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Interview: Matthew Hughes on “Air of the Overworld”

Matthew HughesTell us a bit about “Air of the Overworld.”

It’s a continuation of the development of Baldemar, the wizard’s henchman, who started off as an exceptionally street-smart ten-year-old in “Ten Half-Pennies,” then became a debt collector’s apprentice and finally henchman to a vainglorious thaumaturge named Thelerion.  Then he came to the attention of a kind of god that had its own agenda for him, and which made some changes in Baldemar’s being that made him more useful to the god.  After a side-trip into politics and police work, those changes brought him to the notice of other thaumaturges.  And now, in “Air of the Overworld,” a powerful wizard wants to use the henchman for purposes that pose an existential threat to Baldemar.  So, once again, he has to find a way to foil those who do not wish him well.

 

Was this story personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Somewhat.  Looking back on my life, it has occurred to me lately that, like Baldemar, I was often a henchman to powerful figures in the worlds of politics and business, while also being a fish out of water in those milieus, having begun my life as one of the working poor.  So I know what it’s like to be a part of somebody else’s plans, with little power to change them.

 

Can you tell us anything about your writing process for “Air of the Overworld?”

Not much.  I start at the beginning and keep on going to the end.  One draft, a polish, and there it is.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m writing The Do-Gooder, a sequel to a suspense novel, One More Kill, that has come out in limited edition hardcover in the UK and will be out in paperback and ebook editions in North America later this year.  Both are about an ex-Special Forces officer, unfairly invalided out of the US Army, who falls into a “hobby” of killing people who have done great harm and got away with it.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve come to an agreement with Jack Vance’s son, John, that I will be writing a sequel to Jack Vance’s iconic Demon Princes series.  I’ll work on it this summer, after I finish The Do-Gooder.

Also, I’d like to plug once more my big historical/magical realism novel, What the Wind Brings, that I waited more than forty years to write.  I’ve just received a very kind review of the novel from Dr. Joseph Bruchac, an eminent author of traditional tales from indigenous cultures who has a story in the upcoming May/June issue of F&SF.

He says the book is, “. . . one of those stories that you wish would never end as you are reading it. Its evocation of the clash of cultures —Indigenous, African and Spanish– in 16th century Ecuador is more than merely memorable. It is what I would call required reading for anyone interested in the early colonial history of the Americas.”

 

“Air of the Overworld” appears in the January/February 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc2001.htm

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here: https://weightlessbooks.com/authors/kelly-link-authors/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-september-october-2019/

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

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

Weightless Books (all formats): https://weightlessbooks.com/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-6-issue-subscription/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

Click on Mr. Hughes’s photo to visit his website.

Interview: Auston Habershaw on “Three Gowns for Clara”

Tell us a bit about “Three Gowns for Clara.”

“Three Gowns for Clara” is a story about the story of Cinderella, or another way of putting it: what did the story of Cinderella look like from the outside? It is told from the POV of a local seamstress, pressed and harried by the fact that every single girl in the kingdom needs a ball gown on short notice.

 

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

One of the things I’ve consistently thought about since seeing the Disney animated Cinderella as a kid (and many, many times since then) is how awful it must be to be sitting on the outside of that particular tale. Consider the plight of the Grand Duke–here’s a guy who presumably has a lot of other, more important things to do, and yet he has his life threatened and his decorum totally overturned by a psychotic monarch hell-bent upon grandchildren. He’s attacked with a sword! He has to go to EVERYONE’S HOUSE trying on shoes all night long! That’s abuse! Now, even with all that, the guy is still the Grand Duke and has a lot of wealth and privilege to fall back on. What about the little people? The ones who aren’t Cinderella? That’s where this story comes in. And, incidentally, I also think the story is true to the central theme of Disney’s Cinderella, in which Cinderella states “They can’t order me to stop dreaming.” Here I take that sentiment and explore it a little further.

 

Why do you write?

I can honestly say I have no idea. I can’t remember not writing. I have always, always been obsessed with stories; I love telling them, I love hearing them, I love talking about them. Sit with me for twenty minutes and I’ll tell you at least fifteen anecdotes. Writing, for me, is a way to release all the pent-up excitement of all the stories running around my head. If I didn’t do it, I’d go nuts.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

This is also one of those really complex questions that defy simple answers. If I were to say which authors I admire most, I’d include the likes of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson and Ursula K. Le Guin, but I don’t in any way write like any of them (I can’t! I wish I could!). In terms of my development as an author, I can credit Lloyd Alexander, Robert Jordan, Robert Louis Stephenson, Weiss and Hickman, and Robert E. Howard with shaping a lot of what I do–I remember reading them and really starting to think about what a story or a novel is and is not. In truth, probably the greatest influence over my writing has been Dungeons and Dragons, which I’ve been DM-ing consistently since I was 12 or 13 (almost 30 years!), but of course if you look at “Three Gowns for Clara” you see nothing of the kind in there. So, who knows?

 

What are you working on now?

My current novel project is a time travel tale in which I give a time machine to a low-level mob enforcer and he gets himself into an awful lot of trouble (sort of a “Doctor Who Meets Quentin Tarantino” kind of thing). As for stories, I always have about three or four in the fire at any one time, but who knows when/if any of them will be done or make it to print. Keep your eyes open, I guess!

