the m john harrison blog

Tag: forthcoming

catch-up

Some reminders & updates: I’m at Totleigh Barton on Thursday (23rd Oct) to read for my supper at Liz Jensen & Simon Ings’ SF course; Birmingham Library on the 30th October, to remember Joel Lane & read from SALT’s Best British Short Stories 2014; Manchester (John Rylands) Library in December with the Curious Tales team. An exciting talk possibility has turned up for next autumn, I’ll keep you informed; and having missed Claire-Jane Carter & Tess Lyons’ Hagglers Corner event in Sheffield (not to say missing the chance to meet the frighteningly determined Nick Bullock) on Saturday (25th October), I’m hoping to contribute to whatever they do next–news on that if & when. If you’d like to pay me to read something, or do some other kind of appearance, leave a comment here or follow @mjohnharrison on Twitter and DM me. New & recently available stories: “The 4th Domain” is up at Kindle Single (where you can still get “Cave & Julia”; if you missed the delightful Night Jar Press edition of “Getting Out of There”, it’s available in the above-mentioned & equally Royle-edited Best British Short Stories 2014, from SALT (both paper and electronic); “Animals”, an untraditional traditional ghost story, will appear at Christmas in the Curious Tales anthology Poor Souls’ Light. I’m thinking of saving “The Crisis”, which I debuted at Warwick U’s Irradiating the Object conference, as a kind of bonus for the new collection, which will contain a couple of other previously unpublished and similarly raw items. There’s progress on that, including a new and I hope final title, but I’m still trying to finish The Last Viriconium Story to go in it, so don’t necessarily hold your breath. The new novel is looking round so many different corners at once that I couldn’t tell you anything about it anyway.

another little taste

Annie Swann had other clients. He never saw anything of them–although he once found a yellow plastic bag of CDs that she said someone must have left under a chair–except at the regular mass seance, which took place in the evening on the second Tuesday of every month. For this event, most of the furniture would be relegated to the kitchen. The curtains were drawn and the sofa dragged in front of the empty fireplace.

“Mass” was perhaps too ambitious a word for what happened. It was formal in an amateur way, as if the participants weren’t really used to being with other people. The downstairs room would fill up from about seven o’ clock with a dozen men wearing business suits or Australian oiled cotton jackets. Collar-length white hair, mustard-yellow corduroy trousers and navy blue Guernsey pullover indicated a retiree. Each of them seemed to have a single prominent defect–a thickened jaw, one eye too large for the other–and while they presented as well-off, they lacked the healthy patina and slightly overfed look you would expect of West London. There were rarely any women. Packed into the tiny front room, forced to regroup every time the door opened to admit a late arrival, they shouted cheerfully enough at each another but lacked confidence. He recognised one or two of them, but he couldn’t think from where.

After perhaps half an hour, during which Annie asked her favourite of the week to hand round glasses of medium dry sherry and Waitrose nibbles, she would take her place on the sofa, smile vaguely around for a minute or two, then slip stage by difficult stage into the mediumistic coma. The men gazed uncomfortably past her at the wall above the fireplace. None of them spoke or moved, although sometimes a quick sideways glance might be exchanged. It was less pleasant, more of an effort, for her to produce anything in these circumstances. She was tired afterwards. There was a prolonged period of disconnection, a shallow delirium in which her legs twitched and shook.

The men, released slowly, as if from a similar psychic bondage, coughed and shifted their feet. They regarded one another as blankly as animals of different species finding themselves in the same field; then, after staring at Annie for a while–in the hope, perhaps, of something more–left the house one by one, letting in the cold evening air. Shaw, who often stayed behind to make her a cup of tea and help drag the sofa back into its usual position, watched them drift away across the graveyard. When they had quite gone, Annie would smile tiredly, pat his forearm, touch his shoulder. If there was a kind of tired flirtatiousness to these gestures, she was, he thought, only trying unconsciously to make a bond with him. It wasn’t something she could see she was doing.

One evening before the mass seance he saw that the map from her brother’s office, or one exactly like it, had appeared on the front room wall.

From “The 4th Domain”, out as Kindle Single in the next couple of weeks.

the fourth domain

Here’s the opening of the new story, “4th Domain”, out as a Kindle Single in the next couple of weeks–

During his thirties, Shaw’s life went through a flat spot. It wasn’t drink or drugs, it was too soon to be a mid-life crisis, it wasn’t any of the predictable things: just a lack of dimension, one of those lapses which, once you come out the other side of it, proves hard to rationalise. Five years of his life were expended on nothing very much. In an attempt to redirect himself, like a delivery that has arrived too late, he moved to a suburb by the Thames and the first night, walking through the graveyard on his way from one pub to the next, discovered a man on his knees in the ground ivy at the base of a wall. Shaw stopped and watched him.

“Are you ok,” he said.

I’ll have a cover image soon.

thinking about the short story collection

I want to include flash fiction from the blog, so if you have any favourites nominate them in the comments here.

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.

I should have added that I’ll be writing a preface for the Gylphi book.

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 things develop. (Don’t expect the Viriconium of 1978 or 1982, by the way. The city moves on with its author, so keep up.)

available soon

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.

an anthology worth its SALT

9781907773679frcvr.inddHampson came back after some years, to the seaside in the rain, to this town built around a small estuary where a river broke through the chalk downs. Everything–everything people knew about, anyway–came in through that gap, by road or rail; and that’s the way Hampson came too, down from London, midweek, in a rental van, unsure of what he would find for himself after so long. He had options, but since he wasn’t sure about them either, he rented a single room on one of the quiet wide roads that run down from the old town. “Getting Out of There”, my contribution to Nicholas Royle’s Best British Short Stories 2014, finds itself in some pretty impressive company. “Getting Out of There” was previously available only as a very limited edition chapbook–you’ll have missed it if you blinked, so now’s your chance. Or, if you already have it, why not double down & treat yourself to all these other stories too?

Analyses

For fun I put some random blog entries through I Write Like, which told me I write like: Jack London, JRR Tolkien, Chuck Palahniuk (twice), Arthur Clarke (for the “Earth Advengers” post), Cory Doctorow, Gertrude Stein, Dan Brown (for the first paragraph of a review of a Peter Ackroyd novel), Ray Bradbury, David Foster Wallace (twice, once for “Keep Smiling With Great Minutes”), and HG Wells. After that, deciding that my samples must have been generally too short to give a consistent result, I tried the whole of “Imaginary Reviews” and got Isaac Asimov; a 4000 word English ghost story, set mainly at the seaside and featuring an ageing middle class woman called Elizabeth, and got Isaac Asimov again; and then “Cave & Julia” & got HG Wells again. For the whole of Empty Space I got Arthur Clarke; but for its final chapter, which ends with that memorable sentence of crawling Cosmic horror, “First she would separate Dominic the pharma from his friends, take him upstairs, and fuck him carefully to a tearful overnight understanding of the life they all led now,” I got HP Lovecraft.

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