Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Matthew Hughes

In the Kaslo Chronicles, you must manage character arcs during the story as well as through the overall series. How do you approach such an intricate knotwork of character growth?

Intuitively. I set the characters down in the arena and let them do what comes natural to them, bearing in mind that, as their creator, I want to see them struggle against each other and their situations. I give them agendas and then let them pursue their goals — although the goals may evolve as they do. I really don’t do much conscious thinking about who does what next. When I reach for it, there it is. Like walking a tightrope in the dark. I can’t see the cable, but I know it will be there when I put my foot down.

The opening exchanges at the beginning of “The Blood of a Dragon” hark back to images from works as diverse as Lovecraft and Howard to Phil Foglio’s popular comic, Buck Godot: Zap Gun For Hire, the presence of an immense being/creation trapped in a different reality. Here you not only address the creature itself, but also the realities of attempting to communicate with such a being. When you first envisioned the entity, how did you view such communications? Have those ideas changed over the course of writing the Chronicles?

When I first envisioned it, I didn’t know what it was. It was just this off-stage actor with immense power but confined to the Seventh Plane, though I didn’t know what or why. But I’ve always been moved by the plight of Prometheus, with Zeus’s eagle eating his liver, ever since I encountered him in the Heracles tale when I’d have been about ten or so. So that motif swam up from the depths of my unconscious and I worked it in. I’ve used it in other stories.

Over the course of the stories, you’ve had fun exploring the possibilities of different perceptions and spaces — geometries, as you will. What is it about such possibilities that appeals to you as a writer?

Since I was quite young, I have had this sense that the fourth-dimensional universe we inhabit is a kind of conjuror’s trick, especially the part about sequential time. If we could see reality as it is, rather than how we’re merely wired to experience it, we’d say, “Oh, well, of course.” Back when I used to take LSD, that sense was reinforced, because I got to see mundane objects in all their actual splendor. The feeling has stuck with me for almost fifty years now.

Egyptian, Celtic, Brit, and a splash of Slavic. What inspired the multiple layers of the magic system used in the story?

I’m using Jack Vance’s system, but I’ve thought about how it might work. Will is immensely important, and the ability to focus it using techniques involving sound and body position. There are things called fluxions that can be manipulated and made to cohere or clash, and out of those actions come the effects.

What’s next for Kaslo?

Don’t know. Could be another novel. Could be more stories. Maybe I’d jump ahead a few years/decades to give him time to reach his potential. And now it’s just occurred to me: In my Henghis Hapthorn novel, The Spiral Labyrinth, which mostly takes place on Old Earth a few centuries after the great change, there’s reference to a powerful thaumaturge named Albruithine, who settled much of the initial chaos and made it possible for ordinary folks to live their lives in some kind of peace and order. Kaslo might be Albruithine, if I decided to explore that business.

But I tend to take characters to the ends of their arcs of development and just set them loose. I feel I owe them a chance at happiness after all the crap I put them through.

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Sandra Odell

Sandra Odell

Sandra Odell is a 47-year old, happily married mother of two, an avid reader, compulsive writer, and rabid chocoholic. Her work has appeared in such venues as Jim Baen’s UNIVERSE, Daily Science Fiction, Crosssed Genres, Pseudopod, and The Drabblecast. She is hard at work plotting her second novel or world domination. Whichever comes first.