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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders

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Behold: another book cover. This is a design I was working on in October, the contents of which haven’t been disclosed yet but the cover has been made public so I can post it here. BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders is an anthology of short fiction with a Wunderkammer brief similar to that of The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, the collection that I illustrated in 2011 for Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. There’s an antique slant to both the books so I’ve reflected this in the graphics which are mostly from 19th-century sources. I was supposed to do the cover for the VanderMeers’ collection but HarperCollins went with their own designer; this was disappointing for the editors as well as myself so the latest cover makes up for that. Doug Murano is editing the new volume for Crystal Lake Publishing, one of five companies listed recently at Dirge Magazine as notable publishers of transgressive horror (and another of Doug Murano’s collections is their “must read”). BEHOLD! is slated for publication in early 2017 so watch this space.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Cabinet of Curiosities
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
The specimens of Alex CF
Walmor Corrêa’s Memento Mori
The art of Ron Pippin
Custom creatures
Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films
Cryptozoology
The Bowes Swan
The Museum of Fantastic Specimens

 


Weekend links 337

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A Post-traumatic History Lesson (2009) by David Avery.

• Last week it was the teaser, this week it’s the full thing: When a New Trick Comes Out, I do an Old One / Exit Pantomime Control by Moon Wiring Club, 29-minutes of woozy and degraded psychedelic VHS weirdness.

• Over the summer I watched 32 Robert Altman films. When faced with such a diverse and unpredictable filmography it helps to have a guide; Geoff Andrew suggests where to begin.

• Some tools in the ongoing war against the Agents of the Control Virus: The Best Anonymous VPN Services of 2016.

Sky Blue Press bills Auletris as a work that “breaks many taboos.” Fans of [Anaïs] Nin know that she has covered plenty of salacious territory before: tubercular nymphomaniacs, exhibitionists, voyeurs, orgies, gender bending, bondage, bestiality, incest, hermaphroditism, etc. Nin was a pioneer of women’s sex writing in English, and all contemporary erotica authors are indebted to her, whether they realize it or not. In the 1940s, she wrote risqué stories for an anonymous private collector at the rate of a dollar a page. Despite how Nin downplayed her bespoke smut as “literary prostitution,” compared to other explicit writing of her time in English, hers was revolutionary. The two steamy volumes, Delta of Venus and Little Birds, were not published for the public until the ’70s, just after her death, but they were best sellers and set a new standard for erotica.

Laura Frost reviewing Auletris, a book of rare fiction by Anaïs Nin

HP Lovecraft’s Fungi From Yuggoth and Other Poems, a new collection of readings by William E. Hart.

The Harlan Ellison® Books Preservation Project is on the brink of achieving its Kickstarter target.

The Haunted Ceiling, a neglected ghost story by HG Wells, is being published for the first time.

• A Quietus Hour Radio Special: Shirley Collins on her favourite songs.

Kellie Woodson recommends “5 transgressive horror publishers”.

Alice in Wonderland‘s engravings—a forgotten story in pictures.

• “Alan Moore’s Jerusalem is a moveable feast,” says Alan Wall.

Musiceureka: “collecting vinyl in a special way”.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Terrarium makers.

• RIP Pauline Oliveros.

Bye Bye Butterfly (1965) by Pauline Oliveros | Lear (1989) by Pauline Oliveros / Stuart Dempster / Panaiotis | Silence Echoes (1997) by Pauline Oliveros & Randy Raine-Reusch

 


Things

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Art by Drew Struzan.

One of my current commissions is a piece of art for a book based on John Carpenter’s The Thing, due to be published next year. This was a request I agreed to immediately, having been astonished by the film when it appeared in 1982 (I saw it three times), and having rated it ever since as Carpenter’s best and also one of my all-time favourite horror films. I haven’t started on the planned piece just yet but the commission encouraged me to upgrade my DVD copy of the film to the Blu-ray version, and to also read for the first time John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? (1938), the short story that was the origin of Carpenter’s film and also the 1951 adaptation directed by Christian Nyby. Reading the story set me hunting around for other interpretations of Campbell’s alien.

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UK poster. Art by Les Edwards.

The story was instructive in several ways, the first being how closely Bill Lancaster’s script for the Carpenter film follows the story’s outline. The paperback collection I was reading has an introduction by James Blish which complains about the Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby production turning the polymorphous alien into another clone of Frankenstein’s monster. That’s true but the Nyby film still scared me to death when I first saw it aged 11 or so, and it has its merits. Lancaster not only stayed closer to the original shape-shifting premise but also kept many of the character names, plus details such as the blood test and the Thing’s attempt at the end to build a machine to escape from the encampment. The unforgettable opening, however, with the lone helicopter pursuing the dog, is all Lancaster’s.

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Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1938; artist unknown. “Don A. Stuart” was a pseudonym for John W. Campbell, at that time the newly appointed editor of Astounding. Campbell’s editorship changed the name of the magazine from Astounding Stories to Astounding Science-Fiction.

It was face up there on the plain, greasy planks of the table. The broken haft of the bronze ice-axe was still buried in the queer skull. Three mad, hate-filled eyes blazed up with a living fire, bright as fresh-spilled blood, from a face ringed with a writhing, loathsome nest of worms, blue, mobile worms that crawled where hair should grow—

Campbell’s description of the ice-bound alien is better than some of his writing elsewhere. I’m used to tempering my judgement when visiting stories written for the pulps but Campbell’s writing is really awful, and a reminder of why I never got very far with the early SF writers. Weird Tales magazine had its share of ham-fisted journeymen (and women) but Campbell’s contemporaries such as Clark Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft read like the most finessed and mandarin prose stylists in comparison. But The Thing isn’t the first great film to be based on a poor-quality story so we can at least thank Campbell for his scenario, although how much of it was his own has never been clear. The idea of ancient aliens in Antarctica (some of which are amorphous shape-shifters) had already been explored by HP Lovecraft in At the Mountains of Madness; Lovecraft’s story was published in 1936 by Astounding Stories, the same magazine that published Who Goes There? two years later. This lineage, and the possible influence, makes The Thing one of the foremost Lovecraftian films even without all of its tentacled abominations.

