M. John Harrison

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M. John Harrison
Born Michael John Harrison
(1945-07-26) 26 July 1945 (age 71)
Rugby, Warwickshire, England
Occupation Writer
Nationality British
Period 1966–present
Genre Science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction
Literary movement New Wave
Notable awards 1989 Boardman Tasker Prize
2002 J. Tiptree Jr. Award
2007 Arthur C. Clarke Award
2007 Philip K. Dick Award

Michael John Harrison (born 26 July 1945), known for publication purposes primarily as M. John Harrison, is an English author and literary critic. His work includes the Viriconium sequence of novels and short stories (1971–1984), Climbers (1989), and the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy which consists of Light (2002), Nova Swing (2006) and Empty Space (2012). He is widely considered one of the major stylists of modern fantasy and science fiction, and a "genre contrarian".[1] The Times Literary Supplement described him as 'a singular stylist' and the Literary Review called him 'a witty and truly imaginative writer'.[2] His work is profoundly leftist and committed to depicting alienated characters in the world of late capitalism. Indeed, in interviews, M. John Harrison has described himself as an anarchist,[3] and Michael Moorcock wrote in an essay entitled "Starship Stormtroopers" that, "His books are full of anarchists -- some of them very bizarre like the anarchist aesthetes of The Centauri Device." [4]

David Wingrove has written of Harrison: "Making use of forms from sword-and-sorcery, space opera and horror fiction, Harrison pursues an idiosyncratic vision: often grim, but with a strong vein of sardonic humour and sensual detail. Typically, his characters make ill-assorted alliances to engage in manic and often ritualistic quests for obscure objectives. Out of the struggle, unacknowledged motives emerge, often to bring about a frightful conclusion, which, it is suggested, was secretly desired all along. Harrison's vivid, highly finished prose convinces the reader of everything." [5] China Mieville has written: "That M. John Harrison is not a Nobel laureate proves the bankruptcy of the literary establishment. Austere, unflinching and desperately moving, he is one of the very great writers alive today. And yes, he writes fantasy and sf, though of a form, scale and brilliance that it shames not only the rest of the field, but most modern fiction."

Harrison lives in London.

Early years[edit]

Harrison was born in Rugby, Warwickshire during 1945 to an engineering family.[1] His father died when he was a teenager and he found himself "bored, alienated, resentful and entrapped", playing truant from Dunsmore School (now Ashlawn School).[1] An English teacher introduced him to George Bernard Shaw which resulted in an interest in polemic.[1] He ended school during 1963 at age 18; he worked at various times as a groom (for the Atherstone Hunt), a student teacher (1963–65), and a clerk for the Royal Masonic Charity Institute, London (1966). His hobbies included electric guitars and writing pastiches of H. H. Munro.[6] His early interest in dwarfs continued through various of his novels, via characters such as Arm the Dwarf in The Committed Men, Choplogic the dwarf in the Viriconium series, and so on.

His first short story was published during 1966 by Kyril Bonfiglioli at Science Fantasy magazine, on the strength of which he relocated to London. He there met Michael Moorcock, who was editing New Worlds magazine.[1] He began writing reviews and short fiction for New Worlds, and by 1968 he was appointed books editor.[1] Harrison was ferociously critical of what he perceived as the complacency of much genre fiction of the time; the bulk of his reviews have been collected in the volume Parietal Games. During 1970, Harrison scripted comic stories illustrated by R.G. Jones for such forums as Cyclops and Finger.[6] An illustration by Jones appears in the first edition of Harrison's The Committed Men (1971), published when he was living in "the least trendy part of Camden".

