, Michael Swanwick, Suzanne Palmer

From Book to the Silver Screen
Sunday 11:00 - 11:50, Harbor I (Westin)

What actually happens when a novel is picked up and made into a film? It doesn't always turn out the way readers, viewers, or the original writer imagines. From characters to plot changes, the act of adaptation has the potential to transform key elements of the story. So how can authors stay involved in the process, when should they step away, and what should fans expect?

Holly Black, Charlaine Harris, , Michael Swanwick, Rajnar Vajra (M)

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Sky Was Filled With Dragons


The Dragonstairs Press rug dragon is particularly happy today because I've received an advance copy of Jonathan Strahan's newest anthology, The Book of Dragons. Which will be published this summer. I know it's a bit of a wait, but that's how publishing works.

I don't often have stories in theme anthologies because, with the occasional happy exception, I'm one damnably slow writer. Jonathan, however, was able to pry a story out of me through the simple expedient of giving me lots and lots of time to write it--well over a year, in fact.

Luckily, I had a dragon story I'd been working on for two or three years. Here's how "Dragon Slayer" begins:

Every road and open doorway is a constant danger to a man of wandering disposition. Olav had stood on the threshold of his cottage one spring morning and the road had looked so fine that he couldn’t resist setting foot on it, and the next thing he knew it had carried him to the sea. There he chanced upon a merchant ship in need of a new hand. He learned the sailoring trade, fought pirates, killed a kraken, grew a beard, pierced an ear, and one memorable night won a handful of rubies at a single turn of the cards and lost them all to a barmaid who doped his ale. Two years later, he was shipwrecked off Thule and briefly married to a witch-woman who had blackwork tattoos on her face and had filed her teeth to points.

The opening came fast. I wrote it in a day. But it took me forever to find out what the story was about.  Luckily, that nice Mr. Strahan came along with his invitation to participate in his book and that jogged something loose. A whirlwind twelve months later, the story was finished.

I imagine, though, that you're curious about the rest of the stories. Well, I haven't yet read them all. But those I have read were good. For more detail, I'm afraid you'll have to refer to the official press release. As follows:

Here there be dragons . . .

From China to Europe, Africa to North America, dragons have long captured our imagination in myth and legend. Whether they are rampaging beasts awaiting a brave hero to slay or benevolent sages who have much to teach humanity, dragons are intrinsically connected to stories of creation, adventure, and struggle beloved for generations.

Bringing together nearly thirty stories and poems from some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers working today— Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, Michael Swanwick, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang—and illustrated by award-winning artist Rovina Cai with black-and-white line drawings specific to each entry throughout, this extraordinary collection vividly breathes fire and life into one of our most captivating and feared magical creatures as never before and is sure to become a treasured keepsake for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales.

Immediately above: I couldn't resist including the rug dragon in the top photo, even though that downplays the very fine cover art by Rovina Cai. To make up for that, here's the upper half of that cover.


Friday, February 7, 2020

It Lives Again! The Periodic Table of Science Fiction


One of the questions I get asked most often is whether The Periodic Table of Science Fiction will ever come back into print.

As some here may remember, years ago I wrote 118 works of flash fiction, one for every element in the periodic table, which were published once a week on Eileen Gunn's wonderful e-zine The Infinite Matrix.  Some of the stories were funny, some snarky, some serious. Here's one: 

The Hindenburg

Time agents like to rendezvous at famous disasters. It goes with the personality. They don’t trust you to remember the date otherwise.

Which was why I met Ivan at Lakehurst Naval Air Base, on the day the Hindenburg was due to burst into flame.

We were in the CO’s office – don’t think that wasn’t hard to arrange – when he gave his report. “Herr Eidenbenz wouldn’t listen to reason. So I left my briefcase under his couch and made an anonymous call to the Gestapo. He died under interrogation three days later.” Ivan grinned incandescently. “No atom bomb for Uncle Adolph.”

Good work.” I’m Jewish myself, and if it were up to me, Hitler would be strangled at birth. But we’d tried that once, and only made matters worse. Now we rely on men like Ivan, one-in-a-billion talents who are able to remember multiple pasts, and so guide events toward the desired future. “Have a drink.”

I poured us each some of the commander’s bourbon. Through the window I could see the great zeppelin, so large and placid, moving with slow grace toward the mooring tower. It was a creepy moment for me, knowing how many people were about to die.

We clicked glasses. “Poor Eidenbenz,” I said. “Does it bother you, all the pain we inflict on innocents like him?”

Are you nuts? I make history turn cartwheels. It’s like being a god!” He gestured toward the zeppelin. “You people are no more distinct to me than so many hydrogen atoms. You rush about and bump furiously into each other, and what difference do any of you make to where the airship goes?
Me, I can do anything I like, and who’s to stop me? You can’t even tell what I’ve done. You forget, and think it was always so.”

He took out a pocket detonator and punched the button. Outside, there were sudden shouts of alarm. “You even forget I did this.

The flames from the burning Hindenburg cast a Satanic glow over his features.

He smiled. “Oh,” he murmured, “the humanity.”


When the series was finished, PS Publishing picked it up and made quite a lovely hardcover book of it. The book sold out almost immediately and, well, that was that. Much to the annoyance of a number of chemistry-lovers who wanted a copy.

Which is why I am elated today to be able to tell you that, yes, it's coming back into print. A paperback edition is forthcoming from PS Publishing and you can pre-order a copy here.

(Note: the page lists the pubdate as January 2020. Not so. But it's coming soon, so there won't be a long wait. And I'll let you know when the book goes live.)

And as long as you're splurging on my books . . .

The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus, which collects all the short fiction written to date about the two admittedly charming scoundrels, comes out in April. Why not pre-order a copy now?

The book is, as you can see, a stunner.

This is, admittedly a volume book--only five stories, four flash fictions and an afterword, and priced for collectors. But if you want it, and can afford it, it's a good buy. Subterranean Press makes wonderful books.

You can find ordering information here. Or go to Subterranean's main page and wander about, marveling. And of course, it's also available from all the usual platforms. Your local bookstore would probably appreciate the order too.

And of Course . . .

The Iron Dragon's Mother  is still available in hardback. Just the other day, in Locus, reviewer-and-editor Jonathan Strahan wrote:

The book of 2019 I loved most that no-one else seemed to be raving about (even though they should have been) was Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Mother. Ostensibly the third in a trilogy, in truth it's a standalone tale of a post-industrial fantasy which I loved very much and recommend.

I'm still Old School enough to be a little uncomfortable recommending my own work. But what the hey. I wrote the book intending it to be everything I love about fantasy and in the hope that other readers would respond to it with joy.

So I recommend it too. If a hardcover book isn't in your budget this month, there's always Interlibrary Loan. I'm a big fan of Interlibrary Loan.