‘In Autotelia’ by M. John Harrison

For some reason, when I’m reading the work of M. John Harrison I have the German experimental rock band CAN playing along in my head. Recently, on his radio 6 show, Iggy Poppy described CAN as psychedelic picturesque and I think the same phrase can be easily applied to Mike works. It has the band’s expansive panoramas that are sometimes empty, sometimes full of some ether that can talk but nobody fully understands. Crumbling train lines shooting into the distance stand in for CAN’s repetitive beats and damp nettles for the profusion of white noise. And Damo Suzuki’s discordant mumbling and moaning? That will be everyone’s perpetual inner scream while they attempt to continue as normal while everything fades around them. ‘In Autotelia’ is a large landscape painting with the story and characters growing through the crack like lichen. 

First published in Arc. the New Scientist Magazine, 1983, and collected in You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of Ghosts, Comma Press 2017

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