Get Angry and Change Things
The following is the text of an email I sent to five other people on Tuesday the 5th of January 2010 at 01:42 AM. This marks the first piece of writing about what is becoming this year’s theme. Most of my fiction this year seems to be me attempting to meet the goal I lay out in this email.
This is going to be a really rambling email and I make no bones about
that. In an ideal world this would be an essay on my livejournal or
something like, but I’m not really firing on all cylinders on this
general idea yet so don’t want to make too much of an ass of myself.
Recently, as you might have heard/noticed, I’ve been reading Cheap
Truth which was, in its day, a fanzine edited by Bruce Sterling under
the pseudonym Vincent Omniaveritas. In the first issue it ripped into
fantasy fiction and in subsequent issues pretty much attacked
contemporary SF/F and highlighted so much of what was wrong with it.
You can read about it on Wikipedia and there’s a link to all the
issues from there. But that fanzine along with some close connections
with other writers basically formed Cyberpunk.
The New Wave in the 1960s which consisted of writers like: Michael
Moorcock, J. G. Ballard, M. John Harrison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan
Ellison and Samuel R. Delany was formed in opposition to science
fiction from the golden age.
So these two movements were based around confronting the
establishment. They are now the establishment. And I’ve been thinking
about this for a few weeks now and it was only this evening that an
acquaintance and Clarion graduate of mine wrote the following blog
post on his blog:
Yeah, I think Damien is pretty much on the mark here. What the fuck is
Steampunk doing? Apart from sucking the dick of the boring and
absolutely not relevant norms of SF. What the fuck are those zombie
remixes of classic novels achieving apart from being vapid
entertainment? What the hell happened to zombies being scary political
metaphors for fascism, communism and the perils of group think and
Fuck it! I’m sick of reading about things not relevant to my life as
an unemployed graduate who grew up on the edge of two centuries. I
don’t want just want more vapid entertainment with big explosions and
parables about the first Americans. We are living in a time of genuine
crisis. Brazil’s president is apparently the new messiah even as walls
are built to encircle and disenfranchise the favelas. The Canadian PM
has suspended parliament again. America did elect Jesus and that’s
turned out okay but not messianic. Scotland is probably about to get
shat on by the Tory party and England in the same election is probably
about to elect the party that’s been running its councils into the
What stories are being written about this? Okay not those problems but
two years ago wasn’t much different. Five years ago wasn’t much
different Jesus fucking Christ the Man Booker Prize* was all
historical lit this year. Fantasy wearing the badly sewn badge of
I’m reminded of an anecdote I heard from a William Gibson talk that
said John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar would be unpublishable today
because of the density of crisis described. What crisis do we have
going on now? AIDS, energy, global warming, various horrible arguments
about immigration, liberalism verses conservatism verses
fundamentalist nut jobs who just want to tear down society but don’t
have a firm plan of what to do after. Although no one really has any
idea what to do once we reach after. Real life is seemingly a
multi-layered and perpetual Armageddon where the world never quite
ends and we only notice how shit everything is when the drum beats
like 9/11, Iraqi or the Boxing Day Tsunami.
What is the alternative now? You’ve all read Crooked Little Vein so
you know the answer. Nothing is. Everything is mainstream. Last month
I was in W. H. Smiths a newsagents chain in the UK browsing the
magazine racks and came across a magazine called Bizarre. Now I had a
friend in high school who read that magazine. He was into piercing and
gore pictures. This magazine is about THE SHOCK. On its cover in
December was a headline about Britain’s largest gangbang, where the
journalist (obviously hoping to follow in the Gonzo tradition) was one
of the many many participants. What is alternative? Nothing is.
That’s where I think Coilhouse misses the mark. If it’s a love letter
to alt-culture then now it is a love letter to all culture and not
just the tiny self-identifying counter-cultural moors that the
Fiction should reflect this. But what’s the point of this email? Apart
from being me shouting about this crazy and probably quite obvious
stuff in the hope that you’ll listen.
Well all of you people are smart and talented and have interesting
points of views. At least I think so. I think you guys know your shit
and are motivated enough to maybe want to make enough noise to try and
change this sorry state of affairs.**
What do I suggest? Well I want to start reviewing fiction in a fanzine
inspired by Cheap Truth. I want to do this as a broadside which makes
this point as much as possible. It should be a mash up of pop taste
and high tastes. My two favorite albums of the year from last year
were: Little Boots and Fever Ray. Light and dark. Pop and not.
I want to write fiction and be joined in writing fiction that reflects
and comments on now.
Most of all I want to get away from the use of the fantastic as props.
No more frivolously supernatural fiction. No more zombie vampire
werewolves who are codes for minorities. I want to flat out talk about
the minority. Worse still the supernatural (which includes science
magic) just because it’s cool and/or ticks marketing boxes.
Personally I don’t know the best way to go about this. I know I can
try and do escape these crimes in my own writing. And I can try and
describe multi-layered worlds which capture the essence of our world.
I can try and make sense of the world through my fiction. But to have
any sort of effect on the world at large (because I’m still young
enough and stupid enough to believe I can do that) I need to work with
other people on this. Maybe an anthology is required. Some sort of
group identity is definitely needed.
I’ve ranted enough now. We need a new new wave, and the only way
that’s going to happen is if we get off our arses and do something
Do you guys have any ideas?
Early Tuesday Morning 5th of January 2010.
Probably should be medicated or sleeping.
* A commonwealth literary prize.
** No I don’t know what comes after.