Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mark Your Calendars! Start Saving Your Shekels!


Apparently a date has been set for Chasing the Phoenix, my second Darger and Surplus novel, and it is... drum roll, please!... August 11, 2015.  That's the cover up above.  The big fella would have to be Vicious Brute.  And the little one?  Maybe Little Spider, possibly even Surplus.  Though that would make Vicious Brute very large indeed.

You can read an anticipatory review (based on the publicity material rather than the text, which is not available yet) over at Bibliosanctum by clicking here.

And at this very moment, I'm going over the copyediting . . .

Talk about a thankless job!  No writer enjoys having somebody second-guessing his or her long-labored-over prose.  And the fact that the copyeditor occasionally discovers actual typos doesn't make it any better.    One blushes, stammers, looks away.  (My least favorite?  I had a character "reigning" in a horse.  Twice.)

Still, it has to be done.  Because mistakes find their way into the most tightly-written prose.  They're like cockroaches in that respect -- they want in.  And once in, they have to be stomped flat.

So I will take the opportunity to say:  Thank you, Christopher.  I mean that sincerely.  Even if I do say it through gritted teeth.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Teaching At Clarions


I received a fund-raising appeal from Clarion West the other day and it got me to thinking about what it's like teaching at a Clarion -- West, South, or Old Original.  I've taught at all three and Lucius Shepard was right, years ago, when he urged me to consider the experience.  "It's a really satisfying thing to do, Michael," he said.  "It makes you feel like Mr. Chips."

I realize that you're having trouble picturing Lucius as Mr. Chips, but that's what he said.

It's very hard work, but when you can see students becoming better writers because of things you said, that pays for all.  The only negative I can think of is that no teacher can be what every student needs, and so there are students I did not help much.  That bothers me, and I apologize to each one of them.

Recently, two of my former students, Ellen Klages and Andy Duncan, won the World Fantasy Award for "Wakulla Springs," originally published by  Andy was a Clarion West student and Ellen was Clarion South.  I no longer remember their years (Andy came first), but I vividly remember their stories and what I said about them.  As do -- long story -- they both, I'm sure.

I have no idea what they said when they accepted the award but I am absolutely certain that neither thanked any of their CW or CS instructors.  This is proper because for all the help those instructors gave them, those students who go on to be published turn themselves into writers.  It's a long, difficult process and all credit belongs to them and them alone.  But this silence is particularly satisfying to a former teacher because because it emphasizes the selfless quality of teaching.  Writing is, alas, necessarily all tied up with the ego and that can be wearying.  Not so teaching, which is all about the students.  If anyone thought any of the credit for what they achieved belonged to me, it would taint the experience.

Mr. Chips would agree with me on this one.  As would Lucius Shepard.

You can read "Wakulla Springs" here.

You can go to and check out the potentially award-winning new fiction here.

And you can contribute to Clarion West here.

Above:  That's Ellen to the left and Andy to the right.  As if you needed to be told.


Friday, November 21, 2014

My Philcon Schedule (and Apology)


I have just set a record for this blog by missing two posts in a row.  Mea culpa!  (For those unfortunate enough to not have had a Roman Catholic upbringing, that's Latin for my bad.)  The reason for this was a combination of exhaustion and having lots of work to do.  But there is no excuse.

Kind people, I beg your pardon.

Clearly, I should keep a backload of entertaining posts on hand to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again.  And I promise to create exactly such a backload.  Just as soon as Philcon and Thanksgiving are over.

And speaking of Philcon . . .

The distinguished thing begins in only a few hours.  Here's my schedule:

Fri 7:00 PM in Executive Suite 623 (1 hour)

Fri 10:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Anastasia Klimchynskaya (mod), Bernie Mojzes, Amy Fass,
    Meredith Schwartz, Michael Swanwick]

    Much fantasy fiction seems to concern kings, princes, princesses and
    an occasional guttersnipe on his way up.  What about the rest of
    society?  Where are the fantasies about regular folks

Sat 11:00 AM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Michael Swanwick (mod), Michael F. Flynn, Tom Purdom,
    Bernie Mojzes, Anna Kashina]

    Is there a fundamental conflict between literary writing and getting
    the science right?  Is it too much to ask that language be used well
    and the realism of hard SF be extended to the characters

