Sunday, July 21, 2024

Congratulations to Sergio Rebolledo!!!


I confess that I was not aware of the Frank R. Paul Awards science fiction art, which were given annually by the con committee of Kubla-Khan from 1976 through 1996. And which have just now been resurrected, thanks to the efforts of Frank Wu and friends. But I learned of them yesterday, when Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld) introduced me to artist Sergio Rebolledo, who was a nominee. Like Neil himself, Sergio is quite a likeable guy.

The awards were announced at the Buffalo NASFIC last night. On the road, with the con behind me, I logged onto the Internet and discovered that the winner for Best Magazine Cover was Rebolledo. That's it up above.

Which makes that brief encounter one of the highlights of the NASFIC for me.

I should mention that the winner for Best Book Cover was Kurt Miller for Lineage: Ravages of Honor, Book 3. You can see the cover and/or buy the book here.

You can read the entire list of nominees and honorable mentions here

And if you're wondering who Frank R. Paul was . . .

Shame on you! Frank R. Paul was the single best cover artist of the Hugo Gernsback era, responsible for images that were vivid, exciting, and absolutely gonzo.

I recommend you go to Google Images and search for his images. You won't be disappointed.


Monday, July 15, 2024

E-Book Sale! In the Drift! Thursday Only!



As happens often enough Open Road Media is placing my first novel, In the Drift on sale for one day only. That's $1.99 on this Thursday, July 18, 2024 in the US only.

And if you're curious about the title . . .

The novel is set in the aftermath of a full meltdown at Three Mile Island. Most of Pennsylvanis is uninhabitable, Philadelphia is ruled by Mummers, and the uninhabitable area is known as the Drift. Because it's where radioactive isotopes have drifted and fallen to earth. When I was writing it, the book was titled The Drift. It was bought for Terry Carr's Ace Specials line and promptly re-titled In the Drift.

When I asked why the change, I was told that my title sounded like a horror title, like The Fog et al. Fair enough. I didn't much like the title but, not having a better alternative to offer, I went with it.

(Background info: The book was a fix-up of three sequential novellas with connective material. The first novella was titled "Mummer Kiss.")

Time passed. The novel sold to France. I got a copy of the translation. They had re-titled it Baiser du Masque. I got out my French dictionary to see what that meant.

And it meant Mummer Kiss. The perfect title was staring me in the face all along.



Sunday, July 14, 2024

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and Me on the Coode Street Podcast


Alvaro Zinos-Amaro's first novel, Equimedian, has been described as "a love letter to the SF  of the '70s and '80s." Which I suspect is going to be the standard description of this book. So Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan invited Alvaro to discuss it, along with last year's non-fiction book-length interview with me, Being Michael Swanwick on their Coode Street Podcast.

I was a participant in the conversation, so I realize that you're going to take my recommendation with a grain of salt. But I think it was pretty darn good--and I've been in enough public conversations where I was less than stellar to know the difference.

If you're curious, you can find the podcast here.  You should check it out. It's an hour well wasted.

And . . .

Just to be clear, I greatly enjoyed Equimedian. You don't need to know science fiction in the extraordinary depth that Zinos-Amaro does to appreciate it. And the completely satisfying ending took me by surprise. You have no idea how rarely a book does that.

As for Being Michael Swanwick, it's a story-by-story examination of every work of short fiction I ever published as of when the book came out. And now you know whether you want to read it or not. Nothing I could say would change your decision one way or the other.

Isn't that charmingly modest of me? I am the king of the soft sell!


Tuesday, July 9, 2024

What I'm Currently Working On




As a writer, you get used to it. An old friend says hi, and then immediately follows up with, "What are you working on?"


When I'm partway through a novel, the answer is easy. Because writing a novel is an all-consuming thing. I might be able to squeeze in a short story, written piecemeal in those random bits of dead time when I'm not researching, writing, editing, or revising the novel. But it's just a sideshow.


Right now, however, I still haven't decided what my next novel should be. So, pictured above, is the stack of files containing close to everything I'm working on at the moment. That comes to: 


Four novel openings, ranging from 8 to 49 pages.

One essay.

One book introduction (for a reprint of somebody else's book).

Two beginnings of collaborative stories that may or may ever happen. The Eileen Gunn one will have to wait for her to finish her novel.

Five partially written short stories.

A file of six (one to two page) story openings: "Saint Jerry the Hermit," "Two Riders," "The Werewolf in Winter,""Dinosaur on the Moon," "The Water People," and "Mercury is Hell."


"The Werewolf in Winter" may well get written someday, just because that's a nifty title. The other brief story openings, probably not. The rest (with the exception of one-to-three novels) will all certainly be done someday, though it may take quite a while for some of them.

Right now, I grab the stack of files, look through it to see what I feel like working on, then sit down and add a page or six, or possible a paragraph, or else, like Oscar Wilde, I may laboriously remove a word I'd previously spent a day inserting. This is the glamour and magic of an author's life.

It's not the best way to write. (It can't possibly be!) But it's the one I'm stuck with.


Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Rhymer by Gregory Frost (A Review)




Today, I'm posting a straightforward book review of a fantasy novel I admire a great deal... 


Rhymer by Gregory Frost (Tor Books)


Gregory Frost’s Rhymer is easily the best thing I’ve read in the past year. It’s a… and already I’m having trouble finding the right descriptors. Initially, it looks to be a Celtic fantasy, with Thomas the Rhymer waging a one-man war against all Faerie. But the elves, it turns out, are an invading alien species from another dimension, so it’s actually science fiction. Oh, and because Frost keeps the historical events consistent with those we know, it’s also a secret history. And the elves themselves are straight out of a horror novel. But it could also be that it’s actually an alternate history.