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Art by Hannes Bok.

The story provided the title of Campbell’s debut collection of short fiction in 1948. I’ve known the Hannes Bok cover art for many years but hadn’t realised until recently that the three-eyed monster on the front was a Bokian rendering of Campbell’s alien. The figure on the back is presumably a human/husky hybrid, while I’d guess the robot relates to one of the author’s other stories.

Read the rest of this entry »

 


Weekend links 336

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Visit in Night (1951) by Toshiko Okanoue.

• Rhythms of the World: Bombay and All That Jazz; a 60-minute BBC documentary featuring Trilok Gurtu, L. Shankar, Don Cherry, Alice Coltrane, Zakir Hussain and others. The quality of the full-length copy is a little rough so it’s worth noting the six-part version here.

Adam Scovell talks to Leah Moore and John Reppion about adapting the ghost stories of MR James for the comics medium. Related: The Corner of Some Foreign Field, a short piece of folk horror written by Martin Hayes with art by Alfie Gallagher.

Callum James on the overtly gay nature of Films and Filming magazine (1959–1990). Having seen a few copies over the years I’d always suspected this but didn’t realise it was so persistent. Related: The Boy and the Wolf by Callum James.

• At Dangerous Minds: Lucifer Rising live in concert: Bobby Beausoleil and the Freedom Orchestra perform their Kenneth Anger soundtrack, 1978.

Simon Says: A rare cassette tape of instructions by Peter Levenda for using the Simon Necronomicon (1977) as a grimoire.

• Mixes of the week: Fact Mix 577 by Outer Space, and Incantations and Manifestations by Melmoth_The_Wanderer.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: _Black_Acrylic presents … Art Sex Music: A Cosey Fanni Tutti Day.

• Up from the Abyss: Brenda SG Walter on Rammstein, Lovecraft and Sea Zombies.

• Cinematic Alchemy: Christopher Gibbs on designing sets for Performance (1970).

• Magic carpets: the art of Faig Ahmed‘s melted and pixellated rugs.

• Drips, pop and Dollars: the music that made Ennio Morricone.

• At Bibliothèque Gay: Cocteau et quelques autres.

• “Sleepers Awake!” says Moon Wiring Club.

Can your city change your mind?

The Paul Laffoley Archive

The Ambivalent Abyss (2001) by Lustmord | Byss And Abyss (2004) by Espers | Dark Bullet From The Abyss (2010) by Pleq

 


Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

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Here at last is the small hardback book I spent most of February and March working on. Pirate Utopia is published this week, and I’m pleased that it’s been very well received, with reviews drawing attention to the illustration and design as well as the text. This is a dieselpunk alternate history which begins in 1920:

WHO are these bold revolutionaries pillaging their confused European neighbours? The Futurists! Utopian outlaws of Italy’s tiny Regency of Carnaro, unlikely scourge of the Adriatic Sea!

It is the end of the Great War, and yet there is unrest in newly formed Carnaro. Carnaro is utterly in thrall to all things new, no matter how impractical or improbable. Futurism unites artists, pirates, propagandists, veterans, scientists, and libertines alike; military innovation and unabashed gratification rule the day. No one will rest until they crush Europe’s communists, capitalists, fascists, and bewildered coastal townsfolk.

But some have theorized that the Soldier-Citizens of Carnaro are not completely sane. At the dawn of mutiny, they are led by on ever-changing, passionate coterie, which may include:

* Lorenzo Secondari, the infamous Pirate Engineer, leader of ferocious Croatian raiders (and theatre enthusiasts)
* Blanka Piffer, staunch patriot and smartly clad Syndicalist manager of a torpedo factory staffed exclusively by women
* The Prophet, charismatic warrior-poet ruthless dictator, and very active proponent of free love
* The Ace of Hearts, dashing aristocrat spy, yogi, drug pusher, and combat pilot
* The Art Witch, the compelling Milanese millionairesse in the inner circle and mysterious, avid occultist

Two infamous Americans have arrived in Carnaro offering a Faustian bargain. Will HP Lovecraft and Houdini betray their own nation, and lead the Futurists to international glory?

No need to emphasis the pertinence of a story of global political turmoil appearing at this point in time. Back in March the traumas of Brexit and the US election were mere possibilities rather than the unavoidable facts they are today. Pirate Utopia doesn’t necessarily reflect the present moment but some of the resonances are, shall we say, suggestive. Bruce Sterling, as noted earlier, is a futurist (as distinct from a Futurist), and had this to say recently about the current state of affairs.

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The chapter spreads and other interior graphics run variations of the works of Fortunato Depero and others. Depero was an ideal choice not only because his work tends to the cartoonish—this is a humorous book about serious matters—but much of it is bold and monochromatic, ideal for deployment as black-and-white graphics. Ordinarily I’d write a little more about the art influences, but since I already did so inside the book itself it seems better to encourage those who want to know more to buy a copy. You can, however, see a few more of the page layouts here. A book about Interesting Times for Interesting Times. Join the Futurist Revolution!

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Futurismo!

 


 


 

Nightmares Calendar 2017

    Nightmares calendar

 


 

Lovecraftiana Calendar 2017

    Lovecraftiana calendar

 


 

Coulthart Books

    The Haunter of the Dark
    Reverbstorm

 


 

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