In “Under The Scab,” you play with language and sensory impressions to explore the boundaries of science and magic. Did you consciously work to create such an effect, or do you feel it grew out of the narration?
I consciously worked at expressing the inexpressible.
“Under The Scab” may be the first time some readers have encountered Kaslo. How do you present the character so as to appeal to those who have followed his adventures, while still hoping to hook new readers?
The only way I know how to present characters is in the “show-don’t-tell” mode. I show them acting in characteristic ways and hope that the reader infers enough from seeing and hearing what they do and say to understand what they’re all about—or if not all, enough for the purposes of the story.
But, if people are encountering the Kaslo story in midstream, all the previous episodes are archived on the Lightspeed site, so they can soon catch up.
The moment where Kaslo realizes the truth about the captive humans and the enslaved entity is the stuff of delicious nightmares, in particular when the clickers start to become aware of his presence. What inspired this particular passage?
I wanted something truly awful that spoke of a conscious evil at work. Stories hang on their villains, after all.
You have written a diverse body of work, including several series such as The Kaslo Chronicles, the To Hell and Back series of novels, the Fool books, and the occasional Luff Imbry tale. As a writer, what is it about serial work that appeals to you?
I suppose it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. From my perspective, I’m writing a science-fantasy novel. It’s only a serial from the reader’s point of view.
You are a prolific writer with a variety of fiction and non-fiction titles to your credit. Growing up, what writers stirred your creative fancy and encouraged you to try your hand at writing? Where do you turn for pleasure reading today?
Growing up, Jack Vance was my favorite SF writer, though I read widely in the science fiction of the fifties and sixties. I also read historical novels and was much taken by Lionel Sprague de Camp’s romps through the ancient world. Today, I like a good (i.e., unanachronistic) historical, like Patrick O’Brien’s masterful Aubrey/Maturin tales, and I read a lot of crime fiction. People who are familiar with my work will know that I’m actually a crime writer trapped in a science-fiction author’s career.
What’s in store for Kaslo now that he’s discovered an important truth about the clickers? Is there a happily-ever-after for the erstwhile op?
That would be telling. But Kaslo will do what seems right to him. He’s motivated by duty and professionalism.
What’s in store for Matthew Hughes? Will we see another To Hell and Back novel any time soon?
There won’t be another of those. The story was Chesney’s and it rounded out to a completion.
I’m now in the almost-ready-to-write phase of a historical novel I’ve been thinking about for more than forty years. The Canada Council for the Arts has given me a substantial grant, and that’s mostly what I’ll be doing over the next year. Once I finish The Kaslo Chronicles, of course.
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