Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My Favorite New Writer



It's been a pleasant Christmas season here in Philadelphia, with homemade candies and cookies, some wonderful meals, and a lot of thoughtful presents. But the big winner on the present front was Sean William Swanwick, who received in the mail a copy of the January-February 2021 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction, containing his first published story, "Humans and Other People."

A writer's first publication is always a big deal for them. But this was particularly so for Sean because he knew Gardner Dozois, the editor of Asimov's for nineteen years, all his life. More than that, Sean worked as Gardner's office manager for the last several years of the Big Guy's life. So the magazine is a kind of second home for him.

Congratulations, Sean! Now, get back to the keyboard.


And I'm sure you want to know . . .

The obvious next question is... Is "Humans and Other People" any good?


Yes, it is a first-rate story. I know that as his father my word is suspect here, but if you're a doubter, buy a copy of the magazine and read it for yourself. More important (to my mind anyway), is the fact that it's not a story I could have written myself. The kid has a good eye and an original mind.

You're going to be hearing a lot more from Sean in coming years. He's  got the stuff.


Monday, December 28, 2020

Jack Faust E-Book Sale! Tuesday Only!!!


 I've just received the news that for this Tuesday, December 29th, 2020 only, the e-book my novel Jack Faust will be on sale for $1.99 in Canada and the US.

 So if you read e-books and if you've always been curious about this novel... well, here's your chance!

Um... and that's all. End of pitch.



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Christmas Eve Story



Manger Animals


There is a legend that on Christmas Eve the animals can talk.  Yet of all the many animals you’ve known or owned, be they pets or next-door dogs or half-tame squirrels that you almost got to accept a peanut out of your hand once, none have ever done remotely anything like that.


Yet the legend is true.  It just doesn’t apply to all animals.  It applies only to those who were in one specific manger on the outskirts of Bethlehem two thousand something years ago.  These were all made immortal by the Infant Jesus who, like any other child, had an inordinate fondness for dumb beasts.  And for 364 days of the year (365 on leap years) they’re dumb in both senses of the word.


Ahhh, but on Christmas Eve . . .


On Christmas Eve, the cow and the donkey and the little goat that gnawed on Baby Jesus’s blanket are given the gift of speech.  As are the two lambs who wandered in looking for fodder, the camels who carried the magi to the event and then stuck their noses in the window to see what was going on, and the pigeons who fluttered in the rafters while Joseph muttered angrily about their droppings.


“It was a night much like this one . . .” the cow begins.


“No, quieter,” says a camel.  “There weren’t so many cars back then.”


“It was cold outside,” says a lamb.  “But I found a warm spot to sleep right over there.”


“I gnawed on a blanket,” says the goat proudly.  “But somebody yanked it away.”


“I wonder who?” murmurs a dove.  For animals have very little sense of what is and is not important, once you move away from the compelling subjects of food and sleep.  The fact that there were people present two thousand years ago is almost forgotten.  Who those people might have been is entirely beyond their ken.


Still, like any other old-timers, they do enjoy reminiscing.


“They don’t make oats the way they used to,” says the donkey.  “And that’s a fact.”



"Manger Animals" is copyright 2011 by Michael Swanwick. It first appeared in It Came Upon A Midnight, a Dragonstairs Press chapbook.



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Parable of the Creche


This is a story I post here once a year, because the message is timeless. Grab your chocolate or eggnog and find a cozy place by the fire. It's time for Unca Mike to tell you...

The Parable of the Creche

When first I came to Roxborough, some forty years ago, the creche as  already a tradition of long standing. Every year it appeared in Gorgas Park during the Christmas season. It wasn't all that big--maybe seven feet high at the tip of the roof--nor was it very fancy. The figures of Joseph and Mary, the Christ Child, and the animals were a couple of feet tall at most, and there were sheets of Plexiglas over the front of the wooden structure to keep people from walking off with them. But there was a painted backdrop of the hills of Bethlehem at night, the floor was strewn by real straw, and the neighborhood people genuinely loved it.

 It was a common thing to see people standing before the creche, especially families and especially at night, admiring it. Sometimes parents brought their small children to see it for the first time nd the wonder they displayed then was moving. It provided a welcome touch of seasonality and community to the park.

