The ED SF Project

The Ellen Datlow/SCI FICTION Project, that is. We're showing the love for five and a half years of great short fiction, and we need your help! We've got over 300 stories to cover, so if you're a person who loves short speculative fiction, we want you. Go here to read the list and add your voice.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Periodic Table of Science Fiction" by Michael Swanwick: An Appreciation by Greg van Eekhout

In the Periodic Table of Science Fiction, Michael Swanwick gives us 118 very short stories, each based on different element. He pulls off these flash pieces like a street magician flinging scarves and rabbits from his sleeves. He makes it look effortless, as though he could do this all day, dispensing an endless store of heavy metals and halogens and alkalis with spark and energy and mordant humor.

He gives us a punk barbarian princess, the Devil in Las Vegas, a Superman reluctant to face the consequences of knocking up Lois Lane, a sentient starship, a radioactive basement monster . . . and these are just the noble gases. Swanwick's table is a dazzling performance, a pyrotechnic display from a nimble imagination.

Since their appearance at SCI FICTION, these stories have appeared in an attractive print volume, but I prefer them in their original online format. Ellen Datlow presents to us a kind of interactive story device, and it's simply fun to click on the familiar-looking table, not knowing if what shows up in the little pop-up window will be a story about a reincarnated talking mule, an insidious toothpaste conspiracy, or a chilling account of the real reason the Hindenburg exploded. Online, the table becomes more than an accumulation of stories. It becomes a new thing, one that engages the reader in a new way, and short of shipping to each reader a box with 118 compartments, it's hard to think of a way the presentation could be duplicated, let alone improved upon.

Michael Swanwick's Periodic Table of Science Fiction is an innovative marriage of form and fiction. It's a fabulous toy to play with. Ellen Datlow is owed thanks for bringing it to us.

Link to story.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The table with pop-ups was designed by my producer at the time, Michael Gerber. He came up with the idea, which is indeed, perfect for the material.
Ellen Datlow

9:42 AM  
Blogger Blue Tyson said...

Yeah, that was really well done.

9:09 PM  

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