Quantum Fiction! – M. John Harrison’s Empty Space Trilogy and Weird Theory

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One of my favourite papers I’ve ever written has now been published in Textual Practice, and it’s Open Access, too!

Abstract:

China Miéville states that since the concepts of Hauntology and Weird are diametrically opposed, only one of them can be attributed to any literary phenomenon at a time. However, those categories are connected by the sublime, a quantum state that can collapse into either awe or horror. I will discuss the exception to this rigorous division, namely the Kefahuchi Tract, the central mystery in M. John Harrison’s Empty Space trilogy. Many instances of Tract activity follow the conventions of a classic haunting. Still, the Tract is characterised as essentially Weird. I will present several ways of reading the Tract. Firstly, stressing the ‘science’ in science fiction, as a black hole without an event horizon, affecting all of reality and preserving old data. Secondly, as a literary phenomenon, a psychological journey. Both approaches are equally valid since the Tract is presented as a quantum phenomenon. It exists in an entangled intermediate state, and only the reader’s interpretation creates one fixed meaning. Moreover, recurring markers in the texts point towards each narrative’s being embedded in an overarching theme that connects most of Harrison’s fiction, which is the notion of secondary-world fantasy literature as escapism – presented in a way that is clearly anti-escapist.

Keywords: Weird fictionscience fictionquantum fictionuncannyhauntologyM. John Harrison.

 

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“Dun da de Sewolawen: The Heart of Silence”

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Feed your phones and e-readers! My Weird SFF zeuhl novelette “Dun da de Sewolawen: The Heart of Silence” is in issue #4 of The New Accelerator! It’s a story about how one generation’s utopia is no longer a utopia to the next generation; it’s simply their home. It’s also a story about loss, adventure, music, tentacular smoke-monsters, and above all about friendship.

Special thanks go to:

Magma (obviously). It was great fun to play with their language. I tried to treat it respectfully, too.

Zali Krishna – for ongoing feedback and inspiration, especially for Bound to Lose and Tolley Boy.

Michael Hellwig, Christian Michael Riesslegger, Christian Maurer, Joshua Levesque – friends, sources of inspiration, players of ideas ping-pong, and quite frequently beta-readers of my stories.

H.P. Lovecraft, Jean ‘Mœbius’ Giraud, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Hayao Miyazaki and China Miéville – who, it seems, have (both consciously and unconsciously) influenced this piece of work.

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More Creative Writing News

Wyrd Daze has expanded onto Patreon and I’m happy to be a regular contributor to their Writers Club. I’m in excellent company too! Take a look at the new Patreon page and the many cool rewards for patrons.
Here you can find the current issue 6 showcase, and here’s the showcase for issue 5 (featuring my short story “Déjà Tué” as well as a comic strip entitled “Who by Fire”, which I’ve collaborated on with Joshua Levesque).

More fiction!

You can find my short story “Déjà Tué” *and* “Who by Fire”, a collaborative comic strip with art by Joshua Levesque, in issue 5 of the excellent zine Wyrd Daze. I love their format, since it’s a multimedia zine. Subscribing will also get you the podcast, music playlist and additional materials. This issue features some amazing stuff – I feel that I’m in *very* good company here.

Living Algorithms

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“The three contemporary science fiction novels discussed here mirror the development of our stance towards artificial intelligence. In Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, which employs a polarised world-view reminiscent of Cold War politics, the AI is demonized to such an extent that speaking about it and speaking about the devil become indistinguishable. In Stone Adam Roberts depicts uprising nanobots as terrorists from a human perspective but as freedom fighters from that of the awakened AI. Finally, M. John Harrison’s take on the topic in his Empty Space trilogy is the most complex one, reminding us that we too are living, self-replicating, self-conscious code. Based on that, self-aware technology is simply another culture to interact with.”

I have a new article up in Infinite Earths: “Living Algorithms: The Move towards Anti-Anthropocentrism in Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, Adam Roberts’ Stone, and M. John Harrison’s Empty Space Trilogy”. The illustration above is “BioMech Eye” by Bruno (kirkh on deviantart).

More Weird Politics

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My essay “Sympathy for the Shoggoth” is now up on Infinite Earths! It’s based on a talk I gave at last year’s Weird Council Conference at Birkbeck and now features a lot of additional material as well as awesome illustrations by John Coulthart, Abigail Larson, K.L. Turner, and Nicholas Kole. (Thank you for letting me use them!)

Teaser illustration above: “Shoggoth” by K.L. Turner.