Rhys Hughes (Rhys Henry Hughes) born 24 September 1966 is a Welsh writer and essayist.
He has a physical particularity: he have different colored eyes.
The square root of minus one is an imaginary number, but it can’t be imagined by the human mind. Yet it exists and has great power!
My ambition is to become an official member of OuLiPo
OuLiPo is a system of writing that encourages the use of mathematical constraints to help create work that is startling, clever and very original. It was founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. Although the idea of using mathematics to create literature might sound very formal and somewhat daunting, the reality is that OuLiPo techniques strongly emphasise playfulness and whimsy.
My favourite writer, Italo Calvino, was a member of OuLiPo.
Some of my other favourite writers include: Boris Vian, Jorge Luis Borges, Stanislaw Lem, Donald Barthelme, Alvaro Mutis, Flann O’Brien, Ray Bradbury, Brian Aldiss, Felipe Alfau, Alvarto Mutis, John Sladek, Vladimir Nabokov, Ursula Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Maurice Richardson, Samuel Delany, Brion Gysin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, John Barth, Jack Vance, Primo Levi, Umberto Eco, Alasdair Gray, Saki, Georges Perec, Anna Kavan, B.S. Johnson, Nathanael West, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Blaise Cendrars, Douglas Adams, Franz Kafka, John Hawkes, Anatole France, Thomas Disch, John Crowley, Lord Dunsany, Frank Herbert, Raymond Queneau, Fritz Leiber, John Steinbeck, etc.
Too many to mention really…
One of the finest works of Classical literature, in his view, is The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius, a novel the equal in imagination and ingenuity to any fantastical fiction that has ever followed, a book that should be mounted on a pedestal in some hypothetical Temple of Literature.
He’s a fan of what is unsatisfactorily referred to as ‘World Music’. He especially like music from Brazil and India. He also like jazz, ambient, classical and some avant-garde rock. He’s a big fan of the ‘Canterbury Scene’, the more whimsical and offbeat cousin of prog-rock. One day he intend to write a non-fiction history of this neglected movement.
Half Buddhist, half Taoist, half atheist — and living in constant hope that those fractions never add up.
There are few things better than camping trips. The outdoor life seems to scratch an itch that is deep inside the soul. I grew up in Porthcawl and from a fairly young age I explored the dunes that fringe the sea both east and west of that town. The dunes on the eastern side have a more ‘friendly’ feel — they are the ‘non-haunted’ dunes. This is where my first wild camping trips took place, sleeping under the stars without a tent and a fire and wine. Nice!
Rhys Hughes (29.06.2010)
What contemporary writers do he respect? Here’s a short list:
I started reading “adult” literature when I was 10 years old. My first proper novel was The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. Then I read The Time Machine, The Island of Dr Moreau and The First Men in the Moon. I adored the first three but I didn’t understand the fourth, so I stopped reading “Literature”.
Rhys Hughes (08.06.2010)
He is a vegetarian since the age of 14, partly for religious reasons (that’s when he became a Buddhist) but also for the sake of his body. He object to the eating of meat on moral grounds, health grounds and as a simple question of good taste!
When I was 14 I went back to “Literature”. I read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I enjoyed it so much that I decided that “Literature” wasn’t such a daunting thing at all; and the whole pantheon of Great Works throughout History was suddenly available to me. I immediately plunged into War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, followed by Homer’s The Iliad and its “sequel” The Odyssey (I bought the third “sequel”, The Aeneid by Virgil, but have still never read it). I had no idea that to claim to have read such works at that young age would later be considered “pretentious” by my future critics. So I persisted in reading Tolstoy, Kafka, Voltaire, Cervantes and many others.
The Man Toucan (08.06.2010)
He had several pseudonyms, the first being the rather abstruse “Theophrastus Rhaeticus” when he was 15, followed by “Zadig Dikdorff” (inspired by Voltaire); and then “Henry Jovial”, which is the pseudonym he now wish he had stuck with.
