Hal Duncan

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Hal Duncan
Hal Duncan Polcon 2007 cropped.JPG
Hal Duncan at Polcon 2007
Born (1971-10-21) 21 October 1971 (age 42)
Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Occupation Science fiction and fantasy writer
Nationality British/Scottish
Alma mater Glasgow University
Notable work(s) Vellum - The Book of All Hours
Ink - The Book of All Hours 2
Escape from Hell!
Songs for the Devil and Death


Hal Duncan (born 21 October 1971, real name Alasdair) is a Scottish science fiction and fantasy writer.

His works have been listed in the New Weird genre but he denies that such genre was even known to him at the time of writing his first novel.[1] However, he now seems to have accepted this label and to appreciate it, as proved by the inclusion of one of his stories in an anthology called simply The New Weird and edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer.[2] In general, however, he prefers not to ascribe his writings to any genre.[3]


Hal Duncan was born in Kilwinning (North Ayrshire) in 1971 and grew up "in small town Ayrshire" before relocating to Glasgow, where he graduated from Glasgow University and where he still resides.[4] Before becoming a full-time writer he used to work as a computer programmer,[1] a job that he quit in 2005.[5]

He is openly homosexual and terms himself a "Sodomite".[6][7] Occasionally he fashions himself as "THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan" (sic) after receiving hate mail defining him by this expression, as reported on his personal weblog.[8]

He is also very outspoken politically[3] and considers himself an "anarcho-socialist who recognizes that democracy's the least of all possible evils"[5] but also "a little bit liberal."[9]

He is an active member of the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers Circle[10] and he took part in the spoken word performance group Word Dogs, organised by some of the members of the Circle.[11]


Hal Duncan listed amongst his inspirations and influences such diverse authors as James Joyce,[5] William S. Burroughs, Alfred Bester, H. P. Lovecraft, Neal Stephenson,[1] Michael de Larrabeiti, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Samuel R. Delany, Wallace Stevens, William Blake, Michael Moorcock, Harold Pinter and Jorge Luis Borges.[3][12]



His first novel, Vellum - The Book of All Hours, was released by Pan Macmillan in August 2005.[13] It was nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the Locus Award, and won the Spectrum and the Tähtivaeltaja Awards.[6] It is about a war between Heaven and Hell fought in a reality of which Earth is only a fragment; in this reality, called Vellum, live the Unkin (Angels and Demons). The events in the novel are described in a non-linear order, with several skips ahead and back in time. The story of the characters is linked to the Sumerian myth of Inanna and her descent to the underworld and to Aeschylus's tragedy Prometheus Bound.[14] It is divided in two parts dedicated to the seasons of summer (entitled ""The Lost Deus of Sumer") and fall (entitled "Evenfall Leaves").[15]

Vellum has been translated amongst others into German (by Hannes Riffel),[16] Finnish (by Nina Saikkonen),[17] French (by Florence Dolisi),[18] Spanish (by Luis Gallego Tevar),[19] Italian (by Stefania Di Natale)[20] and Polish (by Anna Reszka).[21]


Its sequel, Ink - The Book of All Hours 2, was published in February 2007.[22] Its two parts are linked to the two remaining seasons, winter (entitled "Hinter's Knights") and spring ("Eastern Mourning"), and it continues the narrative (and the style) of the first instalment.[23] The ancient works here referred to are Euripides's The Bacchae and no less than the Old Testament.[24] Ink has been shortlisted for the 2011 Tähtivaeltaja Awards.[25][26]

Ink has been translated into German by Hannes Riffel,[27] Finnish by Nina Saikkonen,[28] French by Florence Dolisi,[29] Spanish by Luis Gallego Tévar[30] and Polish by Anna Reszka.[31]

Escape from Hell![edit]

In 2008 he published for Monkeybrain Escape from Hell!,[32][33] a novella inspired by the 1981 movie Escape from New York and the 1990 movie Jacob's Ladder in which four characters ("a hitman, a hooker, a hobo and a homo") try to flee from Hell, here represented as a dystopian version of Manhattan in which all the damned see their punishment continuously televised.[34][35] Duncan has declared that he is planning two sequels for it, Assault! On Heaven! and Battle! For the Planet! Of the Dead!.[36]

