09 September 2004

The The Soundtrack for The The New Weird

At a Worldcon panel on "The New Weird", Jon Courtenay Grimwood, who was in the audience, suggested that the occasional territorial defensiveness displayed in some of the conversations with British advocates of the New Weird could come from the sensibility created by writers who lived through the Thatcher years. He seemed to me to be saying that writers who had known England before Thatcher, who lived through her reign, and who are now quite sensitive to the country that exists after her legacy (a country that is notably different from the one she took control of) might think New Weird can only be written by people of similar experiences. The effect of Reagan on the U.S., for instance, was different and would perhaps create a different sensibility.

To illustrate the Thatcherized sensibility, Jonathan Strahan quoted The The's song "Heartland" from memory:
Beneath the old iron bridges
Across the Victorian parks
And all the frightened people
Running home before dark
Past the Saturday morning cinema
That lies crumbling to the ground
And the piss stinking shopping centre
In the new side of town
I was impressed, not only because the song does seem to have something in common with certain types of British writing in its evocation of landscape and mood, but because the reference reminded me that I can't help thinking of The The's albums Soul Mining and Infected (which contains "Heartland") whenever I think of cyberpunk, and, especially, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which I discovered at the same time I discovered The The. It was a strangely appropriate match, and songs like "I've Been Waiting for Tomorrow (All of My Life)" are an inseparable part of Philip K. Dick's novel for me. Perhaps Soul Mining is a cyberpunk soundtrack and Infected is proto-New Weird.

Not that I support the labeling of literature, mind you. I just like The The.

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