You Must Mutate

Here is what’s been happening.

Mutants, the book of Selected Essays I have been working on (without always realising it) for sixteen years, is out. It can be bought from The Hive. It was published by the wonderful Seagull Books, Calcutta, who also published Life-Like. The editor was Naveen Kishore. I’m extremely grateful he gave me the chance to put these writings together. Bishan Samaddar did much of the to and fro, with great style.

These are the best (IMO) literary essays, lectures, replies, introductions, I’ve written, gathered together, put in a reasonably logical order, put in a gorgeous cover, including a manifesto, out to say things directly, out to mutate all future fictions, worldwide, modestly.


You Must

You Must


Here’s an excerpt:

I like fiction that seems to reinvent itself as it goes along – to change not only its rules but the premises on which those rules are based. This is a fiction that goes beyond metamorphosis and becomes, instead, a kind of seething, perpetual mutation. It doesn’t start from a state of generic-genetic purity; it was hybrid to begin with. Each stage of its development is one of mutation from mutation, outgrowth from outgrowth. And yet, when it reaches an end, dies or slides off out of sight toward further incarnations, it is possible to discern that this creature-of-literature had a consistent form – and an indwelling set of premises that weren’t discernible before. One of these premises may have been, for example, Consistent identity is boring. This would lead to the rule Never repeat a gesture. Another, more extreme extrapolation would be Follow the line of development that promises the greatest instability of identity. This is all extremely unsettling for some readers. But I like it. You could call it headfuck fiction.

I did a launch event under the title ‘You Must Mutate’ on Friday 20th May 2016, with the as-yet-unmutated Caroline Edwards. This was in Birkbeck’s Gordon Square building.

A full podcast is listenable on synthetic zero. Caroline prodded me to talk about writing and technology, souls, Ballard, Lawrence, Hogarth, Star Trek, The Wire, failure, handwriting vs word processing. Many of which feature in Mutants.

A section of the lecture on ‘Sensibility’ (included in Mutants) appeared on The Guardian website, under the title ‘What Makes Bad Writing Bad?’ As of this moment, it has 470 comments.

[A new mutated story, The Fanglur and the Twoof, will be broadcast on Radio 4 this Sunday evening at 19:45.]

A desert of human teeth

Looking out over a desert of human teeth






2 thoughts on “You Must Mutate

  1. A good book is part of a good holiday So thanks for Mutants. No one can’t write about Kafka but ever contrary:

    A winter’s tale…

    Kafka the boy
    Played in the sand
    Building castles
    On the seacoast
    Of Bohemia
    With the Great Wall
    Of China in mind
    For later on.

    Nicholas Howard

    Camden London

    Passing Mutants on to my daughter as a birthday present for tomorrow.

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