Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
M. John Harrison
Michael John Harrison (born July 26, 1945), also known by his initials MJH, is a UK writer, mainly of science fiction and fantasy. From 1968 to 1975 he was literary editor for the magazine New Worlds; he has also written one mainstream novel, Climbers (1989), the only work of fiction to ever win the Boardman Tasker Memorial Award. He is also a keen rock climber. He won the Richad Evans award in 1999. Under the pseudonym Gabriel King, he and Jane Johnson have written The Wild Road and The Golden Cat.
Harrison's books include:
- The Committed Men (1971)
- "In a bleak present-future Britain, mounting radiation levels have brought about widespread deformity an a catastrophic collapse of society. The crazed and cancered remmants of the populations are bent upon stamping out abnormality with messianic zeal. But those few who look beyond their own, doomede struggle for survival know that only a mutant version of mankid can survive in this poisoned environment." – (From the back cover of the VGSF Classics edition)
- 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 Machine in Shaft Ten and Other Stories (1975)
- The The Ice Monkey and Other Stories (1983)
- "Stylish, accomplished, evocative short stories, exemplary fictions of uneases shot through with poetic insights and most beautifully written." – Angela Carter.
- Climbers (1989)
- "Mike keeps a record of his climbs in an old account book held together by yellowing Sellotape. His life by the Yorkshire moors offers little other than footholds and quarries. This 1989 novel opens in winter, as Mike begins to work the chill out of his muscles, and ends when the season returns, "shutting the door on every fucking thing worthwhile". Climbing gives "an over-powering, almost hallucinogenic sense of happiness", which sometimes lasts as far as Bolton, but mostly Mike and his fellow crag-heads use their sport to stifle the difficulties of life on the horizontal. Marriages are rocky, jobs unfulfilling, the kitchen floor is awash with homebrew, and Mike is confusedly contemptuous of others, and plain confused by women. Incidents surface through bleary-headed memory, everything described in Harrison's disassociated prose, with slanting digressions into suicides on the moors and feral boy scouts." – David Jay (Review in The Guardian)
- The Course of the Heart (1992)
- This explores a more complex relationship between this world and the imagined other world.
- "The plot revolves around a mystery - four students together at Cambridge performed an occult rite, invoking the other world of the 'pleroma'. The invocation worked in a way they did not expect, and two of them, who went onto marry, were both haunted - literally and figuratively - ever afterwards. After the event none of them remember what it was that happened or why."
- "Of the other two characters, one is Yaxley, who would always have been a nasty piece of work anyway, and the other is the nameless narrator and part of the mystery is what he inherited from the disaster. (I won't tell). Most of the story is set in the present day (or perhaps a little later) and describes the everday life of the characters. Lucase Medlar becomes an English teacher in the north, while Pam his wife stays at home affected the epilepsy she has had from childhood. Though they try to make a go of it, they cannot be happy. Yaxley tries to involve more people in his circle, and pulls the narrator into a plot involving a kidnapped child which ends in deaths, but the narrator overwise has a successful life in publishing."
- "However, there is another world if not two intervening in this one: Lucas Medlar has the manuscript autobiography of a traveller from the 1930's with its view of the past, and he has an account from alchemical texts of a city which disappeared - this city is the Coeur, the heart from which Richard the Lion Heart took his name, possibly the heart of a heartless world."
- "So the ordinary world of working and doing the washing up is being invaded or penetrated - by the course of the Coeur, by the traveller Michael Ashman, by the hauntings from the Pleroma, by the machinations of Yaxley. The narrator has to make sense of it all and try to make it all work out. Only by two of the four dying can this happen, but the reasons for the deaths and whether they are happy or sad, satisfied or unsatisfied, are very different. The narrator finally sees everything in a different way, even Medlar's familiar changes, and the world becomes a world of possibilities in which that morning in Cambridge did not condemn them forever. There may not be one Coeur but many, so that the title becomes a pun. Or he may have gone mad."
- "This novel seems to escape genre - it is essentially realist, but it revolves around aspects of the fantastic, Yaxley and his efforts make it a detective story or thriller but they are only a small part of the book. Then there are the then and now stories of the pre-war traveller, and the ancient stories of the Coeur, in which fourteenth century battles are described, and of course the whole alchemical theory in which the characters explain what has happened." – L.J.Hurst (Review in Vector)
- Signs of Life (1996)
- "The setting is England today. Isobel Avens, slow, heavy-bodied, dreams of learning to fly. She falls for Mick Rose (known as China) because he tells her he is a pilot. This is a lie. Actually, he and his partner, Choe (rhymes with Joey), run a delivery and removal service that specializes in medical waste and even less mentionable goods; since their unspoken motto is Don't ask, don't tell, they do a thriving business."
- "Choe, a motorcyclist with a short attention span, sums up his philosophy of life in a phrase: The idea is not to slow down. He spends all his spare time fighting boredom. China, who lets Choe jerk him around, cares about nothing except staying close to Isobel, with whom he is irremediably in love. Only Isobel has a clear goal. She wants to fly. Yet for reasons she is not called upon to explain, she makes no move to learn."
- "...Readers who stay the course may be astonished at how much pity and sorrow Isobel's fate evokes." – Gerald Jones (Review in The New York Times)
- Travel arrangements (2000) A collection of short stories.
- Things That Never Happen (2003) A collection of short stories written between 1975 and 2000.
- Light (2002) Co-winner of the 2003 James Tiptree Award.
- Parietal Games A volume of reviews and essays is forthcoming. Harrison has reviewed fiction and non fiction for The Guardian, The Spectator and the TSL.
- Viriconium Knights (novelette, 1981, in Elsewhere, Vol. 1, 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) Nominated for the Guardian Award
- 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 1982, original novella.
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