Friday, February 12, 2016

Lock Up Your Asimov's Readers' Awards -- H'ard and Andy Are Come to Town!


Look at those two rogues... uh, great writers... up above. Those are the immortal Howard Waldrop and the almost-immortal-getting-there-right-soon-now Andy Duncan.  I was chatting with them in the bar at some damn convention or other and took it into my head to whip out my phone and take their picture. "Don't they look like two Depression-era grifters?" I said to the first person I showed it to. And to the second... And to the fourteenth... At which point, I finally realized that my subconscious was trying to tell me there was a story there.

So I wrote the opening page or two and showed what I had to Gregory Frost. Who is a terrific writer and a good friend and has a particularly fine ear for regional dialect. I suggested a collaboration. We swapped ideas. We made stuff up. We laughed like hell.

We had a lot of fun writing "Lock Up Your Chickens and Daughters -- H'ard and Andy Are Come to Town!"

Back when I was in college, there was a fifteen-year-old girl who was the terror of my otherwise libertine friends. She was underaged, hot to to trot, and had a thing for college boys. Oh yeah, and her father was the sheriff. I shaved a couple of years off her age and slung her into the story to give the otherwise self-assured H'ard and Andy something to worry about.

Greg, meanwhile, had been researching the Dust Bowl for a different project he had going and suggested we set the story there and then. He was the one who came up with the Dust Giant scam and H'ard's marvelous dance.

Beyond those two things, though, I couldn't tell you who wrote what. It's all kind of mixed together and swapped about. But I can tell you that the story is pretty much the most flat-out fun thing I've ever (co-) written.

So it pleases me enormously to learn that it made it onto the finalists list for the Asimov's Readers' Award. Which means, apparently, that those who read it agree with me.

You can read about the award (and admire the other stories that made the list) here. Or just go to, wander around, and maybe buy yourself a subscription to Asimov's. You've done worse things in your time.

And you can read the story itself for freebies, here.

Voting is closed and the winners will be announced in May.

And . . .

This is my second blog post of the day. If you scroll downward, you can read the first one, about my forthcoming new collection, The Dala Horse.

And . . .

Just in case you don't scroll down and read to the end, I should mention that I'm going to be at Boskone in a mere eight days. If you're going to be there too,, why not say hi?


Coming in August . . . THE DALA HORSE!


Here we go, kids! My newest collection comes out in August. And here's what the publisher, Tachyon Publications, has to say about it:

The Dala Horse

by Michael Swanwick
ISBN: 9781616962289
Published: August 2016
Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and Digital Books

The master of literary science fiction returns with this dazzling new collection. Michael Swanwick takes us on a whirlwind journey across the globe and across time and space, where magic and science exist in possibilities that are not of this world. These tales are intimate in their telling, galactic in their scope, and delightfully sesquipedalian in their verbiage.

Join the caravan through Swanwick’s worlds and into the playground of his mind. Travel from Norway to Russia and America to Gehenna. Discover a calculus problem that rocks the ages and robots who both nurture and kill. Meet a magical horse who protects the innocent, a semi-repentant troll, a savvy teenager who takes on the Devil, and time travelers from the Mesozoic who party till the end of time…

Which must be true, because what possible motivation would a publisher have to lie?

And here's a link to the table of contents.

And in case you noticed...

I didn't manage to make the time for a blog post on Wednesday because I just spent two days working on the application for a Russian visa. Which process is, appropriately enough, a bear.

And why, you ask, am I applying for the visa? More on this very question on Monday.

And also . . .

Not this weekend but next, I'll be at Boskone! If you're going to be there, be sure to say hello.

And . . .

I have so much news to pass along that I'll be making an unprecedented second Friday blog post later today! Wow.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Primates, Billingsgate, and Meaningless Intensifiers


Long ago, I gave Gardner Dozois a fresh-off-the-typewriter copy of what would be my first published story, "The Feast of Saint Janis," for his judgment and advice. When next I saw him, he handed it back with a big smile and said, "Congratulations, Michael. You're the first human being ever to write a story about rock and roll without using the word 'fuck.'"

"Oh, golly," I exclaimed. "I'd better do something about that."

So, yes, I have to admit that I have a tendency to underuse obscenity. But, being aware of it, I consciously go through my fiction to insert it where needed.

My reluctance to employ Billingsgate stems from two sources. The first is a statement a friend once made that such words are employed as "meaningless intensifiers." Which is to say that if you were to take an obscenity-laden passage and substitute "very" for every "fucking," you would have changed the meaning not one whit.

