Friday, May 25, 2018

Saturday at Amalgam

.


Tomorrow, at Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, I make my first appearance ever in support of a comic book story. "The Long Bow," is, not coincidentally, my first foray into the graphic art medium and it appears in Once Upon a Time Machine: Greek Gods & Legends, the second volume in what has been, so far, a very successful series.

My story is a twelve-page reinterpretation of the Odyssey and one that addresses the enigma of Odysseus's bow. I. e., how is it that a man who in two of the founding documents of Western literature is often called "sly," "crafty," and "wily," but never "superhumanly strong," has a bow that no one but he can string?

Once it's put that way, the answer seems kinda obvious, dunnit?

Anyway, it ought to be fun. Everybody who's been there speaks very highly of Amagam. So I'm looking forward to seeing it.

In brief:

1:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 26
Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse
2578 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19125


If this sounds like your kind of thing, why not drop by?


*

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Spring Day in Philadelphia

.



Except for a light drizzle of rain, yesterday was a fine spring day in Philadelphia. Regina Kanyu Wang was in Pennsylvania for the Nebula Awards Weekend and before going home made a side jaunt to Philadelphia. So a group of local writers met at Little Pete's Restaurant for lunch and conversation.

Regina is a science fiction writer from Shanghai, the co-founder of SF AppleCore, China's mostt influential fan organization, and the International PR Manager for Storycom, a start-up publishing house in China. It goes without saying that the conversation, roughly equally about Chinese publishing and American, was involving.

We talked, we learned, we made connections, we jotted down the titles of forthcoming collections of Chinese SF in English translation. The hours flew by. Then, after the waiters turned down the lights and began very ostentatiously cleaning up, we went our various ways.

Such meetings are, by their nature, ephemeral. But important, I think. And look how happy we all are! It was a good afternoon.

From left to right, above: Sally Grotta, Camille Bacon-Smith, Regina Kanyu Wang, Tom Purdom, Samuel R. Delany, and me Not shown because he was taking the picture was Bill Wood.


And on an unrelated note . . .

At the Nebulas, Scott Edelman was trading donuts for reminiscences about past Nebs for the podcast at his blog Eating the Fantastic. I told about the time I walked out on Newt Gingrich and regaled my fellow self-evictees with a telling of my children's story "Free Moose." I probably should have included the first couple of pages in the telling. But we grow too soon old and too late wise. As we used to say back in the day when Mastodons wandered Wales.

For those who are curious, the link can be found here.


Above: Copyright 2018  by Bill Wood.

*

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Evolution of the Martini -- Available Today!

.




It's May 21st or, rather, 5/21, the day known as "Five to One," the proportions of a perfect dry Martini. In honor of which, Dragonstairs Press is publishing The Evolution of the Martini, a chapbook collection of nine short essays originally published on this very blog and lightly rewritten for physical publication.

Here's Dragonstairs publisher Marianne Porter's press release:

The Proceedings of the American Martini Institute
Report of the American Martini Institute
The Evolution of the Martini

Nine short essays, originally published on Michael Swanwick's blog, tracing the evolution of the martini and what came after.

Text by Michael Swanwick.  Cover illustration by Susan McAninley.

Publication date: May 21, 2018  "Five to one"

Published in an edition of 60, of which 51 are available for sale.

Inside the United States eleven dollars, outside the United States, twelve dollars.


Which is a pretty good price for a limited edition signed-and-numbered handmade chapbook. You can, if you wish, buy the chapbook here. It was made available for sale at noon and when last I looked, there were still 26 copies available.


Above: Cover illustration by Susan McAninley and copyright 2018 by her as well. 

*

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Evolution of the Martini on "Five to One"

.



Dragonstairs Press, which I occasionally have to remind everybody is not my press but my wife Marianne Porter's, is about to release its latest chapbook -- non-fiction this time.

The Evolution of the Martini is a report from The American Martini Laboratory to its parent entity The American Martini Institute. It takes the form of nine short essays, originally published on this very blog, tracing the evolution of the martini and what came after.

