Michael Swanwick

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Michael Swanwick
Swanwick in 2019
Swanwick in 2019
Born (1950-11-18) November 18, 1950 (age 73)
GenreScience fiction, fantasy

Michael Swanwick (born November 18, 1950)[1] is an American fantasy and science fiction author who began publishing in the early 1980s.[2]

Writing career[edit]

At the 63rd World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, August 2005
At the Avram Davidson tribute, NYC, 2007

Swanwick's fiction writing began with short stories, starting in 1980 when he published "Ginungagap" in TriQuarterly and "The Feast of St. Janis" in New Dimensions 11. Both stories were nominees for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 1981.[3] His first novel was In the Drift (an Ace Special, 1985), a look at the results of a more catastrophic Three Mile Island incident, which expands on his earlier short story "Mummer's Kiss". This was followed in 1987 by Vacuum Flowers, an adventurous tour of an inhabited Solar System, where the people of Earth have been subsumed by a cybernetic mass-mind. Some characters’ bodies contain multiple personalities, which can be recorded and edited (or damaged) as if they were wetware.

In the 1990s, Swanwick moved towards the intersection between science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism. Stations of the Tide (1991) is the story of a bureaucrat's pursuit of a magician on a world soon to be altered by its 50-year tide swell; it is set far in the future, blurring the line between magic and technology. The Iron Dragon's Daughter (1993) is a fantasy set in a Fairyland based on modern America, with elves wearing Armani suits and dragons serving as jet fighters. The main character, a changeling stolen from the real world, struggles to survive a factory, a high school, and a university, all the while being manipulated by a dragon. In Jack Faust (1997), a retelling of the Faust legend, the scholar does not gain magical power but modern scientific knowledge with which he begins the Industrial Revolution centuries early.

In the 2000s, Swanwick wrote several series of flash fictions, beginning with Puck Aleshire's Abecedary, a collection of 26 stories, each titled for a different letter of the alphabet. Other series included The Periodic Table of Science Fiction, 118 stories each themed about a different chemical element. These were originally published in Sci Fiction. Later, The Infinite Matrix published The Sleep of Reason, in which each story was based on one of Goya’s caprichos. In this period, he won several awards for short fiction; between 1999 and 2003, he had nine stories shortlisted for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story, and won in 1999, 2000, and 2002.[4]

He also continued to write novels. Bones of the Earth (2002) is a time travel story involving dinosaurs. The Dragons of Babel (2008) is set in the same world as The Iron Dragon's Daughter, although the setting and characters are different; The Iron Dragon's Mother (2019) was a third volume in the series. He has written two novels featuring the posthuman rogues Darger and Surplus, who had already appeared in short stories: Dancing with Bears (2011) concerns their adventures in post-Utopian Russia, and in “Chasing the Phoenix” (2015) they travel to China. After Gardner Dozois's death, Swanwick completed his unfinished novel City Under the Stars.

His many works of short fiction have been collected in Gravity's Angels (1991), Moon Dogs (2000), Tales of Old Earth (2000), and others. A novella, Griffin's Egg, was published in book form in 1991 and is also collected in Moon Dogs. He has collaborated with other authors on several short works, including Gardner Dozois ("Ancestral Voices", "City of God", "Snow Job") and William Gibson ("Dogfight").

Stations of the Tide won the Nebula for best novel in 1991, and several of his shorter works have won awards as well: the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for "The Edge of the World" in 1989, the World Fantasy Award for "Radio Waves" in 1996,[5] and Hugos for "The Very Pulse of the Machine" in 1999, "Scherzo with Tyrannosaur" in 2000, "The Dog Said Bow-Wow" in 2002, "Slow Life" in 2003, and "Legions in Time" in 2004.

Nonfiction writing[edit]

Swanwick has written about the field as well. He published two long essays on the state of the science fiction ("The User's Guide to the Postmoderns", 1986) and fantasy ("In the Tradition...", 1994), the former of which was controversial for its categorization of new SF writers into "cyberpunk" and "literary humanist" camps. Both essays were collected together in The Postmodern Archipelago 1997. A book-length interview with Gardner Dozois, Being Gardner Dozois, was published in 2001. He is a prolific contributor to the New York Review of Science Fiction. Swanwick wrote a monograph on James Branch Cabell, What Can Be Saved From the Wreckage?, which was published in 2007 with a preface by Barry Humphries,[6] and a short literary biography of Hope Mirrlees, Hope-in-the-Mist, which was published in 2009.

