David Sandner & Jacob Weisman are joining us today to talk about their story, Hellhounds. Here’s the publisher’s description:
In this sequel to the novelette Mingus Fingers, authors David Sandner and Jacob Weisman follow Kenny, a talented musician who learned from jazz great Charles Mingus how to “play in the soul.” Kenny has always had an affinity for rabbits and butterflies, believing that butterflies are broken souls waiting to return.
When Kenny goes missing, his brother searches for him at a crossroad and an old speakeasy, where the cold, dark shadows of spirit and music lead him to a musician who may know if Kenny is alive . . . or dead. Kenny’s brother must put his trust in his belief that the music of the living may be the only way to transform and bring back a spirit of the dead.
What’s David and Jacob’s Favorite Bit?
David Sandner & Jacob Weisman
Hellhounds is part of a larger collaborative project between David Sandner and myself. The larger story cycle follows the adventures of two brothers, Kenny – also known as The Prophet — and his older brother Lamond.
There’s two of us involved with this story, and while David may have a favorite bit all his own, I suspect we share the same favorite, and that is the character of Lamond that we discovered while writing this story.
“Hellhounds” the story is a sequel to a prequel. The first story, “Egyptian Motherload,” was published way in 1998 in Realms of Fantasy under the editorship of Shawna McCarthy. That story, although written first, is actually the last in the sequence. It dealt with a different group of brothers traveling on an ill-fated tour with an aging funk band. Lamond is merely a footnote in this tale. He’s mentioned in the story, but all we know about him is his name, that he is a major part of the band, and that he is no longer with them when the story begins.
Years later when we decided to go back and expand the story, we knew we needed to write an origin story for the two brothers. So when we sat down to write “Mingus Fingers,” our previous story published by Fairwood Press, we wrote Lamond out of the story entirely by sending the two brothers to live with different relatives.
Kenny is around six years old when “Mingus Fingers” begins in 1950. He’s living with his uncle who is a trumpet player in San Francisco. He accompanies his uncle to gigs and meets the legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus, who appears to have magical abilities that he conjures through playing music. That’s how Kenny’s career gets started, his introduction to both music and magic.
In the story “Hellhounds” we knew it was Lamond’s turn for the spotlight. The bothers are reunited in a small town not too far from the San Francisco Bay Area where the two boys meet a pair of elderly blues players and become entangled in a ghost story. In this story we discover that Lamond is literally his brother’s keeper, an Aaron to his Moses. He will constantly need to reign in his brother’s creativity and magical streak and will later be the one who holds the band together as it flounders from success to failure over the years.
We knew practically nothing about Lamond when we began the story, but it’s his voice that propels the story.
I will second that Lamond is a great character, and it was fun to see him emerge in the overall cycle of Egyptian Motherlode stories as the one who often made the story GO. The Prophet, our Funk wizard, is the centerpiece but is all too capable of being lost in eternities and cracks in the cosmic egg and that sort of thing—Lamond is always the one struggling to keep things going in our world—and it makes for great fiction. And “Hellhounds” is his origin story.
But for my favorite bit here, I’m going for something hidden that I enjoy: the visionary poet William Blake makes an appearance late in the story as someone Kenny has met in the otherworldly jazz gin joint that Lamond finds in his search to get his brother back. Blake’s name is never spoken, though if you know, you’ll catch the moment when he steps in for Kenny as the dream Kenny is playing falters. When Lamond is on Kenny’s trail in a dreamscape or afterlife (it’s complicated), he finds a sign that reads “Golgonooza,” with an arrow on one end that leads him on. That’s a hint. “Golgonooza” is Blake’s name for a city of the imagination that appears in his long visionary poetry. You don’t need to know that, or anything about it, to read the story. It doesn’t really come up. But I enjoy it and it means something to me about what is going on and the kind of tradition of visionary traveler that Kenny is a part of—what he is doing is weird, but he’s not alone, and draws a line between visionaries like Blake and Charles Mingus. I just love that he’s in there so much and think it gives a kind of continuity the reader senses without knowing anything about it at all….
David Sandner is a member of SFWA and the HWA. His work has appeared in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Realms of Fantasy, Pulphouse, Mythic Delirium, and anthologies Baseball Fantastic, The Mammoth Book of Black Magic, and Tails of Wonder and Imagination. He is the author of The Fantastic Sublime and Mythopoeic Award-nominated Critical Discourses of the Fantastic, 1712-1831, and editor of Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader and The Treasury of the Fantastic (with Jacob Weisman). Edited collection Philip K. Dick, Here and Now is forthcoming. He is a Professor of Romanticism and Popular Literature at California State University, Fullerton.
Jacob Weisman is the publisher at Tachyon Publications, which he founded in 1995. He is a World Fantasy Award winner for the anthology The New Voices of Fantasy, which he co-edited with Peter S. Beagle, and is the series editor of Tachyon’s critically acclaimed novella line, including the Hugo Award–winning The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson, and the Nebula and Shirley Jackson award–winning We Are All Completely Fine, by Daryl Gregory. His writing has appeared in The Nation, Realms of Fantasy, The Louisville Courier-Journal, The Seattle Weekly, and The Cooper Point Journal.