Text by me. Cover illo by Susan McAninley. Who did, by the way, a splendid job. The chapbooks are issued in an edition of 60, individually numbered and signed by me.

Marianne finished stitching the last of the chapbooks today. But they won't be available until May 21st, 5/21, or "Five to One," Dry Martini Day. That's next Monday.

The last chapbook Marianne did, Blue Moon, was issued in an edition of 69 and went on sale on March 31 of this year. Because the plan was to burn all unsold copies at the end of 24 hours, they went on sale at midnight. Because the best laid plans gang aft agley, the chapbook sold out before dawn.

That was, believe it or not, unintentional. So this time, the chapbook will go on sale sometime Monday morning. No feeding frenzy, no rush to buy. The chapbook will go on sale Monday and be available for purchase for weeks to come.

That's Marianne's plan, anyway. I offered to bet Sean (our son and her IT team) ten dollars that it would sell out in a day and he said, "Mama Porter didn't raise no fools! Not taking that bet!"

Marianne tells me that of the 60 copies, 51 will be made available for sale. Ten dollars a pop. Eleven dollars, including postage, in the US. Twelve dollars, including postage, elsewhere.

Come Monday, you can buy one -- if you wish -- at www.dragonstairs.com.


And as always...

I'm on the road again. This time I'm off to the Nebulas to witness the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award being presented to Gardner Dozois and Sheila Williams, both very dear friends of mine.

I'll be reporting on the Nebs either this weekend or on Monday, depending. Alas, I will not be dishing the dirt on who behaved badly and other scandalous matters. John Scalzi might, but not me.

Because I am such a wuss.


*


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tom Wolfe and the Legion of Space

.


The man in the white suit has left the building.

Tom Wolfe distinguished himself early as one of the giants of the New Journalism. His prose was vivid, lively, and, like his choice of clothes, drew attention to itself. It was full of interjections and exclamation marks ("Zap! Pow!"), CAPITALIZED WORDS, and run-on pyrotechnics. Wolfe wasn't afraid to take more chances in a single sentence than some writers would risk in their entire careers. He was willing to go against received wisdom as well. At a time, he later wrote, when the intellectual consensus was that America was suffering from anomie and alienation, he realized that it was undergoing "a revolution of joy." People everywhere were investing their lives in things like custom car modding or stock car racing. Just because they enjoyed it! This was not your father's anomie.

I've always had a special fondness for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, in which Wolfe rode cross-country with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters in a psychedelic-painted school bus, wildly over-mythologizing the LSD-fueled adventure. It was easily the second-best attempt to capture the feel of the Sixties, after Richard Farina's Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. But the very best book the man ever wrote was The Right Stuff.

Or perhaps I should say half-book. Wolfe intensively researched the U.S. Astronaut Corps, their test-pilot backgrounds, their families, their individual lives. And he wrote vividly about it all (except, it has to be said, for the wives, who are presented as conventional suburban housewives). But The Right Stuff, which was a best-seller and made into a major movie, stops about halfway through the story to date. Wolfe, who ended the book with a passage demonstrating that he clearly preferred test pilot Chuck Yeager over the astronauts, decided the book had done its work and abandoned the remaining research.

This is a pity because it left a number of the astronauts convinced that Wolfe had done a hatchet-job on Gus Grissom, the second American in space and the first to lose his craft, the Liberty Bell 7 when it capsized and sank after its ocean landing. Grissom was suspected of panicking and blowing the hatch early (he was later fully exonerated) and Wolfe leaned heavily on his personal humiliation and sense of disgrace. But if you look at the text with a writer's eye and a knowledge of what came later (he flew flawlessly in a Gemini capsule which he had named the Molly Brown, and later along with Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee died in the Apollo 1 fire) it was clear that Wolfe was setting him up for a classic tale of personal redemption.

