the m john harrison blog

Month: January, 2015


the beats go on

I’m sick of the sound of structural beats, dropping into place and rolling the machine downslope to Hollywood, in everything I see, hear and read. It’s the same old story about telling the story, that’s all the story I get from it. I am deeply dissatisfied by being promised a new story each time but only being told that one. I want my money back.


The woods are warmer than the bare dip-slope. The coppice mud is poached and rich, grey clays washed out of old pits. On the steeper slopes each winter, one more beech levers itself out of the earth–which is revealed as granular, the colour and consistency of concrete–and leans into the catch of its neighbour. The power station sends up cooling steam. Labradors wrap themselves around the solitary runner. Exit the woods, fields fall away to mist a mile or two miles off: in the mist houses and very pale sun. If I knew what bird this was, I would tell you.

at the skyline

Living in Shropshire has brought me closer to achieving this long-held ambition–

Someone arrived here yesterday by typing [m john shoe]. Whoever it was, I say: genius! If I was younger & less trapped by everything I ever did, & could untie from all old versions of myself, I might reinvent as m john shoe. m john shoe would be braver but at the same time slippier than I ever was. You would never be able to tell if he was a shoe-in or a shoe-out, always on the edge of the frame. Would never have capitals. Would be more of a band than me, on tonite then in the morning you would see him no more. m john shoe would always leave you guessing. m john shoe never stares out the window like this wondering where August went & deciding to make another cup of tea. Not in South London. m john shoe is at the skyline & turning back briefly to wave his arms in a moment of charming but meaningless triumph; he’s never the same place twice.

Originally blogged September 4, 2009.

biologists of the Rubber Tube Gothic

To the extent that fiction could–or should–be said to have utility, scientific correctness is not the utility of science fiction. Unruly cultural metaphors and unhealthily exciting images are its core business. It is about jumping to uninformed conclusions. I’m not interested in the science per se. I’m only interested in what it can do for my imagination. This is the only pre-nup I will sign in regard to the proposal made here. Otherwise the marriage is off. Be honest, it was never on: science fiction is not science. It is not even science writing, except where science writers hitch their wagon to the summer’s gormless blockbuster. There is no shared project. Further, if science can critique the science in fiction, fiction can critique the fiction in science. I hear for instance that science is beginning to make fertile connections with other forms of popular and generic entertainment. Here’s the interesting result of a recent collaboration with a sub-genre of 1990s LitFic I know as Rubber Tube Gothic. I love the way in which apparently mad old ideas from the imaginary of the early Victorian period are taken up by the biologists to make a grotesque comment on contemporary anxieties around longevity and personal survival. I would unhesitatingly nominate these avenues of research for a World Fantasy Award. Chilling, brilliantly comic stuff, if not entirely my cup of tea.


the rackets

“’Every people deserves to conserve its identity without being ideologically colonised’,” Frankie quoted. “Except of course by us, because we’re not an ideology but a naturally occurring condition of the world. Also: we were here first, so if anyone else tries to sell you protection just refer them to me.”

“…there needs to be a much bigger public debate about control of advertising before commercial corporate interests infiltrate every aspect of the public landscape” –Dr John Middleton, Faculty of Public Health, quoted here. Best of luck with that, then. “One unwritten law of the free market is that every space possesses potential as a marketplace, and that to fail to realise that potential is an offence against mammon.” –Jonathan Meades, “Terminal”. I don’t care if London becomes a National Park–whatever postmodern insult to the original logic of the term is being used to give that idea its skim of meaning; all I care about is that the existing National Parks don’t become like London.

being the money

Money men. They took a decision early to be in money. They saw what it could do for them. Of equal importance, they saw the beauty of it. They saw the interest of it. It captured their interest. They didn’t get the way they are today without thinking about money. If they make anything, it’s money. Even if they make a product, that’s so they can make money. But they prefer the pure quill–money that makes money. Retail financial product. It captures their heart. They’re unembarrassed by their love of it. They thought about it, and they think about it, day after day after day, every hour, minute & second. They love it. It fascinates them. The rawness of the money idea, the utterly rational rawness & purity of the algorithms of the retail financial project. The way the figures add up. That love affair, that passion, that obsession has taught them a lot. Mainly, it taught them how to make money out of other people. You. As a result, it’s possible that while they now have a lot of money, you don’t have so much. It’s possible that, while they have everything they need in the way of money (indeed perhaps even a little more than they need), you don’t have enough money, even to live at the level not very much money permits. Is that their fault? It is not. But perhaps you need help with that. Unless they make their money selling the payday loans kind of financial retail product, you aren’t going to get any of their money. But maybe you could use some advice. So they make money making a TV programme called something like “How to Save £1000” and it shows you how, if you really concentrate and buy really cheap stuff and always look for the best deals, and pore over utilities contracts and phone contracts, and shop around, and cultivate your money skills–because that’s how they did it and all this is really quite exciting, really quite absorbing stuff–you can get something back from them. All it requires is that you think about money. All it requires is that you be aware, that you visualise every transaction in your life as a money transaction, all it requires is that you care about money and think about money and ascribe everything that happens in your world to the action of money. All it requires is that you accept that picture of the world, that way of describing the world, that…well, that ideology, I suppose, and live by it day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after. After all, that’s all it requires. All it requires is that you become like them. Exactly like them. Someone whose every action is utterly rational, utterly obsessed. Once you’ve done that, they’ve not only got all the money, they’ve sold you their idea too.

audio: video: reprint news

The audio recordings of Warwick University’s “Irradiating the Object” conference are available on the web here, including Tim Etchells’ fabulous keynote address and my reading of an as-yet-unpublished story, “The Crisis”. The latter, along with this video from the one-day Robert Aickman celebration last year, gives some idea of the contents of my new short story collection, which I promise to release into the wild soon. Meanwhile, the first of Gollancz’s reprints, Things That Never Happen, is in preparation for July. It will be followed by The Course of the Heart and Signs of Life. These reprints will have excellent covers–I’ve seen the art–and perhaps further added value: I’ll let you know about that as soon as things become clearer.