Weekend links 564

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Fantastical Tree (c. 1830) by Carl Wilhelm Kolbe.

• “It’s just a square and a semi-circle at the end of the day.” Pete Adlington navigates the rapids of high-profile cover design for the UK edition of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and The Sun. I’m not always keen on the minimal approach but the Faber edition is a better design than the equally minimal US cover whose circle in a hand makes it look like a reprint of Logan’s Run. Faber also produced a limited edition with the sun circle wrapped onto sprayed page edges.

• “‘With a mysterious smile on her lips,’ writes the Chilean film director Alejandro Jodorowsky, ‘the painter whispered to me, “What you just dictated to me is the secret. As each Arcana is a mirror and not a truth in itself, become what you see in it. That tarot is a chameleon.”‘” The painter referred to is the now-ubiquitous Leonora Carrington whose own Tarot deck is investigated by Rhian Sasseen.

• “‘Horror is an emotion,’ Douglas E. Winter tells us. I would respectfully like to amend that assertion. Horror is a range of emotions. And each of these moods, if they are to be successful, must be cultivated differently.” Brian J. Showers offers his thoughts on horror fiction.

• “You move from awareness of—and preoccupation with—how sounds affect our bodies, into how that might create a web of connection with the external world—with the natural world.” Annea Lockwood talking to Jennifer Lucy Allan about her career as a composer and sound artist.

• Gay cruising and its geography in cinema and documentary, a list of films by Mike Kennedy. Related: Shiv Kotecha on O Fantasma (2000), a film by João Pedro Rodrigues.

• Coming from Strange Attractor in June: Coil: Camera Light Oblivion, a photographic record by Ruth Beyer of the first live performances by Coil from 2000–2002.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on The Star Called Wormwood (1941), a strange novel by Morchard Bishop.

• At Unquiet Things: Ephemeral and Irresistible: The Spectacular Still-life Botanical Drama of Gatya Kelly.

• “Fevers of Curiosity”: Charles Baudelaire and the convalescent flâneur by Matthew Beaumont.

• 1066 and all that: Explore the Bayeux Tapestry online.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 311 by Arigto.

• New music: Terrain by Portico Quartet.

Fever (1956) by Little Willie John | Fever (1972) by Junior Byles | Fever (1980) The Cramps

Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore

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“History is a heat,” says Alan Moore at the end of his first novel, Voice of the Fire, when the author takes centre stage to add his own voice to those of his characters. History is a heat, and fire is its agent, the element that provides a connecting thread between the twelve people whose voices comprise the text of the book. Late last year I was asked to design a new cover for Voice of the Fire which will be published by Knockabout in a 25th anniversary edition later this year. I’d read the book when it was first published, and even saw Alan read some of the opening chapter in 1993 at an event at the Arts Theatre Club in Soho. That event, which took place on November 5th, was titled “Treason and Plot”, and the pages from the work-in-progress novel had been collected from the offices of Gollancz after Alan left the unfinished manuscript of Yuggoth Cultures—which he was supposed to be reading from that evening—in the back of a cab. I was in London that day to talk to Alan about illustrating Yuggoth Cultures, so to find myself illustrating Voice of the Fire many years later feels a little like being caught by one of the acausal connecting threads that he weaves through his novel.

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The first edition: design by Gary Day-Ellison, illustration by Robert Mason. The photo on the left shows Thomas Tresham’s Triangular Lodge, a folly outside Northampton encoded with references to the Holy Trinity via a profusion of triangles and tripartite details. Tresham’s Lodge is described in the Gunpowder Plot chapter of Alan’s novel; the triangles on my cover may be taken as a reference to this.

