It was just opportunity really. After I did the first photo of Michael Swanwick he called lots of people like Ben Bova and Joe Haldeman and said ‘‘you should have this guy stop by your house, he’ll make your office look great’’ and Joe Haldeman called Piers Anthony and Piers Anthony blogged about me and so on – and I’d also just done a book with Neil Gaiman, so I suddenly had a lot of access and people would return my calls – which makes everything a lot easier. I imagine that it would make a terrific series with a volume on romance writers and one on mystery novelists and so on. I’d love to see if they all look the same or if you can tell what someone writes by what their desk looks like.
You created a system of measurement, The Swanwick Scale, for author offices. How does it work?
The Swanwick is a completely not-serious unit of measuring… debris… usually mostly books, but also manuscripts, old computers, Hugos, remote controls and the relative navigability of the office space. I’d meet a lot of authors who’d say ‘‘this is probably the messiest office you’ve ever seen!’’ and I’d have to think back and try and relate it to others, most of the time when someone says that it’s not even close. So using Michael’s office as a unit of measure (it is, by default ‘‘one Swanwick’’) I could tell other authors ‘‘Oh, you’re about .3 Swanwicks’’. The lowest Swanwick rating of any author was Bill Desmedt, author of Singularity, I think his pencils were organized by color and length, and he had carefully archived blueprints of the fictional places he wrote about so he could tell exactly how people got from one room to another and how long it would take them to get there; he’s about .0001 Swanwicks. Chip Delany is probably a 3.5.
I was on an escalator at Worldcon 2009 and if you were there you’ll remember it was a really long escalator. I looked over and saw Elizabeth Bear standing next to me (I didn’t recognize her, I just read her name tag). I’d read her story ‘‘Tideline’’, probably in some ‘‘best of’’ collection and it made me cry like a baby. I said ‘‘Hey! You’re Elizabeth Bear!’’ and she said ‘‘You’re Kyle Cassidy!’’ and I said ‘‘We should do something together! About… time travel… and levitation!’’ and she added ‘‘and madness!’’ and we got off the elevator and went our separate ways and two months later I sent her a set of vaguely connected images of someone who occasionally levitated for no readily apparent reason and like… 48 hours later she’d written a story that tied them all together and we made this beautiful postcard series out of them which you can just have and look at, or you can send it serially to someone or you can send different cards to a bunch of people, every little bit is a self contained story. It’s really quite wonderful, she did an amazing job.
How did you become involved in the science fiction community? Tell us about your first SF convention experience.
It was a bit fortuitous and a bit terrifying. I had a friend who wanted to get Gardner Dozois’ autograph so he had me buy tickets to Philcon, I think this was 2007 or so, and the day before he said he couldn’t go so I was left to my own devices. I looked at the website and recognized Tom Purdom’s name because I’d been hired to photograph him a few years before, so I figured I’d go to his panel and it wouldn’t be like I was all alone in the wilderness. I read the bio’s of everybody else on the panel, one was Paul Barnett I remember, and another was Michael Swanwick. So I googled Michael Swanwick and found some article that said ‘‘Michael Swanwick is one of the most famous authors in science fiction, he has seven Hugo awards’’ or something like that. And the next day I was standing in the registration line waiting to get my badge and feeling a little out of place and here walks Michael Swanwick. It was like I’d spotted the only movie star whose name I knew. ‘‘Michael!’’ I said, probably far too enthusiastically, he turned around and looked at me and I blurted out ‘‘I’m coming to your thing today!’’ ‘‘Oh,’’ he replied, looking at me as though he wasn’t sure if he should know who I was or not and said ‘‘Do you have directions?’’ ‘‘Directions?’’ – I thought the panels were all the in the hotel. I didn’t have directions I said. And he handed me a sheet of paper from his briefcase that said ‘‘Michael Swanwick’s party for out of town authors’’ – something like that.
Not being a fool, I went to the party and it was filled with all sorts of people and I couldn’t mention an author without someone launching into a story about them like ‘‘Fred Saberhagen?! Oh yes, I remember when Frederik Saberhagen and I were trapped in an elevator in the Lumidor hotel in Saskatchewan, we’d been shopping for beach balls and were coming back when the door controls went haywire after someone drove a Hugo into a phone pole. We were there for two hours and only escaped when Isaac Asimov was able to short circuit the doors by using a toaster he’d modified with a car battery. We all went and got ice cream….’’
So I texted my friend and said ‘‘Not only did I meet Gardner Dozois, but I’m sitting on a sofa next to him at a party.’’
Sometime during the evening I asked Michael if I could see his Hugos and he took me up to his office and when I saw it, I knew what my next book was going to be.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your work?
‘‘Where I Write’’ is currently looking for the right publisher. You can see photos from the project and (more importantly) contact my agent, Meg, on the website: http://whereiwrite.org.