the m john harrison blog

Tag: appearances

from empty space to stanage edge

I’ve got two slots at Edge Lit in July, it seems. For the GoH “speech” I’ll read a new story & maybe answer questions about the forthcoming short story collection & the novel in progress. For the other one, an item on writing landscape, I’ll probably do something like this–

Landscape in fiction is never just background, or you’re wasting your opportunities. Let the landscape do as much of the work of informing the reader of your intentions as possible. Entangle your ideas & meanings with the setting. Fold them into one another.

Empty Space: the Funene Golden Hour, a landscape derived from photography of the Namib coast. Ad-image pseudo-sublime. What is the difference between awe & oh wow? The reification of an aesthetic judgement, a play on the use of the term “landscape porn”. Woven into the trilogy’s general position on neoLiberal postindustrial spectacle–the transformation of real sites into sites of public art, ie leisure heritage.

Climbers: “The moment you step into a landscape it becomes another one.” But also, the gritsone edges as a kinaesthetic abacus on which you “tell” your life. To what degree–& in how many lives–has Stanage served that purpose–emotional touchstone or pivot, hermitage, site of psycho-addiction sought out at points in your life, abandoned at others–but also the sense that the gritstone landscape can in some unforgiving way abandon you & you may never be allowed to go back…

Come prepared to ask: What’s the difference, then, between a real landscape & a fictional one? & its various obvious corollaries.

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an irregular event

Reading “The Crisis” last Thursday at Irregular Evenings 2, a hidden venue deep in the religio-industrial complex of Stoke Newington, ably organised by Vlatka Horvat and Tim Etchells. Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion were a hard act to follow. A great, mixed audience which included everyone from the #LossLit team to Michael Caines of the TLS and Canongate co-founder Whitney McVeigh. The evening was notable in another way for me, but more of that someB_Xmq6KWYAE2FMOother time. If you couldn’t be there for reasons of because, you can still catch the Warwick University audio of the original reading, online here. It looks as if “The Crisis” will have its first print outing in the short story collection–tentatively entitled Found & Lost–which is working its way up the femoral artery and into publishing’s dark heart etc etc even as we speak. News of that very soon, I hope.

Photo: Aki Schilz.

a difficult time for everyone

If you’re in London on the evening of the 5th March & you’d like to hear me reading “The Crisis”, leave an email address here, or DM me at @mjohnharrison on Twitter–

Adolescence. West London. You always believed a hidden war was being fought, a war nobody would ever admit to. Lay awake at night, listening to bursts of corporate fireworks that seemed too aggressive to be anything other than a small arms exchange; while by day, ground-attack helicopters clattered suddenly and purposively along the curve of the Thames towards Heathrow. You held your breath in moments of prolonged suspense, imagining the smoke trails of rockets launched from the bed of a builder’s pickup in Richmond or Kingston. These fantasy-engagements, asymmetric and furtive, a kind of secret, personalised Middle East, left you as exhausted as masturbation. There was something narcissistic about them. A decade later, everyone was able to feel a similar confused excitement. With the coming of the iGhetti, everyone had a story to tell but no one could be sure what it was. Information was so hard to come by. Between anecdotal evidence and the spectacular misdirections of the news cycle lay gulfs of supposition, fear, and denial. People didn’t know how to act. One minute they heard the guns, the next they were assured that nothing was happening. One day they were panicking and leaving the city in numbers, the next they were returning but rumour had convinced them to throw their tablet computers in the river. The thing they feared most was contagion. They locked their doors. They severed their broadband connections and tanked their cellars. They avoided a growing list of foods. They clustered round a smartphone every summer evening after dark, eavesdropping on the comings and goings of the local militas as they scoured the railway banks and canalsides for telltale astral jelly. Were the iGhetti here or not? It was a difficult time for everyone.

curiouser & curiouser

Poor souls blundered helplessly around in the remains of their lives in the atrium of Manchester John Rylands Library yesterday evening. It was a curious tale, indeed it was two of them. The Rylands would be a fantastic place to read anything, let alone a ghost story. Spotted in the audience: John Coulthart & the fabled Michael Butterworth. Nick Royle took this picture in the modern annexe afterwards–B5KeYHLIUAAfHqu-1Left to right: Alison Moore, Tom Fletcher, Beth Ward & AN Other. Curious Tales: Poor Souls’ Light.

news, various

Gollancz have produced some exciting packages for their three remaining reprints from my backlist, The Course of the Heart, Signs of Life and Things That Never Happen: these covers acknowledge & echo the textuality of the texts, and remind me very much of the fatal book in “The Gift”. I went to see them on a dark wet December afternoon in London: they lit it up. More on that soon.

