Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Matthew Hughes

In “His Elbow, Unkissed,” Kaslo and Obron have strong similarities but also key differences in how they think. Obron understands much more of the magical realm and assumes that these are the only ways to solve problems, while Kaslo is a practical and strategic thinker. What was your process of writing these two characters like?

The process is intuitive. There’s a little piece of wisdom I sometimes offer to people who are starting out to write fiction: You think it’s your story because you’re writing it, but it’s actually the characters’ story and you’re just writing it for them. So when I’m writing from Kaslo’s point of view, I become him, although in a non-psychotic way. I don’t become Obron, because I’m seeing him from Kaslo’s POV. But I feel him hovering at my elbow.

The story has a lot of new and original terms constantly being used; how much do you worry about your reader understanding context clues besides just spelling things out? You fully explain what a “reciprocating weapon” is even though both characters would know, but at other points you drop a new word or phrase in and keep the story rolling.

My experience is that most people who read science fiction (and science fantasy, as this story is) tend to be of more-than-average intelligence. I count on them to catch what I’m pitching, as long as I don’t throw too many screwballs. The explanation of a reciprocating weapon was self-indulgence; I thought it was a neat idea.

You’ve spoken before about how the Ten Thousand Worlds go through these switches in operating principles from rational cause-and-effect to “sympathetic association,” which is magic. That seems to be one of the key aspects of “His Elbow, Unkissed,” and the focus is mostly on three of the major players here: Erm Kaslo, Diomedo Obron, and Phalloon. Who else would know of this shift? How soon would it theoretically be happening?

On every world there are a few who know it’s going to happen. They are dismissed as kooks, because when rationalism is in the ascendant, everybody knows that magic is hokum. Conversely, when magic rules, everybody knows that cause-and-effect physics is unreliable in a universe that operates on the basis of focused will.

The change will actually happen in the next episode, “Phalloon the Illimitable.”

You’ve also mentioned that you’re publishing the Kaslo series as a serial or an “episodic novel.” How many episodes do you plan on writing? The world seems incredibly interesting, entertaining, and fleshed out, so after you finish the episodes would you ever see yourself returning to the Ten Thousand Worlds?

At this point, I’ve written six episodes, of which “His Elbow, Unkissed” is the third. I’m not an outliner, so I’m not entirely sure how many more there will be, but at least twelve. As for the Ten Thousand Worlds milieu, I’ve been setting novels and stories in it, under the general heading of the Archonate, for almost twenty years. I’m sure I’ll be doing more.

Besides more of the Kaslo series for Lightspeed, what’s up next for you?

I’m working my way toward finally starting a historical novel I’ve been thinking about for more than forty years.

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Bradley Englert

BradleyEnglertBradley Englert is currently an undergrad at Western Kentucky University where he studies English, creative writing, and film. He enjoys writing fiction and directing short films. One day he hopes to have something written in italics in this section.