This collection of short-short fiction by Michael Swanwick contains more than 70 stories in fewer than 100 pages. Often humorous, sometimes chilling, always entertaining, these are prime examples of a recently resurrected literary form.
The title piece is a five-minute condensation of a classic of Western literature, featuring a cigar-cutter as Mephistopheles, a box of matches in the roles of Helen of Troy, an Angel of the Lord, the Light of Ontology, and a cigar as Faust himself. Swanwick's bravura imagination has resulted in a separate story for every letter of the alphabet and another set of tales for every planet in the solar system.
Additionally, there is a clutch of alternate autobiographies, a novella of decadence and corporate politics in a future Venice that has been boiled down to 416 words, Picasso and Philip K. Dick as existential heroes, and a rhyme for orange.
Michael Swanwick (born 1950) is an American science fiction author. Swanwick is one of the most acclaimed science fiction and fantasy short story writers of his generation, having received the Hugo Award for short fiction five times in six years. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Photo: Michael Swanwick at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, August 2005. Picture taken by Szymon Sokół. Source: Wikimedia Commons.