The fog is so thick out here you can touch it. It’s like pushing through fine chilled gauze. The air is sweet and soft, and everything beyond the garden fence is an abstract of diffused light and faded charcoals.
I wish it would last for months.
I understand some people still read these notes, and that they comment on social networks. I’m glad you find some pleasure in these little sketches I send to myself, but I’m afraid I don’t see your comments. I’m gone from social media. I like the fog. It’s a quiet life for me. One hopes my remaining acquaintances will stop me before I go full survivalist. I might have been reading about hugelkultur again. I’m wearing an Icelandic wool hoodie, for god’s sake.
I still get broadcast waves. I’m still engaged with the world and learning every day. But I’ve chosen a quiet life in the fog. I leave you to that other world. I like it better where I am.
If you want me, I’m at email@example.com. If you can recommend me ambient or electronic music podcasts, all the better. This is been, for the remaining eight readers of this journal, my reminder for the year that I live in other, more distant spaces now.
READING: LENIN ON THE TRAIN, Catherine Merridale (UK) (US)
If I were still on social media, it would amuse me this week to attempt to popularise the phrase “the 45th and final President of the United States.”
Let me be clear: this is because I am a shitty human being who is amused by terrible things. But it’s less offensive than that Weimar shit currently being perpetrated by people who love CABARET but don’t remember how that story ended.
It’s a week to consider the late Mark Fisher’s version of capitalist realism: that we’re so deeply incarcerated within our current societal reality that we don’t have space to consider any alternatives, and therefore keep trying to work within and fix the same busted systems, instead of building out new ones.
Imagine if you were an American, watching the inauguration and thinking, 45th and final. That’d be a guide to thinking outside your model pretty damn fast.
Meanwhile, my own country is busy trying to dial time back to approximately 1970. Which, as I mentioned to a friend today, is the timeframe I’m most reminded of when I watch the film CHILDREN OF MEN. That’s pretty much how I remember London looking.
Another friend texted me this morning to tell me she planned to learn how to farm.
My Kindle Single DEAD PIG COLLECTOR is now available worldwide (UK) (US) for less than that bottle of bleach you’ve been thinking about buying and drinking.
I have this idea that you don’t necessarily get Proust, on some level, until involuntary memory becomes an aspect of sheer mental weight. Until you’ve been above ground long enough to have filled up with significant mass of memory. And, when you lay down, gravity makes it fall into your conscious mind. The slightest things trigger it at night, now. Ghost hands tugging at the rope of a trapdoor with forty-odd years of memory balanced precariously atop it. The door drops and memories tumble out across the front of my head, unordered and unbidden and often uncomfortable. I notice it a lot, these days (and nights). The nature of presomnal reverie has changed hugely as I’ve gotten older. It’s an odd thing, to see the workings of your brain change over time. Frankly, it’s not as fun as it used to be, and this may be one reason why old people are cranky.
Fuck you and your fucking little cake.
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I watched all 13 episodes of that tv show BACKSTROM. And, you know, full respect to Hart Hanson for getting that made. But I am offended by the ending, which appears to suggest that a fat bald beardy man who likes food, drinking, smoking, lying and shouting is somehow unqualified to shoot people. I find this personally offensive to my identity politics, bordering on racism.
(It was actually an interesting note to end on: I presume the team knew that 13 episodes were all they were getting, by the time they were into the last episode. There are grace notes that, if they were landed by accident, were really damned lucky. It wasn’t uplifting. Backstrom gets what he wants and then admits complete personal defeat. The guy we watched in the last 13 episodes dies at a lectern in front of a crowd of strangers who applaud. With a different director on that final scene it could have been Kafkaesque. Intentionally or not, the closing of the thirteenth episode draws a nice hard line under the end of the White Male Arsehole Genius Procedural genre.)
Also here is a bottle of Icelandic schnapps which was really quite unspeakably awful but which I drank anyway because I have moral fortitude.
Woke up yesterday to see someone reminiscing about IRC. It was a little like someone describing how they used to send smoke signals across the great plains. Remember “moblogging”? I was doing that in the 1990s, with a collection of kit that even at the time seemed the product of a dated alternate future. Modular, silvered plastics, plugs and stub antennae. Nokia phones of styles you wouldn’t have been surprised to encounter in SPACE: 1999. We’ve burned through a remarkable amount of futurity in the last 21 years. They fly spaceships with tablet consoles in THE EXPANSE and we’re not impressed because the crew were flying the Enterprise with giant iPads in 1988.
All old thoughts. But dragged to the surface by talk of a communications method created in 1988, the year of flying starships with giant iPads, and now reportedly down to less than half a million users worldwide. Makes me wonder how many people send smoke signals in a year.
