Friday, July 31, 2020

City Under the Stars--coming SOON!


Look what came in the mail!

City Under the Stars is a collaborative novel written with Gardner Dozois, my latest and his last. In an afterword I trace its near 50-year history, culminating in its publication this month.

Here's how it begins:

It was high summer in Orange, in York, in the Human Domain of Earth. There was commerce in the town, crops in the field, beasts in the byre, bandits in the roads, thants and chimeras in the hills, and God in His Heaven—which was fifteen miles away, due east.   
That is one lovely stick of prose. I can say that in all modesty because every word of it was Gardner's. Most people today know Gardner only as an editor, but he was one of the best writers in the genre. I mean that seriously. He was a much better writer than he was an editor--and as an editor, he was aces.

So City Under the Stars is here and it's almost available to buy. Keep watching the skies!

And speaking of Gardner's co-author . . .

Open Road Media is putting the E-book of my novel, Jack Faust on sale for $1.99 in Canada and the US this Sunday, August 2nd.

That's one day only!

They tell me that you can subscribe to the newsletters at the links below so that you will get the direct link to the deal on the day that it appears.

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Jack Faust is my dark but beautifully written version of the Faust legend. I'm quite proud of it. So if you read E-books and are curious, well, here's your chance to buy it cheap.

End of commercial pitch.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

"10 Can't-Miss Books...."


So one of my books made another click-bait list, this one titled "10 Can't-Miss Books like Carnival Row That Feature Magic and Murder." 

 I haven't read everything on the list but those books I have read, I admired. So I'm pleased that The Iron Dragon's Daughter is there.

And maybe I ought to check out Carnival Row as well.

You can find the list here.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Book of Dragons AMA -- Going on NOW!


There is a Book of Dragons AMA on Reddit Fantasy going on now (Monday, July 27), as of 9am EST. Editor Jonathan Strahan kicked it off and there is a guest writer every hour.

The schedule is:

 9.00AM EST Jonathan Strahan
10.00AM EST JY Yang
11.00AM EST Ken Liu
12.00AM EST Elle Katherine White
2.00PM EST Jo Walton
3.00PM EST CSE Cooney
4.00PM EST Ellen Klages
5.30PM EST Jonathan Strahan T

You can find the AMA by clicking here.

And you'll have noticed . . .

I'm not among the people taking part in the AMA. I should mention that this isn't because I made myself persona non grata with my peers or decided the enterprise was beneath me. The problem was that when this thing was being set up, I suddenly started solving the problems that were hanging up a number of short stories, so I've been writing furiously and finishing stories at a rate quite remarkable for me. So I was distracted and didn't get around to volunteering to help out. Mea culpa.

On the other hand, I should have this problem all the time.


Friday, July 24, 2020

17 Story Openings


Going over the typescript for a partially-written story, I discovered that a couple of days ago I had written the openings for 17 stories on the backs of the pages. Since I'm (probably) never going to do anything with them, I thought I'd share them with you. If you happen to want to use one, feel free. There's plenty more where these came from.

1. It was night, as it always was.

2. After five thousand years, the ship arrived. Too late, too late, too late!

3. The night before the end of the universe was lush and sultry.

4. The moon was full and our arsenals too.

5. The dogs howled at twilight, passing the news on and on. Mankind was dead

6. A goldfish in a fishbowl knows as much of the universe as do you and I.

7. There are over forty different species of fish in the sea. How dare the biologists say it's dying?

8. Three times I killed you. three times the universe was reset to bring you back. This time I'll you and the universe too.

9. I was the fourteenth woman and the third differently-abled person of color to set foot on Pluto. So close to the history books, and so far from anybody caring!

10. Human flesh is gourmet food in thirty-seven civilizations in this arm of the Milky Way alone. Which is why I got a degree in law.

11. How can you doubt I care for you? My zombie armies are about to destroy everything you care about. Leaving only me for you to love.

