aux éditions ActuSF
ActuSF : How did you get the idea of Velum, a reality in which our world would be a small piece ? Is it a vertigo pleasure of facing infinity or of facing the immeasurable ?
Hal Duncan : The idea of the Book of All Hours came first really, this ancient tome containing everything ever written and everything never written, and I’d have to say that Lovecraft’s Necronomicon and Borges’s Book of Sand were huge influences on that idea — credit where it’s due. There’s an element of the latter’s Library of Babel in there as well, I’m sure (as well as a hint of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, the I Ching and God knows what else). That idea didn’t have a plot structure to go around it though, so eventually I put it to one side, and started working on other stories. Still, the idea of intertextuality implicit in a book which contains all books sort of seeped out into my other writing — the idea that all stories, novellas, novels, even series could be seen as just chapters, pages, paragraphs in this “Ultimate Book”, this Platonic form of the magnum opus. The real-world stories of history, of course, would then be on the same level as works of fiction, just another passage in the Book, works of Alternate History that just happened to be true to us because we live in that reality.
Because of that, I think, and because Moorcock’s Eternal Champion fiction was also a massive influence, I found myself taking a similar multiversal approach to Moorcock’s, with characters and tropes appearing in slightly different aspects, in slightly different realities, in this story or that. I like the way intertextuality in fiction can create a larger implicit story in the space between two or more related texts. So the anarcho-terrorist Jack Flash in one story reappeared in another as the Jack Carter of the expedition to the Caucasus, who became the captain in the WW1 part of Thomas’s story, and the unkin footsoldier in Phreedom’s ; and, if it works properly, there’s this larger implicit story of Jack in the spaces between those. My take on the multiverse was still unnamed and inchoate at that point, but as the larger structure started to emerge, as I started to think about how stories progress from beginning to end, but also vary from place to place, and are remade in each retelling, the idea of the multiverse as a sort of 3D timespace took shape.
It was only when I wrote a short story called “The Road of All Dust” that it all suddenly clicked together, and I realised this was actually the prologue of the novel about the Book. That story came about very much from a desire to capture that vertiginous awe in the face of vastness, even the vastness of this finite reality. I’d been reading a fantasy novel by another writer and come away from it disappointed because it presented our world as only one of a handful of fantastic realms, but these other realms barely seemed as big as countries, never mind worlds. Hell, one of the realms in this novel actually felt about the size of a small county. Fuck that shit. Since our reality is actually an entire universe, shouldn’t a fantastic realm be on a similar scale ? Middle-Earth is a staggering act of imagination, but it’s risibly miniscule in comparison to the universe we live in. If you want to posit our world as one of many fantastic realms, surely each one of those realms should be a Middle-Galaxy, a Middle-Galaxy-Cluster, a Middle-Universe. Anything smaller is just pathetic in comparison to the magnitude of reality.
So the image of the Book as a book of maps, scaling up with each turn of the page, struck me as a way of critiquing that paucity of imagination, pushing the reader to imagine the various “folds” of the Vellum as full and complex realities on the scale of our own, by taking them up to the scale of infinity in exponential steps. When I wrote that story initially, that was pretty much the point of it — that and the incomprehensible vastness of loss, of the emptiness created by Puck’s death — but in coming up with that figurative trick I sort of accidentally put the central piece of the puzzle into place. Suddenly I realised that if the Book encapsulated the multiverse you had two perfect images — concrete, visualisable images — for the vast scope of possibility and actuality, in the tabula rasa of a blank page made of vellum, and in the utter blackness of the ink put down on that page, inscribing it for eternity. And better still, in the image of a palimpsest, where one text is scrubbed away till its so faint you can barely see it, and another text written over the top of it.
ActuSF : How do you see yourself in the current literature ? With Velum, was there a conscious desire to shatter genres too well identified (SF, fantasy) ?