It has been translated into French by Florence Dolisi as Evadés de l'Enfer! and was published by Éditions Gallimard in October 2010.[37] Finnish by Einari Aaltonen,[38]

An A–Z of the Fantastic City[edit]

In May 2011 Duncan announced the publication of An A–Z of the Fantastic City, a "chapbook" for Small Beer Press,[39] initially due to be released in February 2012. The volume, illustrated by Eric Schaller, deals with twenty-six cities, both real (Dublin, Guernica, Jerusalem, London, Washington) and imaginary (Erewhon, Camelot, R'lyeh, Tir-na-Nog, Urville).[40][41][42] After some delays,[43] it was published in April 2012 in three formats: a limited edition, numbered and signed hardcover format (89 copies[44]), trade paperback and e-book.[45][46]

Short stories[edit]

Amongst the short stories he published are The Angel of Gamblers in Eidolon I, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy G. Byrne (2006),[47] The Last Straw in Glorifying Terrorism, edited by Farah Mendlesohn (2007),[48] and The Tower of Morning's Bones in Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, edited by Ekaterina Sedia (2008).[49] The Tower of Morning's Bones is one of the four previously published stories collected in Errata. A volume in Duncan's Borrible influenced project, Fabbles: 1 (sic) collects three previously e-published pieces, including The Taking of the Stamp.

He has also participated in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's Last Drink Bird Head (2009), an experiment in which 70 writes were asked the same question ("Who or what is Last Drink Bird Head?") published by Ministry of Whimsy whose profits were destined to the ProLiteracy Worldwide Organization.[50][51]


Besides the two poetry collections Sonnets for Orpheus and The Lucifer Cantos published in very limited, handbound editions (26 and 24 copies) by Papaveria Press in 2006 and 2010 respectively,[52][53] he has made most of his poetry publicly available through his blog, convinced that "there's no money in poetry. If I wanted to be read, I'm just as happy to post online and let people read it there."[5]

Songs for the Devil and Death[edit]

In July 2011 Papaveria Press published Songs for the Devil and Death,[54] which includes the poems originally published in Sonnets for Orpheus and The Lucifer Cantos with the addition of several others.

Other activities[edit]

Hal Duncan participated in the album Ballads of the Book with a poem, "If You Love Me You'd Destroy Me", put in music by Aereogramme.[6][55][56][57]

He also wrote a musical, Nowhere Town, that he defines a "punk rock opera" and a "gay punk Orpheus".[6][58] It has been premiered in June 2010 in Chicago by the University theatre group, directed by Beth Walker.[59] He made the libretto and the vocal tracks available for download through his blog.[60]

He writes a monthly column on BSCreview entitled Notes from New Sodom,[61] keeps a blog called Notes from the Geek Show and is active on Twitter. He also regularly uploads on YouTube video blog entries under the username SodomiteHalDuncan.

He contributed to Dan Savage's It Gets Better project.[62]

He wrote essays related to myth and literature, some of which are available online.[63]

He made recordings of some of his readings publicly available through his blog; some can be freely downloaded[64] while others are being sold for a fee.[65]

For his activity as a blogger he has been nominated for the 2009/2010 Last Drink Bird Head Award in the field of "Gentle Advocacy" ("In recognition of individuals willing to enter into blunt discourse about controversial issues"),[66] but lost the award to Ay-leen the Peacemaker from Beyond Victoriana.[67] In 2009 he was nominated for the same award but in the category "Expanding Our Vocabulary" ("In recognition of writers whose fiction or nonfiction exposes readers to new words and, often, new ideas").[68] The award went to John Clute.[69]

On September 6, 2011 Hal Duncan took part in a "Literary Death Match" in Edinburgh.[70][71] In the event, organised and hosted by Literary Death Match co-creator Todd Zuniga, he was pitted against Doug Johnstone, Sophie Cooke and Katerina Vasiliou. Duncan was declared the winner after a "shootout" against Vasiliou.[72]

Duncan will be one of the five judges for the 2012 British Fantasy Awards.[73]



The Book of All Hours series[edit]


