An unseasonable bloom

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It’s a strange thing to compare the covers of Der Orchideengarten in Franz Rottensteiner’s The Fantasy Book (1978) with the facsimile of the first issue which has just been published by Zagava. For years the two covers and Rottensteiner’s laudatory description were all I knew of a magazine that nobody else seemed to write about. As with all such enigmas, this made the magazine all the more intriguing. Der Orchideengarten was short-lived, running from 1919 to 1921, and German, which no doubt did little to aid its post-war reputation. Whatever reputation it may have had was quickly eclipsed by Weird Tales and a host of other Anglophone publications some of whose creations still dominate the fantasy landscape today. One of the many services Rottensteiner’s study provided was to treat fantasy as a genre with manifestations all over the world, not only in Britain and America.

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The visibility of Der Orchideengarten began to change in 2009 when Will at the now-defunct A Journey Round My Skull, having also had his curiosity piqued by Rottensteiner’s book, acquired a few copies of the magazine. I ran some of the interior illustrations here, the sight of which was genuinely revelatory since these weird and macabre drawings had been buried for 90 years. The situation changed again late last year when the entire run of the magazine was made available at the University of Heidelberg’s remarkable online archive.

What struck me in 2009—and what continues to strike me today—is the difference in tone between the illustrations, covers included, of Der Orchideengarten with its later Anglophone counterparts, especially Weird Tales. The latter presented itself very much in the pulp tradition, and many of the illustrators of the early issues were just as happy working with adventure or detective titles as they were with fantasy or horror. The German artists are less illustrational and much more grotesque, closer at times to Expressionist painting than anything you’d find in an American magazine. I continue to wonder how fantasy as a genre might have developed if it had owed less to Britain’s ghost stories and America’s adventure idioms.

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Any speculation is easier now we have this facsimile of the first issue which (as I mentioned in a weekend post) contains a translation into English by Helen Grant of the complete contents of the magazine. This has been cleverly achieved by interleaving narrower pages of translated text with the originals so the integrity of the magazine is maintained. The facsimile is a quality production with superb printing of all the illustrations and graphics. One of the ironies of our connected world is that contemporary magazines continue to be killed off while the easier accessibility of so much culture from the past makes resurrections like this one more likely.

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Whether we see more facsimile issues will no doubt depend on the success of this first number which may be ordered here. A few more page samples follow.

Continue reading “An unseasonable bloom”

Weekend links 252

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Waiting by Liz Brizzi.

• “Music, politics, sex, and art were also widely represented by Evergreen. Gerald Ford famously maligned the magazine on the floor of Congress for printing the likeness of Richard Nixon next to a nude photo.” Jonathon Sturgeon on the return of an avant-garde institution.

• “The hallucinogenic properties of language are widely recognized by all repressive societies…which treat words like other tightly controlled substances.” Askold Melnyczuk reviews Where the Bird Sings Best, a novel by Alejandro Jodorowsky.

• Mixes of the week: A Mix For Thomas Carnacki by Jon Brooks whose Music for Thomas Carnacki has been reissued on vinyl; Solid Steel Radio Show 27/3/2015 by DJ Food.

One of the few vice-friendly cities left in the US, New Orleans remains his spiritual home, or whatever the atheist equivalent is. Waters’ supposed favourite bar in the world is here in the historic French Quarter. The Corner Pocket is a gay dive bar with tattooed strippers—filthy in exactly the way Waters likes.

“Trash and camp just don’t cut it any more,” he told a rapt audience at his interview panel on Friday. “Filth still has a punch to it. The right kind of people understand it and it frightens away the timid.”

John Waters growing older disgracefully

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti are being republished in a single edition by Penguin. Jeff VanderMeer wrote the foreword.

• “The film is brimming with Bacchanalian revelry, arcane mystery and mortal dread.” Robert Bright on The Saragossa Manuscript by Wojciech Has.

Alistair Livingston has posted page scans from When Darkness Dawns, volume two of his zine from the early 80s, The Encyclopedia of Ecstasy.

• “Without first understanding the flâneur we cannot understand the development of arcades,” says Aaron Coté.

