Who among ye has not read the spectacular sci-fi tome Vurt by Jeff Noon? Highly recommended. In 1994, the Manchester native’s debut novel earned him an Arthur C. Clarke award, as well as kindly comparisons to Anthony Burgess and William Gibson. Vurt is one of the most gorgeously and utterly bent, feather-suckin’ subcultural fables of the ’90s, or any other decade. (Noon’s entire bibliography from ’93 through 2002 is quite resonant, perhaps especially –though not exclusively– for those of us who found ourselves falling down various cyber/raver/club kid rabbit holes during that time!)
In more recent years, Noon has been challenging the boundaries of online social networking sites. In addition to regularly posting character fiction on his official Twitter, he previously spent a span of time updating an account called @temp_user9 with haunting lyrical shards. There’s also his Microspores Tumblr, where select units of his micro-fiction are offered up with visual and sonic accompaniment, all crowd-sourced from Noon’s readership.
Apparently, Noon’s been grokking a lot of reality television lately as well. Last month saw the self-published release of his first full-length novel in ten years, ChannelSK1N. It’s available in digital format only, which makes a certain poetic sense, given its darkly rasterized plot:
In the infotainment ‘n’ plastic-surgery-addicted near-future, a fading pre-fab pop star called Nola Blue discovers that her relevancy has rallied thanks to an unexpected mutuation: her skin has begun receiving and broadcasting television signals. Intimations of Frankenstein, nods to Cronenberg and (of course) Orwell abound as Noon reels out the trials and tribs his characters in brilliant, sometimes brutal parodies of current popular culture.
In the novel’s press release statement, Noon gamely states “I’m a celebrant of the future – Bring on the void.” And ChannelSK1N certainly is a leap through the dark; this is not staid fare by any stretch. Back in February, he spoke with Cult Den about his ongoing desire to push forward, and how that influenced his decision to self-publish:
I looked around for a publisher, almost went with one, but decided in the end to self-publish. The reasons for this are two-fold: firstly, they wanted to publish it in March 2013. That’s way too late for me. As I mentioned, I was in real need of connecting with an audience once again. And secondly, I really wanted to be free to put out what I wanted, when I wanted, including, alongside narrative based works, lots of more experimental stuff. Basically, I wanted to just write, and not have to wait. Just do it. See what happens. That’s my current attitude, and self-publishing gives me that freedom. I think you’ll see a whole bunch of works coming from me, over the next few years, each one placed somewhere along the avant-pulp borderline.
That freedom has worked in Noon’s favor with ChannelSK1N. This is Noon in high gear, showcasing his meticulous gifts as a wordsmith, his rebellious approach to storytelling, and his knack for multi-sensory invocation. Both brightly visual and highly sonic, the narrative is full of fine-tuned passages which, when read aloud, parse like complex music, syncopated by bursts of oddly catchy static. It’s restless Burroughsian cut-up ambiance– a bookish kind of scrying-via-late night satellite TV surfing. More adventurous readers in his audience are certain to tune in, and rejoice.