In need of escape from the present dismal circumstances, I happened to notice an ancient set of Roger Zelazny’s Amber chronicles gathering dust on my shelves, and am now engaged in re-reading them for the first time in probably 30 years. I’m somewhere in volume 3 right now. It’s an interesting experience.

I vaguely recall the overall shape of the story, so it’s mostly the details that surprise. And especially the language. Zelazny is a much pulpier writer than I remember. There’s a bit of a noirish, Chandleresque, “down these mean streets” quality to his prose and characterisation. The language mirrors the narrative, a bit, in its collision of high fantasy and contemporary, with the latter dating rather more noticeably. When the narrator slips into the argot of the early 1970s it’s weirdly jarring. Words like “guy” and “high” and “dig” lurk in the text like booby traps, ejecting the reader — me, at least — right out of the narrative world by sheer force of their incongruity. But no-one bats an eyelid at a bit of thee-ing and thou-ing. Blame fairy tales, blame Tolkien: we just expect people who ride horses and fight with swords to talk one way rather than another.

Those aren’t the only linguistic landmines, of course. A kind of tarot deck features heavily throughout, providing a sorcerous — and authorially convenient — cellphone service for the central cast of aristocratic chancers. There are, it is briefly noted, the usual minor suit cards in this deck, but the focus is very much on the Major Arcana. Or, as they are named throughout, the Trumps.

Capitalised and everything.

Assuming we live so long — and given I seem to have lost my copy of the obvious follow up, Roadmarks — I think I may proceed┬áto a bit of PJF next. Tiers or Riverworld? Decisions, decisions.


You see what happens when I go back on Twitter, even for just a few hours?

Oh no, not again.

Well that’s more than enough of that. Paying attention to what’s going on in the world sucks. No good can possibly come of it. Fuck people and politics. Stupid people and hateful politics especially, but all the rest too. Fuck you all.

I shall abjure the whole sorry lot, spend my remaining time on this dying Earth with nothing but abstractions, equations, numbers, ones and zeros. Maybe some chocolate, flavoured with tears.


So here we are, finally, after the most interminable fucking grind ever from a political system built on interminable grinds, come at last to the dolorous day. Confidence is hard to come by in this febrile season, but it looks as if the US will narrowly reject the Amber Antichrist’s bid to be elected Dictator and grudgingly admit the distaff side into the corridors of power; albeit with the now-traditional insistence on strangling said power with congressional dysfunction. Will anyone really be that surprised if the Supreme Court remains short-handed right through to 2021?

I guess there should be a tiny shred of positivity to be drawn from this result, if it does in fact transpire, but FOR FUCK’S SAKE AMERICA, is this the best you can do? Just barely managing not to elect one of the world’s worst human beings to your highest office? Wallowing in his bigotry and bullying and bluster, the howling icestorm void of his untrammelled id, the constant bare faced mendacity? Faced with an actual physical incarnation of the Seven Deadly Sins, where are the ostensibly godly? Right the fuck on board, of course, trampling one another in their urge to champion his gangrenous iniquity.

Who knows. Maybe the result will be clearer, stronger, less emblematic of a bone-deep rot. Maybe this awful election really is the last gasp of a dying order, a final skirmish in the already-lost war of moribund nostalgic conservatism against blossoming modernity. The demographics are against them, somewhat. Their power bases crumble, somewhat. There is no future in a return to the past.

But the fault lines aren’t going away anytime soon. There is no special virtue in America that renders it immune to the troubles plaguing Western democracies all over. There will always be angry, resentful people, yearning for real or imagined better times, yearning for scapegoats, yearning for the lash. There will always be another grasping scumbag strongman to pander to and exploit them, and another, and another, until one of them wins. Sooner or later, one of them always wins.

It’s hard not to see Donald J Trump as a harbinger.

Gah. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to keep up my Twitter embargo today. Or, obviously, get much work done.