We are delighted to reveal the cover for Jane Alexander's new book: The Flicker Against the Light and Writing the Contemporary Uncanny.
Academia Lunare is our non-fiction branch, but occasionally it lends itself to hybrid projects, where short fiction accompanies and amplifies research. This is one of such cases, and it will be released in June 2021.
About the book:
A woman walks through a virtual reconstruction of the destroyed streets where she and her lover used to live. A young man trades away his youth, and something of himself, in the plasma extracted from his blood. A clone addresses her dead, doubled ‘self’ as she
tries to understand her personal history. In these uncanny stories of virtual reality, biotech, data surveillance and communications technology, Black Mirror meets M.R. James: unsettling perspectives on contemporary and near-future scenarios are layered with
hauntings; borders are blurred between living and non-living, real and not-real.
Accompanying the collection is the essay ‘Writing the Contemporary Uncanny’, an investigation of how the uncanny has shifted in the hundred years since Freud attempted to define it, and how uncanny short fiction can interrogate and illuminate our experiences of
science and technology to help us understand what it means to be human in an ever-accelerating technological landscape.
‘... an indisputably magnificent piece of writing: sensible, practical, hopeful and devastating. Every re-reading allows us to revel in some initially-overlooked nuance or subtle observation.’
Aoife Lyall, author of Mother, Nature, on ‘Candlemaker Row’
‘When I think of the uncanny I will now always think of this astonishing collection. These stories have inspired, unsettled, and moved me; they haunt me still.’
Helen Sedgwick, author of The Comet Seekers and The Growing Season
The stories that make up my collection The Flicker Against the Light are simultaneously specific to the technologies of our age, and layered with uncanny images and tropes.
One of my favourite writers Ali Smith (herself no stranger to the uncanny) talks of writing short story collections as a process of accumulation that ‘lets you know where your mind is going at a certain time, with either form or what the material is doing. … You have to listen for your own themes. It’s a bit like listening to music. It’s a bit like listening to see where a theme is or what it’s doing or whether there is one.’
I love this notion; for me, it perfectly conveys the uneasy thrill of finding that what you meant to put into the stories may not be all you find there when you ‘listen’ back, to find out where your mind has been and where it’s going.
In writing these stories, and the accompanying essay ‘Writing the Contemporary Uncanny’, I wanted to explore how uncanny short fiction could interrogate and illuminate our experiences of science and technology, and how the uncanny itself might have shifted in the hundred years since Freud attempted to define it in his influential essay ‘The Uncanny’. I set out explicitly to explore physical, psychological and social impacts of advances in neuroscience, life sciences, biotechnology and information technology. And all of this is present here, in a sequence of stories that’s layered with ghosts, hauntings, blurred borders and confusions between living and not-living, real and not-real. But just as the uncanny can involve unexpected invasions, these aren’t the only concerns that emerged into the light, and onto the pages of this collection.
The uncanny is a notoriously elusive concept, and uncanny affect is highly subjective. My own sense of the uncanny is bound up with uncertainty, unease and anticipation – with explanations withheld, and events half-seen – rather than with dread and fear. Perhaps that coincides with your uncanny, and perhaps not … but in either case, I hope readers will find possibilities in these stories that I didn’t consciously put there, and construct their own meanings. Or, as Karen Joy Fowler has it: ‘I know what I meant to put there, but the reader is free to find something else entirely and often does.’
About the author:
Jane Alexander is a novelist and short story writer, and a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Edinburgh. Her most recent novel A User’s Guide To Make-Believe is a dystopian thriller about virtual realities, and her first novel The Last Treasure Hunt was selected as a Waterstones debut of the year in 2015. Her short fiction has won prizes and been widely published, and her creative writing PhD thesis explored contemporary uncanny short stories about science and technology. Find her at janealexander.net and @DrJaneAlexander