Monday, July 6, 2015

My Readercon Schedule


Once again, it's time for that most eccentric of science fiction conventions (admittedly, it has rivals), Readercon.

And here's my Readercon schedule:

Friday July 10

4:00 PM    CR    Stop, Collaborate, and Listen. Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney (leader), Eileen Gunn, Malinda Lo, Michael Swanwick.

The speculative community is full of collaboration: writers who write a story together, musicians who work with writers to create incredible performances and multimedia experiences, artists who work with writers both to illustrate and to create original works. Our panelists will discuss their experiences with the benefits and challenges of collaboration. How many people can collaborate on a project before it becomes unwieldy? How do methods of communication, issues of dividing payment, and other practical considerations influence collaborative artistry? 


Friday, July 3, 2015

China Daydreaming


As always, I'm on the road again. There are ups and downs to traveling so much. The negative stuff everybody knows. But on the positive side, I'm constantly meeting new people and seeing new things.

A couple of months ago, I was on a boat on the Li river.  It was a moist and drizzly day, and when our boat reached Yangshuo, I took a snapshot of a woman cleaning the stone steps up to Old West street.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Oyster Has Landed!


Dragonstairs Press, that delightful institution wholly owned and operated by a woman very dear to my heart, has just issued a tete-beche chapbook containing... well, I'll let you read Marianne's release notification:

     In 1917, on a day in late August, novelist, essayist, and journalist Christopher Morley went out to lunch.  His description of his walk down Sansom Street in Philadelphia was published as a column in the Philadelphia  Evening Ledger, under the title of "Meditations on Oysters".
     Ninety seven years later, Michael Swanwick retraced Morley's steps.  His essay. "Meditations on Meditations on Oysters" described what had and had not changed along Morley's route.
     These two essays are now bound together in a signed (by Swanwick only, alas) limited edition chapbook, available from Dragonstairs Press, at dragonstairs.

I posted about this book a couple of days ago. You can find out what I had to say about it here.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Touring the Phoenix


If I have a single flaw -- and most people feel that's understating the case -- it's that I never post my scheduled public appearances more than a few days ahead of time. So folks who are hoping to get an autograph from me frequently tell me that had they only known...

Mea culpa. And mirabile dictu, as well. For I have here a preliminary list of places I'll be appearing to support the publication of the new Darger & Surplus novel, Chasing the Phoenix.  There should be more, and I'll update the schedule as they come in. But for now, this should suffice.

Scheduled Appearances

Tuesday, August 11 - Main Point Books, Bryn Mawr, PA
This will be the official book launch.

Saturday, August 15 - Quail Ridge Books and Music, Raleigh, NC

Sunday, August 16 - Oak City Comic Show, Raleigh, NC

Monday, August 17 - Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

There'll also be an appearance on WCOM with Samuel Mongomery-Blinn of Bull Spec and Mur Lafferty of Carolina Book Beat

Tuesday, August 18 - Malaprop’s, Ashville, NC

Friday, August 21 – Sunday, August 23 – Sasquan World Science Fiction Convention

Wednesday, September 9 – Philadelphis Free Library Central Branch, Philadelphia, PA
A panel on the history and future of science fiction and fantasy in Philadelphia

Monday, September 21 - University of Pennsylvania (B&N College), Philadelphia, PA

I'll also be at Readercon in a week-and-some, July 10 through 12. But since Chasing the Phoenix won't be out by then, it doesn't count. If you see me, be sure to say hi anyway.

Above: The bust of Sir Blackthorpe Ravenscairn de Plus Precieux in my office. Also a globe of Mars.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flogging the Phoenix


Have you ever wondered (those of you who don't already know) why this blog is titled Flogging Babel? It's simply because I began it as a way of promoting my then-upcoming novel The Dragons of Babel. So I was was being either self-deprecating or else merely honest about the enterprise: I was flogging the book. It didn't occur to me that the blog title would linger long after its original function was over.

Fortunately, I haven't received any angry missives from aficionados of activities involving whips and aphasia, for which I was and remain sincerely grateful.

Now I am moving into a new promotional season. Chasing the Phoenix, the second Darger & Surplus novel, comes out on August 11. So you must expect a certain amount of self-promotion on this site from time to time. That's why it was created, after all.

But I promise to employ a light touch, and to vary the mix with posts having nothing to do with needing to make enough money on my novels to retain my self-respect.

Meanwhile, the early reviews have started to come in. Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say:

Chasing the PhoenixMichael Swanwick. Tor, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8090-6Hugo-winner Swanwick (Dancing with Bears) takes his longtime rogue heroes, Surplus and Darger, to postapocalyptic China in this intriguing chronicle of adventures. Once Surplus resurrects Darger with the help of the Infallible Physician, the pair and their newfound associate, Capable Servant, ingratiate themselves with the Hidden King and lead him throughout the warring provinces in search of the Phoenix Bride, a war machine from before the AI war. Taking the names Noble Dog Warrior and the Perfect Strategist, Surplus and Darger navigate the personalities of the Hidden King’s court—the mercenary bandit Fire Orchid, who decides that Surplus is her husband; the archaeologist White Squall, a secretive specialist in forbidden technology—while attempting to keep their sterling reputations intact (at least for now) in the face of seemingly intractable situations. Swanwick deftly incorporates the literature and history of imperial China into the established post-technology world. The style may distance readers who are more used to stories of emotional development, but as Darger’s schemes become more intricate, the intellectual puzzles keep interest right to the end.  

