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Hughes, Rian

Entry updated 7 August 2023. Tagged: Author, Comics.

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(1963-    ) UK Comics and Graphic Novel illustrator, graphic designer, typographer and author, active from the early 1980s, his first graphic novel being The Science Service (graph 1987) with John Freeman; some of his early work was for sf comics like 2000 AD and Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future.

Hughes is perhaps of strongest sf interest for his much later novels. XX: A Novel, Graphic (2020) takes its inception from a possible First Contact Communication from another star (see SETI), and moves into a state of information overload, as Homo sapiens, with AI assists, becomes immersed in a Space Opera universe, represented by Hughes as inconceivably complex, immensely voluble, with every new revelation an opening to the Sense of Wonder, its interjaculations perhaps forever beyond us.

The Black Locomotive: A Novel, Graphic (2021) expresses, though more modestly, a similar sense that Earth and its resident species are bystanders in great dramas that have been unpacking for aeons. The tale begins, deceptively, with the discovery of a vast cavern underneath a secret spur of the London Crossrail rapid transit network or Underground. It soon turns out that the cavern is larger than London above, and that what seems to be a series of artifactual Piranesi-like caverns is in fact part of the structure of an immense Starship, hidden in the abysses of the planet for many millennia (see Ruins and Futurity; Time Abyss): though its enemy, an inimical civilization in the Space Opera conflict that has decimated species across the galaxy, may still be lurking. Meanwhile, another cavern turns out to be the Underground storage facility for the Strategic Steam Reserve, 162 steam locomotives from the great days of Transportation, ready to rescue England. Their reactivation turns out to be nostalgic: the awoken starship, which has over the years become something like a rune-deep song of London (see the geomythologies of Iain Sinclair), now integrates fully with the great City and lifts it into space, using a Power Source evocative of the Spindizzy (see SF Megatext). A Slingshot Ending portends heavy weather. Hughes's voice is fresh, and gives traditional material an aura of surprised newness. [JC]

Rian Meredith Hughes

born London: 1963

works (highly selected)

  • The Science Service (London: Magic Strip 1987) with John Freeman [graphic novel: illus/pb/Rian Hughes]
  • Dare (London: Fleetway Publications/Xpresso Books, 1991) with Grant Morrison [graph: first appeared July 1990-March 1991 Revolver and Crisis: illus/pb/Rian Hughes]
  • XX: A Novel, Graphic (London: Macmillan, 2020) [illus/hb/rian Hughes]
  • The Black Locomotive: A Novel, Graphic (London: Macmillan/Picador, 2021) [illus/hb/Rian Hughes]


  • Rayguns & Rocketships (London: Korero Press, 2022) [nonfiction: graph: subtitle Vintage Science Fiction Book Cover Art appears on dustjacket only: hb/montage of Ron Turner images]


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