Starting the year by looking back is okay. It’s such a strange and lovely position, in post-science fiction times, to take stock of the new plastic fossils that have gathered in the foothills of the future.
Reading: THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, Masha Gessen (UK) (US)
People keep asking me how it feels to be back on the shore of the Thames after more than two weeks batting across America – some fourteen thousand miles on planes, not counting incidental car travel. I still don’t have a good answer. Plane travel is possibly the most peaceful thing I do, for some reason. It’s almost meditative. I have my security protocol down to a simple process. I thank everybody. Airline apps or computer kiosks speed everything along. Self-discipline. Walking and sitting. Observing the breath and calculating calorie expenditure. Thoughts pass away without perturbation. I understand airports as riverbanks, cut into the world to effect motion and transience. Hans Ibelings’ supermodern space.
I hadn’t been on a plane in a year. Hadn’t been in America in two. I’d forgotten what it had been like to be weightless, and how effortless travel becomes when I just relax into it and let it carry me along. It is the most absurd privilege, and the most insanely gorgeous technological gift. I am lucky beyond all measure to be able to do it, and to have it be the most peaceful thing.
This is a picture of me partway through the door and not knowing which timezone or city or hotel or day I’m in. I was starting to suffer fun sleep deprivation symptoms and was probably dying, but it was glorious.
As I’ve written before, New Year doesn’t feel like an arbitrary, notional event to me. I hear the click as we roll over on to the new track.
Listening hard for the click, this year.
2016 was a hard year. It would be comforting to think we jump to a new track today, and pull clear of that shitbox of a year. That 2017 will be better.
It’ll be different. It’ll be interesting in many fine and terrible ways. It’ll be sad, if not in precisely the same way 2016 was. I’d love to tell someone that it’ll be better. But I think we were all fooling ourselves with that notion that years get better, just as we fool ourselves into thinking each year is starkly fenced off and the space ahead is virgin field.
It will be memorable. It will have beauty in it, and new things, and it will sing and light up skies. There will be joy.
Will it be better? No. But I trust that it will be worth sticking around for, and that it will not be boring. That’s enough for me.
One in the morning. I just wrote an entry on my whiteboard reading “think of a book, idiot.” My brain has been a deadzone since I got back from book tour. I am hoping my forebrain isn’t another casualty of 2016. (Carrie Fisher is stable in hospital as I write this.) The whiteboard is half full, with a show season’s script schedule written on a sheet of paper and pasted next to it. (Four hours’ worth of television to write in two months, more or less.) An email that arrived just before LA closed for the holiday suggests that, combined with the rest of the things on the whiteboard, I’m sorted for work until summer. Assuming, of course, that I live that long, haha. Ha. Ha.
I doubt I’ll write here again before December 31. I like each year to have a clean, hard break. I know what the first half of 2017 looks like. It will be busy, but I will have space to think, and to travel again. The rest of this year is for letting my brain recover from all of 2016 – the five month work marathon, the tour, the hails of communications, all of it. And so I lay me down to rest.
I had misty days throughout the tour, even in Los Angeles. And now the mist rises on the Thames Delta. My head is still drifting. The mist makes me feel like I still haven’t quite landed. Opening up the full spectrum of feeds hasn’t helped. Threaded tweets wasn’t a thing I actually needed in my life. I took an amused moment to imagine this journal as an endlessly threaded tweet. Not sure who’d commit suicide first – me, or my final reader.
I’m disconnected still, even with the feeds open. The 21st Century continues to pulverise the old narratives. This is acceleration, but mentally I’m hanging in the air and watching from within the mist.
It’s beautiful outside. I sit out there for hours while the phone while it whispers and pings and I just look at the trees and the sky and wonder what’s next. Not so bad.
I’d be okay with this year ending in fog. Would seem somehow apt.
Also I just saw a website designer talking about user experience and “dating the user” so I think we can call 2016 done now.
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As you can see, the crowds really turned out for my Google talk.
Last night, my film/tv agent asked me what I’d learned from my book tour (for NORMAL, pictured above). All I could think of was the person who came up to me at the NYC stop and said that she was an Asian trans woman and thanked me for writing TREES. Which is a reminder that your work has personal consequence. But even mentioning that seems self-serving. Is self-serving. This is why writers get addicted to doing conventions. You start believing you’re something special and show up at every event where someone might say it to you again.
And then you’re spat out on to the street, suddenly completely alone, suddenly just another body in the world.
NORMAL went back for a second printing on Friday, I’m told. I’m guessing that six very special bookstores in America did that for me. Thank you.