the m john harrison blog

Month: December, 2011

rule two

Moments chosen at random from other people’s family snaps. Or from invented family snaps. Current affairs as old family snaps: they may be digital but they’ve already curled up at the edges. Describe a faded polaroid, found in a shoebox, as if someone else took it. File an observation until its original context is lost then treat it as a found object, something to be misappropriated from yourself, something levered out of its “true” moment. There are only false moments, & moments are all we have. Rule One: take a note in one mood, but only ever use it in another. Rule Two: if nothing else works, describe the shoebox.

a fresh start

A draught is banging the door between the rooms. Frost is melting off the roof. The central heating has broken down again, in deep mimicry of the economy. I wonder if I can get that into the new book, if what I’m working on is a new book. I read an interview with Ralph Fiennes. He’s talking about moving Coriolanus “to the modern-day Balkans”, wherever he conceives that anti-sublime to be (& to what purpose), but I’m more interested in the way the interviewer locates him: at a “non-place” somewhere in east London, the interview begins, somewhere satnav can’t reach. I blow into my fingers & smell soap. I feel as if I’d like to be in a location satnav can’t reach. Not an edgeland–though I’m re-reading Richard Mabey just now–just somewhere visible on the map but not on the ground. We think of ghosts as haunting places. What if places can haunt places ? I bet they can. I wonder if I can get that into the possible new book, too. Any excuse to open the file & have a look at the shiny incompleteness of it.

hypertension blindness

My old cat developed hypertension blindness across forty eight hours. After an evening of disorientation, he flatly accepted his condition and began to work on his new territory, setting off in random directions until he encountered something he knew. By the next day he had mapped his way to the food, the water, the litter box, the favourite chair. He had stopped bumping into things. He would approach a surface head on, then turn suddenly but smoothly (as if he had detected its temperature, or its smell, or some small air movement associated with it, a draught moving along the skirting board, say, down the steps from the hall, into the kitchen) and walk along it as quickly as he had before the lights went out.

He never showed a sign of panic, although he did, once or twice, give things a puzzled look. Four or five days later he can go where he wants, jump up onto chairs & sofas & beds, arrive in the kitchen thirty seconds after the smoked salmon comes out of the fridge. When he gets bored, he visits an unmapped area, exits from it on a wrong line, bumps a wall, steadily argues his way back to somewhere he recognises in the matrix of scents, sounds & air movements. We give him pills for the hypertension & he isn’t keen on that. Hands come out of nowhere. They force open his mouth & put something in. Otherwise his life is much the same as ever. Two days ago he shouted at the door until we opened it. Time to work on the garden.

junk science tales

A perfectly focussed list from Paul McCauley. As you read it, its object becomes clearer & clearer.


“Why, then,” Cosma Shalizi asks, “since the Singularity is so plainly, even intrusively, visible in our past, does science fiction persist in placing a pale mirage of it in our future?”