Hal Duncan : I see myself as working in a tradition of what I’d simply call strange fiction, a theoretical genre that doesn’t have boundaries to shatter, one that is, in fact, essentially non-conformist, characterised by breaches of what we consider possible, events that contravene the way things are, events that are strange, incredible in some way. Because you get different types of possibility (technical, physical or logical) it’s tempting to distinguish SF and Fantasy on that basis, to map the genre distinction to the difference between technical and physical impossibilities. In truth, I think this is wishful thinking on the part of SF partisans who see their genre as rationalist and want to project all the blame for its pulp qualities onto fantasy. The reality is that SF always had its dross and that much of its trope trove is physically impossible — FTL, for example. So we can distinguish between particular sub-types like Hard SF, Epic Fantasy, Space Opera, Urban Fantasy, Cyberpunk, but the wider labels of SF and fantasy are largely just marketing categories, it seems to me. Silverberg’s The Book Of Skulls, Zelazny’s Roadmarks — these books are as much fantasy as SF ; it’s just a matter of what genre label gets slapped on a work of strange fiction to sell it to the punters. And if the non-linear narrative of Vellum seems unconventional, well, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. Moorcock’s Cornelius Quartet is pretty experimental. Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five is not a straightforward book. Bester uses all manner of typographic tricks in The Stars My Destination. I don’t see why we should have to shatter these genres. The conventions were already ripped to fuck.
Unless, of course, the conventions have crept back in. As long as we’re working with those marketing categories, after all, formulation will be a problem. There will always be a pressure for more of the same in commercial genres ; that’s what makes them commercial genres. So I’m certainly a bit of a troublemaker when it comes to the cliches that are born of this pressure. There’s a lot about the pulp genres I find deeply problematic for political reasons, for example — the infantilism of escapist power-fantasy, the glorification of feudalism, even the whole dubious aesthetic of heroism. Add to that macho militaristic bollocks the whole Good versus Evil theme, the way that moral essentialism maps onto races — elves and goblins in Tolkien and his followers, humans and aliens in SF — the way that reflects, in fact, the most heinously racist aspects of Romanticism, and what you have looks a whole lot like fascist bullshit. The faerie chapter of Vellum addresses this head-on, and all through the book I was generally trying to undercut the black-and-white dualism inherent to genres so fond of heroes and villains. I was definitely conscious of wanting to challenge some of the tired tropes of Romantic pulp fiction, the formulaic character types and plot structures. Hell, starting an epic fantasy with a burning map (i.e. starting it with the words “A burning map.”) could well be read as a mission statement in that regard, as taking a symbolic flamethrower to one of the most well-loved traditions of fantasy, putting it to the torch to clear the way, and to make it pretty damn obvious where you stand.
But at the same time that reading would be... simplistic. That image is actually just as much a nod of respect for another aspect of the tradition ; it’s drawn straight from the cinema, from the Hollywood epics I loved as a kid — Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, Spartacus. It’s a celebration of the power of the epic form, whether it be SF, fantasy or Biblical. It’s a symbolic announcement that this book is an epic fantasy and fucking proud of it, sensationalist because all strange fiction is, because all strange fiction exploits those breaches of possibility — creates a sense of the incredible. That doesn’t mean it has to be formulaic.
I think that attitude is at the very heart of the genre, from Bradbury and Bester onwards.
ActuSF : We feel your work in a willingness to lean on the greatest texts of the past, relying on them to write yourself. What is the role of the great mythical and poetic texts in your creative process ? For example, you follow in details, the vicissitudes of the descent into the hell of Inanna. Why such loyalty to these texts ?
Hal Duncan : I tend to use the original source texts as deep structure, which is not unusual in SF and Fantasy. There are countless retellings of myths in the genre, like that of Prometheus’s theft of fire, or even updates of other fictions, as in Bester’s The Stars My Destination taking its basic plot from Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. A lot of that is because those stories are *worth* retelling. They’re well-shaped and they have this deep imagery that resonates with the reader whatever gloss you put on it. The theft of fire, the descent into Hell, the god’s pursuit of a mortal or demi-god who’s constantly shifting shape in their attempt to escape — there’s something archetypal about these stories, a symbolism that we recognise, I think, because it’s encoded in our psyches. That’s what we mean when we talk about timeless tales.
Sometimes, though, I think writers tend to reuse the most basic structures to those texts and miss out on the subtleties. Like with Prometheus — what interests me is less the crime and more its consequences, the stuff that Aeschylus deals with in Prometheus Bound. So I find myself drawn to dealing with actual texts rather than just story-structures, taking an approach like Baz Luhrman took to Romeo and Juliet, or Gus Van Sant did with Henry IV in My Own Private Idaho. It’s the sort of thing you see quite often on stage, with Shakespeare plays or operas updated and commented upon simply by the staging of them in different settings. It’s possible through that to make something quite obscure suddenly deeply relevant to the reader. Prometheus Bound has much to say to a 21st century reader, I think, that can be missed if we just treat it as from a certain ancient culture, another time and place. “The past is another country.” “Those who don’t remember history are condemned to repeat it.” These are true, I think ; we could all too easily box these texts away as just stories.
