Weekend links 437

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Rawmarsh Road, Rotherham, 1975 by Peter Watson.

Steel Cathedrals (1985), a composition by David Sylvian (with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kenny Wheeler, Robert Fripp & others) was originally available only on the cassette release of Sylvian’s Alchemy: An Index Of Possibilities, and a video cassette where the music accompanied views of Japanese industry by Yasuyuki Yamaguchi. The video hasn’t been reissued since but may be viewed here.

• “If, as Arthur C Clarke famously observed, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then can we accept that any sufficiently advanced magic is also indistinguishable from technology?” asks Mark Pilkington.

• “I didn’t like the idea of cartoons as just funny jokes, they had to have some relevant piece of observation in them to do with the society we are living in,” says Ralph Steadman.

I listen to music all the time, and I’ll often seek connections across quite disparate genres of that whatever I’m looking for. Sometimes it’s an aesthetic or a feeling, sometimes a pattern or structure, but it tends to cut across genres. The thing I liked about black metal and doom metal is the slowness and weightiness of it, it’s like deep time but in music. Sunn O))), Xasthur, and other bands captured this black gravity of sound. And they also tend to eschew the traditional vocal-lead guitar set-up, and everything is in the slow-moving wash and texture of sound.

I found that in other genres like noise music (especially Keiji Haino), the European avant-garde with composers like Ligeti, Scelsi, and Dumitrescu, dark ambient artists such as Lustmord or vidnaObmana, and contemporary works like Chihei Hatakeyama’s Too Much Sadness, Rafael Anton Irisarri’s A Fragile Geography, or Christina Vantzou’s No.4. There’s a lot to talk about in terms of music and forms of sorrow or grief, certainly every musical tradition has that—the funeral dirge, requiem, lamentation, or whatever.

Eugene Thacker listing a few favourite musicians and composers during a discussion with Michael Brooks about Thacker’s new book, Infinite Resignation

• The fourth edition of Wyrd Daze—”The multimedia zine of speculative fiction + extra-ordinary music, art & writing”—is out now.

• The Library of Congress has opened its National Screening Room, an online service for viewing films in the library’s collection.

The London Library discovered some of the books that Bram Stoker used for research when he was writing Dracula.

• “Oscar Wilde’s stock has never been higher,” says John Mullan, reviewing Oscar: A Life by Matthew Sturgis.

• Mixes of the week: RA Podcast 648 by Sarah Davachi, and Secret Thirteen Mix 269 by Sstrom.

• David Lynch directs a video for A Real Indication by Thought Gang.

• “Edward Gorey lived at the ballet,” says his biographer, Mark Dery.

• A new version of Blue Velvet Blues by Acid Mothers Temple.

• Photos of cooling-tower interiors by Reginald Van de Velde.

Aaron Worth on Arthur Machen: “the HG Wells of horror”.

• The Strange World of…Barry Adamson.

Glass And Steel No. 1 (1983) by Marc Barreca | Death Is The Beginning (1996) by Steel | Painless Steel (2000) by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore

The edge of coherence: On the Silver Globe

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Science-fiction cinema has always suffered in comparison to its written counterparts; sets and special effects have to work hard to create believable worlds or futures, while the need to recoup enormous costs has often meant that film scenarios aren’t much better than those being written in the early days of the pulp magazines. Simplistic adventure stories yield bigger audiences and greater revenues. Computer technology has helped the effects problem but production expenses ensure that inventive or unusual SF films are scarce and invariably low-budget works. Anything too ambitious or challenging is unlikely to be funded.

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On the Silver Globe is an unfinished science-fiction film by Andrzej Zulawski that even in its incomplete state is that very rare thing: a film with a fantastic premise that doesn’t appear to have been staged for an audience at all. The film is long—over two-and-a-half hours—and much of it so disregards the conventions of commercial cinema that the immediate reaction is amazement that it exists in any form. Zulawski has a cult reputation outside his native Poland for Possession (1981), a unique horror film made when he was living in exile in Paris. On the Silver Globe was one of the reasons for his leaving the country; after two years of work in several countries, and with the film almost finished, the production was shut down in 1977 by a new vice-minister of cultural affairs who perceived a metaphoric subtext directed against the Polish authorities. The existing footage was supposed to have been destroyed but Zulawski and his production team hid the film and costumes hoping one day to shoot the missing scenes. After ten years of waiting it was decided to present the film as it was with the missing scenes filled by shots of Polish streets and countryside. A voiceover by the director describes the missing content.

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Weekend links 225

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Still from The Shaman-Girl’s Prayer (1997), a video piece by Mariko Mori. This page has pictures of Mori’s futuristic/cosmic performances, films & environments.

Time Out of Mind (1979) was a BBC TV series about science fiction writers, five short films concentrating on Arthur C. Clarke, John Brunner, Michael Moorcock, Anne McCaffrey and an sf convention. I was only interested in the Moorcock film at the time, not least because it featured a short clip of Hawkwind playing Silver Machine, and inserted scenes from the film of The Final Programme (1973) between the interviews. The Moorcock episode is less about his books than about New Worlds magazine and the so-called New Wave of sf in general, so you also see rare footage of M. John Harrison in a Barney Bubbles “Blockhead” T-shirt talking then ascending a limestone cliff, and bits of interviews with Brian Aldiss and Thomas Disch. Ballard isn’t interviewed but is present via a scene from the Harley Cokeliss film Crash! (1971) in which Gabrielle Drake slides in and out of a car while someone reads Elements of an Orgasm from The Atrocity Exhibition.