Let me start over again.


Thomas Lindsay Rimor de Erceldoune is mad, to begin with. Mad and cursed with the gift of prophecy, he is clearly a precursor to or avatar of Tom O’Bedlam. One night, the Queen of Faerie comes hunting with her elf-troop and takes True Thomas’s brother away with her as a sacrifice to the Teind. On a whim, she cures Tom of his madness (but not his visions, which take the form of epileptic seizures and prophesies he cannot understand). This, as it turns out, is the biggest mistake she will ever make.


The newly-rational protagonist learns of the elven/alien plot to first reverse-terraform and then take over our planet. Being immortal, they can take their time. Being shape-shifters, they can assume powerful positions in human society. To oppose them, Tom must first learn how to use weapons. And before that, because even a hero must eat, he must learn a trade, that of stone-cutter.  


Everyone knows the pleasures we expect from an action-adventure novel and Frost delivers them most ably. But he’s also too canny a writer to give you exactly what you’re expecting. Through all the many twists and turns of plot, he carefully avoids those that have grown trite and predictable through overuse. And though True Thomas is the hero his world needs—experiences he’d much rather have avoided have made him immortal and given him the elven power of glamour—he’s also a convincing human being in a world that is recognizably our own. He has friends and family and loyalties and, in the course of events, a wife.


This wife is Janet of the green kirtle who, in the Child ballad “Tam Lin” (Thomas has many names in the course of his long life), saves her own true love from the Fairy Queen, and she is one of the most engaging aspects of this novel. Not only is she stalwart and capable enough to rescue Thomas from the darkest night of his soul but she is convincing as his spouse as well. They two form a working marriage, a union of peers whose support for each other strengthens them both. And how often do you see that in a fantasy novel?


There is so much to praise about Rhymer! All the characters in it ring true. The stonemasons sound like working class men. (When Thomas’ mentor, Alpin Waldroup, is asked in what battle he was injured, he replies, “Has it a name? I never heard it.”) The elves are everything that’s wrong about aristocrats, and then some.  The worldbuilding, both of Faerie and the Scottish Borders, is exemplary. I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that Gregory Frost has done the hard work that is the making of a great book and reimagined everything about it afresh. This is one hell of a satisfying novel.


Much more could be said. But I will stop here, before I drown you in a sea of superlatives.


In the way of such fantasies, there are two more volumes on their way. Rhymer: Hoode, in which True Thomas assumes the guise of a certain bow-carrying outlaw, available now, and a third book, which I understand will be set in Elizabethan times, will follow soon. As of this writing, I am midway through the second and avid to read number three.




Thursday, June 20, 2024

Happy Birthday, Karen E. Quinones Miller!


Once upon a time, there was a young woman from Harlem and the Bronx who, because she was intellectually gifted, was offered a place in an overwhelmingly white school. She didn't want to go. A family friend, Mr. Johnson, a nice man who loved children, asked her why not. Eventually, she admitted it was because she wore hand-me-down clothes and didn't want the white children laughing at her.

Seriously, solemnly, he explained to her the importance of education and why she should make the best of herself that she possibly could. What he said made sense and she agreed to go. Shortly after, he gave her parents enough money to buy outfits for her new school

It was only years later, at his funeral, that she would realize that this kindly man was Bumpy Johnson, the "Harlem Godfather."

Karen E. Quinones Miller went on to join the Navy, get a degree in journalism, and work as a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her first novel, Satin Doll, got multiple rejections, so she published it herself to such success that Simon-Schuster won reprint rights in an auction. She went on to publish another seven novels and become an acknowledged authority on Harlem history.

Oh, and she became friends with Mayme H. Johnson, Bumpy's widow and co-wrote with her Harlem Godfather; the Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, the first ever biography of that complex man. Because Ms. Miller is the sort of person who always repays a kindness.

I was present when Karen was one of fifty writers picked by the city of Philadelphia to be recognized in the Philadelphia Literary Legacy project. The mayor of Philadelphia was introduced to her and he was clearly impressed.

All of which is buildup to this:

Today is Karen's birthday! If you like her, or women like her, please share so that others can look up her books and be made happy by them.


Wednesday, June 19, 2024

One-Day E-Book Sales! Three Days Only!



As happens from time to time, I've been notified by Open Road Media, who publish several of my e-books, that they're putting one of my books up for sale, one day only. Sometimes I learn of more than one sale in the space of a couple of days.

So I'm pleased to let you know that there will be three one-day sales this month. 

The first is for Jack Faust, which will be available for $1.99 ( US only) on this Friday, June 21st.

The second is for (again) Jack Faust, which will be available for $1.99 ( US only) on the following Friday, June 28th.

The third is for The Iron Dragon's Daughter, which will be available for $1.99 (in Canada and the US only) on Sunday, June 30th. 

So if you enjoy e-books and like getting them cheap... And if you're curious about two of my best novels... Well, here's your chance to consider buying one or two.

There. You won't get a softer sales pitch than that.


Above: I grabbed two of the books with the covers I like best and photographed them atop my desk. Marianne Porter, my wife, says that you have only so much organization in your life. No matter how much effort you invest in trying, you can't increase that amount--you can only decide where it goes. A great deal of organization goes into my work. Not so much into my workspace.