Thursday, July 28, 2022

One Day Tales of Old Earth Sale! Also, My Confluence Schedule


 As they do rather a lot, OPen Road Media is having a one-day sale of one of my books. This time it's Tales of Old Earth, a rather splendid collection of my short fiction. It will be available for $1.99 only in the US on Friday, July 29th

Here's what they told me:

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 - 1K Sale Weekly US 2022-07-29 2022-07-29 $1.99


And as always . . .

I'm on the road again. This time I'm off to Confluence, the venerable Pittsburgh-area science fiction convention. It runs from Friday afternoon to 3 p.m. Sunday. At:

Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel
1160 Thorn Run Road
Coraopolis, PA 15108


And here's my schedule:

Saturday 10 am: What You Might Have Missed: Books and Movies (SF/F and otherwise) that Many Fans Would Like But May Not Have Heard Of [Commonwealth East]

Charles Oberndorf, Michael Swanwick, Lesley Wheeler (M), Jim Mann


The title says it all: which books and movies have you read or seen that you feel that many of those around you might have missed? 


Saturday Noon: Reading Short SF: Why You Should Be Reading Short Fiction, Both Classic and New [Commonwealth West]

Neil Clarke, Michael Swanwick, Vera Brook (M)


Short fiction has long been at the cutting edge of the SF field. Our panel recommends works you may not be familiar with but should be. 


Saturday 4 pm: Reading [Solstice]

Michael Swanwick


Saturday 5 pm: Autographing [Near Registration]

Michael Swanwick


Sunday 10 am: Kaffeeklatsch [225]

Michael Swanwick 


This will be a fun weekend! If you see me, be sure to say hi.




Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Brief Essays on Genre, Part 13: On Narrative Hooks


 On Narrative Hooks

Narrative hooks ought to work, but they don’t.  Instead of drawing the reader into the story, they prepare him or her for a terrible disappointment. There is a very simple reason for this. They—


See what I did there?


--Michael Swanwick

Monday, July 25, 2022

Honoring Gardner Dozois at the Pen & Pencil Club



Last Friday, I had the honor of unveiling the Gardner Dozois plaque at the Pen & Pencil Club with Gardner's son Christopher Casper. The Pen & Pencil being a press club, the plaque was veiled with pages from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Gardner is, of course, best known for his 19 years as editor of Asimov's Science Fiction and his 35 years editing The Year's Best Science Fiction. But he began his literary career as a military journalist for The Rolling Review and then Stars and Stripes. His training as a journalist formed the foundation for his subsequent careers as a writer and an editor.

The plaque was paid for by Gardner's friends and fellow club members (known among ourselves as "the cronies") with the support of the officers of the Pen & Pencil Club.

Not shown are the many friends of Gardner who showed up for the dedication. But their presence was greatly appreciated. After the unveiling, they lingered for a celebratory party in which we all exchanged our favorite stories about Gardner. 

Though I did not say it at the time, I could not help thinking of Dr. Watson's words about Sherlock Holmes, "I shall ever regard him as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known."

And, yes, even unsaid, I could hear Gardner scoffing at those words.


And because I know you want to hear one of those stories. . .

 When he was a military journalist, Gardner was sent to take a picture of a crashed helicopter.

He went to the airport and waited for the helicopter sent to take him to the crash site. He was standing on the tarmac when Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! the copter came down and CRASHED! right in front of him.

So, figuring that one crashed helicopter looked like any other, Gardner took a photo of the ruined helicopter and went back to base.




Friday, July 22, 2022

TALES OF OLD EARTH! One!! Day!!! E-Book!!!! Sale!!!!! Saturday Only!!!!!!



I've been informed by Open Road Media, my e-book publisher that my collection Tales of Old Earth will go on sale tomorrow, Saturday July 23, for one day only, in the US only.

 Here's what they sent me:

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 2022-07-23 2022-07-23 $1.99


So if you'd like to read some of my extremely good short fiction, and you like e-books... Well, here's your chance.

(I believe in the soft sell. It's much less rude.)



