the m john harrison blog

Month: July, 2011

more tUnE-yArDs

Pissed off at missing: tUnE-yArDs in Brighton in June, but they’re in Europe in September, including The End of the Road Festival, 2nd, & Brixton Academy, 16th. There’s a great version of Gangsta here (scroll down). & the news that Bono doesn’t like them will only bring further music to the hearts of many.


an imaginary review (9)

In this novel of worldbuilding, a future psychoanalyst recklessly intertwines her own imagination with that of the patient. The patient has failed to construct himself & invites the psychiatrist to extend her own self-constructive efforts on his behalf. The two of them are immediately looped into the construction of a third thing–their relationship–then a fourth & fifth–each one’s perception of this relationship under the shifting terms of the old pre-analysis selves–and so on. Out of the patient’s perception of emptiness & the psychiatrist’s gesture of filling, they make not one but several “worlds”. In the end, has the psychiatrist helped the patient to see, or find, or make himself ? No: but between them they have made several new things, their exploration of which has made several more. This combination of labyrinth & dissipative system fails both of them & everything they have consigned to it reemerges sooner or later in acts of insane violence.

sugar drunk

We let a buddleia into the garden, even though I hate them (so London edgelands 1973), for the butterflies. It’s finally seeing some traffic: your basic red admiral which, sugar drunk, just tried to force my window with its head.

Listening to: tUnE-yArDs’ Bird-Brains & WhoKill, which I can’t get over “Sunlight” & others. Sprucing up: Pearlent, to make its beats seem nice & messy to the view. Looking forward to reading: Christopher Priest’s The Islanders.

an interesting if scary moment

So I’m writing a story set in a generic seaside town, when it decides it is interested in Rottingdean. Rottingdean, that little-known LHC of UK culture, smashing together the Ballardian & the Kiplingesque so we can look for new matter in the resulting fragments! etc. Also, I like its shabbiness & that Enid Bagnold is buried in St Margaret churchyard. But now the story wants me to see Rottingdean through its eyes. It will not cooperate much longer if I don’t use it as a way of looking at Rottingdean, although nothing resembling Rottingdean may ever appear in the final item. This is always an interesting but scary moment. The story also wants me to use it as a way of looking at Vanessa Bell’s garden pond. I’m less sure about that.

mister chu

“Small things from everywhere end up in everything.” —Mister Chu paints on his walls.

the book

Anna Kearney: Anna is trying to come to terms with her life. Since Michael Kearney walked into the sea off Mann Hill Beach, she’s remarried & has a grown-up daughter. Though she spent decades “pretending to be an adult”, Anna remains as dysfunctional as ever, haunted by her own suicide attempts & a dream she can’t explain. She’s trying, in her confused and self-defeating way, to return to physicist Brian Tate the data collected in the Tate-Kearney experiments.

World X: The crew of the Nova Swing strip the remaining assets of Madame Shen’s circus, shipping illegal aliens from planet to disused planet across the Halo. Who is the mysterious M.P. Renoko ? Why is he so interested in diner aesthetics ? What is the true nature of the quarantine orbit ? Irene the mona loses faith in the party universe. For Liv Hula & Fat Antoyne, there’s an unwelcome meeting with an old acquaintance.

Saudade City: Lens Aschemann’s assistant investigates a series of unlikely killings. She doesn’t seem to be any better at investigation than Aschemann, but everyone is too scared of her to complain. “Rig” Gaines, a mid-rank EMC fixer with a satisfyingly broad remit, introduces her to a million-year-old experimental artefact. She gets a boyfriend. She searches for a name. Fans of Aschemann’s 1952 Cadillac roadster will be delighted to find that its engine has been uprated to 1000 horsepower.

War. Rockets. Disturbing imagery. Appearances by characters from previous fictions. Sex tourism. Gigantic objects in space. Death of a loved figure. Faux retro. Bad behaviour presented without sufficient moral positioning. Weird behaviour presented without comment. A book, in short, which reproduces the exact experience of the 21st Century Cultural Minimum. Pearlent will work better if you’re familiar with Light & Nova Swing.

dancing on graves

Speaking of James Murdoch in the Guardian today, Henry Porter describes

    the lowering, simple-minded greed of News Corp’s heir – values which he has taken from his father. That whole ethic seems suddenly unendurable because we see that they are only in it for themselves and they don’t mind who they crush on their way to dominance…

But neither do the managements of banks, or oil, food and clothing corporates; and neither do the shareholders of those kinds of organisations. It’s clear that, despite two or three years’ opprobrium, the bankers have succeeded in sweeping themselves under the carpet in a way Murdoch hasn’t (yet). Why ? Because the banking scandal had no Milly Dowler. There was no psychodramatic focus. Thousands of children are exploited day after day by the cheap clothing industries that supply the west; nothing is ever done because no Milly Dowler can be found to symbolise them and trigger the archetype of the murdered daughter.

Meanwhile, though the Guardian has done a fantastic job on News International (and while I agree wholeheartedly with Henry Porter’s assessment of the Murdoch philosophy and welcome the language in which he couches it), I wonder why they are pursuing the Murdochs on one hand, while on the other they are giving advice on how to install yourself and prosper in exactly the kind of organisations the Murdochs run ?

It seems like such a waste of energy to cut the heads off the hydra in one part of your newspaper while a few inches away on the screen you help regrow them. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to take a stand against “in it for themselves” where it begins, in the narcissistic madness of Brand You ? Help change the culture, instead of relying on the murdered daughter–or brave dead lad–to energise the occasional random success against its more florid excesses ?

It looks not so much hypocritical as conflicted to dance on Murdoch’s grave (or what you hope will be his grave, because, honestly, it’s early days where that’s concerned and the bankers were free, clear and talking about themselves as if they were the victims within a couple of years) while supporting the very ethic that gives rise to his, um, ethic.

some tips for Rebekah

“Tell stories, and paint a picture of the future – but make sure you’re in it.”

While Roark Rupe flies in to make a few adjustments to his UK project, the Guardian gives budding Rebekahs everywhere some positive advice on how to jump start Brand You.

feeling randy

“I read The Fountainhead when I worked at an aquarium one summer and now whenever I smell penguin feces I feel a stirring call to achievement.”
–Alex Carnevale

Murdoch & Potter

Nice to see the Murdoch empire caught out by one of its own moral panic techniques. Or is it. Are we happy to believe that the systematic abuse, via information technology, of the families of brave soldier lads and innocent dead girls is limited to the News of the World ? Or tabloid newspapers ? Or newspapers ? Or news media ? The problem isn’t the particular case (or the abuse, or the abuse of information technology): it’s the culture of psychodrama & fictionalisation underlying not just the news but every large scale public interaction in the UK. The outcome of this will be as much an emotional manipulation as the ones (murdered girl! fallen soldier!) that began it. Evil editor! Thrown to the wolves! No structural change! Business as usual. Which seven things in Harry Potter do you wish were true ?