Meanwhile, the new short story collection has emerged relatively unscathed from its beta read (thanks to Sara Sarre, Julian Richards, Mic Cheetham and Nina Allan). I’ll be tinkering with it for a while yet–and titling has become the usual nightmare. I see no rush. Soon I’ll blog a full contents list, including the flash fiction, most of which appeared here. (Thanks for everyone’s help on that.) Previously unpublished stories include “The Crisis” which you may have heard me read at Warwick U or at Totleigh Barton; “The Old Fox”, so technical & emotionally citrus it gives me toothache to read it now; the final Viriconium story, “Crome”; and others. Previously published stories that may have been off your radar include: “Entertaining Angels Unawares” and “Cicisbeo”. A story that won’t be reprinted in this collection, or anywhere else, is “The 4th Domain”, which will only ever be available in that form as a Kindle Single: so buy one now (etc etc).

Speaking of Viriconium, it’s nice to have Eric Germani’s exhaustive study, “The Killing Bottle”, here (useful for anyone taking Warwick U’s F/SF course); I’m very much looking forward to his forthcoming analysis of Light. I suspect my tribute to Forced Entertainment is now up among all the other 365s, at the FE site; I was late, mea culpa. The Poor Souls’ Light anthology of original Christmas ghost stories is mailing as I speak, but I think there may be some copies left if you haven’t yet ordered; I’ll be at Birmingham College of Art next Friday (12th), reading from my contribution, “Animals”, alongside Alison Moore and Jenn Ashworth. There is other news, but I am deliberately keeping it from you–partly in case nothing comes of it & partly because I am such a tart.

catch-up

Some reminders & updates: I’m at Totleigh Barton on Thursday (23rd Oct) to read for my supper at Liz Jensen & Simon Ings’ SF course; Birmingham Library on the 30th October, to remember Joel Lane & read from SALT’s Best British Short Stories 2014; Manchester (John Rylands) Library in December with the Curious Tales team. An exciting talk possibility has turned up for next autumn, I’ll keep you informed; and having missed Claire-Jane Carter & Tess Lyons’ Hagglers Corner event in Sheffield (not to say missing the chance to meet the frighteningly determined Nick Bullock) on Saturday (25th October), I’m hoping to contribute to whatever they do next–news on that if & when. If you’d like to pay me to read something, or do some other kind of appearance, leave a comment here or follow @mjohnharrison on Twitter and DM me. New & recently available stories: “The 4th Domain” is up at Kindle Single (where you can still get “Cave & Julia”; if you missed the delightful Night Jar Press edition of “Getting Out of There”, it’s available in the above-mentioned & equally Royle-edited Best British Short Stories 2014, from SALT (both paper and electronic); “Animals”, an untraditional traditional ghost story, will appear at Christmas in the Curious Tales anthology Poor Souls’ Light. I’m thinking of saving “The Crisis”, which I debuted at Warwick U’s Irradiating the Object conference, as a kind of bonus for the new collection, which will contain a couple of other previously unpublished and similarly raw items. There’s progress on that, including a new and I hope final title, but I’m still trying to finish The Last Viriconium Story to go in it, so don’t necessarily hold your breath. The new novel is looking round so many different corners at once that I couldn’t tell you anything about it anyway.

salt in birmingham

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Thursday 30 October 2014, 6.30pm, Bookbox, Lower Book Browse, Library of Birmingham: free but ticketed, tickets available from The Box on 0121 245 4455 or on the door.

Readings from Salt’s Best British Short Stories 2014, which is dedicated to Birmingham writer Joel Lane who died last November. Readings by Louise Palfreyman, Mick Scully, M John Harrison and all-round literary powerhouse Nicholas Royle. Joel, the sweetest man who ever lived, nevertheless wrote some of the most wrenched stories you’ll ever read. Get hold of The Earth Wire, it’s a manual for the strange.

If you live in the Midlands, come & join us.

they were like animals

I’ll be reading again–from “Animals”, a proper ghost story–at a launch event for the Curious Tales collection The Lantern Dead at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, December 18th. Details here as soon they’re available, or keep an eye on the Curious Tales site.

answer now

Autobiography is always as much about hiding as about revealing, its most basic effect being to draw the veil across the very thing it seems to be unveiling. Otherwise, why bother. The same is surely already true of social media: less narcissism than narcissism games. The user makes the space her own. Is it empty or is it full? Answer now, without hesitating.

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