Weekend links 387

liquidsky.jpg

Japanese (?) poster for Liquid Sky (1982).

• The announcement this week of the death of Carl T. Ford, former editor of Dagon magazine, prompted a handful of memorial pieces. Dagon was notable for being a small British magazine devoted to Lovecraftian and other weird fiction (and the Call of Cthulhu games) at a time when the majority of such publications were American; it was also very well-produced, its later issues being typeset and filled with quality black-and-white illustration. Dagon interviewed many notable writers, including people such as Thomas Ligotti whose work at the time was still only known to a small group of enthusiasts. Mark Valentine posted a reminiscence at Wormwoodiana; Yog-Sothoth.com has an interview with Carl from 2010.

Michael “Dik Mik” Davies, manipulator of an audio generator and tape echo for Hawkwind, also died this week. Dik Mik’s primitive background electronics, augmented by Del Dettmar’s synthesizers, were an essential component of the early Hawkwind sound.

• Erik Davies talks to writer, photographer, and curator Joanna Ebenstein about Goth obsessions, memento mori, Santa Muerta, and her extraordinary new illustrated collection Death: A Graveside Companion.

• Slava Tsukerman’s cult film Liquid Sky (1982) finally gets a blu-ray release. From 2014: Punks, UFOs, and Heroin: Daniel Genis on how Liquid Sky became a cult movie.

Geeta Dayal explores the MOMA exhibition Thinking Machines: Art and Design in the Computer Age: 1959–1989.

You Should Come With Me Now is a collection of new fiction by M. John Harrison published this week.

VinylHub: “Our mission is to document every physical record shop and record event on the planet.”

Vladimir Nabokov‘s dream diary reveals experiments with “backwards timeflow”.

• Flawed Greatness: DB Jones on beauty and balance in John Ford’s The Searchers.

Irakli Kiziria on 9 synth artists who defined Eastern Europe’s post-Soviet sound.

• Edgar Allan Poe’s Hatchet Jobs: Mark Athitakis on Poe’s book reviews.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 627 by Oneohtrix Point Never.

• At Creative Review: The design of Mute Records.

How generative music works.

Laraaji‘s favourite albums.

We Do It (1970) by Hawkwind | Adjust Me (1971) by Hawkwind | Electronic No. 1 (1973) by Hawkwind

Dark arts

pvd05.jpg

Thomas Street, Providence: on the left is the Fleur-de-Lys Studios; two doors along is the Dodge House Gallery which housed an additional part of the art exhibition; the Providence Art Club is the red-brick building next door.

I’m back from Providence, returned early on Tuesday but took the day off to recover from jet lag. The city was hot and humid for much of the time but I didn’t mind that, it was good to be able to walk around in the evening without a jacket, something that seldom happens here. I don’t go to many conventions so although NecronomiCon was the best I’ve been to, there isn’t a great deal of competition. I always enjoy meeting and talking to creators of any stripe—writers, artists, filmmakers, editors, etc—and it’s a pleasure to meet readers face to face, but conventions in general aren’t always attractive in themselves. NecronomiCon was inviting for being relatively small and with a strong focus not just on Lovecraft but on weird fiction as a whole: there were panels on Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany, Robert Chambers, and one on the legacy of what M. John Harrison designated “the New Weird”. I’ve been told that if there’s a NecronomiCon in 2017 the intention is to develop this area of discussion.

pvd07.jpg

And then there’s Providence itself: Lovecraft’s stories will read in a very different light now I’ve visited the city that inspired so much of his work. The one walking excursion I took to College Hill was curtailed by an afternoon of 30-degree temperatures but I did get to see a small part of Angell Street where Lovecraft lived for many years, and I also walked down Benefit Street as far as house number 135, familiar to readers as The Shunned House. The architecture of Providence is a delight, not only the Colonial buildings but the also the more recent vernacular styles of the Downtown area. Even the heat seemed connected to Lovecraft and his abhorrence of cold weather; in later years he took sightseeing trips down to Florida so I’m sure he wouldn’t have complained about the hot sun or the swampy air.

pvd06.jpg

The massive and weighty door of the Art Club.

