photo from halduncan.com
The Glaswegian author Hal Duncan shot to world fame with his first novel Vellum in 2005 and published the second volume of The Book of All Hours, called Ink, in February 2007. In addition he has written short stories and poetry, some of which can be found at his Blogger sites Notes from the Geek Show and f@gsmoke. Duncan is active within the community of SF writers and was forstered within the Glasgow SF Writers’ Circle.
Vellum is a story about human stories, about gods and men, faith and free will, and a wonderful study of human embodied consciousness and its relationship with language and reality. Duncan mentions Samuel Delany, Mervyn Peake, Jeffrey Ford and James Joyce as major influences and can be considered as one of the foremost stylists of contemporary SF. This doesn’t stop him from being an excellent storyteller or from taking on topics as inflammatory as religion, terrorism and the war in Iraq. Where in much of contemporary fiction dead-end situations remain unsolved because of the characters’ inability to imagine a solution, in Duncan’s novel answers can be found and alternatives exist, though they are not always easy or painless. Vellum is imaginative to say the least, as well as being joyful, passionate and unafraid.
Hal Duncan has sparked a bit of controversy by poking fun at fandom’s own tendency for ghettoisation and self-pity. He sees among us ‘genre bunnies’ who cower in their holes to mull over the fact that the rest of the literary world doesn’t like us enough. Sticking our heads out to talk about genuinely good books without first having to decide whether they belong to ‘us’ or to ‘them’ is a step worth making on the tiny autonomous islands of Åland.
In an interview FantasyBookSpot asked Duncan the cruel question as to which he prefers, a good book or a good drink. Even though books win out for Duncan, his reply suggests that he will be an excellent guest of honour: ‘A good book makes you think where a good drink will just make you talk’.