The Senile Pagodas

Rhys Hughes


When a fictitious book title crosses from the realm of fantasy to reality, it becomes a work destined to break the mold and stake its place in the annals of literature. And in The Senile Pagodas, Rhys Hughes reimagines what it is to break that mold. It’s a book whose name may have been plucked from a Borges/Casares collaboration but standing on the shoulders of giants has its perks. And this book is evidence of that.
       This collection of twenty-one stories (seventeen published here for the first time) acts as an homage to the authors who informed and shaped Hughes’ writing, ranging from Kafka to Hawthorne to Moorcock to Bulgakov. It’s a “who’s who” of literary heavyweights that Hughes honors through his wildly inventive brand of magical realism, which will spark your imagination in the same way his influences have done for him.
       Never averse to a densely packed framework, “Nightmare Alley” and “The Apocryphal Wonder” showcase Hughes’ innate sense for story layering. The former features a traveling bookseller whose escape from an alley is always fleeting. That is, until he finds the customer he was always searching for. And the latter is an ingenious story within a story distorting the line between fact and fiction. Preach a fabrication long enough and what does it become?
       “Abomination Rice” and “The Bannister” include two remarkable and mystifying dilemmas that complement the work of weird fiction’s towering titans: Lovecraft and Hodgson. If you don’t see the connections at first, just look to the sea and the sky for what’s lurking just out of frame.
       The silly and absurd can be found in “Knights that Go Bump into Things” where there’s proof that not all knighthood results in gallantry. At least, not without bumps in the road or a knight’s noggin. Similarly, “Poe Pie” is a comical but bizarre depiction of hunger as imprisonment in which you may think twice before entering Café Poe again.
       Others such as the Calvino tribute, “City of Blinks,” can be seen as laconic parables. This one centers around a concentric city with tiered levels and a king who watches from above. It’s a seemingly perfect hierarchy, but even a king blinks and an eye can only see what’s in view — for revolution may only be a blink away.
       And “Lem’s Last Book” is an apropos tale demonstrating the physical prowess of a book, one whose presence can absorb the words of other books. When set between two it can create a hybrid of sorts. Though, the jury is still out on what it can produce when lying between two people.
       What The Senile Pagodas offers is a cornucopia of fantastika fiction that reads as though it could have been written yesterday or a hundred years ago. It’s where Hughes channels a variety of perspectives and avenues to further announce his appreciation for mischievous misadventure while also paying tribute to the lords and masters of the written word. But it also serves as the ultimate “thank you” note from one of the supreme authorities of modern imaginative expression in short story form.
       Profusely illustrated with full page author photographs, the edition is 300 numbered copies (with a multitude of facsimile signatures) and 100 unsigned copies.

edition information

  • Limited to 400 numbered copies.
  • Ribbon marker, head and tail bands, bound in Brillianta black cloth.
  • Smyth-sewn binding.
  • Original book price: $60.
  • Book size 6 × 9 inches.
  • Number of pages: 400.
  • Published August 2022.
  • ISBN 978-1-61347-080-0.