39 thoughts on “Mirrors in the Deluge – Rhys Hughes


    “I am your unborn stubble.”

    A beard (like a flowing river?) is never the same beard twice?
    But this work, tellingly by means of binary gender stereotypes within men as a single gender, and the ability of things to become more than things, entities that Fables can instil with speech, lead to several men on a boat kissing his beard. That and ‘snarl jam.’
    This author’s work is ever fecund. How does he do it? You think he has put the fecundity outside then it returns through some catflap of his Soul and proliferates anew. The creative itch never goes away. Rwaaargh!

    • Hmm… I knew there was something missing from my life. I mean, it seemed quite a rich life with drawing, video-making, forum-building, world-music and endless foreign films with which to while away the hours. And then there was gardening…(insert thoughtful imoji).

      Then I find this, and I think ‘Oh God… it’s been years since I’ve felt my brows furrow like right now as I weave my way through Des’ Lewis’s review’. And at the end, the furrowed brow smooths out as I realise I’ve been welcomed in, and there really is gold at the end of this literary rainbow. And you know, I believe that bit about men kissing Rhys Hughes’ s beard. I mean, they would, wouldn’t they?


    But there is no modesty about some of the punnish jokes in this meeting between Al Truist and Phil N. Thropist, a sort of ideational duel of do-gooding and figurative-to-literal amputations of body parts.
    The conceit centred on the word ‘fallacy’ is probably the most immodest joke in the whole of Rhys H Hughes.
    Is it possible for a woman to ‘relieve’ herself better that way, in any case?
    (And a sudden realisation of one’s own retrocausal death precludes the possibility of organ donation in person. Thinking aloud.)


    The autobiography of a deep space photon…
    This is so eye-opening, I feel it would not have been out of place as a work in ‘The Big Book of Science Fiction’ that I read recently. Seriously.


    “Too many of my tales have begun in the same way…”

    Indigenous and generic genies as well as those from genii-loci whence genies don’t usually originate, including those collected by the rich Eugene…
    Here there is featured, inter alia, a single wish requested from a genie that reminds me of the single trick of the one-trick pony that this author made famous in another work.
    There are many genie conceits here, and self-referential writerly remarks, and one wonders how the author can expect such naivety and child-likeness, if not childishness, to engage with readers who thirst for believable characters and for an artful suspense created by a trail of incidents as well as a suspense of disbelief. I suspect this particular genre of this author’s works works because, for each of such stories, the author has a genie to hand poised upon its last granting of a wish, i.e. a wish to make each story a good one.
    And they do.

  5. ….and there was a genius genie at work here…


    “But is any of that real history?”

    A stironic classic, whereby fake news meets (spoiler alert!) a palindromic Trojan Horse become Trojan Man ……. models of reality or reality itself?
    Only in Rhys Hughes do things happen that make you think more laterally than any other author whom I read makes you think. And I read a lot!

    “‘Were the times troubled?’
    ‘All times are that,’ he replied with a sigh.”


    “I realised that I had been questing for a rainbow or horizon, something that would move further away and out of reach the nearer I got to it.”

    Beautiful, fanciful, desperate, encouraging and true. The above sentence.
    Involving beards again, scribes and barbers, the unlocking of paradoxes and antinomies, not as resolution but release.
    As ever, philosophy’s filibustering in its own House of Commons is subject to a guillotine.


    “After much thought, Ruth and I came to the conclusion that the submarine had contained many bridges and many captains all sealed off from each other…”

    Each of us in our own bubble with our own Captain Nemo.
    Each author of a book we read is our author, not yours.
    Hollow bones and wings. Who’d’ve thought we would have needed such things so as to live in the bubble whereto the sub brought us. At one moment idyllic and romantics the pair of us, at the next cynical and deflating.
    This is a wild conceit of a bubble community under the ocean, a mix of air-locks and curtailed thought-think to maintain the bubble, and time restraints to stretch out its usability as living space without shrinking too fast, all smoke and mirrors in the deluge, I guess,

    • Many works in this book so far, if they had been published separately in high profile anthologies each would have made a name for itself as a literary classic, but they seem lost here gathered together, shame to say.

  8. I certainly think this is one of my daftest stories too, Des! And it’s one I will certainly choose for a public reading, if and when I get my next invite to read in public… 🙂


    “I am exploring a maze with no real walls, the corners I turn are invisible, and the centre of this labyrinth is also the place where I entered.”

