Truth has the Structure of Fiction:
Introduction to the Greek Translation
of Mark Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie

The following essay was commissioned by Alexandros Papageorgiou, the Greek translator of Mark Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie, and published by Antipodes in April this year. The essay has now been republished online in Thrausma Journal, a new venture publishing translations of texts associated with speculative realism, non-philosophy and gothic materialism, amongst other things. For those interested in reading this text who do not speak Greek, you can find the original English version below.

Mark Fisher was a British writer, political theorist, cultural critic and blogger best known for his 2009 book Capitalist Realism. On the occasion of its recent reissue in the English language, the popular political commentator Aaron Bastani suggested that Fisher’s first book might be the most important work of political theory to be published so far in the twenty-first century. [1] The overall thesis of the book can be summarised by a statement that appears on its first few pages, borrowed from Fredric Jameson: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the world of capitalism.” [2] But Fisher’s writing around this central provocation is less a pessimistic account of the failure of our collective imagination than it is an illuminating diagnosis of our contemporary predicament; he does not simply state that this is the case, but rather asks his reader to consider why it appears to be so.

Following its initial publication, after the 2008 financial crash and at the dawn of our social-media age, Fisher’s questions seemed both apt and prescient, and the book has since become a surprise bestseller. Having now been translated into a dozen languages, his growing readership over the last decade and a half allows him to take considerable credit, as Bastani argues, for politicising subsequent generations of young leftists, whom he has aided in illuminating and recognising the peculiar nature of late-stage capitalism and our unfulfilled desires for alternative ways of living both within and beyond its ideological restrictions.

Sadly, Fisher passed away in January 2017, succumbing to a battle with depression that he often wrote about frankly and candidly, always asserting that such mental health conditions are not, in fact, the widespread failings of innumerable individuals but are instead a structural symptom of capitalist realism itself. Indeed, the very suicidality of our present system, which asserts its own inescapability, even as it hurtles ever closer towards climate and other catastrophes, undoubtedly leads to the general malaise and depression amongst those who live within its bounds. All the more reason, then, that we not only look for but actively construct alternatives to its particularly unjust way of doing things.

That Fisher himself succumbed to depression, despite all of this, has led a present generation to read his works with a new urgency. How could someone who provided countless readers with a renewed political confidence have seemingly given up on his own insistence that another world is possible? But such is the sad reality of mental illness, and depression in particular, which is surely constituted by an irrational thinking-against oneself.

That being said, it is a mistake, in this writer’s opinion, to let Fisher’s suicide overshadow his work completely, primarily for the reason that the circumstances of his death do nothing to change the fact that there is a great deal of joy to be found in his various writings.

It is worth noting that Fisher understood joy quite specifically through the philosophy of Baruch de Spinoza, for whom it is an affect produced by the actualisation of our own capacities — in particular, our capacity for freedom — and it is clear that Fisher found expressions of such joy in many places, but perhaps in music most of all.

Fisher’s passion for culture in general, self-evident in his writings, is infectious and life-affirming, and it is through this palpable passion that he demonstrates, with all the excitement of a genuine “fan”, how popular culture is most affective when expressing our collective desire for change and transformation. Indeed, Fisher believed wholeheartedly in being a fan in this regard. Being passionate about culture was a gateway to other passions of a more political and philosophical nature, and thus could serve as a foundation for the affirmation of alternatives, with the joy produced becoming a weapon wielded against capitalist realism. But it is telling, perhaps for this very reason, that “fandoms” of all kinds are treated with a certain cynicism in our present moment. As Fisher wrote on his k-punk blog in 2009:

There’s a peculiar shame involved in admitting that one is a fan, perhaps because it involves being caught out in a fantasy-identification. “Maturity” insists that we remember with hostile distaste, gentle embarrassment or sympathetic condescension when we were first swept up by something — when, in the first flushes of devotion, we tried to copy the style, the tone [of something loved]; when, that is, we are drawn into the impossible quest of trying to become what the Other is […] to us. This is the only kind of “love” that has real philosophical implications, the passion capable of shaking us out of sensus communis [common sense]. [3]

Fisher’s final book, The Weird and the Eerie, can be read as one such return to the origins of a developing cultural fanaticism; a return to Fisher’s initial attempts to publicly and proudly grapple with that subsection of culture most preoccupied by ontological outsides. It is a book that returns to and further develops some of the earliest posts on the k-punk blog, through an intensified reading of weird fiction as a subgenre of fantasy and horror literature (as well as other forms of culture) that, in its fixation on that which disturbs us, considers how we might further come to terms with our fascination with everything that lurks beyond the limits of common sense.

However, if there is any work of Fisher’s that is most affected by the circumstances of his death, it is this one. This is in part due to the time of its initial publication in English, just a week or so after his death. As such, it is all too easy to read into Fisher’s final work a sense of horror that he may have felt all too personally. But again, this reading is misleading. It is better, instead, to consider the book and its preoccupation with horror alongside Fisher’s broader interest in psychoanalysis and its contentions with the strange nature of our desires.


At its heart, The Weird and the Eerie is an exploration and elaboration of Sigmund Freud’s theory of the unheimliche — that is, the uncanny or unhomely — which Fisher further develops by discussing the two entangled affects that he believes constitute many an uncanny experience: the titular “weird” and “eerie.”

In the book’s introduction, Fisher begins by defining these two terms as follows: “the weird is that which does not belong”; it is that which “brings to the familiar something which ordinarily lies beyond it, and which cannot be reconciled with the ‘homely’ (even as its negation).” [4] It is an affect most concretely found in forms of montage, Fisher argues: “the conjoining of two or more things which do not belong together.” [5] The eerie, on the other hand, is that which is found not apart from the familial and the familiar, but that which is more explicitly located within those spaces that we expect to be inhabited. As such, we often find the eerie “in landscapes partially emptied of the human”, and the partiality of this emptiness is of great importance. [6]

As Fisher continues, “the eerie is fundamentally tied up with questions of agency.” [7] It is a sensation often felt when the causes of certain events or affects cannot be immediately determined. Fisher uses the example of an “eerie cry” — an utterance produced by some being unseen. We might also think of the strange happenings that occur in countless ghost stories, when inanimate objects in a domestic or all too human environment seemingly move of their own accord, or according to forces we understand to be decisively inhuman. Eerie affects are, in this sense, those affects produced when we feel most at the mercy of unseen and intruding forces, or when we are momentarily struck by the incongruities that exist within our seemingly enclosed and notably common sense of reality.

This analysis of the uncanny, which Fisher unpacks through passionate readings of various books, films and pieces of music, may seem oddly irrelevant to his more explicitly political writings, but it is here in the introduction that Fisher fleetingly clarifies the significance of his thesis to all that has come before.

Having briefly introduced his concepts of the weird and the eerie, Fisher goes on to suggest that the questions produced by incongruent signifiers and intruding forces “can be posed in a psychoanalytic register … but they also apply to the forces governing capitalist society.” [8] Emphasising the innately gothic aspects of Marxist theory — wherein Marx himself often wrote in terms of spectres, hobgoblins and vampires; or described how the commodity-form is also a kind of perpetually displaced signifier — Fisher argues that capital itself “is at every level an eerie entity: conjured out of nothing, capital nevertheless exerts more influence than any allegedly substantial entity.” [9] (And lest we forget that Freud also expressed an inchoate interest in Marxism in his lectures, given Marx’s “sagacious indication of the decisive influence which the economic circumstances of men have upon their intellectual, ethical and artistic attitudes” — that is, the impact of capitalism on the unconscious and its role in the shaping of human desires. [10])

Though readers may find that much of Fisher’s subsequent argument often relates to capitalism only implicitly, it is on this short section of Fisher’s introduction that the rest of his analysis seems to rest.


It is worth further acknowledging here that The Weird and the Eerie occupies — like its predecessor, 2014’s Ghosts of My Life — a strange place in the chronological development of Fisher’s thought. Though it is the third book Fisher published, the true sequel to his first book, Capitalist Realism, was left unfinished at the time of his death. Given the preliminary title of Acid Communism, only a draft of its introduction was shared by Fisher amongst his peers, allowing it to later be published posthumously in 2018. [11] Seemingly written in an entirely different register to this unfulfilled work-to-come, The Weird and the Eerie instead collects together and further develops a number of texts that Fisher wrote and published on his k-punk blog in the mid-2000s. But against any assumptions to the contrary, this is not to suggest that the book is irrelevant to Fisher’s overarching political concerns.

At that time, when many of the book’s chapters were first being drafted online, Fisher was enthused, like so many in the English-speaking world, with the writings of Slavoj Žižek, particularly his strand of Lacanian thinking that sought to bridge political theory and psychoanalysis. This was not only due to Žižek’s growing popularity and public profile but also Fisher’s contemporaneous attendance of Žižek’s lectures at various British universities. [12] We shall discuss Žižek’s influence on Fisher in more detail shortly, but it is first worth noting that it was whilst attending these lectures that Fisher began to move specifically “towards a weird psychoanalysis” — a move he more broadly attributes to Jacques Lacan in The Weird and the Eerie’s introduction, with Lacan’s seminars constituting a moment within the development of psychoanalysis “in which the death drive, dreams and the unconscious become untethered from any naturalisation or sense of homeliness.” [13]

Writing on his k-punk blog in 2007, Fisher more clearly articulates what exactly made this moment so weird and interesting to him:

Psychoanalysis, whose object of study and treatment is those “nameless, inscrutable, unearthly things” that go “against all natural lovings and longings”, can be — and usually is — placed under the sign of the Uncanny. Freud’s great essay on “The Uncanny” — with all its ambivalences, its repetitions, its over-hasty closures — remains the most potent theorization of the uncanny. The domain of psychoanalysis can be seen as the place of the unheimlich or the unhomely, the estranged familiar / familial. But can’t the unconscious also be considered Weird, with psychoanalysis the threshold into its alien world? [14]

What Fisher is referencing here is perhaps what Freud himself described as the great humiliation constituted by the emergence of psychoanalysis as a new field of epistemic investigation. In his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Freud suggests that, following Copernicus — who first illustrated how “our earth was not the centre of the universe but only a tiny fragment of a cosmic system of scarcely imaginable vastness” — and Darwin — whose “biological research destroyed man’s supposedly privileged place in creation and proved his descent from the animal kingdom and his ineradicable animal nature” — psychoanalysis inflicts upon humanity a “third and most wounding blow”, proving “to the ego that it is not even master in its own house, but must content itself with scanty information of what is going on unconsciously in its mind.” [15] The very theorisation of the unconscious, in this sense, destabilises the integrity of the thinking subject, who comes to realise that there is an unknowable quadrant of the human mind that functions behind and has the potential to disrupt its capacity for reason. It is a disorienting realisation that brings to mind one of the most famous passages from any work of weird fiction — the opening lines of H.P. Lovecraft’s 1928 short story, The Call of Cthulhu:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledges will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. [16]

There is a contradiction here, of course. The ironic nature of psychoanalysis, at least if we are to extrapolate from Lovecraft’s warning to the curious, is that an attendance to this theory, conceived of as a treatment for madness itself, might also, at the same time, be the very thing that drives us mad. It is perhaps because of this double bind that we have already voyaged so far and shall continue to. But against Lovecraft’s prevarications, voyage far we must.

