Sunday, March 25, 2007

Unless you've been living on another planet, I'm sure that by now you've heard of Hal Duncan. The book. The blog. The man.

One thing I have to say at risk of embarrassing the man,'s nice when the person behind books you like turns out to be genuinely nice, knowledgable, and fun. And that's the case with Duncan. Just a great guy in addition to being an explosive and visionary writer.

This February Del Rey released the conclusion of his Vellum duology (is that the term), Ink. It's got a cover that's to die for and just received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. A lot of people weren't sure if Duncan could actually pull together everything he unleashed in the first volume, Vellum, and provide a satisfactory conclusion. But by all accounts, he has. I haven't read the book yet because of the pressure of deadlines, but Hal was kind enough to submit to my five-question walk-the-plank interrogation, the results posted below.


Why should readers pick up your new book as opposed to, say, just about anybody else's book?
Because for all the orgone-powered airships, harlequin play retellings of THE BACCHAE, spring-heeled schizoid heroes, Nazi ubermensch and metafictional exploits in an alternate 30s Middle East, it’s actually a quite sensitive story about the joys and sorrows of the human condition, with a rather touching (I hope) story about loss and restoration at its core. Also it has zeppelins over Sodom.

Does your book have any socially redeeming qualities? If so, what are they?
It’s probably not the sort of book you’d take home to meet your mother, but I do think it would do OK in a cocktail party situation, witty and charming at times but serious and thoughtful when the topic of conversation demands. It may corner you and blether passionately about its mad theories on religion, but it’ll be mixing the martinis while it does so.

Does your book have any medicinal or mental health value to readers?
It might cure depression. It might just cure insomnia. At the moment we have insufficient data to go on -- the studies just haven’t been done -- but there are certainly indications that it could be useful in the treatment of chronic ennui. Any rumours that reading it will induce psychosis are completely unfounded. It’s the prequel, VELLUM, that sends you mad; and INK should, in fact, act as a cure for VELLUM-induced psychosis.

Assume your book has been filed under "Ages 8 to 12" in the children's section, perhaps by mistake, perhaps not. How horrified do you imagine a child would be after reading your book, and why? How many years of therapy would the child take to recover from the experience?
If they’ve read THE BORRIBLES by Michael de Larabeitti, they’d be quite equipped to deal with anyhing I throw at them. If they haven’t graduated from Tolkien or Lewis yet they would probably be deeply disturbed by my repeated attempts to take the banal and simplistic concept of Good-vs-Evil, smash its skull in with a hammer and drag the carcass round the gates of Troy ten times, screaming “Fuck that shit!” at the top of my lungs. They’d never recover... hopefully.

If no one buys your book and you are unable to continue publishing your fiction due to the intense vilification that occurs in the media, what line of work will you go into?
If they won’t publish my novels I’ll just change media and move into the theatre, staging my musical at the Edinburgh Fringe and aiming for a big West End smash if I can find the right director. I have the libretto written, the music in my head and a collaborator who can actually make sense of my tuneless wailing. It’s a gay punk version of the Orpheus story and I’ll do it as a puppet show if need be, so be warned. If all else fails I shall become a jakie, hanging around the park all day with a bottle of Buckfast, saying “Goany geez 10p fer a cuppa tea, mate?” to anyone who passes.


At 5:16 PM, Anonymous John C said...

My sister bought me a jacket like that for my birthday a couple of weeks ago after I demanded "something with epaulets". Mine is sans piping though. Best Jacket Ever. A friend claimed it was part of my new "gay militia" look which I hotly refuted then went and bought a black military-style shirt (with epaulets) so maybe he has a point.

Er, to return to the topic...the US cover of Ink is better than the UK one IMO, as is so often the case. What is it with UK publishers? The US HB of The Terror has a great period painting on the cover that they decided not to use on the UK edition.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Oh man, I'd love to see a Hal Duncan production at the Fringe. Go for it, mate, sure it would be better than some of the awful revues put on by some of the Oxbridge students.

On the Ink front, I read a proof over Christmas and have to say that it is larger, more intricate and far more confusing than before. And I mean confusing in a good way - Hal is a writer who makes his readers work their brain. Vellum was a demanding read that repaid the effort manyfold times; Ink crosses more realities and incarnations of characters, repeating of similar events in many folds of realities until you all but lose your place, crying out for an Ariadne to thread your way through the multi-dimensional labyrinth.

It won't be for everyone, but if you are willing to put in your effort (and you should, a good book needs a goodd reader as well as good writer) you will go on an amazing headtrip, like going through 20001's stargate while tripping on acid and looking through a kaleidoscope. The best phrase I could think of to sum it up is literary quantum headfuck - a brilliant genre :-)

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