Emshwiller illustrates Bester

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Having finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo I thought I’d, er jaunt from the 1840s into the far future by revisiting Alfred Bester’s Dumas-derived The Stars My Destination. I prefer the alternate title to Bester’s novel, Tiger! Tiger!, but Stars… is the one that’s more commonly used, with the unfortunate side-effect of making the book sound like a typical space opera of the 1950s. The story may begin in space but most of it takes place on Earth in the 24th century. Bester borrows the revenge theme and a couple of other details from The Count of Monte Cristo but wisely resists any attempt to imitate the labyrinthine plotting of the Dumas novel.

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Before publication in book form, the story was serialised in four parts in Galaxy magazine, from October 1956 to January 1957; Ed “Emsh” Emshwiller illustrated each instalment as well as the cover of the debut issue. I’ve said before that one of the great benefits of being able to browse old magazines online is having the opportunity to turn up neglected illustrations like these. Bester’s novel has long been regarded as a genre classic—Michael Moorcock and William Gibson both refer to it as a favourite—but its print editions haven’t generated many memorable covers. Here we have Emshwiller illustrating the entire story, and doing an excellent job, yet his drawings have been buried for years.

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For the purposes of this post I’ve removed the text surrounding some of the illustrations in order to highlight the drawings. The original printings, plus the full text of the serialised story, may be found at the links below:

Galaxy, October 1956
Galaxy, November 1956
Galaxy, December 1956
Galaxy, January 1957

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The Rejected Sorcerer

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Cover art by Ed Emshwiller.

More Borges. While checking the details of yesterday’s post I discovered this oddity, an American SF magazine that published a two-page Borges story in March 1960, and put the author’s name on the cover even though few of the magazine’s readers would have heard of him at the time. The issue, which turned out to be the final one, lacks an editorial page so there’s no indication as to how the story found its way there. The story itself concerns an encounter in modern-day Spain between two men, one of them an established magician (in the occult sense), the other a neophyte hoping to gain similar powers. The piece is as much a moral fable as a work of fantasy, and as such appears out of place in a magazine with flying-saucer artwork on its exterior and a Virgil Finlay illustration inside (not for the Borges, unfortunately).

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I thought at first that I might not have read this one before, the title wasn’t familiar but the story was one I recognised immediately. I was also surprised to find that I have it in four different collections under different titles, and with two of the printings appearing at first to disguise the author. In Black Water: An Anthology of Fantastic Literature (1983), edited by Alberto Manguel, the story appears as The Wizard Postponed, with the writer given as “Juan Manuel”; in The Book of Fantasy (1988), an updated version of the Antología de la Literatura Fantástica edited in 1940 by Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo, the same piece appears as The Wizard Passed Over, with the author credited as “Don Juan Manuel”. The latter turns out to be the original author, a medieval Spanish writer, although “original” here is a debatable term when the story is Manuel’s adaptation of a piece he found in a book of Arabian tales. Borges rewrote this together with several other short reworkings which appear in the Etcetera section at the end of A Universal History of Infamy, its third appearance on my shelves (once again as The Wizard Postponed).

The fourth appearance is in the Collected Fictions (1998), or the cursed volume as I tend to think of it. I often feel bad about traducing the efforts of translator Andrew Hurley every time Borges is mentioned here but this story provides a good example of why his work is so unsatisfying to readers familiar with the stories from older editions. In its original Spanish the story is El brujo postergado, a short title for which The Wizard Postponed or The Wizard Passed Over would seem like reasonable analogues. Hurley expands this to The Wizard That Was Made to Wait, a lumbering, graceless phrase that’s typical of the lumbering gracelessness elsewhere in Collected Fictions. These tin-eared translations are the ones approved by the Borges estate so they’re present in all the reprints of the past 20 years. Fortunately for readers, most of Borges’ books were widely reprinted in English translations that the author approved, and some of which he even assisted with. Reject the conjurations of maladroit sorcerers, that’s my advice.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Immortal by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges on Ulysses
Borges in the firing line
La Bibliothèque de Babel
Borges and the cats
Invasion, a film by Hugo Santiago
Spiderweb, a film by Paul Miller
The Library of Babel by Érik Desmazières
Books Borges never wrote
Borges and I
Borges documentary
Borges in Performance

Weekend links 525

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Polish poster by Franciszek Starowieyski, 1970.

• Tony Richardson’s Mademoiselle (1966) is one of those cult films that’s more written about than seen, despite having Jeanne Moreau in the lead role as a sociopathic schoolteacher, together with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras and Jean Genet, plus uncredited script-doctoring by David Rudkin. John Waters listed the film as a “guilty pleasure” in Crackpot but it’s been unavailable on disc for over a decade. The BFI will be releasing a restored print on blu-ray in September.

“While the hurdy-gurdy’s capacity to fill space with its unrelenting multi-tonal dirge is for some the absolute sonic dream, for others it is the stuff of nightmares.” Jennifer Lucy Allan on the pleasures and pains of a medieval musical instrument.

• “I truly believed”: Vicki Pollack of the San Francisco Diggers talking to Jay Babcock for the fifth installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists.

• “If you want to call yourself a composer, you follow every step of the instrumentation.” Ennio Morricone talking to Guido Bonsaver in 2006.

Dutchsteammachine converts jerky 12fps film from the NASA archive to 24fps. Here’s the Apollo 14 lunar mission: landing, EVA and liftoff.

