Thursday, December 6, 2018

Hughart's blanket

So, last week I finished up the revisions for my BRIDGE OF BIRDS piece, before moving on to the WORM OUROBOROS piece (which took up most of this week), and prepping the way for UNKNOWN KADATH, which I'll be getting to next week.

While working on the Hughart I was struck by a brief* biographical account he wrote that I hadn't noted before, in which he discusses his struggles with depression, experiences setting mines in the Korean DMZ (with resultant flashbacks), and his love of the Far East. The BRIDGE OF BIRDS, he says, came about because

"I decided . . . to create an alternate world 
into which I could creep on dark and stormy nights
 and pull over my head like a security blanket."

After sharing his revelation that the story had to be 'about love' rather than just a string of exciting incidents (giving as an example Miser Shen's love for his dead daughter), he ends his account with the wish

"I most particularly hope that on dark and stormy nights
some of those readers will be able to crawl into my alternate
world and pull it over them like a security blanket"

This shows how in its inception Hughart's China that never was is an unusually pure example of Escape in the Tolkienian sense.

It also sets Hughart firmly in the group of writers who create secondary worlds first as a private preoccuptation,  an absorbing intellectual and creative activity,  and only secondarily think of publication. A. T. Wright's Islandia is the classic example, but Tolkien himself, who worked on his legendarium for many years before attempting to get it into print, also fits the pattern, with the caveat that when the possibility of publication reared its head he was glad to pursue it.

--John R,

*it fits on the inside front and inside back dustjacket flaps of the 2008 Subterranean Press Master Li/Number 10 Ox omnibus

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