Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thumbnail Thursday with Alex Shvartsman

It's the very first installment of Thumbnail Thursday! I'm happy to welcome Alex Shvartsman to the blog.

1)   What are you working on right now?

I’m in the process of writing a steampunk story set in 1886 St. Petersburg, where a British secret agent H.G. Wells teams up with Anton Chekhov to foil an assassination plot against Prince Nicholas Romanov.

2)   What's your pre-writing ritual?

Medium French Vanilla. Skim milk. One sugar.

Seriously, coffee should get a co-writing credit on most of my stories.  I never used to drink much coffee before I began to write. Now it’s fuel necessary, for producing new words.

3)   What is one of the most surprising/interesting things you've discovered while doing research for a story?

Truth is stranger than fiction. Almost every time I set out to hunt down some minor fact I need for a story, I tumble down the rabbit hole of links upon links of fascinating material. My favorite gem was when I needed a very old and venerable European bank for a sub-plot I was working on, and discovered this:

There are several stories worth of plots on that page alone, for anything from action/adventure to historical fantasy to humor. And that’s before you click through to any of the links!

4)   Tell me about your favorite story that you've published. What inspired it, and what does it mean to you?

Isn’t that a bit like choosing a favorite child? My favorite story is always the one I’m writing at that time. I think that’s probably true of most writers.

And if I absolutely had to choose from among the stories that have already been published, I’d have to go with “A Shard Glows in Brooklyn.”  It’s an urban fantasy/noir/humor mashup which introduces Conrad Brent, a character I am continuing to write stories about. The second Brent story is forthcoming at Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge magazine in a few months.

I don’t know that “Shard” is my best published story, but it is exactly the sort of thing I want to write and be known for – a fun, action-packed read with an incredibly sarcastic protagonist.

5)   You can have lunch with any writer, living or dead. Who would it be, and why?

It’d have to be Mikhail Bulgakov, my favorite Russian-language author. His body of work isn’t very well-known in the West, except for “The Master and Margarita,” but Bulgakov, who died young in 1940, was a writer far ahead of his time.

Bulgakov was writing magical realism nearly twenty years before the term came to be defined. His “Heard of a Dog” is a grittier version of “Flowers for Algernon,” written two years before Daniel Keyes was born.  His works, usually written as scathing satirical indictments of the early Soviet Union, nevertheless manage to remain relevant and interesting today, long after the regime he despised had fallen.

6)   What's one of the best novels and/or short stories you've read recently?

“The Waves” by Ken Liu is my favorite piece of fiction read this year. It’s a novelette that was published in Asimov’s recently and I hope it gets some award consideration.

7)   Writing is a sedentary endeavor. What do you do to stay healthy and active?

I don’t drink or smoke, and my eating habits are reasonably healthy, but I’m absolutely terrible at the whole exercise thing. I’d make a New Year’s resolution to change that, but unless somebody builds a gym in my living room, that’s not likely to happen.

8)   What other writing projects have you been involved in this year?

I edited and published Unidentified Funny Objects, an anthology of humorous science fiction and fantasy. It was a time-consuming project, but it taught me a lot about the world of publishing and offered me an opportunity to work with writers whom I greatly admire, such as Mike Resnick and Sergey Lukyanenko.

UFO features 29 stories and is the only speculative humor anthology I’m aware of to be published in recent years. Please consider picking up a physical copy or an e-book for your favorite type of e-reader here:

I’m hoping to make this an annual anthology, but need to sell enough copies to justify moving forward with UFO 2 in 2013.


Alex Shvartsman is a writer and game designer. He traveled to over 30 countries, played a card game for a living, and built a successful business. Alex resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and son.

Alex is a member of SFWA, Codex Writers, and a graduate of Viable Paradise workshop. He had nearly 40 original short stories published since 2010. His stories appeared in Nature Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Penumbra, Buzzy Magazine and many other venues. He is the editor of Unidentified Funny Objects, a collection of humorous SF/F short stories.

Alex’s short stories are linked from his blog at

No comments:

Post a Comment