“I suppose the first thing I should do is apologize for the billions of dead.”
May 16, 2012 2:47 PM   Subscribe

A famously reclusive writer, John Swartzwelder is responsible for many of The Simpson's iconic episodes. He stopped writing for the show in '04 and began to self-publish a series of increasingly absurd Sci-Fi Detective novels.
posted by The Whelk (47 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
How am I just now hearing about this?
posted by zzazazz at 2:58 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


That is an unusually enjoyable wiki link. Swartzwelder sounds like Ron Swanson.

According to Matt Groening, Swartzwelder used to write episodes while sitting in a booth at a coffee shop "drinking copious amounts of coffee and smoking endless cigarettes". When California passed an anti-smoking law, Swartzwelder bought the diner booth and installed it in his house, allowing him to continue his process in peace.
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:00 PM on May 16, 2012 [28 favorites]


I heard about these years ago, meant to check them out, and then promptly forgot. Now it's different, though. Now I own a Kindle, so I'm off to Amazon to buy The Time Machine Did It before I forget again.
posted by dortmunder at 3:01 PM on May 16, 2012


Many of my favourite epsides are by other writers, but for sheer volume nobody beats Swartzwelder -- the only Simpsons writer whose name is used as a proper adjective. I wish my public library had these books because I'm too poor to buy them.
posted by Lorin at 3:02 PM on May 16, 2012


How am I just now hearing about this?

You haven't been listening to your Simpsons DVD commentary.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:06 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


You haven't been listening to your Simpsons DVD commentary.

I think the only commentary I played all the way through was Dawn of the Dead with Romero and Savini.
posted by zzazazz at 3:12 PM on May 16, 2012


Swartzwelder is responsible for many iconic episodes, yet he was writing for them for at least 5 years after 1999, which was the last time I remember the Simpons having a decent episode. Did he slack off during his final years with the show?
posted by asnider at 3:16 PM on May 16, 2012


I'm pretty wary of this guy. He's written some brilliant eps, "Homer the Vigilante", "You only move twice", "Bart's Comet", but then he's also written utter shit like "Maximum Homerdrive", "Mountain of Madness", etc. Seems like his novels could go either way.
posted by Chekhovian at 3:17 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, I just learned that one of the problems of self-publishing is that your work isn't really available in a medium-to-small city's libraries.
posted by oddman at 3:18 PM on May 16, 2012


I like to think it's not that he slacked off, but that the tone of the show changed so much over the years. Is there an alternate universe where "Homer at the Bat" could be a S14 episode? Maybe. Swartzwelder wrote "Kill the Alligator and Run" and a lot of superfans won't forgive him for that, but he was so good in his prime I don't think it matters. As far as the novels, I've heard that the first one is great but they start to get repetitive.
posted by Lorin at 3:22 PM on May 16, 2012


I started The Time Machine Did It once it went up on the Kindle store. It is dense with jokes, and entertaining enough, but I found that made it almost impenetrable. I really should give it another go though.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:23 PM on May 16, 2012


So how did a guy with that personality get the Simpsons job in the first place? And why isn't he published by a major house?
posted by Yakuman at 3:35 PM on May 16, 2012


Well, thanks to this fpp, I went and downloaded the Burly books. I'm literally just a few pages in but:
"The fight was fairly even for awhile, but then the other guy got in a lucky roundhouse punch to my jaw, followed by three lucky kicks to my ribs, then he had the good fortune to step on my face."
"I’ve been told by people that I’m shaped kind of like a garbage can, but I don’t know if that’s the truth, or just some kind of an insult."
Holy crap. Good joke after good joke. Highly recommended.
posted by Trochanter at 3:41 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Swartzwelder wrote "Kill the Alligator and Run" and a lot of superfans won't forgive him for that, but

they keep watching the fucking show even though they haven't enjoyed it in 15 years?
posted by shmegegge at 3:42 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


The bulk of the series, Dude.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:43 PM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Krusty Gets Kancelled

so good. Gabbo!
posted by Ironmouth at 3:44 PM on May 16, 2012


Swartzwelder sounds like Ron Swanson.

Greg Daniels worked on the Simpsons in the early years and is a creator of Parks & Rec. I refuse to believe the Swartzwelder/Swanson similarities are a co-incidence.
posted by Gary at 3:46 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


“Any calls?” I asked.
She didn’t look up from her magazine. “What am I, your secretary?”
“Yes.”

God. It just goes on and on.
posted by Trochanter at 3:47 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Greg Daniels worked on the Simpsons in the early years and is a creator of Parks & Rec. I refuse to believe the Swartzwelder/Swanson similarities are a co-incidence.

that is a fucking amazing point, and if anyone has the ability to ask him, please please do and share it.
posted by shmegegge at 3:51 PM on May 16, 2012


he's written 59 episodes of The Simpsons, far more than any other writer, even when the show is quickly approaching five hundred episodes

he could barge into any publishing house and declare “I've written 20% of all Simpsons episodes”


Well, he could say that, but it might make him look math-challenged.
posted by yerfatma at 4:02 PM on May 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


they keep watching the fucking show even though they haven't enjoyed it in 15 years?

Probably longer, people were already saying the show had gone downhill for most of the so-called classic era.
posted by Lorin at 4:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I refuse to believe the Swartzwelder/Swanson similarities are a co-incidence.

Swartzwelder is also supposed to be kind of gun nut, which fits even more.

