the m john harrison blog

Month: August, 2014

signal to noise

People who think others are easily manipulated are rarely as good at it as they believe themselves to be, & often receive lots of help from the manipulee. That’s probably the basic weakness of the “emotional intelligence” concept. It’s less misplaced confidence, even, than a kind of premature triumphalism, to think that you can always manage others. The mistake is to imagine that you control the context of any given manipulation; the moment you actually understand the situation, contexts are seen to multiply & then recede terrace upon terrace. (Didn’t grifter movies exhaust all the possibilities of this years ago?) Interestingly, nobody seems to have done any work on the intuitive deployment of alexithymia as a sort of ECM of the emotions, at least in the sense of packing the arena with false signal. Are the emotionally unintelligent protected to a degree by their own deployed confusion as they struggle towards goals they don’t even know they have?


oh, and a warning to the curious

To those who missed a copy of the NightJar Press “Getting Out of There”, a warning from the Collective:

Some of you probably bought a copy of The Longest Night, our ghost story anthology from last year which acted as an homage to MR James, and some of you probably missed out due to the book selling out of its limited print run. The good news for everyone is that Poor Souls’ Light will be much the same: a beautiful, tactile, fully illustrated book accompanied by a series of suitably atmospheric live reading events, including a very special launch at a very special venue where everyone involved will be present to read from, talk about and sign copies of Poor Souls’ Light. And, just like last year, it will receive a limited print-run (although a bigger one this year), it won’t be available on Amazon, and it certainly won’t be available on Kindle: once it’s gone, it’s gone.

So get your order in as soon as possible.

poor soul’s light

Further developments at the Curious Tales site. Good to see another tribute to Robert Aickman in this anniversary year. Part of “Animals”, my contribution to the project, was originally told to Lara Pawson, Julian Richards, Dan Jones & Cath Phillips in a spooky house overlooking Treyarnon Bay in Cornwall in, I think, 2005. Or perhaps it was 2006. Lara & Dan told stories too, as a result of which I had difficulty sleeping for the rest of the week. There’s another story–involving kites, Fulham-on-Sea & something called “balsamic cream” –to be made from the same holiday; but at nine years & counting it’s a bit slow in coming together even for me.

photo: s sarre, 2003

photo: s sarre, 2003

I should have added that I’ll be writing a preface for the Gylphi book.

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.)

living with particulates in NO2

But we love the N02 postcode! Only your father, who lives in the country and is therefore guilty of all the usual historical crimes, ie for instance of being your father, wants fresh air! Country air’s not so fresh either, is it? Full of all that poo. In fact there’s no fresh air left anywhere in the world if you come to think of it and none of us is dead! Just look at this article from The Lanarkshire Times in 1342, “Thee eyre beeing no langyr frish, lyffe if not worth th lyvynng of’t.” See? Every generation ever has thought the world was fucked! But that’s just change! The only thing that’s certain is that things will change, Zizek or someone said that. I believe it and that’s why I love living with particulates. Here’s YouTube of our daughter hyperventilating some on a bike ride round the recently reclaimed Cadmium Park. Is there anything wrong with that little sweetie? I tell you what, I wish her more “pollution” not less! And I hope she has a fantastic life full of the craft beers with clever aggressive names and really exciting urban experimental music it brings. Where’s the toilet here?

how things do change

“We’re not in a position where we can afford to be particularly arrogant about our understanding of what the laws of nature must look like.” –Michael Dine, University of California.


this Greek dog

This Greek dog fished all day in the sea.

He never caught anything but his attention never wavered.

“Southend will follow you wherever you go.”