So my process is to try and do the literary equivalence of an update-by-staging. I’ll get multiple translations of the source text (because unfortunately I don’t read ancient Greek or Sumerian) and try and create my own original adaptation (I couldn’t properly call it a translation), as the core thread to weave that staging (e.g. the 2017 fold of Phreedom and the unkin, the WW1 fold of Seamus) around and through. If I could, if it was possible, out of a desire for authenticity I’d love to make those translations 100% accurate, because the texts and their writers deserve that respect, for their integrity to be preserved. But there are techniques that you just can’t carry over, like the sheer amount of repetition in Sumerian poetry ; that might work if the text is being sung, if each line is performed slightly differently, say, but it doesn’t work that way on the printed page. So I let myself collapse certain formulaic structures into something more contemporary. You can take something like, for example, “The goddess set out. The great queen set out. Inanna set out.” and fold that in on itself, make it “The goddess, the great queen, Inanna set out.” You’re not losing the text, simply laying three identical parts on top of each other (“set out”) and reorganising the differing parts they’re attached to. What I’m trying to do is translate the idiom of the text as well as the text.
For all that I’d like the texts to be faithful though, I think there’s a point where you have to let the new text emerge out of the old as a work in its own right. Gaps where text has been lost can be filled with the threads that are there as staging. When you’re dealing with a play like Prometheus Bound, in fact, the dialogue can be completely integrated into the staging thread so that you have a WW1 soldier speaking the actual sentiments put into Prometheus’s mouth by Aeschylus. At points the original dialogue becomes completely immersed because there’s so much written over and around it. So you end up with this palimpsest that, *if* it works for the reader, has an incredible potency, a sense of a vast depth of time and myth beneath the most mundane story of a soldier suffering shellshock. It becomes a way of making our own mud-and-blood reality truly sublime, I think, which matters deeply to me. (It’s a strategy totally stolen from Joyce’s Ulysses, by the way.)
What I’m trying to do is layer the fantasy and the SF and the history and the myth and the source text, to create a sort of 3D story-form. The story is taking place in the future ahead of you, the past behind you, alternate realities to this “side” or that, in strata of myth and legend you might conceptualise as above or below, sub-stories and sur-stories. Ultimately, I want the reader to be boxed-in, to feel that the story is taking place everywhere, everywhen around them ; that way, they will, I hope, feel it as taking place right *now*, right *here* where they’re standing. It doesn’t work for every reader, I have to say. Some feel that because the death of Thomas, for example, is taking place everywhere and everywhen in the Vellum, they can’t really care ; he’s always escaping, always being reborn, so their empathy is dissipated. After a character’s been killed off and brought back for the tenth time, who cares ? But the readers that it works for, I think, read it differently. For them that technique makes that death profoundly personal. Maybe they understand that the death of this loved one is the death of any loved one, maybe they map it to a grief of their own, real or just imagined. Either way the death, for them, has an immediacy.
This is, of course, *if* it works for that reader.
The one other part of the process that changes the meaning of the text is the one that gives translators so much grief. There are words that don’t have the same effect in this culture as they would have done in the original, names and places that are just alien to contemporary readers. So what I’ll do in some cases is introduce word-plays as deliberate versions of the errors that creep into ancient texts over time because a word that doesn’t make sense any longer is parsed into a similar sounding word that does make sense. That playfulness can create neat new shades of meaning in the text ; in Ink, for example, I use “basilisk” in place of “basileus” in reference to a tyrannical king. Where I’m using Virgil’s Eclogues in both books, I try to rework their names, so that Chromis and Mnasylus become Chrome and Mainsail, for example, to create an intertextual link with Shakespeare’s way of naming fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I like the idea of adding an element of randomness through simple acoustic association, creating new meanings from chance similarities. Of course, this causes headaches for translators and creates a disjunct where the non-English equivalent (e.g. Asile for Mainsail) sounds nothing like the Greek I’m punning on. I have the deepest sympathy for translators like Florence Dolisi who have to deal with all that word-play.
