In which I interview Michael Swanwick

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I interviewed Michael Swanwick a while back for his 2011 release of Dancing with Bears. The interview was done for the Night Shade newsletter, but they’ve kindly shared it with SFSignal. Michael was a wonderful interviewee, and he opened up on his thoughts about Russia, his post-utopian novel, and the type of writer he is. Here’s a short excerpt from the interview:

Bradley P. Beaulieu: Dancing with Bears tells the story of Darger and Surplus as they head from their adventures in London to a post-Utopian Moscow. I have a strong attraction to Russia, and my debut novel with Night Shade was based loosely off of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. I haven’t, however, had the pleasure of visiting the country. What is it about Russia that attracted you to it?

Michael Swanwick: Russia captures the imagination. Pretty much everyone who visits it falls in love with it, and I was no exception. It’s a beautiful country with a tragic history and a brooding aura of mystery about it. There are no facts in Russia, only conflicting conspiracy theories, which makes it a natural setting for fiction. Then, too, the Russians are serious people in a way that Americans are not. They possess the gravitas that good writing requires. There’s always a sense that they’re leaving things unsaid.

Moscow is one of the great cities of the world but filled with contradictions. They’re currently finishing the summer palace that Catherine the Great, midway through its construction, decided she couldn’t afford, but the tap water isn’t safe to drink. The hotels are flashier and more expensive than those in Manhattan, but the air pollution is appalling. There are racks of leopard-skin coats for sale in GUM and people with besoms sweeping the sidewalks. It’s an old city and as hard-charging as anywhere I’ve ever been, and yet there’s a feeling of impermanence about it, as if everybody might pack up the buildings tomorrow and disappear into the steppes. Charles Dickens could spend a lifetime there without beginning to use up its possibilities.

Head on over to SFSignal and give the full interview a read.