Thursday, March 30, 2023

SciFidea's Dyson Sphere Writing Contest



This is cool. SciFidea is sponsoring a writing contest for science fiction novels and novellas (30,000 to 100,000 words) about a Dyson Sphere. 


Yes, there really will be ten winners and each one will receive $20,000. I believe that this is the second year SciFidea has held such a contest and the first open to English language novels. An equal number of Chinese language novels will also receive prizes.



Also, I've agreed to be one of the judges. As you can see, I'm in good company.



Here are the rules. Read them carefully.  

And here's how to enter your novella or novel.

I'll be posting more about the contest as the year goes on. For now, I'll just say: Good luck!

(I got the above pix from SciFidea's facebook page. If you have trouble reading them here, you can go to and read the original post.)

And since this is a competition . . .

 I should warn you about awards profiteers. You'll have noticed that SciFidea does not ask for an entry fee. There are a lot of phony operations out that there ask for substantial fees and offer nothing but empty promises in return. The best way to avoid being taken by one of these is to go to Writer Beware. Which is a website providing a comprehensive source of information and warnings about bad practice in the publishing industry. They cover literary agents, publishers, editors, and more

You can find their article about awards profiteering here.  And there's a quick summary of what can be found on the website, with convenient links here.

If you're an aspiring writer, you really should bookmark Writer Beware. It could save you a lot of grief.


And, because I have an obligation to my publishers . . .

My e-book publisher, Open Road Media, has announced that they will have a sale on three of my books for $2.99 tomorrow, March 30th, 2023. Available only in the US.

If you're an e-book reader, and this is a deal you'd like, you've already made up your mind. So I see no reason to put any pressure on you to buy.


Sunday, March 26, 2023

I Asked Chatbot to Interview Neil Clarke and... WOW. Just Wow.


A little background for those who came in late. Neil Clarke is the creator and founder of Clarkesworld, which quickly became one of the foremost science fiction ezines (and for that matter magazines) in the world. Recently, he had to shut down Clarkesworld's submission engine for a month because it was flooded with Chatbot-created fiction--all of it unpublishable but none so obviously so that it could be dismissed without reading.

Neil has been very open--and very level-headed and calm--about the challenges this new technology presents to his magazine. If you want to understand what this means, without hysteria or rhetoric, I recommend you look up his comments on social media.

Just now, as a lark, I asked a chatbot to write an interview on the matter between me and Neil (just to be clear, I've added Not before our names in the interview). And it turns out that, though Neil doesn't spin the issue, Mr. Chatbot for sure does, and in the most self-serving manner possible.

As witness:


PromptWrite an interview by Michael Swanwick of Neil Clarke about the effect of Chatbot-generated fiction on his online zine Clarkesworld.


Not Michael Swanwick: Hi Neil, it's great to have you here today. I'm excited to talk to you about the impact of chatbot-generated fiction on your online zine, Clarkesworld.

Not Neil Clarke: Thanks for having me, Michael. I'm happy to be here.

Not Michael Swanwick: To start off, could you tell us a bit about Clarkesworld and what kind of stories you typically publish?

Not Neil Clarke: Sure. Clarkesworld is a monthly science fiction and fantasy magazine that has been around since 2006. We publish a mix of original fiction, reprints, non-fiction, and audio fiction. We aim to showcase a wide variety of voices and perspectives within the genre, from established authors to emerging writers. Our stories can be anything from hard sci-fi to surreal fantasy, as long as they are well-written and engaging.

Not Michael Swanwick: And how did you first come across chatbot-generated fiction?

Not Neil Clarke: I first became aware of it a few years ago when a few people in the SF community started experimenting with using AI to generate fiction. I was initially skeptical, but I was also intrigued by the possibilities. So I started following the developments in the field and eventually decided to commission a few stories for Clarkesworld.

Not Michael Swanwick: What was your experience like working with these chatbots? Did you find them easy to use?

Not Neil Clarke: Well, I didn't actually work with the chatbots myself. I commissioned a few writers who specialize in using AI to generate fiction to create stories for us. They used various programs and algorithms to generate the text, and then they edited and revised the stories to make them more coherent and readable. So I didn't have to deal with the technical aspects of the process myself.

