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Interview: Kelly Jennings on “The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs”

Tell us a bit about “The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs.”

I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic stories. (As a genre – I have no interest in living through an actual apocalypse.) Plus I love dog stories and stories about aliens.

I also wanted a story with a happy ending. I read a lot of science fiction, and somehow I’d gotten into a stretch of reading stories that ended badly. I mean, the endings fit the stories, so I’m not complaining. Those were the right endings for those stories. But somehow since that was what I was reading, that started being what I was writing – all my stories started having these dark endings.

So with this one, despite the circumstances, which are grim, I wanted to find my way to as happy an ending as possible, for these characters.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

Fort Smith, which is where I live – you might know the town if you’ve read a book by Charles Portis called True Grit – has a wonderful dog park. We take our dog Heywood Floyd there often, because he’s part Jack Russell terrier and very high energy.

I’m kind of lying, and kind of not. Heywood does need his exercise, but mostly we go there because it’s a dog park, which is like a dog petting zoo.

So one day when I was there, petting a very friendly Border collie mix, I found the idea for “The History of the Invasion…” in my head. It was a hot summer day, which is probably why there’s so much snow in the story. Summers in Arkansas are brutal.


Was “The History of the Invasion…” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

It’s personal in a couple of ways, yes – one is the setting, which is mostly Arkansas, though our point of view character does leave the Boston Mountains halfway through the story. I live here in Northwest Arkansas and have for most of my adult life.

People who don’t live here have this perception of Arkansas as a place filled with toothless, ignorant, meth-using hicks. Barefoot hicks. I’ve started setting many of my stories in Arkansas, even the ones that are set on far-off planets, partly as a way to combat that perception of the state, which is beautiful place to live with a rich culture. (Not that we don’t have our share of ignorance. I mean, google Harrison, Arkansas one time.)

I also love the dialect here, the Southern Mountain English. The main character in “History of the Invasion” uses a mild version of it – I toned it down a lot. I taught History of English for years, and the study of English dialect is one of my true loves. I always enjoy a chance to write in it.


What are you working on now?

I’m currently finishing revisions on a novel set in the same universe as my first novel. This one is about the character, Velocity Wrachant, featured in the story, “Velocity’s Ghost,” which appeared in the anthology The Other Half of the Sky, published by Candlemark & Gleam.  Athena Andreadis, who published that anthology and who owns Candlemark & Gleam, is working with me on this novel as well.

It’s set mostly in space, not in Arkansas. No aliens, unless we count AI as aliens, which I kind of do.


Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d just like to thank Charlie Finlay one last time for working with me on this story.  He’s such a wonderful editor!


“The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs” appears in the May/June 2017 issue of F&SF.

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Interview: Matthew Hughes on “The Prognosticant”

Tell us a bit about “The Prognosticant.”

It’s a continuation of the career of young Baldemar, who was introduced in the last issue in “Ten Half-Pennies” as a budding wizard’s henchman working for a thaumaturge who calls himself Thelerion the Incomparable (though his fellow wizards would likely change that to “Incompetent”).

In “The Prognosticant,” Baldemar and his supervisor, Oldo, are sent out to a ruined ancient city in the desert to bring back a magical object known as the Helm of Sagacity.  But the Helm, it turns out, is not just an object:  it’s an entity, and a powerful one.  And it has its own agenda.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I’m writing the life of a character in a Jack Vance-inspired, Dying Earth fantasy world.  Like most of my characters, Baldemar is an outlier, as becomes evident as he deals with what the world hands him.  He’s not your average henchman.


Your Archonate Universe stories are influenced by Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series of stories.  How did you discover Vance’s work, and why does it speak to you as a writer?

I read “The Dragon Masters” in a copy of Galaxy that my eldest brother left lying around back in 1962 and was absolutely captivated.  There is a coolness to Vance’s work, a sense that I’m being drawn into some kind of phase shift, a mood of ironic and ineffable strangeness that just seems a right fit for me.  And then there’s the arch dialog, and the spot-on perfect minimalist descriptions, and the antihero protagonists.  I haven’t read sff since the mid 1980s, except for anything of Vance’s that I came across.  And Gene Wolf.


9 Tales of Raffalon by Matthew HughesAnything else you’d like to add?

I recently put together all the Raffalon stories, including “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” from the bestselling anthology, ROGUES, and “Sternutative Sortilege,” an original novelette that is exclusive to the collection.  To reward my core fans, I’m offering it as a 99-cent ebook through my website.  Later on, I’ll move it to Amazon and raise the price to $3.99 and do a POD paperback for $12.99.



