Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Magister Jane

.



The happy news of the day is that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have named  Jane Yolen the latest recipient of their Grand Master Award.

A couple of years ago, I visited Jane in Scotland. (Do you admire how subtly I slipped in the fact that we are on a first-name basis?) In the course of conversation, I mentioned how greatly I admired and envied her prolific output -- literally hundreds of books.

"Yes, but your books are all full-length novels," she said. "A lot of mine are very short."

Knowing something about how difficult very short every-word-matters works can be, I asked, "How many drafts does something like Owl Moon take?"

"Well... dozens, sometimes hundreds."

"I do not withdraw my admiration."

Grand Master is the highest accolade our field has to offer, and one that, for quality of prose and caliber of storytelling, Magister Jane well deserves. That she is also prolific is icing on the cake.

Did I mention that she's prolific? All my heroes are hard workers.


Above: I swiped the picture of Jane from her website. 

*

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

One Time Good Deal Only!

.



I learned just minutes ago that the e-book of my latest collection, Not So Much, Said the Cat, is on sale -- today only! -- for $1.99.

If you're an e-book reader, and you don't have a copy already, I urge you to buy it for two reasons.

1. I'm me -- and if I'm not on my own side, who will be?

2. The collection has garnered rave reviews from pretty much everywhere. So if you've never read my short fiction and are curious to know what the fuss is about, this is a cheap way to do it.

Or, of course, you could turn to Interlibrary Loan. Brilliant invention, that.

But remember: Tuesday, November 29th only!


*

Monday, November 28, 2016

'Tis The Season . . .

.



Thanksgiving is over. The paper bats have been taken down and the colored lights have been strung on the porch. Which means that...

The Godless Atheist Christmas Card season has begun!

This grand tradition began many years ago, when the late, great Jim Turner began examining my Christmas cards to him for religious content and calling scorn on me if he found it. "Those are the Reindeer of Secular Enlightenment bringing Socialist Discourse to the world!" I would tell him.

"You're not fooling anybody, Swanwick," he would reply. "Those are fundamentalist reindeer, trying to sneak religious sentiment past me. Well, it won't work!"

Jim's keen-eyed rejection of anything religious alerted me to just how many of the cards we received during the season had no religious sentiment at all. Not one scrap! So I assembled the Not At All Nepotistic Blue Ribbon Panel of Family and every year this scrupulously honest and uncorruptible board of nonpareils goes over the cards looking for the perfect exemplar of the Godless Atheist Christmas Card spirit.

This year's results will be published sometime after (obviously) Christmas.

Above is a past winner by brilliant photographer (the fuzziness of the image was my doing, not hers) Beth Gwinn. I hired her to do my publicity photos, and it was money well spent. You can find her webpage here.


*

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Worst Possible Advice To Give A Young Writer

.



I was going through my old papers today, in search of a Xeroxed chapbook of constructivist poetry assembled under a pseudonym which, if a copy still exists anywhere, has a fair claim to being my first book. But while I was failing to find it, I ran my eyes over prolific evidence of what a profoundly bad writer I used to be, back in college and in the years leading up my first professional publication.

Bad titles ("Rindsbraten," for example, or "Today is the Third Day of a Five-Day Week"), bad writing, bad plots (if so they may be styled), and so on and on. Then I came across "Deirdre," a play I recall devoting enormous amounts of time to, based on the Irish legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows. I didn't bother to read any of it. I just shook my head and thought: Why on earth would someone who knew so little about the secrets of the human heart be tackling such a theme?

But I also thought: It's a damned good thing I can't go back and discourage that young writer from trying.

You should never tell a young writer to wait until they have enough experience to write something. Because trying to write something better than they're capable of writing is the only way to learn how to write better. Classes won't do it. Books won't do it. Only attempting the impossible will. It's discouraging. But it's also necessary.

End of sermon. Enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers.


Oh, and I should also mention that...

This isn't the only worst possible advice to give a young writer -- there are scads of other worst possible advices. But it's certainly bad enough for today.


*

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Reasons to be Grateful

.



It's that time of year again when we pause to reflect on all that we have and are grateful for. As a science fiction writer, I'm grateful that my books are still commercially viable after nine novels and that I'm able to make a living writing exactly what I want to write. As a reader, I'm grateful that there are so many great writers working both in and out of genre today.

I was thinking of making a science-fiction list of things to be grateful for -- all the foreign language SF being published in translation, Ursula K. Le Guin's fiction making it into the Library of America, and so on and on... but on reflection, I think I'll spare you that.

Instead, I'll simply note that I'm grateful for family and friends and health and material comfort. But most of all for life. Some time ago, I was in Russia, listening to a friend run down a series of misfortunes that had befallen him of late. But then, abruptly, he stopped and said, "But we are alive -- and this is good!"

True words, and I'm grateful for them as well.


Above: Our Thanksgiving turkey in the brining tub.

*

Monday, November 21, 2016

This Glitterati Life -- Part 8,732

.



I had a cold last week -- that's why my posts were so erratic -- but, except for residual weariness, I had recovered from it by the time Philcon rolled around.

I was on a few good panels -- one was on Russian science fiction and another was... well, I'm not sure exactly what it was. Something about what was and was not science fiction. There were some people who believed that the movie Gravity was science fiction and that J. G. Ballard's Crash was not. Me, I held the exact opposite -- that Crash dealt with the interface of humanity and technology in a speculative fashion while Gravity was simply present-day fiction with inaccurate orbital mechanics. There was a certain amount of shouting and waving of hands in the air. So a good time was had by all.

But of course the best part of any SF convention is the private conversations. There above are my fellow conversants from Saturday afternoon.  Left to right: Tom Purdom, Jennifer Gunnels, Marianne Porter, Samuel R. Delany. Excellent conversationalists all.

Sitting in the bar, of course.


*

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Philcon Schedule

.
Philcon is this weekend and I've got my marching orders!  Actually, pretty light this year. So if you see me, feel free to say hi. I'll most likely have the time to chat.

Fri 7:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)
RUSSIAN AND SOVIET SF (2491)


[Panelists: Anna Kashina (mod), Alex Shvartsman, Anastasia
Klimchynskaya, Michael Swanwick]

The early Soviet era was a very positivistic, technologically- and
scientifically-minded society. How have the changing cultural
ideologies of the region impacted the kinds of science fiction its
writers have produced over the last eighty years? How has Russian
folklore influenced their stories and storytelling


Sat 11:00 AM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)
DINOSAUR FICTION! (2419)


[Panelists: Larry Hodges (mod), David Sklar, John Monahan, Michael
D'Ambrosio, C. J. Cherryh, Michael Swanwick]

Our concepts of dinosaurs have evolved over the decades. Have the
science fictional depictions kept up with the science? Or has the
genre gone extinct


Sat 12:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)
EVERYTHING IS SCIENCE FICTION (2426)


[Panelists: Michael Swanwick (mod), Vikki Ciaffone, Mitchell Gordon,
Fran Wilde, Jack Hillman]

Or so British Author J.G. Ballard once claimed. What did he mean by
this remark? Should works like Crash and High Rise be considered
science fiction because of the approach to their storytelling, even
though they lack the typical hallmarks of the SF genre


*