    … and that’s how in future I will describe my gestalt real-time reviews.
    Meanwhile, this is a beautiful stironic classic, the ultimate fictionatronic fable, with several directions of a fable’s moral or immoral, only one of which morals or immorals tells of the protagonist (a seller of insurance on the telephone) expanding his horizons by concocting a character, whom he meets on his journey, to help triangulate the world as a place to exhaust exploring to its nth degree … sth, eth and wth ones, too. And to absolve his own good intentions in not till now harvesting wealth despite his principles of remaining a lean and spare hero of self-denial.
    There are many other morals and immorals to this fable.
    You will choose one to suit yourself. Mine I keep close to my chest.

    • I didn’t recognise the word ‘stironic’, so tried Googling it. After a little thought, I’ve decided it’s probably an abbreviation for ‘post ironic’… which is a term I never really understood anyway… Truth is, there’s a hell of a lot I don’t understand, these days.

      Anyway, I love the idea of a maze with no walls, invisible corners. And I suppose it goes without saying (but you said it) that the centre would also be the place you entered it. I suppose… (you really need some imojis here, Des).

      This appears to be a wickedly brilliant review of a story by a briliantly wicked writer. Naturally.

      I did quite a bit of searching for ‘stironic’, by the way, and I think you’d probably be amused by what seemed to be an answer; To wit, ‘A ‘Stironic Resonator’. I’ll paste it in here (and ignore the author’s typo ‘strionic’ at the start, it only confuses things). Here’s the quote:

      “Picture here:

      Strionic Resonator {2}

      Artifact (Rare)

      {2}, {T}: Copy target triggered ability you control. You may choose new targets for the copy.

      So now, for the first time, we have a cheap artifact that doubles triggered abilities. I have no idea what this might work with, but it’s certainly unique.

      Works quite well with Smokestack and Tangle Wire, doubling the amount of permanents an enemy must sac or tap.

      Resonator + Dross Scorpion: Whenever an artifact hits the bin, you can put Scorpion’s untap on the stack, pay 2 to copy the untap, let the copy resolve targeting Resonator, and then repeat. Basically Resonator gets “2: Untap me” while the Scorpion’s ability is on the stack. Which is good for…. killing your opponent with pre-eratta Relic Bind? A really complicated way for your Wake Thrasher to get super huge?

      This and the Arcanist really impress me with how R&N was able to find space for powerful-seeming abilities that have never been done before yet do NOT lead to obvious combos.”

      End of quote.

  10. Gold, Myrrh and Frankenstein

    I could make a joke reference to this text’s “I don’t trust reviewers myself.”
    But that would demean this staggering piece of literature. Yes, it is that. One of a handful of Rhysian tales that I would put at the top of his future legacy.
    Simultaneously an absurdist, visionary visit to a theatre and an Arcimboldo word-painting to awaken us but bringing us deeper into the sleep that engenders the nightmare of our times.

    “The city had entered such a time of fake calm, of pseudo-structure, when the fires were lower, in hearts too, and all the loudest atavistic urges were sleeping soundly.”


    “…and I walked as if through molten lipstick, wearily and in despair of my shoes.”

    I can’t stand it. Another Rhysian gem. One about scientists and their back-up left-behind narrator exploring (for them and for us till the end) a mysterious opening to where? With a dual twist at the end that out-twists even Chubby Checker.
    It creased me up. Seriously. A dawning of some absurdist conceit that teaches us more about truth and human nature than a non-absurdist sensible conceit would ever teach us. Worth sacrificing some scientists for.


    “It was a foggy night in Old London…”

    I heard, I think, the Call of the Wilde. To learn how to carve out wise saws.
    Meanwhile, this story follows someone with a keen eye for buskers and other street music, and this someone follows someone else, a guitarist troubadour, into a methodical but rhapsodic journey where teaching is by place name, including a giant guitar played by a house. Except like house wine house musicians are a bit infra dig.
    An engagingly inconclusive contribution to my Sunday reading.


    “There is a curious shop…”

    About a new for old curiosity shop. To pare it down to its core, this is a cleft, the past participle of ‘cleave’ which is a word that often famously means the opposite thing to its own meaning. The cleft is one you pay for with ‘blind faith’, paying to know who is the mentor, you or someone who you should have been if that cleft had been negotiated differently. Who knows but the reading of this story today could be that very cleft upon which all else hangs. A free-wheeling interpretation. But is it mine?


