the m john harrison blog

Tag: writing

writerly advice

I once lived for a couple of years with another novelist. At that time I played the lottery. Every ticket I bought she would complain, “Why are you doing that? We’re writers. We already play the lottery.”

fauxthentication

However complete a fauxthentication is, it can’t actually be a world–-therefore the criticism, “This novel is still not fully & properly fauxthenticated” is always possible. The constant bolstering of the “world” constantly reveals it not to be one, ie reveals it never to be complete the way the world is. This seems to say more about the limits of writing & the act of suspension of disbelief (an immersion which can clearly be brought about in other ways) than it does about the actual need for a world to seem to be present in front of the reader. Also, it strikes me as a bit mad to be a fiction writer if you have to struggle so desperately to pretend you’re not. There’s some kind of guilt trip behind that. Fauxthentication seems like an attempt to deny your position as someone who makes things up.

make u think

Jackdaws bickering in the air in the tall back corner of the house made me think briefly of Ravensdale, a crag with which I was so obsessed in 1977/8 that I gave it a bit-part in A Storm of Wings, that well-known novel of documentary realism. Watching the “Entertaining Angels Unawares” video on YouTube made me feel old, but also made me think briefly of this, from 1991. Meanwhile, I just stumbled across this, from Neel Mukherjee; & “Cave & Julia” has earned some more money on Kindle, making it one of the more economically productive short stories I’ve published (maybe a lesson there). And, describing the people he claims to speak for as convenor of some mythical Tory “trades union”, David Cameron has accidentally used the word “resent” instead of “represent”.

Generally, it’s been a weirdly mixed day. & only half over.

get over there

Library of Birmingham, Thursday 30th October:

“Best British Short Stories 2014 [ed Nicholas Royle] is dedicated to Joel Lane, and in addition to finding out how to get published and what makes a great short story, you can hear readings from the anthology and a tribute to one of our greatest local authors, who died in November last year.”

Readers: Louise Palfreyman, Mick Scully, Nick Royle; & I’ll be reading from “Getting Out of There”.

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.

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.)

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.

note to self

Signs of Life suffered by presenting its case without a lot of fainting fits about the unacceptability of the characters & their way of life. As a result, many readers made the sign of the cross & looked away. Always be sure to lead the audience in hissing & booing when the bad guy comes on stage.

notional velocity

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