msb ~039 The truth? Dream on

The truth? Dream on

Mapping certainties

Following Philip Dick, here’s another favourite speculative writer: Christopher Priest. I just finished the Ordnance Survey ‘Britain’s islands’ quiz after rereading Anticipatory History‘s Dream-map entry, so it’s no surprise that Priest’s Dream Archipelago came to mind. There’s a slipperiness to his decades-long project of stories set on these fictional-but-familiar islands on a world (un)like ours. In a 2011 interview ahead of The Islanders he’s asked, “Creating the climate, topography and various customs of the islands must have been quite challenging … Did you use a map or some other technique?” Priest: “No map is allowed. Not even to me … Living in the islands, or trying to travel through them, you almost always get lost. No one knows the way, everyone is a bit muddled.”

One review summarised the Dream Archipelago as “geographically and ontologically uncertain, a place where reality itself is unreliable.” It’s not just the narrator, then. Priest told another interviewer, for 2016’s The Gradual: “From the outset, when I wrote the very first stories set in the Archipelago, I never made any attempt to be consistent… This liberates us from trying to seek the ‘truth’ about the islands. There is no truth – there is just the next story.”

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