12th to 15th June

Past couple of days, glorious sunshine. The waterlogged moor thankful for it. Mornings misty, muggy and mysterious. Me, a little sun-tanned; a little stupid.

The proliferation of pornography around us, may, as Jim Ballard once joyfully suggested, be mankind’s way of stimulating a flagging birth rate across the western world: the internet acting as a conduit channeling all imaginable forms of erotica into our homes – this to encourage procreation.

Ummmm.

I feel poor Jim was wrong (after all he was wrong in so much else, wasn’t he?), and that the glut of pornography we experience currently simply encourages more solitary pursuits, especially amongst the male of the species. It tends to divide and isolate, not combine.

Jimbo was a strange one (but then aren’t we all?), with his head full of surrealism, ‘the People’s Guro’ and patron saint of grunge simultaneously, his writing this sallow wash of light exposing multiple futures that would have been equally at home on Green Party election posters or within the manifesto for the ‘Born Again Nihilist Party’.

In my mind’s eye I see him smoking a hookah or three in Zanzibar surrounded by fleshy sensualists.

Jim loved women – correction – he enjoyed casual sex with numerous women, and drank often to excess, he created a fetish of automobile accidents and mutilation – no mean feat in itself! And his writing was (and still is) an unexpected diet of loco weed, peyote cactus and magic mushrooms – yes, truly, Jimbo was ‘the Benign Catastrophist’; he saw the in-built self-destructiveness of what was to become New Labour and Cameron’s Conservatism and a new moneyed-society where the creation of wealth is far more important than the individual.

‘Civilised life,’ he told Susie Mackenzie in an interview, ‘you know, is based on a huge number of illusions in which we all collaborate willingly. The trouble is we forget after a while that they are illusions and we are deeply shocked when reality is torn down around us.’

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It strikes me that over recent years our politicians have looked on social dependency as an evil. A social evil. It should be eliminated because it is ‘evil’; and ‘austerity’ was (is) seen as the ideal way to eradicate it – in the same way as insecticide eliminates vermin from the world. Oh, if only there were a simple pharmacological answer. A chemical that would act on the brain to either a) drop all these unfortunate people with their various mental and physical disabilities into the wastebin (unnoticed); or b) cause them all to ‘man up’ and become real ‘go-getters’. Any poor bastard who happens to be out of work is a scrounger – the only thing worse than a scrounger, is a foreign scrounger! An immigrant! Social evils to be removed. Hence Brexit and a national election without winners. Balzac, you may recall, depicted the world of his own time in ‘The Human Comedy’. We, boys and girls, are now living in that world. But I don’t hear any laughter.

a fascinating paradox

May 15, 2017

Ballardian: (adj) 1. of James Graham Ballard (born 1930), the British novelist, or his works (2) resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels and stories, esp. dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.

“J.G Ballard is a great writer who has never written a great novel.” So observed Germaine Greer, making a criticism that even some of Ballard’s die-hard admirers have on occasion conceded. Her charge draws focus upon a fascinating paradox that flows through the main artery of Ballard’s career, namely that his greatness hinges less on his talent as a stylist, more upon the potency of his ideas. Too often the prose feels clunky, the novels weighed down by 2D characterisations, their plotting reminiscent of the Boy’s Own comics he devoured as a child. Yet across eighteen novels, 95+ short stories and numerous essays, the visions continued to manifest themselves, eventually earning him the moniker ‘the seer of Shepperton’. Martin Amis nailed the contradictions in Ballard’s work in his review of The Day Of Creation(1987), observing that the text was ‘occasionally boring and frequently ridiculous’ and yet it would ‘still come and haunt you’. Amis concluded ‘Ballard’s novels go to work on you after you’ve finished.’ And go to work they did. Ballard’s influence remains inescapable, energising the post-war imagination in a way few of his contemporaries can claim. Beginning with the explosion of creativity he experienced in the late-1960s (The Atrocity Exhibition, Crash, High Rise, Concrete Island) Ballard established a sphere of influence that has impacted upon culture enormously, be it music (Punk, New Wave, Dubstep) literature (Will Self, Martin Amis, John Gray), filmmaking (David Cronenberg, Brad Anderson), as well as reframing how the 21st Century media landscape is latterly understood. In 2005 he was finally admitted into that exclusive group of artists whose surnames enter the language as adjectives, ‘Ballardian’ now taking its place in the Collin’s Dictionary alongside ‘Kafkaesque’, ‘Pinteresque’ and ‘Lynchian’.

Richard Kovitch
Millennium Man

Book of the Day

May 13, 2017

Sanity…?

April 26, 2017

I must confess that I lost faith in the sanity of the world

H.G. Wells
The Island of Dr. Moreau

Diary 21st April

Easter weekend, became a lost weekend. We gave ourselves unashamedly to debauchery, Boys & Girls. And strong drink raged (as it does here, from time to time). Driven by our inflamed, animalistic urges we veered from manic to tender, from gently sentimental to crudely rough. It was, in short, an excellent time for us all.

