the m john harrison blog

Category: uncategorizable

still love these stairs

I cleaned the stairs again this morning. I clean them often, mainly as an excuse to be on them, to be in close contact with them. I love to be abroad on these stairs. I love their proportions, their cool still air. They have a calmness which easily transmits itself to me. I’d live on these stairs if I could. Lock all the doors to the rooms, except the bathroom and the kitchen. Sleep on the top landing, work on the next one down. There’d be plenty of space. And plenty of light coming in through the long windows. I could keep my stuff in a blanket box. I love blanket boxes. I wouldn’t own much–a couple of pairs of jeans, underwear. There would just be room for a mattress on one floor, a desk and chair on the other. The outdoor stuff I could hang in the hall, that wouldn’t change; shoes I’d line up in the hall, too. I’m not sure whether I’d allow myself to leave the house, but I suppose I would have to. It’s not a matter of dealing with claustrophobia–because how could you suffer claustrophobia in all that space and light?–so much as doing the shopping, or getting exercise. I suppose I could have stuff delivered. If I absolutely had to go out, I’d try to confine myself to the garden as much as possible; and on wet days stare out of the landing windows at the hollyhocks bending in the rain. Hollyhocks are ridiculously tall. Strictly speaking, the garden isn’t quite where the stairs end. They make another turn and continue down into the cellars.

previously posted as “take the stairway to the stairs”, 2013


progress report

My broadband went over the hill last week & shows no sign of returning. What a dog. If I owe you an email: patience. If you owe me one remember how I saved your Arabian hyena from the flood that time, also those other favours I did that we do not need to talk about now. The clock is ticking on our friendship. Anyway, things might be slow here & on Twitter for a day or two more.


Friday approaches and recedes but it’s never where you are. Two buzzards drift out over the valley, wings as flat as planks. Warm air, sunshine, rowan blossom like a confectioner’s shop; next door’s dogs howl. Further off, the junkman’s wonky bugle call. You live forever suspended in this complex medium until someone walks past saying, “I don’t think I’m anything like as well as I feel.”

algorithm angels

These are the Pharoah’s life & death guys. These are his guys of life & death, the certainty of making his decisions bursts from their skin every second & every second of that second, like: knowledge! brass reflections! water! white of eye & pure smiles of delight of children! These guys are the full beauty of the Pharoah’s decision made. You may die but it will be the perfect call. You may live & it will be the perfect call. Everyone is happier when they pass. Everyone is happier, meeting those guys in the market place. Their tread–light, active, gracile, musical–is a measure. They know the date of birth, they know–within one glowing week, give or take a percentage not even the Pharoah can calculate–the day of death. Some things can not be known, & they glint with the mischief of admitting that. The corner of their eye glints with the delight of the mischief of the residue that can’t be known. No one knows when they die, those angel guys, & they keep that residue of laughter all their days. They are the guys of the Pharoah who lives in the dark in the pyramid, in the liquid actuarial core of all the things of the world.

into the valley

Everything is uncanny valley at the moment. I have no real idea of the political shape. Things are about to reveal themselves as having gone badly wrong. I’m only certain that while we think we understand what’s happening, we don’t. The descriptive systems we’re used to are about to stop working–they may already have stopped working. I feel the way I did in the mid-to-late ’70s–that the ideas I get for weird fiction understand the political situation better than I do. They have a connection to some great sore lump of political material we’re too rational to see. It’s implied by events, but at the moment we are only looking at the events. Given what happened in the mid-to-late ’70s, I’m not comfortable with this feeling.

signal to noise 2

The ordinary grifter works with what the mark wants. The clever grifter works with what the mark needs. The really outstanding grifter works with the mark’s confusion between the two. The easy mark thinks he can hide what he wants; the difficult mark can often hide what he needs: the really elusive mark unwittingly deploys his own confusion between the two as a kind of emotional smoke screen. Is this in itself a kind of manipulation? In such engagements there must come a point when neither party knows who manipulated who.

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?


quote of the week

“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s uncanny how it will now get on your nerves.” —Sandra Newman.


S’s miniature dachsund chases a fox across the common. The fox, which has a dead rat in its mouth, increases its pace slightly above a walk and the dachsund on its two-inch legs immediately begins to fall behind, looking crestfallen. “This crestfallenness,” I suggest, “seems to indicate a more socially complicated transaction than first appears. It must always have been perfectly clear to the dachsund, for instance, that it wasn’t going to get any of the rat.” “The tragedy of miniature dachsunds,” S agrees, “is that they are only ever looking for one thing: recognition as dogs.”