This year he wrote the first real short story called The Journey of Mountain Hawk.
He began took flying lessons when he was in the Air Training Corps. Last lessons was in the year 2000 but he didn’t get his licence… one day!
The first story he ever submitted to a magazine was called ‘The Forever Man‘ and he mailed it off in 1983 when he was 17 years old. It was bounced, of course, but he still think the plot was quite good… So he have started rewriting it thirty years later. (15.02.2014)
During this year there was a pyjama party.
There is a photographic record.
“Kudos to the awesome Gerraint Oakley for digging this one out of his personal archives! I can’t remember the year but I’m guessing we were both about 20 or 21 when we decided to spend a day walking around in our pyjamas for no good reason at all. It was a Sunday and we went into what was usually a quiet pub on that day, only to find it was packed with people. Look closely and you can see a cigarette between my fingers. Yep, I smoked back then!!!!
When this photo was taken I hadn’t published a single story, but I was writing chess problems for The Independent and ‘brainteaser’ puzzles for The Sunday Times — probably the largest audience I ever will have.
(05.11.2013 – published in Facebook)
A rare photo of his youth. He’s the one with the yellow hat. The other fellow was his best friend at the time. They were about 21 years.
He wrote his first and only haiku, when he wasn’t entirely sure what a haiku was supposed to be…
He have 25 in this photo and he remember that it was taken somewhere on the coastal path between Aberystwyth and Borth in Mid Wales.
It was definitely the summer of 1992, so he had recently sold his first few short stories to some small press magazines, but he don’t think anything had yet been published (he think that his first published short story, ‘An Ideal Vocation‘, appeared in August ’92). Hiking has been one of his main interests for most of his life but in this photo he is inadequately dressed for a long trek. Back then he would happily walk all day with no equipment, no supplies and in crummy shoes. He was still a prog-rock fan, and he had just got into krautrock, but the Cocteau Twins were his is favourite band.
On February 6, he received his first acceptance letter for a short-story. It wasn’t a very good story and the book it appeared in wasn’t very good either, but it started off the deluge.
In this year Rhys Hughes, not only wrote 32 stories, but also traveled to Hungary and to the ex-Czechoslovakia where he takes, in his words: “The best photo I’ve ever taken, purely by accident, at night with a very wide aperture and long exposure.” – (17.03.2007)
Have been talking about Esperanto this evening, so then I did a search of old photos and found this picture of me in Hungary back in 1992 in the town of Tata. I taught myself Esperanto because I believed in its ideals, and also because I wanted to write a novel in the language (as Szathmári Sándor did), and also because I liked Hungarian girls…
(19.08.2013 – published in Facebook)
More photos of Hungary.
Photos in Turkey.
More photos in Turkey.
Of all the countries he have visited, Turkey is the one that astonished him the most, partly because of the sheer variety of the scenery and also because of the sense of immense history in every nook and cranny of the landscape.
He travelled to Konya, holy city of the Sufis, a visit that inspired one of his best stories from that time, ‘A Carpet Seldom Found’. It’s a story he hold especially dear to his heart because it marked a quantum jump in the quality of his prose and plotting. When he returned to Wales from Turkey he found a letter waiting on his mat that informed me he had sold his first book to Tartarus Press.
This year he only wrote one short story. It was called ‘The Golden Fleas’. When he was younger he rarely wrote anything other than postcards when abroad. That’s one habit of him that has changed completely and these days he write almost as much fiction on the hoof as he do at home.
Photos in Albania.
Photos in Greece.
He have always found Greece to be a magical place, and one of the great thrills of his writing career was being published in the Greek language.
Here he is on the shores of Lake Bohinj in Slovenia.
He also visited Venice.
A photo of the last flying lessons.
Continuing his travels in September he was, again, in Italy.
Sardinia is one of his favourite islands and a place he wouldn’t mind retiring to.
In this year he went climbing in the Gennargentus (Italy).
During this year the girl of his affection was Catherine Piper.