ActuSF : You draw lines of force in the history of spirituality, identifying the characters in the Sumerian myths to those in the Christians and Jews stories. Should we believe that it is always the same major characters almost archetypal, that humanity would have described in its founding narratives ?
Hal Duncan : This is largely speculative on my part, so I’m not sure I’d say that anyone should believe it, myself included, but I do think that those major characters aren’t just *almost* archetypal ; they *are* archetypal. There’s a specific model I’m working with, in fact, one based on Jung but with a debt to the Egyptian notion of everyone having seven souls. I think you could theoretically see a seven-fold structure to the psyche which maps to the key characters in Vellum and Ink : the Superego as guiding conscience (Guy/Reynard), the wild and libidinous Id (Jack), the Anima/Animus as triple goddess/god figure (Phreedom), the “inner child” of the Self (Thomas), the Ego that has to deal with society and reality (Seamus), the Shadow as the dark side (Joey), and the senex, the wise hermit or old soldier as figure of age and experience (Don).
The supposition would be that if these archetypes are not the innate metaphors Jung thought, they are at least so embedded in our culture that we can’t help but have them imprinted on us as we’re socialised. They’re profoundly resonant root metaphors that inform our sense of identity, symbols of aspects of human personality that might well be universal, might well go right back to our founding narratives. Part of the function of myth, I’d say, is to shape the power-relationships between those aspects of the psyche by putting them through a dance, a psychodrama. Joseph Campbell’s idea of the heroic monomyth is obviously pertinent here, with the conquering of the Shadow and the marriage of hero (Id or Ego perhaps) and princess (Anima), this also immediately relateable to Jung’s model of the individuation process.
But I think there’s more to it than that. Other archetypal stories — the theft of fire, the descent through Hell — are putting those characters through different programs with different aims. So, what if it’s the victor who writes the history ? What if telling the story of the dead-and-resurrected Self (Dumuzi, Tammuz, Adonis, Dionysus, Jesus) a certain way changes the outcome of the psychodrama from a positive celebration of rebirth to a pathological celebration of the bloody murder ? This is how I read the crucifixion myth as it was recast by Paul from the tragic slaughter of a pacifist socialist upstart who represents the Self in its most empathic form to a glorious blood-sacrifice to a jealous and vindictive, power-hungry Ego. I don’t believe in the myth as a literal miracle, partly because the Lamb Jesus with his body for bread and blood for wine is way too similar to the Kid Dionysus, but from a psychological perspective, if this speculative model of how myth works is right, Paul’s perversion of that story is an abomination. Worse still, its one that perpetuates itself simply through the telling, like a meme, a viral corruption of our culture and our very selves.
I don’t know far I’d say I actually believe in this model as something more than a framework for the fiction, but in terms of founding narratives, I certainly see a connection in the theft of fire story that stretches back from Lucifer to Prometheus and might well be theoretically extended all the way back to the shamans of the Paleolithic.
ActuSF : One of the recurring problems of the book is single persons confronted to crushing destinies. For you, is freedom just the struggle to escape circles, always repeating the same patterns ? Phreedom, Thomas Messenger, Seamus Finnan, Jack Carter.do they all embody a lonely and vulnerable freedom opposing the Superior powers, whether these are powers of the order, or powers of the chaos ?
Hal Duncan : Yes, but the freedom is not so much to do with literal predestination — cycles of history, fate, higher powers, etc. — because really I don’t believe in destiny at all. I’m pretty much an existentialist/nihilist, so I believe we’re all fundamentally free at that level. I suspect that probably comes through in the book, to some extent, in the notion that for these characters destiny is created, an artifice imposed on them, graved into them. Destiny then, in the book, is more of a metaphor, a way of talking about how we surrender to the idea that our lives are stories, which makes it ultimately about identity. There are more practical freedoms addressed in the book, in terms of freedoms lost when prejudice leads to persecution (the freedom to fuck whatever gender you want to fuck, the freedom to follow a different god or none at all) or when the temporal Powers-That-Be are uncaring, unseeing or unjust (dragging us into pointless wars, using internment to deal with dissent, using might and violence to chain the human spirit — in 1917, 2017 or 2008), but much of this all comes back to the freedom to be who you want to be, to not be the *subject* of another.