Thursday, July 21, 2022

Pondering "Eshat's Temple"



This is not a review, exactly. It’s more of a speculation on “Eshat’s Temple,” a story by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro that begins:


In the shimmering white settlement of Belaqua, there lived a woman named Eshat who was said to be the most just Mistress of a House of Books who had ever lived in the nine realms. Rumor claimed that her skills with the Translator’s Almanac were so magnificent, and her attunement to the Goddess Ayfer so strong, that not once during her decades of service had Eshat failed to match up a reader with the text that would prove most life-changing to that particular person.


In quick order a picture is drawn, and drawn well, of a fantasy world ruled (at least in the nine realms) by librarians.


I think we can all agree that this would be a fine thing.


With wisdom and a ready supply of reference works, Eshat has made her town as just and happy a place as is humanly possible. This being a story, however, and stories requiring conflict, a series of events transpire that strike at the center of the town’s happiness.


At which point I must ask you to go directly to Beyond Ceaseless Skies to read “Eshat’s Temple” by clicking here.


*                                  *                                  *


You’re back! Did you read the story? All the way to the end? That’s good because I’m going to stop synopsizing now and go straight to the conclusion of the story. There are nothing but spoilers from here on.


Here goes:


Eshat is a Muslim name meaning Love. The name of the Goddess, Ayfer, means Moonlight in Turkish. So it’s not much of a stretch to say that Belaqua has been ruled by love and that when Eshat consults moonlight in a vision, she is accessing her creative imagination. When she returns to reality, she no longer needs the fossilized rules codified in a single Almanac and by freeing herself from the story she has been trapped within, inherits all the stories that exist within the near-infinite ocean of streams of stories.


So on the surface, this seems to be a story about a woman who trades one story for all stories, authority for freedom, dogma for a world of possibilities. And, yes, it's all of that. But I wonder. It seems possible to me that this is a story about one particular story, and that that particular story is Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.”


Omelas, you will recall, is a city of perfect happiness which rests upon the misery of a single child. On reaching adulthood, each citizen of the city is shown the child. Most manage to live with the fact. But some few cannot, and walk away to create a city which Le Guin confesses is beyond her imagining.


Eshat, it seems to me, is that child grown to adult stature. It is not necessary to explain why she is no longer miserable. Perhaps that misery was fleeting. Maybe Le Guin exaggerated. Perhaps she has merely swallowed back her pain. But in any case, she leads the most constricted of existences. She can only do as the Almanac directs. She has no agency.


Then, in the end, Zinos-Amaro grants her that agency. And she walks away from Belaqua/Omelas, the only one in the history of the city whose desertion really matters.


Anyway, that’s my theory. What’s your take on the story?




Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Brief Essays on Genre, Part 12: On Naturalistic Fiction


On Naturalistic Fiction


Fiction was full of absurdities: men turned to asses, women finding true love, boys riding geese. It was time for a cleansing. The proper business of literature, it was declared, was recording ordinary lives exactly as they were lived.


No one thought to ask why, in four thousand years of recorded fiction, this had never been done before.


--Michael Swanwick



Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Claes Oldenurg's Clothespin



Claes Oldenburg died the other day and the world is a little less fun than it used to be. 

 Oldenburg's best-known works, often created with his wife Coosje van Bruggen, were enormous sculptures of everyday items. There are four such sculptures in Philadelphia--a broken button on the University of Pennsylvania campus, a four-way plug in the sculpture garden of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a paintbrush with a daub of fallen paint on the sidewalk below in front of the Pennsylvania Academy of fine art, and a clothespin directly across from City Hall.

That's it up above.

When the Clothespin went up in 1976 (Oldenburg denied that the spring, shaped like a 7 on one side and a 6 on the other, had anything to do with 1776 or the Bicentennial it was commissioned to celebrate; but few Philadelphians believed him), street vendors tried selling framed souvenir photos with a real clothespin glued over the sculpture. But they didn't work and they didn't sell. Because Oldenburg didn't create a realistic clothespin but an idealized clothespin. It looked no more like a real clothespin than Michelangelo's David looks like your typical schlub of a couch potato.

