The Aphelion Interview:
Aphelion has been very fortunate over the years. We’ve featured a wide variety of authors, and many of them I’m proud to say have voices and viewpoints uniquely their own. However, one of the most unique and mind-bending of them all is Guy Hasson, this month’s subject of the “Aphelion Interview.” His stories engage the reader on multiple, sometimes overlapping levels, providing a heady swirl in the narrative. If you don’t believe me, just go to the archives and read “Living in the Present” or “The Dark Side” and see if you can keep from becoming deliciously dizzy! For further information about Guy and his work, you can go to his homepage at http://guyhasson.20m.com/ or you can E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Now, without further digression into alternate universes, timelines, or realities, I give you Guy Hasson…
Q: How did you discover Aphelion.
I discovered Aphelion when I discovered e-zines. A few years ago, someone told me about the existence of e-zines and e-books, and I spent about a month or two inhaling all the e-zines I could find, trying to see if it’s just people getting their own stories published, or if it’s something serious and respectable. I came to the conclusion that, like everywhere else, e-zines had an hierarchy. And I was glad to find that among the top ones there was real quality. And that these magazines didn’t care if the manuscripts submitted to them were written by unknown writers, they just cared for the quality of their stories. In the end I concentrated on what I considered to be the top five e-zines. Aphelion was easily among them. I’ve been a reader - and a contributor - ever since.
Q: About how long have you been writing?
Ever since I can remember. Before I was six and learned how to read and write I used to make up stories all the time. Once I learned how to read, I devoured the books in the library. And when I was ten I wrote my first book. It got lost, unfortunately, but I have no doubt that it was horrendous. I tried to write it in the style of an Israeli writer called Poochoo. For you ‘foreigners’, though, let me explain: It was a really bad Cannonball Run with twenty more characters, a snake, and some aliens.
Stories have always been floating in my head, aching to get out.
Q: Initially, what were the types of writing that held the greatest attraction to you? How have your tastes changed (if at all) since you began to write?
Verne’s the main name I remember back when I was six or seven. But I read everything that had adventure in it and a lot of detective stories. When I look at it now, I see that I was interested mainly in stories that were pure plot. Stories that led you one way and then turned and twisted. Many years later, plot-building technique I read turned into plot-building technique I wrote: How to surprise the readers, how to build tension, how to lead the readers astray, and so on. Nowadays, though, I look for ‘soul’ or ‘guts’ in a story. The more a writer touches the stuff that’s most important to him or her, the more I appreciate the story. But I still love great technicians.
Q: Who would say were and are the greatest influences for you with your writing?
I’m not sure I want to answer that one. I had many influences and I tried to write like many authors. But I started to write stories I’m really proud of only when I stopped trying to emulate others, and began to simply do my own thing. On the other hand, I would never have been able to ‘do my own thing’, if I hadn’t honed my technique first by imitating others.
Dickens, though, is the writer I most admire. I have never read an author that even comes near.
He’s the one writer whose books I’ve read and admired, but never tried to copy. No chance.
Q. What is it exactly about Dickens that you admire and try to emulate? Are there any of his works in particular that you are drawn to?
Sure, the guy knows how to build an epic plot. But other people have done that just as well. And, sure, he was one cynical bastard, who delivered some of the heftiest punches ever printed on paper, and I love that about him. And, sure, most of his writings aren't perfect; he used to mess up just as often as he did things right. But that knack he had of breaking down a person's soul into small, discrete ('discrete' as opposed to 'continuous'), Lego-sized pieces, that's a knack no one else has. He takes your soul and breaks it into something a child could put back together. I have no other way to describe it.
Q: What types of experiences (personal and other) do you draw on when you are searching for ideas for your work?
Everything in life is fair game. Elia Kazan in his ravishingly-honest autobiography talks about the two playwrights he knew best: Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. Writers have tape recorders in their heads, he says, and you can see when you talk to them that someplace in the back of their heads they’re recording what you’re saying.
That’s true. I used to warn new people in my life that one day they may find their words in a play. And it’s happened, too. And once or twice it’s led to some arguments. But recently that hasn’t been a problem. My stories have become more and more about what goes on inside my head and not about the outside world. And everything inside is just as fair a game as everything outside.
And… Well, pet peeve coming up, so be warned. Writers, like all other people, spend a whole lot of their time lying to themselves or running away from things that are too painful to face. But when you can’t afford to run away and you can’t afford to lie. If you try to prove an ideology (political, philosophical, whatever) that’s even slightly off (as ideologies tend to be), your story will suffer. If you make up excuses about why things are bad or about why you’re this-and-that or about why other people are this-and-that, your writing will suffer. Writing (and reading) is a great escape. But it’s not an escape into lies. The page is where write the truth. About yourself and about the world. And if you can’t handle seeing the truth on the page, or having other people see what you really feel, then please stop writing. Everyone will see that you’re bluffing, anyway.
Q: Authors have an almost infinite number of methods for writing. How would you say your writing process works?