The first foreign language he was translated into was Serbian, courtesy of Zoran Živković.
The story Eternal Horizon was included in the reading recommendations list of the Locus Magazine’s published in February.
In May he started Salsa classes.
While he regrets for not being in India, because his sweetpea has gone to that country, he starts earning money scribing in exams and on 27 June he have a new job: “It’s a boring administration post working in a warehouse but at least it will help to fuel my new travel fund…”
Thanks to the encouragement of his friend Sarita he created his first oil painting (09 July). “I found it an incredibly difficult thing to manage and the whole thing looked like it was going to be an ugly mess. But suddenly something went right and I’m delighted with the result. I didn’t plan to paint anything in particular but it ended up looking like a whale.”
In his spare time despite being utterly exhausted each day from work he have been writing fiction and poetry.
He have started learning farsi but in other hand he have been sacked from his job. He wrote about it:
“I am both annoyed and elated. No more boring work in bad conditions with bad people, no more cycling in the rain every day, no more disruptive shifts. These are all good things. But I need to earn money somehow, so I guess looking for another job will now become a priority!
At least I can now return to writing with a vengeance! And reading. And cooking. And doing all sorts of things that I’ve had to put on hold for the past two months…” (24 August)
In November he was in Portugal as a guest of the Fórum Fantástico. His first proper reading at a writing convention it was in this first Fórum Fantástico. He read a satire on Margaret Thatcher (“Margaret Thatcher: Le Bouffant Terrible“) in the style of the other pieces in his recently published A New Universal History of Infamy. It was during this Forum that he met the editors of the Livros de Areia publishing house, which led directly to his first foreign language book deal.
After 10 days in Portugal he caught the night train to Madrid.
After Madrid he went to Almeria on the south coast of Spain. Then he crossed the border into Morocco. He actually walked all the way from Melilla to Nador.
In Actual magazine, of the newspaper Expresso, date of December 10, 2005, Rhys Hughes was interviewed about his book of short stories recently translated to portuguese by Livros de Areia, “Em Busca do Livro de Areia & Outras Histórias“.
He was sad to fly back to Wales. But there were compensations, chief among them his friends. He have resumed work on My Cholesterol Socks and plan to complete it by March. He has also pleased that his story ‘The Hydrothermal Reich‘ has been published, more than five years after it was written. He wrote: “I understand why it hasn’t seen print until now, it’s an extremely complex, intense work. I think it demonstrates all my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.”
In January a leg infection led to a week in hospital and two operations. One operation cut the infection out of his leg and left a big circular hole, the other stripped a perfect square of skin off his thigh and grafted it over the wound.
Staying in hospital was a bizarre experience for him, a real eye opener in many ways. It was the first time he have ever had general anaesthetic.
In the meantime he is currently looking for a job again. He have completely recovered from his injury “and yesterday (19 March) I went jogging again for the first time in more than six months! That felt nice. I’ll probably go again later today. This has been a long hard cold winter and I’ve been reluctant to stir from the house for the past three or four weeks! Seeing the sun again felt like meeting an old friend who I thought didn’t like me anymore!”
On March 29th he was again in Portugal for the launch of his book “Uma Nova História Universal da Infâmia” in Porto, a city in the north of Portugal.
A six page interview appeared in the literary magazine “Os Meus Livros“, and he have been asked to deliver in May a talk in Monção (Portugal). He also made a interview to the magazine Sábado.
The most abiding memory of Portugal in this visit, occurred in the city of Porto (12 April) “when a group of university girls in Porto, dressed in black capes, standing under the balcony of my hotel room at midnight singing songs to each other (and accidentally serenading me in the process!). These groups are called tunas and apparently stroll the city near the end of the academic year playing musical instruments and singing. It is all very old fashioned and romantic and precisely the sort of thing I love!”
He was back in Portugal because of the Primeiro Congresso de Literatura do Alto-Minho in Monção where he was the main guest.
