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Lucius Shepard: Banging Nails November 2001

Lucius Shepard's science fiction often blends fantasy and horror; his many stories and several novels published since 1983 are frequently set in exotic locales, particular Latin America, and usually involve characters living on the fringes of society—as the author has lived, during a varied and widely-traveled career. Major works include the early celebrated novelette "The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule" (1984) and its two sequels; near-future war novella "R&R" (1986), which formed the basis of his first novel, Life During Wartime (1987); Kalimantan (1990), a short novel set in Borneo; Hugo-winning novella "Barnacle Bill the Spacer" (1992); and last year's novella "Radiant Green Star", which won the Locus Award for best novella. His collections The Jaguar Hunter (1987) and The Ends of the Earth (1991) won World Fantasy Awards.

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Nick Gevers reviews Lucius Shepard's "AZTECHS"

Photo by Beth Gwinn

Excerpts from the interview:

ĎĎI had a Ďcareer pauseí from í93 to about a year and a half ago—Nick Gevers came up with that description, and I thought it was very genteel. There were a couple of reasons. One, I was doubting myself as a writer. I didnít really understand what I wanted to write. I kind of came into this whole business by accident. The way I went to Clarion in 1980 is, my wife sent in a bunch of stuff Iíd written. I think she was trying to get me out of the house! I was writing stuff that didnít really engage me and wasnít going anywhere. I have about half a dozen unfinished novels. Actually, now I might go back and finish a couple of them. I have the first 200 pages of one called The End of Life as We Know It, which I think is really good, the best thing I ever did, but I was living in New York while I was writing that, and it was a very troubling time for me.íí


ĎĎIím trying to finish two novels. One is the Ďdragoní novel, which is almost done. This is one of the reasons for my Ďcareer pause.í I had a contract, back in 1988 or so, to write a fourth dragon story. They offered me quite a lot for The Scalehunterís Beautiful Daughter, then came back with this other idea: ĎWhy donít you write a fourth story? Or a novel?í I said, ĎAll right. Whatever.í After a while, I realized I really didnít want to write about it again. Iíd mined that vein for The Father of Stones, ĎThe Man Who Painted the Dragon Griauleí, and The Scalehunterís Beautiful Daughter. I made a few false starts—it was just lying flat on the page. At one point, I just blew it off. ĎI donít think I can do this.í They said, ĎYouíve got to do it.í So we went around like that for a while. But now, the one Iím finishing actually turned out to be a novel on its own, The Grand Tour. Itís about a guide who runs tours of the dragons.íí


ĎĎIíve got 200 pages of another novel Iím really hot on. The working title is Guy Stories. Itís mainstream, I guess, but itís weird. Itís about a gun dealer who sells historical weapons - guns owned by famous people, used in famous incidents, or whatever. His name is Jimmy Roy Guy (hence the title), and he tells stories about guns that move him to tell stories. ... Iíve also got a short novel, Valentine, coming out next year on Valentineís Day. Itís a sort of love story about a serious affair, set in a small town in Florida where something really weird may be going on in the background. But these two people are so absorbed in one another, they donít know whatís happening, except that the event isolates them there. It was an experiment in telling a story with maybe a science fiction ambiance somewhere over there. ... Eventually Iím gearing up to write what Gardner Dozois calls a Ďbug-crusher,í set in Los Angeles. All these little bits are starting to gather again. Iím accreting another book.íí


ĎĎTwo things have changed in my writing. Iíve stopped caring about things I was supposed to care about. When I was writing science fiction, I used to think I had to have the plot set in advance. Now Iím just gonna write what I want, let it fly or sink. Thatís made me a lot happier, so consequently I think Iím writing characters with more depth, more fully developed. In a strange way, the plots, the structure, are evolving more naturally, not as jury-rigged as they used to be. Theyíre rising more from character. Itís like when they train high school basketballers and make them wear weights around their ankles. I feel like Iíve taken the weights off.íí


ĎĎAs far as writing, I donít have anything philosophical to say about it. To me, itís very much a craft, and Iím basically a carpenter right now. Thatís what I feel like. Once you get into it, itís just like banging nails. If you like it, itís really a lot of fun to bang those nails. Thatís what Iím doing now. Iím not really thinking about writing. What is it, ultimately? I have no clue. On the Hindu wheel of professions, where youíre supposed to work on your way through to Nirvana, writer is right below thief. I always figured that was about where a writer should be ranked. And of course, writers are thieves too! íí

The full interview and biographical profile is published in the November 2001 issue of Locus Magazine.

Locus previously interviewed Lucius Shepard in December 1992 (not online).


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