Alas, Gorgas Park is public property, and it was only a matter of time before somebody complained that the creche violated the principle of separation of church and state. When the complaint finally came, the creche was taken out of the park and put in storage.

People were upset, of course. Nobody likes seeing a beloved tradition die. There was a certain amount of grumbling and disgruntlement. One might even say disgrumblement.

So the kindly folks of Leverington Presbyterian Church, located just across the street from the park, stepped in. They adopted the creche and put it up in the yard in front of their church, where it could be seen and enjoyed by all.

But did this make up happy? It did not. The creche was just not the same located in front of a church. It seemed lessened, in some strange way, made into a prop for the Presbyterians. You don't see people standing in front of it anymore.

I was in a local tappie shortly after the adoption and heard one of the barflies holding forth on this very subject:

"The god-damned Christians," he said, "have hijacked Christmas."


Monday, December 21, 2020

Sale! Sale! Cigar Box-Faust! Sale!



From Tachyon Publications comes news that as of yesterday, the shortest day of the year,  my collection of short-short fictions, Cigar-Box Faust, is on sale at 20% off. This is for the paperback or the limited edition hardcover or the limited edition boxed hardcover.

(The book includes the title performance piece which may be one of the most condensed condensations of a great work of literature ever written. And I say that as the man who played the part of Frodo in the 15-minute radio adaptation of Lord of the Rings. Funny story, that. I'll share it with you soon.)

If that number looks familiar, Tachyon's second (and simultaneous) sale makes all clear: They're offering 20% off all their 2020 publications. Tachyon makes really lovely books and finds genuinely interesting authors to publish. So you should wander through their list and see if there's anything there you want. I'm pretty sure there is.

Also, they're offering free shipping in the United States.

You can read their post about my book here.  Or view Jim DiMaioalo's almost but not quite demented sales pitch here.



The Aelita Award


Something astonishing happened to me over the weekend.

I was given the Aelita Award.

The Aelita was named after the 1923 science fiction novel Aelita by Alexei Tolstoy and is presented at Aelita, (also named after the novel), Russia's oldest science fiction convention. The award was created in 1981 to honor a lifetime contribution to Soviet science fiction. Later, this became Russian science fiction and last year it was decided to expand the remit to cover SF globally.

I am gobsmacked, as our British cousins say, to be the first American  ever to receive this award. For reasons that are all too familiar to everyone, the Aelita conference was virtual this year so I didn't get to return to Ekaterinburg, a city I am very fond of, But that didn't make the honor any less sweet.

I'll be posting the recipients of the other awards given at the convention as soon as I can get a translation from the Russian.

Above: That's what a typical Aelita trophy looks like. Ekaterinburg is in the Ural Mountains, ten miles into Asia, an area famed for its mining.


Friday, December 18, 2020

Aelita 2020


What a strange year this is! You've probably noticed. All around the world, science fiction convention after science fiction convention has gone virtual. Including Aelita, Russia's oldest SF con. Pictured above is Your Humble (and distinctly hirsute) Correspondent, delivering his opening remarks as one of the guests. 

Because of the time difference between Russia and the US, I was speaking from home at 2 a.m. This was a new experience for me and, while it was not as much fun as being physically in Ekaterinburg would have been, it was still a privilege. I spoke briefly about my original experience with Aelita and how much physically and socially has changed since then, but how the core experience of the convention--the passion of the fans and writers for fantastika--remains unchanged.

The above photo was posted by Alexander Gritsenko in Russia and downloaded by me a third of a world away. Have I mentioned what strange times these are?


Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Last Days of Old Night


I'm in e-print again! "The Last Days of Old Night" is up in the December issue of Clarkesworld. This is a story I started looking for a little over two years ago, when I stood on the black sands of Reynisfjara on the southern coast of Iceland and stared out at the basalt sea stacks and wished I knew more about the legend behind them.

Here's how the story begins:

Through chaos and old night, the three brothers journeyed. Sometimes they rode and sometimes they strode. When they rode, their steeds snorted cold steam from their nostrils and obsidian hooves struck sparks from the rock. When they strode, their feet sank in the earth to their ankles. The sky was lit only by witch fires. Sometimes there were moons or flotillas of comets. Not tonight. Like all things, the sky and road changed at whim. In all the world, only the brothers could dictate what those changes would be.

