We’ve first got to say that it’s been a long time since we’ve read a book as trippy, disturbing and exhilarating as Hal Duncan‘s debut novel, VELLUM. It’s a thriller, gay erotica, SF/F, a historical, horror and character studies all amalgamated within a postmodern stylistic structure. Recently, Kathleen and Therese chatted with Hal about his literary style, the evolution of VELLUM, and the challenge of multiple narrative weavings and controversial plot points.
Part 1: Interview with Hal Duncan
Q: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind VELLUM, some of the style choices you made, and why you wrote this book.
HD: The original idea dates back to when I was at university, and reading about Lovecraft’s Necronomicon one day, Borges’s Book of Sand the next. If you take the two of those and fold in the I CHING (which I’d picked up by way of Philip K Dick’s THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE) and the mediaeval Books of Hours (which I’d learned about in History of Art lectures), well, it isn’t hard to see where the idea came from for the Book of All Hours, the metafictional / fantastic conceit that underpins VELLUM: this ancient tome said to contain everything ever written and everything never written, the names of every angel or demon, the deeds of every human, the future history of reality itself.
I think those books of mystery and wonder, fictional or factual, all combined into the core idea after a weird experience in the university library. I’d decided, out of curiosity, to check their database for Nostradamus, and found that, yes, they had a copy in the Special Collection in the basement. So I wander down into this room walled with glass-doored bookcases and I’ve only just walked in when the curator asks me what I’m looking for. Not having computed yet that this is where they keep all the extremely valuable and extremely fragile antiques, I tell the curator what I’m looking for, and he gives me a card to sign before disappearing. Five minutes later he returns with this leatherbound volume of Nostradamus, foam cushions to rest it on, and kid gloves for me to wear. I’m too embarrassed to tell him that, actually, it was just idle curiosity brought me down here and there’s no good reason a time-waster like me should be let near the crumbling pages of this precious object. [Read more…]