Saturday night I watched a pretty woman put on her makeup. I M’s face, slightly flushed after her time alone with Dee and Gabby, reflected in the dressing table mirror in the spare room. She drank rum and sprite. Fussed with her hair. Spoke in banalities.

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And now, between various feverish activities, I must decide whether or not to cancel an oral hygienist appointment at my dentist’s. The day and evening preceding we will be with old friends, eating, drinking, and over indulging. Can I face the hygienist first thing in the morning with a hangover and a mouth like a badger’s bum?

HYGIENIST: “Please Peedeel, allow me to fart in your mouth and freshen your breath.”

I think I’ll cancel!

#

Vast alchemies. Every three minutes, a person goes missing in the UK. Where do they all go? I find it a deeply disturbing statistic, don’t you?

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Oh, yes, which reminds me. I watched the new episode of Dr Who at the weekend. Peter Capaldi’s last series playing the Dr . Mr Capaldi is a fine actor, but the Who series suffers from shite writing, and is in the guiding hands of those who believe that “narrative and characterization are too distracting from their preferred salad of videogame spaghetti”.

Long live the third rate, ay wot?

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Food for thought: If all men disappeared of the face of the earth, every war would instantly be over.

social-vat-tim-french

H G Wells was a committed socialist and also a scientist with an active interest in evolution. His literary visions of the future were frequently shaped by both of these concerns. In The Time Machine (1895), Wells’s protagonist travels into the distant future – the year 802,701 – to discover that the human race has evolved into two distinct species, the ‘Eloi’ who live on the surface and the ‘Morlocks’ who live underground. The Time Traveller’s initial observations suggest a utopian society: his first encounter is with the Eloi, who are beautiful but useless, living in plenty and liberated entirely from work. ‘Communism’ is his initial diagnosis, as he observes that the houses and cottages that were familiar features of the Victorian countryside have disappeared to be replaced by ‘palaces’ for communal living.

The pastoral idyll in which the Eloi live resembles in several respects the utopian society depicted by the 19th-century English socialist William Morris in his utopian romance News from Nowhere (1890), where money is abolished, work is pure pleasure, and every member of society lives in plenitude. The palaces also recall the phalanstères proposed by the 19th-century French socialist Charles Fourier: utopian communities of 500-2000 inhabitants would allow for the dissolution of the individual family unit, so that marriage could be abolished and children mutually reared.

However, while at first glance the Eloi seem to inhabit a classless society, when the troglodytic Morlocks come into view – savage brutes who live underground and seem to perform the mindless drudgery necessary to keep society functioning – the Time Traveller awakens to another possibility. Has the social separation between rich and poor become so extreme that the two groups have evolved into separate species?

Class in the time machine
Matthew Taunton

space

Actually, BEMs (Bug-eyed Monsters) are not a sine qua non of space-opera, and early examples often fill up with stuff lifted from the historical novel, or if you like the parry-and-thrust opera, things like princesses and palace guards and ancient codes of honour. Later space-opera fills up from the ‘tec yarn, with galactic hoodlums, alien dope-runners, etc. The kind of setup I have been describing is plainly an important ancestor and collateral of much contemporary fare as seen in comic books and strips aimed at those of immature age or inclination, and it even afflicts the occasional story in the serious science fiction magazines. Moreover, space-opera with a full complement of BEMs and a small staff of mad scientists attended by scantily clad daughters constitutes, I should guess, the main brand-image of science fiction in the minds of the less au-courant trend-hounds, those who haven’t yet caught on to how frightfully significant it all is. To go back in the other direction: the ancestral figure in the development of space-opera is clearly Rider Haggard, who in a book like SHE provided elements that needed only to be shifted to Mars and eked out with a BEM or two to get the whole new show on the road. Edgar Rice Burroughs performed this very feat in 1912 with UNDER THE MOONS OF MARS, later republished as A PRINCESS OF MARS, and in the next quarter of a century or so more than a dozen successors flowed from his dreadfully fluent pen. The degree of scientific interest here can be gauged from the way Burroughs shows his contempt for all interplanetary devices, from waterspouts to gravity insulators: the hero, trapped in a cave by a band of Apaches, simply finds himself on Mars, and at once enough starts happening in the way of green men for the more technical questions to be quickly dropped. Burroughs’ most celebrated and profitable creation, Tarzan, is, incidentally, a more complicated person than the continuing spate of films about him would suggest. Far from being a mere rescuer of lost wayfarers and converser with animals, he meets several adventures stemming even more directly from Rider Haggard, TARZAN AND THE LOST EMPIRE or TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD, for instance, which represent a kind of terrestrial space-opera, and at least once, in TARZAN AT THE EARTH’S CORE, we retrace the steps of Verne, though with less dignified gait.

Kingsley Amis
New Maps of Hell

the old North Sea…

October 8, 2016

systemic-aberration

It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried out bed of the old North Sea.

Philip Reeve
Mortal Engines

danger…

May 8, 2016

Trees of time

I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes.

C. S. Lewis
Out of the Silent Planet

feed my ancestors…

April 1, 2016

coat

‘I died to keep you alive, and one day you will die to feed my ancestors.’

Larry Niven and Steve Barnes
The Barsoom Project