“The Prognosticant” appears in the May/June 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here:

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here:

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle):

Amazon US (Kindle edition):

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If you click on the image of Matthew Hughes’s latest story collection, you will be taken to the author’s Archonate Bookstore, where you can purchase an ebook copy of 9 Tales of Raffalon.

Editor’s Note for May/June 2017

New stories by Richard Bowes, Leah Cypess, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Matthew Hughes and more!

The May/June issue of the magazine can be found in most Barnes & Noble stores, as well as many local independent booksellers. You can order a single copy from our website or buy an electronic edition from Amazon, AmazonUK, and — now, available worldwide and in every format — through Weightless Books.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2017, cover by Maurizio ManzieriThis month’s cover is by Maurizio Manzieri, illustrating “The Prognosticant” by Matthew Hughes. To see more of his work, visit his website at


In the March/April issue we published “Ten Half-Pennies,” in which Matthew Hughes introduced us to a new character in his Archonate universe — Baldemar, a young wizard’s henchman. Baldemar’s adventures continue in this issue with “The Prognosticant.” As you can probably tell by the cover image, his problems get much larger.


Along with the new Hughes story, we have a wide variety of great fantasy in this issue. Elgin Award winning poet Shannon Connor Winward makes her F&SF debut in this issue with a traditional fantasy, “Witch’s Hour.” Richard Bowes marks his twenty-fifth anniversary of F&SF stories with “Dirty Old Town,” a contemporary fantasy about growing up in Boston. And Leah Cypess offers us “Neko Brushes,” a story inspired by the Japanese folktale “The Boy Who Drew Cats.” And Zach Shephard, another writer making his first appearance in the magazine, brings us dense world-building and a complex character in his flash story, “The Woman With the Long, Black Hair.”

You’ll also find a wide variety of science fiction in this issue. Brian Trent, who first appeared in F&SF a year ago with “The Last of the Sharkspeakers,” returns to the magazine with “A Thousand Deaths Through Flesh and Stone,” a story about human identity in a post-human world. Kelly Jennings returns us to a more familiar — and more threatened — Earth with her F&SF debut, “A History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs.” Gregor Hartmann returns to the planet Zephyr and his outer space adventure series with “What the Hands Know.” John Schoffstall makes his first appearance in the magazine with another fast-paced story that explores identity, “The First Day of Someone Else’s Life.” And Nina Kiriki Hoffman, who last appeared in our January/February issue with the charming fantasy story “Cinnamon and Vinegar,” returns to our pages with “Rings,” a darker space adventure that shows off her versatility and range.

And we’re also pleased to introduce you to the work of R. S. Benedict, a writer who makes her fiction debut in this issue with a compelling and hard-to-categorize story, “My English Name.”


Charles de Lint suggests Books to Look For by Justine Larbalestier (“Wow!”), Elizabeth Hand, and Joe R. Lansdale, as well as a graphic novel by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, and Lee Sullivan, a new anthology edited by Jaym Gates and Monica L. Valentinelli, and the Bookburners series by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, and Brian Frances Slattery. Elizabeth Hand recommends new books by Peter S. Beagle and Graeme Macrae Burnet, along with Literary Wonderlands, edited by Laura Miller. In our television column, David J. Skal considers “Western Histories” as interpreted by HBO’s “Westworld” series and season 2 of Amazon Prime’s “The Man in the High Castle.” And for our Curiosities column, Mark Esping explores the work of obscure writer/artist Annabell Krebs Culverwell, who published much of her work under the name of “Columba,” including her first novel The Moon is Inhabited (1961).

As we announced in January, the Science Column by Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty has returned to every issue. This month continues their exploration of robotics with driverless cars and other “Robots On The Road”.

Paul Di Filippo contributes a new Plumage from Pegasus column, “Happiness is a Worn Gunn.” (Yes, it is. Yes, it is.)

And we also publish the results of F&SF Competition #93, “True Names,” and announce a new competition with a chance to win some fabulous prizes, including subscriptions to F&SF.


We hope you’ll share your thoughts about the issue with us. We can be found on:

In the meantime… enjoy!

C.C. Finlay, Editor
Fantasy & Science Fiction | @fandsf

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