I plan everything in advance. It starts with a grain that I feel touches me (and/or us) in a special way, and then spend months and months trying to figure out what the ideal story for that grain would be. One day I’ll still stumped and unable to figure out how it should be done, then, overnight, all the ideas that have sprung from this over the last weeks come together. And then I write the story. Fortunately, I write stories simultaneously, or I’d never get anything done.
I believe each grain for a story is different. Each describes a feeling, an experience, a thought - hopefully something that touches us all, hopefully something that can’t be phrased in a simple sentence. Each grain deserves its own style, its own buildup, its own beginning and ending, its own unique scenes. Each grain deserves to not have certain scenes in the story, scenes that would exist in another story but not this one. Each grain deserves to not be derived from someone else’s writing, from someone else’s style. Each grain deserves special attention.
Q: The world seems to be becoming more and more fantastic and unreal by the day. The pace of change now is greater than at any other time this side of Renaissance. Science-fiction/fantasy, by its definition, mines that fantastic and unreal territory. As the world changes, as technology evolves, as societies mature, in what directions do you think these genres will go in the future?
Oh, I have no idea. I have a hard enough time figuring out what directions I should take next in my stories, that I can’t imagine what other people will do. I imagine that fads will come and go, though. But fashions are made of things that touch things that are only true now. Five or ten years from now, no one will know what the hell caused such ruckus. The truly good stories, as always, will be the ones that are not parts of any fashion, but stories that touch on eternal truths.
Q: You’ve recently published your first book, The Dark Side, in Israel in Hebrew. What led to the publication of this book, and how were you able to find a publisher?
First of all, it’s called ‘The Dark Side’ in Hebrew, but ‘Hatchling’ in English. I would have called it ‘Hatchling’ in Hebrew, too, but there’s no word for ‘Hatchling’ in Hebrew. The reason for the confusion in names is that the book is a collection of seven stories: ‘Hatchling’, ‘The Dark Side’, ‘Eternity Wasted’, ‘No Chance’, ‘Living in the Present’ (all five previously published by Aphelion - you can find links to them at my site), ‘A Star-Studded Sky’ (previously published by Planet), and a brand new one called ‘The Man Who Became the Center of the Universe’. I had to choose the book’s name from one of those stories. In English, I chose ‘Hatchling’.
How was I able to get it published? You could say that it’s because of a play for kids I once put on. It was called ‘The Kid Who Turned Into an Egg’, and it appeared in the 1996 Haifa International Festival for Children and Youth. Hagar Nachum, an actress who played in the show (and got an Honorable Mention by the festival for her role) asked my permission, a couple of years later, to turn the play into a book. I agreed. She wrote it, and offered it to Bitan Publishers, who accepted it and published it. So while this was going on, she told Bitan Publishers about me, that I wrote a couple of books and that maybe he should look at them. So I gave them two manuscript in English. And that’s that.
But it wasn’t ‘that’ really. The truth is that the fact that I’ve published e-books before (currently: ‘Hope for Utopia’ by Fiction Works) certainly helped me. As with most places, to publish something you need to have already published something beforehand. I should also mention that it was also a great risk to decide to publish a science fiction book in Israel, and Bitan Publishers have my eternal gratitude for taking this huge risk. There are only 6 million people in the entire country, and there has never been a big sf crowd.
However, I was fortunate enough to be part of a huge swell in Israeli sf, that, oddly enough, coincided with the publishing of my book: Two more Israeli sf books were published a couple of months before mine by another publishing company. The number of Israeli sf books published the year before: zero. There are also a lot more sf books being translated into Hebrew these days. There’s a new magazine, ‘Dreams in Aspamia’, dedicated to original Israeli sf - yet another huge gamble - and thanks to it original stories here flourish. And it’s only just begun.
Some of these original stories may eventually find their way to your homes, by the way. I’m a member of a committee created by the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy. What we do is, we go over stories that have already been published, and try to pick the ones with the best chance of being sold abroad. Then the story is translated into English by good-hearted and talented volunteers, and sent to whatever magazines the authors choose. So you people may find out what kind of fantasy and sf people write in ‘that them other countries’. Some is the same. But some is very different.
Q: Will you be publishing an English-language version of the book?
I hope so. I was so busy the last couple of months trying to promote my book, burying myself in the Israeli sf world, and publishing stories in Hebrew, that I neglected many other things. Now that things are calming down a bit, I will be starting to look for agents and publishers in the more distant corners of the world, like the US, the UK, or Europe.
Q: The best way I can describe your stories is that they are “mind trips.” You seem to overlay multiple voices, multiple realities, multiple endings, etc. in many of your stories. What led you to this particular writing technique? Are you planning to take this technique any further?
Multiple voices, multiple realities, multiple endings - that’s not my writing technique, that’s what my head sounds like. It’s like that line from ‘Roseanne’, in which her husband says: “You’re a madwoman.” So she says: “Yeah, well, the voices in my head disagree.”