 If Claes Oldenburg had never existed, Philadelphia would not today have a 45-foot tall heroic statue of a clothespin.

I think that says it all.

You can find NPR's memorial to Oldenberg here.


Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sunday Morning Transport FREE



Sunday Morning Transport, I am informed, is having a sale. Or, rather, something better than a sale because they're giving away a 60-day subscription to anyone who wants one.

So what is Sunday Morning Transport and how am I involved in it? Easy answer first: I was asked to submit a story of less than I forget how many thousand words, but it wasn't many. So I decided to see just how much classic adventure SF I could fit into that small space. Quite a bit, as it turned out. So they bought it and "The Warm Equations" will be made available on August 7.

Now for the tough question. Sunday Morning Transport is sort of a magazine--only not. It's more of a kind of streaming service. You subscribe to it and in return, every Sunday morning, you receive a science fiction story in your email. Editors Julian Yap and Fran Wilde put a lot of work into finding and editing a varied selection of science fictional experiences, and now you get to try the service out without risking a penny.

 You can get your free subscription here.


Here's a more detailed description:


Stories help us connect — with each other and with the future. They transform us. 

Subscribing to Sunday Morning Transport means bringing an outstanding speculative short story to your inbox every week, fifty weeks a year.

Sunday Morning Transport readers are authors, thinkers, scientists, artists, dreamers. With a single science fiction or fantasy short story each Sunday, we connect across space and time. We deliver, right to your inbox: a moment of whimsy; a deep dive into an unknown world; a single illuminating transformation; a vibrant community of readers and writers built around the best new speculative stories each week.

Free subscribers receive one story a month. Paid subscribers receive one story each week, fifty weeks a year.  For paid subscribers, there’s more: the opportunity to join in a conversation about story, to ask questions, and to help build a year’s worth of moments with authors including Max Gladstone, Karen Lord, Elwin Cotman, Kij Johnson, Kat Howard, Elsa Sjunnesson, Kathleen Jennings, Sarah Monette, Juan Martinez, E.C. Myers, Maureen McHugh, Tessa Gratton, Sarah Pinsker, Yoon Ha Lee, Michael Swanwick, Brian Slattery, Malka Older, and many more. 


Friday, July 15, 2022

ROT Fest! Tire Tossing! Phantom Soup! An Ordinary Saturday at the Bookstore



My friend Alex Dawson recently built a dieselpunk used book store atop a '59 flatbed truck, which he calls the Rac-On-Tour (years ago, he used to own a bookstore named The Raconteur). And since he was already deep into Whimsy Country, he decided to have a monthly event, ROT Fest, with various attractions, including a fire eater. 

So that's where I'll be tomorrow. I'll be doing a brief reading and a question-and-answer session and there will be a selection of my books that you can (but don't have to) purchase. The event runs from noon to six p.m. But I'll be reading at 3:15 p.m.

Mostly because: How often do I get to do a reading at a used book store with a fire eater?

That's at:

Highland Park Farmers Market

Main Street Highland Park

212 Raritan Avenue

Highland Park, NJ

Noon to 6:00 p.m.

July 16, 2022  


And here's Alex's official pitch and schedule:

What is ROT FEST? It's Ren Fair and Wasteland and Comic Con and The Highland Games. It's sword-fighting and fire-spitting, It's winning an award for the most extravagant beard or for throwing a truck tire farther than anyone else. It's author readings and live music. Collectibles, antiques, vintage clothing, and trading cards. It's cosplay. It's taxidermy and outsider art. Pre-war motorcycles and hot rods. It's blacksmithing and glass blowing. It's raconteurs and roustabouts. Rotgut and goblin pulp. It's Neil Gaiman and Dr. Who, Hellboy and Spirited Away. It's Mad Max. It's Diagon Alley meets Burning Man. It's books, books, and more books.
Why just R.O.T., when you can R.O.T. (&) FEST(er).
ROT FEST II (July 16) roster:
The Rac-On-Tour (of course): curated used book caravan built on the back of a '53 International flatbed.
Bongo Dave: vintage vinyl (outlaw country, jazz, funk/soul, soundtracks, international, 80's).
Chris T. (The Nihilistics, Missing Foundation, CBS, NPR, SiriusXM, WFMU, WNYC, Writer/Producer) brings you THAT CAVE: Man Cave & More! Antiques • Books • Collectibles • Electronics • Guitars/Amps/Effects • Hand Tools • Hi-Fi • Lighters • Old Paper • Vintage Toys • Vintage Clothes, etc. Many cool, interesting & useful items – no junk. 
Jerviks: authentic Viking Reenactment. A Living History Display with an educational emphasis on daily life of the period, games, stories, combat demonstration, and wares for sale.
Apex Primate: Simple, dark designs inspired by the natural world and the ancient human animal. On t-shirts.
Joe Recchia: An artist who makes beautiful monsters to cope with real ones. Plushies w. zombie teeth. Eyeballs in weird places. Think (Francis) Bacon meets (Rick) Baker. Pan's Labyrinth in oil, resin, and shag. 
Jack Shergalis: artist, illustrator, comics creator; psychedelic imagery, intricately inked line work over saturated colors. Roots in Peter Max and Adventure Time.
Celia Sanchez, a multidisciplinary artist based out of New Brunswick. 
Michael Jarmus: sci-fi/fantasy vendor, selling swords and a range of fantasy/science fiction memorabilia.
Soup Phantom Food Truck: Don't let the name fool you, they do much more than soup: BBQ Pulled Pork over Mac 'n' Cheese, Jambalaya, Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo, Pepper Steak over Rice, Seafood Paella. Plus fresh, green salads! Food so good, it's scary.x
12:45 PM - Karnevil Side Show: Classic carnival feats of pain proof daring and wonder (including bed of nails, ladder of blades, human blockhead, straitjacket escape, and more).
1:00 - - Joe Galuppo, folk singer/songwriter. 
2:00 PM - Karnevil Side Show
2:15 PM - Keith McCarthy, an award winning Asbury Park alt-country/Americana singer/songwriter; front man for the Sunday Blues.
3:15 PM - World Fantasy Award winner Michael Swanwick. A master of fantasy/science fiction and "one of the country's most respected authors" (Philadelphia Inquirer), Swanwick's work has been called "marvelous" (New York Times) and "extraordinary" (Wall Street Journal). His stories have appeared in countless magazines (and Best of Year anthologies) and have been translated into dozens of languages. His novels include the New York Times Notable Book The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and the Nebula Award-winner Stations of the Tide. He is only author to win five Hugo Awards in six years. Check out the adaptation of his story Ice Age on Netflix's Love Death + Robots.
3:30 PM - BELIEVE: Tales From the Crypt(id). Join me, and nine talented young writers/former students as we "crack that cryp" and declaim brand new, original stories about fearsome critters that may or may not exist. We'll make you believe. With Tyler Gamba, Devon Borkowski, Melissa Cecchina, Michaela Schwab, Gregory Giovannini, Ben Rivera, Benjamin Rivera Torres, Mason Springer-Lipton, Julian Lance, and yours truly (Alex Dawson). Plus special guest Stoker Award nominee Carol Gyzander reading from her new book, Forget Me Not, a new cryptid novella in the Systema Paradoxa series from NeoParadoxa.
4:45 - Karnevil Side Show.
5:00 - Needlez: Fire performance, includes eating, spitting, and other skills based on juggling, baton twirling, poi spinning, and object manipulation.
The Unshavian - George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion) was a playwright with a big badass beard. His fans were called Shavians. Got a big badass beard? Come be judged by Justin from The Pogo Beard Company. The Unshaviest wins bragging rights and ROT bux. 
Tire Toss - How far can you toss a sixty pound tire with a 5-lug rim? Farthest throw gets bragging rights and ROT bux.
Darts - Hit the cork on the side of our truck and win ROT bux.
Galaga - Beat the ROT's high score on our Galaga arcade cabinet and win, you guessed it, ROT bux.
Plus (fingers crossed): vintage motorcycle/hot rod show, taxidermy, and toy collectibles.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Brief Essays on Genre, Part 11: On Defining Genre


 On Defining Genre

The problem with defining a genre—science fiction, for example, or fantasy—is that once you’ve declared what it is, you’ve also declared what it can’t be. And if it can’t be anything but what it has already been, it’s of no interest to any serious artist.


