Change Agent

It’s been so long since my last post, I’ve forgotten my password.

For months leading up to the workshop at Writers & Books, I gorged on sci fi and spec fi, trying to make up for years of not reading – or reading crap. Crap being writing that doesn’t unlock any rooms in your head, that doesn’t show you things. That doesn’t take you somewhere you don’t want to leave. Or can’t leave, even if you want to.

One of the authors I’m reading lately is M. John Harrison. I read “Light” and moved on to “Nova Swing,” which takes place in the world  – no, the universe – the Mr. Harrison has created in these thin, dense novels that bushwack you with mind blowing images and ideas. More than that – he nails aspects of the human condition that each of us thinks are ours alone. I’m getting close to the end of Nova Swing and am encountering literature that is absolutely genre agnostic, a thrill to find in a novel that is classified – because everything must be classified – as sci or spec fic.

It’s a paradox: it’s the universality of ideas that make them feel personal. This, for instance, spoken by Lens Aschemann, the existentialist detective haunted by the spirit of his dead wife:

“When I left Utzie,” he said, “she would dial me up and say, ‘People think it’s a failure to live alone, but it isn’t. The failure is to live with someone because you can’t face anything else.'” He chuckled. “Two days later it would be, ‘Cooped up with yourself 24 hours a day, that’s life, without remission. Lens, the worst thing in the world is to be inside yourself, you don’t even want to be rescued. Yet to be as happy as we were – to be so open to someone else – invites the failure of everything.'”

Was anything more true every written? All options are fraught. Most of us bounce from one to the other, ricocheting off pain like a pinball.

And later, when Vic Serotonin, an opportunistic “travel agent,” follows Elizabeth Kielar deeper into the twisted physics of the Event Site:

“The further off the beaten path Vic got, the more nervous he became and the easier it was to persuade him to take another wrong turn. It was what he had always feared.”

But it’s the thrill that keeps you going in the wrong direction, isn’t it? The unknown, inside or out. What you might encounter, or learn, or survive.

Makes for good reading, too.


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