the m john harrison blog

Month: April, 2013

email 1999

“Sometimes I feel as if I went a step too far, walked too far ahead of myself. I think in the end that’s how it feels to get older. You look around, you feel exposed, as if it would be better to give the rest of your life time to catch up. But it doesn’t. You’ve outstripped it, somehow. Not by reinventing yourself, which is the usual source of this feeling, or by outgrowing yourself, or shedding any kind of skin: but simply by outdistancing the greater part of yourself. It’s not too late, you imagine: that part of you could still catch up. But it never will. You’ll always be waiting, hanging back, having a rest, giving it a chance, but it will only lose ground further. Older people have a ruthlessness because of this, not so much a lack of compassion as a very clear idea of what they want.”

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a new short story

FINAL Cave  Julia_Cover“That whole year, and to a lesser extent the year after, bodies were washed up all along that part of the coast, some whole, some in pieces … In the south of Autotelia, especially, it was a bad year for bodies; but the body of the vanished brother didn’t show up among them. Passive and silent, full of some incommunicable anger, the sister attempted suicide, spent time in institutions; then, her work suddenly becoming popular, left the country for a new life on our side of things.” When Cave meets Julia, he finds himself sucked into her strange alienated history of loss and sacrifice. “Cave & Julia” is a love story set between our world and Autotelia. Available from the Kindle Store today, 99p; or free to borrow from the Kindle Library. You can still find “In Autotelia”, the first Autotelia story, in Arc #1, here.

Just to round up what’s available, electronically and otherwise: you can buy Light, Nova Swing and Empty Space; The Centauri Device, cursed be its name, with its very fine paper-sculpture cover image; and Viriconium in the old paperback Fantasy Masterworks edition. The new edition of Climbers (coming in May) is ready for pre-order, both as paper and as ebook, with a fabulous new Sam Green cover and a very special introduction I’m not allowed to tell you about yet, although you probably already found out for yourself. The books you won’t find, except as pre-enjoyed or remaindered, are The Course of the Heart, Signs of Life and Things That Never Happen.

Since these three, along with Climbers and my new short stories, rather sum up the point of writing for me, I hope we can do something about that soon.

“Cave & Julia” being very much a product of the Ambiente Hotel, back-bar regulars will add value by tracing its beginnings in these entries over the last year or two. I’ve set up a “Cave & Julia” page: leave your criticisms, gasps of almost sexual delight & sighs of sarcastic disbelief etc there, where comments aren’t time-limited, rather than here, where they close after a few days.

Or, of course, leave a review at Amazon.

defensive postures

Plot is a list of boxes you tick in case the customer notices you haven’t. You wouldn’t want to be caught out. It would be awful to hear a single below-the-liner say, voice rank with sarcasm & faked-up outrage, “In this day? Surely not that, in this day & age of CCTV? & didn’t she have a mobile? & sober on a Saturday night, I don’t think so, do you?” So there’s always a smartphone, some emails, some binge drinking & a security camera the data from which is available or not available. All you need is, “Apparently there’s just the one tape & they record over it,” & the box is ticked. Plot-patches–responses to some change in the culture at large, applied years ago to make the latest crock seem up-to-date–have become the plot. The story is constrained by fixes applied in advance; it lurches from one defensive posture to the next. “Wait a minute! Surely, in this day & age, she’d call him out on that broody bullshit schtick of his? Better get that into dialogue!” “Have we covered the religious aspect? Better get a vicar in. Better make him posh.” If the world portrayed seems mad, awkward, oblique to the one it’s supposed to be set in (ie, ours), that’s because it was constructed by a professional’s view not of what the world is, but of what a script is: every character, every scene, every piece of dialogue has been decided not by appeal to the world outside but to the requirements & anxieties of the medium itself. (“What’s her motive here? Better get it into dialogue!”) I wouldn’t even call it lazy: talented, well-paid, energetic people have gone to a great deal of trouble to make it so formally rigid & so irrelevant to anything but the terraced awareness of professionals. Their mounting panic is codified. The stories themselves become a cry for help, which can be heard in every twist & turn, every shred of dialogue: Let us out of the editorial suite & into somewhere real!