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Interview: Matthew Hughes on “Argent and Sable”

Tell us a bit about the story.

“Argent and Sable” continues the development of Baldemar, a poor boy who first became an assistant to a debt collector then segued into a career as a wizard’s henchman.  A mission his master sent him on brought him into contact with an interplanar entity — the Helm of Sagacity — who “altered” the young man so that he could be sent on a perilous quest that the entity had sent plenty of others on over the millennia, all of whom ended up badly.  But Baldemar succeeded, and now he is trying to discern just how different he now is, starting with exploring the quality of luck that the Helm gifted him with.


Matthew HughesWhat was the inspiration for “Argent and Sable,” or what prompted you to write it?

In the largest sense, I’m exploring the Dying Earth that the brilliant Jack Vance ceded to sfdom, and doing it through the development of roguish characters:  thieves, thaumaturges, and henchmen.  A lot of Baldemar’s experiences so far illustrate how magic works (and how it sometimes doesn’t).  In the next episode, “The Plot Against Fantucco’s Armor,” wizardly rivalries overlap into high-level political intrigue, which will lead Baldemar to a new kind of work.  Then, in the episode after “Fantucco,” which I’m just finishing, we move into a Dying Earth police procedural.

If I’m doing this right, the reader ought to be getting a wider picture of how a world of wizards and walled cities might work.


Continuing their introduction at the end of “Jewel of the Heart,” you have delved into two new fluxions from which wizards draw their powers: argent and sable.  Do you have any plans to explore these new fluxions in further Archonate stories?

Oh, yes.  Indeed, in Gardner Dozois’s anthology, The Book of Magic, coming out in October, I have a story called “The Friends of Masquelayne the Incomparable,” in which argent and sable fluxions are crucial to the plot.  Spoiler alert:  the title is an oxymoron, Masquelayne doesn’t have, and doesn’t deserve, any friends at all.


What are you working on now?

Once I’ve finished up the new Baldemar novelette, I’ll be in a wait-and-see mode.  I’ve got a new suspense novel coming out in hardcover, One More Kill, which George R.R. Martin was kind enough to blurb for me.  He said, “Fans of Lawrence Block’s Keller stories are going to love ONE MORE KILL.   I certainly did.   Matt Hughes kept me up all night, turning pages.”  I’m looking to do a deal for the North American rights which might lead to my writing a sequel.  But I’m also looking for a publisher for Ghost Dreams, about a burglar and a ghost, for which I might also do a sequel.

A couple of things I’d like readers to know:  I’ll be at WorldCon in August, ready to sign any work of mine, and I’m still hoping to attract more pledges by patrons to my Patreon account, so that I can afford to keep on writing.   Link:


“Argent and Sable” appears in the May/June 2018 issue of F&SF.

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In addition to Mr. Hughes’s Patreon account noted at the end of the interview, if you click on his photo, you’ll be taken to his website.


One Response to “Interview: Matthew Hughes on “Argent and Sable””

  1. Archonate | Interview on F&SF blog on May 8th, 2018

    […] runs in the May/June issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, I’ve done an interview with F&SF‘s Stephen […]

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