• “…there happened to be a book on Ritual Magick that talked about John Dee and summonings and Dr. Faust and all that kind of stuff. So then obviously at that age, too, I read HP Lovecraft and then Michael Moorcock and what they call fantasy literature. Through HP Lovecraft I discovered Arthur Machen, and I think that sort of percolated down inside…” Dylan Carlson of Earth talking to Steel for Brains. The Wire has the vinyl-only track from the new Earth album, Primitive And Deadly, and a track from Carlson’s solo album, Gold. Related: Artwork by Samantha Muljat, designer/photographer for the new Earth album.

Phantasmaphile has details of the next two issues of deluxe occult magazine Abraxas. Issue 6 includes a major feature on Leonora Carrington while Luminous Screen is a special issue devoted to occult cinema.

• More Broadcast: Video of a performance at Teatro Comunale di Carpi, March 2010 (part 2 here), and “constellators and artifacts” at A Year In The Country.

• “Petition demands return of ‘Penis Satan’ statue to Vancouver.” There’s an uncensored photo of the contentious statue here.

• Literary Alchemy and Graphic Design: Adrian Shaughnessy on James Joyce’s writings among graphic designers.

• Frank Pizzoli talks to John Rechy about “the gay sensibility”, melding truth and fiction, and his literary legacy.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 127 by Roberto Crippa, and FACT Mix 459 by Craig Leon.

Alan Moore has finished the first draft of his million-word novel, Jerusalem.

• Crazy pavings: Alex Bellos on Craig Kaplan’s parquet deformations.

Noise Not Music: “Live recordings, obscure cassettes and more…”

Pylon of the Month

Zoot Kook (1980) by Sandii | Rose Garden (1981) by Akiko Yano | Telstar (1997) by Takako Minekawa

Morning of the Magicians book covers

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Éditions Gallimard, France, 1960.

Yesterday’s post proved popular so it seemed worthwhile taking another look at the book that birthed Planète magazine. The main problem The Morning of the Magicians presents for an art director is how to encapsulate such wildly diverse contents in a cover design. To judge from the examples here, most people seem to have either given up or gone for vaguely symbolic designs which at the most correspond to the contents in a minor way. The biggest surprise for me was seeing the cover of the first edition above, one of those typically sober French titles which gives away nothing of the intellectual fireworks within. Few of these designs have any credits, and this is nothing like a complete list (more editions may be seen at Goodreads). More recent editions have been avoided altogether since they’re pretty terrible.

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Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Italy, 1963. This edition, which runs to 476 pages, includes three translated stories inserted into the text: The Nine Billions Name of God by Arthur C. Clarke, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr, and The White People by Arthur Machen.

A hardback edition showing an alchemist at work.

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Stein and Day, USA, 1964.

You know a cover is failing when it could easily be applied to any number of other titles.

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Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds

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I was working on this book throughout the autumn, and it could hardly be more different to some of the visual extravagance that came before and after. Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds is published by Savoy Books this month. Predominantly an examination by David Brittain (no relation to David Britton) of the connections between artists such as Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton with New Worlds magazine in the 1960s, the book is also a rare study of the science fiction magazine when it was making its greatest impact in the late 60s and early 70s.

Brittain highlights many examples of Paolozzi’s sf-influenced art of the period, and examines the development of the magazine under Michael Moorcock’s editorship during which time New Worlds evolved from being a slightly moribund sf title in the early 60s to what JG Ballard later called “one of the most exciting magazines of any kind in this country”. An appendix features interviews with some of the key creators and contributors: editor Moorcock, designer Charles Platt, art editor Christopher Finch, contributor Michael Butterworth, and critic John Clute. Writer and illustrator Pamela Zoline created some original artwork for the endpapers. The introduction is by Rick Poynor.

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Despite being pressured for time I was very pleased to be designing this book. I’d liked Paolozzi’s work since I first encountered it in the Tate Gallery in the 1970s; a couple of years later I was buying up anthologies featuring New Worlds stories (I was too young for the 60s magazine), so discovering that Moorcock had made Paolozzi the magazine’s “Aeronautics Advisor” made perfect sense. In the past I’ve said that New Worlds ruined my taste for hard sf but that’s not really true since I never really liked the stuff beyond a few Arthur C. Clarke books. Too much bad writing, too many cardboard characters shuffling around between chunks of explanation about made-up technology. The discovery of New Worlds merely demonstrated that there were other ways of approaching sf, and you didn’t have to put up with the rubbish.

I also enjoyed the magazine’s bolshy attitude, a quality shared by Harlan Ellison in his Dangerous Visions anthologies. Moorcock says in Brittain’s interview that NW sympathised with the Underground of the late 60s but also tried to be more disciplined in its approach, especially where the design was concerned. You couldn’t have treated fiction to the semi-legible printing that Oz and Frendz often deployed. But the radical attitudes of the Underground can be discerned in the stance NW adopted. Some of the reviews and polemical articles by Moorcock (often under his “James Colvin” pseudonym), M. John Harrison and John Clute are bracingly vitriolic to a degree which if delivered today would probably see them ostracised for life.

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With the design the main intention was to present the information clearly and let the visuals speak for themselves. The book is heavily illustrated throughout, with many examples of Paolozzi’s marvellous prints. The layout nods obliquely to the period; before getting started I spent some time looking at the work of Erik Nitsche. I like the way Nitsche laid out the books he designed in the 1960s, and there’s also a connection in his work as a designer for the General Dynamics corporation: one of Paolozzi’s print series of the period is entitled General Dynamics F.U.N.

Being full-colour throughout, the print run for this book is smaller than usual so anyone interested is advised to move swiftly. Official publication is December 16th but it’s on sale now at Savoy and at Amazon.

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