the m john harrison blog

SFF/Weird at Warwick U

I received more input than I could safely process at Irradiating the Object, so I’m looking forward to seeing all those beautifully-argued academic papers in print under the Gylphi logo. Taking it in at my own pace–and with a cup of tea–is likely to reduce the possibility of Explanatory Collapse. Thanks to everyone who gave a paper, to Rhys Williams and Mark Bould, conference organisers; and more on the book as soon as details become available.

Meanwhile here’s a podcast. The usual rants & fevers of the ageing entradista, expertly nursed on this occasion by Rhys Williams.

One of the things I did manage to take in on Thursday was that Rhys is to teach selections from Viriconium as part of Warwick University’s SFF/Weird module next year. Fantastika, he says, consistently estranges us from our own comfortable perspectives, but he’s immediately forced to admit: “it is also the literature of escapism and naivety”. That was certainly one of the things Viriconium was trying to point out, in a climate perhaps even less receptive to new ways of doing things than the one we have now. What can be seen today as a part of a major shift of ideas was experienced then simply as the struggle to get published in the face of snobbery, inverted snobbery and political panic; our rejection letters–both from genre and literary publishers–need to be seen to be believed. It’s strange, so long after the fact, to be acknowledged as an early uptaker of the post-genre fantastic, and to find myself in the company of, among others, Joanna Russ, Nalo Hopkins, William Gibson and Russell Hoban. Not to mention the Flying Strugatsky Brothers.

It’s more than possible that there’ll be a previously-unpublished Viriconium piece in my new short story collection, which is now officially in the publication pipeline. Updates on the collection, here, as it happens. (Don’t expect the Viriconium of 1978 or 1982, by the way. The city moves on with its author, so keep up.)

living with particulates in NO2

But we love the N02 postcode! Only your father, who lives in the country and is therefore guilty of all the usual historical crimes, ie for instance of being your father, wants fresh air! Country air’s not so fresh either, is it? Full of all that poo. In fact there’s no fresh air left anywhere in the world if you come to think of it and none of us is dead! Just look at this article from The Lanarkshire Times in 1342, “Thee eyre beeing no langyr frish, lyffe if not worth th lyvynng of’t.” See? Every generation ever has thought the world was fucked! But that’s just change! The only thing that’s certain is that things will change, Zizek or someone said that. I believe it and that’s why I love living with particulates. Here’s YouTube of our daughter hyperventilating some on a bike ride round the recently reclaimed Cadmium Park. Is there anything wrong with that little sweetie? I tell you what, I wish her more “pollution” not less! And I hope she has a fantastic life full of the craft beers with clever aggressive names and really exciting urban experimental music it brings. Where’s the toilet here?

how things do change

“We’re not in a position where we can afford to be particularly arrogant about our understanding of what the laws of nature must look like.” –Michael Dine, University of California.

Wired

this Greek dog

This Greek dog fished all day in the sea.

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He never caught anything but his attention never wavered.

“Southend will follow you wherever you go.”

they were like animals

I’ll be reading again–from “Animals”, a proper ghost story–at a launch event for the Curious Tales collection The Lantern Dead at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, December 18th. Details here as soon they’re available, or keep an eye on the Curious Tales site.

interrogating the object

From “The Neon Heart Murders”, one of the precursor stories of the Empty Space trilogy–

“When Aschemann first walked through the door of the Cafe Surf, it was not night: it was late morning. The bar was full of sunshine and bright air. Taupe sand blew across the floor tiles, and a toddler was crawling about between the cane tables, wearing only a T-shirt with the legend SURF NOIR. Meanings–all incongruous–splashed off this like drops of water, as the dead metaphors trapped inside the live one collided and reverberated endlessly and elastically, taking up new positions relative to one another. SURF NOIR, which is a whole new existence; which is a “world” implied in two words, dispelled in an instant; which is foam on the appalling multitextual sea we drift on. “Which is probably,” Aschemann noted, “the name of an aftershave.”

Thanks to everyone at Irradiating the Object for helping to complicate this conundrum further.

28.09.2008–

…nostalgia is part of your life come back to burn your fingers, so you piss on not just this fire but the whole idea of fire, as quick as you can.

the vacuous-realist image

Alice Finkel writes: “We use the term ‘vacuous-realist’ to describe group photos like these. In a vacuous-realist image, the subjects will always be seen looking, or moving, in different directions. This reveals a startling, hitherto unsuspected lack of coherence to their activities, undercutting our intuitive sense of the structuredness and continuity of human behaviour. But it also enables us to project & manipulate the deep group dynamic.” It’s not possible, Finkel believes, to plan a vacuous-realist shot, “although the accomplished vacuous-realist will have an intuitive grasp of the occasion which might produce one.”

new short fiction

20,000 words of short fiction coming out before the end of the year: “The 4th Domain”, as a single in the next month or so (should have a cover to show soon); a ghost story project with the Curious Tales collective, which I won’t talk about yet; & the rather unpleasant sci fi horror post disaster astral plane thing I finished this week, which is at present titled “The Crisis” but might end up being called something else, & which will have its debutante ball at Irradiating the Object next week. Unless someone makes me a better offer, “The Crisis” will be singled too. After that, given that I have plenty of stories, I really ought to get the collection on the road as soon as possible. More news when that happens, obviously.

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