 

“Three Gowns for Clara” appears in the January/February 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc2001.htm

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here: https://weightlessbooks.com/authors/kelly-link-authors/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-september-october-2019/

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

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

Weightless Books (all formats): https://weightlessbooks.com/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-6-issue-subscription/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

The Far Far Better Thing, the final book in Auston Habershaw’s fantasy series The Saga of the Redeemed, was released in March.  You can visit his website by clicking on his photo.

Interview: Alex Irvine on “Chisel and Chime”

Alex IrvineTell us a bit about “Chisel and Chime.”

“Chisel and Chime” returns to Borea, the setting of my previous F&SF stories “Wizard’s Six” and “Dragon’s Teeth.” It tells the story of Melandra Cordilena, an artist who is chosen to receive a great honor. She will sculpt the official statue of the Imperator of the city of Ie Fure. The only downside is that by tradition, every artist chosen for this honor dies once the work is completed. The story of her artistic work intertwines with the history of her guard, a young man by the name of Brant, and as she learns more about his troubled history, they begin to envision a new possible future that breaks free of the traditions that bind them both.

 

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

I’ve been fiddling with new Borea ideas for a long time, which is unusual for me because I don’t usually write sequels or prequels. But something about that place draws me back. I’ve got a notebook full of Borea story seeds, and this one started to germinate as I filtered various things I see in the world around me through the sensibility of Borea: the boy becoming a soldier because his upbringing has left him no other choice, the artist whose ambitions collide with the ruthless ways power tries to channel and instrumentalize art, the way small acts of kindness can have life-changing results.

 

Was “Chisel and Chime” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

All of my stories are personal to me in some way. They begin with something I care about. In this case, it was Brant’s confusion and sense of helplessness, his desperate need to connect, which I think a lot of kids feel, especially when their family situations are chaotic or violent. I know a little about this, although I certainly never experienced anything like Brant does.

In another way, this story is a reflection on the benefits and perils of conditioning your art to meet mass expectations. I’m just coming out of a decade in which 95% of what I wrote was licensed work. In a lot of ways that was great, because I got to work in a ton of story universes I have loved since I was a kid, and I’ve made a decent living at it. Who could complain about writing Marvel stories, or Batman, or Transformers, etc.? It’s a blast, and I’ll keep doing it. On the other hand, once you start devoting all of your creative energy to projects set in someone else’s worlds, you can start to feel constrained. I wasn’t consciously thinking about this while I wrote Melandra’s story, but in hindsight, I guess some of that sentiment percolates through “Chisel and Chime.”

 

Can you tell us anything about your writing process for this story?

Usually I don’t start writing a story until I know the ending. “Chisel and Chime” was different because it came together over a period of a year or so, with various fits and starts, and I didn’t understand the ending until I had already written most of a first draft. The first glimmer of the story was the bit with the chimes in the river. It floated through my head while I was on a plane to Los Angeles, scribbling in a notebook. I listened to it for a while and then put together a story that I read at World Fantasy in San Antonio in 2017. Sometimes readings are great because they point out to you all the ways your story wasn’t really ready for an audience, and that certainly happened in this case. After that reading, I put the story down to think about why it wasn’t working. In parallel I had begun to think about Melandra’s story, and over the next few months I figured out the two stories belonged together. After that, everything came together pretty quickly.

 

Why do you write?

A large part of it is just the joy of telling a story. I love hearing stories, I love reading stories, I love telling stories. Mixed into that joy is a more serious compulsion, which is to be heard. I don’t have a TV show or a Youtube channel or a million followers on Instagram. Nobody cares if I write a letter to Congress. But sometimes (I hope) I can write a story that will get people thinking about things I think are important. Or perhaps a reader will connect with a story of mine in a personal way that helps them understand or process something in their own lives. It’s empathy at a distance, it’s me trying to figure out how to understand my own experience of the world, and hoping those efforts resonate with other people. Also I would like to get rich and be lionized after my death.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

A tricky question. There are writers who have shaped the way I understand stories, and writers who I admire on a technical level, and writers I find captivating because they come at the world from an angle I’d never thought of. I hope to assimilate some of all those influences—and of course like most writers I’m probably blind to other influences that seem plain to people reading my fiction.

More specifically: Whenever I’m working in a fantasy mode, as in “Chisel and Chime,” my lodestar is Ursula Le Guin. I would also like to have the visionary recklessness of Philip K. Dick and Franz Kafka, the sly humor of Elmore Leonard and Ring Lardner, the sentence-to-sentence richness of Toni Morrison, the ebullience of Salman Rushdie, the intensity of Virginia Woolf…but in the end, I’m just me, trying to figure out each story the best way I know how.

 

“Chisel and Chime” appears in the January/February 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc2001.htm

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here: https://weightlessbooks.com/authors/kelly-link-authors/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-september-october-2019/

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

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

Weightless Books (all formats): https://weightlessbooks.com/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-6-issue-subscription/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

Alex Irvine’s website, https://alex-irvine.com/, can also be accessed by clicking on his photo.

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