Though Fisher begins The Weird and the Eerie with an essay on Lovecraft’s weird tales, this chapter instead serves as a negative foundation for all that is to follow. Lovecraft is, of course, a very controversial figure today. His penchant for racism, above all else, makes him a writer whom many are horrified by for all the wrong reasons. But Fisher suggests that we are more than capable of thinking “the Outside” of present realities and the common-sense ideologies that structure them in ways that are more beneficial to us and less unjust. In the context of Lovecraft’s tales in particular, his question becomes: “what if the best deployment of Lovecraft was not a reversal of his texts’ libidinal polarity, such that the slimy and mulitiplicitous is embraced rather than reviled…? What if, instead, it was Lovecraft’s horror of the body and the chaotic that contained the most political potential in the current conjuncture?” [17]

Much like the racialised others who populate Lovecraft’s tales, rendered as channelers of chaos and evil, it is arguably the oppressed and enslaved masses who are most willing to venture out to the edges of received wisdom and knowledge. In fact, any emancipatory politics must inevitably contend with a madness of its own making, in thinking against so-called common sense. But “I am not here claiming that the outside is always beneficent”, Fisher writes. “There are more than enough terrors to be found there; but such terrors are not all there is to the outside.” [18]

The implicit suggestion here is that we must steel ourselves against what Fisher elsewhere calls Lovecraft’s “reactionary modernism”. [19] If Lovecraft remains an interesting figure at all today, it is precisely because he functions as a modernist writer who nonetheless writes against the effects of modernism itself, and it is an awareness of this contradiction that makes many of his works still productive for us, precisely for the ways that his xenophobia — his fear of the outside — mirrors the “frenzied stasis” of our postmodern moment more generally.  

As Fisher writes on the k-punk blog, though he “was constitutively unable to abject” the avant-garde, Lovecraft’s writings nonetheless became “fatally infected with it, implicated in it”, and this is something common to capitalist realism itself. [20] Indeed, modernity, understood not simply as a period of time but as a machinic process in itself, becomes another unseen force that leads us into terrifying unknowns, and Lovecraft demonstrates, albeit in negative, how we must be vigilant of the ways in which modernism can, in turn, become possessed by more reactionary forces. Our task is far from simple. “We can only win if we reclaim modernization”, Fisher insists. [21]


This was a problem under broader discussion in the mid-2000s, both within and outside of Žižek’s various lectures. Fisher was particularly indebted to Graham Harman’s thoughts on the matter, later published in his 2012 book, Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy. In the book’s introduction, Harman writes: “One of the most important decisions made by philosophers concerns the production or destruction of gaps in the cosmos.” [22] He goes on to argue, “Since those who destroy gaps by imploding them into a single principle are generally called reductionists, let’s coin the word productionists to describe philosophers who find new gaps in the world where there were formerly none” — and it is H.P. Lovecraft, for Harman, who is perhaps the most “productionist author” of modern times, since no “other writer is so perplexed by the gap between objects and the power of language to describe them, or between objects and the qualities they possess.” [23] (Fisher was so enthralled by this suggestion that he organised a “Weird Realism” symposium at Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2007, during which a number of other thinkers were invited to respond to Harman’s ideas. [24])

Whilst writing at length on Lovecraft and other such productionists on his blog and in his subsequent books, Fisher finds these weird and eerie gaps in our understanding of the world addressed in more explicitly philosophical and psychoanalytic terms by Jacques Lacan, whose works cast a considerable shadow over The Weird and the Eerie. Perhaps the most famous psychoanalyst of the twentieth century after Freud, Fisher suggests we can understand Lacanian thought as “the revenge of the Weird upon Freud’s tendency towards homeliness”. [25] Indeed, a common critique of Freud’s work in the twentieth century is that it is overly preoccupied with a kind of common sense, as Freud’s understanding of mental illness is put to work in order to rectify any straying from the path of a preordained reasonableness and an ideological understanding of “normal” behaviour.

This is most apparent in Freud’s conceptualisation of the Oedipus complex, which contends with the initiatory behavioural deviations that are experienced by all, but which nonetheless threaten the essential functioning of the family as an integral part of society and its mechanisms of conditioning — arguably making Freud’s formulation of the Oedipus complex an example of a “reactionary modernism”. Philosophers like Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, most famously — who likewise had a great influence on Fisher — challenged this foundation as being fundamentally reactionary in this regard, and so it was the task of many a twentieth-century analyst and theoretician to free psychoanalysis from its own repressive tendencies.

One way of doing this, at least according to Deleuze, was to embrace rather than shy away from moments of weird and eerie incursion. This is especially necessary for philosophy, and it is perhaps no coincidence that many of Lovecraft’s characters are researchers, detectives and academics, who find their own inquisitiveness to be their downfall. But as Joshua Ramey has more recently argued, “the power of thought, for Deleuze” — who also made references to weird fiction in his writings — “consists in a kind of initiatory ordeal”, which “transpires through an immersion of the self in uncanny moments when a surprising and alluring complexity of nature and psyche is revealed.” [26]

Deleuze identified such an initiation in popular culture through the works of Lewis Carroll, particularly Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — works that contain “splendidly bizarre and esoteric words; grids; codes and decodings; drawings and photographs; a profound psychoanalytic content; and an exemplary logical and linguistic formalism.” [27] They are works that imbue Alice, and the reader, with a “capacity to elude the present”, with a capacity to humiliate common sense and access the peculiar world that exists on its outside through a linguistic play that is otherwise used to tether us to a sense of reality that is arguably not our own. [28]

Lacan made numerous such attempts to elucidate this capacity of language for himself, using psychoanalysis more explicitly to interrogate the ways that any given subjectivity is structured by language, which may serve as a prophylactic against the machinations of the Outside, but which can also make us more vulnerable to outside intrusions. [29] Indeed, Lacan argued that “the experience inaugurated by psychoanalysis” itself is one that allows us to understand the means by which “the symbolic takes hold in even the deepest recesses of the human organism.” [30]

The symbolic, for Lacan, is that region of the unconscious that is most structured by language, and necessarily so, such that it allows us to determine the implicit linkages and inferences between the content of signs and their capacity for expression. Adapting Freud’s own tripartite theory of the structure of the unconscious — to which Freud assigns the concepts of the id, the ego and the superego — Lacan instead offers up a broader structural apparatus, which connects the individual mind to its socio-cultural, as well as more decisively “inhuman” contexts. Alongside the symbolic order, which is structured through its relationship to language, we also have the imaginary order — a pre-linguistic order structured through more primordial identifications — and the Real — that eerie zone that exists behind the symbolic and imaginary, which we do not have any direct access to. Fisher would make frequent references to these Lacanian concepts throughout his works, with the Real, in particular, being of interest for its location behind a more common-sense reality that is, today, covered over by the symbolic and imaginary machinations of capitalist ideology. As Fisher writes in Capitalist Realism:

For Lacan, the Real is what any ‘reality’ must suppress; indeed, reality constitutes itself through just this repression. The Real is an unrepresentable X, a traumatic void that can only be glimpsed in the fractures and inconsistencies in the field of apparent reality. So one strategy against capitalist realism could involve invoking the Real(s) underlying the reality that capitalism presents to us. [31]


One way of actualising such a strategy is through the symbolic, which projects onto the Real an illusory structure. It is that area of the unconscious mind that renders the things we encounter with a meaningful significance. But what is particularly important about Lacan’s argument (as well as Fisher’s) in this regard is that the symbolic order is that which “makes the very existence of fiction possible.” [32]

Fisher takes this provocation very seriously, and indeed, always had done. On his k-punk blog, he argues it is Lacan’s conceptualisation of the symbolic that leads to one of his “most gnomic and provocative formulations: ‘truth has the structure of fiction’.” [33] Though once again discussing this formulation on his blog in the context of one of Žižek’s lectures, it undoubtedly stuck out to Fisher for its resonance with his interests as a PhD student at the University of Warwick in the late 1990s.

Whilst writing his thesis — which similarly explored evocations of the uncanny in works of science-fiction — Fisher was involved with the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (or Ccru). [34] Despite its somewhat official sounding name, the group were a decisively para-academic gathering who sought to both investigate and produce mythologies of and for the early Internet — that is, new fictions — which arguably rival Lovecraft’s own Cthulhu mythos, his “Great Old Ones”, in both their scope and contemporary cultural influence. With Lovecraft’s mythos firmly in mind, the Ccru developed a bestiary of symbolic and eerie entities, which provided an elusive form to many of the impersonal forces that had long since controlled us and which were themselves finding new modes of expression in our new technological age.

Amongst the cornucopia of concepts engineered at this time is the idea of “hyperstition”. A play on the word “superstition” — our irrational tendency to believe in moments of acausal coincidence — hyperstition is instead defined as an element “of effective culture that makes itself real.” [35] The question for the Ccru becomes: how can cultural studies and philosophy — which can, like science-fiction, exacerbate certain qualities of the present in their analyses of cultural artefacts — also make certain futures not just culturally significant but actual and real?

Beyond the Ccru’s cybergothic modes of expression, hyperstitions can likewise be understood in Lacanian terms. If “truth has the structure of fiction”, then what is needed for fiction to take on the structure of truth? We already know that such a thing is possible — capitalist realism demonstrates this most effectively. Viewed from the other side, however, and bearing directly on Fisher’s entire body of work, we might ask ourselves: what does it take to actualise the seemingly impossible “fictions” of alternatives to capitalism?

