The Early Days of a Better Nation

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Scotland after socialism

In 1979, the French radical intellectual Régis Debray tossed a tear-gas cannister into the complacent, cross-class nostalgia for May 1968. He saw the significance of les événements not as a failed overthrow of French capitalism, but a convulsive convergence with the wider West, saying (if memory serves) that 'We had to imagine ourselves as Chinese, in order to become Californians.'

I can't match his gloomy verve, but I'll make a similar suggestion about the lesser upheaval of 2015 in Scotland. This is a country that never took to New Labour, but has suffered and enjoyed all the changes in class composition and identity to which New Labour was a reaction. And yet we've cherished our self-image as keepers of the flame. Our refrain has been: 'We didn't leave Labour, Labour left us.'

Now, in the name of Old Labour values, we've overwhelmingly elected a party that stands on almost all issues to the right of even the present Labour Party, let alone that of Donald Dewar and John Smith. The SNP is a party with a fresh, charismatic leader who appeals to all classes and who proclaims a business-friendly programme in social-democratic language. In doing this she has enabled us to at last catch up with the post-socialist world, without losing face or backing down. We had to imagine ourselves as Venezuelans, in order to become Blairites.
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Saturday, May 09, 2015

Coming Attractions

Interested in writing science fiction and/or fantasy? Michael Cobley and I are teaching a short course from 1 pm Thursday 13 May to noon Sunday 17 May at Monaick Mhor, the creative writing centre in the Highlands near Inverness. The centre is comfortable, accessible, spacious and beautifully situated. Though we already have a healthy number of bookings, a few places are still available. So if you're interested, book now.

Later this month, on Friday 29 May I'll be reading from and talking about the poems of Iain Banks at Aberdeen University's May Festival. I'll also be signing copies of the book, which at Iain's insistence includes some poems of my own.

After that my diary is reassuringly blank until the Edinburgh Book Festival in August, which is just as well because I'm writing the second volume of a space opera trilogy, having just recently delivered the first to the tender mercies of my brilliant editor. It's all rebel robots and walking dead space mercenaries in an extrasolar posthuman conflict, and therefore something of a shift from my recent focus on the near future.

My work to date is the topic of a forthcoming seminar at Crooked Timber, where some very bright and sharp critics dissect the books and I pick over the resulting anatomical diagrams (usually to explain where what has been charitably read as a deep engagement with a significant body of rigorous thought has in fact been gleaned from, but them's the breaks.)

Update: Crooked Timber seminar posts and my response now linked to here.
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