I long ago gave up trying to corral my writing inside the fencelines, meaning I have explored a number of genres and occasionally interbred them. Here is my corpus provisionally arranged.
Mixed Harvest: Scenes from the Human Past, Berghahn Books, 2020.
After millennia of wandering the earth with little impact, a universal, if inadvertent transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and pastoralism was complete within a few thousand years. Mixed Harvest tells the story of the Sedentary Divide, the most significant event since modern humans emerged. Before the Sedentary Divide, humans followed their food; afterward, the human diet had abandoned wild foods by domesticating, and irrevocably changing, plants and animals. People remained in one place and kept their food close. Agriculture was so successful that religious and social belief systems evolved to enforce its consequences: social inequality, exploitation of resources, constrained gender relations, and increasingly devastating conflict.
From the publisher: “A large obsidian mirror is found by a Turkish farmer on top of a mound. How did it get there? What does it mean, for then and now? In this teaching novel by writer Rob Swigart, the story toggles back and forth between the story of a Neolithic village– and the changing fortunes of the family who find this wondrous tool– and a tale of modern archaeologists whose excavated finds stir journalists, governments, and goddess worshippers alike. In doing so, Swigart’s novel provides both a basic reconstruction of Neolithic lifeways and a primer of contemporary archaeological politics and practice. For students in introductory archaeology classes, courses on the Neolithic, or on ethical issues, Stone Mirror will be a fun, informative introduction both to archaeology and to the people archaeologists study.”
Xibalbá Gate, 2005, AltaMira Press
From the publisher: “Professor Van Weathers has just revolutionized the teaching of Maya archaeology. His lifelike computer simulation Xibalbá Gate places his students in the world of the Late Classic Maya, where political strife, overpopulation, warfare, and social disorganization are in evidence in the soon-to-collapse civilization. Weathers’ real life is also under strain—his wife is disenchanted, his son a cynic, his students disinterested, his excavation project blocked by a mysterious Latin American holding company. No wonder he loses himself in the world of King Knot Eye of Xultunich for days on end. But the real world problems magnify—a murder, an illness, an explosion—while he tries to negotiate a treaty with a neighboring city, marry the king’s daughter, and engage in a bloodletting ceremony to right a world out of balance. Can he solve the rapidly-merging problems of his virtual world and the modern one while the Nine Lords of Xibalbá, rulers of the Maya underworld, are on the loose? This novel/textbook by noted writer and futurist Rob Swigart offers both an accurate reconstruction of Maya life for introductory archaeology students and an entertaining read for those interested in the Maya world.”
Little America, 1977, Houghton-Mifflin
My first novel, published in 1977. A satire about cars, fast food and sex in America, full of bicentennial jokes and speed. Orville Hollinday wants two things in life: to kill his father Senior and to have his own gas pump in Little America, Wyoming. Although it has been optioned many times for the movies, it has not made it to the screen… yet. Available in paper back and as an eBook. Available in French from Editions Cambourakis.
A.K.A./A Cosmic Fable, 1978, Houghton-Mifflin
My second novel was far more outrageously science-fiction like, but it certainly is not science fiction. Avery K. Augenblaue, gazillionaire, leaves for outer space in his bagel shaped space ship. When he gets back all hell breaks loose. Available from the author, who has several hundred copies of the British paperback version. This is the only one of my novels that is completely out of print, which makes it a rare book indeed.
I recently discovered this book was shortlisted for a 1979 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel Award.
The Time Trip, 1979, Houghton-Mifflin
A California Yankee in Gilgamesh’s court retelling of the Sumerian epic. Gilgamesh a harrassed bureaucrat trying to keep a country running with little help but a reed and some damp clay tablets. Time travel and an early look at the great computer network we now have. In the late 1970s this was cutting edge, clunky big monitors and teletype printers. It also contains the lyrics of a song I bought for a dollar from a friend. The Great Sunnyvale novel before there was a Sillicon Valley. Available on paper back and as an eBook.
A New Age science fiction novel about a think tank in what would become Silicon Valley. I had done a small consulting gig with the Institute for the Future and this was a very fictional version of what they do. It involved not only psychic phenomena (of a very ambiguous nature, as in real life) but also animal communication (dolphins, orcas and elephants). I spent a lot of time behind the scenes at Marine World Africa USA researching, and discovered that dolphins, or instance, may well be smarter than their trainers, and elephants are extraordinarily adept at eating grapefruit. I later worked for the Institute.
Portal, 1986 Computer Game, Activision, 1988 Novel, St. Martins Press
The hard copy of the computer “game” published by Activision in 1986, an elaborate experiment not only in narrative structure, a set of interlinked databases, but also, in the book form, as an experiment in using font families as a function of character. Each database ‘spoke’ in a different font. It came out in paperback in England.
The Lisa Emmer Series
The Delphi Agenda, 2013, BooksBNimble (Kindle Edition)
Papyrologist Lisa Emmer’s world flips when the Surete meets her at her Metro station with news of the savage murder of the esteemed Paris historian Dr. Raimond Foix, her friend and mentor in the study of ancient documents. Horrified, Lisa finds clues at the crime scene left behind for her by her mentor—clues to a secret kept hidden for centuries. These clues make her a prime suspect in the murder investigation, and also put her directly in the cross-hairs of a deadly commando group that proves to be none other than a contemporary offshoot of the Inquisition.
