Now It’s Dark

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Now It’s Dark by Lynda E. Rucker; cover art by John Coulthart; jacket design by Meggan Kehrli; introduction by Rob Shearman; edited by Brian J. Showers and Timothy J. Jarvis; copyedited by Jim Rockhill; typeset by Steve J. Shaw; published by Swan River Press.

Hardback: Published on 27 January 2023; limited to 400 copies of which 100 were embossed and hand numbered; signed by Lynda E. Rucker, Rob Shearman, and John Coulthart; xii + 225 pages; lithographically printed on 90 gsm paper; dust jacketed; illustrated Wibalin boards; sewn binding; head- and tail-bands; ISBN: 978-1-78380-043-8.

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Dust jacket.

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Printed boards.

This is the last of the books I was working on last year, and being another design for Swan River Press means that once again the artwork is a wraparound cover with printed boards under the wrap. Now It’s Dark is a collection of horror stories (or possibly “strange stories” à la Robert Aickman), and a very fine collection it is. I was given carte blanche with this one so the cover is a mood piece rather than anything directly illustrational. One of the stories concerns the god Pan, which tempted me at first to do something with a satyr-like face, possibly as an architectural feature like a mascaron. But focusing on a single story in this way usually makes me worry about giving that story too much attention if it hasn’t also provided the title of the collection. Thinking about mascarons and their positioning above arched doorways led to the design you see here, a gesture towards a minor trend in horror illustration that makes use of the Arcimboldo effect, as with my battered Shirley Jackson paperback.

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Corgi Books, 1977. No artist credited.

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A Boy and His Dog on a Staircase in Rome (1886) by Niels Frederik Schiøttz-Jensen.

My cover is a variation on a real place, the “House of Monsters” entrance of the Palazzo Zuccari in Rome which today houses the Bibliotheca Hertziana. I placed the portal into an extended Baroque facade while moving the monstrous windows to the boards of the book. Given the way the grotteschi concept was a common feature of the Baroque you’d expect there to be more doorways like this but the palazzo street entrance seems to be unique. Equivalents such as the Ogre’s Head at Bomarzo are more like theme-park attractions than architectural features. I’ve never seen Umberto Eco mention the Palazzo Zuccari but I imagine he would have enjoyed seeing an infernal mouth as an entrance to a library.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Infernal entrances

Things Get Ugly

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Last month I said I had one more cover from 2022 to be made public, having forgotten that there was this one plus another which is currently at the printer, and which I’ll write about at a later date. Things Get Ugly follows last year’s Born For Trouble in being another Joe R. Lansdale cover for Tachyon that uses typography for the whole of the design. As with the earlier cover, this approach sidestepped having to try and summarise a collection of short stories with a single image or graphic. Adding imagery to a collection usually works best when the contents follow a specific theme, which isn’t the case here.

The stories may be described as crime but quite a few of them are dark enough to be included in horror collections. Things do, indeed, get ugly. The intersection between crime and horror fiction isn’t exactly new, the two genres have been entangled since The Murders in the Rue Morgue, and the boundaries remain permeable to this day. The most well-known piece in the new collection is Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, a story that was filmed for TV by Don Coscarelli for the Masters of Horror series, and which also opened the first season in 2005. Coscarelli’s adaptation is even nastier than its source but not everything in the collection is unrelentingly grim. Lansdale has a flair for black comedy which is to the fore in another story, Driving to Geromino’s Grave, in which two Depression-era children have to bring home the rotting body of their deceased uncle. This may not be everybody’s idea of an amusing read but the witty dialogue made me laugh. As well as the cover I’ve designed the interior of this one so I may post samples at a later date.

Things Get Ugly will be published in August. The book can be pre-ordered here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Born for Trouble
Of Mice and Minestrone

Weekend links 657

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• Cover art for a new album by John Foxx which will be released on CD in March. This catches my attention for being based on Walter Benjamin’s compendious collection of esoterica, with the music being solo piano pieces. If the latter are anything like the albums Foxx recorded 20 years ago with Harold Budd then this is all very promising. Is the cover design by Jonathan Barnbrook? The typography and formal treatment of the photo suggest as much.