The main reason to be there was for the art exhibition, of course, and for that the venue couldn’t have been better. The Providence Art Club is mentioned in The Call of Cthulhu as a rather staid organisation that disapproves of Henry Anthony Wilcox who works down the street at the Fleur-de-Lys Studios; I spoke to a couple of current Art Club members, and was amused to hear that the establishment still maintains a somewhat conservative position. But the presence of so much bizarre and grotesque art in the gallery was evidence of a loosening of attitudes that Wilcox and Pickman couldn’t have managed in their day. A selection of my photographs follows below; I took over 250 photos but really should have taken more, especially of the buildings. The Providence Art Club has a good collection of photos from the opening night, some of which include me caught uncomfortably in front of a camera lens.

pvd18.jpg

Some acknowledgements: I’ve already thanked Niels-Viggo Hobbs and The joey Zone for inviting me there but I’ll do so again. Big thanks also to Carmen Marusich who spent most of her time behind the counter at Lovecraft Arts & Sciences in the Arcade; to print-wrangler Brian Mullen who very generously spent an afternoon ferrying me around various stores in search of a phone charger before smartly suggesting I try the USB port in the TV at the hotel (something I should have thought of); and to Michael Rose and company at the Providence Art Club for allowing us into their beautiful building. Shouts and thanks to: Sara Bardi, Michael Bukowski, Syl Disjonk, Jason C. Eckhardt, Bob Eggleton, Dave Felton, Stephen Gervais, Mike Knives, Robert H. Knox, Allen Koszowski, Henrik Möller, Mallory O’Meara, Gage Prentiss, Skinner, Jason Thompson, Frank H. Woodward (at last!), Josh Yelle, and all those who bought artwork, offered compliments or came to see the art and the panel discussions.

Finally…Earth! I’ve been listening to the band a great deal this year so I’m predisposed to enjoy any live event, but their performance in the gilded splendour of the Columbia Theatre on Federal Hill really knocked me out. An outstanding set with great sound and great support acts too, especially Elder. All this taking place a couple of streets away from the location of Lovecraft’s Starry Wisdom church; I was in seventh heaven.

And now the photos…

pvd16.jpg

The title page entity from Lovecraft’s Monsters which was named Tentacles for the exhibition.

pvd17.jpg

My works were in a gallery room on their own, guarded by the title page thing from Lovecraft’s Monsters.

Continue reading “Dark arts”

More Esteban Maroto

maroto05.jpg

Psychedelic Kali from Vampirella 18.

Copies of the Dracula comics may be scarce these days but two of the artists who appeared in the title—Esteban Maroto and José Beá—were also appearing regularly in Vampirella around the same time. The Internet Archive has a large collection of Warren titles including an almost complete run of Vampirella. Esteban Maroto’s work stands out for me for his draughtsmanship, his page layouts, the atmosphere of heady eroticism, and the frequent touches of psychedelia of which the panel above is one of the more striking examples. The best strips are the ones he wrote himself; when he works with American writers the results tend to be more restrained. It’s a shame Vampirella was mostly a black-and-white title, so many of these pages would benefit from the same colour treatment as Wolff.

maroto01.jpg

Wolf Hunt from Vampirella 14.

And speaking of wolves, there’s a similar collection of witches and lycanthropes in these stories.

maroto02.jpg

Tomb of the Gods: Horus from Vampirella 17.

Tomb of the Gods is a short series in which mythological stories are explored Maroto-style. The exception is Gender Bender, a piece of science fiction with masculine and feminine psyches pitted against each other in a virtual arena. The story title is a surprise for anyone thinks that phrase originated in the 1980s.

maroto03.jpg

Tomb of the Gods: Kali from Vampirella 18.

Continue reading “More Esteban Maroto”

The White People by Arthur Machen

aklo.jpg

Aklo: A Journal of the Fantastic, Spring 1988 edition, edited by Mark Valentine & Roger Dobson. Illustration by Alan Hunter.