12. All the waters run to the sea. All the stars run to the black hole at the center of the galaxy. All the Galaxies run to the Strange Attractor. And all my life runs to thee, my one, my only, my dearest love.

13. The chair was plotting against me. I knew it. It knew I knew.  We both knew that nobody else would ever believe it. There was only one passible outcome.

14. After the Event, she was the last woman on Earth. Every straight man and would-be father in the world wanted her. Which was ironic, given her dating history.

15. The micro-aliens invaded Earth in 2170. They were successful in creating cities in the bloodstreams of all the major mammals, including humans. Then came the nano-aliens desireous of their internal habitats.

16.A sewer worker dreamed he was the philosopher Chuang-tse dreaming he was a butterfly. It was the most wonderful dream he had ever had and he wanted never to awaken from it. The analogy to your situation is obvious.

17. Life is real, life is earnest! And your place in it is as comic relief.

And you may be wondering . . .

Just why did I bother with this exercise? Three reasons, really: To keep in practice, to reassure myself that I still can, and just in case. Decades ago, when I was working as a church secretary in West Philly, I arrived at work early and set myself the challenge of writing ten opening sentences. Number six or seven or eight was "There was something ugly growing in the air over the altar."

I liked this sentence so much that I wrote the next paragraph. Then the one after that. Eventually, after many twists and turns, I'd written "Covenant of Souls," which was published in Omni, and which pleased my greatly.

Nothing came of this exercise, but so what? No writing is ever wasted, if you're a writer.

Above: "The Pillars of Creation," cropped and colored courtesy of NASA.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

In Which My Book Leads off a List of Grimdark Fantasies...


So I've had the odd experience of learning that The Iron Dragon's Daughter (the first book of the stand-alone trilogy, not to be confused with The Iron Dragon's Mother, the last) leads off a list on The Portalist titled "Gritty and Gray: 12 of the Greatest Grimdark Fantasy Books Ever."

On the one hand I'm gratified to be on the list. On the other, I don't  personally think the Iron Dragon books are so grim and dark as to be defined by that term. There's a lot of joy to be found in them too. But of course, that's not my call. A novel is like a bird. For the longest time you fill its gaping maw with the creamed worms of your imagination. Then one day it wobbles to the edge of the nest, spreads its wings and takes an awkward leap... and is published.

From then on, its roosts where it wills. The writer's authority over it is no more. It belongs to the readers now.

Let them make of it what they will.

You can find the list here, by the way.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Communicating With the Future


A while ago, I shared a link for this video... only to learn that the link was broken. (My thanks to "Unknown" for pointing this out.) I corrected the mistake, but of course not so many visitors saw it.

So here it is again.



Monday, July 13, 2020

Puck and Till Eulenspiegel


Two old friends from my childhood have come to stay with me! That's Puck on the left and Till Eulenspiegel on the right. They're both dolls.

Till and Puck were gifts from Mrs. Kressner, our next-door neighbor, back in the 1950s. The Kresners were very good friends of the family and their son Bernie, several years older than me, was my hero. He built rockets, kept snakes (temporarily) in cages, collected butterflies, and so on. My sisters, Patty and Mary Carol and I knew that we could drop by Mrs. Kressner's house anytime and she would give us cookies or other treats she had baked herself.

I have no idea why Mrs. Kressner decided to give Puck to my sister Patty and Till Eulenspiegel to me. But I know that they survive to this day because my mother, who was a doll collector in a minor way, confiscated them both and kept them safe in a cabinet with her own dolls.

When I went off to college, I realized that I was going to be traveling light for the next decade, and I gave Til to my sister Mary who, I knew, would appreciate him. And that was that.

Until a couple of weeks ago, when out of the Blue Mary Carol sent me Till, which I thought extremely generous of her. Then, learning of Mary's gift, Patty sent him Puck. Which knocked me flat.