Collections of short stories[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Jakob Schmidt (2006). "An Interview with Hal Duncan". The SF Site. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  2. ^ Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (ed.), 2008-02-01, The New Weird, Tachyon Publications, San Francisco (CA), ISBN 978-1-892391-55-1
  3. ^ a b c Delfim Martins/Romeu Martins (2010-09-07). "From Bar to Bar interviews Hal Duncan". From Bar to Bar. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  4. ^ "About The Author". Tangled Web UK. 2007-02-07. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  5. ^ a b c d Rob Queen (2007-11-14). "Interview with Hal Duncan". SFFworld.com. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Hal Duncan". Gestalt Mash. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  7. ^ Hal Duncan (2009-10-01). "To the Water-Fountains". BSCreview. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  8. ^ Hal Duncan (2008-03-31). "THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan". Hal Duncan (BlogSpot). Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  9. ^ Hal Duncan (2010-05-05). "Calling a Spade a Spade/Of Polls and Poles". BSCreview. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  10. ^ Neil Williamson (2005-07-30). "An Interview with Michael Cobley, Gary Gibson and Hal Duncan". Infinity Plus. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  11. ^ "Word Dogs". UnderWord. 2009-08-01. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  12. ^ Craig Laurance Gidney (2010-08-20). "TNG Interview: Hal Duncan". The New Gay. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  13. ^ Hal Duncan (2005), Vellum - The Book of All Hours, Pan-Macmillan, August 2005, ISBN 978-1-4050-5208-5 - US edition: Del Rey, April 2006, ISBN 978-0-345-48731-5
  14. ^ "Author Interview: Hal Duncan". Writer Unboxed. 2006-07-14. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  15. ^ Lawrence Osborn (2005-12-10). "Vellum: The Book of All Hours Part 1". Infinity Plus. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  16. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Hannes Riffel (2008), Vellum, Heyne Verlag, ISBN 978-3-453-52254-1
  17. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Nina Saikkonen (2009), Vellum: Kaikkeuden kirja 1, Like, ISBN 952-01-0327-9
  18. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Florence Dolisi (2008), Le livre de toutes les heures, Tome 1 : Vélum, Denoël, ISBN 978-2-207-25880-4
  19. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Luis Gallego Tevar (2008), Vellum, La Factoria de Ideas, ISBN 978-84-9800-376-5
  20. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Stefania Di Natale (2007), Cronache perdute dal mondo dei diavoli: Vellum, Newton Compton, Roma, ISBN 978-88-541-0910-0
  21. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Anna Reszka (2006), Welin: Księga wszystkich godzin, Mag, ISBN 83-7480-032-1
  22. ^ Hal Duncan (2007), Ink - The Book of All Hours 2, Pan-Macmillan, February 2007, ISBN 978-0-330-43838-4 - US edition: Del Rey, February 2007, ISBN 978-0-345-48733-9
  23. ^ Jakob Schmidt (2007-08-25). "Ink: The Book of All Hours 2". Infinity Plus. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  24. ^ Russ Allbery (2007-11-05). "Review: Ink". Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  25. ^ "Tähtivaeltaja-palkinnon ehdokkaat julkistettu! (in Finnish)". Babek Nabel. 2011-03-29. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  26. ^ "Tähtivaeltaja Award Nominees". Science Fiction Awards Watch. 2011-03-30. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  27. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Hannes Riffel (2010), Signum, Golkonda Verlag, ISBN 978-3-942396-00-4
  28. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Nina Saikkonen (2010), Muste: Kaikkeuden kirja 2, Like, ISBN 978-952-01-0449-8
  29. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Florence Dolisi (2009), Le livre de toutes les heures, Tome 2 : Encre, Denoël, ISBN 978-2-207-25881-1
  30. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Luis Gallego Tévar (2009), Tinta, La Factoria de Ideas, ISBN 978-84-9800-458-8
  31. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Anna Reszka (2009), Atrament - Księga wszystkich godzin 2, Mag, ISBN 978-83-7480-059-4
  32. ^ Hal Duncan (2008), Escape from Hell!, Monkeybrain, Austin (TX), ISBN 978-1-932265-25-5
  33. ^ "Escape from Hell!". MonkeyBrain Books. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  34. ^ Keith Brooke (2009-01-17). "Escape From Hell". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  35. ^ Jay Tomio (2008-11-26). "Hell Cant with Hal Duncan". BSC. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  36. ^ William Victor (2009). "A Conversation with Hal Duncan". Creative Writing Now. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  37. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Florence Dolisi (28 October 2010), Evadés de l'Enfer!, Gallimard, Paris, ISBN 978-2-07-043825-9