• At A Journey Round My Skull: Jo Daemen cover designs; at 50 Watts: the art of Manuel Bujados.

• Vast spacecraft and megastructures: Jeff Love on the science-fiction art of Chris Foss.

• At Dangerous Minds: RE/Search’s Vale on JG Ballard and William Burroughs.

• RIP John Renbourn

Pentangling (1968) by Pentangle | Lyke-Wake Dirge (1969) by Pentangle | Lord Franklin (1970) by Pentangle

Weekend links 67

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Neutron Drip (2011) by Amrei Hofstätter.

The Lavender Scare is “the first feature-length documentary film to tell the story of the U.S. government’s ruthless campaign in the 1950s and ’60s to hunt down and fire every Federal employee it suspected was gay”. A film by Josh Howard based on the book by David K Johnson which the author has made a free download here.

• “Annette Peacock, the avant garde American composer, collaborator with Salvador Dalí, friend of Albert Ayler and Moog-synth pioneer, brought this seismically influential session out in 1972…” John Fordham reviews Annette Peacock’s I’m The One which can be purchased here.

• Writer and graphic design historian Steven Heller looks at The Steampunk Bible (edited by SJ Chambers & Jeff VanderMeer) in his column for The Atlantic. He also talks to Galen Smith about the book’s design.

M John Harrison reveals more about his forthcoming sf novel Pearlent, a partial sequel to Light and Nova Swing. I just re-read Light, and I’m currently In The Event Zone with the follow-up, so I’m looking forward to this one.

The Raven, a book by Lou Reed & Lorenzo Mattotti (and Edgar Allan Poe). A Journey Round My Skull previewed this in 2009.

Orson Welles’ Falstaff film, Chimes at Midnight, emerges into the light once more. When do we get a decent DVD release?

• More of the usual concerns: Iain Sinclair’s struggles with the city of London and Erik Davis talks to Alan Moore about psychogeography, John Dee, comic gods, and the art of magic.

Eddie Campbell takes a tip from Jim Steranko. Related: “Hey! A Jim Steranko effect!

Lambshead Cabinet: Win Jake von Slatt’s Mooney & Finch Somnotrope!

• Tilda Swinton is The Woman Who Fell to Earth.

XXth Century Avantgarde [sic] Books at Flickr.

Sound sculptures & installations by Zimoun.

I’m The One (1972) by Annette Peacock.

Weekend links 49

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Star City by Tomislav Ceranic.

• Noted in the blogosphere this week: A Journey Round My Skull underwent a transmutation into 50 Watts; a blog devoted to artist, designer & illustrator Jessie M King; “The arts and musicks of the supranatural” at Secret Lexicon; From the Farm, Railroads, Sewing Machines & Beyond, lengthy reminiscences from a long life in America.

Barney Bubbles in Wonderland, in which the designer and his chums indulge in some Carrollian shenanigans somewhere in the 1960s. The resulting footage is now a promo video for Balloon Race by Bear Driver.

HP Lovecraft’s favourite words, the desert island books of Jorge Luis Borges, a profile of Christopher Isherwood, and Edward Gorey again.

[Arthur] Machen explicitly talks about the strength of London, as opposed to Paris, in that London is more chaotic. Although he doesn’t put it in these words, I think what partly draws him to London is this notion that, in the absence of a kind of unifying vision, like Haussmann’s Boulevards, and in a city that’s become much more syncretic and messy over time, you have more room to insert your own aestheticizing vision.

China Miéville in a great interview at BLDGBLOG.

Matryomin is “the unique, original erectronic [sic] musical instrument invented by Masami Takeuchi in 2000”. Yes, a theremin inside a Russian doll. The Mable ensemble playing Duke Ellington’s Caravan is, well…I’m still speechless. And there’s also this.

Conductor turns the New York subway system into an interactive string instrument.

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Discordia by Tomislav Ceranic.

