Saturday, September 29, 2007

Matthew Hughes

I've read a number of Matthew Hughes's stories that appeared in F&SF while I had a subscription. He's now holding a contest give-away over at his website, so I thought I'd say a few things about the stories I've read.

His stories and novels are all set in a far-future earth, not quite Dying Earth- or New Sun-era, but immediately before that, what he calls the "penultimate age" of the earth (or was that merely Gordon Van Gelder's description of it in his intro to one of the stories? I forget).

There are two main characters he follows in the stories I've read, Henghis Hapthorn, a private investigator of some sort, and Guth Bandar, a noonaut--more about what that means in a bit. Henghis was central to last year's novel Majestrum and the new novel, The Spiral Labyrinth. Both are on my to-read list, but they haven't made their way to the top. Part of the reason may be that the one Henghis story I recall, "The Meaning of Luff," didn't engage me nearly as much as the Guth Bandar stories. It had its intriguing moments, but I think the other stories had raised my expectations, so I wasn't quite inspired to rush out and read Majestrum. (Even so I nearly bought it last time I had a gift card to the local bookstore--it was one of a handful of books that I ended up choosing two others from.)

But those Bandar stories...the idea of the noosphere is that it's humanity's collective unconscious, and scientists have discovered a way to explore it, experiencing as if physically the archetypes that are common to all humans. Now those who've read the first draft of my Silk Betrayal can probably guess why that would intrigue me anyway--I just think it's a very cool setup that's ripe for a lot of fascinating stories. But if it was simply potential for good stories, then I probably wouldn't be quite as enthusiastic about it--the first one that I read set there, though (and I can't remember it's name, but maybe I'll come back and add it in a bit), added a great story within that great setting. If this sounds interesting, there's one of the Bandar stories on his website: "A Little Learning." A collection of all the Bandar stories will be coming out from Robert J Sawyer Books. Actually the website says "will be published in June 2007," so I'm not sure if it already came out and that hasn't been updated or, what I think it more likely, that the pub date has been pushed back.

The other books--the two Henghis novels I mentioned as well as a collection of short stories involving him have all been published by the inestimable Night Shade Books.

Those who come here regularly know that I don't like firm distinctions between science fiction and fantasy, but I also know that some of you who prefer things labeled as fantasy might be a bit leery about the far future aspect of this. But this is not (or what I've read isn't at least) hard science fiction all caught up in the exact science of how these things work or obsessed with rigorous explanations. I think these are works that will appeal to fantasy fans as well as science fiction fans and all of those like me who freely cross any borders placed in our way. (Hmmm, Writers Without Borders, like Doctors Without Borders...except with words and genres instead of medicine and countries...I like that.)

Update and correction: I just heard from Matthew Hughes, and "The Meaning of Luff" is actually not a Henghis Hapthorn story, but another character, one whose stories, he said, tend to be darker in mood and wouldn't fit well with the Hapthorn stories. So...yeah. I'm feeling a bit sheepish--it's certainly a poor reason for not reading Majestrum now...

Also, I just paged through my copies of F&SF, and the Guth Bandar stories I'd read were "Help Wonted" and "A Herd of Opportunity." And now I'm reading (and enjoying) "A Little Learning."

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