I think this is the basic state-of-mind for a writer. Most writers have their characters walking around in their heads, living their lives, talking to them. Most writers go through scenarios in their heads: What could have happened, what would have happened, what will happen, what might happen. Like Joel, the main character in ‘The Dark Side’, I have all the potential me’s in my head and they’re all going about their lives.
I don’t choose to write “mind trips” (I like that, by the way). It’s just that of all the potential stories that go through my head, I always seem to choose the ones I can eventually bend in that direction.
Am I planning to take this further? There’s a new story I wrote, ‘All-of-Me™’, which appeared recently (translated into Hebrew) in ‘Dreams in Aspamia’. It’s about a harmless, little program that shows you all your possible selves and all their possible lives. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying any more, but it’s a definite mind-trip. And then there’s a story I’m working on now, called ‘Her Destiny’. It actually takes us into the dark recesses of our mind, recesses so deep that they can’t possibly exist, except that math tells us they do. Basically, it’s like that level of reality in which, if you look closely enough, things leap out of nowhere into reality, then disappear. In this story I invent a ‘quantum soup’ level of the mind. And it’s logical every step of the way. I hope.
What’s next beyond that? I don’t know. I hope to start working on a play that’s also a mind trip (that’s it, this is part of my jargon now). It’s about an eighteen-year-old whose girlfriend, the ‘love of his life’, has just been killed in an accident. The play is in his mind and follows the process of his grief. We walk through his dreams, his fantasies, and his memories. What he does is, he walks back an entire life he’s built in his head, an entire life with her. The kids they’ll have, the great moments, the bad ones. He walks back in time, retracing and erasing this half-imaginary life. Then he walks back to things that did happen - the first kiss, the first time they touched each other, and so on. Eventually, he reaches the point in which they first met. And he gets to choose again: Does he, knowing the pain it’ll cause him, choose to walk away, or will he choose to go through it after all?
Q: Lost loves or lost relationships seem to be a part of your work as well. Would you say this is true, and what brings this into your work?
That’s weird. I actually thought I got away with not talking about lost loves and lost relationships in my science fiction. When I write drama for the theater, I write almost solely about that (see the example above about the eighteen year-old’s lost love). Losing the woman (or man) you love, that’s one of my soft spots. And I find that the stage magnifies this pain tenfold. I can’t magnify this pain in prose as much as I’m able to simply by putting it on the stage, so I try to leave it out of my sf. But I guess that didn’t work.
Why is it such a sensitive spot? That’s those alternative me’s again. A million women had said ‘no’ to me in my head before I’d even asked a real one. And although I can tell the two apart, imagination, to me, is just as real as reality. So that wasn’t fun, but it makes for good plays.
By the way, there’s a story on my site that’s fiction and it deals with that, too. It’s called ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation.’ It’s not an sf story, and I couldn’t make it work on the stage. So if some of you readers would like to see how soft this soft-spot of mine is, it’s over in the ‘Fiction’ section of my site.
On the other hand, maybe it’s not lost loves you see in my stories, maybe it’s the fact that all my characters are loners. They are always unique, always go through their troubles alone, they have no one to rely on but themselves, and probably very few people understand them. This state of being alone isn’t ‘loneliness’. They’re never lonely.
Q: You live in Israel. How do you keep safe on a daily basis?
I do nothing to keep safe. I live my life, and hope the next bomb doesn’t hurt me or someone dear to me. As to how we can live like that, I think you people in the States can answer that better than I. Think back to 9/11. After the incredible shock began to wear off, after the first few weeks. There was still a lot of fear. Who knows what the next terrorist action will be or when it will occur. Every little thing scared you. But eventually you had to go to work, you had to take the kids to school, you had to go on with your lives. The chance it’ll happen again is still there, in the back of your minds. But you think, ‘it won’t happen to me’, or ‘it won’t happen today’. And life goes back to normal.
So it’s more intense over here. But it works the same way.
Q: What do you see yourself doing with your writing in the future?
Oh, I don’t know. There are a couple of things in the works. And the most exciting and recent one is that there’s talk of making the novella ‘Hatchling’ into a TV movie (in English). It’s one of the stories I’m most proud of, and I hope I can translate it into visual-speak.
As for the unplanned future? I just hope to keep on getting new ideas, I hope to never write the same story twice, and I hope to keep on getting better.
Q: Okay, thank-you very much for taking the time to answer these questions!
Guy Hasson is 30 years old and lives in Israel. He is a regular contributor to Aphelion. His second sf novel, 'Hope for Utopia', is now being published by The Fiction Work, and a new book of his is coming out in paperback in Israel. It's a collection of short sf stories and novellas (including many Aphelion stories) translated into Hebrew. He's spent the last few months finishing a new sf novel and writing (on spec) a six-part horror series for TV. So now he's looking for publishers, agents, and tv producers.
While struggling to forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated consciousness of all people, Jeff Williams occasionally produces poems, short stories, and other pieces such as the one you’ve just read. If you wish to contact him concerning this story, you can E-mail Jeff at email@example.com.