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M. John Harrison

M(ichael) John Harrison (born July 26, 1945) is a UK writer, mainly of science fiction and fantasy, but he has written one mainstream novel, Climbers (1989) (he is himself a keen rock climber).

He is probably best known for his Viriconium series, most recently published in an omnibus edition as volume 7 in Orion/Millennium's Fantasy Masterworks series:

  • "Viriconium Knights" (novelette, 1981, in Elsewhere v1, ed. Terri Winding[?] & Mark Alan Arnold[?])
  • The Pastel City (novel, 1971)
  • "The Lords of Misrule" (1984, in Savoy Dreams, ed. David Britton[?] & Michael Butterworth[?])
  • "Strange Great Sins" (1983 Interzone)
  • A Storm of Wings (novel, 1980)
  • "The Dancer from the Dance" (novelette, 1985, in Virconium Nights [UK])
  • "The Luck in the Head" (novelette, 1984, in Virconium Nights [US]) (1983 Interzone?)
  • "The Lamia and Lord Cromis" (novelette, 1971, New Worlds Quarterly, ed. Michael Moorcock)
  • In Viriconium (novel, 1982; published in the U.S. in 1983 as The Floating Gods)
  • "A Young Man?s Journey to Viriconium" (novelette, 1985 Interzone)

All the short stories and novelettes were previously collected in Viriconium Nights (1985 UK). The 1984 U.S. collection of the same title omitted "The Dancer from the Dance" and "A Young Man's Journey...", but included:

  • "Lamia Mutable" (1972, in Again, Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison)
  • "Events Witnessed from a City" (1975, in The Machine in Shaft Ten)
  • In Viriconium (1984, original novella)

Viriconium lies in a dying Earth littered with the detritus of the millennia. The Pastel City concerns the defence of the eponymous city against northern "barbarians" by a melancholy swordsman and poet, Lord tegeus-Cromis. A Storm of Wings replays the same story, but this time the attackers are insect-like aliens: the story is told through both human and alien points of view and perceptions. In Viriconium parodies Arthurian motifs and deconstructs the whole series to show that Viriconium is just a fiction: the protagonist Audsley King realizes this and at last can paint the real world, which is our own. The short fiction replays this attrition; finally, in "A Young Man?s Journey to Viriconium", Viriconium has become little more than a dream.

The Viriconium series tends to split readers: they either love it or hate it; few are indifferent. Those looking for a robust science fantasy[?] will be disappointed; those willing to delve further may well be rewarded.

Harrison's only other fantasy novel is:

  • The Course of the Heart (1992) – This explores a more complex relationship between this world and the imagined other world.

Harrison's science fiction novels include:

  • The Centauri Device (1975) – A space opera, pervaded by Harrison's trademark melancholia, but with great energy and sharp cynicism. The novel is reminicent both of Alfred Bester's freewheeling plots and of Ken MacLeod's political sensibilities. Harrison's extension of the Arab-Israeli conflicts – albeit those of the sixties and seventies – into a galactic struggle seems strangely contemporary.
  • The Committed Men (19??) [more]




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