A singular interview with Michael Swanwick

Henry Wessells: Michael, you are a resident of Philadelphia, a Philadelphian, even, of long standing (probably as long as I have been an ex-Philadelphian): what is the oddest thing (or incident) you have ever seen or witnessed in Billy Penn’s Town?

Michael Swanwick: There’s a lot of competition. Philadelphia was a much grittier place when I came here in the early Seventies. The sin district, with its stripper bars, burlesque theaters, and hookers, was right next to City Hall. But I remember one evening when I was walking along 12th Street with Gardner Dozois and Susan Casper, approaching Market Street, where the Terminal Hotel used to be. There was a let-up in the traffic, so I crossed the street. When I got across, I looked back and saw that Gardner and Susan were still on the far side, walking. Then a car came screeching down the street and the driver, seeing the two of them, drove up on the sidewalk and tried to run them down. No reason at all. It was just madness.

Susan and Gardner both threw themselves against the wall so the driver couldn’t kill them without crashing into the hotel. He slammed the car back into the street and roared off. This was before Gardner became editor of Asimov’s. So his death then would have changed the course of science fiction.

Things like that happened in Gardner’s presence. Once, on South Street, he saw a man stabbed to death with a fork. But that’s not really my story to tell.

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Michael Swanwick is author of, most recently, The Book of Blarney (Dragonstairs, 2021), The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus (Subterranean, 2020), an The Iron Dragon’s Mother (Tor, 2019), as well as critical monographs on Hope Mirrlees and James Branch Cabell. He is the originator of this useful conceit, the Singular Interview.