In an interview with Zone magazine, Harrison says "I liked anything bizarre, from being about four years old. I started on Dan Dare and worked up to the Absurdists. At 15 you could catch me with a pile of books that contained an Alfred Bester, a Samuel Beckett, a Charles Williams, the two or three available J. G. Ballards, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, some Keats, some Allen Ginsberg, maybe a Thorne Smith. I've always been pick 'n' mix: now it's a philosophy."[7]

The New Wave science fiction movement[edit]

From 1968 to 1975 he was literary editor of the New Wave science fiction magazine New Worlds, regularly contributing criticism. He was important to the New Wave style which also included writers such as Norman Spinrad, Barrington Bayley, Langdon Jones and Thomas M. Disch. As reviewer for New Worlds he often used the pseudonym "Joyce Churchill" and was critical of many works and writers published using the rubric of science fiction. One of his critical pieces, "By Tennyson Out of Disney" was initially written for Sword and Sorcery Magazine, a publication planned by Kenneth Bulmer but which was never published; the piece was printed in New Worlds 2.

Amongst his works of that period are three stories utilising the Jerry Cornelius character invented by Michael Moorcock. (These collaborative stories do not appear in any of Harrison's own collections but do appear in the Nature of the Catastrophe and New Nature of the Catastrophe, published using only Moorcock's name.) Other early stories published from 1966, featured in anthologies such as New Writings in SF edited by John Carnell, and in magazines such as Transatlantic Review, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, New Worlds and Quark.

A number of Harrison's short stories of this early period remain uncollected, gathered neither in his first collection The Machine In Shaft Ten, nor in his later collections.

The 1970s[edit]

The novel The Committed Men (1971) (dedicated to Michael Moorcock and his wife Hilary Bailey) is an archetypal British New-Wave vision of a crumbling future with obvious debts to the work of Michael Moorcock and J. G. Ballard. It is set in England after the apocalypse. Social organisation has collapsed, and the survivors, riddled with skin cancers, eke out a precarious scavenging existence in the ruins of the Great Society. A few bizarre communities try to maintain their structure in a chromium wilderness linked by crumbling motorways. But their rituals are meaningless cliches mouthed against the devastation. Only the roaming bands of hippie-style situationists have grasped that the old order, with its logic, its pseudo-liberalism and its immutable laws of cause and effect, has now been superseded. Among the mutants are a group of reptilian humans - alien, cancer-free but persecuted by the 'smoothskins'. When one of them is born of a human mother in Tinhouse, a group of humans sets off to deliver it to its own kind - a search of the committed men for the tribes of mutants. David Pringle called the novel 'brief, bleak, derivative - but stylishly written.[8]

Harrison's first novel of the Viriconium sequence (see below), The Pastel City was also published during 1971. Harrison would continue adding to this series until 1984. During 1972, the story "Lamia Mutable" appeared in Harlan Ellison's anthology Again, Dangerous Visions; while this tale forms part of the Viriconium sequence, it has been omitted from omnibus editions of the Viriconium tales to date.

During 1974 Harrison's third novel was published, the space opera The Centauri Device (described prior to its publication, by New Worlds magazine, as "a sort of hippie space opera in the baroque tradition of Alfred Bester and Charles Harness). An extract was published in New Worlds in advance of the novel's publication, with the title "The Wolf That Follows". The novel's protagonist, space tramp John Truck is hunted by a cast of bizarre characters: General Alice Gaw, ruthless head of the Israeli World Government; Gadaffi ben Barka, terrorist supreme of the Union of Arab Socialist Republics; and Dr Grishkin, director of the weird Opener cult. Truck's mother was a Centauran, one of the last before the Centauri genocide. Now Truck is the last Centauran and the rival groups need him to arm the most powerful weapon in the galaxy: the Centauri Device, which will respond only to the genetic code of a true Centauran. David Pringle assessed it as: "A stylish, dark-hued but tongue-in-cheek space opera, in which anarchist space pirates, with a taste for fin-de-siecle art, fly spacecraft with names like 'Driftwood of Decadence' and 'The Green Carnation'. Self-conscious and literary, but nevertheless a virtuoso performance."[9]

Harrison's first short story collection The Machine in Shaft Ten (1975) collects many (but not all) of his early short tales, from such sources as New Worlds Quarterly, New Worlds Monthly, New Writings in SF, Transatlantic Review and others. "The Lamia and Lord Cromis" is an early Viriconium tale. The moody "London Melancholy" features a ruined future London haunted by winged people. None of the stories, with the exception of the classic "Running Down", (an outstanding psychological horror tale about a man who is literally a walking disaster area), have been reprinted in his subsequent short story collections. The Bringer with the Window features Dr Grishkin, a character also appearing in The Centauri Device.

