Wednesday, February 23, 2022

My Resignation from Honorary President of the International Union of Writers


Most of those reading this are not aware of my position as the Honorary President of the International Union of Writers, a writers' organization headquartered in Moscow. However, it meant a great deal to me. I have good friends in Russia and I believe in reportage and literature, particularly science fiction, and specifically Russian science fiction, as a force for good. 

That said, we live in the world we live in. So, yesterday, I sent the following letter to the chairman of the IUW.



Alexander Nikolaevich Gritsenko

Chairman of the Board

International Union of Writers



It is with deep regret that I am compelled to submit my resignation as honorary president of the International Union of Writers, effective immediately. Given the Russian invasion of Ukraine I cannot, however indirectly, support Vladimir Putin, his government, and their expansionist ambitions.

I am grateful for the honor that the IUW afforded me, and I still believe in the importance of honest writing and its potential to create a better world. If I can be of assistance in the the furtherance of those goals, I will do what I can.


Michael Swanwick

The Once and Future Rye, Part 2: Drinking Like a (Colonial) American



2. Drinking Like a (Colonial) American

If you and I are to explore the history of Rye Whiskey in America (and that is certainly my intention), we must begin at the beginning. And that beginning is, amazingly enough, Rum.

The American Colonies before the War of Independence were not peopled by teetotalers. Far from it! Life was hard, pleasures were  few, and the water was dangerous to drink. So, from the earliest colonists on, American society was awash in beer, hard cider, applejack, and distilled spirits. Some even sank so low as to drink wine—though American wine was dreadful and imported wine so expensive that only Thomas Jefferson could afford it regularly.

But while Americans would drink pretty much anything, in the Colonial era the tipple of choice was rum.  This was not the smooth and delicious drink we now know but a cruder version distilled from the byproducts of the molasses industry. Still, it was the best of a bad lot and prodigious amounts of it were made and sold.

There were two problems with rum.

The first was that it was a major component of the "triangular trade." The Americas sold sugar and rum to England, which sent cloth and manufactured goods to Africa, which sent slaves to the Americas. So it was a part of our great nation's Original Sin. Not that this bothered many Americans at the time. Which is also a part of our collective national guilt.

The second problem is that rum at that time was pretty rough stuff. Which is why so many Colonial drink recipes involved massive amounts of fruit and sugar.

One of the best of these drinks was invented at a gentlemen's fishing club on the banks of the Schuylkill River, not far from the world headquarters of the American Martini Institute. It is named Fish House Punch, after the august institution in which it was first concocted

Most recipes involve bottles of each ingredient and sacks of sugar, because they were meant to be served in enormous punch bowls to large groups of hard-drinking men and women who had no idea how soon they would become our Founding Fathers and Mothers. With perseverance, however, you can find more manageable recipes. Here's one:


Fish House Punch 

1 shot rum

1 shot cognac

3/4 shot peach brandy

1 1/2 shots simple syrup.

juice from 1 lemon 

spiced cherry


directions: mix, chill, and serve with a spiced cherry for garnish


And the results? as you might guess, this is an intensely sweet drink. Also very, very fruity. But anyone mixing this cocktail is going to know that going in. At the taste test, Fish House Punch won over even the skeptics. It is flavorful, bright, and festive. A terrific party drink and far superior to the dreadful things that are usually served in punch bowls.

Also, it packs a punch. Our Colonial forebears certainly knew how to party!

So for one bright, warm moment, all (if you could ignore the slavery part, that is) was good.

But then—spoiler alert!—came the American Revolution and everything changed, changed utterly. Including what kind of alcohol Americans drank


Thursday, February 17, 2022

On the Road: My Boskone Schedule



As always, I'm on the road again! This time I'm off to a kinder, gentler Boskone (for some reason, they've decided not to have a blizzard this year--go figure). 

My official schedule is below. But unofficially, as always, I'll be hanging about and hard to avoid. So if you're there and you see me, say hi. I'd be glad to talk to you. I'm not proud.

(I can hear Marianne rolling her eyes at that last statement.)

Here's the schedule:

Lurking in the Id, or How to Write a Really Scary Monster

18 Feb 2022, Friday 20:00 - 20:50, Marina II (Westin)


Clowns, zombies, vengeful ghosts. These things haunt our dreams and our collective psyche. But what does it take to write a truly scary monster? Crafting something terrifying requires more than imagining sharp teeth and sharper claws. We must dig deep to unearth that which keeps us up at night. How can we tap into this when writing and creating new monsters?

Tabitha Lord (Association of RI Authors), Sarah Langan, Michael Swanwick , Mike Allen (Mythic Delirium Books) (M)


Kaffeeklatsch: Michael Swanwick Format: Kaffeeklatsch19 Feb 2022, Saturday 11:00 - 11:50, Galleria - Kaffeeklatsch 2 (Westin)


What’s At Stake? 

