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Lanchester, John

Entry updated 14 November 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1962-    ) German-born journalist and author, in UK from 1972, most of whose fiction has been nonfantastic, though his first novel, The Debt to Pleasure (1996), comes close to regions of Fantastika as its gourmet protagonist travels through a surreal France, arriving at what he claims to be his home, which he immediately weaponizes. Capital (2012) is a nonfantastic anatomy of London and the crisis-ridden world of 2008, with hints of worse to come. Lanchester is initially of sf interest for The Wall (2019), set in a recognizable though unnamed Near Future UK increasingly beset by rising seas caused by an overwhelming sudden accumulation of climate events (see Climate Change). The eponymous wall has been constructed to keep out both the ultimately unstoppable waters, and migrants, who are known as Others. The protagonist, who has been born into this hell, focuses his rage on his parents' generation (which is to say the generation who may be reading Lanchester's text as a new book), because they betrayed their children and the planet. But he has little sympathy for the ultimate remorse of those born late in the twentieth century: it matters little that what they feel is:

guilt: mass guilt, generational guilt. the olds feel they irretrievably fucked up the world, then allowed us to be born into it. you know what? it's true. that's exactly what they did. they know it, we know it. everybody knows it.

The tales assembled in Reality and Other Stories (coll 2020) tend to inhabit worlds with a Near Future feel though seemingly not literally so located, and which, in the absence of some tidal Disaster, nightmarishly interact with their protagonists' lives in ways clearly evocative of Black Mirror (2011-2019); the entrapments of the Media Landscape are similarly merciless. "Coffin Liquor" (4 January 2018 London Review of Books) describes with cruel hilarity the descent into madness of an obsessively mundane-ist academic by a ghost begging to be heard; or perhaps it is the world begging. [JC]

John Henry Lanchester

born Hamburg, West Germany: 25 February 1962

works (selected)



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