On May he reclaiming his friendship with Lowri, his lost sweetpea. “She returned from India a few months ago and we are back in touch and on good terms. She will always have a place in my heart and it was delightful to see her again after more than a year apart.”
He went to Ireland for the wedding of his girlfriend friends, Sadhbh and Marcus; but the few days that he spend in Ireland walking and camping were rainy.
He wrote this blog entry before have 40 years old:
because in some parts of the world my birthday has already come! The time is 13:30 where I currently am, which means that in the far east of Siberia and on certain Pacific islands I am already 40 years old!
He won the Swansea Poetry-In-Performance Festival (07.10.2006) held at The Dylan Thomas Centre.
‘The Crystal Cosmos‘ has been published in French in the pages of the French magazine FICTION 4. His story ‘The Cuckoos of Bliss‘ has also been published in French in a ‘special’ issue of the same magazine, an anthology entitled les anges électriques.
In November he was back in Portugal to attend the Fórum Fantástico and he read four short stories.
After return from Portugal he wrote some words about a possible escape from Swansea. The complete text can be read here. His words have been criticised in certain quarters of Swansea, and so in December he clarify his position:
I intend to leave Swansea in six months if my situation here doesn’t dramatically improve. That’s closer to the truth. The improving of my situation relies entirely on my own efforts.
The Spoons That Are My Ears! – 04.12.2006
Apparently this year in March at least, Lowri was his girlfriend. “Lowri, the sweetest girlfriend that I ever had.” – (in his words, 09.03.2007)
At Chiado café in Lisbon on 24th October 2007 Rhys Hughes taste the oddest galão ever, the Lusitanian version of the café con leche… And Portugal means many things to him, many good things, many amazing things, including friends, sunshine, cakes, books, music, beaches, amazing cities, trams.
This year he spent the summer in Spain.
In El Beneficio, the hippy camp in Orgiva he spent the night of 26th June 2007, stoned and listening to music all night! Then he stays in the Valle de Sensaciones. Some photos can be seen here.
On November he attended the Hispacon, 2007 (Spain) as a guest of honor.
My Good (Not Amazing) News
…and my good but not amazing news is that my application for a bursary from the Welsh Academy was successful. I have been awarded £920 to help pay for research for the completion of my big novel The Clown of the New Eternities. Although this was the smallest sum awarded to any of the applicants, it’s still remarkable that the Welsh Arts establishment have decided to give any amount of money to a writer for the completion of a non-realistic work…
(06.03.2007 – published in The Spoons That Are My Ears!)
My excellent and lovely Turkish friend Filiz came to visit me for five days. We travelled to Segovia and Toledo and I managed to get her lost on both outings. I imagine she now considers me to be a very poor guide, undeserving of the three large bags of Bombay Mix she brought me. It was wonderful to see her again and I hope to visit her in Turkey next year. She is a gentle person with a kind heart and a beautiful soul. We also visited the Prado and Reina Sofia art galleries in Madrid and I was happy to show her ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ for real, one of the strangest and most astounding paintings ever. This photo shows her outside the Palacio Real (or perhaps the cathedral, I can’t remember which.)
I also met up with Fabio, an Italian student I first met in Lisbon during my Sereia readings, an extremely interesting and erudite man. We sat in one of Madrid’s many Irish pubs and discussed literature like old time intellectuals: he interviewed me with a set of astute and thought provoking questions. My literary life has been quite busy recently. I have sold many stories to many anthologies, including one to Mike Ashley for the forthcoming Mammoth Book of Extreme Fantasy. ‘The Old House Under the Snow Where Nobody Goes Except You and Me Tonight’ (which originally appeared in Serbian courtesy of Zoran Zivkovic and then in English as the cover story for Postscripts #2) is the second longest of all my story titles. It will also appear in French very soon, in Ficcion, the French equivalent of F&SF.
As for other writing news, I have just put together a new book for Pendragon… Mirrors in the Deluge follows a similar pattern to my earlier At the Molehills of Madness, being a selection of horror oriented tales from 1990 to the present, but right now it’s only a provisional collection, as the book isn’t scheduled for publication until 2009 or 2010 and I might modify its contents before then.