19 Feb 2022, Saturday 16:00 - 16:50, Marina I (Westin)


Does the SF/F/H field suffer from stakes inflation? Are too many protagonists called upon to save the galaxy — instead of simply solving a smaller (and perhaps more believable) problem? Can you spoil the whole story by upping the stakes too high? Let’s talk about some satisfying genre tales with more modest ambitions.


Scott Edelman, Jeffrey A. Carver, Michael Swanwick, Walter Jon Williams (Word Domination) (M), Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Tor Books)  


Confidence, Self-Doubt, and the Writer Format: Panel

20 Feb 2022, Sunday 13:00 - 13:50, Marina II (Westin)


“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” murmured Yeats, bucking himself up to write more about magic or mermaids or the Fae. (Yes, Yeats was One of Us.) Our panel (who never suffer a moment's qualm themselves) will discuss being the best writer you can be, lulling yourself into confidence, and slaying the daily dragons of doubt.


Kenneth Schneyer (Johnson & Wales University) (M), E C Ambrose (Rocinante Books), Suzanne Palmer, Michael Swanwick, Adam Stemple 



Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Once and Future Rye, Part 1: Introducing the Whiskey That Was America



1: Introducing the Whiskey That Was America

Consider the strange fate of rye whiskey. From the earliest days of the Republic to the onset of Prohibition, it was the American tipple. From Miami to Seattle, if you stopped in a roadhouse and ordered a shot of whiskey, rye was what the barkeep poured into your glass.

Yet by the 1950s, rye was perilously close to being forgotten. Where bourbon emerged gloriously from the Great Depression, self-mythologized and available from a constantly growing number of distilleries, only a handful of bottom-shelf brands of rye survived... and some of those, it has to be said, only at the benevolent toleration of a few bourbon distilleries.

Even in Washington, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the Whiskey Rebellion, rye was so forgotten that public schools taught that it was taxation of corn whiskey that was behind the uprising.

The recent resurrection of rye whiskey is one of the few signs that the twenty-first century may have something to offer civilization. So the proprietors of The American Martini Institute and The American Martini Laboratory propose to present the history of the Whiskey That Was America here.

To help you get started, here is the recipe for the quintessential rye cocktail:



3 ounces rye

1 ounce sweet vermouth

2 dashes cherry bitters

spiced cherry


directions: mix, chill and serve with a spiced cherry for garnish


Note that the AML uses cherries spiced in-house and not those dreadful candied things they sell in a jar. It makes a tremendous difference.


Next Wednesday: The Once and Future Rye, Part 2: Drinking Like A (Colonial) American

Above: A small fraction of the  research materials employed by The American Martini Laboratory in this project.



Tuesday, February 8, 2022



Write something so good it will make me throw my computer through the window in a fit of jealous rage.



Monday, February 7, 2022

The Top Godless Atheist Christmas Card of 2021!



Once again, the Not At All Nepotistic Blue Ribbon Panel of Family has met in solemn convocation to choose the Godless Atheist Christmas Card of the Year. And what a year it's been! After the ups and downs of COVID-19, it's small wonder that religious spirit is at an all-time low. Our household received fewer overtly religious Christmas cards than ever before. I think people are feeling a little ticked-off at God. Which may not actually be the wisest coping strategy. Just saying.

 After eliminating all cards lacking a strong element of godless atheism, deliberation began on thirteen finalists. They are presented below with excerpts from our very dignified deliberations.



The  card from our friends Judith and John  is a perrenial favorite. This year, however...

"I am disarmed by the fact that as a work of art it's quite good---and it comes from the artist herself."

"There's no religious element at all!"

"It has strong aesthetic values. It's not Christian, but that doesn't make it godless."

In the end, everyone was won over. It's been a hard year and we need all the good art we can get.

Ruled seasonally appropriate.



"It's a nice girl and a nice dog. It's genuinely moving."

"Gertrude Stein was Jewish! And she's autting a Christmas wreath on that poor mutt. If anything, it's anti-religious."

"What a nice dog. I want to pat that dog."

Ruled godly by a two-to-one decision.


"It's a postcard. Of a Herrerasaurus. With the words Merry Xmas written on the back. The nuns at St. Francis Xavier said that "Xmas" was a way of avoiding the word "Christ" and this goes a long way toward proving them right."

"I'm disqualifying you here because it has a warm personal message on it. Even the shockingly inappropriate image can't undo that."

Ruled not-godless.



"Asterix and Obelix being angry at one another. The caption on the back is Good News but it's not about the birth of he Savior but about finding the sender's mother's banana bread recipe. Which is included. This is a card that goes out of its way to snub the season."

"In the story, they've both fallen for the same girl and aren't talking. Dogmatix is baffled. But in the next panel, they both relent and fall into each other's arms. Anger and forgiveness. Fellowship and brotherhood. Forgiveneess and reconciliation. Godly."

"Sophists! I am surrounded by sophists! Baptist sophists! They're the worst kind."

 Ruled godly by a vote of two to one.



