the m john harrison blog

Month: November, 2014

what you can expect

Eventually you have to stop using lists of personal objects as indices of alienation and admit instead that they are your objects; that outside of the fiction they have actual emotional value; and that therefore you might have done something unforgivable to your own life, done your life real hurt. Where do you go from there? What can you expect of an admission like that? All you can do is develop a sense of humour.


Dogs left barking in houses and gardens and outside shops. The “moonlight collectors” on the roofs. An exchange which goes: “I’m your double.” “But you don’t look anything like me.” “So that’s how you see it, is it?”

the red lion


in the simulator

This amazing browser fluid simulation made me think of the Light trilogy’s conscious dialogue with both Tarkovsky and the Strugatsky Bros about what individuals can “know” in their context. I think that stumbling about in what is essentially your own head, with indifferent epistemological tools at your disposal, is less of a big deal than it seemed to be to them. (It’s like life. It’s a world, you make no sense of it, then you die. Any sense has been made prior to conscious perception by all the non-conscious systems that run you, in conjunction with an environment. A broth of algorithms gets stirred up. You try to see that as a meaningful structure. Sometimes it can seem satisfying–even sublime–but most of it is just dull and unfulfilling.) The only way to keep the encounter with the Zone fulfilling is as an adrenalin sport. Imagine the Nova Swing event site two hundred years in Vic Serotonin’s future. It’s been fully colonised as an adventure playground. (See the little sun-diver theme that links Liv Hula and Ed Chianese; also the idea of “maze running” which refers neither to the Strugatskys nor Tarkovksy, but to Algis Budrys’ 1960 existentialist novel Rogue Moon, in which one explorer’s repeated death in an alien maze stands in for the human process of learning an envirnoment.) In two hundred years, all the hard problems have been solved. The death rate has dropped right off. Everything that seemed so doomy and weird to Vic is now packaged and sold on as an “experience” of danger. Vic should be seen as the beginning of that, an early crude attempt at replacing the exploratory value with a tourist value–thus Emil Bonaventure’s contempt for him. If you want to know about the inevitable end-state of all zones & event sites (including that of the Kefahuchi Tract itself), you only need look at the development of the Alps (& now the Himalaya). What was a nightmare is controlled by learned skillsets into a form of play. What used to kill you is now so well understood that you can enjoy it. Or, to put it another way: what used to kill explorers first begins to kill only experts who push their skillset too hard, then winds up only killing the tourist the experts usher up the mountain for money–and even then only often enough to keep up the activity’s reputation as an experience. What began as a challenge ends as a “challenge”.

Anyway, run the Fluid Experiment for a moment or two, then select “reset particles” while it’s still going and just watch for a few minutes: that will fully explain to you the plot of the Light trilogy (along with a plot of its overarching implied context). Or you could read the books & have a laugh about how Ed’s body ends up.

…then when we’re all stumbling about in the dark I’ll eat the ones who come near.

“In this collection of novels and stories, it’s fantasy that does the escaping, leaving readers and characters alike scrabbling at mirrors.” –David Hebblethwaite on Viriconium.

ghost fictions

Excuse me if I prefer the haunting. The haunting comes layered up in time. It slips about, guilted and dirty. You can’t focus on a thing like that. Locating it to a neurological glitch won’t help: that’s just another place it hides. It’s inherent in the worn out babble of events. You aren’t meant to be able to locate it. “I do not know whether a man or a woman/But who is that on the other side of you?” The inevitable companion is evading itself as hard as it’s evading you.


“Two capuccinos?”
“Yes please.”
“Mr Whicher. The suspicions of Mr Whicher–”
“–Oh yes, we watch that!”
“Bye dear!”
“–I had a hot sausage roll that nearly choked me–”
“You get the real story, the real story of Mr Whicher–”
“We’re going! You don’t need to push us out, dear!”
“–because he was a real detective!”
“You’re having a capuccino? With milk? That’s not like you.”
“Mind the step.”


I’m waiting for the time when the Roman Wroxeter Heritage Site falls into ruin and far-postmodern generations place its replica Roman villa (2010) on a historical par with the remains of the second century municipal baths, so that the Heritage experience becomes in itself heritage, as authentic as the real thing. It’s the future of Heritage to replace the past. Meanwhile, I heard someone complain recently that the cooling towers of the about-to-be-decommissioned Ironbridge B power station “spoil” the Ironbridge World Heritage Site. And what, exactly, we ask ourselves, is the heritage of Ironbridge Gorge? Why, it’s the decommissioned remains of a couple of hundred years of industrial spoliation; that’s what brings the punter in. There are some cheap ironies here if anyone’s interested in conserving them.