Cave & Julia, still doing well as a Kindle Single, will be joined in the autumn by 4th Domain, a 10,000 word short story featuring a map, a medium & some weird human genome shenanigans in the suburban badlands of Barnes & East Sheen. Lovecraft meets Aickman.
Between now & then, the new 4th Estate edition of JG Ballard’s The Drought should be out, with my introduction. In 1965/6 I was stunned & hypnotised by The Four Dimensional Nightmare, The Terminal Beach, The Drowned World & The Drought. I felt like one of the new organisms in “The Voices of Time”, redesigned for life in conditions which hadn’t yet appeared, an environment the parameters of which could only be intuited. I hardly knew what to do with myself. I would have been utterly elated but also rather shocked to know that nearly fifty years later I’d be writing an introduction to The Drought. To tell the truth, I’m still excited.
This intro joins up with similar efforts I’ve written for Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (Heyne 2012, German only) & The Chrysalids (Penguin Modern Classics) to explore the uses of disaster in the UK in the 50s & 60s.
I woke up from a dream about losing my identity & not being able to find anything that would confirm it. It wasn’t a dream about the problem & how to solve it. It wasn’t a dream about the horror of not having a financial identity. Loss of identity was not a condition that required explanation or a way of escape in either of those senses or in any other sense: it was just a condition. I was in the town of my birth. I hadn’t been there for decades. I was at the station, at a sort of advice counter. The man behind the counter was amused. It was as if he didn’t understand the extent of the problem. It was as if he couldn’t believe anyone could lose their identity. I was trying to appear cheerful about the situation. I had a tarpaulin travel bag containing a few clothes & other personal items. It was also full of bits of waste paper & receipts. Each time I went through this litter in the hope that a credit card or phone or other identifier would turn up, it seemed to be more useless. Who would help me? Though I couldn’t remember any addresses I knew I could physically make my way to one person’s house. But I had long ago fallen out with them.
There’s no such thing as character, D says. There’s only behaviour. We’re memes but we’re careful not to admit it–so careful with one another! That shouldn’t be taken, he’s quick to add, to mean that we exist in some state aside from materiality. We’re subject to material forces but won’t allow ourselves to see that either. The whole West, D says, is in massive denial of both these ideas. He suggests we have more bourbon. He likes the Bulleit bottle–it looks, he thinks, like a bottle you’d see behind the bar in an episode of Deadwood. Memes, he says, in a complex, randomly-shifting flow of other memes. Turbulence gives the flow that aching sense of depth or meaningfulness.