The book, incomplete though it is as a history, is the best way to get a sense of what it was like to be astronauts in the early years, their fight to be real pilots and not juste "Spam in a can," and the strange fortune of being able to be world-famous fir a few days a year and for the rest of the time anonymous, hard-drinking, automobile-destroying jet jocks for the remainder.

Wolfe went on to become a best-selling novelist. I have to admit that I've never been able to get very far into his fiction. The wonderful lightness of his non-fiction just isn't there and his puritanical streak when it comes to sex most definitely is. Others may disagree with me. Certainly, those books, starting with Bonfire of the Vanieities, sold in huge numbers.

So was Tom Wolfe a great writer? At a minimum, he came close. By my estimation, he was semi-great, the author of some great journalism, some wondrous non-fiction books, and a partial history of the early space age that should remain of interest for thousands of years to come and quite possibly forever. But, as I said, others may want to esteem him higher. If so, please feel free.

Hot jets and clear skies, sir. We thank you for your service.


And instead of another boring obituary...

You can read an interview with Wolfe that Rolling Stone has placed online here. It's lively and cheerful and gives a better sense of the man that the gloomy recaps are likely to.


Above: Photo swiped from the Rolling Stone piece.


*




Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Teaching at Rutgers

.



I'll be teaching for two days at Rutgers University next month. I don't teach very often -- and less with each passing decade -- so this is a rare event for me.

Aaaaand... apparently they're full up. But there's a waiting list. You can find it and everything else about the conference here.

Anyway, here's everything I'm going to be on at the conference:


WRITING GENRE FANTASY



Saturday, June 2, 2018

1:10-2:40 P.M.

Genre fantasy is very different from science fiction, much less well understood, and possessed of its own set of pitfalls for the unwary writer. This workshop will help you to avoid those pitfalls. Going back to the basics of world-building, you will learn to shape your fantasy world into something that both convinces and makes sense, while still retaining the magic that drew you to it in the first place. Exotic and richly detailed though your fantasy world may be, it is still ruled by the basics of narrative. Luckily, those basics are simple and easily mastered, leaving you free to exercise your imagination to the limit.


SCIENCE FICTION WORLD-BUILDING

Sunday, June 3, 2018

10:10-11:40 A.M.



When writing science fiction, it’s all too easy to get lost in the minutia of world-building at the expense of your story’s coherence. This workshop will teach you how to move from your nifty idea to a finished work. Starting with the most efficient modes of research, you will learn how to build a world around your idea and then populate it with characters that will embody the idea clearly and effectively. Along the way, you will also learn how much of your research to include in the finished story – and, more importantly, how much to leave out.



READING & SIGNING EVENT


Saturday, June 2, 2018

5:10 - 7:30 P. M.

ALICE HOFFMAN
CHRIS BOHJALIAN
MICHAEL SWANWICK
PABLO MEDINA


*




Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Flogging the Time Machine

.



One way in which comics publishing is like prose publishing is that when a book first comes out, the paying customers have priority. Contributor copies get shipped later.

So, as a small gift to me, Marianne ordered a copy of Once Upon a Time Machine, Volume 2 online and gave it to me this morning. There I am on the front porch reading (of course) my own story.With pleasure, I might add. Because artist Joe DellaGatta did a really excellent job of rendering my vision. He really was the right person for the job.

I've already told you that this is my first comic book story ever and that I'm pleased with how it comes out. So that's all the sales pitch I'll give you.

Except to say that if you run across it at your local independent bookstore or comic book store, buying it would support not only me (indirectly) but them (in a much more direct manner).


And while to book is still new . . .

I'll be making two appearances in Philadelphia to support this book.

The first will be at Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse at 2578 Frankford Avenue (that's in the Norther Liberties) on May 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be other writers or artists or writer/artists there as well. More details as they come available.

In the meantime, you can check out the store's website here.

The second will be at the Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse Square on June 22, sometime in the evening. More than that I don't yet know. But I'll be banging the tin can to bring you more info just as soon as I do.


*