Harrison later relocated to Manchester and was a regular contributor to New Manchester Review (1978–79). David Britton and Michael Butterworth of Savoy Books employed him to write in their basement (where he did so "amidst stacks of antique Eagles, Freindz, New Worlds and Styng. A basement that reverberates with indecent exposures of stolen sound, bootlegs sucked from hidden mikes, stacked in neat piles.").[10][11] The commissioned work, originally announced in Savoy publications as By Gas Mask and Fire Hydrant, eventually became the novel In Viriconium.

His early novels, the dystopian The Committed Men, The Pastel City and the revisionist space opera The Centauri Device have been reprinted several times. The latter was included in the SF Masterworks series, though Harrison is reputedly not fond of it.

The 1980s[edit]

During the decade 1976-1986, Harrison lived in the Peak District. During 1983 he published his second short story collection, The Ice Monkey and Other Stories, containing seven tales which capture the pathos, humour, awe, despair, pain and black humour of the human condition. In "The Incalling", a story of seedy suburban magic which in some ways foreshadows his later novel The Course of the Heart, an editor is haunted by an author's attempts to cure himself of cancer by faith healing. The "Incalling" is one of the few of Harrison's tales (aside from "Running Down") in which a male character is physically ill; though many of his stories feature male characters who are psychologically unwell, in many of his fictions, it is women who are damaged - either physically or emotionally ill or both. "The New Rays" here exemplifies this tendency.

In 1980 Harrison contributed an introduction to Michael Moorcock's early allegorical fantasy (written by Moorcock at age 18) The Golden Barge (Savoy Books).

Harrison's interest in rock climbing resulted in his semi-autobiographical novel Climbers (1989), the first novel to receive the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. Harrison also ghost-wrote the autobiography of one of Britain's best rock climbers, Ron Fawcett (Fawcett on Rock, 1987, as by Mike Harrison).[12] Harrison has repeatedly affirmed in print the importance of rock climbing for his writing as an attempt to grapple with reality and its implications, which he had largely neglected while writing fantasy. The difference in his approach pre- and post-Climbers, can be observed in the extreme stylistic differences between the first novel of the Viriconium sequence The Pastel City and the second, A Storm of Wings. Around the time of writing Climbers, he declared that he had abandoned science fiction forever.[13]

About 1985 Harrison moved in with Jane Johnson, with whom he would later write the "Gabriel King" books [4]

The Viriconium sequence[edit]

Harrison's enduring fantasy sequence concerning the fictitious city of Viriconium consists of stories and novels written between 1971 and 1984. Viriconium is known as the Pastel City. Both universal and particular, the city has a shifting topography and history, and is sometimes known by names such as 'Uroconium' (though there does not seem to be any association with the old Roman town of Viroconium).

The Viriconium sequence, influenced in its imagery by the poems of T. S. Eliot, consists of three novels and various short stories; a somewhat complete published version is the 2005 omnibus simply titled Viriconium (Millennium Books, Fantasy Masterworks Series) which includes all three connected novels and various of the short stories (though it excludes some stories such as "Lamia Mutable", "The Lamia and Lord Cromis", and "Events Witnessed from a City" which were in the Ace Books ed of Viriconium Nights). The 2005 Millennium omnibus is not to be confused with the earlier, identically-titled omnibus Viriconium published by Unwin Paperbacks (1988), with an introduction by Iain Banks; the Unwin omnibus consists only of the novel In Viriconium together with the stories of Viriconium Nights (the Gollancz 1985, not the Ace 1984 contents).

The graphic novel The Luck in the Head adapts one of his short works set in the sequence and is illustrated by Ian Miller.