--Michael Swanwick

Friday, July 8, 2022

"The White Leopard"



Look what came in the mail today! It's the hardcover limited edition of the newest iteration of New Worlds, edited by Nick Gevers and Peter Crowther.  It has a great lineup of stories but I wasn't able to find an easily paste-able table of contents online, so here's a description from PS Publishing's website:

In the 1960s and 1970s, New Worlds magazine, edited by Michael Moorcock, became famous for its avant garde approach to SF, energising the genre’s New Wave with exciting innovations in style, content, and presentation. Here J G Ballard and Brian Aldiss shared pages with Samuel R Delany and Norman Spinrad, Pamela Zoline with M John Harrison, Charles Platt with Harlan Ellison. Hilary Bailey with Thomas M. Disch.

Now PS Publishing, with the enthusiastic endorsement and participation of Moorcock himself, presents the first in a revived New Worlds anthology series. Award-winning co-editors Peter Crowther and Nick Gevers have gathered brilliant new stories by the finest short fiction writers in SF. A sampling:

  • Continuing his topical yet timeless Jerry Cornelius sequence begun during the heyday of New Worlds, Michael Moorcock delineates ‘The Wokingham Agreement’.
  • Alan Moore, titan of the graphic novel, artfully explores surprising and hilarious events immediately after the Bing Bang in ‘The Improbably Complex High-Energy State’.
  • Gwyneth Jones ventures to the outer solar system and probes the perils of posthumanity in ‘The Ploughshare and the Storm’.
  • Ken MacLeod explores the subtle dangers of a very wired future Europe in ‘Cold Revolution Blues’.
  • Margo Lanagan brings her cunning sidewise sensibility to another England in ‘Tell-Tale Tit’.
  • Michael Swanwick slyly and movingly contemplates combat-machine fetishism in ‘The White Leopard’.

Add tales by Ian R. MacLeod, Lavie Tidhar, Ian Watson, Paul Park, James Lovegrove, M T Hill, Robert Edric, John Grant, a reprint story by Peter Crowther, the first in a series of columns from Steve Aylett, and a knowledgeable Introduction by the noted SF scholar Mike Ashley, and here is New Worlds reborn in all its fabled glory.

This is a wonderful lineup of writers and stories. And Mike Ashley's introductory essay on the history of New Worlds is fascinating. I had known that it had a long and tangled history, but not that it began as a fandom. It is a feast for geeks. Like (ahem) me.

The 200-copy hardcover is sold out. But there are still trade paperbacks available here. Or you could just go to the website here and poke around. I'm sure they have books that you need. 

And because I know you wonder . . .

 My own contribution is a story called "The White Leopard" which is about faded glory and a past that almost--almost!-- cannot be retrieved. Also about repairing a combat land drone. Here's how it begins:


He found it in five cardboard boxes in the basement at a suburban estate sale. Ray went to estate sales almost every weekend. It got him away from his wife. Weekdays he spent fixing things in his garage workshop.


Doris didn’t like estate sales, consignment shops, or secondhand anything. “I don’t buy used crap!” she often said. “I want to be able to return something if I get tired of it.” Yet she clung to Ray mercilessly, only God knew why.


Four of the cartons were marked twenty dollars each. The fifth, which had gotten separated from the others and which he had scoured the basement to find, was ten. He would have paid all he had for them. But because it was Sunday afternoon and the sale was almost over, they knocked half off the price without even being asked. It was clear the sellers had no idea what it was.


What it was, was an RQ-6G Leopard.




Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Brief Essays on Genre, Part 10: On Critics



On Critics


What is there to say that has not already been said?


--Michael Swanwick