That was simply how things were.

I would be lying if I pretended I was not pleased by how the story came out.

You can find my story here. Or just go to clarkesworldmagazine.com and just wander around.

And I should mention that . . .

I want to thank the Icelandic science fiction community for their warmth and hospitality. I had a great time at Icecon and I hope there will be many more in the coming years.

And a quick reminder . . .

The e-book of Jack Faust goes on sale tomorrow and that of Vacuum Flowers  on Saturday. Both $1.99 and both One Day Only.

Above: Image swiped from Extreme Iceland (extremeiceland.is), which offers guided tours and travel packages.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

E-Book! E-Book! E-Book! Sale! Sale! Sale!



 This must be the e-book sales season because I've gotten notification after notification from Open Road Media of upcoming (and current) sales. 

First up--and TODAY ONLY--is my short story collection Tales of Old Earth. This includes nineteen of my best stories, including two Hugo Award winners: Scherzo with Tyrannosaur and The Very Pulse of the Machine. 

Available today only in Canada and the U.S. for $1.99.

I have no idea if the following is of any use to you or not. 

 We are pleased to let you know that the following ebook(s) will be featured in price promotions soon.

ISBN13 Title Author Promo Type Country Start Date End Date Promo Price
9781504036511 Tales of Old Earth Swanwick, Michael ORM - Portalist NL US 2020-12-16 2020-12-16 $1.99
9781504036511 Tales of Old Earth Swanwick, Michael ORM - Portalist NL CA 2020-12-16 2020-12-16 $1.99



Next  up is Jack Faust, possibly my best and certainly my most depressing novel.  This Friday, December 18 only! $1.99 in Canada and the US.

Finally, on  Saturday, December 19 only! Vacuum Flowers, the novel most frequently held up as evidence that I was a Cyberpunk. I didn't think so at the time, and neither did Bruce Sterling. Feel free to make up your own mind. 

All three are perfect holiday presents for that e-friend who has virtually everything.


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A Conversation About Avram Davidson



The other day, I had a conversation about Avram Davidson with Seth Davis, for the Avram Davidson Universe podcast. Seth is the son of Grania Davis, who was once married to Davidson and he was Avram's godson as well. So he's well qualified to talk about the great writer.

Here's the podcast website's description of the episode:

In this episode, we sit down with author Michael Swanwick and listen to a reading of  "My Boy Friend's Name Is Jello” from the Avram Davidson Treasury.   Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1954 .  We discuss the meaning of the story and why Michael is such a huge Davidson fan!

I also... and this is a teaser... for the first time revealed how I once did Avram a solid. A fact which I only learned years after his death and he never.

You can find the conversation here.

If you wander about the site, you can also find conversations with Henry Wessells, Eileen Gun, and Avram's son Ethan Davidson. Which I heartily suggest you do. It would be time well wasted.


Above: The picture of Avram Davidson, lifted from Wikipedia (which would like me to remind you that they accept donations), fails to capture the intrinsic whimsicality of the man. But what photograph could possibly do him justice?


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

In the Drift E-Book Sale! One Day Only! Saturday!



 Open Road Media has informed me that the e-book of  In the Drift will be on sale this Saturday, December 5 for $1.99. It will be available in the US and Canada only. And only for the one day.

So if you read e-books and you're curious about my first novel... well, here's your chance.

And here's what Open Road had to say about it all:

ISBN13 Title Author Promo Type Country Start Date End Date Promo Price
9781504036474 In the Drift Swanwick, Michael ORM - Early Bird Books NL US 2020-12-05 2020-12-05 $1.99
9781504036474 In the Drift Swanwick, Michael ORM - Early Bird Books NL CA 2020-12-05 2020-12-05 $1.99

Open Road will promote the feature via social media. We hope you can share the deal with your network as well. 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.

Newsletter Link
  Early Bird Books     Subscribe Now  
The Lineup Subscribe Now
The Portalist Subscribe Now
Murder & Mayhem Subscribe Now
A Love So True Subscribe Now
The Archive Subscribe Now
The Reader Subscribe Now