Van Aaron Hughes
What You Need, flash fiction, Issue 35, June 1, 2016
Birthday? October 23
When did you start writing? I've always written, but didn't get (somewhat) serious about writing fiction for publication until about ten years ago.
When and what and where did you first get published? My first published story was called "Winning Friends," loosely based on my experience arguing before the Supreme Court. The initial concept was, what if I had to argue something to the Court that was reprehensible but legally defensible? In "Winning Friends," a young lawyer successfully argues before the Supreme Court in favor of capital punishment by torture. I researched the story around 2002 and was surprised and appalled to find that there was actually legal support for my protagonist's position, that torture might not automatically be considered cruel and unusual punishment. When I sat down to write the story in early 2003, I did not know that John Yoo of the Bush Administration was also researching torture at that time and reaching the same conclusion, or that the euphemism I used in my story, "enhanced capital punishment," would turn out to be eerily similar to the term that would soon come into general use, "enhanced interrogation."
I submitted the story to three or four magazines and received rejections. Not understanding then how the market works, I assumed this meant the story sucked and I put it away. I dusted it off in 2006, when I heard Farah Mendlesohn was putting together an anthology called Glorifying Terrorism. Thinking my piece might fit, I sent it to her and she bought it. Appearing alongside outstanding authors like Ian Watson and Jo Walton and Adam Roberts and Charles Stross, among many others, is what finally got me more serious about writing fiction.
What themes do you like to write about? Love. Pain. Arachibutyrophobia.
What books and/or stories have most resonated with you as an author? Why? How do these stories and their characters
find expression in your work? I can name favorite authors, novels and stories until you run out of pixels, but the "as an author" part narrows this question quite a bit. I generally don't try to emulate anyone when I write, but anytime I'm feeling lost as a writer, there are two particular authors whose works most often pop into my head to help show me a path.
The first is Ursula K. LeGuin. She has an amazing facility at creating a flow to her language. And I love how she presents very complex characters, then gradually shows how simple they really are, breaking them down to their core humanity. I tried to do that in my first story in F&SF, "The Long View."
The second is Orson Scott Card. I understand why so many people take offense at his politics, and I strongly disagree with him on same-sex marriage and many other issues. But I'm not able to pretend he isn't also a brilliant author. I love how he presents seemingly simple characters, then gradually shows how complex they really are, building them up to reveal their core humanity. I tried to do that in "The Dualist," my wining story in the Writers of the Future Contest.
Van Aaron Hughes was a winner in the Writers of the Future Contest in 2011, and his fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Abyss & Apex, and other publications. In real life, he is the father of three amazing children and works as a commercial lawyer. He has argued before the United States Supreme Court, which he says was exciting but nowhere near as cool as selling a $30 story. Visit Aaron at https://vanaaronhughes.wordpress.com/.