The first book The Pastel City (1971), presents a civilization in decline where medieval social patterns clash with the advanced technology and superscience energy weapons that the citizens of the city know how to use but have forgotten how to engineer. Harrison's leading character, Lord tegeus-Cromis, fancies himself a better poet than swordsman; yet he leads the battle to save Viriconium, the Pastel City, from the brain-stealing automatons known as the geteit chemosit from Earth's past. The decadence Harrison describes is reminiscent of Michael Moorcock's vision of the far future in The End of All Songs. David Pringle wrote of the novel: "This is a sword-and-sorcery tale, yet it borders on sf by virtue of its distant future setting and the conceit that most of the 'magic' is in fact ancient, little-understood science. Despite its obvious debts to Jack Vance and Michael Moorcock, it's a very moody and stylish entertainment.[9] Reviewing the novel for Delap's F & SF, Michael Bishop opined that "my own gut feeling is that M. John Harrison is wasting his time and his gift with this sort of material" but that "if you like elegantly crafted, elegantly written sword and sorcery, this book is all you could ask for." [14]

The more complex second novel of the Viriconium sequence, which is also borderline sf, is A Storm of Wings (1982). It is set eighty years later than The Pastel City. and stylistically it is far denser and more elaborate than the first novel. Fay Glass and Alstath Fulthor of the Reborn try to alert the powers of Viriconium that the northern highlands are overrun by insectile armies. A race of intelligent insects is invading Earth as human interest in survival wanes. Fay brings the severed head of an invading locust-like giant insect to show the extent of the disaster. Harrison brilliantly depicts the workings of civilization on the verge of collapse and the heroic efforts of individuals to help it sustain itself a little longer.

The novel In Viriconium (1982) (US title: The Floating Gods) was nominated for the Guardian Fiction Prize during 1982. Savoy Books catalogs referred to it as "Pre-raphaelite sword and sorcery". It is a moody portrait of Viriconium beset by a mysterious plague. As artist Audsley King slowly dies from the plague, her friend Ashlyme tries to save her. Yet his efforts are purposeless and his adventures misdirected. Where the previous books in the series held some sword and sorcery elements, In Viriconium goes beyond black humour into a coma of despair.

Harrison has frequently used the Tarot as a motif in his work, as in Viriconium Nights (which is divided into sections named after cards of an imaginary Tarot) and in his story The Horse of Iron (and How We Can Know It and Be Changed by It Forever). The collection Viriconium Nights consists of various stories (the number varies depending whether one considers the Ace 1984 edition or its variant, the Gollancz 1985 ed - see below). All are vignettes of night life in the Pastel City.

In "The Lamia and Lord Cromis", tegeus-Cromis (who recurs in "Lords of Misrule" and is lthe protagonist of The Pastel City), a dwarf, and a man named Dissolution Kahn travel to a poisonous bog to destroy a dangerous Lamia. The mission ends in confusion and despair.

In the story "Viriconium Knights", the elderly swordsman Osgerby Practal is defeated in a duel by Ignace Retz, an unpopular servant of the Queen. Retz uses a power knife, a relic of previous times when high technology was used, but which is now ill understood; the badly-functioning power knife gives off floating motes which harm the wielder. (In this, Harrison invents his own variant of Moorcock's soul-draining magic swords in the Elric stories). The Queen is the grotesque Mammy Vooley, whose "body was like a long ivory pole about which they had draped the faded purple gown of her predessor. On it was supported a very small head which looked as if had been partly scalped, partly burned, and partly starved to death in a cage suspended above the Gabelline Gate. One of her eyes was missing. She sat on an old carved wooden throne with iron wheels, in the middle of a tall limewashed room that had five windows.".[15] Retz has ambitions to seek treasure in the broad wastes south and west of Viriconium, and petitions the Queen to allow him to keep the power knife so he may defend himself against his enemies. When she refuses, he uses the knife to cut off her hand, and flees, hunted through the city by various factions of "aristocratic thugs" such as the Locust Clan and the Yellow Paper Men. Taking refuge in the house of an old man who shows him a strange tapestry, he beholds various visions of himself, seemingly at different periods in the city's history, before trying to steal a metal eagle from the old man's room. The metal eagle comes to life, attacking him, and Retz barely escapes. Later, he finds himself on a wasteland where some men are trying to bury a body with a fish-mask on its head. Retz steals the clothes and mask from the body and continues on his way.

