"[These] stories . . . elliptically chronicle the life of [an alternative] Atlanta, Georgia, 2000-2070. Beneath a huge artificial dome that blocks out the stars, hierarchically stashed on nine subterranean levels with computer-controlled simulations of weather and seasonal change, the citizens of this grim, bureaucracy-ridden sardine tin . . . contrive not just to endure but to prevail. Through 70 years of increasing repression, various free spirts turn a living cubicle into a facsimile of a starship in deep space, experiment with multipartner 'marriages' for the elderly, or dearly earn moments of mutual benison with an unwanted cubicle-mate. . . . bearing witness to the weedlike survival of human instinct and aspiration in the most confining and programmed environment." [from Kirkus Reviews]
“Michael Bishop’s Urban Nucleus concept was one of the great extrapolative achievements of science fiction in the 1970s. In the novel A Little Knowledge and the accompanying story cycle Catacomb Years, he gave it vivid life. Now, forty years later, he has drawn both books together in revised and re-imagined versions to provide modern readers with a single unified text of this vast vision of the near future.”
—Robert Silverberg, SFWA Grand Master
“The City and the Cygnets ranks with the best of literary science fiction, on the level of Cloud Atlas or Life after Life. Set in an alternate-present and near-future dystopia, the book unfolds in a series of dark, detailed, sometimes tragic but often charming life stories. The stories are readable in themselves, and they build to a triumphant denoument merging science, politics, and philosophy in a way few writers can achieve. A Bishop book to savor.”
—Louise Marley, author of The Terrorists of Irustan
“The City and the Cygnets introduces itself as a vision of an “alternative America.” But like all the best science fiction, this extraordinary chronicle of a domed Atlanta whose residents retreat to their respective corners like weary boxers, shielded within their regional bubble, is, of course, a vision of our own time and place—a vision all the more remarkable for having appeared, in its original form, almost forty years ago. And like all the best science fiction writers, Michael Bishop understands that what’s important is not the domes, but the people who have to live in them. He tells us their stories in exquisitely crafted prose and with profound insight, compassion, and wisdom. Michael Bishop is one of our very best writers, and Fairwood Press has performed an invaluable service by reminding us, with these beautiful revised editions of his work, that he always has been. If you’ve never read Bishop’s work before, I envy you what you’re about to experience.”
—F. Brett Cox, author of The End of All Our Exploring: Stories
“Not all writers can sustain decades of excellence. But Mike can. Mike has. Mike does. This is not a simple book. But it’s a profoundly satisfying one. Satisfying in the answers it gives, and in the questions it asks that will never, ever be resolved.”
—Kelly Robson. author of Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach
“Bishop has blended, smoothed, sensitively enhanced and reconfigured all the original Urban Nucleus material from A Little Knowledge and Catacomb Years into one glorious canvas. The City and the Cygnets makes available some of that Young Turk Bishop’s finest writing, in a volume comparable to Disch’s 334 and Ed Bryant’s Cinnabar, allied works from that period, all of which have admirably withstood the passing of time.”
—Paul Di Filippo, author of The Big Get-Even
"This is an omnibus of the Domed Atlanta stories from early in the author's career, significantly rewritten for this edition. The series was previously published as the novel, A Little Knowledge, and a collection, Catacomb Years. These number among my fondest memories from the late 1970s. Together they describe a mega-Atlanta of the future which is enclosed under a dome and becomes in due course a kind of theocracy. Naturally that results in inequities among the inhabitants, but since the cities are more or less independent nations, there is no outside force to which they can appeal. The eventual arrival of aliens who are somewhat strangely absorbed into this civilization is the crisis point. Several of the episodes remain vividly in my memory, although it has been so long since I last read them that I couldn't begin to guess which parts had been rewritten. And while the author was no more a prophet than were his peers, there are several elements in the book that are eerily reminiscent of some of the things that are happening in this country today. A new edition was long overdue."
"You probably have friends who are news and politics junkies, concerned with the increasing fragmentation of the country and the rift between the haves and have-nots (no matter how the two are defined). Consider giving them copies of Michael Bishop’s The City and the Cygnets. . . No mere allegory, The City and the Cygnets does what SF does best: it presents a look at present-day situations from a decidedly different perspective. Instead of simplistic, one-dimensional answers, it gives nuanced, incomplete, and thought-provoking reflections. Your concerned friends will love it."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In 1988, Michael Bishop won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for an earlier version of Unicorn Mountain. His other prize-winning novels are No Enemy but Time (1982), winner of a Nebula Award, and Brittle Innings (1994), winner of a Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel. He has also published poetry, reviews, and essays as well as story collections, notably Other Arms Reach Out to Me: Georgia Stories (2017), winner of a Georgia Author of the Year Award in 2018. He continues to live in Pine Mountain, Georgia, with his wife Jeri of fifty-one years, a retired elementary-school counselor, a yoga devotee, and an avid gardener. On November 5, 2018, Bishop was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.