Episode 69: Viriconium by M. John Harrison (cities series pt 1)

Episode 69: Viriconium by M. John Harrison (cities series pt 1)

Viriconium by M. John Harrison

Show Notes

Synopsis 03:47 // Act 1 (Viriconium Knights, The Pastel City, Lords of Misrule) 04:13 // Act 2 (Strange Great Sins, A Storm Of Wings, The Dancer and the Dance, The Luck in the Head, The Lamia and Lord Cromis) 09:47 // Act 3 (In Viriconium, A Young Man’s Journey To Viriconium) 19:19 // Themes 26:54 // Artists 26:55 // Symbols and foreshadowing 29:25 // Time and “mutant future” 31:48 // The City (Glory, Thief: Dark Project) 34:49 // Roleplaying 40:24 // OSR and Appendix N (Sorcerer and Sword, DCC, Plot Points podcast, etc.) 40:25 // City building tools (Corpathium, City Accelerated) 56:07


Links to resources I mentioned in this episode:

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “Fly inverted past a Jenny” from Stunt Island // “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

4 thoughts on “Episode 69: Viriconium by M. John Harrison (cities series pt 1)

  1. Excellent episode, on one of my fave books. Thank you for this.
    A worthy imaginary city to discuss in a future episode would perhaps be Bellona, from Delany’s “Dhalgren”.

  2. I really enjoyed this exploration of one of my favourite authors. You gave me a lot to think about.

    I think part of Viriconium is the impossibility of fantasy when it comes into contact with reality. It’s just too fragile. I’m pretty sure also that MJH doesn’t do world building as such, and his plotting is very loose too. For me, his writing is very much about negative capability, but also it’s a big game of sorts. https://neverimitate.wordpress.com/2017/11/19/gig-review-m-john-harrison-in-bath/

    My tribute to OSR is actually a GUMSHOE game called Da’Zoon, very much CAS, Leiber, CL Moore inspired, but also largely improvised.

    My Viriconium game was mostly from In Viriconium for the overall feel but some themes from earlier. I didn’t have a map but a group of locations which PCs could reach if they had directions, or had visited before. It was about dealing with a threat to the city, but also about how the infighting made the opposition impossible. The idea was to make the players feel at home and familiar and invested, and then destroy what they held dear. And finally to see if they could find a place in what the city had become. But we didn’t get that far. In a discussion with MJH on his site, he said that I couldn’t play in Viriconium because whatever I did wouldn’t be the thing he had written. Which I agree with, but what I read also wasn’t the same as what he had written. All of it is riffing on his loose collection of ideas and contradictions.

    And slightly after that (we’re talking early to mid 90s), I ran a game of people discovering and exploring a magical world set in London (before Neverwhere). It was systemless, or GM-fiat, but the players were encouraged to talk about feeling, effort and cost when attempting something difficult. It was partly based around the struggle between the City and Canary Wharf over being the centre for finance and how this overflowed into other aspects of the city.

  3. I was gifted this book and loved it. I’m afraid I lost my copy but listening to your podcast on Viriconium makes me want to revisit this novel.

    PS. I read Dhalgren and it poisoned me to the faulty narrator mechanic. 300 pages in is totally enough.

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