In "The Luck in the Head", in the Artists' Quarter, the poet Ardwick Crome has been having a recurring dream about a ceremony called "the Luck in the Head." He wants these disturbing dreams to stop, so he goes looking for one of the women in the dream.

"Strange Great Sins" is the story of the weak and silly man Baladine Prinsep, who becomes enamored with the ballet dancer Vera Ghillera and wastes away. The story is told at one remove through the memories of his nephew, an unnamed sin-eater, and through those of his mother and of the singer Madame de Maupassant. In this story the motif of the Mari Lwyd is central. This story looks at the city of Viriconium from the perspective of outsiders who know that those who go there either are, or will become, decadent and self-absorbed.

In "The Dancer From the Dance" the ballerina Vera Ghillera from "Strange Great Sins" visits Allman's Heath where strange things are afoot.

"A Young Man's Journey to Viriconium", set in our world, explains that Viriconium is a real place and tells you exactly how to get there, in case you want to go. The doorway is a mirror in a bathroom in a café in England.

"Lords of Misrule", narrated in the first person by Harrison's continuing character Lord Cromis, deals with Cromis's visit to a country house where the Yule Greave, formerly a fighter with the Feverfew Anschluss faction of Viriconium, and his wife, live with their young servant Ringmer. An unidentified enemy is gradually encroaching on the country lands and Cromis appears to be surveying their progress. During his visit, he is shown one of the ancient and highly decorated Mari - a version of the Mari Lwyd - used by the people in the 'mast horse ceremony', which Ringmer's father used to operate.

Work of the 1990s[edit]

Subsequent novels and short stories, such as The Course of the Heart (1991) and "Empty" (1993), were set between London and the Peak District. They have a lyrical style and a strong sense of place, and take their tension from characteristically conflicting veins of mysticism and realism.

The Course of the Heart deals partly with a magical experiment gone wrong, and with an imaginary country which may exist at the heart of Europe, as well as Gnostic themes. It weaves together mythology, sexuality, and the troubled past and present of Eastern Europe. It begins on a hot May night, when three Cambridge students perform a ritualistic act that changes their lives. Years later, none of the participants can remember what exactly occurred; but their vague memories can't rid them of an overwhelming sense of dread. Pam Stuyvesant is an epileptic haunted by strange sensual visions. Her husband Lucas believes that a dwarfish creature is stalking him. Self-styled sorcerer Yaxley becomes obsessed with a terrifyingly transcendent reality. The seemingly least effected participant in the ritual (who is haunted by the smell of roses) attempts to help his friends escape the torment that has engulfed their lives.

Since 1991, Harrison has reviewed fiction and nonfiction for The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Times.

The novel Signs of Life (1996) is a romantic thriller which explores concerns about genetics and biotechnology amidst the turmoil of what might be termed a three-way love affair between its central characters. Mick "China" Rose starts up a medical courier service with associate Choe Ashton, who's given to erratic behavior and gnomic utterances. Their first job is illegally to dump a load of hazardous medical waste. Meanwhile, waitress Isobel Avens, China's live-in lover, dreams, literally, of flying. But as his business expands, Isobel becomes increasingly unhappy, complaining that she can no longer fly in her dreams; soon she leaves China for rich doctor Brian Alexander (one of China's clients) and disappears into Brian's Miami clinic. In a rare moment of candor, Choe tells China about a transcendental experience he once had at beautiful Jumble Wood involving a green-eyed woman. Unable either to comprehend or repeat the experience, Choe makes an annual pilgrimage to the spot. Then Isobel telephones. Rejected by Brian, she's now almost constantly ill after mysterious—- and illegal—- treatments in Miami. Slowly, horrifyingly, China watches as the treatments begin to take effect: Isobel grows feathers while her metabolism turns birdlike; but she still can't fly and attempts suicide. China takes her to Brian and demands help. Eventually, Isobel recovers, physically, but she can't, or won't, give up her dream, and China leaves her. Choe, meanwhile, now rich through an association with gangsters, has bought Jumble Wood and turned it into a toxic waste dump.