That said, I almost liked it better when he all thought "John Swartzwelder" was a fictional construct.
posted by The Whelk at 4:05 PM on May 16, 2012


David Cohen once related a story of Swartzwelder going on an extended diatribe about how there is more rain forest on Earth now than there was a hundred years ago.[7]

No words.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:08 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


HuffPo On the connection between Swanson/Swartzwlder
posted by The Whelk at 4:15 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, given that I'm looking for well-written funny novels, this is so very serendipitous. Thank you!
posted by smirkette at 4:20 PM on May 16, 2012


You haven't been listening to your Simpsons DVD commentary.
posted by Space Coyote


In your face!
posted by Nomyte at 4:32 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am only your memory, I cannot give you any new information.
posted by The Whelk at 4:33 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


My new best friend's name is EARL
posted by ShawnString at 4:53 PM on May 16, 2012


"Hello? Is this, uh, GBM? I read in the personals you were seeking a soulmate. Well, I also like rainy days and movies."
posted by Nomyte at 5:04 PM on May 16, 2012


"You Only Move Twice" is just amazing, one of my favorites. I'll have to check out one of the novels.

Also, the Johnny Cash Space Coyote is my spirit animal.
posted by vibrotronica at 5:18 PM on May 16, 2012


Yakuman, according to the HuffPo link The Whelk provided on the Swanson is Swartzwelder hypothesis:

"Starting off as a writer on "Saturday Night Live" in the mid eighties during the non-Lorne Michaels years, in 1988 he began contributing to the magazine "Army Man," a hugely influential humor periodical founded by George Meyer that only lasted six issues. Based on the underground success of the 'zine, he and many of his "Army Man" cohorts joined the inaugural writing staff of "The Simpsons." Swartzwelder would go on to have 59 episodes of the show credited to his name, more than any other writer."
posted by Naberius at 5:22 PM on May 16, 2012


He did write some good ones: "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment" is one of my favs and "Homer the Great." I thought he wrote "Homer Badman" (with the appearance of the great Gummi De Milo and my favorite line "eh, you don't like the old timey bikes, huh?"), but I was wrong. I'm still kind of partial to Conan's episodes ("Homer Goes to College" is sheer humor and "Marge v. Monorail" is funny). And I like Ken Keeler's off-beat episodes (the Space Coyote episode and the first appearance of Disco Stu in "Two Bad Neighbors").
posted by dios at 5:30 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, and if you haven't read Army Man yet, waste no time. #1 was reprinted in an old issue of the Believer that I have lying around somewhere.

WACKY WEDDINGS
If Sheila Fucking married Steve Asshole she'd be Shelia Fucking Asshole.
If Crystal Gayle married Billy Crystal she'd be out of her mind.


Too bad steak isn't considered a precious metal, because I'd like to go into a restaurant and order a steak and pay for it with a steak. It would give everyone a chill because they would be thinking, "What kind of a world have we gone and created here?"


Eighteen months ago, doctors at Mercy Hospital told Manny Hofstadter he would never walk again. Sadly, they were right. Hofstadter is still in a wheelchair. The good news is that his three doctors will receive the prestigious Lundberg Prize for Diagnostic Excellence.
posted by zvs at 6:34 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the only commentary I played all the way through was Dawn of the Dead with Romero and Savini.

If you like Romero, there's a swell extra on the DVD of 'Tales of Hoffmann'.
posted by ovvl at 8:10 PM on May 16, 2012


If you would like to buy his books, I believe he is selling them semi-directly through this ebay account. From what I recall, others have said they reek of a thousand cigarettes when you open the box.
posted by arruns at 8:32 PM on May 16, 2012


I've read four of the Frank Burly books. Quick reads but fun and funny. For a while I thought it was a dark shot that Swartzwelder might write @DadBoner, some of the voice was similar, but I guess that ship has sailed.
posted by JoeGoblin at 8:33 PM on May 16, 2012


People, the man gave us THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING, he could've retired after that.
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Haha yeah, and Radioactive Man was one of the SNPP capsules I read earlier where people said stuff like "Gee, the writers have really run out of ideas!"

I've always been curious which Simpsons writer is responsible for introducing the most memes into pop culture. It's not a Swartzwelder ep, but "The PTA Disbands" alone has the Slashdot favorite "In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!", Jasper's "That's a paddlin'", and the idea of Canada being all "tucked away down there". The density of classic bits in that episode makes me wish Jennifer Crittenden wrote more episodes.
posted by Lorin at 8:58 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh no one at the SNPP ever liked anything.
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't forget "Purple Monkey Dishwasher"
posted by Chekhovian at 9:20 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think I can ever forget Purple Monkey Dishwasher.

Also:

THE HAND THING MEANS THE TAXES

HONK IF YOU LOVE COOKIES

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT FLYING A KITE AT NIGHT THAT'S SO ......UNWHOLESOME
posted by The Whelk at 9:31 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kids have been doing that since my day.
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 PM on May 16, 2012


HE EVEN LOOKS LIKE RON SWANSON.

I want to be in the Schwartzwelder - Pawnee Rangers
posted by stratastar at 10:34 PM on May 16, 2012


So, I just learned that one of the problems of self-publishing is that your work isn't really available in a medium-to-small city's libraries.

Look into inter-library loaning. I actually started doing it to read these books, and it was totally worth it. My library charged maybe $1.50, and I got to read library books from Salt Lake City, Binghampton, NY and southern California. Fun times!
posted by cottoncandybeard at 6:31 AM on May 17, 2012


Back when my library had inter-library loan, I got several of these novels and read them. I particularly liked The Time Machine Did It.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2012


Ummm, cottoncandybeard, that should actually be Binghamton NY ;-)
posted by gregjunior at 12:09 PM on May 17, 2012


I agree with the article that I wish he tried his hand at a few more novels like "Double Wonderful". The Frank Burley books have gotten kind of lazy. Which is a shame because it used to be such a great day visiting his website and discovering there was another book to read.
posted by Gary at 6:13 PM on May 17, 2012


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