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February 2008
Locus Magazine
Lucius Shepard: Landscapes
Lucius Shepard was born in Lynchburg VA and grew up in Florida. He spent years in his teens and twenties living and traveling in North and Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.

His first pro sale was "The Taylorsville Reconstruction" for Universe 13 (1983). His work typically incorporates SF, fantasy, and horror, often in the same piece. First novel Green Eyes (1984) was SF with voodoo and zombies, and helped earn him the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1985. 1986 novella "R&R" won a Nebula, and became part of his second novel, Life During Wartime (1987). After a period during which he stopped writing long fiction for several years, several have appeared in the new millennium: Valentine (2002), Colonel Rutherford's Colt (2003), Floater (2003), Viator (2004), A Handbook of American Prayer (2004), and softspoken (2007).

His fantasy stories set in the world of Griaule, novelette "The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule" (1984) and novellas The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter (1988), The Father of Stones (1989), and Liar's
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Lucius Shepard || News

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House (2004), were nominated for numerous awards. Shepard has always excelled at novella length. Other important novellas include fantasy Kalimantan (1990), horror The Last Time (1995), and SF "Barnacle Bill the Spacer" (1992), which won a Hugo. "Crocodile Rock" (1999) won an International Horror Guild Award, as did Louisiana Breakdown (2003); "Radiant Green Star" (2000) won a Hugo and a Locus Award; and "Over Yonder" (2002) won a Sturgeon award.

After living in California, New York, and Nantucket, Shepard relocated to the Pacific Northwest in the '90s, living in Seattle and Vancouver WA.
Excerpts from the interview:

“My characters are an extension of the landscape, in a way. It's kind of a riff on 'Form is an extension of content,' the old Black Mountain School thing. People in New Orleans, in South Carolina, in Daytona, all seem to be expressions of the landscape they live in. So I can't really differentiate between the way people are and the way the land is.

“I grew up in Daytona, which was like a stage set when I was a kid, with the race track crowd, then the Bike Week Crowd, and then the Spring Breakers. I'm interested in places that are always going through change. I'm interested in what happens to those places when they're under pressure. After Hurricane Andrew was much more interesting than the storm itself. I'd like to do a book about it -- about the roofing wars (they came from all over, you'd find their bodies in the canals, and they had pitched gun battles), and about how insurance agents were like gods, they could make or break your future. The whole thing was really exotic for a while, six or eight months of chaos. Maybe not quite as bad as after Katrina, but South Florida was like a tossed salad.”


“One of the projects I've got going now is a vampire book that may have no vampires in it. This family moved to the South Carolina in the 1600s and then, when the Civil War came along, their patriarch floated the story that they were vampires to keep the Union troops away from their land. He seeded rumors of vampires and evidence of their ill-doing and so forth, and managed to keep the property intact. Now it's become this game -- they've gone to incredible pains to effect this camouflage and created a complex vampire mythos. The story is told from the viewpoint of a guy who's marrying into the family, the first person in many years to do so.

“My short novel softspoken was like a test run. There are patches in South Carolina of gothic, decadent weirdness where people accept eccentrics as normal. Like with the Nantucket thing. They say, 'That's just Will,' or 'That's just Billy.' In softspoken I decided to dissect a marriage in terms of a ghost story. In my experience with ghosts (and I've seen a couple of things which were hard to explain away), I didn't get a feeling of 'wooooh, scary,' but more a feeling of sadness. Ghosts have a metaphorical use. People are always in the process of becoming ghosts as they stay around each other, like when a marriage is dying. You could extend that feeling to a whole town -- maybe not Nantucket now, because it's too open, but certainly Nantucket 20 years ago, in the winter. I've been talking with this one guy about a movie based on softspoken. I'm not going to write it, since I don't like to skeletonize or blow up my own work, but we were talking about him putting in more ghost stuff to make a Hollywood movie. Right now it's a Bergman movie, a very interiorized novel, and it needs to have some action!”


“Stories spring to me from landscapes, from settings. When I go to a place like Honduras or Nicaragua, and a story occurs to me, I'm not going to take it out of its context, because it's a story particular to that place and time. That's not the only reason I like to travel -- I've been traveling for a long time -- but it certainly plays into it. I don't enjoy research in the classic sense of going to the library and looking things up. Libraries make me sleepy. I'd rather dig up a story or get somebody else's story about what happened and go on from there.”


“People kept telling me, 'You should get a blog,' and I decided a group blog would be easier for me, since I travel a lot. So Elizabeth Hand and Paul Witcover and Paul Di Filippo and I joined forces. I imagine it makes you more visible, since people link to you. It's certainly not anything I do for love. I don't enjoy it. (Well, it's fun sometimes.) I usually do it toward the end of the day when I'm pretty tired. It's possibly a publicity tool and it's something that takes minimal effort. I mostly talk about movies or stuff that's happened in the past. I prefer to do my navel-gazing in my stories.”

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