The city of Viriconium drifts around the internet like a ghost site, abandoned, glitched and malfunctioning, composed of failed reviewerly attempts to place it back in the genre it began to undo in 1966; or as imitations in which it’s “healed”, ie corrected for the fantasy market. In Japan, meanwhile, a version generated by the selection of one novel and five of the short stories was recently published in real life: essentially a revision, a brave try at resource extraction, the curation of a canon from the chaos of the wilfully anti-canonical. Obviously I enjoy the accidental ironies of these rewrites, aborted coups and desperate counter revolutions. To a degree they’re in the spirit of the thing, which was conceived of from the start as impossible to bring into focus. Certainly they’re in the spirit of cities.
[Originally published May 31 2020. In fact, if you’re interested in how Viriconium works, it’s worth reading the dialogue in the comments below that entry, especially my exchanges with “Andrei”. A Viriconium search will bring in further reading.]
As luck would have it, I was re-reading the ‘Viriconium Nights’ collection last night and thinking it would take nothing short of strenuous sentence-to-sentence refusal to absorb what you’re reading to read these stories as anything but the genre being undone.
Also, I have to ask because the synchronicity is too much for me not to: I got to wondering again about ‘Lamia Mutable’ and ‘Events Witnessed From a City’ not making it into the collected ‘Viriconium’. (The second one especially, if not for any other reason – and there are many – then because I’d forgotten since my last read that Dissolution Khan once more dies in that story, and it made me chuckle.) I meant to ask the last time I got to talk to you briefly, but we were chatting about Hassan Blasim for most of that time.
Hi Kostas. I did a lot of work on the stories across 1982/3. Some of them were a decade or more old. I wanted to show myself that I could do them the way I only *thought* I was doing them then. During revision, “Lamia Mutable” rewrote itself into “The Dancer from the Dance”. Multiple rewrites of “Events Witnessed from a City” convinced me that I would never be able to make it do what I wanted, so it was shelved. (Around then, too, I’d realised that publishing versions of things, or parts of things, was always going to be part of the practice.)
Thanks for the reply, Mike! I still think ‘Events Witnessed from a City’ is great! – though god knows I can sympathize with the idea some piece you’re working on just refuses to work to your satisfaction no matter what you do to it.
Also, I finally got my copy of the new chapbook yesterday. Hooray! (Postal deliveries to Greece post-Brexit: don’t even ask. I ended up sending it to a friend in Norwich so he could forward it to me tracked and registered and as fast as possible etc. and it still took a month. Worth it though, both postage- and waiting-time-wise.)
“impossible to bring into focus” – that’s how I always think of Viriconium❤…
In the Japanese folktale “Horaizon,” the Wiseman of China has the word ‘mutability” carved into his chest, the Wiseman of Japan ‘Humanity.’ For me, Viriconium has both words carved into its heart–perhaps some readers long for a reconciliation forever deferred.
Hi Kaggsy. My rule was to bring the least meaningful thing into the sharpest focus & vice versa. Also, quickly recontext anything that seemed to be relevant…
Hi James: from fifty years’ distance it doesn’t seem to help much to be wise in Viriconium.