In the aforementioned blogpost from 2005, Fisher asks this question directly. Writing up notes on a conversation held at Birkbeck, University of London, between Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou, Fisher summarises the cleft of their discussion as follows: “For Badiou, the challenge was the production of new fictions; for Žižek, the problem was escaping the already-operative fictions of Capital.” [36] It is these two questions that would arguably concern Fisher for the rest of his life, with The Weird and the Eerie discussing myriad fictions that exist somewhere in between. But it was always the production of new fictions, as explored by the Ccru, that Fisher hoped would soon come to bear on the already-operative fictions of capitalist realism. In between the two, we find a direct problematisation of our desires.

As Fisher would argue in his final lectures, given at Goldsmiths, University of London, in late 2016, the central problem of any emancipatory political philosophy worth a damn is the active questioning of our desires. [37] Do we want what we say we want? What if we wanted other things? As Fisher argues, we do want other things, quite obviously — other selves, other political realities, other worlds. Though capitalism attempts to recapitulate our errant desires whenever they emerge, forcing the system to adapt and cover over the gaps in its ideological firmament, the implication is precisely that, against capitalism’s assertions to the contrary, it does not hold the monopoly on our desires. This is significant. As Fisher writes: “Partly what is at stake here … is the idea that the unconscious cannot lie” — a point that, “at the simplest level”, is only the reiteration of one of “the oldest and most familiar lessons of psychoanalysis: slips of the tongue, dreams, symptoms give us access to a truth which cannot be accessed directly.” [38] And so, what would it take for our unconscious desires — which often differ considerably from (but are otherwise denied actualisation by) the libidinal restrictions of capitalism realism — to escape a wishful thinking and instead become astute political demands?

In a follow-up blogpost on the same conversation between Žižek and Badiou, Fisher offers perhaps the most concise and actionable answer to these questions he is able to provide, elucidating what is required of any emancipatory and pointedly libidinal political project that hopes to overcome capitalist realism:

The first hypothesis we might hazard is that, counter-intuitively, only fictions are capable of generating belief. “The final belief must be in a fiction,” Badiou quoted Wallace Stevens as writing. The belief at stake is clearly not a propositional but an attitudinal belief; which is to say, not a belief that a particular factual state of affairs obtains but belief as a set of commitments.

Secondly, since capitalism is itself inherently fictional, it is essential that counter-capitalist fictions be produced. Fiction here would not mean an “imaginary” (in a Lacanian or any other sense) alternative but an already-operative generator of possibilities.

Fiction ensures that things are not only themselves. Capital is the most effective sorcery operative on the planet at the moment because it is adept at transforming banal objects into … sublimely mysterious commodities. Trans-substantiation. The allure of the commodity arises from the non-coincidence of the object with itself … Anti-capitalism needs to take the form not only of a demystifying, depressive desublimation but of the production of alternative modes of sublimation. [39]

It is in The Weird and the Eerie that Fisher lays the cultural groundwork for these political hypotheses. How his observations could practically be applied and actualised is not abundantly clear, however. Perhaps these were to come later, in his unfinished Acid Communism. Nevertheless, through his engagement with the various “fictions” of H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, The Fall, Tim Powers, Philip K. Dick, David Lynch, Daphne du Maurier, Christopher Priest, M.R. James, Brian Eno, Nigel Kneale, Alan Garner, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Glazer, Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky, Christopher Nolan and Joan Lindsey, Fisher demonstrates how we already have a wealth of already-operative generators of possibility at our disposal in weird fictions of all kinds. In often fantastical terms, these authors, musicians and filmmakers all challenge our collective unconscious nonetheless, which, as Fisher argued, never lies.


Certain readers may be disappointed (others grateful) that the kind of theoretical exposition presented in this preface — which admittedly attempts to cover a lot of ground in a necessarily short piece of writing — is lacking in Fisher’s text itself. Many have described The Weird and the Eerie in the same terms that Fisher used to describe Freud’s essay on the unheimliche: it is full of “ambivalences”, “repetitions”, and “over-hasty closures”. Anecdotally, it has been suggested that this is because Fisher’s depression made him reticent to properly engage with the editorial process pre-publication, such that he resisted making improvements and clarifications within the text that others felt were needed. But speaking personally, and reading Fisher’s work with an appropriate generosity, if this makes Fisher’s final book a particularly weird addition to his collected works, it is all the more intriguing for that fact.

Fisher sets about opening various portals in this final work, which will hopefully lead the reader to the text’s various outsides. His fleeting references to Lacanian theory, in particular, allow for an initiation into works much more dense and complex than his own. This was always the strength of Fisher’s work, in my view. Like Capitalist Realism itself — a surprisingly short and accessible book that is nonetheless sprinkled with allusions and references to far more difficult works of philosophical and political theory — it serves as an initiation rather than a warning to the curious.

Nevertheless, the difficulty of these texts may fill new readers with terror, but terror is not all there is to found on the outside of this or any of Fisher’s works. Indeed, The Weird and the Eerie functions as a toolkit for engaging with the peculiar nature of our present moment. Our world is strange and uncanny, weird and eerie, but in attuning ourselves to its seemingly inscrutable machinations, we can find paths that lead us outwards from the common-sense structure of reality that is presented to us. We can begin to find ways out of capitalist realism, already present in so many examples of popular culture, which begins to describe many of the preliminary steps it is necessary to take along such paths, imbuing these movements with a profound political confidence that has otherwise been denied us.

[1] Aaron Bastani, “Is This the Most Important Book So Far This Century?”, Novara Media, 13 January 2023: <>

[2] Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? London: Zer0 Books, 2009, 2.

[3] Mark Fisher, “Fans, Vampires, Trolls, Masters”, k-punk, 12 June 2009: <>

[4] Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie. London: Repeater Books, 2017, 10-11.

[5] Ibid., 11.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. James Strachey, ed. James Strachey and Angela Richards. London: Penguin Books, The Pelican Freud Library, Vol. 2, 1973, 215.

[11] See: Mark Fisher, “Acid Communism (Unfinished Introduction)”, K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016). London: Repeater Books, 2018, 753-770.

[12] Fisher often typed up his notes from these lectures and published them on his blog. See, for example: Mark Fisher, “Why are you so afraid of class?”, k-punk, 26 May 2006: <>

[13] Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie, 11.

[14] Mark Fisher, “I put my finger on the weird”, k-punk, 29 November 2007: <> Here, Fisher is quoting Herman Melville’s 1851 novel, Moby Dick, or The Whale, in which Captain Ahab, pre-empting Freud’s theory by some decades, directly interrogates his unconscious desires, his own agency, and in particular, his strange obsession with the whale that eludes him: “What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike.”

[15] Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. James Strachey, ed. James Strachey and Angela Richards. London: Penguin Books, The Pelican Freud Library, Vol. 1, 1973, 326.

[16] H.P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu” in The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, ed. S. T. Joshi. London: Penguin Books, 2002, 139.

[17] Mark Fisher, “Lovecraft and the Weird: Part II”, k-punk, 25 May 2007: <>

[18] Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie, 9. My emphasis.

[19] Mark Fisher, “Weird/ Psychoanalysis”, k-punk, 17 December 2007: <>

[20] Ibid.

[21] Mark Fisher, “Spectres of Revolution”, k-punk, 17 January 2010: <>

[22] Graham Harman, Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy. London: Zer0 Books, 2012, 1.

[23] Ibid.

[24] See: Mark Fisher, “Weird Realism”, k-punk, 19 February 2007: <>

[25] Fisher, “I put my finger on the weird”.

[26] Joshua Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012, 2.

[27] Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense, trans. Constantin V. Boundas, Mark Lester and Charles J. Stivale. London and New York: Bloomsbury Revelations, 2015, xi.

[28] Ibid., 2.

[29] Lacan, it has been suggested, was a fan of Deleuze’s book, Logic of Sense, perceiving his own influence on the text’s various analyses.

[30] Jacques Lacan, Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006, 6.

[31] Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? London: Repeater Books, 2009, 18.

[32] Ibid., 7. It is notable that Lacan makes this assertion in a seminar given not on Lovecraft but his equally weird predecessor, Edgar Allan Poe – specifically, his short story “The Purloined Letter”.

[33] Mark Fisher, “Left hyperstition 1: The Fictions of Capital”, k-punk, 28 November 2005: <> For Lacan’s discussion of this specific formulation, see: Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII. London: Routledge Classics, 2007.

[34] See: Mark Fisher, Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism and Cybernetic Theory-Fiction. New York: Exmilitary Press, 2018.

[35] CCRU, “Glossary” in Writings 1997-2003. Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2017.

[36] Fisher, “Left hyperstition 1: The Fictions of Capital”.

[37] See: Mark Fisher, Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures, ed. Matt Colquhoun. London: Repeater Books, 2021.

[38] Fisher, “Left hyperstition 1: The Fictions of Capital”.

[39] Mark Fisher, “Left hyperstition 2: Be Unrealistic, Change What’s Possible”, k-punk, 29 November 2009: <>

Por qué el pensador pop Mark Fisher
fascina a los jóvenes de la izquierda:
XG in El País

El sábado 14 de enero de 2017, el mismo mensaje hizo vibrar a los móviles silenciados de los estudiantes que abarrotaban la biblioteca de la Universidad londinense de Goldsmiths. Todos compartían el tuit que la cuenta @Repeaterbooks acababa de publicar: “En memoria de Mark Fisher (1968-2017). Una inspiración y un amigo. Nuestros pensamientos están con su familia”. Repeater Books era la editorial de Fisher, la que acababa de lanzar Lo raro y lo espeluznante, el último ensayo del profesor del departamento de Cultura Visual del centro. Fisher tenía 48 años. “Nos sentamos en silencio, tratando de seguir con el trabajo entre breves y consternados estallidos de incredulidad. Después de unos minutos, nos detuvimos. Alguien dijo: ‘¿Qué estoy haciendo? ¿Qué sentido tiene ahora?’. Esa noche, nuestros peores temores fueron confirmados. El viernes 13 de enero Mark Fisher se había suicidado”. Esto que escribe su discípulo (y exalumno) sobre el impacto de la muerte del pensador en las primeras páginas de Egreso. Sobre comunidad, duelo y Mark Fisher (Caja Negra, 2021) vendría a encapsular el estado de suspensión en el que se quedaron buena parte de los seguidores tras la muerte del británico. No solo sus alumnos lloraron la pérdida de aquel profesor.