  38. ^ Hal Duncan transl. by Einari Aaltonen (2011), Pako Helvetistä!, Like, ISBN 978-952-01-0664-5
  39. ^ "In which we announce a Hal Duncan chapbook!". Small Beer Press. 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  40. ^ "An A–Z of the Fantastic City (Preorder)". Small Beer Press. 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  41. ^ Hal Duncan (2011-05-19). "An A–Z of the Fantastic City)". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  42. ^ "Hal Duncan's Guide to Fantastic Cities". Read Raw. 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  43. ^ "Hal Duncan, A-Z update". Small Beer Press. 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  44. ^ "An A-Z of the Fantastic City is here . . .". Small Beer Press. 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  45. ^ "An A–Z of the Fantastic City". Small Beer Press. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  46. ^ "Hal Duncan’s A-Z". Small Beer Press. 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  47. ^ "Eidolon I". Eidolon. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  48. ^ Dan Hartland (2007-04-09). "Glorifying Terrorism, edited by Farah Mendlesohn". Strange Horizons. Retrieved 2011-05-09. 
  49. ^ "Paper Cities, An Anthology of Urban Fantasy". Senses Five. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  50. ^ "Last Drink Bird Head ed. by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer". Wyrm Press. 2009-09-23. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  51. ^ Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (ed.), 2009-11-01, Last Drink Bird Head, Ministry of Whimsy (an imprint of Wyrm), Stirling (NJ), ISBN 978-1-890464-12-7
  52. ^ "Sonnets for Orpheus". Papaveria press. 2006-08-01. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  53. ^ "The Lucifer Cantos". Papaveria press. 2010-10-01. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  54. ^ "Forthcoming titles". Papaveria Press. 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2011-06-17. 
  55. ^ "Ballads of the Book". Chemikal Underground Records. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  56. ^ "Label News". Chemikal Underground Records. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  57. ^ "Ballads of the Book". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  58. ^ Hal Duncan (2010-04-09). "Left Turn, Clyde". Charles Stross. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  59. ^ "UT/TAPS: Nowhere Town". University of Chicago. 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  60. ^ Hal Duncan (2010-02-10). "Nowhere Town: Libretto and Soundtrack". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  61. ^ "Notes from New Sodom". BSCreview. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  62. ^ Hal Duncan (2010-11-13). "It Gets Better: Hal Duncan, Glasgow, Scotland". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-08-11. 
  63. ^ Hal Duncan (2006). "The Tomb and the Womb: Death and Rebirth in World Myth and Mythic Fiction". Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  64. ^ Hal Duncan (2010-02-11). "Sonnets for Orpheus Audio Downloads". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  65. ^ Hal Duncan (2010-02-17). "Gigging for Groats". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  66. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (2010-09-20). "Last Drink Bird Head Award Finalists (2009-2010)". Ecstatic Days. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  67. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (2010-10-24). "2010 Last Drink Bird Head Award Winners". Ecstatic Days. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  68. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (2009-10-04). "The First Annual Last Drink Bird Head Award Finalists". Ecstatic Days. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  69. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (2009-11-01). "Last Drink Bird Head Award Winners!". Ecstatic Days. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  70. ^ Hal Duncan (2011-08-26). "Literary Death Match". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  71. ^ Paul F. Cockburn (2011-09-09). "Literary Death Match(es), Edinburgh and Glasgow". Scottish Review of Books. Retrieved 2011-09-09. 
  72. ^ "Edinburgh, Ep. 3". Literary Death Match. 2011-09-06. Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  73. ^ "Judges announced for 2012 British Fantasy Awards". The British Fantasy Society. 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-02-29. 

External links[edit]