the m john harrison blog

Month: October, 2011

tattoo as brand

Steve Mosby at The Left Room reacts to H&M’s new “Lisbeth Salander” range of clothing, a predictable but still somehow astonishing act of exploitation. Steve makes some excellent points about just what is being exploited here, but I don’t know what to say, because I would only be repeating myself. See here, here, here & here, & the subsequent below-the-line dialogues. & also see Empty Space.


notebook picked up off a hospital floor

First page:

    Contents of an A&E cubicle, beginning at righthand wall (pale grey) at entrance, then moving left. Plastic bin, yellow, labelled CLINICAL WASTE ONLY, on a brushed-metal trolley. Wall now stands proud by 5 inches and changes to blue. On this panel can be found, in a row at around five feet up, from left to right, Purrell Hygienic Hand Rub; York extra-Mild Liquid Soap; York paper hand-towel dispenser. Below that: ADAMS HYDREX DISPENSER; sign reading “West Middlesex university hospital NHS WASH your hands. Control of infection.” Below that: Sign (circular, black) reading, “Don’t forget CLEAN YOUR HANDS BEFORE AND AFTER EVERY PATIENT CONTACT.” Sign reading: “SIX STEP HAND WASHING TECHNIQUE,” with photographs. Below that: white basin, elliptical, with faucets. Next left, on floor: a rectangular metal pedal bin, grey, labelled DOMESTIC WASTE ONLY. Above that, a Damicentre glove dispenser, offering small, medium and large disposable

This crossed out with a single strong diagonal line & “abandoned as boring” written underneath. Then, in a different-coloured ink:

    It’s been five hours since I called 999.


The light roared in on him unconfined: he felt it on his skin, he heard it as a sound. It was light unburdened, light like a substance: real light.

He had no idea where he was. He felt the most extraordinary sense of surprise and wonder and delight. He laughed. “Where am I ?” he said. “Am I dead ?”

Light on audiobook, at Neil Gaiman Presents.

Fosse Quay, 1995

Gulls, green weed, a cat in the sun among the trees: Fosse Quay, held in a crook of earth & wood. The tide is down. It’s October. The light is so bright on the mud you can’t look at it. The trees tumbling down the opposite bank of the inlet vanish into a corona of reflections where the stranded multihull boats rest like insects tired after some long intense flight to mate. Ten in the morning. It seems earlier (in July everything would look & feel like this at six or seven a.m.). Sun & shade seem like equal things. Both are a kind of illumination. Both fall ungrudgingly across the ground-ivy, the spider web, a blue loop of discarded hose, the withered hawthorn leaves of a dry summer. Both are a potential. As for you & me, we sit here–grounded, webbed, discarded, shrivelled up–& yet with life still ahead of us–& turn our faces up to whatever we might receive next, sunshine or shadow. A man is sawing wood in the next boatyard along. A toddler is laughing.

undepleted mysteries

angels in the made world

Tanya Gold, the Guardian today.

south london, 1991

Dark green wainscot, poster red walls. A longhaired cat sleeps on the floor in front of the gas fire. Everything looks old but new. There are mint-looking tins of baked beans and black treacle stacked artfully on the shelves behind the counter. A whole fruit cake and pork pies under the glass. A postcard rack (clipper ships against a tinted sky), a chessboard with a game in process. Studiedly retro, yet believable. The tall middleclass girl behind the counter is addressed as “Lewis” by her boyfriend, a man in a black leather jacket & round wire-framed spectacles, who arrives at 7:00pm. The cat rearranges itself round his feet while he drinks a glass of rum. Then he & Lewis exit briefly for a smoke, banging the door behind them and leaving the rest of us–the cat, two customers & me–with the radio jazz, the warm air and faint smell of spirits. None of us looks out of place, although I wonder what I’m doing here waiting for someone I don’t know & probably never will. Lewis returns alone, cigarette half smoked, looking slightly less middleclass. We’re all middleclass now; we all aren’t. “I”ve got my love to keep me warm,” sings the radio. We’ve got Calor gas, which works quite well if the cat is anything to go by. Examining my reflection in the mirror behind the counter I decide that I look neither as old nor as unhealthy as I feel. What am I up to here ? Granted, my life fell apart earlier this year: but now I’ve been offered at least the appearance of stability. Why am I risking it like this ? Jazz & crockery, piano & cutlery. Old-fashioned sounds for a book I’ll never write.

in the rain

“If you watch enough art,” Melody says, “you will always leave your umbrella in the coat check.” She’s spent the morning in the museum with her friend. She also says, “I wish I’d kept those old clothes. I’ve lost enough weight to get back into them now.” They study the map of the museum gardens, which, with its simple arterial branchings and lobed outline, resembles disturbingly the diagram of an internal organ. “Do you know,” says Melody’s friend, looking around: “I never realised the power of white!”

neil gaiman presents LIGHT as an audiobook

Light will be turned on at Neil Gaiman Presents next Tuesday, with an introduction by Neil & a sample of Julian Elfer’s reading. I’ll put up a link to the page as soon as it’s available. It’s exciting to be published in this format on the launch day of the project. Good luck to Neil, Audiobook & everyone else involved. Elsewhere: Nina Power visits occupylsx; and we hear that “Michael Pugh & Rebecca Griffin changed their names by deed poll to become Mr & Mrs Puffin when they married last year“.

the last fish

In this unwritten pastiche the central character stares out over a deserted coastal town, entangling himself with mysterious couples, psychiatrists and fliers as the world around him falls slowly but irrevocably into a beach-fatigued 50s sf version of itself. “Every so often, as he waited for nightfall–signalled by the long repetitive sweep of the old Ferrari’s headlights against the greenish afterglow above the esplanade–Carson would force himself up and down Hermione Miro’s small swimming pool at a slow crawl, these few enervated daily laps a way of convincing himself that he still existed.” Etc etc. We think this is a metaphor. But here’s the concept: in Carson’s world, as in ours, everyone without sufficient ego is vanishing. As the story progresses, we see that Carson is vanishing too.