A new article by Noelia Ramírez has just been published in El País. It is about the unabating popularity of Mark Fisher, and particularly the way his reception has snowballed in the Spanish-speaking world. You can read it in Spanish here or in English here (although it is paywalled).

I was interviewed for the article back in January, on my way home from Dublin, and my responses were undoubtedly way too long. Only a small part was used in the end, and of course that part comes across as particularly grumpy and Adornoian in the final article. But for what it’s worth, here is the full response to the question asked below, if only to reinsert some optimism that ended up on the cutting room floor:

Why the thesis of capitalist realism is still resonating so much in the digital conversation?

Do you believe that it’s because we are more dissatisfied, especially younger generations, who were now also being asked to accept the apparently inevitable realities of austerity and other post-recession logics?

In many ways, I think Fisher’s thesis is a specific product of and book for the current generations of digital natives. He often spoke about how his intended audience for the book was his students in 2009 — people, like myself, who, at that time, were in their late teens and due to leave school, get jobs or go to university; we’re mostly all in our 30s now. This was part of the book’s power. Though it spoke to a new generation, even criticizing it at times, it was hard not to read the book when it was first published and see a portrait of yourself as a disenfranchised young person living at the dawn of social media.

If the book still resonates today, particularly online, I think it is because many of Fisher’s observations have only gotten worse. Just recently I was speaking to university students in Ireland, mostly in their early 20s, who were just as enamored with Fisher’s work as I was at their age, and just as I saw myself in Fisher’s quintessentially disenfranchised student who wants immediate gratification and to always be connected to my phone or my MP3 player — always consuming rather than actually engagement with the world — they see themselves in much the same way, addicted to TikTok, possibly diagnosed with ADHD (or some other mental illness that conspicuously ignores the reality of their material conditions), struggling to concentrate enough to read the books that speak to them. They see that things are worse now and they hate it.

But then and now, I think the acquisition of this awareness is activating and politicising. Readers of Fisher, past and present, understand that these problems are not individual failings, since we all share them, and so they are instead understood as structural effects. And it is this that leads us to imagine, construct, and demand new worlds for ourselves.


A discussion watched from afar on Twitter that I can’t shake thinking about.

Dr Greg charges Deleuze with a barbed, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, contraneity:

Incredibly brave of Deleuze to reject the totalising system of dialectics in favour of a new, liberatory logic of… uhh, shmialectics

Originally tweeted by dr greg is historicising ✍️💫 (@thewastedworld) on April 24, 2023.

A situated monad (notably named) adds:

See also: Beauvoir with ‘ambiguity’, Derrida with ‘[différance]’, etc.

Much mid-century French theory was an exercise in trying to do dialectical analyses without saying ‘dialectics’ or treating it as something they were opposed to while doing it.

Originally tweeted by 👻Ghostly Phenomenology👻 (@situatedmonad) on April 24, 2023.

There is a misreading here, I think, or an assertion of arbitrariness that misses the point at hand. Much mid-century French theory did indeed renounce old ways of doing things, whilst seemingly continuing anyway. But I don’t think the act is wholly unnecessary. Dialectics/shmialectics reduces dialectics itself to semantics, or Hegel’s dialectic to the One True Dialectic at least. I’d argue it thus fails any dialectical project, including Hegel’s own.

Their time is not ours. Picking and choosing, as we are so able, after the so-called “end of history”, the fashion-flux of thought leads many philosophers to fall from favour as soon as the scent of (a no doubt academic) orthodoxy is apprehended. A Hegelian orthodoxy was rebelled against, for sure, perhaps all too readily, but I’m sure none would claim Hegel to be utterly defeated. (The same can be said of a present tendency to be all too Deleuzian, as he is captured by the liberal arts, but persists in his relevance anyway.)

The intention, it seems to me, is one of reactivating a movement. How better to keep dialectics alive and well than by calling it by another name; naming it otherwise for present conditions? A superficial newness, perhaps, but one that reactivates thought. We might (generously) suggest, then, that when we arrive at the many names for a dialectics, we can go one way or another: betraying difference itself; or reasserting a sense of difference and, even more importantly, desire outside of a dominant “image of thought”.

Deleuze’s thesis in Difference & Repetition is apt here. He hardly disagrees with a Hegelian sense of difference, but rather wonders what difference is “in itself”. What is this difference unnamed? An impossible task for the philosopher, who writes and names things, arrests them. But it seems worthwhile, for Deleuze at least — and others, I’d argue — to retain a sense of this thing desired and reached for, never satisfactorily attained. It is this libidinal reaching, this “erotic” want, that philosophy is built on.

But rather than lazily adhering to the production of “footnotes to Plato”, difference can be produced in the perversion of the concept itself, beckoning a different difference, and Deleuze’s entire philosophical project is made up of such a move, producing “bastardized” studies of the history of philosophy.

As he writes in the English preface to Difference & Repetition:

The history of philosophy is the reproduction of philosophy itself. In the history of philosophy, a commentary should act as a veritable double and bear the maximal modification appropriate to a double. (One imagines a philosophically bearded Hegel, a philosophically clean-shaven Marx, in the same way as a moustached Mona Lisa.)

The bracketed analogy is wonderous, I think. A clear reference to Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., the addition made — what Derrida might call a supplément — is the insertion of what is missing, and in writing something is always missing. Dialectics, like any philosophical conception of difference, is only ever a reaching for something otherwise elusive. Not understanding dialectics as a “synthesis”, we instead understand a third position as an aberrant modifier that does not settle but moves continuously.

In thinking such a process — a process of triangulation, as Anne Carson calls it; a trigonometry, where one point of the triangle is only inferred by the movement of thought — we must necessarily wrestle with the paradox inherent to a written culture, since words inevitably arrest something that may not stay so still in actuality.

This is not to say, through a borrowed anti-Hegelianism, that Hegel alone fails to capture this third, and so we must start again without him. We all fail. But it is arguably this very failure that was obscured by a (prior) Hegelian orthodoxy, and so all the more reason to keep reaching for it, to approach the triangle from another angle, turn it over and on its head, perceive the knot differently, depending on the space and time in which we dwell. Writing arrests time, after all, and so to stop with Hegel, to rest on a repetition of his sense of difference and proclaim it the same as any other, is to fail dialectics itself. It is to clip the wings of Hegel’s own owl of Minerva.

Thief of Fire:
RIP Mark Stewart

I am so saddened to hear that we’ve lost Mark Stewart.

I only wrote about him on the blog once, and briefly too, reminiscing about the first time I heard the Pop Group’s Y. The album had just been reissued by Mute, breathing a whole new life into the original recordings, with a bonus slab of amazing offcuts making up the album Alien Blood as well.

Y was first recommended to me in the bowels of some music forum back in the mid-2000s, sent over on a MediaFire link without any context or explanation. No cover, no sleeve notes, no corroboration. I remember thinking like it must be some bizarre bootleg from some distant land; some kind of post-punk aberration that felt like it had been passed through several layers of abstraction to become something entirely new. It blew my mind to learn he was from Bristol. Though I didn’t visit the city until a few years later, when I moved to Newport in South Wales, it was a kind of profound localisation that was as significant for me as learning Throbbing Gristle first started out in Hull. There is nothing more inspiring than learning something so alien can be produced so close to home.

That localisation is all the more important for Stewart, however. His political ferocity was grounded in present discontent, channeled through an alien sound that immediately brought to mind other ways of being. Popular modernism at its finest.

Mark and I emailed a couple of times over lockdown. He was working on the soundtrack for Lost Futures, a forthcoming documentary about Mark Fisher, which I was also interviewed for just before the pandemic started. Alongside his own original music, he was also looking to license music from other sources. Deep in my inbox, I introduced him to Oneohtrix Point Never for some undisclosed purposes related to the film. What became of that — if anything — I have no idea, but it isn’t hard to imagine them making a wonderful racket together on another timeline.

Prior to that, we spoke when I sent him my first book Egress, for which he wrote the best endorsement:

The dead return to us as our world falls apart. Love and loss ripple into our lives and test our integrity every day. Brutal and provocative, this book is a haunting elegy to Mark’s crystalline mind. He sat on the shores of endless worlds.

I’d always wanted to know more about the relationship between the two Mark’s, and was excited to meet Stewart in person when Lost Futures eventually came out.

He gave a eulogy at the Mark Fisher memorial at Goldsmiths in 2017, which I sadly couldn’t attend, but he was the talk of Goldsmiths afterwards. As Dom reminisced on Twitter, Stewart had hoped to end on a rallying cry to “read Mark Fisher!” but said “read Mark Stewart” instead, before immediately correctly himself. Everyone laughed about it for weeks. As Dom says, it was “a moment of blurring of identity that I know Mark F would have relished enormously”.

It’s a further blurring I’m thinking about now, looking back at that endorsement for Egress. Mark’s words for Mark could just as well be applied to himself. He also sat on the shores of endless worlds, and his music will always return to rotation as our world falls ever further apart.


Fuck statues of slave traders in Bristol. The man there should be a statue of in Bristol is Mark Stewart. RIP.

Originally tweeted by David Stubbs (@sendvictorious) on April 21, 2023.

Tricky on Mark Stewart: “He’s my chaos. When people say I’m weird, I say ‘you’ve got to hang around Mark’.” [Link]

Originally tweeted by Simon Reynolds (@SimonRetromania) on April 21, 2023.

Heartbroken over Mark Stewart, but grateful for the Pop Group, whose politics-aesthetics (songs about urban uprisings, Blair Peach and the torture of Irish people in British prisons via Dennis Bovell’d funk-punk) shaped me more than any other artist. Nobody was as alive as him.

Since the last time I saw Mark Stewart was at my friend Mark Fisher’s memorial service, where he performed a poem for him, Mark Fisher on “For how much longer do we tolerate mass murder?”:

“The Pop Group retained fidelity to the counterculture’s demands for a total transformation of the world. They were still part of what Herbert Marcuse called ‘the Great Refusal’: ‘the refusal of that which is’. Punk’s preferred stance of demystificatory cynicism masked an ambivalent emotional response: anger at countercultural naivety mixed with disappointment that the counterculture’s optimism was no longer possible. But The Pop Group belonged to that strain of post-punk which wanted to make good the promises that even the most successful ’60s music failed to deliver on. As such, the album was at odds with a growing mood of resignation and retreat which was spreading through post-punk and wider British society.”

