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TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus
TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus
Interview conducted by Phillip Stecco
Published by G. S. Carnivals
Topic Winner TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus
Conducted by Phillip Stecco

Rhys Hughes has been writing professionally for twenty years. His books include Worming the Harpy and Mister Gum. Mr. Hughes resides in Swansea in the United Kingdom.

1) How did you first encounter the work of Thomas Ligotti?

People kept talking about him. The name ĎLigottií cropped up in conversation again and again. In the end I had to seek him out. That was back in 1995. I walked into a bookshop and bought Grimscribe. It was waiting for me on a table the moment I entered the door. The really weird thing is that when I went back the following day, all the copies were gone and the bookshop staff denied that they had ever stocked the book.

2) What are some of your favorite works by Mr. Ligotti?

ĎFavouriteí isnít a word Iíd use in conjunction with some of the most disturbing visions ever committed to paper. Let me tell you right now that Ligotti is a menace to the world. Like Philip K. Dick was. Or Emil Cioran. A menace and a genius. He stands for everything I oppose, or want to oppose, and my biggest fear is that heís right and that Iím wrong. His books are genuinely dangerous. I want nothing to do with his philosophy, but his philosophy canít be denied. It goes to the heart of what is perhaps the most crucial question facing mankind, namely the possibility that HORROR is integrated into life itself, that the universe itself is a terrible thing. Ligotti doesnít mess with superficial props like every other horror writer. Heís the real thing. But I wish he wasnít.

3) What other writers do you enjoy reading?

Italo Calvino, Jorge LuŪs Borges, Stanislaw Lem. Those are my favourites. Calvino especially. But there are many others I enjoy... Boris Vian, Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, Milorad Pavic, Brian Aldiss, Ray Bradbury, Jack Vance, Flann OíBrien, Felipe Alfau, Josef Nesvadba, Michael Moorcock, William Burroughs, John Sladek, James Branch Cabell, J.G. Ballard, Donald Barthelme, Brion Gysin, Alvaro Mutis, John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, Philip Josť Farmer, Samuel Delany... Too many to list really!

4) Have you developed a "philosophy" of weird fiction?

Yes. The demonstration that the so-called absurd can be deadly serious and profound, that in fact the Ďabsurdí is the real and the Ďrealisticí is false. That a denial of the absurd is a denial of life and intelligence.

5) You have written hundreds of works of fiction. What may we expect to see published in the coming year or two?

My novel Twisthorn Bellow is due out next March. That will be followed by a story collection called The Phantom Festival. After that might be a collection entitled Salty Kiss Island and another collection called Mirrors in the Deluge and another called Ditto and Likewise. And a novel called The Pilgrimís Regress and maybe another novel called The Abnormalities of Stringent Strange and maybe another novel called Unevensong. And another called Wuthering Depths. And another called Djinn Septic. And a book called Tallest Stories that is neither a collection nor a novel but something between the two. Lots of stuff, anyway!

6) Do you have any favorite singers or musicians?

Without music Iím sure I would go insane. Music is the most important artform of all, in my view. I like upbeat rhythms and cool melodies, a combination often found in Brazilian music. Iím a ĎWorldbeatí fan. Natacha Atlas, Transglobal Underground, Ojos de Brujo, Thievery Corporation, Dissidenten, all that kind of stuff.

7) Do you have any favorite artists in the visual media?

My favourite artist is Adele Whittle, but you wonít find any of her work anywhere. Not yet, anyway. I also like M.C. Escher, Remedios Varo and Max Ernst. And Nicholas Roerich, whose work I checked out after reading references to him in Lovecraftís At the Mountains of Madness.

8) What are some of your favorite movies?

Iím not a big film buff. But I like the films of Julio Medem, Werner Herzog and Nicolas Roeg. Japanese cinema is also remarkable.

9) Do you watch television?

Thereís a British comedy show called Peep Show that is one of my favourites ever. Iím also a big fan of The Mighty Boosh. These days I watch very little television.

10) What foods do you enjoy eating?

Iíve been a vegetarian since I was 14, so I favour those cuisines that have the most interesting range of vegetarian foods, in other words Indian, Italian and Lebanese. Iím addicted to chillies, chocolate and coffee.

11) Do you have any odd hobbies or collecting fetishes?

I used to be an avid collector of all sorts of things. Now Iíve gone to the other extreme and Iím getting rid of as many of my possessions as possible. I want to lighten my life. I donít even own copies of my own books.

