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Interview: Michael Swanwick on “Starlight Express”

Michael SwanwickTell us a bit about “Starlight Express.”

There’s not much I can say that’s not explicit in the story itself. I finished the story shortly after going to Roscon in Moscow to receive the Grand Roscon Award. The Russian magazine Esli had always been very supportive of me, so I promised they could have first crack at it. Then Science Fiction World in Chengdu asked me for an original story. I’ve had a close relationship with SFW for some years now – for a time, I wrote a column for them – and felt an obligation to oblige. So the sale to F&SF was the story’s third. I didn’t think anybody here would mind, and I mentioned the Russian and Chinese sales in the cover letter when I submitted the story, so that was all up-front.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

It began small. An article about current-day Rome dropped the term popolo minuto in my lap. I thought about what a jumble of the ancient and the modern that city is, and then imagined this extended far into the future. It seemed an attractive setting so I started to write.


Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for this story?

There was very little research involved, but a great deal of invention. I all-but-finished the story quickly (for me) and then put it on the back burner for two years while I looked for a satisfying ending. Once written, it seems obvious. But it sure didn’t seem that way at the time.


What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished The Iron Dragon’s Mother, completing a fantasy trilogy begun almost a quarter-century ago with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. Currently, I’m working on ten short stories at the same time. This is the way I relax between novels.


“Starlight Express” appears in the September/October 2017 issue of F&SF.

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One Response to “Interview: Michael Swanwick on “Starlight Express””

  1. A Divulgar: Finalistas dos Prémios Locus e David Gemmel 2018 – Notícias de Zallar on May 11th, 2018

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