the m john harrison blog

the way we live now

Stories of lost property. Stories of property lost then found. Stories of property found then lost. Stories of self storage of property. Self storage as self storyage. Stories about property stored by people who are now dead & unable to claim it. Stories of property sold sight-unseen from the self storage bins & units of the recently dead. Stories about people who have inadvertently self stored themselves. Stories of mutilated but curiously unbloodied bodies found in self storage bins & units, the flesh is recorded as being “translucent, whitish” “weighty & substantial” and “falling heavily apart along strong clean cutlines”. Stories of mutilated unbloodied bodies found in self-storage bins & units but without the head. The head is missing. The owner of the head is now dead & unable to reclaim it, but it can’t be sold. Limbs flung into rivers. Self storage in other countries.

when i think of viriconium

now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium

–December 11, 2009

alternate world

Long horizons, rising downs. West Sussex pub, full of the ghouls of money. 1947 Concours d’Elegance Bentley in the car park. Light aircraft float to & fro across the ghouls’ own sky won in single combat from the Nazis all those years ago. The weather is fine, blowy mid-May, but when we say we’ll sit outside, the barman responds with a kind of knowing servility, “You’re going to brave it, then?” Yes, we’re going to brave it. We’re going to meet today’s minor but satisfying challenge, we’re going to brave the May weather & have our lunch outside, the way the ghouls braved the Nazis in the blue enduring sky to protect their power & money all those years ago. You can’t be the rulers if you have no country to rule.

The Russians sent tortoises into space in 1968. You couldn’t make it up. All I remember from the time is being bitterly frustrated when no one came back from low earth orbit as a walking cactus & had to be incinerated after they infested the Houses of Parliament.

bad behaviour

I don’t know what to make of Richard Powers’ Orfeo. One minute I’m luxuriating in its complex weave of themes & thinking it’s the best Booker contender I’ve read so far. The next I’m writing: “In the late 50s/early 60s, JG Ballard would have taken the three or four central images & concepts of this book, compressed them into somewhat less than ten thousand words & made out of them the something astonishing that’s long-windedly hinted at here. I know it’s unforgiveable to say this, but Powers’ Orfeo lumbers by comparison to the Orfeo Ballard never wrote.” This isn’t just bad behaviour, it’s a failure to accept one of the threads of Powers’ argument about the fate of the experimentalist aesthetic over the last fifty years. I’m quite excited by the internal dialogue it’s sparked. (Although I’ve already spotted the upshot, which he telegraphed only a few pages in, & suspect Chuck Palahniuk would have been the man to write that. See? I did it again.)

norbiton restorational

This essay is hypnotic and astonishing and just a real delight–

Are you really well now? Or are you fatally winged and hurtling earthward, mistaking frictionless movement, freedom from pain, for freedom to move? it is impossible to tell, given that the future, on the shapeless brink of which we always hover, is dimensionless, unrelational.

Restorational, Anatomy of Norbiton.

signal to noise 2

The ordinary grifter works with what the mark wants. The clever grifter works with what the mark needs. The really outstanding grifter works with the mark’s confusion between the two. The easy mark thinks he can hide what he wants; the difficult mark can often hide what he needs: the really elusive mark unwittingly deploys his own confusion between the two as a kind of emotional smoke screen. Is this in itself a kind of manipulation? In such engagements there must come a point when neither party knows who manipulated who.

signal to noise

People who think others are easily manipulated are rarely as good at it as they believe themselves to be, & often receive lots of help from the manipulee. That’s probably the basic weakness of the “emotional intelligence” concept. It’s less misplaced confidence, even, than a kind of premature triumphalism, to think that you can always manage others. The mistake is to imagine that you control the context of any given manipulation; the moment you actually understand the situation, contexts are seen to multiply & then recede terrace upon terrace. (Didn’t grifter movies exhaust all the possibilities of this years ago?) Interestingly, nobody seems to have done any work on the intuitive deployment of alexithymia as a sort of ECM of the emotions, at least in the sense of packing the arena with false signal. Are the emotionally unintelligent protected to a degree by their own deployed confusion as they struggle towards goals they don’t even know they have?

oh, and a warning to the curious

To those who missed a copy of the NightJar Press “Getting Out of There”, a warning from the Collective:

Some of you probably bought a copy of The Longest Night, our ghost story anthology from last year which acted as an homage to MR James, and some of you probably missed out due to the book selling out of its limited print run. The good news for everyone is that Poor Souls’ Light will be much the same: a beautiful, tactile, fully illustrated book accompanied by a series of suitably atmospheric live reading events, including a very special launch at a very special venue where everyone involved will be present to read from, talk about and sign copies of Poor Souls’ Light. And, just like last year, it will receive a limited print-run (although a bigger one this year), it won’t be available on Amazon, and it certainly won’t be available on Kindle: once it’s gone, it’s gone.

So get your order in as soon as possible.

poor soul’s light

Further developments at the Curious Tales site. Good to see another tribute to Robert Aickman in this anniversary year. Part of “Animals”, my contribution to the project, was originally told to Lara Pawson, Julian Richards, Dan Jones & Cath Phillips in a spooky house overlooking Treyarnon Bay in Cornwall in, I think, 2005. Or perhaps it was 2006. Lara & Dan told stories too, as a result of which I had difficulty sleeping for the rest of the week. There’s another story–involving kites, Fulham-on-Sea & something called “balsamic cream” –to be made from the same holiday; but at nine years & counting it’s a bit slow in coming together even for me.

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