Michael Swanwick has been around a while now, and has racked up his share of major awards. It seems to go without saying that he’s a pretty good writer. So I’ll go a little further: on the basis of this collection, he is a short story writer on the order of Theodore Sturgeon, Shirley Jackson, and Roger Zelazny. Not that he’s much like any of them, but he’s become that good.
He is a fine stylist, to begin with, but not with one characteristic style: he fits the style to the matter. And his matters are various.
This book contains stories with gag punchlines and stories with really nasty spikes in the tail, stories sweet and bitter and bittersweet, stories to make you laugh and to make you sigh, stories that appeal to the intellect and stories that appeal to the emotions (though most of them do at least a little of both). And the words and sentences dance and shimmer like an exotic dancer with the wrong number of limbs, enticing and delighting and horrifying all at once, so you want to but maybe you don’t dare….
Yeah. Swanwick is that good.
Photo: Beth Gwynn
Peter Heck at ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION enjoys the collection.
Swanwick’s latest story collection shows off the author’s impressively wide range.
In Swanwick’s case, it’s not really a cliché to call him a multi-faceted talent. This collection runs the gamut from fantasy to hard SF, with settings ranging from late Cretaceous Earth to the far future on other planets to fairy-tale worlds. The mood of the stories covers a similar range, from resignation in the face of tragedy to hard-nosed slogging through the aftermath of disaster to smug exploitation of the opportunities presented by human weaknesses.
The book also includes an introduction in which Swanwick looks back on his career searching for an answer to the question, “Just when did I run away with the elves?” He never gives a very precise answer—though the self-portraits of himself over the years are a good indication that he ran away a long time ago. Needless to say, fans of his writing are very glad he did.
For more information on NOT SO MUCH, SAID THE CAT, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story