Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




Author Spotlight: Rhys Hughes

Where did “Eternal Horizon” begin—an idea, a character, or an event? And could you also detail how it shaped into the form we see today, such as complications and successes?

This story began very precisely. Sometimes ideas bubble and percolate through unknown passageways in my mind for many years before they finally find expression in a story, but in the case of “Eternal Horizon,” everything developed very quickly indeed. I was walking along a remote beach and looking out to sea and a submerged sandbank halfway to the horizon made a line of surf that looked like another horizon nearer to shore. On the way back home all the elements came together from this single observation. I knew that the smaller horizon was the child of the bigger, that the sun would get confused and accidentally set into the sea between them, that the oceans would boil away unless someone prevented this from happening. Then it seemed natural that a goddess had to be involved, as one of the few beings powerful enough to avert such a disaster. I threw in some pirates for good measure. It was all very easy and the story seemed almost to write itself.

The narrator and Renuka-lead us through how you molded both characters, and which was the most intriguing to write?

I was in love with a girl at the time and so I named the goddess after her and modelled the character’s appearance and character on her. Later, I decided it would be less intrusive if I changed the name of the goddess, which is what I have done. She was therefore easy to create. The narrator is the same narrator who appears in all my stories that have a first-person narrator. Or rather, they are all variations of the same narrator, avatars of themselves. They aren’t quite me, but they do share many aspects of perspective and attitude with me. My fictional characters are never very real. I tend to believe that the only two real characters in a story are the author and the reader.

As the writer, what was the most compelling part of the story to craft?

I enjoy taking an absurd conceit and pushing it to see how far I can take it. This is always the most enjoyable part of writing fiction for me. I rarely ask “Is this possible?” but “Is this logically rigorous even though it’s impossible?” and I generally prefer the latter approach because it seems more conducive to original invention and imagination. This is just my own view, of course. And by “logic,” I don’t necessarily mean empirical logic, the causality of everyday events, but the logic of word-association or lateral ideas. I also enjoy trying to put many different ideas, usually whimsical, into each story and seeing how they interact, connect, bounce off each other, in the hope that something very unexpected might result. I like complicated and intricate plotting, or rather, the way in which elements, conceits, and ideas can be juxtaposed and meshed, either to blend or react in some other way. So really, for me, it was simply a case of taking the original idea, of the horizon giving birth to another horizon, and extrapolating a fictional scenario from this that would be both absurd but also coherent, whimsical but seriously engineered.

Romance has a place in many stories, and science fiction allows it to have seemingly infinite possibilities. However, what were the challenges of telling this type of story under the scope of “Eternal Horizon”?

My biggest influences aren’t science fiction or fantasy writers but those authors from mainland Europe who work with a fusion of fantasy, irony, philosophy, fable, satire, and thought experiment. It’s a style of fiction that doesn’t have an obvious parallel in English literature. It’s somehow lighter in tone than science fiction, but more ideas-based than fantasy. I guess that the term speculative fiction is close but still not quite right. The desire to write absurdist romances has been with me almost since I started writing and it was confirmed and strengthened when I discovered the works of Calvino, Pavić, Queneau, Perec, Vian, and others. It seems to me that these writers manage to successfully blend the concerns of the heart with those of the head, giving equal weight to intellectual and emotional pleasure and problems. So the challenge of writing this story was simply to try to write the kind of story I most enjoy reading and to do so as well as I could. It’s not up to me, however, to say how well I have succeeded or how badly I have failed.

What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

I am always working on something new. I have many projects in gestation at the moment and several books due to appear over the next few years. I plan to embark on some grander projects soon, too, but I have been intending to begin these for years, even decades, so whether they ever actually happen or not is another question! The main thing that occupies me is continuing with my cycle of 1000 short stories that are all independent but also linked to each other. I am now three quarters of the way through this project, which has taken twenty-five years so far.

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Patrick J Stephens

Patrick J Stephens recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh and, after spending the entire year writing speculative fiction, came back with a Master’s in Social Science. His first collection (Aurichrome and Other Stories) can be found on Kindle and Nook.