Originally tweeted by Marcus Barnett (@marcusbarnett_) on April 21, 2023.

Mark had spoken about wanting to write an autobiography that would be half theory, half memoir (though even that is too simple a description of what he had in mind) for a few years, and finally committed to a contract and timeline last spring. From a publishers point of view the prospect of editing Mark was both an honour and a nightmare, and I was as intrigued as I was worried at what I might eventually find, once the first draft was handed in this summer. I may now never know. My last communication with him, just a few weeks ago, was based on the premise that we would meet soon to discuss the work, and as I did not know him well enough to know how he died, only that if he knew something was wrong, he wasn’t ready to share that with me or anyone outside his close circle, there is a sense that Mark was still very much in the middle of things when he passed.

Yet in spite of that, it is hard to view Mark’s life as uncompleted work. Seen in the light of Wilde’s advice of creating a work of art out of life, he was the new project he finished every day. The memory of being sent a song recorded off the cuff via WhatsApp, a bewitching astral sea shanty, which before I could thank him for the unexpectedly touching gesture, learned that he meant to send it to Mad Professor, not a figure I am usually confused with, is as telling an example of Mark’s erratic and infinite brilliance as a finished memoir. And the legacy he now leaves behind, an inspirational challenge to a new generation of restless giants.

— Tariq Goddard, “Remembering Mark Stewart”

Hauntology AND/OR Hauntography

A reading of Barbara Johnson’s translator’s introduction to Jacques Derrida’s Dissemination

When Derrida writes of différance, he is attempting to uncover the lack or lag inherent to understanding and the (de)construction of meaning. Embedded within a logocentric Western discourse, wherein “unity, identity, immediacy, and temporal and spatial presentness” are privileged “over distance, difference, dissimulation, and deferment,” he argues that, contrary to how they are otherwise presented to us, each binary is in fact trapped in an unequal relation. As Barbara Johnson writes:

good vs. evil, being vs. nothingness, presence vs. absence, truth vs. error, identity vs. difference, mind vs. matter, man vs. woman, soul vs. body, life vs. death, nature vs. culture, speech vs. writing [are not] independent and equal entities. The second term in each pair is considered the negative, corrupt, undesirable version of the first, a fall away from it.

Against this more nuanced position, Derrida’s “deconstructionist” project is often poorly but popularly interpreted as a poststructuralist suspension of all meaning, of Truth as such. What is always missed from this reduction, however, is the broader function of his attempts to put these opposites on an actually equal footing, or even suspending the (quintessentially capitalist) logic of equivalence as such. We might argue, then, that Derrida seeks to recover the meaningful lacunae glossed over by common sense.

Derrida focuses in particular on the uneven dichotomy of speech and writing, with speech historically being preferred by many for its present immediacy, contrary to writing’s distance from both the subject who is speaking and the subject who is being spoken to. But Derrida argues that the two are hardly dissimilar, since language, irrespective of its mode of presentation, is always split and “divided into a phonic signifier and a mental signified“.

Meaning is thus always “already constituted by the very distances and differences it seeks to overcome.” Johnson adds: “To mean, in other words, is automatically not to be.” Meaning is a tenuous bridge to be constructed (or deconstructed when it is arrived at all too readily, all too thoughtlessly, by logocentric presuppositions). “As soon as there is meaning, there is difference”, she concludes, and it is through a more thorough appreciation of this difference (as différance) that meaning can be deconstructed or reconstructed anew.

Derrida’s différance thus becomes a term for the lag produced in the movement from signifier and signified; the process by which the two are connected, often instantaneously, but which we should take more care with, slowing down or even halting the leap from one to the other, finding the alternative pathways between the two, illuminating all the paths less travelled, lingering in that space where meaning is still to be determined, where poesy is sparked.

It is from here that Johnson summarises Derrida’s earlier works most succinctly:

Derrida’s project in his early writings is to elaborate a science of writing called grammatology: a science that would study the effects of this différance which Western metaphysics has systematically repressed in its search for self-present Truth. But, as Derrida himself admits, the very notion of a perfectly adequate science or -ology belongs to the logocentric discourse which the science of writing would try, precisely, to put in question. Derrida thus finds himself in the uncomfortable position of attempting to account for an error by means of tools derived from that very error. For it is not possible to show that belief in truth is an error without implicitly believing in the notion of Truth. By the same token, to show that the binary oppositions of metaphysics are illusions is also, and perhaps most importantly, to show that such illusions cannot simply be opposed without repeating the very same illusion. The task of undoing the history of logocentrism to disinter différance would thus appear to be a doubly impossible one: on the one hand, it can only be conducted by means of notions of revelation, representation, and rectification, which are the logocentric notions par excellence, and, on the other hand, it can only dig up something that is really nothing — a difference, a gap, an internal, a trace. How, then, can such a task be undertaken?

When Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher popularised Derrida’s term “hauntology”, this fundamental tension often felt missed by others in the aftermath. The Mark Fisher memes shared by hauntological teens were generally reduced to sarcastic representations of an underexplored and under-conceptualised “eeriness”.

But we must remember that hauntology is a play on “ontology”, as a science of being, a meta-physics, that places haunting absences back inside the presentness of being itself. It is a provocative entanglement of life and death, presence and absence, interrupting the uneven binaries of a logocentric thinking. Online, however, hauntology — which we might now understand as a post-historical materialism — is not so much put in question as it is left by the wayside. Hauntology is reduced from a provocative intervention between presence and absence to quasi-absence/presence alone as an under-investigated affect, as the vaguest of vibes, as a dissemblance acknowledged but left unprobed.

Having evacuated any pretense of an -ology, I’ve previously argued that a popularised hauntological sensibility has since been reduced to a kind of “hauntography”. I remember enjoying the wordplay at the time, but now I feel differently, as “hauntography” is hardly an apposite name for hauntology’s online reduction. In fact, perhaps this word can be understood less disparagingly. Perhaps, as in Derrida’s own writings, it is wrong to think of one as the fallen version of the other and instead understand how the two exist in a more fundamental relation.

Indeed, if hauntology is the study of the political absences present the end of history, perhaps hauntography can be understood as the writing of new presences in those same apparent absences.

Mark Fisher’s work engages with both of these processes too, we could argue. Alongside his interest in the weird and the eerie, and the present-absences / absent-presences that haunt us in the here and now, he had intended, in the unfinished Acid Communism, to also rewrite the history of that which haunts us, showing how such absences have been declared all too readily.

It is this very writing process that we might term “hauntography”. Indeed, Fisher had a talent for both reading absences and writing presences. His work is constituted by the recording of ghosts in this regard, as a kind of science akin to that of the science-fiction writer Nigel Kneale, who offered up “a scientific remotivation of the supernatural.” This was not, as Fisher argued on the k-punk blog, “a reduction of the supernatural to the scientific”, but an acknowledgement of the ways that “science since the enlightenment has maintained there is no supplementary spiritual substance,” instead understanding how “the material world in which we live is more profoundly alien and strange than we have ever imagined.” A Gothic Marxism; a materialist hauntology par excellence.

But this making-present of absence (and the making-absent of presupposed presences) might also be seen as a recapitulation to logocentrism, of course. That is often how a more Fisherian hauntology is often elucidated — that is, logocentrically, wherein the weird and the eerie are recognised but ultimately left alone, provoking simply a “lol” or a “huh” rather than leading to any deeper politicisation. But Fisher’s project is far more Derridean than the seemingly casual appropriation of the term “hauntology” often leads many to assume (since many have previously disparaged how, beyond this terminological borrowing, Fisher and Reynolds’ “hauntology” was far more under-developed than Derrida’s own).

But by retaining a sense of Derrida’s grammatology and the writing of différance / the différance of writing, in our readings of Fisher’s work especially, we can (and must) arrest, further problematise and eventually resituate — as Deleuze often sought to do — the becoming within being, such that meaning (of any kind) is not arrived at too rashly, according to the presuppositions of common sense. This is particularly useful as a challenge to the false truths, the fictions, of capitalist realism.

This appears to be part of the critique later developed by Derrida in Spectres of Marx, from which the concept of “hauntology” was taken. In that book, capitalism and communism likewise function as another logocentric binary that we struggle to think evenly. Depending on where you stand, one is understood as the fallen version of the other. Of course, when Derrida first wrote that text, following the “end of history”, it seemed clear — and may remain “clear” to some — that capitalism was seen as the Truth to communism’s error. But again, nothing is so simple.

If we call ourselves communists today, we may find ourselves in a familiarly impossible position — albeit in a more Blanchotian or Bataillean sense, perhaps — in that we must necessarily contend with “the uncomfortable position of attempting to account for an error by means of tools derived from that very error.”

In his initial critiques of hauntology, Alex Williams shone a light on this position explicitly. He framed hauntology as a negative and mournful project that is fixated (even if only subconsciously) on communism’s errors absolutely — that is, on its ultimate failure — such that hauntology is impotently haunted by communism’s party-political failure and cannot move on from it. Accelerationism thus becomes a counterpoint to hauntology, but one which is hardly immune to this same problematic position, which it arguably mirrors.

In this sense, accelerationism is a more “capitalistic” political position — vulgarly so in the work of Nick Land, of course — that hopes to more “positively” exacerbate the errors of capitalism to move beyond it, not necessarily towards communism any longer, but into an indecisively postcapitalist space (for better or for worse, since the aims of accelerationism are still so hotly contested).

Understood in this way, we might frame hauntology and accelerationism as being a more positive binary that orbits a shared space of contemporary indeterminacy. One reads past and present lacks, whilst the other writes a future new, all whilst sharing the flawed perspective of an inertial present. (Perhaps it makes further sense, in this regard, that many, and Fisher especially, continued to advance both positions. As I’ve repeatedly argued, it is this understanding that makes The Weird and the Eerie and the unfinished Acid Communism mirror images of a now familiar quasi-Derridean project.)

In her translator’s introduction to Derrida’s 1972 work, Dissemination, Johnson argues that “Any attempt to disentangle the weave of différance from the logocentric blanket can obviously not remain on the level of abstraction and generality”, and so she moves to a more particular and productive part of Derrida’s philosophy — the entangled relationship of reading and writing.

