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Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures
Michael Swanwick
Tachyon Publications, 94 pages

Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures
Michael Swanwick
Michael Swanwick's third novel, Stations of the Tide, won a Nebula Award for best novel of 1991. It was also a nominee for the Hugo Award, as was his novella, Griffin's Egg, and was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in Britain. His first two published stories, The Feast of Saint Janis and Ginungagap were both Nebula Award finalists in 1980. Mummer Kiss was a Nebula Award nominee for 1981. The Man Who Met Picasso was a nominee for the World Fantasy Award in 1982.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures
SF Site Review: Tales of Old Earth
SF Site Review: The Iron Dragon's Daughter
SF Site Review: Jack Faust
Michael Swanwick Bibliography
Michael Swanwick Interview

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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Art for art's sake? There would seem to be few other explanations for the existence of Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures by Michael Swanwick. In an age of multi-volume epics, even the short novel is met with a bit of reluctance on the part of a publisher. A volume of short-short stories, most no more than a few hundred words long, just doesn't have any slot in the current marketplace. All the better for SF readers, then, that Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures is a treasure.

The short-short story has been around in SF for some time. Fredric Brown was a master of the form, especially in short-shorts like "Answer", with its famous last line ("Now there is a God!"). Brown's stories are good examples of the most common form of short-short story, the build-up to either a revelatory or funny punch-line. What sets Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures apart is how often Swanwick is able to transcend that tendency and create little stories that are complete and whole in themselves, and not just a set-up for the final sentence.

Good examples of this include "Superman", which ruminates on the mythos and ultimate meaning of the classic super-hero, and "Storyteller Rock", the final installment of Writing In My Sleep, a series of short pieces actually written while Swanwick was asleep. Other shorts are also grouped around common themes, there is a series of shorts about Philip K. Dick, Picasso, Archaic Planets, and An Abcedary of the Imagination. The last recalls Jorge Luis Borges' The Book of Imaginary Beings" with its combination of imagination, whimsy, and style.

There is some good humor here, also. Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures concludes with two sections devoted to current SF editors. The first, an hilarious series of letters addressed to Sheila Williams of Asimov's Science Fiction, centers around Swanwick's attempts to update his author bio. The final piece in the collection, "The Madness Of Gordon van Gelder" offers hope to every unpublished writer in the SF community.

We're all familiar with the pleasure of losing yourself in a big, thick novel. Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures offers reading enjoyment of a different sort, each miniature is a little treat to be savored and appreciated. For anyone interested in reading or writing fiction in its most concise, every word counts form, Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures is an entertaining and unique collection.

Copyright © 2004 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson contemplated writing a miniature review, but decided that would be too meta. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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