The Tag the Cat series[edit]

Beginning with The Wild Road during 1996 and concluding with Nonesuch (2001), he co-wrote four associated fantasies about cats with Jane Johnson, using the pseudonym "Gabriel King". Harrison and Johnson's relationship had ended amicably during 1995 after ten years, however their shared love of cats resulted in the writing of the four King books. [5]

Harrison has collaborated on several short stories with Simon Ings, and with Simon Pummel on the short film Ray Gun Fun (1998). His work has been classified by some as forming part of the style dubbed the New Weird, along with writers such as China Miéville, though Harrison himself resists being labelled as part of any literary style.

Harrison won the Richard Evans Award during 1999 (named after the near-legendary figure of UK publishing) given to the author who has contributed significantly to the SF genre without concomitant commercial success.

Reinventing space opera: The Kefahuchi Tract trilogy & other work[edit]

Harrison continued to publish short fiction in a wide variety of magazines through the late 1990s and early 21st century. Such tales were published in magazines as diverse as Conjunctions ("Entertaining Angels Unawares", Fall issue 2002), The Independent on Sunday ("Cicisbeo", 2003), the Times Literary Supplement ("Science and the Arts", 1999) and Women's Journal ("Old Women", 1982). They were collected in his major short story collections Travel Arrangements (2000) and Things That Never Happen (2002).

During 2002, his science fiction novel Light (first of the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy) marked a return to science fiction for Harrison after what had been perceived as his long absence at work in 'mainstream' fiction, though in fact almost all Harrison's work contains elements of the fantastic. Light was co-winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 2003. Its sequel, Nova Swing (2006), won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2007[16] and the Philip K. Dick Award in 2008.[17]

During 2003 Harrison was on the jury of the Michael Powell Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

During 2006 Harrison published the second novel of the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy, Nova Swing, a knowing crossover between science fiction and noir fiction. As with Light, this novel brought him further acclaim and several awards.

During 2007 Harrison provided material for performance by Barbara Campbell (1001 Nights Cast, 2007, 2008) and Kate McIntosh (Loose Promise, 2007).

He has taught creative writing courses in Devon and Wales, focusing on landscape and autobiography, with Adam Lively and the travel writer James Perrin.

During 2009, Harrison shared (with Sarah Hall and Nicholas Royle) the judging of the Manchester Fiction Prize.

Harrison's current partner is photographer Cath Phillips.

On 6 June 2009, Harrison wrote on his official weblog that he had three major works in progress. These were: "(a) a third Light novel, which will collide A. E. van Vogt with all sorts of other unlikely people". This novel, announced under its working title Pearlant, for publication in April 2012, was published during Aug 2012 with the title Empty Space (which had been a working title for Light, the first of three Kefahuchi Tract novels);

Other work in progress Harrison mentioned on his weblog 6 June 2009 included (b) "a collection of short stories, some of which will be voiced in a familiar way, some of which won’t;" and (c) "something I would describe as a literary seaside concept-horror novel if four-word descriptions weren’t a betrayal of everything I stand for…".


Harrison is stylistically an Imagist and his early work relies greatly on the use of strange juxtapositions characteristic of absurdism. His work has been acclaimed by writers including Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman, Iain Banks (who has called him "a Zen master of prose"), China Miéville, William Gibson and Clive Barker, who has referred to him as "a blazing original". In a Locus magazine interview, Harrison describes his work as "a deliberate intention to illustrate human values by describing their absence."

Many of Harrison's novels include expansions or reworkings of previously published short stories. For instance, "The Ice Monkey" (title story of the collection) provides the basis for the novel Climbers (1989); the novel The Course of the Heart (1992) is based on his short story "The Great God Pan". The story "Isobel Avens Returns to Stepney in the Spring" is expanded as the novel Signs of Life (1996); the short story "Anima", first published in Interzone magazine, also forms one of the central thematic threads of Signs of Life.


