Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Man Who Fell To Earth And Landed In Lisburn.

Just finished this collection of stories by the Northern Irish writer Jonathan Fisher. It is a loosely linked anthology of eighteen stories set in a nightmarish ghost of Roysten Vasey like location; Halloween Town.( A singularity in Hell, as Jonathan describes it.) I was reminded of those amazing Ray Bradbury anthologies I used to pick up many years ago in Harry Halls Bookshop. That initial impression created by the beautiful painted cover by artist Paul Malone.Although as I progressed through the book that impression fell away as a more modern and localised impressionistic began to take hold.  The stories all take place within a shared and disturbingly familiar old garrison town and with the greatest respect to that greatest of writers Ray Bradbury never took us down so dark a road as the one to Halloween Town. The October Country of yesteryear seems quite innocent by comparison. There are indeed horrors aplenty in Jonathan Fisher's imaginary town and like all such places it feels real and not a place the fainthearted may care to venture.
            Amongst the eighteen stories between its cover I found a couple of Stand outs . Being drawn naturally to the outre and the Pythonesque I thought I would enjoy the small town horror aspects of the collection mostly but was surprised to find them gravitate towards the Science fiction/fantasy elements. For instance I very much enjoyed the high adventure space opera that is the story Jason Zephyr And The Ascensionauts. Its told in a grand way on a grand scale  and is full of razors edge tension and a universe of hostile aliens harbouring dangerous intents. The Long Day And Night Of John Calisto is a remarkable story that lays bare the complex internal life and external difficulties experienced on a daily basis by a young man with a crippling disease. The details of which are within the story and waiting for you. This story continues an honourable tradition within science fantasy of brutally honest memoir cloaked in fiction. I believe the details of this story will stay with you long after one has read it and could easily sit comfortably with the best of Assimov, Aldiss or Moorcock.
             Jonathan Fisher has a condition called Addison's Disease, a rare enough condition which at its worst left him in a coma and fighting for his life at the age of twenty two. During this time Jonathan suffered brain damage and has been left wheel chair bound. Despite  the brain damage and the related damage done to his body he as soon as he was able embarked on a long hard road to rebuild himself to good health. It was a mammoth task but he has managed, against the odds, to regain as many of the skills he lost as a result of the Addison incident .Jonathan's medical condition will require long term support with many of his physical needs assisted by nurses and care workers he speaks about in glowing terms, if we are to assume the details of this story are indeed autobiographical.One should not always assume such as we are in the hands of a writer of fiction who can quite convincingly project us in any direction he wishes us to go.
              Jonathan's writing suggests a mind hungry for exploration and input who has determined that if Jonathan cannot go to the mountain then Jonathan will bring the mountain to him. The book is full of comic book, filmic and pop cultural references all told with a peculiarly Norther Irish accent. Well, it is peculiar in the sense that all Northern Irish accents are endearingly peculiar. It seems that he strives on a daily basis to resist the implications of the limitations imposed upon him by the impact of Addisons on his life.
              I suppose to a large degree every human being must come to terms with the limitations of the bodies we pass through life in. Few of us are as strong or as fast or as healthy and energy imbued as we would like to be and it is our struggles to overcome those limitations which can come to define us. His work is by turns funny and scary and made up of all the things that go into creating something that feels real from a something which is not.
              In that sense alone Jonathan is faster and stronger than most of us.