Down at Capclave, weekend before last, Patrick and I and Michael Swanwick did a panel on workshops. At one point Swanwick got to telling Clarion stories. I’m going to try to do justice to this one, though of course it was better when he told it.
(Background info: Clarion runs for six weeks, with different instructors coming in for one-week stints.)
So Michael Swanwick is teaching his week at Clarion, and one of the students hands in a long somber story full of angst and sodomy*. Swanwick considers it and says, “What this story needs is more dinosaurs.”
The next story the student turns in does have dinosaurs in it, but it’s a piece of fluff. Swanwick shakes his head. “It needed more sodomy,” he says.
The student is flummoxed, and protests that he’s just trying to put into practice what he’d been told. Swanwick explains, to him and to the rest of the students, that writing is a matter of finding the appropriate balance of dinosaurs and sodomy.
Then he goes home. The next instructor is Gardner Dozois.
A week later, Gardner comes home and says, “Michael, what the hell did you tell those kids? All week long, they were handing me stories about dinosaurs and sodomy!”=
If I were a better storyteller myself, I’d know whether or not it would help to explain that Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick have been friends for decades; or that Gardner is not only a brilliant writer and editor, but is living proof that “Rabelaisian” still has a place in our everyday vocabulary. One story about dinosaurs and sodomy wouldn’t faze Gardner in the slightest. Getting a week’s worth of them at Clarion is a pail of water balanced on top of a door.=
The state of things: Patrick and I are near the end of the busiest spell of professionally-related travel we’ve had in our lives. This month started with a week of intensive teaching at the Viable Paradise writers’ workshop out on Martha’s Vineyard. October 14-16 we were guests of honor at Capclave in Silver Spring, Maryland. This past weekend I was what they call a presenter at the 2005 Surrey International Writers’ Conference in Surrey, B.C. We’re not quite finished running the gantlet yet, but we’ll soon be done, and will go back to being a regular presence here.
We haven’t deserted you. We’ve just been on extended leave.