Year Title Notes
1971 The Committed Men Science fiction novel set in a post-apocalyptic Britain. London: Hutchinson and New York: Doubleday. Dedicated to Hilary Bailey and Michael Moorcock. The Doubleday edition has textual differences.
The Pastel City First novel of the Viriconium sequence. London: NEL, 1971 (pbk, first edition); New York: Avon Books, 1971; New York: Doubleday, 1972 (first hc edition). These editions dedicated to Maurice & Lynette Collier and Linda & John Lutter. Reprint: London: Unwin, 1987 (dedicated to Dave Holmes).
1975 The Centauri Device Stand-alone space opera. New York: Doubleday, 1974; London: Panther, 1975. The first ed is dedicated to John Price. Reprints: London: Orion/Unwin, 1986 (dedicated to Jon Price); London: Millennium, 2000 (Sf Masterworks series) (no dedication).
The Machine in Shaft Ten and Other Stories Short story collection. London: Panther, 1975. Dedicated to 'Diane'. Contains: "The Machine in Shaft Ten"; "The Lamia and Lord Cromis"; "The Bait Principle"; "Running Down"; "The Orgasm Band"; "Visions of Monad"; "Events Witnessed from a City"; "London Melancholy"; "Ring of Pain"; "The Causeway'; "The Bringer with the Window"; "Coming from Behind". Note: "Running Down" was later revised for its appearance in The Ice Monkey and Other Stories.
1980 A Storm of Wings Second novel of the Viriconium sequence. London: Sphere,1980 (dedicated to John Mottershead, Mike Butterworth, Tom Sheridan and Dave Britton) and New York: Doubleday, 1980 (dedicated to Harlan Ellison). British Fantasy Award nominee, 1981[18] Reprint: London: Unwin, 1987 (dedicated to Chris Fowler).
1982 In Viriconium Third novel of the Viriconium sequence. London: Gollancz, 1982 (dedicated to Peter Weatherburn and Joyce Middlemiss). Published in the US as The Floating Gods, New York: Pocket Books, 1983 (dedicated to Fritz Leiber). Nominated for the Guardian Fiction Prize. British Fantasy Award and Philip K. Dick Award nominee, 1983[19]
1985 Viriconium Nights Collection of short stories adding to the Viriconium sequence. New York: Ace (paperback), 1984 (dedicated to Algis Budrys); revised/definitive edition, (1st hardcover ed) London: Gollancz, 1985 (dedication to Budrys removed). The stories in the British hardcover edition are revised and the author's preferred texts. The Ace and Gollancz editions, while they have five stories in common, are effectively different books under the same title. Stories in the Ace ed are: "The Lamia and Lord Cromis", "Lamia Mutable", "Viriconium Knights", "Events Witnessed from a City", "The Luck in the Head", "The Lords of Misrule", "In Viriconium"(an abbreviated version of the 1982 novel of that title), "Strange Great Sins". The Gollancz ed presents its stories in a different running order; it also omits "Lamia Mutable", "Events Witnessed from a City", and "In Viriconium". "The Lords of Misrule" is retitled "Lords of Misrule" in the Gollancz ed. The Gollancz ed contains stories not in the Ace ed, i.e. "The Dancer from the Dance" and "A Young Man's Journey to Viriconium".
The Ice Monkey Short story collection. London: Gollancz, 1983. Contents reprinted in toto in Things That Never Happen (2002). The version of Running Down included is a version revised from its early appearance in The Machine in Shaft Ten and Other Stories.
1989 Climbers winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize. Harrison was the first writer to win this award with a work of fiction.
1992 The Course of the Heart novel. UK: Gollancz, Flamingo. The 2004 Night Shade Books edition (first US edition) adds the short story "The Great God Pan" which Harrison describes in a note as a 'rehearsal' for the novel. The UK ed (Gollancz, 1992) is dedicated "To JJ (=Jane Johnson) with love" although this dedication is not reproduced in the 2004 edition.
1996 Signs of Life novel, British SF Award nominee, 1997;[20] British Fantasy Award nominee, 1998[21]
1997 The Wild Road as Gabriel King, written in collaboration with Jane Johnson
1998 The Golden Cat as Gabriel King, written in collaboration with Jane Johnson
2000 Travel Arrangements short story collection. Contents reprinted in toto in Things That Never Happen (2002).
The Knot Garden as Gabriel King, written in collaboration with Jane Johnson
2001 Nonesuch as Gabriel King, written in collaboration with Jane Johnson
2002 Light co-winner of the 2002 James Tiptree, Jr. Award; British SF Award nominee, 2002;[22] Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, 2003[23]

