M John Harrison takes a trip to Autotelia in Arc 1.1

8 Feb

M John Harrison has spent decades crashing romance, horror, travel, fantasy and science fiction into each other, spinning off stories that have inspired generations of more or less frustrated imitators. One of the prime movers of the seminal magazine New Worlds, Harrison anticipated the rise of both urban fantasy (with his Viriconium series) and weird fiction; his recent novels Light and Nova Swing have won him a slew of awards and copious critical acclaim.

So we at Arc are proud to announce that issue 1.1 will feature a brand new story by Harrison. Built from notes, glimpses, overheard remarks and the spindrift of the “ordinary”, In Autotelia is a story of migration.    

“The train pushes its way through a shower of rain, then past a dilapidated farm. Victorian railway buildings in pocked and mottled orange brick. An abandoned house in a polluted fold of land. A woman standing alone in a channel of mud by a tiny two-arch bridge. “Have a splendid weekend,” the solicitor says. “My pleasure.” And then, looking at me affably and indicating the papers with their neat yellow lines, his phone, the laptop he opened as soon as he sat down: “I hope this isn’t a nuisance for you?” I ask him if he could perhaps not use the laptop. As he begins to reply we break out of the transition zone into the sunlight the other side.
“Good God,” he whispers, more to himself than me, staring out of the window: “Look at that.”

Harrison’s glimpses of a mythical eastern Europe are both horripilating and humorous: at bottom, Harrison is a comic writer – albeit that his comedy plays out unsettlingly at the wrong speed. Ordinary things acquire a twisted magic, and ordinary human business is revealed as a meshwork of more or less psychotic rituals, as we try to negotiate our way through a world unimaginably bigger and wilder than we are.

“A lake ferry must have arrived; people are pouring up the hill, some clearly tourists, some clearly locals, schoolchildren in folkloric hats, teenagers dressed up as people who have an aching sense of how to dress as a teenager. An accordion has started up. A Volkswagen camper chugs its way across the square. The police keep their eye on all this. Regional police couture splits the difference between professional plumbing and special-forces chic. A colour of blue you only ever see in cheap overalls and uniforms. Even their van looks as if they bought it from Dyno-Rod. I smile at them.”

A one-way trip to Autotelia awaits in Arc 1.1, available late February on Kindle, and through Zinio on mobiles, tablets and PCs.


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