Interview with Lyndon Hardy

Why do you write fantasy and not science fiction?
As a youth, I liked stories about knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress. At that time there was relatively little fantasy around compared to science fiction, so I read that too. In comparing the two, I came to realize that, in science fiction, once the setting was established, everything that happened followed logically. There were no rabbits pulled out of a hat at the last minute.

In fantasy, on the other hand, if there was an element of magic, most of the time it was diffuse and not crisply defined. At the last minute, some hitherto undisclosed spell could save the day. Perhaps the encounter with the unknown is an essential element of truly engrossing fantasy, but I, for one, found it a tiny bit dissatisfying.

There is fantastic invention in science fiction too, of course, but once postulated, the tales evolved from there. Isaac Asimov, in his classic robot stories, started with the positronic brain and three laws of robotics, and from this small premise developed a treasure trove of short stories and novels.

In college, I decided that I too wanted to write a story in which the problems that drove it came from basic laws of nature. I wanted to write a story such that, when the protagonist got in a jam, the reader realized that he really was in a jam. And I wanted it to be a fantasy, not science fiction.
So how did you go about figuring out what the governing laws of fantasy were?
But I had no idea how to proceed. If I created laws for fantasy out of whole cloth, how different was that from just coming up with negatronic brains or some such? This puzzle lurked in my head for many years. I went to graduate school, got a job, married and had a family.

One day one thought surfaced along with another -- suppose, just suppose, that these laws of magic were not just arbitrary constructs but had some ‘basis in fact’? What if the laws of magic were indeed true throughout the universe, but as civilizations on different worlds advanced and matured, some, like ours on earth, followed the natural laws and abandoned pursuit of the magical ones, whereas others followed the magical instead?

Now, I do not believe for one minute that the laws of magic in my books are in any way true, but in the spirit of the supposition, if they were, even though our civilization is science-based, there would be bits of folklore and myth that hinted at what these other laws might be. For the most part, we have just abandoned them.

Perhaps if I spent some time examining this folklore I might detect some clues on how to formulate these laws. Then hopefully, as a story based on them was read, the reader would pause from time to time and think ‘Oh, yeah. I remember Aunt Suzie saying something about that when she was a little girl.’ The laws of magic would not be arbitrary but would have at least a faint ring of ‘truth’ to them.

So for the next few years off and on, I read about magic, constructed straw man laws, put them away for a while, came back later to them many times, and iterated on what a consistent set might be.
When did you start writing seriously?
In the early 1970s, I had collected enough folklore references and play with possible laws of magic that I thought I was close to giving a try at novel writing. Then by chance, I checked out of my local library "Nine Princes in Amber" by Roger Zelazny.

The book blew me away. Such a fantastic universe Zelazny had created. Even though the story arc did not complete i was emmencely satisfied. More importantly perhaps, I thought 'I never would be able to write a book as good as this.' I put the idea of writing aside for the next two years. (I still think I will never to be able to write as good abook as Nine Princes, but me go ahead and finish answering the question.

Then one day my wife, bless her heart, showed me an announcement for an adult continuing education course at a local high school. It was titled "Writing to sell" and taught by an elementary school teacher named Edith Battles. I decided to give it a try.

This lead me to the discovery of other aspiring writers, people like myself who wanted to write but were no so very sure of themselves. I began writing my fist book, Master of the Five Magics in 1974.
When were you first published?
Back in the 1970s, publishing was very different than it is now. One put a copy of his manuscript in a typing paper box and sent it off to a publisher. These 'over the transom' submissiions wene into a slush pile and read by a core of first readers. If the story massed muster, it worked its way up a chain until, hopefully, it reached the desk of an editor who could make a buy/not interested decision. If rejected, the manuscript was returned to the author, and he could try with someone else. The cycle on average took about three months.

At the time there were four publishers accepting unagented submissions, so I made a list and ranked them from one to four and sent by book off to the first -- Ballantine Books. Three months later, it came back, rejected. I sent the manuscript to the second: rejected as well. As it was by the third and fourth. I concluded that I was not going to be published and put the book away on a closet shelf.

A year or so went by. By chance, I heard the Ballantine had hired a new fantasy editor - Lester del Rey, a well-known author from the 'golden age' of science fiction. On a fluke, I sent the book to him. Yes, the same publisher which had rejected my manuscript before. The only change in the cover letter was the date and addressee. No phrase such as 'I have submitted this to you before, but could you please reconsider."

Instead of a three month wait for the typing paper box, I got a letter! In it, del Rey said in part, "You have the damneest combination of good writing and very bad writing that I have ever come across." In so many words, he went on to say that if I was willing to work with him, perhaps a publishable novel could be made.

Master of the Five Magics was published in 1980.
What is your writing process?
I am not a gifted writer whose words flow to the page whenever fingers touch the keys. Instead I have a routine that I follow daily. First a walk in the morning -- great for mulling over what to do next or how to fix something that was broken. After walking for an hour, I set down at my computer and resist the temptation to check my email or look at other sites of interest. I type until lunch, and then am done with input for the day. I firmly believe (at least I keep telling myself this) that discipline is the primary characteristics of the successful author.
What are your favorite books
"Nine Princes in Amber"
"The Scarlet Pimpernel"
"The Prisioner of Zenda"

I am a helpless romantic.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When one of my stories is all finished, I mentally play back the events that happen in it. After I do, if I think, "Yes, I would love to read this story -- even if written by someone else", -- then it is a great joy to me. If not, I go back and try to fix the story so that it does.
What are you working on next?
Right now, I am working on the fifth book in my 'Magic by the Numbers' series. The tentative title is 'Three Times Twisted'. Hopefully, it will be available in the last quarter of 2018.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
If not writing, then I am probably reading.
Published 2018-01-23.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Archimage's Fourth Daughter
Series: Magic by the Numbers, Book 4. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 135,070. Language: English. Published: December 15, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
A cross-over between sword-and-sorcery and urban fantasy subgenres. Briana is in a jam. Even her father, Alodar the Archimage, cannot not fix things. The only thing that will save her is to go on an adventure worhy of the sagas. Aliens, volcanoes,, and, of course -- magic
Riddle of the Seven Realms, 2nd edition
Series: Magic by the Numbers, Book 3. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 139,550. Language: English. Published: November 10, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
The worst of the mess they were in, Kestrel knew, was that it was all his own fault. It all began when he had tried to cheat the lady wizard, Phoebe, with a load of worthless wood. When she insisted on testing his sample, the demon Astron had burst through the flame... "Lyndon Hardy's incisive logic makes the wildest flights of fantasy beliveable -- and fascinating" -- Lester del Rey"
Secret of the Sixth Magic, 2nd edition
Series: Magic by the Numbers, Book 2. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 129,920. Language: English. Published: November 10, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
The laws of the five magics were being set aside. If the world was to be saved it was up to Jason the wordsmith. But what was he to do? He had writer's block and suffered from agoraphobia. He was not a hero for the sagas. "Lyndon Hardy brings us a story in which the rigorous application of logic gives an added dimension of reality to fantasy" - Lester del Rey
Master of the Five Magics, 2nd edition
Series: Magic by the Numbers, Book 1. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 156,570. Language: English. Published: November 10, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Alodar was a mere journeyman thaumaturge learning the least of the five arts of magic. As such he had no right to aspire to the hand of the fair lady, Queen Vendora, but aspire he did. "One of the most logical detailing of the laws of magic ever to appear in fantasy" - Lester del Rey This edition includes new added chapters, a glossary and an author's afterward.