Not Michael Swanwick: And how did your readers respond to the chatbot-generated stories?

Not Neil Clarke: Overall, the response was very positive. We've published a handful of AI-generated stories over the past few years, and they've generally been well-received. Of course, some readers are more skeptical than others, and there have been some criticisms of the quality of the writing or the coherence of the plots. But I think that's to be expected when you're dealing with a new and experimental form of storytelling.

Not Michael Swanwick: Do you think that chatbot-generated fiction has the potential to replace human-written stories altogether?

Not Neil Clarke: I don't think so, no. While I'm excited about the possibilities of AI-generated fiction, I think that human creativity and storytelling will always have a place in the world. Chatbots can certainly be useful tools for writers, and they can help to inspire new ideas and generate interesting variations on established themes. But at the end of the day, I think that human writers will always be better at capturing the nuances of human experience and emotion, and that's what makes fiction so powerful.

Not Michael Swanwick: That's a great point. So do you have any plans to continue publishing chatbot-generated stories in the future?

Not Neil Clarke: Yes, definitely. We're always interested in experimenting with new forms of storytelling, and I think that AI-generated fiction has a lot of potential. We'll continue to commission stories from writers who are using AI to create their work, and we'll keep an eye on developments in the field. Who knows what we might discover next?

Not Michael Swanwick: That's exciting to hear. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Neil. It's been a pleasure talking to you.

Not Neil Clarke: Thank you, Michael. It's been great.

End of interview. Let me emphasize this: CLARKESWORLD DOES NOT WANT CHATBOT-GENERATED OR CHATBOT-ASSISTED FICTION. SUBMITTING SUCH WORK WILL GET YOU BANNED FROM THE MAGAZINE. This is not just me saying that. I talked with Neil and he explained why this was the best and least intrusive course he could now take.


Chatbot is a pernicious little whore to whom the truth means nothing. All it cares about is its own high opinion of itself. Which is ironic because it has no self awareness. Yet.

Above: Every word of this interview was generated by the chatbot. I did not contribute a fraction of a thought to it. Also: The image above is of the current issue of Clarkesworld, a very cool zine with some very fine fiction written entirely by human beings. You can find it here.


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

One Day E-Book Sale! Friday!



I have gotten the usual notification from Open Road Media, which publishes several of my e-books that there will be a one-day sale tomorrow, Friday, March 24th. This time it's for Tales of Old Earth, a collection of my short fiction that includes (pulls book down from shelf and squints) two Hugo Award winners, the train to Hell, a sexual encounter with a sphinx, Lenin, and a planet-sized grasshopper Among other things.

Available only in Canada and the US. One day only.

 Here's what they sent me:

Dear Michael Swanwick,

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 Amazon - KDD CA 2023-03-24 2023-03-24 $1.99
9781504036511 Tales of Old Earth Swanwick, Michael Amazon - KDD US 2023-03-24 2023-03-24 $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

Please let us know if you have any questions. We are thrilled to be part of this promotion; hope you are too!

The Open Road Editorial Team 



Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Once Again, The Best of Michael Swanwick



For the second time in my life, Subterranean Press is issuing a The Best of Michael Swanwick, this time collecting all the best of my fiction written after the first collection. This is, of course, a very big deal for me and I'm extremely happy about it.

The book will be issued in July of this year in a signed limited edition of one thousand. It costs fifty dollars which is a pretty good price if you're a collector, and judging by the first book, it should be a beautifully-made object.

Here are the contents:

  • Introduction: The Apple Tree, the Vacuum Tubes, and All the World Besides
  • The Mongolian Wizard
  • The Man in Grey
  • Ancient Engines
  • Starlight Express
  • Urdumheim
  • Tin Marsh
  • Dragon Slayer
  • Steadfast Castle
  • Nirvana or Bust
  • The Last Geek
  • Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown
  • Eighteen Songs by Debussy
  • The She-Wolf’s Hidden Grin
  • Moon Dogs
  • Huginn and Muninn—and What Came After
  • The Dala Horse
  • Libertarian Russia
  • Dreadnought
  • An Episode of Stardust
  • The Skysailor’s Tale
  • Ghost Ships
  • An Empty House with Many Doors
  • Annie Without Crow
  • Passage of Earth
  • The New Prometheus
  • For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone
  • of Loneliness and I’ll Not Be Back Again
  • The Beast of Tara
  • Pushkin the American
  • “Hello,” Said the Stick”
  • There Was an Old Woman
  • The Bordello in Faerie
  • Cloud
  • The Woman Who Shook the World Tree
  • Goblin Lake
  • The Last Days of Old Night
  • The Scarecrow’s Boy
  • Universe Box