• “The new game was not providing access to everything but finding out how many expensively licensed properties you could cull from your service before people started to question how much they were paying a month.” Sam Thielman on the sudden unavailability of hundreds of classic Warner Brothers cartoons. Regarding his comment about the unplayability of Internet Archive videos: you download them and put them on a USB drive.

Frost Flowers on the Windows (1899) is a book that documents “the extraordinary power of windowpane frost to take ‘ice photographs’, images capable of expressing the ‘vital qualities’ of life forms close to the glass,” according to its author, Albert Alberg.

• New music: ev THe norTH, “a sound journey through the winter of the far north” by Lorenz Weber. (The encoding of the album title won’t display properly on this page.)

• RIP Yukihiro Takahashi, singer, songwriter and drummer with the fabulous Yellow Magic Orchestra. The space-disco video for YMO’s Rydeen never gets old.

• “I want an indescribable feeling”: composer Kali Malone on her search for the sublime.

• Old music: Roundtrip by Don Cherry & Jean Schwarz, a live performance in Paris, 1977.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Glass artist Genki Sudo crafts tentacle earbuds.

• At Unquiet Things: The Incandescent Otherworlds of Gervasio Gallardo.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Acid Westerns Day.

Arcade (1987) by Chris & Cosey | The White Arcades (1988) by Harold Budd | Arcade (2018) by Philip Jeck

Weekend links 654

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Drawing for a New Year’s Card (c. 1900) by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

• “Almanacs appealed to the perennial lust for wonder and weirdness in the world. They were the fantastic literature of the day.” Mark Valentine on English Almanacs 1500–1800. Reading this had me wondering whether Old Moore’s Almanac is still being published. Yes, it is.

• “Meet the designer of the fanciful subway entrances to the Paris Métro.” Susannah Gardiner on the architecture, design and anarchist philosophy of Hector Guimard.

• “Apocalypse is not alien to HR Giger,” says Steven Heller, reviewing Atomkinder, a book of the artist’s early cartoons for which he also provided an introduction.

• “Nabokov loved film, hopelessly.” Luke Parker on a short poem, The Cinema (1928), from Vladimir Nabokov’s Berlin years.

• From Loki to Behemoth: waves of the English coastline photographed by Rachael Talibart.

• Mix of the week: Winter Solstice 4: “In C” by ambientblog.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Grace Zabriskie Day.

Atom Sounds (1978) by Jackie Mittoo | Atom Blaster (1985) by Vangelis | Atomic Buddha (1998) by Techno Animal

The Dillons at Caedmon

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L. Frank Baum: Queen Zixi Of Ix (Or The Story Of The Magic Cloak) Read By Ray Bolger (1977).

There’s a lot you could write about illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon. They were very prolific for a start, creating many book covers and interior illustrations in a variety of styles and different media. They also maintained a long-running association with Harlan Ellison whose praise for the pair was never less than fulsome. Like Bob Pepper and other versatile illustrators, they created art for album covers as well as books, with regular commissions from Caedmon Records, a label that specialises in spoken-word recordings.

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Walt Whitman’s Leaves Of Grass Read By Ed Begley (1959).

During the time the Dillons were working for Caedmon most of the label’s releases were on vinyl, a format that tended to restrict the readings to poetry, short stories or extracts from novels and plays. The format was limited for writers and listeners but beneficial for book illustrators, giving them a larger canvas to work on. These examples are a small selection of the Dillons’ output, more of which may be seen at Discogs. Not everything on Caedmon looked this good. I used to own the David McCallum reading of The Dunwich Horror, an album whose cover art was so amateurish it might have been drawn by Wilbur Whateley himself. The Dillons’ cover for The Rats in the Walls is much better, with a gnawing figure that resembles the woodcut-style illustrations the pair created for Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthologies. I’ve never read anything about the Dillons’ techniques so can’t say whether their woodcut style was a product of actual wood engraving rather than linocut, a more convenient medium. I’d guess the latter since the end results look pretty much the same, but if anyone knows the answer then please leave a comment.

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The Stories Of Kafka Read By Lotte Lenya (1962).

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Great Scenes From Shakespeare’s Macbeth: Anthony Quayle, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Stanley Holloway (1962).

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Great Scenes From Shakespeare’s Antony And Cleopatra: Pamela Brown And Anthony Quayle (1963).

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