Television and film[edit]

Swanwick's short stories "Ice Age" and "The Very Pulse of the Machine" from Tales of Old Earth were adapted for the Netflix series Love, Death + Robots (2019) for its first and third seasons respectively.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Swanwick thanks his wife, Marianne C. Porter, in all his books, referring to her as "the M. C. Porter Endowment for the Arts".[8]

He was a friend of Gardner Dozois and Susan Caspar for many years. From this friendship grew Being Gardner Dozois and several collaborations, including the novel City Under the Stars.[9]


Year Work Award Category Result Reference
1989 "The Edge of the World" Theodore Sturgeon Award
1992 Stations of the Tide Hugo Award Novel
John W. Campbell Memorial Award
Locus Award Fantasy Novel
Nebula Award Novel
1993 Arthur C. Clarke Award
1994 The Iron Dragon's Daughter Arthur C. Clarke Award
World Fantasy Award WFA Novel
Locus Award Fantasy Novel
1997 Jack Faust BSFA Award Novel
Hugo Award Novel
Locus Award Fantasy Novel



Darger and Surplus series
  1. Dancing With Bears (2011)
  2. Chasing the Phoenix (2015)

Short fiction[edit]

Title Year First published Reprinted/collected Notes
Ginungagap 1980 TriQuarterly
Griffin's egg 1991 Swanwick, Michael (1991). Griffin's egg. Legend/Century. Novella / Chapbook
The Madness of Gordon Van Gelder 2000 Swanwick, Michael (March 2000). "The madness of Gordon Van Gelder". F&SF. 98 (3): 101–102.
'Shed that guilt! Double your productivity overnight!' 2008 Swanwick, Michael & Gunn, Eileen (September 2008). "'Shed that guilt! Double your productivity overnight!'". F&SF. 115 (3): 129–136.
The scarecrow's boy 2008 Swanwick, Michael (October–November 2008). "The scarecrow's boy". F&SF. 115 (4&5): 231–238.
Of finest scarlet was her gown 2014 Swanwick, Michael (April–May 2014). "Of finest scarlet was her gown". Asimov's Science Fiction. 38 (4&5): 74–90.
Lock up your chickens and daughters—H'ard and Andy are come to town! 2015 Swanwick, Michael & Gregory Frost (April–May 2015). "Lock up your chickens and daughters—H'ard and Andy are come to town!". Asimov's Science Fiction. 39 (4–5): 54–69. Novelette


  • "User's Guide to the Postmoderns", Asimov's, 1986
  • "The Postmodern Archipelago" (1997) Tachyon Publications
  • Being Gardner Dozois (2001)
  • What Can Be Saved from the Wreckage? James Branch Cabell in the 21st Century (2007)
  • Hope-in-the-Mist: The Extraordinary Career & Mysterious Life of Hope Mirrlees (2011)

Critical studies and reviews of Swanwick's work[edit]

Chasing the Phoenix
  • Sakers, Don (September 2015). "The Reference Library". Analog Science Fiction and Fact. 135 (9): 105–108.


  1. ^ Short stories unless otherwise noted.


  1. ^ "Summary Bibliography: Michael Swanwick".
  2. ^ "Locus Online: Michael Swanwick interview excerpts". Locus Magazine. May 27, 2004. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  3. ^ The Periodic Prime of Michael Swanwick (interview with Michael Swanwick) accessed January 3, 2014
  4. ^ "Conversations with a Dark God: An Interview With Michael Swanwick". The SF Site. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  5. ^ World Fantasy Convention (2010). "Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  6. ^ "What Can Be Saved from the Wreckage? by Michael Swanwick". avramdavidson.org. Retrieved December 4, 2021.
  7. ^ "Love, Death & Robots | Netflix Official Site". www.netflix.com. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  8. ^ "Don't Try to Make a Living Writing Short Stories". Wired. September 23, 2016. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  9. ^ "The City Under the Stars - Gardner Dozois' Last Book". Flogging Babel. July 9, 2019. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  10. ^ The Dead, 2011 reprint at Tor.com
  11. ^ Willie Garcia, Webmaster. ""Legions In Time" by Michael Swanwick". Asimovs. Archived from the original on December 8, 2004. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  12. ^ Michael Swanwick (May 23, 2011). ""The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport" by Michael Swanwick". io9.com. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  13. ^ The Dala Horse at ISFDB
  14. ^ "The Mongolian Wizard Series by Michael Swanwick". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  15. ^ The Mongolian Wizard at Tor.com

External links[edit]