To promote the upcoming film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J. K. Rowling has launched a fictional History of Magic in North America. It comprises stories that, among other things, rewrite and revise Native American history and the Salem witchtrials, drawing accusations of cultural appropriation. Katharine Trendacosta goes as far as to say that Rowling’s new texts are ‘appropriative in the worst way’, and offers a breakdown of the key issues. Read the article for more.

Mark Kermode (The Observer) interviews the film’s director, Ben Wheatley
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Ben Wheatley

Set in a brutalist 70s “luxury” apartment block that becomes a twisted microcosm of society, High-Rise stars Tom Hiddleston as Dr Robert Laing, a smooth, slippery antihero who moves in just as the cracks of anarchy start to appear. While Jeremy Irons’s architect Anthony Royal lords it up in the penthouse, below him dog-eating chaos begins to reign, rising up in feral fashion, floor by floor. Despite their vast differences, there’s a connection between Zardoz and High-Rise, both of which are home-grown, sci-fi-tinged works rooted in the mid-70s. Ballard’s novel was published in 1975, the year after John Boorman’s dystopian epic provoked gales of laughter with scenes of Sean Connery climbing into a flying head to break into the plush world of “the Vortex”, wearing only a bright red posing pouch. Both depict a future in which a class-segregated society is teetering on the brink of collapse; both imagine lavish idylls and increasingly hellish environs existing side by side.

[…]

“I read High-Rise when I was about 17,” he says, “along with all the usual counterculture stuff: Naked Lunch, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The thing about Ballard was that you could feel his radiation. He seemed scary, and dangerous, and that was why you had to read his books. I read Crash around the same time, and I remember thinking it had a turn of phrase that didn’t feel like anybody else. A way of looking at the modern world and making it alien. I read Hello America and The Drowned World and so on, all in a lump. But High-Rise kept returning…” (more…)

Cassandra Khaw (ArsTechnica) on the virtual reality realisation of a Dickian world
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Californium screenshot
Reality is mutable, vulnerable to interpretation and interference. It’s an idea that permeates through Philip K. Dick’s writing, one of the most influential forces in pop culture. Even if you don’t recognise his work by name, chances are you’ve experienced its impact. Minority Report, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Total Recall—these are all films that owe life to the acclaimed science fiction author. Similarly, an armament of video games draw substance from the man’s fiction, whether it’s Deus Ex or the upcoming Californium.

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A few highlights from the last few weeks

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Bright and early.

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From Alison Flood, writing for The Guardian.

Extract from an interview published this month in The New Yorker.

I’m wondering about the process of writing “Zero K.” Because, unlike some of your novels, it doesn’t revolve around specific historical events—in fact, if anything, it’s futuristic—it didn’t require a lot of archival research. Did that make the writing easier, or more challenging? How long have you been working on the book?

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Don DeLillo, Zero K.

There was a certain amount of scientific material that I had to look into, but I made it a point to keep this aspect of the work within strict limits. The rest was pure imagination—the characters, of course, but also the setting of much of the novel. And, along with the perennial challenge of new work, there was an element of pleasure (this may be too bubbly a word) in exploring fresh territories.

Counting some unavoidable interruptions, I worked on the book for nearly four years. I have trouble accepting this number, particularly since this is a novel of average length. Why so prolonged an effort? My only response is that this is what the novel wanted and needed. [Read the Full Interview]

New short story, an extract from DeLillo’s new novel Zero K., published this month in The New Yorker.

Boris Kachka (Vulture) explores the media frenzy surrounding Hallberg’s ambitious and lengthy novel, set in 1970s New York.

Manohla Dargis reviews the new Coen Brothers film for The New York Times.

The New Yorker film critic puzzles over the Academy’s choices [Read More]