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SFF Author: M. John Harrison

M. John Harrison(1945- )
Michael John Harrison, known primarily by his pen name M. John Harrison, is an English author and critic. His work includes the Viriconium sequence of novels and short stories, (1982), Climbers (1989), and the Kefahuchi Tract series which begins with Light (2002). He currently resides in London. Learn more about his work at M. John Harrison’s website.



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The Pastel City: A baroque, decaying, phantasmagoric dream city

The Pastel City by M. John Harrison

Viriconium sits on the ruins of an ancient civilization that nobody remembers. The society that was technologically advanced enough to create crystal airships and lethal energy weapons is dead. These Afternoon Cultures depleted the world’s metal ores, leaving mounds of inscrutable rusted infrastructure with only a few odds and ends that still work. The current citizens of Viriconium are baffled by what they’ve dug up, but they have no idea what any of it is for.

tegeus-Cromis, “who fancies himself a better poet than swordsman,” used to be Viriconium’s best fighter until he left the Pastel City after King Methven died.


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A Storm of Wings: Strange, outlandish, blurry

A Storm of Wings by M. John Harrison

A Storm of Wings is the second part of M. John Harrison’s VIRICONIUM sequence. Viriconium has been at peace for eighty years after the threat from the north was eliminated, but now there are new threats to the city. Something has detached from the moon and fallen to earth. A huge insect head has been discovered in one of the towns of the Reborn. The Reborn are starting to go mad. Also, a new rapidly growing cult is teaching that there is no objective reality.


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The Floating Gods: A mysterious plague hits Viriconium

The Floating Gods (aka In Viriconium in the UK) by M. John Harrison

In this third volume of the VIRICONIUM omnibus, we visit the old artists’ quarter of Viriconium — a lazy decaying place where gardens bloom and the smell of black currant gin exudes from the taverns where the increasingly lackadaisical citizens used to sit and talk about art and philosophy. This part of the city used to be vibrant and innovative, but it has been deteriorating as a psychological plague has been creeping in from the high city.


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Viriconium Nights: Seven stories set in Viriconium

Viriconium Nights by M. John Harrison

I was in Viriconium once. I was a much younger woman then. What a place that is for lovers! The Locust Winter carpets its streets with broken insects; at the corners they sweep them into strange-smelling drifts which glow for the space of a morning like heaps of gold before they fade away.

Viriconium Nights is the last book in M. John Harrison’s VIRICONIUM epic. It’s a collection of these seven short stories set in and around the city of Viriconium:

  1. “The Lamia and Lord Cromis” — tegeus-Cromis,

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The Centauri Device: A simple story deliciously told

The Centauri Device by M. John Harrison

M. John Harrison’s 1975 The Centauri Device is a rare beast in science fiction. Short (200 pages), prosaic (the language is at most times brilliant), and with literary aims, it is sure to draw the disapproval of any genre fans expecting the easy-to-digest hero’s story typical of space opera. Harrison’s offering to the sci-fi world is instead one for connoisseurs who appreciate well-written stories with a driving — though it at times seeming fantastical and obtuse — purpose.

The Centauri Device is on the surface a rather simplistic story.


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Light: I feel drained

Light by M. John Harrison

Michael Kearney is a physicist. He’s also a serial killer. Obsessed with numbers and patterns since he was three, he sees something behind them. Something is there, something dark and ominous that starts to emerge sometimes. He calls it the Shrander and the only way to hold it back is to kill someone. Trying to appease the Shrander, Michael uses Tarot cards and a special pair of bone dice to try to figure out what he’s supposed to do next. He’s also teamed up with a colleague named Brian Tate to study the relationship between mathematics and prophecy.


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The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Vol 2: More disturbing than Vol 1

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2 edited by Gordon Van Gelder

I read the first volume (The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology, published 2009) before I tackled this one, published in 2014. It’s only been five years, but I detected a darkening of the tone. Maybe I’m imagining it, maybe it’s just me, but it seemed to me that the earlier volume contained stories that set out to go to strange places and, as a consequence, were sometimes disturbing,


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The New Weird: As terrifying as Kafka on LSD

The New Weird by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

It’s easy to imagine two different readers reacting in opposite ways to The New Weird. One might find it delightfully odd; the other might find it as terrifying as Kafka on LSD. And a third might find it delightfully odd because it’s as terrifying as Kafka on LSD. Certainly, no one is likely to find it boring.

The New Weird is a well-organized anthology, with a short, useful introduction; a section entitled “Stimuli,” containing older selections (though not very old;


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The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction.


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Next SFF Author: Alix E. Harrow
Previous SFF Author: Mette Ivie Harrison

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