Richard Calder: Dead Girls – The Deco-Punk City; Kathe Koja – Voice of our Hour


Richard Calder

I couldn’t resist quoting a passage from Richard Calder’s trilogy Dead Girls, Dead Boys, Dead Things:

“This was an art nouveau city, a deco city, its sinewy, undulating lines and geometric chic copied from the fashions of the aube du millénaire and imposed on the slums of its twentieth-century inheritance and the sublimities of the past. Again, the pall of greenness descended, a peasouper, a gangrenous membrane, a steamy decay of tropical night. Monorails, skywalks, with their hoards of winepressed humanity, passed above us; autogyros too, with their fat-cat cargoes, hovering above the city’s stagnant pools like steel-hulled dragonflies. Once more, the lightning, and the rain began, coagulating the green tint of the night so that we seemed to be moving through an ocean’s depths. Green was that year’s colour; green, the colour of perversity; a green luminous as a certain pair of eyes.”

Calder heavily influenced by the symbolists and French decadents writes biopunk, or post-cyberpunk fiction that brings back the rich detail of decadent overlays, but with that eye for the streamlined functionalism of the modern turn toward artifice and art deco’s elaborations and motifs. If you’ve not read his work it’s a definite great choice for the linguistic power alone.

Kathe Koja

Under the Poppy: a novel among her other achievements is an exploration of that sensual darkness of the body and mind few of us understand much less wish to visit. A parable set in Victorian England, her deft handling of sex and violence, the dark erotic heart of love is superb and carefully gathers the threads of the decadents motifs into a keening as clear as it is subtle. She’s one of those writers either you love or hate. For me the decadents and symbolists always held a fond place. The closure of a world upon itself in its turn toward the dark frontiers of the heart through forms of perversity will always awaken our imaginations. Most of the time we want to stand in the sunlight like gods without a body, but then it comes back: I, do, after all have a body… and, it knows things I do not know with my conscious being. I still think Camille Paglia in her Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson captured the uniqueness of this darker erotic element in literature. 

With books like the Cipher, about a black hole that transforms one into otherness… In Skin she explores the performance art scene, artistic vision evolves into dementia… Bad Brains in which an artist suffers strange and powerful hallucinations and seizures, during which he sees and tastes things of the world in new ways and relations. Koja is a niche writer, a decadent with a dark bent and delivery. Not for everyone. But for those who know she, too, is a member of the strange club of the dark erotic that blends the fantastic and the real in disturbing ways that awaken you from your death-in-Life.

4 thoughts on “Richard Calder: Dead Girls – The Deco-Punk City; Kathe Koja – Voice of our Hour

  1. Remember being stunned by Calder’s debut in Interzone. Dead Boys (if I recall) descends into a thanaterotic mindwarp.

    Kath Koja sounds just wonderful. Thanks so much for the suggested

    (and belated happy births 🙂 _)


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