I fear this does give away a plot point -- yes, Surplus acquires a wife. Or, rather, she acquires him. Because, clever as they are, the two rogues never have been a match for the women in their lives.

The other review comes from Booklist. Their reviews are signed, so I feel I should acknowledge David Pitt. Book reviewers are, as a breed, overworked and underpaid. So they deserve at least an amiable nod from time to time. Here's what he wrote:

 Chasing the PhoenixSwanwick, Michael (Author)
Aug 2015. 304 p. Tor, hardcover, $26.99. (9780765380906). Tor, e-book, (9781466876064).In a future time, where technology is mostly dead (although there are tantalizing hints of the techno- society that once existed), a genetically modified dog, who walks and thinks like a man, turns up in a Chinese city, carrying the corpse of his best friend (and partner in crime). He’s searching for the Infallible Physician, who, it is told, can bring his friend back to life. Surplus and Darger, Swanwick’s popular pair of con artists, return in this very entertaining novel. Once Darger has been restored to life, he and Surplus—the dog who walks like a man—hook up with a local fella who dreams of being the ruler of a new, united China. Is this a con, or is it the real thing? Except there could be someone else who is helping the wannabe ruler of China get what he wants . . . someone or something who’s a lot more dangerous than our heroes. For readers who’ve never met Surplus and Darger, this book is like a breath of fresh air, witty and imaginative and just plain goofy fun. Fans of the duo (they’ve appeared in several short stories and one previous novel, Dancing with Bears, 2011) will be lining up for the book; libraries with large SF/fantasy collections may want to stock multiple copies.
And what else can I say but that The Dog Who Walks Like a Man would make a great epithet for Surplus? Particularly if delivered in a deep, Shadow-narrator type voice.

And that's all for the moment. That wasn't too painful, now, was it? 


Monday, June 29, 2015

Butterflies of Faerie and Hell


A week ago, I cut out six watercolors of butterflies from I think it was the NYTimes Sunday Magazine, and pasted them separately in my notebook. Then, in my spare moments, I wrote a story on each one, freehand and single draft. Here are two:

The Butterflies of Faerie

The Butterflies of Faerie are luminous in the night, invisible in the day. They are the souls of those who lived and died without consequence. As above, so below. As before, so after. Unworthy even of Limbo, too guiltless for Hell, they flit about the faery fields of the afterlife, brainless but not unhappy.
""Look!" your children cry. "How lovely!" And then forget them forever.

The Butterflies of Hell

The Butterflies of Hell are burnt as black as their sins. In life, they did such things as Lepidopertera should never do. In death, they suffer forever.

The damned see them as flakes of soot. Briefly, they are less agonized than before.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Meditations on "Meditations on 'Meditations on Oysters'


It was on a bitter-cold February day that I set out on a three-block Odyssey from Seventh Street to Ninth in Center City Philadelphia. To explain how this came about, I must first write a few words about Dragonstairs Press.

Dragonstairs Press is not, as some have assumed, my vanity imprint. The truth is a bit more complex than that. Dragonstairs is wholly owned and operated by Marianne Porter, my wife. The chapbooks she assembles are issued in limited editions at affordable prices and consequently they sell out pretty fast.

As an editor, Marianne has the enviable advantage of having an in-house writer -- and one who needs only to be paid with kindness and breakfasts. Sometimes she creates chapbooks from existing materials, such as the sketches I drew while working on Chasing the Phoenix, which became the stab book, Hunting the Phoenix. Other times, she commissions a work, such as the Lizzie O'Brien story that became Tumbling.

One day, roughly a century after it was written, Marianne came upon Christopher Morley's essay, Meditations on Oysters and was charmed by it. The writing was graceful and the substance was lighter than air. Essentially, Morley took a three-block amble to lunch, jotted down a few observations about the voyage, and then went back to his office at the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger and typed it out.

Since the essay was out of both print and copyright, Marianne conceived of the possibility of reprinting it in pamphlet format. Since she had a writer at her disposal, she requested that I compose a companion essay.

Which is why the two of us were walking slowly up Sansom Street while I jotted down everything I saw in my notebook.

Now, publication day approaches for the fruits of our labor. Marianne is currently at work assembling and sewing a tête-bêche (what we in the genre call Ace Doubles style) chapbook with Morley's essay on one side and my own Meditations on 'Meditations on Oysters' on the other.

That's it, up above, midway through the process of creation. Note the cultivated pearl knotted into the binding threat.

The chapbook will be issued in a numbered and autographed (by only one of the authors, obviously) edition of fifty.  It's not available yet, but when it is, you'll be able to find it on the Dragonstairs Press website, here.