So Till and Puck are united. I haven't found the right place of honor in which to display them yet, but I will.

Both Puck and Till Eulenspiegel are tricksters and as such, a secret but very real presence in my fantasy. I thought of them often when I was writing the Iron Dragon trilogy.


Friday, July 10, 2020

The Book of Dragons


I'm in print yet again! My story, "Dragon Slayer" is in Jonathan Strahan's new anthology, The Book of Dragons. 

Back when I was a teen, I really needed this book--and nothing at all like it existed either. Stories about dragons were as scarce as... well, as scarce as dragons. When I first conceived of being a writer, one of my ambitions was to write a dragon story someday. A dragon story for adults, I mean, not one of those charming, served-up-with-a-tolerant-smirk things they fed children.

And now, after writing three dragon-haunted novels, I find a story of mine in the book I needed and couldn't have all those long years ago.

But I'm supposed to give you a hard sell for this thing. So here it is:

This book contains stories and a couple of poems by:

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, Amal El-Mohtar, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Seanan Maguire, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, me, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang.  Beautifully illustrated by Rovina Cai (the cover is below but there are also interior illos for every story).

You can find the announcement here.


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Vacuum Flowers EBook Salw TODAY ONLY!!!


Open Road Media, my very active ebook publisher, is having a one-day sale of Vacuum Flowers. TODAY ONLY (that's  Thursday, July 9) it goes on sale for $1.99. So if you've always been curious and like to read ebooks, this is your chance. Vacuum Flowers is loads of fun and ever so well written.

And that's as close to a hard sell as I'll ever get.

And here's the boilerplate:

ISBN13 Title Author Promo Type Country Start Date End Date Promo Price
9781504036504 Vacuum Flowers Swanwick, Michael ORM - Early Bird Books NL US 2020-07-09 2020-07-09 $1.99
9781504036504 Vacuum Flowers Swanwick, Michael ORM - Early Bird Books NL CA 2020-07-09 2020-07-09 $1.99

You can subscribe to the newsletters at the links below so that you will get the direct link to the deal on the day that it appears.

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Monday, July 6, 2020

"Artificial People" in Clarkesworld


I'm in print again! My story "Artificial People" is in the current issue of Clarkesworld. 

"Artificial People" was plotted out during Sparks and Embers: a Lyric Fest concert at  The Academy of Vocal Arts. The concert was described in the program book as "Imaginative song pairings to ponder the spark of new life, new seasons and new love, with the embers of endings."

So now you know where stories come from and what my story is about.

 You can find my story here. Or just go to and wander about.

And while I'm lockdowning . . .

I have often observed that when I'm my most productive, I look the least so, and when I'm the least productive is when all the stories in the pipeline appear. Right now is the exception. "Artificial People" is the first of several stories coming out soon and I'm simultaneously working on at least a half dozen projects at once.

But am I content? No. Because I'm not currently working on a novel.

Gonnabe writers, take this lesson the heart: You will never be happy. I once heard George R. R. Martin complain that a story of his wasn't going to make it onto the Nebula ballot, while holding two fresh-won Hugo Awards in his arms.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

a writer's diary

I finished a story on Friday but had mixed feelings about it. It seemed simultaneously too weird and yet ultimately not strange enough, not enough of a challenge to our common beliefs, to justify the liberties I had taken with it. So I showed it to Marianne and Sean. Marianne was unsure what she thought, but expressed hesitations. Sean, of course, knew exactly what he didn't like about it and told me.

I had been planning to shove the thing in the pie closet and forget it for a few years. But their comments, when put together inside my skull, made me realize how to fix it. So I jotted down a few notes and I'll do the revision Monday morning. Then put the story into the pie closet for God knows how long.

Marianne thinks it may be unpublishable, for reasons that seem eminently sensible to me. But this has never been a sensible occupation. Anyway, if it isn't publishable, it will give scholars something to find in my papers. A small frisson for them, a little joke for me.