Hal Duncan

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Hal Duncan
Duncan at Polcon 2007
Duncan at Polcon 2007
Born (1971-10-21) 21 October 1971 (age 50)
Kilwinning, Ayrshire, Scotland
OccupationScience fiction and fantasy writer
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma materGlasgow University
Notable worksVellum – 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,[1] but he prefers not to ascribe his writings to any genre.[2]


Hal Duncan was born in Kilwinning,[3] 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 gay 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[2] 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 at Helsinki Book Fair 2009


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.[2][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 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!, being published by Éditions Gallimard in October 2010,[37] and in 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]

Susurrus On Mars[edit]

In 2017 he published for Lethe Press the Delaneyesque novella Susurrus On Mars, set in a far future terraformed Mars. A love story patterned after ancient Greece is interspersed with sections on botany and the mythical origins of plants.

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

Three short story collections in Duncan's 'scruffian' sequence, a queer take on the Borribles, have been published: Fabbles: 1 (sic), Scruffians!, and A Scruffian Survival Guide. (Fabbles: 1 collects three previously e-published pieces, including The Taking of the Stamp. Scruffians! collects mostly previously published pieces.)


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 6 September 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 was one of the five judges for the 2012 British Fantasy Awards.[73]



The Book of All Hours series[edit]

  • Vellum. London (UK), Pan Macmillan, 2005. ISBN 978-1-4050-5208-5
  • Ink. London (UK), Pan Macmillan, 2007. ISBN 978-0-330-43838-4

Other Novels[edit]

  • Testament (2015)


Collections of short stories[edit]


Anthologies edited[edit]

  • Caledonia Dreamin' - Strange Fiction of Scottish Descent.


  1. ^ a b c Jakob Schmidt (2006). "An Interview with Hal Duncan". The SF Site. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Delfim Martins/Romeu Martins (7 September 2010). "From Bar to Bar interviews Hal Duncan". From Bar to Bar. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  3. ^ https://offtherecordblog.org/2018/12/18/author-interview-hal-duncan/ Interview with Hal Duncan where he talked about growing up in Kilwinning
  4. ^ "About The Author". Tangled Web UK. 7 February 2007. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d Rob Queen (14 November 2007). "Interview with Hal Duncan". SFFworld.com. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d "Hal Duncan". Gestalt Mash. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  7. ^ Hal Duncan (1 October 2009). "To the Water-Fountains". BSCreview. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  8. ^ Hal Duncan (31 March 2008). "THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan". Hal Duncan (BlogSpot). Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  9. ^ Hal Duncan (5 May 2010). "Calling a Spade a Spade/Of Polls and Poles". BSCreview. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  10. ^ Neil Williamson (30 July 2005). "An Interview with Michael Cobley, Gary Gibson and Hal Duncan". Infinity Plus. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  11. ^ "Word Dogs". UnderWord. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  12. ^ Craig Laurance Gidney (20 August 2010). "TNG Interview: Hal Duncan". The New Gay. Archived from the original on 27 August 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  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. 14 July 2006. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  15. ^ Lawrence Osborn (10 December 2005). "Vellum: The Book of All Hours Part 1". Infinity Plus. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  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 (25 August 2007). "Ink: The Book of All Hours 2". Infinity Plus. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  24. ^ Russ Allbery (5 November 2007). "Review: Ink". Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  25. ^ "Tähtivaeltaja-palkinnon ehdokkaat julkistettu! (in Finnish)". Babek Nabel. 29 March 2011. Archived from the original on 8 December 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  26. ^ "Tähtivaeltaja Award Nominees". Science Fiction Awards Watch. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  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 28 October 2010.
  34. ^ Keith Brooke (17 January 2009). "Escape From Hell". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  35. ^ Jay Tomio (26 November 2008). "Hal Duncan in His Own (Ten Thousand) Words – Interview". Nekoplz. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  36. ^ William Victor (2009). "A Conversation with Hal Duncan". Creative Writing Now. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  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. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  40. ^ "An A–Z of the Fantastic City (Preorder)". Small Beer Press. 2011. Archived from the original on 9 November 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  41. ^ Hal Duncan (19 May 2011). "An A–Z of the Fantastic City)". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  42. ^ "Hal Duncan's Guide to Fantastic Cities". Read Raw. 22 May 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  43. ^ "Hal Duncan, A-Z update". Small Beer Press. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  44. ^ "An A-Z of the Fantastic City is here . . ". Small Beer Press. 12 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  45. ^ "An A–Z of the Fantastic City". Small Beer Press. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  46. ^ "Hal Duncan's A-Z". Small Beer Press. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  47. ^ "Eidolon I". Eidolon. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  48. ^ Dan Hartland (9 April 2007). "Glorifying Terrorism, edited by Farah Mendlesohn". Strange Horizons. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  49. ^ "Paper Cities, An Anthology of Urban Fantasy". Senses Five. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  50. ^ "Last Drink Bird Head ed. by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer". Wyrm Press. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  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. 1 August 2006. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  53. ^ "The Lucifer Cantos". Papaveria press. 1 October 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  54. ^ "Forthcoming titles". Papaveria Press. 10 September 2010. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  55. ^ "Ballads of the Book". Chemikal Underground Records. Archived from the original on 26 June 2007. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  56. ^ "Label News". Chemikal Underground Records. Archived from the original on 15 September 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  57. ^ "Ballads of the Book". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  58. ^ Hal Duncan (9 April 2010). "Left Turn, Clyde". Charles Stross. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  59. ^ "UT/TAPS: Nowhere Town". University of Chicago. 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  60. ^ Hal Duncan (10 February 2010). "Nowhere Town: Libretto and Soundtrack". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  61. ^ "Notes from New Sodom". BSCreview. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  62. ^ Hal Duncan (13 November 2010). "It Gets Better: Hal Duncan, Glasgow, Scotland". YouTube. Archived from the original on 28 May 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  63. ^ Hal Duncan (2006). "The Tomb and the Womb: Death and Rebirth in World Myth and Mythic Fiction". Archived from the original on 20 November 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  64. ^ Hal Duncan (11 February 2010). "Sonnets for Orpheus Audio Downloads". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  65. ^ Hal Duncan (17 February 2010). "Gigging for Groats". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  66. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (20 September 2010). "Last Drink Bird Head Award Finalists (2009–2010)". Ecstatic Days. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  67. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (24 October 2010). "2010 Last Drink Bird Head Award Winners". Ecstatic Days. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  68. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (4 October 2009). "The First Annual Last Drink Bird Head Award Finalists". Ecstatic Days. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  69. ^ Jeff VanderMeer (1 November 2009). "Last Drink Bird Head Award Winners!". Ecstatic Days. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  70. ^ Hal Duncan (26 August 2011). "Literary Death Match". Hal Duncan. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  71. ^ Paul F. Cockburn (9 September 2011). "Literary Death Match(es), Edinburgh and Glasgow". Scottish Review of Books. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  72. ^ "Edinburgh, Ep. 3". Literary Death Match. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  73. ^ "Judges announced for 2012 British Fantasy Awards". The British Fantasy Society. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 29 February 2012.

External links[edit]