Austerity Horror

In a recent review of Black Static 45, writer Tom Johnstone referred to ‘austerity horror’, a term I had not encountered before. It’s an interesting if unsurprising idea: that economic and social stagnation creates a climate of fear, contingency, instability, moral squalor. It is certainly true that poverty is increasingly seen as a contagion, or a self-imposed aberration, one that must be purged or punished but never cured. Or else poverty serves to entertain us on television. One could argue that these modes and attitudes are not confined to periods of ecomonic sluggishness: even the so-called boom times are rife with filth and degredation. That’s how money is made.

Social paranoia, corporate deceit, and institutionalised sexual corruption, combined with startling technological advances and new modes of communication, are providing fertile territories for a new generation of writers, especially short story writers. The best of this writing is usually oblique or ambiguous. Fiction will push towards more imaginative modes and forms, because reality itself is being fictionalised. Or debased. Or internalised. “Electronic aids,” said Ballard, “particularly domestic computers, will help the inner migration, the opting out of reality. Reality is no longer going to be the stuff out there, but the stuff inside your head. It’s going to be commercial and nasty at the same time.”

Tom Johnstone’s blog can be found here:

This is what Tom Johnstone had to say about ‘The Visitors’:

‘The scene in the pub [in SP Miskowski’s story ‘The Grey Men’] where Adam fails to get through to his brother makes a nice lead-in to ‘The Visitors’, with Stephen Hargadon returning to the man-in-a-pub monologue mode of his extraordinary Black Static (and published fiction) debut ‘World of Trevor’, though it’s an internal monologue interspersed with snatches of overheard conversation rather than a chatty raconteur’s narration. His narrator’s air of garrulousness masks a solitude as profound as Adam’s in ‘The Grey Men’, and echoes Miskowski’s story in his meditation on the social changes happening around him. The apparently random final scene of supernatural retribution from a source as unique as Hargadon’s voice mirrors the narrator’s troubled past and traumatic relationship with booze, culminating in a devastatingly apt last line.’