Matthew Hughes: the Archonate

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Black Brillion and Guth Bandar

Science fiction aficionado and fellow Canadian James D. Nicoll has done something no one else has done: he’s reviewed the novel Black Brillion and the Guth Bandar collection as one story in two volumes. He puts the story and the characters in their proper perspective.

I owe a debt to James. Back when Black Brillion was in the publishing pipeline, he was screening books for the Science Fiction Book Club. He read the novel and recommended it to SFBC editor Andy Wheeler, which started the process that led to its being picked up as one of the club’s featured alternate selections.

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A few new reviews

Some recent reviews

At Black Gate, Fletcher Vredenburgh reviews “Prisoner of Pandarius” in the January/February Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, saying “I’m a sucker for Jack Vance-inspired stories, provided they’re done well. I’m quite happy to write that ‘Prisoner of Pandarius’ is one of those.”

At SF Crowsnest, Patrick Mahon also liked “Prisoner of Pandarius”: “This story provides a very enjoyable start to the magazine, romping along at a rapid pace with great wit and humour. Raffalon is a classic loveable rogue and I was more than happy to spend some more time with him here.”

And a late review of Majestrum from the gamers’ blog Sorcerer’s Skull also notes the Vancean influence: “Hughes’s universe and his writing style are in a Jack Vance mode. His setting of the Archonate and the Spray resembles Vance’s Oikumene and Gaean Reach. It makes his Hapthorn tales something like if Magnus Ridolph or Miro Hetzel was confronting the dawning of the Dying Earth.”

The latest George R.R. Martin/Gardner Dozois theme antho, Old Venus, is garnering some reviews before its release next week, and my Jeeves-and-Bertie homage is getting some approving nods. In Locus, Russell Letson says “‘’Greeves and the Evening Star’’ gets the Most Unexpected Mashup Prize with its goofy mix of cross-species sex and Wodehousean silly-ass-Englishman nonsense.”

And Publisher’s Weekly calls the story “a droll Wodehouse pastiche.”

Any time I get mentioned in the same breath as Jack Vance and P.G. Wodehouse (whom Vance adored), I’ll take it and ask for more.

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Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom

The brilliant young fellow who makes this page work (and also creates my ebooks) is Bradley W. Schenck. He’s also an aspiring sf author whose aspirations have now been rewarded by a contract with Tor for his first novel, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom. It’s a madcap mash-up of retro-sf, full of fearless heroes and heroines dashing about like Flash Gordon meets the Keystone Cops. Here’s where to find out more.

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Stephen Fry reads me . . . aloud

I’ve mentioned before that I’m rather proud of a Jeeves-and-Bertie pastiche called “Greeves and the Evening Star,” that is my contribution to the latest Martin/Dozois theme anthology, Old Venus (scheduled for release March 3). Well, I’m even more chuffed to report that for the audio version of the book, my story is narrated by the hands-down, best-ever portrayer of the inimitable Jeeves: Stephen Fry.

The reading was recorded a couple of weeks ago, and led to a palm-to-forehead slap on my part. You see, there was a bit in the first draft where Bartie (my version of Bertie) referenced Ulysses’s stuffing his ship’s crew’s ears with beeswax so he can sail close enough to the isle of the Sirens to hear their song without being drawn to destruction on the rocks. But Bartie, in a 1066 and All That fashion, also mixes in Jason and the Argonauts.

All very well, and amusing to those who can keep their myths separate, but I later rewrote the passage to have Greeves (Jeeves, of course) straighten the young master out. But then I rewrote it again, and didn’t notice that I’d let Jeeves drop the clanger. Which he would never do. As Stephen Fry noted when he saw the text.

Ah, well. It’s right in the audio version at least. And I’m still dead chuffed about the reading. And if you’ve never seen the Stephen Fry/Hugh Laurie renditions of the Jeeves and Wooster stories, do so. Right now.

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Back to life

It’s been a crappy few weeks. My wife went to Italy and brought back a coughing flu for my Christmas present. It keeps on giving because I’m still trying to shake it. Getting from our UK December housesit to our Brittany gig meant standing around British train stations on New Year’s Day listening to announcements about how the railway’s signal system had collapsed. Luckily we made our flight. Once we got to Bordeaux we had to collect the car we’d left there and drive six hours to Brittany.

But wait, there’s more. The flu and the traveling triggered a bout of pneumonia and the coughing got so bad I pulled three rib heads out of my spine and had to have them put back in by a chiropractor. Twice. All of which is really not as much fun as it sounds.

So I was very pleased yesterday to discover that the New York Review of Science Fiction has run a lengthy survey of my work by the British fantasy critic and aficionado, Mike Barrett. He connects a lot of the dots that I’ve laid down in my scattered oeuvre while focusing on the role of Luff Imbry, my corpulent master criminal of Old Earth in the penultimate age before Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth.

He sums up by saying: “Matthew Hughes has consistently produced well-written fiction that diverts and pleases. His creation, the world of the Archonate, is a well-crafted and evocative background for storylines that are consistently readable and which display much originality.”

If you’re interested in reading the whole piece, you can buy a PDF of the edition here for $2.99.


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