 Ordinarily, corporate cards are exempt from this competition. They go out to all manner of prickly people and are trying hard to offend nobody. This time, however, the card from Analog and Asimov's pushed a few buttons.

"Are those gun ports? They are! It's a warship."

"It's an off-brand star destroyer."

"It's a warship and there is no credit to the artist. So that's Godless Atheism in a nutshell."

Ruled in the running.



"It's twee and it has no religious element."

"It's sweet. It's family."

"Their expressions and cold and emotionless."

"Yeah, you're right."

Ruled a contender.



"The question, I think, is whether the beauty of nature is inherently spiritual.Does it actively reflect the Creator of that beauty.? Is it inherently deist?"

"I think it's mere sentiment."

"I wouldn't use the word 'mere.'"

"This is like the question of whether we can appreciate Buffy the Vampire Slayer, given the existence of Josh Whedon.

"We received too many nothing-but-nature cards to single out this one."

Ruled not a contender.


"A Christmas tree created by mutilating sheets of music. Appalling."

"The color values are quite nice." 

"The caption is 'Warmest Wishes of the Holiday Season.' That's walking the extra mile to avoid religious sentiment.'

"Most of our cards say 'Happy Holidays,' even the overtly Christian ones."

Ruled not-godless by virtue of a single Christmas star.




"Awww. That horse is going to eat that poor snowman's nose."

"No, that horse has locked eyes with the snowman. It recognizes another being with the spark of life, the miracle of existence. But it's a cruel lie. The snowman is a simulacrum of ice nd cold, empty, devoid of life or meaning. The miracle is a lie and there is only a horse."

"Are you sure you weren't an English major?"

Ruled a contender.



Jason Van Hollander's card is always a contender. This year was no different.

"It's a Christmas tree. Godly."

"It's made up of Satanic imagery! Evil snakes! A skull! The Papal crown! And are those weasels in a blanket? Whatever they are, this is explicitly an anti-Christmas tree."

Ruled in the running.


 "Nothing but lines and shapes. A classical snowflake design polished down into meaninglessness.
This is your quintessential Hallmark Card, made from paper harvested from well-managed forests."

"Elegant. Well crafted. Meticulously produced. The triumph of design over everything else.All surface."

"We are as one on this. A collaboration between Satan and Fifth Avenue."

"The product of a civilization that is too sophisticated to believe in a Man in the Sky."

Ruled a front runner.




Perennial contender Sam Jordan was cruising toward a Silver Medal with his jolly card showing a marshmallow man hot-tubbing it in a cup of warm cocoa which he personalized with the message You Would Sit Idly As The Candy Homunculus Boils To Nothing? before shredding the card. Memorable but not exactly a blood-stained butcher knife in a turnip, to cite only one of his earlier-year attempts. 

"I think he injected violence and death into the card. "

"I think that by shredding the card, Sam rejected the implied message and its violence. So the final meaning was extremely muddled."

"Ah, but from another friend we also received the exact same candy homunculas image from a different greeting card company!"

"That means that somebody is violating copyright law! In a household where even the cat is currently at work on a fantasy trilogy, this is heresy!"

And so, by a dark Solstice anti-miracle, a final and irrevocable decision was made.

Ruling: The title of Godless Atheist Christmas Card of the Year goes to whichever of the two cards swiped the image from the other.  

That's all for this year! Happy Holidays! We'll be convening again in December.


Friday, February 4, 2022

Fantasia Romantica -- from Dragonstairs!



 Look what I have!

Word has just gone out from Dragonstairs Press, Marianne's "nanopress." Fantasia Romantica will be available for purchase This Sunday,  I expect it  will sell out fast.

 Here's the release:

 Dragonstairs Press is pleased to announce upcoming project Fantasia Romantica.

Fantasia Romantica is Michael Swanwick's witty take on the romantic lives of six fictional heroines. Was Rosie waiting when Sam Gamgee came home? And what was going on with Susan Pevensie? Find out! 4 ¼ x 5 ½ inches, hand stitched and bound in one of six patterns of silk-screened Nepalese lokta paper. Signed and numbered. Issued in an edition of 48, of which 33 are offered for sale.

Fantastia Romantica will be sold at 12 pm, Sunday, February 6. It will be nine dollars, one dollar additional for shipping outside of the United States.

Marianne Porter (she/her)
editor, publisher
Dragonstairs Press

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Dream Diary: February 3, 2022



 Last night I dreamed that I was at a party with a lot of my friends. We were just sitting around talking when Gardner Dozois appeared, large as life and twice as real, in one of the chairs. I just looked one way and then back and there he was. Everybody knew that he was dead but we were so happy to see him we didn't care. 

Gardner slid right into the conversation. He recommended a PBS series to me. "I think you'd really like it, Michael," he said, and the chit-chat didn't get any more serious than that. He made jokes. He was clearly enjoying our company. So nobody asked him any questions about the afterlife. We just reveled in his being there. He made everybody feel good.

So all I learned about life after death is that you can get PBS there.

Could be worse.