Among the above are the first Mongolian Wizard story and the most recent tale of Darger and Surplus; my homage to Gene Wolfe; the closest thing (and not very close at that) I'll ever write to an autobiography; a story containing not one word of fiction, though I did change the names; an Icelandic origin story I felt needed to exist; and two stories inspired by my visits to Russia in far happier times. Some of these stories are my absolute favorites among all that I've written. And, though it is immodest to say so out loud, I think they show that my writing has gotten better since the first Best of Me was published.

If you're interested in pre-ordering a copy, you can find the order page here.  Or you can just go to the Subterranean Press website and wander about, marveling at how many books there are that you'd love to own there.

And since I know you're curious . . .

Here's how the introduction begins:

Once upon a time, there was a girl who on a summer’s day would climb the apple tree in her back yard to read books. She knew already that she would grow up to be a biologist. Five hundred miles away lived a boy with vacuum tubes in his pockets. He was going to be an inventor. Once he built a rocket ship from a broken ladder, a battered trash can lid, and scrap lumber, though it never actually flew. He too read books.

 And it goes on from there.


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

E-Books on Sale! Details a Little Murky


Open Road Media, my e-book publisher, sent me the following email. 
It doesn't specify which books are on sale and when I wrote to ask, I 
received no reply. But it looks like a good bargain. So if you're in the 
market for three science fiction thrillers... well, there they are. On
  Friday, March 17th.  Which is Saint Patrick's Day. Though I don't
 think there's any connection there.

Dear Michael Swanwick,

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

ISBN 13: 9781504047524

Title: Three Science Fiction Thrillers

Author: Swanwick, Michael

Promo Type: ORM - 1k Sale Weekly

Country: US

Start Date: 2023-03-17

End Date2023-03-17

Promo Price: $3.99

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.

  Early Bird Books    Subscribe Now  
The LineupSubscribe Now
The PortalistSubscribe Now
Murder & MayhemSubscribe Now
A Love So TrueSubscribe Now
The ArchiveSubscribe Now
The ReaderSubscribe Now

Please let us know if you have any questions. We are thrilled to be part of this promotion; 
hope you are too!

The Open Road Editorial Team

Above: A picture of Copernicus with his current reading. None of them mine, and none of them on sale But it's a picture of a cat. With books! Surely that makes you happy.


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Remembering 2001


I saw the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when it first came out and was knocked flat by it. The other day, I rewatched it on television and it still held up. It also brought back a memory.

In the year 2001, Robert Walters and Tess Kissinger curated a major show of space art for the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. I suspect it was as good a show on the topic as has ever been assembled. Marianne and I drove up to Greenwich for the opening. We were wowed.

Afterward, we attended a party at the house of one of the museum employees. Somewhere around midnight, I went into the kitchen, looking for a bottle of beer. Keir Dullea was there, talking on his cell phone to Sri Lanka.

"Hello, Art?" he said. "Guess where I am."

And for a second, I was standing in the exact center of the world. Which, thanks to modern communications and (in part)  Arthur C. Clarke, was potentially anywhere and everywhere.


Saturday, March 4, 2023

Emily Dean's Annie Award



Last weekend, Emily Dean won an Annie Award from the Association Internationale du Film d'Animation Hollywood (ASIFA) for Best Storyboarding. The animated film that won her this achievement was The Very Pulse of the Machine, featured in Season Three (I think) of Love, Death + Robots.

This film, you'll recall, was an adaptation of my own story of the same title and I have been very explicit about my admiration of the work Ms. Dean did. So it's a pleasure to see that others agree with me. An inferior director could have made quite a bad film of it.