Duncan, Hal 1971-
Duncan, Hal 1971-
Born 1971, in Scotland.
Home—Glasgow, Scotland. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and computer programmer.
Glasgow SF Writers' Circle.
Gaylactic Spectrum Award, 2007, for Vellum.
Vellum (fantasy fiction; first part of "The Book of All Hours" series), Del Rey (New York, NY), 2006.
Ink: The Book of All Hours (sequel to Vellum), Del Rey (New York, NY), 2007.
Escape from Hell!, MonkeyBrain Books (Austin, TX), 2008.
Also author of the blog Notes from the Geek Show.
Vellum, a novel by Scottish science fiction and fantasy writer Hal Duncan, is the first in a series that sets the stage for an epic battle between good and evil. The novel was created almost incidentally as separate short stories and novellas, which Duncan realized retrospectively had overlapping themes and characters. The story is told in an unconventional and multidimensional manner, which, as Duncan shared with Matrix magazine Web site contributor Tom Hunter, was an attempt at literary Cubism, or telling the story from multiple perspectives simultaneously: "I'm far more interested in conflicts and inconsistencies in the narrative that wrench the reader this way and that than in satisfying the anal retentive urge for absolute closure. I don't really trust a story that's too pat, with all the loose ends tied up at the end; life isn't like that, after all, so why … should a story be? No, I'm much more interested in tearing it apart than keeping it together, in blowing the story to smithereens in order to get at the deeper story inside."
In a review on the Infinity Plus Web site, Lawrence Osborn wrote: "Hal Duncan is clearly an author who cares about the words as much as about the story, and one is left with a sense that every word has been carefully selected and fitted into place in the grand edifice." Osborn went on to write in the same review: "This is quite simply the most original piece of speculative fiction I have read for years. Even better, the originality is matched by a sheer quality of writing that is rarely found in genre fiction." Osborn also wrote: "Vellum deserves to become a classic." An Agony Column Web site contributor described Vellum as "compulsively readable," further adding that "anyone who picks up this book and reads the first page or so will want to continue."
Duncan once told CA: "I was interested in writing from an early age, largely coming from my love of pulp escapism. Genre fiction, science fiction and fantasy in particular, is still a huge influence on my work, but what I discovered very quickly is that much of the best fiction published as genre is anything but escapist. Writers like Alfred Bester or Samuel R. Delany have been huge influences, pushing me towards more literary and experimental techniques, alongside names more widely known—William Burroughs and James Joyce, for example. It's from these writers that I've developed much of my writing process, a tendency to break up longer works into fragments, to use cut-up and fold-in collage techniques. My process tends to be one of deconstruction and reconstruction, often taking a source text as the base, rewriting it entirely, tearing it apart, rearranging the pieces, adding new narrative threads and gradually building up multiple layers of palimpsested narrative.
"The most surprising thing I've learned as a writer is that readers are not as averse to experimental technique as people often think. There's an assumption that accessibility and experimentation are incompatible, but I just don't think this is true. An utterly nonlinear book like Heller's Catch-22, critically lauded, is nevertheless an ongoing commercial success, read and loved by millions.
"I always kind of hope my books will hit readers with a double-whammy: the emotional engagement you get with pulp fiction and the intellectual resonance you get with literary fiction. A good book should do more than just offer vicarious thrills, I think, but it should also offer more than observations and insights which, for all their acuity, may remain comfortably intellectual and therefore distanced. I want my books to hit my readers in their guts as well as their heads."
A Publishers Weekly contributor called Duncan's next book, titled Ink: The Book of All Hours a "stimulating and bruising sequel to Scottish author Duncan's neo-Joycean Vellum." Sara Tompson, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the novel "is so multi-layered that it can in some sense stand on its own." The novel continues the story of the unkin, beings who possess the power to alter reality by accessing a realm of eternity called the Vellum. This world contains every possibility, paradox, heaven, and hell that can be imagined. The forces of order and chaos have been fighting for ages using the ultimate weapon, called "The Book of All Hours," which contains the blueprint for all reality but has been lost in the folds of the Vellum. In the sequel, the year is 2017 and Reynard Carter, who has the blood of unkin in him, has found the book. The story focuses on the aftermath of an apocalyptic battle when several survivors try to use the blood of the unkin to rewrite the "The Book of All Hours" and, in the process, create a new destiny for humanity.
"Ink delivers beautifully on the promise of Vellum," wrote Regina Schroeder in Booklist. Writing on the Time Out New York Web site, Rod Smith noted that it is imperative to read Vellum first in order to understand Ink. Smith went on to write in the same review: "Linguistically flashy as it is, there's way more to Ink than Joycean complexity, incisive social commentary and spectacular world-building."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2007, Regina Schroeder, review of Ink: The Book of All Hours, p. 44.
Bookseller, June 3, 2005, Colin Ellis, review of Vellum, p. 11.
Kliatt, January, 2007, Ginger Armstrong, review of Ink, p. 27.
Library Journal, February 15, 2007, Sara Tompson, review of Ink, p. 117.
Publishers Weekly, December 18, 2006, review of Ink, p. 48.
Agony Column,http://trashotron.com/agony/ (April 1, 2005), "Folding up the Multiverse," review of Vellum.
Infinity Plus,http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (December 10, 2005), Lawrence Osborn, review of Vellum; (April 2, 2008), Jakob Schmidt, review of Ink.
Matrix,http://www.matrix-magazine.co.uk/ (April 19, 2006), Tom Hunter, "Velluminations: An Interview with Hal Duncan."
Romantic Times Online,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (April 2, 2008), Gail Pruszkowski, review of Ink.
Scifi Dimensions,http://www.scifidimensions.com/ (April 2, 2008), William Alan Ritch, review of Ink.
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (April 2, 2008), Jakob Schmidt, "An Interview with Hal Duncan."
Strange Horizons,http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (January 21, 2008), Dan Hartland, review of Ink.
Time Out New York,http://www.timeout.com/ (April 2, 2008), Rod Smith, review of Ink.