“Derrida is, first and foremost, a reader“, she says; “a reader who consistently reflects on and transforms the very nature of the act of reading” — through writing? She draws on Derrida’s discussion of Rousseau, with Rousseau privileging speech over writing as a matter of principle, like so many others, but only because Rosseau wishes he could speak as well as he writes. (A familiar neurosis to many a writer, no doubt.) Rousseau writes:

I would love society like others, if I were not sure of showing myself not only at a disadvantage, but as completely different from what I am. The part that I have taken of writing and hiding myself is precisely the one that suits me. If I were present, one would never know what I was worth.

“It is thus absence that assures the presentation of truth,” Johnson adds, “and presence that entails its distortion.” For Derrida himself, Rosseau thus “rehabilitates [writing] to the extent that it promises the reappropriation of that of which speech allowed itself to be dispossessed.” Johnson concludes: “Speech itself springs out of an alienation or difference that has the very structure of writing.”

Might we think the strange dichotomy of capitalism and communism in the same way? Does accelerationism, in particular, in its fraught relationship with both, not also rehabilitate communism to the extent that it promises the reappropriation of that of which capitalism allowed itself to be dispossessed? Does communism itself spring out from an alienation or difference that has the very structure of capitalism?

This seems to be close to Derrida’s argument in Spectres of Marx, such that, if we are to once again bastardize Johnson, “it is precisely through this assumption of the necessity of [an absent communism] that [we] ultimately [succeed] in reappropriating [its] lost presence.” But this is what may lead us to mourning, and the reaffirmation of “a classical structure [of] Western metaphysics” and its uneven binaries.

It is here that différance must reassert itself. Derrida writes: “Without the possibility of differance, the desire of presence as such would not find its breathing-space. That means by the same token that this desire carries in itself the destiny of its nonsatisfaction.” (Laying this over the tension between capitalism and communism, we might hear the proto-accelerationist critiques of Marxism proffered by Lyotard in his Libidinal Economy.) “Differance produces what it forbids, making possible the very thing that is makes impossible.”

Derrida’s text becomes all the more Lyotardian, in this regard — or vice versa, since Derrida’s text came first, published two years before Libidinal Economy — when he couples writing with masturbation. “Masturbation is both a symbolic form of ideal union, since in it the subject and object are truly one, and a radical alienation of the self from any contact with an other.”

Lyotard writes of masturbation as well, when discussing Marx’s inability to complete his own critique; his failure to reach a revolutionary-communist climax. As Fisher himself says in his final Postcapitalist Desire lecture on Lyotard, this is what constitutes the masturbatory edging of Marx’s ultimately unfinished critique of political economy:

The Little Girl Marx is kind of naive. The Little Girl Marx just doesn’t like capitalism and wants it to be over with. Whereas the Old Man Marx is making the case against capitalism, and together they should have this child which should be the revolutionary subject of the proletariat. But this child never comes, because the Old Man Marx is never done with the prosecution of the case against capital.

This thing about deferring. Don’t come yet. Never come. The case is never finalised.

Throughout this final lecture, Fisher and his students wrestle with the strangeness of Lyotard’s critique and interpretation of Marx, which nonetheless disavows both critique and interpretation in the process. But the function of this indeterminacy feels clearer in Johnson’s reading of Derrida: “The union that would perfectly fulfill desire would also perfectly exclude the space of its very possibility.” This is the very structure of desire itself, Johnson adds. Desire is fuelled less by lack than by difference. And this is also what is particularly pernicious about any form of postcapitalist desire.

Rousseau’s most uncomfortable masturbatory confession is directed towards his mother, but the example is nonetheless telling. “I only felt the full strength of my attachment to her when she was out of my sight”, he writes, before adding: “If I had ever in my life tasted the delights” of this incestuous love, “I do not imagine that my frail existence would have been sufficient … I would have been dead in the act.”

Rousseau’s desire, then, is predicated on a lack, we might argue, or perhaps an unconscious awareness of the difference between fantasy and its fulfillment. We might even say it is predicated, and made all the more desirable, on the acknowledged danger of its fulfillment. Presence itself becomes “an ambiguous, even dangerous, ideal.” But all the better to affirm the differance uncovered between presence and absence.

Returning to our consideration of the capitalist-communist binary at the end of history, now since revitalised (tentatively) in an ever-growing space of political indeterminacy, it may be best to think of communism, as many already have done, not as an absence to be made present, nor as a desire to be totally fulfilled, but rather as a shifting horizon.

As Jodi Dean writes in her book The Communist Horizon:

I use “horizon” not to recall a forgotten future but to designate a dimension of experience that we can never lose, even if, lost in a fog or focused on our feet, we fail to see it. The horizon is Real in the sense of impossible — we can never reach it — and in the sense of actual (Jacques Lacan’s notion of the Real includes both these senses). The horizon shapes our setting. We can lose our bearings, but the horizon is a necessary dimension of our actuality. Whether the effect of a singularity or the meeting of earth and sky, the horizon is the fundamental division establishing where we are.

It is this same horizon, in all of its orienting significance, that Derrida also seems preoccupied with in his discussion of writing and masturbation. Rather than disparage both — whether as an onanistic exercise detached from a preferential praxis (in the case of writing) or as a wasteful expenditure (in the case of masturbation) — they are instead seen as “supplements” to the activities they are supposedly (and incorrectly) subordinated to — speech and sexual intercourse.

In order to more forcefully uncouple these unequal binaries in thought, Johnson writes that it “is necessary to recapture a presence whose lack has not been preceded by any fullness.” Supplementing is thus a process of adding to a lack, not in order to make it whole, so much as the lack is itself generative of difference. “Thus, writing and masturbation may add to something that is already present, in which case they are superfluous, AND/OR they may replace something that is not present, in which case they are necessary.”

For Johnson, this is

nothing less than a revolution in the very logic of meaning. The logic of the supplement wrenches apart the neatness of the metaphysical binary oppositions. Instead of “A is opposed to B” we have “B is both added to A and replaces A.” A and B and no longer opposed, nor are they equivalent. Indeed, they are no longer even equivalent to themselves. They are their own difference from themselves.

A supplement, then — already an ambiguous term for Derrida, which can mean both “addition” and “substitute” in the French (supplément) — itself creates a productive ambiguity. The same might be said for communism, understood as a postcapitalist desire, which supplements capitalism by moving beyond its errors, therefore adding to and eventually substituting capitalism, without falling into the rigid presence of a reductively actualised ideal (as was arguably the downfall of state-communism in the twentieth century).

This is not to reduce communism absolutely to a political ambiguity but rather to re-enact the Marxist project as one that follows capitalism. Capitalism is a text. (*There is nothing outside of the text.“) But it is a text to be deconstructed — both destroyed, in a sense, but also analysed.

“The deconstruction of a text does not proceed by random doubt or generalized skepticism,” Johnson writes, “but by the careful teasing out of warring forces of signification within the text itself” — the task of hauntology and accelerationism both. “If something is destroyed in a deconstructive reading, it is not meaning but the claim to unequivocal domination of one mode of signifying over another.” To deconstruct capitalism is thus to deconstruct, first and foremost, capitalist realism.

To read capitalism like a text, particularly through the study of its cultural forms, as Fisher was particularly adept at, is thus, in Derrida’s words, to “aim at a relationship, unperceived by the writer” — indeed, by the capitalist — “between what he commands and what he does not command of the patterns of the language he uses.” This makes deconstruction, Johnson adds, a kind of critique. But the key manoeuvre here is not to proceed by way of “an examination of [capitalism’s] flaws and imperfections”, pursued in order “to make the system better.” It is rather “an analysis that focuses on the grounds of that system’s possibility” — the possibility, perhaps, of its becoming something else.

The critique reads backwards from what seems natural, obvious, self-evident, or universal, in order to show that these things have their history, their reasons for being the way they are, their effects on what follows from them, and that the starting point is not a (natural) given but a (cultural) construct, usually blind to itself… It is a deconstruction of the validity of the commonsense perception of the obvious.

Here Johnson turns to Marx explicitly:

In the same way, Marx’s critique of political economy is not an improvement in it but a demonstration that the theory which starts with the commodity as the basic unit of economy is blind to what produces the commodity — namely, labor.

It is in this way that “every critique exposes what that starting point conceals”. It is in this way that hauntology, as the making-present of absences already somehow present, leads necessarily to a supplementary accelerationism. The rewriting of present histories leads necessarily to the writing of new absent futures.

Accelerationism proceeds hauntographically.

Preface to the Greek Translation of
Mark Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie

The Greek translation of Mark Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie is out now, translated by Alexandros Papageorgiou and published by Antipodes.

I have written a brand-new preface to this edition, exploring some of the book’s most significant references, beginning with speculative realism and that fleeting movement’s interest in H.P. Lovecraft, before moving onto other discussions had on the blogosphere when many of the book’s chapters were initially drafted. I explore the book’s relationship to Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, the influence of Badiou and Žižek on Fisher’s thought at this time, and his interest in Lacan.

“Every truth has the structure of fiction”, Lacan argued in Seminar VII. It was Fisher’s chosen task, with this “most gnomic and provocative formulation” in mind, to follow both of the paths illuminated by Badiou and Žižek in the mid-2000s. As Fisher wrote on his k-punk blog in 2005: “For Badiou, the challenge was the production of new fictions; for Žižek, the problem was escaping the already-operative fictions of Capital.” Fisher pushed in both directions throughout his works, but in The Weird and the Eerie especially.

You can order the new edition online here.

New Tenderness 011

A tentatively first step into a new and much looser format, thinking through songs. More studio natters to come over the following months, hopefully with a few guests.

‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny, “A Letter from Home”
Nina Simone, “Spring is Here”
Clairo, “For Now”
Rat Heart Ensemble, “Chikonga”
Men I Trust, “Norton Commander”
Mount Eerie, “Woolly Mammoth’s Mighty Absence (Live in Copenhagen)”
Arthur Russell, “Sunlit Water (Live At EIF, 25 June 1984)”
Hanne Lippard, “A Day in the Studio”
Jeff Buckley & Elizabeth Fraser, “All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun”
Pinback, “Tripoli”
Indian Summer, “I Think Your Train is Leaving”
pigbaby, “Tá Mé Ar Muin Na Muice”
Les Mouches, “What We Know As Buildings Have Always Been Canyons”

One Year Off and On

My head is spinning a lot as of late. This weekend marks one year since a lot of things started to go wrong for me. Last Easter, there was a party. I met someone, rushed into something that wasn’t there, and completely lost my head two weeks later.

