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 joseph swift

 

 I have always been a writer. As a child, inspired by the deep woods of upstate New York and my father's tales of working in Alaska, I wrote and copiously illustrated adventure stories; in high school I wrote plays for our theatre group; in San Francisco and the East Village in the Sixties, I wrote some quite wretched surrealistic fiction; in the Seventies in Montreal, I wrote poetry (largely for my wife-to-be); in the Eighties, I wrote science-fiction novels (largely for myself); in the Nineties (having discovered that I had something to say after all), I wrote philosophical essays; and in this century, having retired, I wrote my memoirs.

 

As a high school student, I was fascinated by Henry Miller's bawdy tales of Paris in the Twenties. The Sixties are now quite as distant and exotic as the Twenties were then. (I could have been expelled at that time for possessing Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, which is now required reading.)  I left home in small-town Connecticut, spent a year hitch-hiking to San Francisco and back with a dog-eared copy of Kerouac's On The Road in my back pocket, lived a Henry Miller-inspired life in The Village with my Swedish painter girlfriend, her artist friends and my blues musician friends, and fled in the middle of the night to Montreal, just ahead of the military. First good thing I ever did, followed by the second good thing (getting a job at the McGill University Library for 35 years), followed by the third good thing (marrying my wife Christina). In the U.S., I had eight jobs in three years, In Canada, I had two jobs in forty years. So I guess I took to being a Canadian like a loon takes to water. Thanks to these three good things, I do not need to hawk my books to disinterested publishers, and I can offer them to you for free. Read them if you want.

 

Unlike most Americans, I always knew Canada was there. My mother's mother was Quebecoise and born in Quebec. My father shipped on freighters up and down the Lachine and Welland Canals to the Great Lakes. As a child, I spent vacations in Canada, including one tour my father organized of towns soon to be drowned by the St. Lawrence Seaway. So moving lock stock and barrel to Montreal was no problem whatsoever. In Montreal, I started a war-resister's commune and welcomed draft-dodgers, conscientious objectors, and deserters throughout the Vietnam Era. A generation later, the U.S. made exactly the same mistake, but in the desert instead of the jungle. 

 

Joe's other world--the miniature world set on the South Coast of England in 1901--is also connected to my family history. My father's mother hails from the English Midlands. She was a Boulton and always claimed to be related to Sir Matthew Boulton, one of the creators of the steam engine. I have no genealogical evidence for this, but the James Watt/Matthew Boulton correspondence, which was in my father's library and is now in mine, boasts detailed drawings of the two gentlemen on the cover, and Sir Matthew's distinctive nose is quite familiar to me, because I see it in the mirror every morning. What would be more appropriate for me than a landscape of mine-heads, engine-houses, locomotives, and steamships chugging away in my basement?

 

                     joseph.swift@mcgill.ca

 

PHOTOS BY MARC RICHARD

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bUMBLE BAY

 


CORRECTION

In the interview, I misspoke, referring to John Hine as a founder of Lilliput Lane Cottages. In fact, he was a founder and long-time promoter of David Winter Cottages. The genius behind Lilliput Lane was actually David John Tate, who, as the offspring of an artist and an engineer, pioneered Lilliput Lane’s laser-accurate reproductions of real buildings in the U.K. He died in 2017, at the age of 72. Lilliput Lane had ceased production in 2016. David Winter Cottages ceased production in 2002. Both still trade briskly on eBay and similar sites. —Joe Swift

BUMBLE BAY CENSUS

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                                      BUMBLE BAY

                                      BUMBLE BAY

                                         WHITE HORSE HILL

                                         WHITE HORSE HILL

                                          BUMBLEHEAD MARKET

                                          BUMBLEHEAD MARKET

                                              KINGSWOOD

                                              KINGSWOOD

                                            CORKING HILL

                                            CORKING HILL

                                             DORTOP MANOR

                                             DORTOP MANOR

                                     SHAGRUG STATION AND CANALSIDE

                                     SHAGRUG STATION AND CANALSIDE

                                           SHAGRUG FALLS                                         PHOTOS BY: Matthew Smith 

                                           SHAGRUG FALLS

                                       PHOTOS BY: Matthew Smith 

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  my stories

 

PROGENY'S CHILD

First volume of the Atalanta Trilogy. All the Martian rebels are "Progeny's Children" but the poet/spacer Ali Karil is special. Terry is the long-haired Martienne, Shagrug the roguish Captain, Atalanta the Smart Ship, and Armand Solla the relentless Quasi Police operative.

tHE Brazen Anvil

Second volume of the Atalanta Trilogy. Inspired by and featuring the magical landscapes discovered by the Voyager space probes. Mysterious disappearances and the clue of the Brazen Anvil take Ali Karil to the Jupiter and Saturn systems.

THE SIRENS' VOICES

Third volume of the Atalanta Trilogy. Inspired, like James Joyce's Ulysses, by Homer's Odyssey. The Lotus-eaters, the Cyclops, Circe, Hades, the Sirens are all there. Ali Karil is older, but perhaps not much wiser.

THE EARTHBORN MEN

Jason and the Belter Argonauts must sail across the Black Sea of Space, through the Wandering Rocks of the Asteroid Belt, to awaken the Earthborn Men and solve the mystery of the Golden Ram ship, but that's only the beginning.

falling asleep in reality class

Not science fiction, but an epic journey nonetheless. Part One (Last Days in Mordor) is New York as Hell, Part Two (There and Back Again) is America as Purgatory, and Part Three (The Last Homely House At the Edge of the War) is Canada as Paradise.

                              LEOPARDS AND ORCHIDS

The complete poems, except for a handful, mostly 

written in High School and lost in the mists of Time.

The majority first appeared in homemade Valentines

and Birthday cards created for Milady and a few

others over the decades.