Sat 2:00 PM in Autograph Table (1 hour)

Sat 5:00 PM in Plaza IV (Four) (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Michael Swanwick (mod), Jack Hillman, Tom Purdom, Steve Wilson]

    William Patterson's two-volume authorized bio of Robert A. Heinlein
    is surely one of the most important works of SF scholarship in
    recent years. Our panelists will discuss it's strengths and
    limitations and what it tells us about one of the 20th century's
    great figures

Which is a good lineup of panels.  If you're at the con and see me, be sure to say hello.  Unless I killed your cat in a previous life.  Then you should snub me like the cur I was.

Above:  The beautiful Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill Hotel, where Philcon will be held.  Either that or Wawel Cathedral in Krakow.  I always get those two confused.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Monday Post

Okay, guys, here's the drill:

I'm tapping out this post from my phone in the Chopin Airport Marriott bar shortly before going to bed.  Five a.m. in the morning, I make my way to Lufthansa, fly to Frankfurt, fly to Philadelphia, am driven home, and then collapse.

Shortly after which, God willing, I will share with you:

1)  A free download of a song Janis Ian and I wrote.

2)  My Philcon schedule, which I received today.


3)  My opinion of the Polish version of Buffalo wings.

Any one of these would be worth tuning in for. Combined with the suspenseful question of whether I'll be able to rise up from the floor to post?



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Back to the Old Salt Mines


It's been quite a month for racking up World Heritage Sites.  A few weeks ago, I visited the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, and the Aztec Ruins -- which is actually a Pueblo ruin, but never mind that.  Here in Poland, we've seen Krakow Historic Center, Warsaw Historic Center, and -- just now --the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

Wieliczka Salt Mine gets over a million visitors a year.  Its first shaft was sunk in the 13th century, and it was in continuous operation until mining ceased in 2007. (They still pump out brine and produce salt by evaporation, in part because the water must be removed to make tourism viable anyway.). The hours-long tour takes the curious down two levels, out of nine, takes in several remarkable caverns that are artifacts of mining, along with a few pretty cheesy attractions, culminating in the astonishing chapel which miners dug out the salt and decorated largely with their own carvings.

Copernicus visited the mine, as did Goethe.  And now so have (among, as I said, over a million others a year) I.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Lady With an Ermine


Out of infinity she looms, more alive than the living.  She will not meet our eyes, this silent daughter of time, but gazes away, toward something worthy of her regard.  Nor will she share her thoughts.  Come Judgment Day we will know no more of them than we do now.

In the lady's arms is an ermine, which she touches affectionately, but does not seek to control.  She and it have freely chosen each other's company.

Her face holds the faintest of smiles.

Not for us.

And this morning . . . 

I saw Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine.  I hope your day was happy too.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Krakow After Dark


The world is turning on its hinges, all the leaves have fallen, and darkness falls in the afternoon.  If you're in Poland, anyway.  Your autumn may well differ.

A day mainly occupied with crossing the nation by train, deposited me at the heart of this lovely city, only a couple of blocks from the oldest part of town.   I've only spent a few hours wandering about, but already I can safely say that:

1. Hotel Maltanski is a lovely place to stay.  I'd recommend it to anyone physically capable of climbing one flight of stairs. (There is no elevator.)

2.  The city is full of great restaurants.  Well... I've only looked at the menus of a dozen or two and eaten at one, but they all looked good and the one tasted great, so statistically, it seems a good bet.  Foodie Tip:  When in Poland, order Polish food.  What are the odds you're going to find better elsewhere?

3.  The pierogies here are terrific.  (See item 2)

4.  There's a lot of amber for sale here.  I mean, cubic vulgarwordloads of it.  Shop after shop and, in the Cloth Hall, stand after stand, of amber in every plausible shade from deepest burgundy to palest yellow.  Some of it small, most of it pretty damn big, and a significant percentage simply ridiculous.  If you have too much money and like your jewelry LARGE, you're a fool to be living anywhere but here.

5.  I'm really, really tired, and even more looking forward to tomorrow.

'Night, all.

Above:  no image tonight becauseI'm having troubles uploading images.  I'll try again here tomorrow.