Tablet of Destinies, 2016, BooksBNimble (Kindle Edition)
A clay tablet turns up, containing a prophecy of demons, a snake goddess, and the birth of a “disruptive” miraculous child. A prophecy so dangerous the tablet was smashed to bits, and the shards scattered to all the cities of the ancient world to prevent reassembling, until a Jesuit scholar’s vision sets the prophecy in motion in Paris, where the pieces have lain for centuries, half a world and three millennia away from their source.
Yet very close to the current home of Lisa Emmer, chosen the Pythia, head of the Delphi Agenda, because of her gift of sight, and trained in ancient world studies by a mentor who promised to “teach you life”; more accurately, he might have said “teach you to save the world from evil.” Prophecy is Lisa’s bailiwick—she’s the modern-day Delphic Oracle, head of a secret organization whose purpose is to protect the world from rogue conspiracies within the Church.
Over the centuries, the Delphi Agenda has prevented the cult of Ophis Sophia from the fulfillment of their doomsday prophecy several times. Now, in a suspenseful race against an alignment of planets and comets that signals the “wondrous child’s” impending birth, Lisa speeds to find and protect the mother and child. If she’s too late, “disruption” will take on a devastating new meaning.
Fans of intrepid women sleuths will love Lisa, as well as anyone smitten with the romance of the ancient world, and action-adventure in historical fiction and thriller conspiracies, (especially those involving the Catholic church, like The DaVinci Code). Sure to please fans of Dan Brown, Steve Berry, and the first Lisa Emmer thriller, The Delphi Agenda.
Thrillers in Paradise Series
My interest in the emerging biotechnology field, thrillers and martial arts led me to write this three book series set on Kaua’i, an island with a number of different cultures and micro-climates — in a word, a microcosm of the world. Vector was the first in the series. Originally published by a small press in New York called Bluejay, it was later picked up by St. Martins. I think of St. Martins as America’s leading publisher of rare books.
Molecular biologist and part-time martial arts instructor Chazz Koenig has settled on the island of Kauai to do a little desultory research and nurse the wounds of an apparently failed marriage. Shortly after his arrival the serenity of the island is marred by a number of mysterious deaths — a diver, a drug addict, an old woman, a young couple, and when Chazz meets Lieutenant Cobb Takamura he is asked to aid in the investigation. Available on paper back and as an eBook.
Toxin, 1988, St. Martins Press, available on Kindle (BooksBNimble) or in paperback from AmazonA wealthy developer is shot down while jogging in the coconut grove outside a plush Kauai hotel. Shortly thereafter a satellite falls from orbit carrying an unknown toxin. When it crashes on the island several people are taken ill. Lieutenant Cobb Takamura, investigating the murder, calls on his friend Chazz Koenig to help with the toxin. Chazz is a molecular biologist, and has helped Cobb in the past. As the investigation begins to delve deeper into events questions arise: whose satellite was it that crashed? What was the toxin on board, and was it man-made? And, most baffling of all, was there a connection between the murder and the satellite. Available on paper back and as an eBook.
A ship drifts aground on the island of Kauai. On it Lieutenant Takamura’s wife Kimiko, who was by herself enjoying a couple of hours of peace and solitude, discovers seven bodies, all apparently poisoned somehow. Takamura calls his friend Chazz Koenig back from the Big Island, where he hs been doing some biological research. It is not clear whether it was a poison gas, a disease, or something more sinister that killed the crew of the Ocean Mother, an environmental vessel just back from Polynesia, where it had been protesting the French nuclear testing program. Available on paper back and as an eBook.
Down Time: Tales of the Computer Age, is a collection of twenty-one short stories depicting the struggles in relationships during the 1980s, the early years of personal computers. The original CDROM (see below) is no longer accessible, but the narration, with original music, is now available from Audible.com or the iTunes store.
A close look at the re-engineering fad of the early 1990s, the nasty effects it had on a very large number of mostly middle managers, and the emerging organizational form we called the ‘fishnet organization.’ You can lift a node of a net laid out on a dock and it will form a temporary hierarchy, but on the whole such an organization (with humans as the nodes and communications technology as the cords) is horizontal, flexible, and grows at the edges. It was in 1994 a prophetic book. In 2000 it still seems so. The business landscape continues to change, with breakups and megamergers happening every day.
Nel Mezzo della Vita Press
The White Pig, a True History in Eight Books. Corey Depew, scion of a false teeth empire, comes back from his army tour in Thule, Greenland, to the Gothic American Midwest of 1957 in a state of existential crisis. His family history goes back a century, to the origins of a four-generation curse. Concealed therein are pairs of twins, a symbol of evil in the form of a gigantic white pig a-wandering through the forests of northern Kentucky, a spontaneous combustion, a family member eaten by pigs, King Tut, race relations, the Church of Jesus Christ, Gentleman, the philosophy of the Everly Brothers and what it really means to lose face. The book is supposed to pretend to be serious.
The Bièvre isis a small river that once ran through Paris. The text is a lengthy prose poem, an extended elegy for a corrupted and lost piece of wild landscape by the 19th Century French writer J.-K. Huysmans. From its source not far from Versailles the Bièvre loops through the 13th arrondissement of Paris. Over the centuries it has been gradually driven underground and today almost nothing remains visible within the city limits, though one can still walk along stretches running through lush vegetation to the south of the city. In 1890, Huysmans published this expanded version of an article that originally appeared in 1878. This new translation by Rob Swigart and Danielle Trudeau in a bilingual livre d’artiste is illustrated with seven original etchings by French artist Claire Illouz. 10.68 x 5.87″ Set by URDLA in Villeurbanne, France on BMK Rives paper. Signed and numbered by the artist. Eight folios in slip case. I have a very few copies of this rare art book available for sale. $475.
© 2019 Rob Swigart