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Volume 28, Number 2-3, Winter/Spring 2010

Interview with S. Andrew Swann

By Thomas E. Jackson

S. Andrew Swann writes science fiction and fantasy and has published 19 books so far, with more soon to come. His latest science fiction novel, Prophets, is the first book of a new trilogy, Apotheosis, and subjects future mankind to a collectivist menace. Readers will get their first glimpse of whether mankind can be saved when DAW Books comes out with Heretics this year.

Swann is the pen name for Steven Swiniarski, who lives in Solon, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. He works as a database manager for a private child services agency in the Cleveland area. Swiniarski also recently has begun publishing a series of novels for Ballantine that he describes as a “historical fantasy paranormal romance.” The first book in that series, Wolfbreed, came out in August 2009.

Swiniarski blogs and offers samples of his writing at his Web site, www.sandrewswann.com, and can be found on facebook under his pen name. He agreed to take questions about Prophets and his writing career.

Prophets, your latest science fiction novel, returns readers to the same universe as the Hostile Takeover trilogy, published about 13 years ago. What compelled you to return?

It was in the planning stages for nearly that long. A long string of personal issues managed to delay all my writing projects for a big chunk of that time, and there were two other novels in the queue beforehand. So it was more a matter of things preventing my return, rather than a sudden impulse to revisit the universe.

The planet Bakunin in Prophets is a rather unflattering depiction of anarcho-capitalism. You have describe Bakunin as “more like Somalia with venture capital than a libertarian utopia,” and the reviewer at IO9, Christopher Hsiang, wrote that after getting a look at Bakunin, “paying some taxes and following building codes doesn’t seem all that bad.” Should we assume you are a limited government libertarian rather than an anarchist?

I’ve been described as a Jeffersonian Anarchist. My political view is, in essence, that the State is pretty much an inevitable side effect of groups of people working together, and that the only way to prevent any one group from gaining totalitarian control over the whole is to have as many competing interests at odds with each other as possible. If you have a weak or non-existent State, guess what, some other entity will fill that void—even if it is a bunch of Ayn Rand fanboys picking up guns so no one else can harsh their capitalist mellow.

Does holding a regular job give you the freedom to take your time with the books and do the job right? It seems to me that Roger Zelazny, a Cleveland area native whose writings I really like, did not become a better writer after he quit his job to work full time.

I wish it did. It really means that I have less time to devote to the work, even if I take longer periods of time to produce a novel. What a day job does do is give you financial security so you don’t end up taking projects you don’t really want to do just for a paycheck, it also keeps you grounded in reality so your characters don’t all become reflections of a whiny frustrated writer.

Who are the writers who have had the biggest influence on your writing?

My influences are many and varied, but you can count among them Robert Heinlein, Mack Reynolds, and the Illuminatus! Trilogy (aka- the trifecta that explains my wacky politics.)

Do you have any particular favorite libertarian authors or thinkers?

Does Heinlein count?

Your book dedication in Prophets jumped out at me. [The novel is dedicated “To Michelle, for putting up with all my crap.”] Do you want to tell us anything about Michelle, and what she has to put up with?

Michelle’s my wife, who’s been very supportive … when I get off my butt and start treating this writing thing seriously as a business. She’s doing work as my in-house publicist, arranging everything from ads to cons to book singing events. This means we have four full time jobs between us, and she’s got the one that doesn’t pay anything.

Do you have a favorite among your books?

Cheap answer: the one I’m working on now, the Apotheosis Trilogy, which is really a very long novel in three volumes, much like the prior Hostile Takeover. More thoughtful one: Wolfbreed, the historical dark fantasy that came out last summer may be the best writing I’ve done to date. Prior to that, my two non-Swann novels, The Flesh, the Blood, & the Fire, and Stranger Inside.

You’ve lived in the Cleveland area for years. (That’s where I live, too, in Berea.) What do you want to tell the rest of the world about Cleveland that most people might not know?

We’re not Detroit? On a more serious note, living here has taught me something about writing, and that is any location is appropriate for fiction. The history of my town is so rich and varied and interesting, I’ve had no problem setting near a dozen novels in the area. And this is not because Cleveland is particularly unique, it’s because everywhere is unique. If you’re setting a story in L.A. or N.Y. for no particular reason, especially if you’ve never been there, you’re actually making things less accessible. Anything grounded in a real sense of place will be much more engaging, even if it is Cleveland. (Or even Detroit, for that matter.)

Thomas Jackson lives in Berea, Ohio. Read his blog at clevelandokie.blogspot.com

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