Buy F&SF • Read F&SF • Contact F&SF • Advertise In F&SF • Blog • Forum • RSS

Interview: David Gullen on “The Moss Kings”

David GullenTell us a bit about “The Moss Kings.”

Magic has returned to the land, but its wielders are not nice, and are very powerful. In an attempt to resist their demands, a feudal, rural society takes the first faltering steps towards a form of scientific method. The story is told through the eyes of a messenger, a young man tasked with delivering bad news, who seeks his own place in a dangerous and changing world.




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

One way to look at genre fiction is as an ongoing conversation of ideas and treatments, an examination of what currently fascinates us informed by the achievements of contemporary writers, the back catalogue, and so on. While I don’t believe the genres form a movement, they do have direction. A story one writer tells can inspire another, sometimes obliquely, sometimes with a direct thought along the lines of ‘Ah, yes, but what if you did it this way?’ Most of the time for me stories, non-fiction, and everything else, go into what I think of as a subconscious melting pot that then – somehow – feeds back into what I do. In this case a particular tale pressed a few buttons directly, resonated with some ideas that hadn’t yet become a story, and drew them into focus.


Was “The Moss Kings” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I trained as a plant biologist, the world we live in is biological from the atmosphere to the oceans. Even some of the geology, like chalk deposits, would not exist without life. I enjoy inventing a botanical take on the fantastic in my writing – if the story will support it. The world of “The Moss Kings” was very accommodating, and the names of the magical entities arrived like gifts.


What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

One of the things I adore about genre fiction is that a story can put you into a wider world of imaginary cultures with their own beliefs, hopes and fears, a past, an unfolding future, all set in real and mythic landscapes you feel you could walk into and discover more stories of your own imagination. If I’ve inspired any of that in some readers then I am very content.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

Originally, Vance and Ballard, Tanith Lee, Gene Wolfe, Hugh Lofting. King Neptune (who baptised me when I was three years old, a story in its own right). For “The Moss Kings” I’m sure I channelled a mix of Robert Holdstock, Lord Dunsany, and Sylvia Townsend Warner. I’ve read far too many history books, and books on myths and fairy stories. And… this is a list that goes on and on, like that melting-pot of ideas. I doubt I could truly finish it, for one thing it keeps growing.

I also have my critical and supporting influences – my friends, mentors and other writers who give me sound advice and upon whom I can lean for support when I am in need.


What are you working on now?

Three main things at the moment: I’m part-way through the final draft of a fantasy novel before I send it out on submission; somewhere in the middle of an SF novel of cavern-cities at war on a dying world; and finally, staring out the window and stroking my beard about a short story I’ve been asked to submit to an anthology.


“The Moss Kings” appears in the May/June 2019 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):

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):

David Gullen’s website:

David Gullen’s latest book, Shopocalypse, described as “A Bonnie and Clyde for the Trump Era” out from NewCon Press:


Leave a Reply

If this is your first time leaving a comment, your comment may enter the moderation queue. If it doesn't appear right away, don't panic; it should show up once site administrators verify you're not a spambot. After you successfully post a comment, future comments will no longer be moderated.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Copyright © 2006–2020 The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction • All Rights Reserved Worldwide
Powered by WordPress • Theme based on Whitespace theme by Brian Gardner
If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to

Designed by Rodger Turner and Hosted by:
SF Site spot art