Monday, January 16, 2017

Vale Mark Fisher

I was shocked over the weekend to hear the tragic news of the death of Mark Fisher.

I first came across Mark’s work during my dissertation, without being more than dimly aware that he was one of the minds behind the Cyber Culture Research Unit. I got to know him properly as a blogger some years later, by the time the now legendary K-Punk was already very well-established. I will never forget the excitement of discovering him, along with the likes of Nina Power and Owen Hatherley, and later Evan Calder Williams. Here was a group of young, provocative, oftentimes radical writers, engaging with matters of culture and politics for a geographically disparate audience, sketching the boundaries of what was possible to do in the medium (and seemingly nowhere else). It was genre-defining stuff, although – no doubt because of how late I caught up with all this – it seemed that no sooner had the genre been defined that they all moved on to other things. But not before each of them wrote a book for the British publisher Zero (I reviewed Evan’s on this blog), a fact to which Mark was again instrumental.

(Owen Hatherley, in his wonderful and moving tribute: ‘nobody else was going to publish anything like this’.)

I am grateful to Mark for being one of the very first people to take an interest in my writing. By this time I had already started blogging, but it made me feel like it was something worth doing, that it could be made to matter. I am far from the only person who felt this way. Douglas Murphy: ‘Without him and the other theory bloggers, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to even begin writing’. Evan Calder Williams: ‘Reading k-punk was formative to me, to why I wanted to write online, in hopes that other people who I didn't know would stumble onto something I wrote and feel like there was a shared world that could be understood and fought.’ Owen again: ‘Speaking to Mark made me a writer who took seriously what I did, as he did.’ Comments like these are the constant of the tributes, in long-form or social media, that have followed the news of Mark’s death, and speak not only of his influence but also of an incredibly generous mind. As Juliet Jacques noted in another lovely tribute: ‘He introduced many of us to each other, and gave us the confidence to combine the cultural, personal, and political in ways that felt thrilling and liberating.’ I can certainly say that, while I never met Mark in person, it was through Mark that I met a number of people whose friendship and comradeship I treasure.

There have been many more tributes over the past 48 hours by the people who knew Mark best and were closest to his work. Among those I’ve seen I recommend the ones by Simon Reynolds and Robin McKay. Just as naturally, people have been sharing again some of his best work. Here the choice is much harder. For me, in the post K-Punk era, it would have to be his piece on the privatisation of stress. But damn it, you could do a lot worse than getting your hands on a copy of Capitalist Realism, or just reading all of K-Punk – scroll down to the archives, locate September 2003 and go from there. I can promise you it has more clarity than most things written since.

On a minor note, I’m also very fond of Mark’s football writing. The group blog he and Sam Davies set up for the 2010 World Cup is still the most fun I've had writing on the internet.

Mark’s new book, The Weird and the Eerie has just come out from Repeater and you can find an excerpt here.