    “Not all equivalences are exact, not all reciprocals symmetrical.”

    How can one approach a text seemingly written by an alien trying to appear human by disguising its alienness with the reputation of creating literary fantasy that outdoes its own alienness. Strangely I thought this while reading this work, its globally ambitious hug, its metamorphic sculptures of human fine art, its fetish of grief, its antipodal angst. This is probably the nearest you will get to reading literature written by an extraterrestrial.


    The extraterrestrial author seems to have taken over this book was my first thought about this story, a work about a “retrogeneric Ray.” A bit like the patients taking over the asylum, or someone was seriously taking the mick out of us readers, readers who need to band together (triangulate the coordinates of this reading experience, as I have often put it before) and, if necessary take action. I dare not detail the potentially hilarious happenings in this story as that would spoil a work that could be deemed by different readers as either (a) a work of genius that transcends by a constructively aberrant imagination even Chiang’s famous story of alien contact and language learning or (b) seriously untamed writing even dafter than ‘A Dame Abroad’ to the extent of becoming, with the retro-spelling of a famous SF writer’s name, utter self-indulgent rubbish.


    A take upon the brexiting from England to Klipklop by dint of wordplay’s ability to turn the fables on the reader. Layers of lands where standing is unfolding legs through each one of them, like transcending absurdity with the simple cliché command of a highwayman who is wrapped in the parcel he tells the stander to deliver.
    I’m sending the author, by means of this review, back to Coventry, thus giving him deliverance from any writerly obsessions.


    “…and Gregor watched the droplets bouncing from the roof like translucent fleas, weirdly visible even at this distance, rainbows trapped in every one, like homunculi spectrums,…”

    Coincidentally I read Evadne Price’s story JANE’S PERFORMING FLEA just before reading ‘Trophy Wives’ and it has been raining here all morning.
    The Rhysian story itself is about three men who seem fustian to the nth degree, and competing with each other about their respective trophy wives. Hilarious and written as if again by an ironic extraterrestrial observing our way of life as human beings.


    “…a shudder that wobbled up and down their faces several times, losing speed on each lap until it eventually slowed to a standstill as a very deep frown that was undiluted concentrate of shudder.”

    A Frog called Cripen, who would (apocryphally and extramurally) become, with a double p, a famous murderer. But here he’s a frog who is also an artist, whose work is in criticised because he is a frog. He needs nemonymity to get his art fully appreciated, and he turns to graffiti. Like Banksy? – which seems an appropriate name by oblique association for a frog?
    A poignant, strong, very odd tale.


    There are some Rhysian classics in this book, but not this one. About a fairy called Elisvet and a dinosaur who lives in a plum. One conceit was good, the one about a watch with which you could tell the time, but tell it what? The remaining conceits do not have the organic magic that evolves in Rhysian works often without your realising how or why. If I knew how Rhys managed that organic magic, I could tell him and then every work would be a classic.


    A man called Spor made to feel like Spoor by a mad man-hating scientist satyr as a hybrid satire of fiction and truth.
    (Or look to your own humanity before deciding whether you can travel in the Ark you yourself built, those mirrors in the deluge.)


    “It was merely a hyper-genius.”

    …as I am, too, by my dreamcatching all the hyper-imaginative books and turning them into the growing gestalt in my sump.
    This story’s version is an extrapolated Internet from the Millennium during the ensuing 50 years till the time of this story. Where by using the Earth as its unique sump it manages to make the moon into its mirror.
    A beautifully disarming obliqueness of an ending.
    The other half of the curve being beyond even the curve of the strongest of all imaginations as a singularity?
    (Mirrors in the Mirage, or Mirages in the Mirror?)


    This is a poignant classic to follow the vanity of vanities, the poignancy of which classic is accentuated by the most one-liners ever in one story, some better than others, some actually hilarious, some utterly groanworthy, but that’s not the point, in more ways than one of that not being the point. It’s about a stand-up comedian trying to transcend his own nature by the business of comedy in theatres, and this unicorn becomes not a centaur version of himself, but a sort of swansong. Perhaps this tale with its ending is meant to represent the author himself suffering the slings and arrows, the ring-doughnuts and angel’s haloes, of a long-aspiring authorship in his own self-image over time as nasty saint or troubled troubadour or heroic duellist or lovesome old goat or whatever else he is still due to become, before eventually becoming that authorship itself.


