Shapeshifters

arvin.jpg

Time for another work update. These are three covers for fantasy novels from LGBT imprints due for release in the next week or so. The brief for Eric Arvin’s cover was walking house plus some kind of fairground (or carnival) decoration. I found a nice trove of fairground art at Sheffield University but the picture was working so well I didn’t want to clutter it with extraneous detail. Wave Goodbye to Charlie is published by Wilde City Press.

hale1.jpg

And speaking of extraneous detail… Ginn Hale’s books continue a series featuring swashbuckling, shapeshifting characters, witches and the like. (There’s also a witch in Eric Arvin’s novel but she drives a Buick.) I spent a great deal of time collaging bits of gargoyles and statuary from A. Raguenet’s six-volume Materials and Documents of Architecture and Sculpture (1915) into two elaborate arch designs…then covered them over. This is a bad habit but at least everything ended up in the finished artwork. My other bad habit is spending ages creating something only to place it into the composition and find it doesn’t work at all… Ginn Hale’s novels are published by Blind Eye Books.

hale2.jpg

The Bowmen by Arthur Machen

bowmen.jpg

The Bowmen was a short piece of fiction by Arthur Machen published in a London newspaper, The Evening News, on the 29th September, 1914. By Machen’s standards it’s not one of his best pieces, written at a time when he was working at the paper as a journalist. The First World War was in its early days, and the story was conceived as a Kipling-like morale-boost following the retreat of British forces at Mons a few weeks before. The stories for which Machen is remembered today had never provided the success he hoped for so it must have been a surprise when his invention of angelic bowmen appearing during the battle gained him national attention:

On the last Sunday in August, 1914, Machen read in his morning paper of the retreat from Mons.

“I no longer recollect the details, but I have not forgotten the impression that was then made on my mind. I seemed to see a furnace of torment and death and agony and terror seven times heated, and in the midst of the burning was the British army: in the midst of the flame, consumed by it, scattered like ashes and yet triumphant, martyred and for ever glorious.”

That was the way, indeed, in which the English thought about the army at the beginning of the Great War; since then we have come to take a less romantic view of warfare. With this picture in his mind, Machen conceived and wrote a story called The Bowmen, told, as most stories are, as if it were true—that is, he did not begin by saying: “what you are about to read is all my own invention”—in which St. George with an army of English mediaeval bowmen appeared at the critical moment to cover the British retreat. Not, to be sure, a very probable story nor, as Oswald Barron pointed out, was it likely that the Agincourt bowmen, most of whom came from Wales, would use the French expressions Machen evokes from them: and Machen himself felt he had not done justice to his original conception.

“But if I had failed in the art of letters, I had succeeded, unwittingly, in the art of deceit.”

The Bowmen appeared in The Evening News on September 29th, 1914, at a moment when people were looking for a miracle, and many promptly embraced it as an account of one. That such journals as The Occult Review and Light should fasten on it, might have been anticipated; but it was taken up by parish magazines all over the country, and people came forward on every side to say that they had friends and relatives who had seen the “Angels of Mons” with their own eyes. As a result, Machen became, for the first time in his life, a man of nation-wide fame. To thousands of people, the idea, whether true or false, gave consolation or hope, but when Machen protested that his story was entirely the child of his own imagination, the fame threatened to turn to notoriety; he was rebuked for his impudence at claiming originality for the tale. Nevertheless a legend had been born and a shoal of publications appeared to satisfy public demand—On the Side of the Angels (Harold Begbie), Guardian Angels (GP Kerry—a sermon reprinted), Angels, Saints and Bowmen of Mons (IE Taylor, Theosophical Publishing Society).

Aidan Reynolds & William Charlton in Arthur Machen: A Short Account of His Life and Work (John Baker, 1963)

Continue reading “The Bowmen by Arthur Machen”

Weekend links 227

grim.jpg

A Follower by Jason Grim.

Haunted Futures, a multi-genre anthology from Ghostwoods Books, will feature stories by Warren Ellis, John Reppion, Liesel Schwarz, Chuck Wendig, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Blackmoore and others. It will also feature some of my illustrations but only if this this Kickstarter fund is successful.

• “…at issue here is restriction versus potential: protect a specific set of choices versus open the field to the exploration of everything.” Sam Potts offers a refutation of Robert Bringhurst’s design textbook The Elements of Typographic Style.

• “I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath.” Morgan Meis quoting David Lynch in a review of David Lynch: The Unified Field, a new exhibition of Lynch’s paintings.

But among these novels only Moravagine, first discovered for English-speaking readers by Henry Miller and a direct ancestor of Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit, has survived as an underground classic. A monstrous admixture of Lautréamont’s Maldoror, Feuillade’s Fantômas, Nietzsche’s Superman, Jack the Ripper and (according to the Cendrars scholar Jay Bochner) the deranged Jung and Freud disciple Otto Gross, Moravagine remains Cendrars’s most nihilistic and darkly comic other.

Richard Sieburth on Blaise Cendrars and his “Dada update of Dostoevsky”, coincidentally the subject of a post here earlier in the week.

• “…the duchess became enthralled with the idea of creating a garden of plants that could kill instead of heal.” Natasha Geiling on Jane Percy’s Poison Garden.

• Mix of the week: Kosmik Elektronik [part 3] by The Kosmische Club. More Kosmische musik: Agitation Free on French television in 1973.

• At Dangerous Minds: Secret Weapons (1972), 22 minutes of made-for-TV dystopian science fiction directed by David Cronenberg.

Project Praeterlimina, “a journal of daemonology, magic, and the human condition”.

The NOS Project: download Shed’s score for Murnau’s Nosferatu.

• At Lambda Literary: Toy, a poem by Evan J. Peterson.

Drew Daniel doesn’t want to play the listicle game.

Surrealism and Magic

Stuff in old books

Haunted Island (1973) by Agitation Free | Haunted Heights (1977) by Peter Baumann | Haunted Dancehall (1994) by The Sabres of Paradise

Animated Self-Portraits

portraits.jpg

Another animated anthology, this one being a brief collection of self-portraits of around 10 to 20 seconds each. Like yesterday’s short film, Animated Self-Portraits (1989) was produced by David Ehrlich who contributes a portrait of his own. I’m not enough of an aficionado to recognise all the names involved but the contingent from Czechoslovakia (as it was then) includes Jan Svankmajer and Jiri Barta. More of an entertaining piece than Academy Leader Variations even if you aren’t familiar with the animators.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Academy Leader Variations
42 One Dream Rush

Academy Leader Variations

leader.jpg

Leader is the name for a short piece of film at the beginning or end of a cinema reel. Academy leader is the name for the introductory countdown sequence that was standardised in the 1950s to show a series of numbers (from 11 to 3) marking off each foot of film; the final two feet are always black since these precede the beginning of the film itself.

Academy Leader Variations (1987) is a 6-minute animated film commissioned by ASIFA, the International Animated Film Association, in which a number of animators from different countries produce their own leader countdowns. As with any anthology, the styles are very varied, and some of the contributions are more inventive than others. You also see a couple of pieces using crude computer animation that look a lot more dated than the hand-made offerings.

Previously on { feuilleton }
42 One Dream Rush