|Ian works hard, listens to Johnny Cash|
I’m just reading Rudyard Kipling now. It’s always nice when someone pays tribute to the classics in their fiction. We stand on the shoulders of writers before us. Kipling is a giant, so many writers pay tribute - Neil Gaiman, for example, in his Graveyard Book. Great to know Ian has been inspired by him, too!
Ian’s ‘The Godbreaker and Unggubudh the Mountain’ has a bit of history, for me at least. I first encountered Ian through his story ‘The Godbreaker of Seggau-Li’, in April or May 2007, in a CSFG critiquing group. I was tremendously impressed by Ian’s depth of world-building, his deft characterisation, his propulsive plotting. I must have seen over a dozen McHugh stories by now, in styles ranging from out-and-out fantasy to magical realism to Orwellian futurism to all-too-plausible alternate history, and none of them has ever been the slightest bit substandard; most have been excellent. ‘Unggubudh’, I reckon, might just be his best yet.
While I have to stop and think every time before I pronounce "Unggubudh", Simon selected a tract of Ian's story to read at the NZ launch of "Light Touch." Ian's created such a rich tale with this story, and really knows how to capture his audience with his engaging, intriguing characters. The interplay between Big Ung and Little Ung was so natural, and beautifully written that I would like to read more of the backstory to their lives. I hope Ian intends to continue writing in this world.
The Godbreaker and Unggubudh the Mountain" is a sequel of sorts to "The Godbreaker of Seggau-li", which Simon published in issue 50 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2011 - and which Ellen Datlow HM'ed for The Best Horror of the Year #4. I landed on the idea of "Unggubudh" because I was struggling to find a way into the theme, beyond writing a story that just launched. Flailing about for a place to launch from, it suddenly occurred to me that revisiting something Simon had bought from me previously might work in my favour - or not, since I had very little idea of Edwina's tastes. But, dammit, I had a place to start.
The first Godbreaker story was based on Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book story "Rikki-tikki-tavi", with the animals way more anthropomorphised and the Godbreaker in the role of Kipling's mongoose. The characters in the new story, Unggubudh (Big Ungg) and his son Little Ungg, derive from that most common pairing in children's picture books - an adult bear and its child/grandchild. (I have two young kids. I read a lot of picture books.)
The stories are both Westerns, as a lot of my stories are - as "Rikki-tikki-tavi" is a Western, or perhaps even the archetype of modern Westerns. I tend to write fairly complex worlds, so need easily recognisable skeletons to hang them on. And Westerns are fun, besides.
Of all Western character archetypes, the Drifter is my favourite, but when I write Drifter stories, I tend to use other Western character archetypes for point-of-view. In "Bitter Dreams" it was the Weary Lawman, in "Seggau-li" it was the Feisty Townswoman, in "Unggubudh" it's the Retired Gunslinger. Although in this case, the Retired Gunslinger is an anthropomorphised bear with a motherf___ing huge sword (because is there anything more badass than a bear with a sword?)
The first Godbreaker story can be read at http://ianmchugh.wordpress.com/stories/ for those who're interested to dip in before they read the sequel.
Ian McHugh is a graduate of Clarion West and a member of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. His stories have appeared in publications including Asimov's, Analog, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Daily SF. They have won grand prize in the Writers of the Future contest and been shortlisted four times at the Aurealis Awards (for one win). In 2011, his work made its first appearance on the Locus Recommended Reading List.
Links to read or hear Ian's published stories free online can be found at ianmchugh.wordpress.com