November is the dominant month in Voice of the Fire, and the ritual fires of November 5th are one of many recurrent motifs. The novel’s twelve characters live in Alan’s home town of Northampton at different periods of history, from 4000 BC to 1995, a span of time that charts the town’s foundation and growth, taking in the Viking invasions, the Roman occupation, the Crusades, the treason and plot of Guy Fawkes and his conspirators, witch trials, the poet John Clare, and Alan himself. A lot of history and a wealth of incident to try and symbolise in a cover design. Author and publisher both liked the stylised outline of a horned head that Robert Mason painted on the cover of the first edition, a reference to the opening chapter of the novel in which a Neolithic shaman performs a ritual that marks the land as the site of the future town. I liked the original cover but felt it made the novel seem too much like something by Henry Treece or Alan Garner, with no indication of more recent history. A stained-glass window seemed like a good solution to the problem of how to bring together so many disparate elements into a single design. Stained-glass windows are often things from the distant past still visible in the present day, and they have the additional convenience of being a single container for many small pictorial details.

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It’s Bonfire Night on the back cover.

My design doesn’t attempt to illustrate all the characters or events from the novel but shows the more salient moments together with smaller details, some of which (the noose, for example) appear in multiple chapters. The horned shaman is at the centre of the design which radiates out from his ritual fire. I avoided making the window design too much like a church window; the book contains many references to churches and Christian history but there’s also a strong pagan element in many of the chapters. Magic, in the occult sense, is a recurrent thread, and Alan’s favourite Elizabethan magus, Dr. John Dee, is present (albeit offstage) in the Angel Language chapter. To acknowledge this I placed an inscription in Enochian—Dee’s “Angel Language”—underneath the title. There’s more magic in the font used for the title and author’s name, Albertus, which was named after Albertus Magnus, a philosopher and theologian often described as an alchemist. The main reason to use Albertus is for its timeless styling and its readability, an important quality for such a busy cover design; the font is a common one on London street signs.

The creature with the floppy ears in the lower centre is another recurrent motif, the sinister “shagfoal”, or Black Dog, whose presence is a sign of the darker energies that seem to thrive in that part of the world. Black Dogs appear in folklore all over Britain but there are few pictorial examples to be found in old texts. I based my hound on the “Straunge and terrible Wunder” depicted in 1577 on the title page of Abraham Fleming’s account of the Black Dog of Bungay. Other details are more obvious for those who read the novel so I won’t spell out everything here. If you haven’t read it then I’d urge you to do so, it’s one of Alan Moore’s major works, and a book I’m hoping might receive more attention than it did in 1996 when Gollancz only saw fit to publish it in paperback. Voice of the Fire will be published by Knockabout in May in paperback and a limited edition hardback which will include a card signed by the author. Top Shelf will be doing something similar for the US but I don’t think they’ve announced any dates or other details as yet. Anyone looking for further information is advised to keep an eye on the Knockabout news page or the publisher’s social media accounts.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Blake Video
The Cardinal and the Corpse
Mapping the Boroughs
Tresham’s Trinities
The Triangular Lodge again
Art is magic. Magic is art.
Alan Moore: Storyteller
Alan Moore: Tisser l’invisible
Dodgem Logic #4
The Triangular Lodge

Weekend links 559

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Cover art by Toshiyuki Fukuda for the Japanese edition of the new novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

• “The story here is how between 1978 and 1982, this impulse shed its novelty genesis and its spoils were divvied up between gay producers making high-energy soundtracks for carnal abandon, and quiet Hawkwind fans smoking spliffs in Midlands bedrooms.…this excellent compilation offers fresh understandings of a period in sonic history where the future was up for grabs.” Fergal Kinney reviews Do You Have the Force? Jon Savage’s Alternate History of Electronic Music, 1978–82.

DJ Food continues his history of mini CDs with Oranges And Lemons, the 1989 album by XTC which was released in the usual formats together with a limited edition of three small discs in a flip-top box. The cover art by Dave Dragon is a good example of the resurrected groovy look.

• “If Austin Osman Spare, William Burroughs, Mary Butts and Kathy Acker got together for a séance, the transcript could well look like this.”

• How Leonora Carrington used Tarot to reach self-enlightenment: Gabriel Weisz Carrington on his mother’s quest for mythic revelations.

• Mixes of the week: Sounds Unsaid at Dublab with Tarotplane, and To Die & Live In San Veneficio by SeraphicManta.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: 5strings presents…Solve et Coagula: An introduction to Israel Regardie.

