the m john harrison blog

Month: June, 2015


shouting, berating, destroyed by the absolute Quizoola & signage of the universe, blundering as a gorilla across some space in Sheffield or Clapham—stunned into momentary silence by the accusation “Are you acting?” exhausted from asking these infinite questions of the real but in a dead boring voice—disheartened by waves spooks ladders two dimensional trees—dismayed by prospects of costume or the piano or twins or the sheer number of functions of the disaster—but then immediately caught in a moment of ineradicable “beauty” you could neither have predicted before nor retrodicted an instant later (in that you might ask yourself Did that really happen? & in all honesty only answer yourself that it both did & didn’t, or might have, might really just have)—& anyway by now something new is always already happening—it is a angel made transiently out of the howling woman dragged across the shiny left hand corner of things–or blood ribbons–or the man in the imaginary box by the garment rail puzzledly electrocuting or hanging himself–while his friend struggles out of a pair of trousers whose utter urban anonymity suggests they could only belong to Death—to the simple haunting of Death by itself, the Trousers of Death, Death’s curiously diffident voice & cautious musing about the failure of things & their falling-away—& someone else is tearing paper & then everyone changes their costumes & starts talking about shit–& the audience are walking out or laughing really loud–& you don’t know how many ironies are involved here but everything is as perfect & as fast as it could be & there is this rich smile on your face thereafter & you are less afraid in your life than you were before–or more afraid–here in this civic centre near Mars or Doncaster–with its abandoned chest freezer, its industrial spaces, shiny brick, revealed ventilation systems & portholed institutional blue fire doors marked KEEP SHUT, where they clear the bar before 9:30 with the rhetorical question, “Will anyone else want a drink?” leaving only the Christine Keeler chairs of a forgotten future to pock & dimple a poured resin floor

This was my contribution to FE365 last year.


ag wars

–take a slice of your commission–take a slice off everything–if you look where their depots are–it’s dog eat dog out there–the tractor business is a different one–it’s coast to coast–it’s about cleaning up the balance sheet–run it as a franchise then run their own stuff on the side–did some things you probably wouldn’t agree with–the way of the world–they do a lot of tractors–80 to a 100 tractors, about 3%–I say I can’t quite believe that–he figures the whole area’s running 6 or 7%–the whole market looks worse–it’s not good–suddenly ag machinery looks worse, right out to the coast–suddenly you are just way way outnumbered–

pearl herself

Downstairs he told Pearl, the only person who’d spoken to him since he arrived, “It was weird.”

“They’re all fucking weird here.”

He had found her sitting on a window-sill on the second-floor landing, drinking from a bottle of Riesling and staring down into the garden as if calculating the possibilities of a sudden leap of faith.

“I don’t suppose I’m any better,” Shaw said. “Are you going to jump?”

This bought him a look of contempt. “Don’t be a twat,” she advised, “if you want to get anywhere in this life.” She had a blank, sidelong smile which didn’t always connect with the rest of her body language. “I’ll tell you two reasons why they’re weird,” she said. “For one, would you wear a suit? Be honest.”

“What’s the other reason?” Shaw said, after a pause.

“Try not to be glib. Another thing, they’re a fucking conspiracy. In ten years time they’ll be running your street for you. You can’t be arsed, but they can.”

Pearl herself preferred men’s casual clothing from the middle Thatcher period, obtained at a price from outlets in Fulham and Denmark Hill. She would also scour the Oxfams on a wet Saturday afternoon, looking for Hornsey pottery. She liked Bruce Springsteen between The River and Tunnel of Love and maintained her hair in a tall Erasorhead pompadour, which, extending upwards the thin white inverted triangle of her face, gave her a constant air of surprise. She seemed eager to talk–even to adopt, if not yet sure that Shaw was worth it. They passed the Riesling bottle between them until it was empty. Then, after a pause, Shaw said:

“I like that outfit.”

“This? Oh, this is just retro rubbish. You should visit some time and see the original stuff.”

don’t ask

A reader will often ask: Mike, what are your greatest influences, in literature, pop music & elsewhere? Who are you a fan of? Readers, though I have lots of favourite authors I am not a fan of anyone. My greatest influence at present is the fiction of descent, ie any story in which it is slowly revealed (but not to the central character) that the central character is dead. I’m also quite interested in Anthony Powell, but mainly for his dry delivery.


From “On Singularities, mathematical and metaphorical” at Soft Machines, the blog of Richard Jones, Professor of Physics and the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Sheffield:

The biggest singularity in physics of all is the singularity where we think it all began – the Big Bang, a singularity in time which it is unimaginable to see through, just as the end of the universe in a big crunch provides a singularity in time which we can’t conceive of seeing beyond. Now we enter the territory of thinking about the creation of the universe and the ultimate end of the world, which of course have long been rich themes for religious speculation. This connects us back to the conception of a technologically driven singularity in human history, as a discontinuity in the quality of human experience and the character of human nature. I’ve already argued at length that this conception of the technological singularity is a metaphor that owes a great deal to these religious forbears.

He goes on to talk about the singularity central to the KT trilogy–also the book’s centralising of human rather than post- or transhuman problems.

any port in a storm (2)

Child as audience to parental narrative. The child raised by the parent as witness to the struggle that gave rise to the child. That would include the struggle to sexual maturity; the capture of sex, social space & economic capital from the previous (grandparental) generation; &, especially, the rehearsed mythic structure of the parents’ struggle to make and maintain a relationship.


any port in a storm

You’re interested in this clown. He wants connection with others, he’s just inept at choosing them. He’s led by his own passivity. He ends up on the edges of other people’s lives and relationships, drawn there by the obsessive-compulsive cycles of his own personality. His favourite pretence is that before the story began, before he met you, he had momentum, which he lost through no fault of his own. We see right through that. It’s comically self-deceptive. He leans towards the normal, he’s optimistic he can achieve it: what he doesn’t seem to understand is that any context will satisfy him, however grotesque. If he’s lucky he can settle in a temporary unstable orbit around people who don’t need him for anything. He’s of no utility. He’s damaged goods. He’s the drowned man, the text’s corpse looking for somewhere to wash up.