The second was something  Robert Anton Wilson said somewhere in his Illuminatus! trilogy, that when primates feel threatened they throw feces -- but when those primates are writers, they employ scatology.

This is an observation that explains so much.

Among other things, it explains the review I read online yesterday, of a book or a play or a movie -- I am deliberately vague here to avoid giving offense to someone whose sin was not only small but very, very common -- he or she absolutely despised. It was a very witty piece of prose, one of those critical bloodlettings that are such guilty pleasures to those of us they are not aimed at, and it was rife with this and that and the other words.

I thought they added nothing. So I reread the piece, mentally eliding them. The result was beyond dispute funnier, wittier, better. What I had just read was a very talented writer expressing their fear of being stuck forever, writing reviews of things they despised.

So there's my advice to new writers: If there are a lot of obscenities in your work, go through it, imagining what the text would look like without them. If they add nothing, take them out.

I, meanwhile, will be going through my work, seeing if they need to be put in.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In which I casually mention tha..t THE DALA HORSE, my new collection, is coming your way...

I'm working on the page proofs for THE DALA HORSE, my new collection of short fiction from Tachyon Publications. So far, I've gone over the stories and have moved on to the copyright notices. You'd think that would be easy, but no. Mistakes are like cockroaches. They want to abandon the cold Outside and move into your nice, warm house or book. It's almost impossible to keep them out.

Which is why I haven't posted today.

But, not having posted today, allow me to make the following announcement:

My new collection, THE DALA HORSE, is coming out this August. It will be available to be bought and autographed at MAC 2, this year's Worldcon. Where, entirely coincidentally, I will be guest of honor.

John Clute once told me that to serious book collectors, a dated autograph only increases the book's value when it's the year of publication or the day the author does something significant, like win an award or commit suicide. I jokingly tell my friends that if they come upon me signing all my old books, they should buy me a drink and cheer me up

But a book signed-and-dated when I'm goh at a Worldcon during the year of publication? Priceless. Or, anyway, worth slightly more than it was when I scribbled in it.

Verb sap.This is yet another reason you should attend the Worldcon.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Ursula Von Rydingsvard in Princeton


I've been a big fan of Ursula von Rydingsvard ever since discovering her work at Storm King. [Footnote: Storm King is arguably one of the three coolest things about the Hudson River Valley, along with Opus 40 and the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.) So when I learned that there was a show of her work at the Princeton University Art Museum, off I went.

The untitled work is nineteen feel high, and is clad in more than three thousand hand-hammered
copper pieces over a maquette of stacked cedar beams shaped with a circular saw. It's the first time von Rydingsvard has worked with copper and it took her six months to build.

And it's gorgeous.

There's a small show of von Rydingsvard's work at the museum, comprising four works on (or of) paper, four wooden sculptures and one of dried, sewn, and stacked cow stomachs. Not a big retrospective, alas, which admittedly would cost a fortune to assemble, move, and mount. But well
worth seeing if you're in the area.

Above: My camera phone can't really do it justice. But there's a full-length shot of the sculpture, a medium-length one, and a detail of the surface. 


Friday, January 29, 2016

David Hartwell's Three Rules for Traveling Overseas

I'm back from three days traveling, up to Massachusetts and back, for David Hartwell's memorial service.

I am not going to write about the service. there was a good-sized crowd of mourners. The family was there. Speeches were made. Emotions were sincere.

Instead, I'm going to pass on what Geoffrey Hartwell said was his father's advice when he traveled overseas for the first time. It is, I believe, useful. So here it is:

1. Never stand when you can sit.

2. Never sit when you can lie down.

3. Eat a salad every day.

This is what we call Good Advice. If you take it, you'll be helping to keep a good man's memory alive.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

And As Always...

I'm on the road again. 

This time, for a sad reason. David Hartwell's funeral will be held in Massachusetts on Thursday morning. So I'm driving up to New England, where Marianne and I will overnight with friends. Then, in the morning, we'll pay our last respects to a man I've known for almost forty years.

Funerals are not really about the person who died, but a service paid to the community of people who survive him or her. We show up to say: Yes, your grief is appropriate. We feel something very similar. You are not alone.

These are important things to say. If we did not say them, we would not be human.

At the same time, it must also be said: All humans die. To feel grief over the death of someone who lived a full three-quarters of a century is to say that said person led such an extraordinary life that for him to die pretty much when the actuarial tables said he would is tragic.

As indeed it was.

Good night, David. And flights of teen angels sing thee to thy rest.