• The Joy of Silhouettes: Vyki Hendy chooses favourite shadow-throwing cover designs.

Emily Mortimer on how Lolita escaped obscenity laws and cancel culture.

Freddie deBoer has moved his writing to Substack.

• New music: Wirkung by Arovane.

• Children Of The Sun (1969) by The Misunderstood | Children Of The Sun (1971) by Hawkwind | Children Of The Sun (2010) by The Time And Space Machine

Typographische Jahrbücher, 1902

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My work this week is more Deco than Nouveau but I enjoy looking at Art Nouveau graphics even when I don’t have any immediate use for them. Typographische Jahrbücher was a German publication for typographers and printers whose pages are filled with samples of the latest type styles and print decorations, together with many adverts that use the same graphics. The examples here are from issues for the year 1902 when Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil as it was in Germany and Austria) had reached its peak as the predominant European style. This is the kind of book I love to see, one with a wide variety of borders, letterforms and motifs for print use alone, not designs for textiles or other crafts. Of note are the pages below promoting a pair of recent typefaces, Eckmann and Siegfried. Both designs soon fell out of fashion but returned to prominence in the 1960s among the typefaces of the occult revival. It’s a shame the quality of this book isn’t better—it’s another poor Google scan—but I’m happy to find it. 750 pages; dig in here.

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Continue reading “Typographische Jahrbücher, 1902”

Weekend links 556

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Captain Edward St. Miquel Tilden Bradshaw and his Crew Come to Grips with Bloodthirsty Foe Pirates by S. Clay Wilson, Zap Comix no. 3, 1968.

• RIP S. Clay Wilson, the wild man of American comics. The scene of mayhem above is typical in being barely coherent at a small size; click for a larger view. Patrick Rosenkranz at The Comics Journal describes Wilson as “the most influential artist of his generation…creating an extensive body of work that will defy authority and offend propriety until the end of days”. When Moebius was writing in the 1980s about the founding of Métal Hurlant he had this to say about the American undergrounds: “They were the first in the world to use comics as a means of communication, to express real emotions. Before, comics were used only to do stories, entertainment. They had some great moments but they were all very conventional. The American Underground showed us in Europe how to express true feelings, how to tell something to the reader through the comics. They blew the minds of the few professionals in Europe who saw them.” Also at TCJ, the S. Clay Wilson Interview. Wilson sent me a postcard once. I wish I knew what the hell I’d done with it.

• Michael Hoenig, synthesist for Agitation Free and (briefly) Tangerine Dream, plays one of the pieces from his debut album of electronic music, Departure From The Northern Wasteland, on a radio show in 1977. Hoenig’s album is long overdue a remastering and re-release.

• “My job, which the BBC has tasked me to do, is to provoke people and ask them, ‘Have you thought about looking at the world this way?'” Adam Curtis talks to Michael J. Brooks about his new TV series, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

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{ feuilleton } celebrates its 15th birthday today. Monsieur Chat, the mascot of this place, is happy about that but then Monsieur Chat is happy about most things.

• At Greydogtales: Opening The Book of Carnacki. A call for contributions to a collection of new stories about William Hope Hodgson’s occult detective. I’d be tempted if I didn’t already have more than enough to keep me occupied.

• “I’m being asked to talk about it a great deal at the moment, with the pandemic.” Roger Corman and Jane Asher on filming The Masque of the Red Death.

• New music: Cygnus Sutra by Mike Shannon, “a soundtrack to a fantasy/sci-fi epic not yet written”.

• A trailer for The Witch of King’s Cross, a documentary about occult artist Rosaleen Norton.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Hans Bellmer & Paul Eluard The Games of the Doll (1949).

• RIP also this week to Rowena Morrill, fantasy artist, and to Chick Corea.

• “Computers will never write good novels,” says Angus Fletcher.

• DJ Food on Zodiac posters by Funky Features, 1967.

• Mix of the week: Fact Mix 794 by Lutto Lento.

Annie Nightingale’s favourite music.

Zodiac (1984) by Boogie Boys | From The Zodiacal Light (2014) by Earth | Zodiac Black (2017) by Goldfrapp