(19.12.2007 – published in Facebook)
This touching nativity scene was brought to you courtesy of me. With many thanks to photographer Rosa Tristan. The Virgin and child wish peace and happiness for all. Merry Christmas! Personally I despise Christmas, and I imagine Christmas doesn’t have many good things to say about me, but I want you to enjoy yourselves regardless. You do just that, ok?
I don’t like turkey (or any form of meat) and I don’t like sprouts. I don’t like flashing coloured lights. I don’t like buying presents. I don’t even like receiving presents. Bah humbug! I like humbugs, but not very much. My favourite ghost in A Christmas Carol was the future ghost. He cut the mustard big time. I like mustard. Yes. I also like chocolate con churros. Time I had some!
(24.12.2007 – published in Facebook)
Slightly Incompetent Annual Review
A very interesting year, all in all. People, places, things… I left Wales and arrived in Malaga on June 24, which means I spent most of 2007 in Spain. After that too much happened to summarise easily. My chief impressions of Spain? Rosa, obviously. Walking in the Alpujarras and sleeping in the mountains and meeting a wild boar. Living in the Valle de Sensaciones, hippy style, with tree houses and fires and music. The real hardcore hippies of Orgiva and the strongest marijuana I’ve ever encountered. The Buddhist temple at Osel Ling. The Madrid street parties. Albarracín, perhaps the prettiest village in Spain. My British Council trip to Lisbon. My Hispacon trip to Sevilla. The mighty Picos de Europa. The mists of Galicia. The ancient city of Sanabria and the strange village of Rio Onor on the border with Portugal. Two trips to Toledo and Segovia. Many other memories…
My novella The Crystal Cosmos has just been released by PS Publishing, which means I had no fewer than 5 books published during 2007. It was originally supposed to be 8 books, but I’m not complaining! The others will hopefully follow next year. I wrote exactly 40 short stories, my second highest total for any year, although many were very short. So my ultimate total now stands at 440 stories, 44% of my projected life’s work in the field of fiction… I didn’t do my bicycle tour: I regret that. Maybe I’ll do it next year. Big hugs to the people who were a big part of my life in the first part of 2007: Stuart, Monica, Adele, Hannah… Other hugs also to Filiz, Isabel, Huw, Manuela, Sarita, Safaa, etc…
What have a I got planned for 2008? If I can raise the required money I hope the begin the year with a trip to Africa with Rosa, probably to Senegal and Gambia. More writing, of course! But other work too, satisfying and useful work, work done not just for money but because it makes some sort of valid contribution to the world… Anyway, we can but see. Happy New Year to all!
(29.12.2007 – published in Facebook)
- This year he travels to Gambia and Senegal.
His Top Ten Writers of All Time!
On February 8, 2008 Rhys Hughes chooses his top ten writers of all time.
Here are the ten:
- Italo Calvino
- Jorge Luis Borges
- Milorad Pavić
- Stanislaw Lem
- Boris Vian
- Michael Moorcock
- Felipe Alfau
- Jack Vance (I love Jack Vance. One of the many things I love about Vance’s writing is the formal understatement used by his characters in extreme situations.)
- Flann O’Brien
- Donald Barthelme
He wrote his own version of the annoying 1959 Sound of Music song by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
He take several photos of monsters that he invented. Mostly silly, sometimes practical, they play a greater or lesser role in certain books.
He dislike the “horror” genre because when it comes to any particular horror product, it either (a) works, or (b) doesn’t work. If (a) is true then the result is that it scares him. He don’t like being frightened. On the other hand, or talon, if (b) is the case, then the product has failed to do what it promised and he will want his money back. He will demand other forms of penance and reparations too… So horror can’t win. That’s why he dislike it. And possibly why it dislikes him.
The best book he read all year was The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith.
But the best novel he read in 2010 was Hothouse by the superb Brian Aldiss, one of his favourite writers.
