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Rhys Hughes

answers the Usual Questions

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Rhys Hughes

Rhys Henry Hughes is a Welsh writer and essayist.

According to wikipedia, "His work is often parodies and pastiches with surreal and absurdist overtones".

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

I rarely go to conventions and this is partly because crowded places make me feel anxious. I'm just not used to them. So I don't interact with my readers at such events as often as I would like.

I do, however, interact with my fans in other ways, mostly through the internet, though sometimes I get to meet them for real in unlikely places.

I once met one of my readers at the summit of a mountain after I had climbed it and found another climber already at the top. We started talking and discussed a host of subjects before turning to fiction and he reached into his rucksack and pulled out one of my books. The mountain, incidentally, was Giewont in the Tatras.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

I have had the pleasure of meeting Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss and Iain Sinclair over the years, but the moment that stands out the most for me was meeting Alasdair Gray in the flesh. This happened not long after he had published his brilliant novel, Poor Things, and my signed copy of that book is one I will always treasure. Alasdair Gray for me is the best living British writer and his big collection of short stories, Every Short Story (1952-2012), is one of the best short story collections published in recent years, and his novella Five Letters From an Eastern Empire, included in this book, is my favourite ever example of short fiction. I was delighted to meet him! He was extremely friendly to me. I love his artwork as well as his writing.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

I have already mentioned Alasdair Gray as a favourite writer of mine. But I also love Italo Calvino, Stanislaw Lem, Flann O'Brien and Boris Vian. There are a great many authors I enjoy and admire hugely, of course, but these are the ones who stand out. I guess if I had to make a list of only three favourite books, it would consist of Vian's L'Écume des Jours, Lem's The Cyberiad and Calvino's Our Ancestors. This is the kind of fiction I aspire to write. I know I fall far short of this standard but they are the books that serve as my ideals. It's a kind of fiction that is simultaneously playful, fabulous, quirky, inventive, humorous, ironic, philosophical, paradoxical and witty. If I was only allowed to choose one I would take the Calvino book, which is actually three connected novels in a single volume.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

One of my lovely friends. For example, Nina Vangerow, the most utterly delightful, unusual and interesting person it is possible for me to imagine. I am lucky enough to know some incredible people in this world who make life a constant pleasure and a surprise. But I have to point out that I almost never go in elevators. I usually take the stairs. I am a little bit of a claustrophobe and getting stuck in such a small space would unsettle me a lot. So in fact it wouldn't be fair to choose one of my friends to share such a fate! As for how I would react to being stuck in a spaceship, it depends on how big the spaceship was. I guess that planet Earth is a sort of spaceship but a huge one and I am perfectly happy to be on it.

book cover, Captains Stupendous by Rhys Hughes; 180x271

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

Any pompous individual who would talk at me for hours about how they were right on every subject and everyone else was wrong. Such people exist. I would also hate to be stuck with a tuneless whistler, or someone who keeps meat in his pockets as a snack, or someone with a tongue as long as a necktie, or a xenophobe or any other generally intolerant person.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

Coffee. It's my only vice. Or rather, the only vice of mine that I can't live without. I have been on long hiking expeditions where I forgot to pack the coffee and after a couple of days I was shaking like I had a fever. I can live without most things, even including music and chocolate, but not without my regular caffeine hit. The best coffee I have ever tasted in my life was in cafes in Portugal, but also coffee made over a camp fire at night or in the very early morning, especially on a moonlit beach, tastes extra delicious.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

I hope that I can make a small contribution to the Literature of the Fantastic by blending serious philosophical concerns with irony and humour and quirkiness. My desire is that I will be regarded as an original and inventive writer who isn't quite like any other. But it's not up to me to decide how I will be judged or even if I deserve to be judged at all. Maybe I'll be completely unnoticed or quickly forgotten even if I am noticed. We can't be too wrapped up in ourselves in this business. My dream when I was younger was to be a sort of 'Ray Bradbury of Wales' and now it's to be a 'Calvino of Wales', but I am aware of how absurd it would be to claim that I have even started on the immense journey to reaching my destination and achieving this distinction. I am still a very small guy indeed, a novice traveller, a perennial beginner.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

I like to think that my work is both amusing and thought provoking, but it could be the case that even if I am right about this, amusing isn't such a great quality and provoking thoughts is a bad thing. I enjoy writing the fiction I write because it is also the kind of fiction I most enjoy reading, but I am aware that my style isn't for everyone. I just try to do the best I can and tell stories that are difficult or even impossible for a reader to anticipate. How successful I am at this isn't really for me to say. My readers are the only ones who know the answer.

submitted by Rhys Hughes

4 August 2014

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Just the facts:
Born: Cardiff, Wales, 1966.
Resides: I have lived in many places around Europe but at the moment I am back in Wales. I am planning to buy a house in Morocco or the Azores soon.
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