    “Ug could almost hear the sun hissing in the sky as it cast shadows with very sharp definition from every solid object,…”

    Then pulsing within his head.
    This story is where a storm on the sun could send the earth back to the Stone Age, as the old saying goes. Here in more ways than you might have expected. But are the sinews inside the egg of the head as thoughts or as real sinews? This is a sort of hybrid steampunk, where the time gap is not between but beyond the sinews of even the most imaginative of readers’ imagination as then imagined by the imagination of this story’s author. It is more difficult to ogle the ugly than the pretty.


    “…until I became a skeleton, my bones not really connected to each other but simply moving all together at the same rate, so the illusion of an integral structure was preserved.”

    A bit like a fiction work?
    This fiction work that both works and doesn’t work, comprising, inter alia, the conceit of the anvil cloud which I shall allow you to read about rather than my trying to explain it, plus the jokes that twins, triplets etc. can use upon you and the genius concept of “black hope.”
    And a joke that ends the story that really does end the story for me!


    “It was a tree. A tree climbing the mountain!
    But how was such a totally unexpected thing possible?”

    It was an aberrant tree from Dunsinane Wood in Macbeth?
    This light piece with distractive silly names for characters did actually cause me to laugh out loud on more than one occasion (e.g. The Big Apple joke) and that is no mean feat.


    “Tragic tears were too bitter, comic tears too sweet.”

    This is a Rhysian classic. If not THE Rhysian classic. A butterfly theatre as allegory for the nature of drama within the discipline of Aesthetics.
    Last night, as it happens, I watched live a Feydeau farce called Bang Bang (adapted by John Cleese) at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester. And the whole experience fits in with this story.


    “Post-lunch prattlings…”

    I would have called them ‘post-prandial prattlings’ for the sake of the alliteration.
    Just trying to think of a universe based on alliteration, or onomatopoeia?
    The concept of musical instruments in this story forming arguable bases for the creation of our universe, whether Big Bang or ever-oscillating, are fascinating, especially the one based on the blampet. (I love Dominick Strudl’s second blampet concerto.) I had a good laugh, though, at the made-up ones with names like accordion or trombone!


    “I’m not a pun trick pony,…”

    Certainly not a one trick one, but a pun one that carries a million lies, as an earlier story in this book carried it seems in hindsight to be a million one-liners, give or take a million hyperboles. This story is not only a mind-whirling almanac of lies, it is also a glance at the author’s paradoxical spirit of being both anti-avant garde and pro-absurdist. I am pro both.
    Just one take from this marathon ten-pager – the bones, the ones being found as Found Art, are also a pattern of lies with our skeletons being inner but interchangeable parcels of romance and love within our bodies. Skeletons without gender making terms like straight or gay symbiotic, I ask?
    ‘The Bones of Jones’ as a new version of The Insanity of Jones?
    A major Rhysian work that I would love to read aloud, to see if it it is utter rubbish (a stream of word association?) or pure genius. Amazingly, it could be both. It’s certainly set my mind buzzing, as you can tell.


    “Both Heaven and Hell are fully automated systems and don’t care about the phobias we may happen to have.”

    A fable about an irresistible force meeting an immovable object? Or of God being omnipotent but unable to lift an unliftable object? And two characters cross-vying for their place in Hell or Heaven in a situation where neither good without bad or bad without good can possibly exist.
    And the ability of a liberated train of thought to meet such paradoxes head on. Something I call trainscendence.


    “…that he learned the truth, or rather that the truth learned him,…”

    Donald and truth represent a new conundrum of our times since 2015 when this book was published. Here, Donald entertains a new girl friend with the dubious joys of haggis eating, better than pussy grabbing, a sheep’s stomach like Courbet’s Creation of the World, one filled with Donald’s special spices and integumentary concoctions, whereby a stomach eats a stomach. An image indeed for our brexited age.

    This book is not just another concoction of Rhys Hughes. Each book you read by him seems to leapfrog the other. A mind eating a mind. Or a mind creating new worlds, new minds, new trains of thoughts, even from the sump of imagination’s reopened dark byways, absurdly dressed up scatologically and with a lightsome fumigated spirit too and anti-eschatologically. Anti-darkly. Poetry’s anti-matter. Also a game of childhood’s Consequences. I look forward to his forthcoming novel, Cloud Farming in Wales. Stironies, fictionatronics, et al.


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