Rhys Hughes attended the Odyssey 2010, a Science Fiction convention held in the location of Heathrow. The book dealers’ room in the hotel was gigantic and full of second-hand SF books. A problem for someone addicted to buying books, an addiction he’ve been struggling with for years. He thought he was winning the battle but the sight of so many volumes by so many great writers proved a severe strain on his willpower. As it happened he only bought two books and they were both by authors he have given himself ‘permission’ to buy on sight, namely Jack Vance and John Sladek.
The 10 Best Short-Story Collections Ever
On June 30, 2010 Rhys Hughes chooses his top ten best short-story collections ever. Normally in such lists he issue a disclaimer that the books “aren’t in any particular order” but in this case they are in order, with the best first. Here are the ten:
- The Complete Cosmicomics — Italo Calvino
- Sixty Stories – Donald Barthelme
- The Cyberiad – Stanislaw Lem
- Vermilion Sands – J.G. Ballard
- Collected Fictions – Jorge Luis Borges
- Locos: a comedy of gestures – Felipe Alfau
- Unlikely Stories, Mostly – Alasdair Gray
- Marcovaldo – Italo Calvino
- Keep the Giraffe Burning – John Sladek
- Complete Short Stories – Saki
His 10 Best Stories
On november 03, 2010 Rhys Hughes chooses his 10 best stories:
- The Impossible Inferno
- The Abnormalities of Stringent Strange
- The Quims of Itapetinga
- Eternal Horizon
- The Jam of Hypnos
- The Hydrothermal Reich
- Southbound Satin
- Rommel Cobra’s Swimming Carnival
- Thais Von Oort
The list is not in order. That would be for him too difficult. If he had to choose just one story to represent his ouevre he would pick ‘The Abnormalities of Stringent Strange’ or ‘The Impossible Inferno’. He can’t decide between those two!
He’s a fruit lover and he particularly love berries.
He attend the WORDfest Crawley.
The photo used to introduce the writer Rhys Hughes at the WORDfest Crawley, 2011, but taken in Galicia in 2008.
This year, once again, confirms that Rhys Hughes is a man of 1000th crafts.
On November 14 he began working as an extra on a film:
A couple of months ago I registered with an agency that provides extras for films and TV. Today I’m doing my first day of shooting in a new show. No idea what I’m supposed to do yet but I doubt it will be too dramatic…
(14.11.2013 – published in Facebook)
In this year Rhys Hughes published 5 books:
- Tallest Stories
- The Abnormalities of Stringent Strange
- Just Not So Stories
- The Young Dictator
- More Than a Feline
There are ten books that blew him away in 2013. The list can be found here.
His writing resolutions for 2014 are:
- Find a new agent.
- Finally finish a novel he have been writing since 1994 (it’s called THE CLOWN OF THE NEW ETERNITIES).
- Branch out into some other types of writing; for instance, he’ve always wanted to write a radio play.
- Attend more events and do more public readings.
The first acceptance of 2014 was a novel. (08.01.2014)
He submitted a story to F&SF. He don’t hold out too many hopes for his piece but he made a resolution this year to consistently submit to higher markets, so it’s a first step in the right direction. He have been published several times in Fiction, the French version of F&SF but never in any big American magazines. He’s determined to change this state of affairs. (11.01.2014)
His own small-press
He decided to set up his own small-press. It’s only pretend to be a very modest affair. The cat anthology was the first book to be issued by this press; the next will be his collection of poems.
In 28th January he decides to talk about the ten favourite short stories ever.
He find writing non-fiction so much harder than writing fiction…
Two days’ work and I’ve only done 845 words on an article. But I can write 1000 words of fiction in one hour. – he says (28.01.2014)
31th January Rhys Hughes published the book of poems The Gloomy Seahorse.
06th February Rhys Hughes published the book Flash in the Pantheon.
15th February Rhys Hughes published the book The Sticky Situations of Zwicky Fingers.