Amazingly enough, prostitution was legal during the Victorian period. There were tons of brothels all over the major cities of England, and of all different kinds. There were lots of flagellation brothels; these were places where primarily men would go to be whipped by women or by men. There were also gay male brothels. You could go to a park in London at night, pick up what were called the “park whores” and give them a very small amount of money to have sex openly in the park. I also write about gay “cruising,” which was quite common. If you knew the right place to go and knew the right signals, you could pick up a man on the street and have sex in an alley.

Deborah Lutz is interviewed about her book Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism.

Cult-ure: Ideas can be dangerous, a book by Rian Hughes.

Chernobyl: Europe’s strangest wildlife refuge.

The Eadweard Muybridge Online Archive.

Aubrey Beardsley at Tumblr.

Caravan (1959) by Martin Denny | Caravan (1961) by 80 Drums Around The World | Caravan (1962) by Sir Julian | Caravan (1965) by The Ventures | Caravan (1973) by Enoch Light & The Light Brigade | Caravan (1997) by Jimi Tenor (I could go on and on, yes I could…)

Weekend links 45

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That essential journal of esoteric culture, Strange Attractor, announced a fourth number this week sporting a psychedelic cover which may be the work of Julian House (no credit is given on the SA site). As to the contents:

From Haiti and Hong Kong to the fourth dimension and beyond: discover the secrets of madness in animals; voodoo soul and dub music; ancient peacock deities; Chinese poisoning cults; the history of spider silk weaving; heathen mugwort magic; sentient lightning; Jesuit conspiracy theories; junkie explorers; Dali’s Atlantis; the resurgence of Pan (in London’s Crouch End); anarchist pirates on Madagascar; an ancient Greek Rip Van Winkle; French anatomical waxworks; Arthur Machen’s forgotten tales and Alan Moore’s unpublished John Dee opera.

Further details and the means to order a copy can be found here.

• Resonance FM’s Weird Tales For Winter has returned beginning with a presentation of The Gateway of the Monster, one of the better Carnaki tales by William Hope Hodgson. The story is read by Moon Wiring Club‘s Ian Hodgson (no relation) and the musical atmospheres are provided by The Advisory Circle. I ought to have posted this news yesterday since you’ll have missed the broadcasting of the first half but the second half will go out at midnight (UK time) on Monday. Details here, and the next release on the Café Kaput label in February will be the soundtrack, Music for Thomas Carnaki (Radiophonic Themes & Abstracts).

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• The Keep Calm and Carry On Image Generator lets you work your own variations on the ubiquitous poster. It wouldn’t work for me, however, so I rolled up my sleeves and made my own. This may be good as a CafePress design, yes?

Interplay is an album by John Foxx and The Maths due to be released on March 21st. As with last year’s collection of Foxx instrumental pieces, DNA, the package design is by Jonathan Barnbrook. John Foxx first came to prominence as the lead singer in Ultravox (do I need to say “of course”? Okay…“of course”) and Ultravox’s debut album was part-produced by Brian Eno. It’s been painfully obvious recently (and it pains me to say it) that Foxx’s DNA was a far more accomplished and engaging work than Eno’s recent collection of over-hyped instrumentals. Related: Barnbrook Design’s albums of 2010.

Word Horde 2.0, “a substantial archive of manuscript material, correspondence, and books and printed matter, mostly signed” from the William Burroughs archives can be yours for $260,000. Related: William Burroughs’ Wild Boys photos. Also: Rudy Rucker on David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch.

• “Nabokov described how ‘a modern taxonomist straddling a Wellsian time machine with the purpose of exploring the Cenozoic era’ would encounter the following series of events in the evolution of these butterflies…” The Royal Society confirms that a contentious theory of Vladimir Nabokov’s concerning the descent of butterfly populations was accurate.

• The work of Gérald Bertot aka Thomas Owen, a Belgian author of weird fiction, is explored at A Journey Round My Skull.

The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles’ unfinished film from 1972, may finally be given a release.

• Jon Savage celebrates Roy Harper and his extraordinary Stormcock album.

Philip Pullman wants the Tory philistines to leave our libraries alone.

• Rick Poynor takes a dérive through the arcades of Paris.

Space music new and old.

Young Savage (1977) by Ultravox | Clicktrack (2010) by John Foxx & Jonathan Barnbrook.