12) What recreational activities do you enjoy?

Travel. Thatís my main reason for living. But also making music and painting, neither of which Iím any good at. Reading, obviously. Running, cycling, hiking, hill walking, tennis... Iím not especially good at any of them, but Iím not bad. I used to play a lot of chess, but I donít do that now.

13) What makes you laugh?

Iím a sucker for a really good one-liner.

14) Life?

Yes, please! I love it. Iím not ready to leave it behind yet.

15) Death?

Death is the end of our identity, but not necessarily the end of everything. For instance, before we were born we were Ďdeadí, but weíre here now. So it seems plausible that the same thing can happen after we die the next time. It wonít be Ďusí next time, though. Maybe individual identity isnít such an important thing anyway?

16) Work?

Real work, you mean, rather than writing stories? I hate that kind of work. I do it when I have to, but Iíd rather be poor and do what I want than be a slave to the system. If I have to work for the system I usually end up contemplating some form of sabotage. Edward Abbey is one of my heroes and The Monkey Wrench Gang is my bible in that respect. Iíd better not say more on this topic...

17) Do you have any interesting work anecdotes to relate?

Only that I once worked for a shipping company and accidentally sent a cargo to Dhaka in Bangladesh instead of Dakar in Senegal. That was my most costly mistake ever. Note that I didnít put the word Ďmistakeí in inverted commas. Iím being careful.

18) What is your earliest childhood memory?

Stealing food from my fatherís plate and cramming it into my mouth and being sick. I was two and a half years old...

19) What is your fondest childhood memory?

I had a childhood sweetheart. When I was seven she dragged me off into a broom cupboard. What followed was very tame stuff but I didnít think so at the time!

20) Who has been the most influential person in your life?

This is going to sound pompous and stupid, but it was me, still is me and probably always will be me. Iím a self-influence. Sorry!

21) Do you have a special plan for this world?

If I ever became a famous writer I want the anniversary of my death every year to be celebrated with as much disruption in the workplace as people can get away with. I hope that my name will serve as some sort of symbol for slackers, saboteurs, monkey wrenchers around the world. Thatís my ultimate plan!

22) What else should we know about you?

Iím half a Buddhist, half a Taoist and half an atheist. And itís important to me that those fractions donít add up!
12 Thanks From:
Andrea Bonazzi (11-11-2009), bendk (11-11-2009), candy (11-12-2009), Daisy (11-11-2009), Dr. Bantham (11-11-2009), gveranon (11-11-2009), Jeff Coleman (11-11-2009), Nemonymous (11-11-2009), Sam (11-12-2009), Spotbowserfido2 (11-11-2009), starrysothoth (11-11-2009), waffles (11-11-2009)
By bendk on 11-11-2009
Re: TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

I enjoyed this interview very much. I am in agreement with many of your comments. It also reminds me that I need to track down a copy of The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey and illustrated by Robert Crumb. And maybe a few of your books, too.
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By G. S. Carnivals on 11-11-2009
Re: TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

I can't thank you enough for this remarkable interview, Rhys. I have not read a novel in some time, but I bought a copy of The Monkey Wrench Gang two days ago based strictly upon your words. I am looking forward to reading this book during the wintry months which lie ahead.
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By candy on 11-12-2009
Re: TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

Wonderful Interview!!! Thank you for sharing yourself with us!!
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By Joel on 11-12-2009
Re: TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

Great interview, Rhys. As ever I'm struck by your breadth of literacy and culture.

As someone who reads waaay too much weird fiction and not enough of anything else, all I can say is: I've been reading Ligotti since the late 1970s, so nerr. Sometimes the fanboy gets it right.

Given the Ligotti is hugely influenced by Lovecraft, how do you admire the former and despise the latter? I'm not challenging you, I'm genuinely interested. It's clear there are qualities in Ligotti you don't find in Lovecraft (though, inevitably, vice versa). Re-reading 'The Last Feast of Harlequin' recently, it struck me as being an anti-racist reworking of 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth'. The phrase 'ghetto clowns' is incredibly poignant.

I think Ligotti is far more of a humanist than Lovecraft, though even Lovecraft was more of a humanist than he affected to be. You may agree with me on the first point at least.
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By Joel on 11-13-2009
Re: TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

Sorry: when I said 'the late 1970s' I should have said '1981', when Ligotti appeared on the small press weird fiction scene with at least three stories.
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By rhysaurus on 11-13-2009
Re: TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

Thanks for making those points, Joel.

