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Wilson, D Harlan

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1971-    ) US author whose first publication, The Kafka Effekt (coll of linked stories 2001), assembles and interlinks a pattern of short narratives, proclaimedly post-modern in their structuring (see Postmodernism and SF), and clearly intended to surrealize the parable abyss of Franz Kafka, while evoking twenty-first century cultural Amnesia and visions of the planetary Media Landscape gone berserk. Stranger on the Loose (coll 2004) and Pseudo-City (coll of linked stories 2005) continue in the same line, the structure of the latter being a homage to Winesburg, Ohio (coll of linked stories 1919) by Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941). Later collections include They Had Goat Heads (coll of linked stories 2010), Battle Without Honor or Humanity: Volume 1: Discombobulate & Neutralize (coll of linked stories 2016) and Battle Without Honor or Humanity: Volume 2 (coll of linked stories 2016), both assembled as Battles Without Honor or Humanity: The Complete Saga (omni 2017 ebook). The author's style is heatedly gonzo, sometimes evocative of the work of Rhys Hughes; and his range of story modes is very broad (see Fantastika). He may best be read in short segments and sequences, as above.

In Wilson's first novel, Dr Identity; Or, Farewell to Plaquedemia (2007), which begins the Scikungfi Trilogy, a university professor buys a Robot to teach in his stead; after it murders an entire class of students (a "joke" that events after 2007 have made less tellable), the robot and the professor go on the rampage through the entrails of late capitalism in America; the tone sometimes hearkens back to the robot novels of Ron Goulart. The series continues into a notional Near Future with Codename Prague: An Unfinished Pulp Science Fiction Novel (2011) and The Kyoto Man (2013), in which the Satire and the extremities veer into the apocalyptic, though always leavened with contorted and sometimes very fun actings-out both of Genre SF topoi and earlier forms; the epigraph for The Kyoto Man is from E V Odle's Scientific Romance, The Clockwork Man (1923).

Individual titles include Blankety Blank A Memoir of Vulgaria (2009) Peckinpath: An Ultraviolent Romance (2009) and Primordial: An Abstraction (2014), all similar to Wilson's shorter work, but perhaps less easy to sort through. His first book-length nonfiction was Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction (2009), an analysis of the destructive intimacy between the self and Technology characteristic of the modern age, with a focus on capitalism as the engine driving this union, and profiting from it. They Live (2014) examines the film They Live (1988) and its roots in some depth. Author-specific studies are J G Ballard (2017) and Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination: A Critical Companion (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), dealing with J G Ballard and Alfred Bester respectively. [JC]

David Harlan Wilson

born Grand Rapids, Michigan: 3 September 1971


The Scikungfi Trilogy

individual titles




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