What it comes down to is, I guesss, an existentialist position that flips the angst and nauseau valuation that Sartre projects on the absence of meaning. For him that lack of essential truth is a void which we react to with horror ; for me, it’s a blank slate, a tabula rasa, on which we can create pretty much anything we want. The horror comes in, on my part, at the idea that if we’re all trying to write our own lives onto that blank slate, forge our own “destinies”, we have to try and resolve the conflict between each other’s stories, find a consensus. The horror is that as often as not that means accepting the roles that others see us in, or others accepting the roles we see ourselves in, negotiating a huge big construct of essentialist self-delusions, bad faith. I see this as at the root of most of those practical problems. Sexism, racism, homophobia, religious persecution, social oppression — most of these have their root, I’d argue, in a psychological process of subjection and abjection, of idenitifying individuals by certain features and defining them by that feature — gender, skin colour, sexuality — forcing them into a preconceived role accordingly, rendering them an “Other”.
For Phreedom, Thomas, Seamus and Jack, that’s what they’ve become bound into. As much as they’re trying to escape the literal enrollment Metatron wants to impose on them, they’re also trapped in the archetypal roles they may well have partially or wholly chosen for themselves — the virgin/whore, the gay-victim, the fallen rebel, the good soldier.
ActuSF : Your writing is trying to reconcile the art of fragmenting and yet fluidity. How did you manage to reconcile these two aspects of writing, which are opposed, but at the same time belong to the backbone set of Velum ?
Hal Duncan : What I’ve tried to do is create a really well-defined formal structure that holds the fragments together at an abstract level and reins in the fluidity so that shifts between realities are not entirely arbitrary but positioned in patterns throughout that structure. So, in Vellum and Ink, what you have is two books of two volumes each, each with an opening prologue, a closing epilogue and an “eclogue” chapter as intermission between volumes. Each volume has seven chapters, each chapter (or prologue, epilogue or eclogue) has twelve “cantos” and each “canto” has four “verses”. At the volume level the story is largely linear. It follows a thematic cycle of seasons and times and day : summer/day ; autumn/dusk ; winter/night ; spring/dawn. But it also charts a narrative structure which reflects that in a literal disintegration (in Vellum) and restoration (in Ink) vis-a-vis the loosing of the bitmites. So the reader has this large-scale compositional structure as a basic framework.
Within each volume, in Vellum at least, the chapters will generally focus on one of two characters : so you’ll have a Phreedom chapter or a Thomas chapter in the first volume, a Seamus chapter or a Jack chapter in the second. And what I’ve tried to do is create a regularity in the patterning, not quite alternating between viewpoints, but symmetrical, formal. Each shift in point of view means a shift in voice, a shift in style and tone, and to some extent what I’m trying to do is create a more abstract sense of story. Narrative is a pattern of tension and release, so what I’ll do — the second volume of Vellum is a good example here — is cut from the building tension of a Seamus chapter, say, to the release of a Jack Flash chapter. So in terms of plot it may seem chaotic but there’s an abstract order there that makes it *feel* right, I think, if you just... step back from the canvass, so to speak, defocus your vision and let the larger shape formed by this collage of scenes resolve into a dynamic pattern.
That approach is applied at the lower levels too, so that if the titled sub-chapters — the “cantos” — in one chapter break the flow in terms of chronology or viewpoint I’ve tried to arrange it so that this happens in a way that reads as patterned. So, in a Jack Flash chapter you might have different perspectives — Jack on the rampage, the interview after he’s been caught from Jack’s perspective, the same interview from the interviewer’s perspective — but I’m always trying to create a sense of balance in the shifts from one perspective to another. When you get down to the level of the “verses”, the opening chapter of Phreedom’s narrative is probably a good example of the level of intricacy I’m happy with though. It starts off pretty much alternating an “Inanna canto” with a “Phreedom canto”, then the two threads start to get woven through each other, so that you get an alternating pattern between Phreedom and Inanna verses in each canto ; eventually they start to merge, with text from the Sumerian poem integrated fully into the 2017 narrative of Phreedom in the tattoo parlour — which is where, I think, if the reader has followed you along this far, the whole thing becomes less fragmented and more fluid, as the jarring perspectives resolve into a single narrative.
Ultimately, as much as Vellum may appear utterly disordered, my approach was generally quite formal, at least on an abstract level. It was only at a few points here and there that I let the book become more freeform — in parts of the Thomas narrative, say, where the escape-through-metamorphosis theme called for something more Protean.
