The Periodic Table of Science Fiction

by Michael Swanwick
Release date: 2005
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: science fiction, short stories

When Mendeleev set forth the Periodic Table of the Elements, he revolutionised chemistry – but just as importantly, he planted the seeds for Michael Swanwick's Periodic Table of Science Fiction. Now, after their epochal appearances online at, this collection gathers together the one hundred and eighteen stories of the PTSF in print for the first time, in their definitive form. Life, Chemistry, and Science Fiction will never be the same again.

Swanwick, grand master of the SF short story and absolute master of the short-short, is at his exuberant and ingenious best in these tales, each inspired by a single chemical element. Here are cosmos-spanning future histories, slyly conceived alternative timelines, shockingly subversive secret chronicles of intellectual passion, divine jests, and fragments of incomparable wisdom.

In The Periodic Table of Science Fiction, revelations flow like heady wine: the real reason the Hindenburg exploded; how to measure the apocalyptic mood swings of God; why you never want pond scum to preside over your office; which is the most boring element in existence; how the Plains Indians adopted not the horse but the motorcycle; the best way to avert a spaceship hijacking; how to make a fortune in interplanetary metals prospecting; robot ideology; and much, much more.

If Mendeleev encompassed all matter in his Periodic Table, Michael Swanwick's encompasses all that really matters...

With a new afterword by the author, and an Introduction by Theodore Gray, winner of the Ig Nobel Prize for his Wooden Periodic Table.

updated 2010-09-07

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