The party itself feels inconsequential now, as does the brief encounter, but it broke something nonetheless and so this weekend feels like the only concrete marker of time I have that preludes the downfall.

Before May arrived, I couldn’t be left on my own anymore after the first of a string of suicide attempts. I’ve never known horror like that. The shock of it all means it still feels like it was yesterday and preoccupies my thoughts twelve months later. The trips to A&E, the middle-of-the-night crisis-team visits, the different people pleading for a sectioning and the feeling there was no positive solution, only sustained communal horror or the risk of worsening it all in isolation.

That time has long since passed, but I’m very much still living with the daily consequences of that rupture, trying to put my life back together. My head is clearer, although I don’t think as fast as I used to — that’s what upsets me the most. Something was lost, or maybe it’s just inevitable writer’s block that follows the ferocity of clinging on through writing. Still, I play at normality whilst trying to make up for lost time and lost friends and lost finances, so nothing about last year feels that far back in the rear-view mirror.

I’m still staying up late a lot being sad too. It’s 3am right now.. I’m chain-smoking, nestled into the bay window of this unfamiliar new place. The self-pity at how derailed life often feels is unbecoming, that’s for sure. But not being completely insane is something too, to look on the bright side. The sads aren’t as bad as a complete loss of any grip on reality.

I’m not really sure what to do about this anniversary. It feels significant, if not worthy of forlorn remembrance or macabre celebration. And anyway, I don’t know what the date was, nor do I care to know it either. But there’s something about making it another year that I didn’t think was meant to be, which is deeply surreal and confusing. And nice?

Last spring I thought all was well. Life was starting over. It was exciting. Feelings were buried, only for the cap to be shot into the stratosphere. The definition of a bottling-up. I thought it was time to be someone else, but looking back that person was only really a younger me, an eighteen-year-old me, who reverted to an old style of dress and a bizarre relapse of old insecurities. It should have meant that I saw all that was to come from a mile off.

But now spring is here again. The bastard second book is finished. This morning I realised I had no underwear and very few socks left that weren’t full of holes. That wear and tear that goes unnoticed for too long until you’re literally left naked and bear. I took myself into Newcastle to buy more of each and felt eyes all over me as I walked through Eldon Square shopping centre. I was suddenly aware of how used I had gotten to other spaces where most people don’t go, how used I gotten to a small and nurturing community where selves change weekly as various people work towards becoming something else. Finally. I feel like who I’m becoming.

I’m subletting a flat that I hope will soon be mine to do what I want with. I’m alone here most days, but with all the veneer stripped off a social life, I’m left to look into the cold eyes of an irrational fear. Even on my own, I am startled by sounds in the building, the comings and goings of people I’ve never met or seen, and I’m waiting for someone to appear, break down the door, turf me out of somewhere I don’t belong, as if I shouldn’t really be here or anywhere. But no one comes. It’s only me. It means facing up to things that cannot be grafted onto outer forces, but which are only coming from within. An internal call to order; exorcism for one, please.

Last year was a false start. This year things are different again. Don’t stumble this time.

I’m looking forward to being back on the radio on Saturday. I’m going to go there and think aloud, extend the blog into a space that is less isolated and more communal. I’ve been listening to an old demo by Jeff Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser and I plan to play it. I’ve listened to it on repeat for a week. “My eyes are / a baptism / oh i am filth / and sing her / into my thoughts / oh phantom elusive thing.” An anthem for spring; this spring in particular.

Notes on and Against the
Media-Political Complex

For International Transgender Day of Visibility, 2023

There was a wonderful presentation given by Juliet Jacques at Newcastle University last night, organised as part of its INSIGHTS public lecture series to coincide with LGBT+ History Month (which was last month but the event was rescheduled due to strikes).

Jacques spoke about her work to date, specifically her three books on transgender experiences: Trans: A Memoir (2015), the short story collection Variations (2021), and a collection of her trans journalism from 2007 to 2021, Front Lines (2022). (Of course, Jacques has done much more than write alone, also working as a broadcaster and filmmaker.)

What struck me most during the lecture were Jacques’ comments on how others might undertake the kind of work she has become known for, in a new way and in the here and now. She spoke of not wanting to be typecast; of wanting media representations of trans people that aren’t simply “mundane” or “incidental” or, as is the case right now, so painfully topical, but rather a world in which trans experiences are seen simply as a part of “the tapestry of life” — a weaving that I interpreted as multidirectional, rhizomatic even, affirmed from both within and without; a world that allows not just for one’s own appearing but also the freedom to explore one’s many interests, which may stray from the enforced existential questioning that is made foundational to trans identities by a wider and innately hostile world. Not just trans “representation” as such, then, but the expressive freedom to be trans and to create like anyone else.

Now in her early 40s, in order for her to do this, Jacques felt it was necessary to move on from such an existential questioning, to explore those other interests, of which she has so many, and pass on the baton to a younger generation of trans people who are necessarily more preoccupied with building a world in which they want to (and can) live. (Jacques did not feel like she had to relinquish such a responsibility absolutely, she said during the Q&A, but felt, when it came to discussions of trans experiences explicitly, she may have said all that she has to say.)

But to take up such a baton seems harder to do now than ever, in the midst of a transphobic “media-political complex”, which Jacques sees as “the biggest political problem in the UK” today, since it is the primary blockade that stops all other change being imaginable — a communicative-capitalist realism, perhaps.

On this point, she made me wonder about how the blogosphere has waned in recent years. I often think, perhaps blogs have just fallen out of fashion. But when framed within a broader “media-political” context, such a waning seems less incidental than it does intentional.

Both the left and the right, Jacques argued, have restricted themselves to “exploiting loopholes in liberalism”, advocating for one’s own appearance in the “marketplace of ideas”, which is fatally adjudicated and refereed from the centre. In the 2010s, there was a proliferation of new media platforms on the left, but many may rightly feel that these platforms, in order to survive, have had to cosy up closer to the “mainstream” media and its centrist mode of comportment than seemed necessary at their inception. (This may be because the right themselves have followed suit, such that the peripheries of a centralised — and, of course, centrist — discursive space are now populated by many more reactionary websites and online magazines as well, all fighting for influence, and so we can note how the proliferation of new discursive spaces is now something that our media-political complex is more willing to accept than it was a decade ago.)

What is to be done?

Every few years — probably a lot more frequently than that these days — I take this kind of question personally. I wonder if I’m doing things right. I wonder whether this blog is redundant, whether I should have “progressed” to new spaces. There is an unspoken expectation, it seems, to write independently only for so long, build a profile, and graduate from blogs to books and columns, op-eds and TV appearances. (Something it is assumed I have done simply by virtue of being published, but nothing is so simple…)

Whether this is achieved or not, it is all too often the case that, on Twitter at least, to have any sort of profile is to be seen as part of the fabric of that same overarching media-political complex. Semi-regularly, I find myself denounced by cynics and haters as a careerist or a sell-out, as if I’m out here only to make money from my opinions, which never quite appear as “commitments” but are rather reduced to positions that are advocated for merely to fill a role in the totalising complex of politicised multimedia.

Just last night, some idiot made a remark I’ve heard all too often, which is that my work on Mark Fisher is simply a cash-grab, such that an acknowledgement of the “work” I have done on Mark Fisher’s thought — and it is undoubtedly work of a certain type — obscures its point of emergence from an abject and personal grief. I understand the point: it is necessary, for one’s own survival, that all work be remunerated. But the writing life is wholly unsustainable without funds from other sources. I say it all the time and it always bears repeating: writing does not pay, and so writing can hardly be done for money. But when seen through the lens of a totalising media-political complex, there is a prevailing and cynical assumption that no one does anything except for money and clout.

This is because, ultimately, we’re all talking to each other. There is no discursive outside. We are trapped in what Deleuze calls a corrupted communication; what Jodi Dean calls “communicative capitalism.” In an interview published under the title “Control and Becoming”, Deleuze says:

The quest for “universals of communication” ought to make us shudder … You ask whether control or communication societies will lead to forms of resistance that might reopen the way for a communism understood as the “transversal organization of free individuals” …

(Communism understood, as Blanchot once enigmatically wrote, as the “material search for communication”.)

… Maybe, I don’t know. But it would be nothing to do with minorities speaking out. Maybe speech and communication have been corrupted. They’re thoroughly permeated by money — and not by accident but by their very nature. We’ve got to hijack speech. Creating has always been something different from communicating. The key thing is to create vacuoles of noncommunication, circuit breakers, so we can elude control.

It is hard to know what such a noncommunication would even look like today. Everyone seems to think they are engaged in an elusive dance with apparatuses of capture, which seems wholly unmeasurable beyond certain public and private self-assurances. My feeling is that there are plenty of examples of noncommunication that exist, but “universals of communication” cloud our eyes nonetheless. Whether something is resistant or not, we cannot see it, since we see everything through the prism of the media-political complex.

This is made readily apparent on Twitter, when people do their utmost to deconstruct any vocal individual’s communicative “authenticity”. After Jacques’ talk, a few of us went out for dinner and drinks. Peter Mitchell was present and we were laughing about a familiar accusation sent to him on Twitter that evening: that the fact he’d published a book on Manchester University Press somehow equated to an “academic sinecure”.

No matter how precarious you may remain, being visible alone makes you, in the eyes of the ignorant, immediately complicit with a general media circuitry. But in so many cases, it is not remotely true. We remain on the periphery, in actuality, such that the death of the author produces a zombified virtual avatar — quite literally on social media — who is somehow more affluent and complicit with Control in the minds of others than an individual writer could ever be. You are left feeling damned if you do, damned if you don’t — materially and financially ostracized, contrary to the perception you’re somehow on the “inside” now.

With all of this in mind, Deleuze’s argument above warrants some unpacking. Speech and communication may be “thoroughly permeated by money”, but that money is generally unseen by those who speak. They are permeated, perhaps, with the idea of money, more than anything else. Bank is reserved for the few who find a position at the heart of the media-political complex, or are more securely situated within its distributive entities. And perhaps not even then — I don’t know how well-off other people really are. But the result is that there is a false equivalence constantly made between writing and grifting, where all philosophy (in the broadest sense of the term) appears indistinguishable from either an imagined academic security or popular sophistry, unless you reduce your existence to an errant and inconsequential “posting”.