1: The White People

The White People by Arthur Machen was written in 1899 but not published until it appeared in Horlick’s Magazine, January 1904. The magazine, which ran for just over a year, was edited by Machen’s Golden Dawn colleague AE Waite which no doubt explains the unlikely venue. HP Lovecraft enthused about the story in Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927):

Less famous and less complex in plot than The Great God Pan, but definitely finer in atmosphere and general artistic value, is the curious and dimly disquieting chronicle called The White People, whose central portion purports to be the diary or notes of a little girl whose nurse has introduced her to some of the forbidden magic and soul-blasting traditions of the noxious witch-cult — the cult whose whispered lore was handed down long lines of peasantry throughout Western Europe, and whose members sometimes stole forth at night, one by one, to meet in black woods and lonely places for the revolting orgies of the Witches’ Sabbath. Mr. Machen’s narrative, a triumph of skilful selectiveness and restraint, accumulates enormous power as it flows on in a stream of innocent childish prattle, introducing allusions to strange “nymphs,” “Dols,” “voolas,” “white, green, and scarlet ceremonies,” “Aklo letters,” “Chian language,” “Mao games,” and the like. The rites learned by the nurse from her witch grandmother are taught to the child by the time she is three years old, and her artless accounts of the dangerous secret revelations possess a lurking terror generously mixed with pathos. Evil charms well known to anthropologists are described with juvenile naiveté, and finally there comes a winter afternoon journey into the old Welsh hills, performed under an imaginative spell which lends to the wild scenery an added weirdness, strangeness, and suggestion of grotesque sentience. The details of this journey are given with marvellous vividness, and form to the keen critic a masterpiece of fantastic writing, with almost unlimited power in the intimation of potent hideousness and cosmic aberration.

Lovecraft borrowed Machen’s naive narrator a year later for The Dunwich Horror: Wilbur Whateley’s diary is written “by a child of three-and-a-half who looked like a lad of twelve or thirteen”, and makes reference to “Aklo”, “the Dho formula” and “the Voorish sign”. (The journal in The White People refers to “a wicked voorish dome”.)

Lovecraft wasn’t alone in being impressed by the story, it’s long been regarded as Machen’s greatest piece of short fiction with good reason:

…it remains the purest and most powerful expression of what Jack Sullivan has called the “transcendental” or “visionary” supernatural tradition. Most other tales in that tradition, Blackwood’s The Wendigo, EF Benson’s The Man Who Went Too Far, and Machen’s own The Great God Pan, merely describe encounters with the dark primeval forces that reign beyond the edge of civilisation; The White People seems an actual product of such an encounter, an authentic pagan artefact…

TED Klein, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986)

Continue reading “The White People by Arthur Machen”

H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction

lovecraft1.jpg

Illustration by Sven Geier, design by Jo Obarowski and Rebecca Lysen.

HP Lovecraft would have been as surprised as anyone if he could have witnessed the tremendous posthumous triumph he and his work have achieved.

Thus leading Lovecraft biographer and scholar ST Joshi in the introduction to this suitably monstrous book. H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction was published in a new edition last year after first appearing in 2008 as part of Barnes & Noble’s Leatherbound Classics Series. My drawing of Dagon from 1999 adorns the silvered endpapers, and the reason for this belated mention is because I was only sent copies this week after moaning about not having seen a copy in a Tor.com post about the series. In truth the oversight was partly my own fault: one hazard of this line of work is that artwork is requested months (or even years) in advance of publication, so if the work in question is a reprint it’s easy to forget all about it as you get involved with other things.

lovecraft2.jpg

So anyway, this is a handsome volume of over a thousand pages, not quite leather, it’s more of a leatherette with the design blocked into it. Sven Geier’s cosmic illustration has been given an iridescent finish, and the copies I was sent have metallic silver on the edges as well as a purple ribbon which makes a better match with the colour scheme. The contents comprise all of Lovecraft’s solo fiction (no collaborations, in other words) from the juvenilia through to the non-fiction of his Supernatural Horror in Literature essay. In addition to the introduction there’s a short note from ST Joshi for each story. Needless to say, I’m very pleased to be associated with Lovecraft’s work in this way.

Anyone considered buying a copy should note that the book is currently cheaper at B&N than at Amazon. Also, complaints about typos would appear to apply to the earlier edition although I’ve not had a chance to read any of the stories.

My Dagon picture below appears here larger than it has done before. The drawing was done with a Biro pen, something I’ve always liked using, then tweaked slightly in Photoshop to blur the lines a little and bring out the highlights. I’m not sure now the tweaking was necessary so I may dig out the original at some point to see how it compares.

dagon.jpg

Dagon (1999) by John Coulthart.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special
Cthulhu God
The monstrous tome