Winner, Tähtivaeltaja Award, 2005

Things That Never Happen Omnibus edition of The Ice Monkey and Travel Arrangements, plus some previously uncollected material; the author's choice of his best stories, arranged in chronological order of composition. Intro by China Miéville. Only around 600 copies of the trade ed were produced. The limited edition version (150 copies) is signed by both authors and has laid in a separate booklet, The Rio Brain (collaboration between Harrison and Simon Ings).
2005 Anima omnibus edition of the novels Signs of Life and The Course of the Heart. Its title gives a clue to the Jungian themes in Harrison's work.
2006 Nova Swing Gollancz 2006; limited edition Easton Press; sequel to Light, Arthur C. Clarke and Philip K. Dick Awards winner, 2007;[24] BSFA nominee, 2006;[25] British Fantasy and John W. Campbell Awards nominee, 2007.[24]
2012 Empty Space novel; third in the Kefahuchi Tract sequence begun with Light and Nova Swing
Graphic novels
Year Title Notes
1991 The Luck in the Head A Viriconium story adapted in collaboration with illustrator Ian Miller, based on short story of the same name
2000 Viriconium German language adaptation of In Viriconium, illustrated by Dieter Jüdt
Year Title Notes
1987 Fawcett on Rock as "Mike Harrison", ghostwritten autobiography of legendary British rock climber
2005 Parietal Games edited by Mark Bould and Michelle Reid, compiles Harrison's reviews and essays from 1968 to 2004 as well as eight essays on Harrison's fiction by other authors


  1. ^ a b c d e f Richard Lea (20 July 2012). "M John Harrison: a life in writing". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Quoted in 'M. John Harrison News, Interzone 13 (Autumn 1985).
  3. ^ Spectrum SF interview
  4. ^ Moorcock, Michael (1977). "Starship Stormtroopers". Archived from the original on 2002-12-24. Retrieved 2006-03-04. 
  5. ^ David Wingrove, The Science Fiction Sourcebook. Prentice Hall Press, 1984, p. 162
  6. ^ a b Jacket blurb, M. John Harrison, The Committed Men. London: New Authors Limited, 1971
  7. ^ "Disillusioned by the Actual: An Interview with M. John Harrison" by Patrick Hudson
  8. ^ David Pringle. The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction. Grafton, 1990, p. 67
  9. ^ a b David Pringle, The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction. Grafton, 1990, p. 67
  10. ^ Savoy Dreams, p. 14
  11. ^ Andrew Darlington, "Doin' That Savoy Shuffle", International Times; online at [1]
  12. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=VW1WAAAACAAJ
  13. ^ M. John Harrison News, Interzone 13 (Autumn 1985).
  14. ^ Delap's F & Sf (Jan 1977), p. 21.
  15. ^ M. John Harrison, Viriconium, London: Millennium, 2000, p. 9
  16. ^ [2] guardian.co.uk article
  17. ^ [3] Ansible newsletter
  18. ^ "1981 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  19. ^ "1983 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  20. ^ "1997 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  21. ^ "1998 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  22. ^ "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  23. ^ "2003 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  24. ^ a b "2007 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  25. ^ "2006 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
Critical essays
  • Leigh Blackmore. "Undoing the Mechanisms: Genre Expectation, Subversion and Anti-Consolation in the Kefahuchi Tract Novels of M. John Harrison." Studies in the Fantastic. 2 (Winter 2008/Spring 2009). (University of Tampa Press). [6]
  • Various hands. Parietal Games (2005), edited by Mark Bould and Michelle Reid, compiles Harrison's reviews and essays from 1968 to 2004 as well as eight essays on Harrison's fiction by other authors. Foreword by Elizabeth Hand.

External links[edit]