Jacques’ advice given, with regards to how we can remedy this situation, was familiar (although it is a piece of advice I have not heard for a few years now, since the height of the blogosphere): it is better to set up your own platforms and not rely on cultural gatekeepers, she said. It is better to just do what you want.

I’ve been thinking about this as I (very prematurely) think about what I want to do next. My PhD is going to take up most of my time over the next few years, and I should let that be the case — I already pitched a new book draft, in a recent but brief period of manic procrastination, which was rightly turned down as it was suggested I stew for a bit, feed my mind, see what comes up later — but I’m left really wanting to do something new, something different, and to do it immediately. The end of every book project, for me at least, is always met with a desire to deform the author-function that is soon to be made public — a desperate desire to immediately counter any compartmentalisation by renouncing what I have just finished but which many have not yet even read.

Now, as I must commit to returning to the academic fold, I am left longing for an immersion in a mode of writing that I explored more emphatically last year, which was more fragmentary, improvisatory, deformed — to my mind, more “literary”. I’m not sure when (or where) I’ll find the opportunity to do that in the near future (other than right here on the blog). And I already know that, should I hope to have my efforts published elsewhere, such a writing would not be an easy sell, unless I become more confident in its less academic and more generally literary and experimental merits.)

This is a conundrum specific to my present circumstances, of course, with my prevaricating and anxiety probably being of little interest to others, but I am without doubt that it will resonate with others too. The question of what is to be done next never leaves you alone. But there is hope — and it is a hope to can found with a writer’s life that is also lived whilst being transgender.

Jacques spoke at length on her book Variations, a project some two decades in the making, she said, which is made up of short stories that each explore a different space-time in transgender history. It is an inspiring project, and one that clearly means a lot to her, which contains stories that cover a multitude of styles, places, times and registers. In speaking to some kind of transhistorical (pun intended) experience, the book is so wonderfully varied, as per its title.

Discussing and summarising the book during her lecture, Jacques made reference to Sandy Stone’s The Empire Strikes Back, which is an essay, Stone herself says, that is

about morality tales and origin myths, about telling the “truth” of gender. Its informing principle is that “technical arts are always imagined to be subordinated by the ruling artistic idea, itself rooted authoritatively in nature’s own life.” It is about the image and the real mutually defining each other through the inscriptions and reading practices of late capitalism. It is about postmodernism, postfeminism, and [dare I say it] posttranssexualism.

All trans writing plays explicitly with genre/gender in this regard — a francophonic injunction once associated with Jacques Derrida, particularly his essay “The Law of Genre”, perhaps, but which has become more closely associated with trans literature since then, which Juliet herself discusses here.

Trans writing is a “formally inventive writing”, and necessarily so, since, as Jacques put it in her lecture, the trans experience is itself an experiment with form — “life-experimentation”, as Deleuze might say. It is a function of LGBT writing in general, she adds, arguing — according to someone referenced whose name I’ve already forgotten; perhaps Stone again or maybe Susan Stryker — that LGBT discourses were born of the industrial revolution, of industrialisation in general, and the breaking of feudal bonds.

It is an argument explored in my forthcoming book, Narcissus in Bloom, such that the pathology of narcissism, “invented” at the end of the nineteenth century, was initially an attempt to pathologize homosexual relations and the “love of the same”. But as Steven Bruhm argues, “Narcissus, who is said to aspire to that which is the same, is continually destroying the political safety promised by sameness.”

Narcissus in Bloom is a positive book, about (self-)transformation. It could just as easily have been a more negative (and perhaps Deleuzian) text, however, about (self-)deformation. But how to deform when you feel like you are still only just building a life? How to deform life in its making? How to deform writing in its very construction?

On one or two occasions, across yesterday evening, we spoke fleetingly of poetry. (Jacques mentioned that she was particularly interested in trans poetry at present.) As Michael and I walked Juliet to her hotel, I asked her about her experience of lockdown, how she felt about Variations being released in the midst of Covid. She said it was strange and that publishing took an unexpected hit over those years. We might have assumed that, since we were stuck indoors, we would turn to reading as an activity more readily. But she, like so many, could not bring herself to read much at all. I felt the same way too.

When I moved to Huddersfield at the end of the first lockdown, I explained how I found a new appreciation for poetry, living in the Yorkshire landscape that inspired Emily Brontë and Sylvia Plath. Poems, in their often quintessential brevity, were easier to read and reread at that time, whereas other tomes repulsed. The distillation of life into stanzas felt as much like a deformation as it did a crystallisation, at a time when life itself felt painfully deformed and distilled in equal measure.

It was then that I first read Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry (discussed in my recent Dublin lecture), in which he argues that “the noble failure at the heart of every great poem” emerges from “the impulse to launch the experience of the individual into a timeless communal existence.”

It is an argument I’ve found resonating with much Caribbean literature more recently. Reading Edouard Glissant’s Caribbean Discourse whilst waiting for a friend before Jacques’ lecture, I underlined the following:

The author must be demythified, certainly, because he must be integrated into a common resolve. The collective ‘We’ becomes the site of the generative system, and the true subject.

In his introduction, J. Michael Dash argues that the “point of departure of Caribbean literature has been the effort to write the subject into existence”, but Glissant subverts this task into a deformation, emphasising “the structuring force of landscape, community, and collective unconscious”, far beyond any subject’s nascent individuality. Glissant was influenced, in this regard, by Aimé Césaire, for whom “the subject was not privileged but simply the site where the collective experience finds articulation” — a “decentered subject, central to the poetics of the cross-cultural imagination”. The power of any writer, then, Dash continues, is found in their “capacity … to descend, like Orpheus, into the underworld of the collective unconscious and to emerge with a song that can reanimate the petrified world.”

There is a wonderful resonance, I think, between the writings of a black diaspora and the requirements of any other marginalised subject that must proceed by corrupting a wider hegemony, simply by existing. (Binaries of sex, gender and race are acutely related in this regard, as others have more recently argued.) But whereas Caribbean literature has the Creole language to create “vacuoles of noncommunication”, what does gender, more generally, have today? How do languages of resistance make themselves heard in the midst of a totalising media-political complex, beyond the specificity of Creole culture? Is it in the language of blogs? Not anymore, it seems. Such a suggestion feels immediately parochial. But perhaps this is made possible in other ways…

There is something to be said for simply speaking your own truth, regardless of its compounding by a wider media hegemony. Jacques demonstrated this, perhaps without even meaning to, in the Q&A that followed her talk.

Although the atmosphere in the lecture hall felt jovial, as Jacques cracked wise before her attentive audience, the event was briefly overshadowed by a final question asked by an audience member, before we filed out to buy books and have them signed.

Moments prior, Jacques had responded to a question from a young trans woman in the audience, who asked how Jacques felt about a more flippant and colloquial language used by many public trans figures: the “whatever-being” of those who may not speak so eloquently on trans politics, and notably by choice. Jacques had no problem with this, and added that a certain flippancy regarding an expected rhetoric was itself important. Speak however you like. Trans people may often find themselves pulled into debates on their own existence, but no one needs to take TERFs and other transphobic people seriously, nor engage with them in a style of debate that is constructed by a pervasive centrism, at least if they don’t want to.

This young student’s question was ironically followed by a comment made by a more elderly woman, who raised her hand and began, “I am a feminist, and a lifelong socialist”, with the “but…” implied if not announced explicitly. (I am certain that I recognised this woman as a supporter of Posie Parker’s recent #LetWomenSpeak event in Newcastle, but I couldn’t say for sure.) She rambled on for a few minutes, giving anyone who might have wanted to play TERF bingo a rapid ‘full house’ — biological essentialism, single-sex spaces and prisons, etc. — before the event’s chair, Kate Chedgzoy, interjected to ask if she wanted to ask a question or simply make a rambling statement. Things, for a moment, felt heated. (“Whose got a can of soup?” someone asked, speaking over the woman as she continued to ramble.) Encouraged to get to the point, she rushedly concluded by asking Jacques to speak to the “tensions” that exist between trans and women’s rights, to which Jacques (and the rest of the room) succinctly replied that no tension exists. Then the event was over.

It was an interjection that upset everyone, as it was a sad and combative conclusion to a talk that had otherwise been so joyful. But the woman’s argument was also illustrative of what Jacques had been saying for much of the last hour. This woman was clearly and totally immersed in the talking points amplified incessantly by the media-political complex that Jacques had previously denounced. There was no original comment made, no reflection on any part of Jacques’ 40-minute lecture, just the mindless regurgitation of TERF talking points. Hers was a “comment” that was woefully restricted to a perspective that Jacques had pushed far beyond. There was no sense of fanfare or transgression or defiance in Jacques’ words, in this sense, only the unfurling of her own traversal of the tapestry of life, of her life and career, through which she has explored so many topics in print, as well as on radio and television. In stark contrast, this final part of the Q&A was embarrassingly myopic, as if this woman had heard nothing at all, her ears blocked by a sad agenda that was so rehearsed (even if poorly) as to hardly even sound like her own at all.

Jacques did not come back at this woman with hostility or even bother entertaining her position at all. There was no need. Her expansive interests and body of work, explored over the previous hour, made few direct references to the media furore that overshadows trans experiences today. She spoke of navigating it, at times, particularly as a former Guardian columnist, but in conversation spoke instead of her fascination with British towns in general, their architecture, their football stadiums; the strange stories to be found in any exploration of local politics; the writers and politicians produced by spaces and landscapes so often overlooked, who appear all the more radical and inspiring having emerged from “nowhere”. Places are strange. The specificities of certain localities, and the ‘We’ that may populate them, humiliates any genericised worldview. The tapestry of life is so complex and intricate, filled with imperfections and deviations, unsettling any “common” sense or norm. Life emerges there, and feels innately experimental, in the margins that are in fact centres for the vast majority of us.

In this way, Jacques’ writings on trans politics and experiences reveal the lifeforce of so much more besides. To be confronted and asked to address illusory tensions was completely inapposite, even if the talk was advertised as an account of the trans writing life. But rather than encase her writing in a specific subject position, this was only the starting point, outwards from which the world came to life in Jacques’ journeys through its wonderous incongruities, lingering in the memorial vacuoles of underrepresented stories and times, creating space for that which struggles to be communicated.