I need to answer them properly, especially the Ligotti versus Lovecraft point, but my thoughts on that matter haven't crystallised in my mind yet. I've been churning them over in my head for years, but they are still slushy. Maybe I need to actively try and help them crystallise? I'm not sure how to do that. Maybe I ought to write a short piece on the topic. It might help. A bit.

Briefly (and unsatisfyingly) I'll just say that it's a question of authenticity. Lovecraft just makes me laugh in derision: his so-called visionary aspects are just obvious psychology. His fears (of women, foreigners, the new, etc) could have been rendered as straightforward fears -- in a case study perhaps -- but he chose to transmute them into metaphors, into cosmic blasphemies, etc, etc. His work (and even the power of his work, for I sometimes realise that it does have power) is a literature of weakness, of uneasy symbolism. It's not frightening at all for anyone with a healthy psychology. Imagine an outdoorsman (for instance Edward Abbey) reading Lovecraft. Would Lovecraft's visions have any effect on him whatsoever? I doubt it.

But Ligotti... Ah, Ligotti does something else entirely. Ligotti attempts (either deliberately or not ) to evoke something that the psychologist Yalom termed the "Nebula Eye". When you have the Nebula Eye you are seeing the universe as it really is -- as you fear it really is. You know longer 'know' that you are going to die, that you are insignificant -- on the contrary, you KNOW you are going to die, that you are insignificant. It's a kind of depression but one that makes you cling more tightly to life, because oblivion seems terrible. And yet life and consciousness also seem terrible. Both possible options after death (eternal consciousness and eternal oblivion) seem EQUALLY terrible. The universe therefore seems an evil place and this is something you FEEL as well as know...

I haven't expressed that very well. I'll try to do so in the coming weeks. I'm a bit rushed for time at the present.

Ligotti for me isn't a horror writer as such. I don't have a great deal of interest in horror writers, because the props of horror don't interest me as objects to be taken seriously. Ligotti, for me, is a mind#### writer. Like Philip K Dick. Or Harlan Ellison. He doesn't chill the blood. Anyone can kill the blood. That's easy. No, he ####s the soul. And that is something special; and very very wrong.

I admire and respect Ligotti; but if I could drown him in a bag, I would.

I'll try to turn all this into a coherent essay and post it somewhere soon!
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By Nemonymous on 11-13-2009
Re: TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

Quote Originally Posted by rhysaurus View Post
I admire and respect Ligotti; but if I could drown him in a bag, I would.

Fiction for me (like that of Ligotti and Lovecraft) is in a 'real'world' of magic fiction, fiction-as-religion, often 'synchronised shards of random truth and fiction' and the 'line' of these concepts runs parallel with that of the corporeal body and its death, but never meeting, like all parallel lines.

And it's people like Ligotti, Lovecraft, Rhys Hughes, Joel Lane et al, who often seem to help form crossover lines - creating a stunningly emerging rhombus from the parallel lines.
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By rhysaurus on 11-13-2009
Re: TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

Thanks Des. But personally I just can't put Ligotti and Lovecraft into the same category. Lovecraft is of no significance. Sorry, that's just my view; plenty of people disagree with me, of course. Lovecraft is merely a case study in abnormal psychology. Despite what his admirers believe, there isn't a true philosophical core to his writing. With Ligotti, such a core does exist. I'll try and explain all this properly (if I can) in a proper piece. I'll probably do a piece on Edward Abbey and another on Donald Barthelme (the best short story writer ever) first, though...
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By Nemonymous on 11-13-2009
Re: TLO Member Interview: rhysaurus

Quote Originally Posted by rhysaurus View Post
But personally I just can't put Ligotti and Lovecraft into the same category. Lovecraft is of no significance. Sorry, that's just my view; plenty of people disagree with me, of course.
You have recognised there the parallel lines (in turn paralleling the other lines I mentioned!) within an individual writer.

i.e. the power of Lovecraft for some but not for others. (His work must have a power for some to have recognised it. It is also simultaneously powerless, for some to call it thus, as you do.)

i.e. the positive or powerful philosophy of Ligotti fiction as an artistic ethos for some and, simultaneously, the intensely negative (nihilist?) view of his work for others (like you) warranting 'drowning in a bag'.

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