ActuSF : The French readers do not known Ink yet. Can you tell us a little about this second part of the diptych "The book of all time" ? Do you solve riddles posed in Velum, or is it to maintain the impression of floating sense of uncertainty that makes the charm of the first opus ?
Hal Duncan : From what I’ve said above you might already get some sense of where Ink is going. Thematically, if Vellum gives us the summer and the autumn, the day and the dusk, the gradual descent into darkness and disorder, Ink gives us the journey through the extremes of winter and night, towards the spring and the dawn. In Vellum things are falling apart ; Ink is the story of people trying to put them back together, only to do so they have to get through the darkest hours, the depths of chaos. So the first volume of Ink is about as wild as it gets, all Saturnalia and Walpurgisnacht, night and fire. It’s the most complex volume in terms of the number of narrative threads used, and it involves a retelling of The Bacchae by Euripedes as a Harlequin play staged by Guy, Jack, Puck, Joey and Don. What I wanted to do in Vellum was have Jack gradually emerge out of the background, this unkin spear-carrier, this Covenant foot-soldier, gradually take a larger and larger role in the big story. In Ink, Jack basically takes centre-stage, and he’s the avatar of chaos, not the thief of fire but the fire itself. So, yes, things get a whole lot more fucked-up before they even *begin* to get better.
Still, the fact that it’s all headed towards spring, towards dawn, should give readers a clue that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There should certainly be a sense of resolution, of closure ; the narratives of the various characters are picked up and taken to end-points. I just can’t say for sure that readers will feel like all the riddles have been solved, like all the threads have been tied-up neatly, all the storylines resolved. On one level, there’s an element of inconsistency that’s integral to the books, and if the reader is looking for every rip and tear to be sewn up, every discontinuity to be made sense of as if it were a logical problem to be solved, they’re missing the fact that these variant facets of story are the point. The story is in the disjunctions as much as anything, the juxtapositions of jarring realities.
ActuSF : What are you working on now ? What are your plans ?
Hal Duncan : Right now I’m working on the third novel, a retelling of Gilgamesh that will be more linear than Vellum and Ink, but similarly multi-threaded. The story itself is a timeless tale of the bond between a man, Gilgamesh and his furry friend, Enkidu. And the narrative is fairly straightforward. Boy meets hairy boy. Boy and hairy boy fall in love. Boy and hairy boy have adventures. Tragedy strikes. Boy sets out on a quest for the secret of life. And... well... if you know the story, you know how it ends ; if you don’t, I won’t spoil it for you. So the backbone of the book will be the original source text. As I did with The Descent of Inanna or Dumuzi’s Dream, I’ve been working from as many different translations as I could get my hands on, trying to work up my own prose-poetry adaptation. There are more translations of Gilgamesh available, so the conflicts between them have made it more of a challenge in some ways, trying to reconcile those variations. But a challenge in a good way.
Anyway, at the centre of the story is a theme, as I see it, an idea that what makes us human is the knowledge of our own mortality. Gilgamesh and Enkidu represent civilised man and man-of-nature, our cultural and animal natures, mind and body, and so on ; so there are parallels I want to make with the Enlightenment philosophy of writers like Rousseau, the notion of the noble savage versus the “civilising” town-builder, by translating the action to 1800s British Columbia, rendering the Gilgamesh-Enkidu relationship as one between a European settler and a Native American who’s grown up feral.
These two narrative threads will be woven through each other and bound together by a third, a thread set in a future which might well be seen as a fold of the Vellum after the end of Ink, a post-singularity world where something very much like the Evenfall has transpired, with nanotech running rampant, but where things are slowly being put back together. Here I want to have the Gilgamesh character as an academic of sorts, in some ways a parody of the philandering lecturer you find in mainstream fiction, with the Enkidu character as a student and lover who also happens to be involved in a posthuman subculture of people who are, to all intents and purposes, furries as they might be in an age of body-modifications and bio-engineered fur-suits. The furry aspect tends to raise eyebrows when I mention it, but I think there’s serious ideas to tackle here. I think there’s an interesting parallel between the way people use an animal as metaphor for their own identity in that furry subculture and the way it works in totemistic religion. And it all speaks to the question of what it means to be human, how that’s distinct — if at all — from what it means to be an animal.
After that ? Well, I have a file of at least five different novel ideas all crying out to be written, other things I want to do in the same mythos, or with some of the recurring characters. But I’ll deal with that when I come to it.