• New music: Suddenly the World Had Dropped Away by David Toop; Skeleton and Unclean Spirit by John Carpenter; An Ascent by Scanner.

Peter Hujar’s illicit photographs of New York’s cruising utopia. Not to be confused with Alvin Batrop‘s photos of gay New York.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 651 by Dave Harrington, and Mr.K’s Side 1, Track 1’s #1 by radioShirley & Mr.K.

Simon Reynolds on the many electronic surprises to be found in the Smithsonian Folkways music archive.

The Gone Away by Belbury Poly will be the next release on the Ghost Box label.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Ed Emshwiller Day.

Shirley Collins’ favourite music.

Mademoiselle Mabry (1969) by Miles Davis | Hurdy Gurdy Man (1970) by Eartha Kitt | Danger Cruising (1979) by Pyrolator

Picturing Vermilion Sands

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First UK edition, 1971. Art by Brian Knight.

Vermilion Sands (1971) is a story collection by JG Ballard which maintains a cult reputation despite being overshadowed by its author’s more popular (and notorious) novels. Most of the stories were written in the 1960s—a couple of them are among Ballard’s earliest works—but where many of his other short stories can read like the work of a writer with bills to pay, the tales of Vermilion Sands are much closer to Ballard’s core interests, filled with symbolic resonance and literary allusion.

Vermilion Sands, the place, is a near-future resort with a desert climate and an unspecified location; a locale where the Côte d’Azur meets Southern California but the ocean is a sea of sand. While each story has a different artistic or cultural theme, all the stories are populated by the idle midde-class types found in the rest of Ballard’s work. Ballard was more receptive to visual art, especially painting, than many authors, particularly the SF writers of his generation for whom art was less interesting than science and technology. There is science and technology in these stories (some of the latter is now inevitably dated) but it doesn’t dominate the proceedings. The stories derive less from scientific speculation than from Ballard’s desire to create a future he would have been happy to inhabit himself, an alternative to the grim dystopias which proliferate in science fiction. The background furnishings also reflect the author’s ideal, owing much to the Surrealist landscapes of Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst, a pair of artists whose works are often referenced in Ballard’s fiction. Given all of this you’d expect that cover artists might have risen to the challenge more than they have. What follows is a look at the most notable attempts to depict Vermilion Sands or its population, only a few of which are covers for the book itself.

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Weekend links: Hodgson edition

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Masters of Terror, Vol 1, Corgi Books, 1977. No illustrator credited.

It was all happening this week so there’s a lot to get through. Are you ready? Deep breath…

For ye Hogge doth be of ye outer Monstrous Ones, nor shall any human come nigh him nor continue meddling when ye hear his voice, for in ye earlier life upon the world did the Hogge have power, and shall again in ye end.

The Hog (c. 1910) by William Hope Hodgson.

• “The Hog is Hodgson’s most nakedly Jungian setpiece; fetid waves of archetypes sweep repeatedly against the thin walls of quotidian reality.” Thus Iain Sinclair, writing in a 1991 afterword to Carnaki the Ghost-Finder which I highly recommend to both Hodgson and Sinclair enthusiasts. China Miéville dissected Hodgson’s Hog on Wednesday and a few hours later a student protest in London turned into an assault on the Tory HQ. Coincidence? Here at {feuilleton} we only offer the facts, it’s up to you to join the dots. M John Harrison approved. Of the protest, that is, not the raising of Porcine Malevolence from the Gulfs Beyond, although he might approve of that as well.

• Further Hodgsonia: Science of The Night Land: Dying Suns and Earth Energy while for real devotees there’s Andy Robertson’s Night Land site.

• “Amplifying the vibrations of the ether” for a view “beyond the limits of ordinary life”: The Fugitive Futurist (1924), a remarkable short film at the BFI’s YouTube channel in which Trafalgar Square is flooded, a monorail crosses Tower Bridge and a dirigible takes to the air over the Houses of Parliament. Also Trafalgar Square Riot (1913), a newsreel with suffragettes at the centre of a civil disturbance. Some of the critics of Wednesday’s events seem to have forgotten that women gained the vote in this country only after repeatedly smashing windows and causing trouble.

• Related to the above: How to Hex a Corporation at Arthur magazine. And let’s not forget Hakim Bey’s Occult Assault on Institutions.

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Cover illustration by Ian Miller (1972). The other great cover for THOTB was by Ed Emshwiller in 1962.

The wanderings of the Narrator’s spirit through limitless light-years of cosmic space and Kalpas of eternity, and its witnessing of the solar system’s final destruction, constitute something almost unique in standard literature.

HP Lovecraft reviewing Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland in Supernatural Horror in Literature.

• Lovecraft has long cast a shadow over Hodgson’s fevered visions even though words of praise like those above have done much to keep the earlier writer’s work in print. I’ve been talking for years about doing a series of illustrations for The House on the Borderland and may yet make good on that threat; never say never. Meanwhile, Rick Poyner returned to Design Observer this week pondering the challenge of non-Euclidean architecture in What does HP Lovecraft look like?

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Druillet illustrates Hodgson (1971).

• In his latest piece of Barney Bubbles detective work, Paul Gorman discovered the identity of BB’s first design employer, the alluded to but never named Michael Tucker. More surprising for me than the Robert Brownjohn connection is that there’s now a tenuous link between Barney Bubbles and William Gerhardi.

777 classical music album covers from the collection of Dr Horst Scherg. Related: The Golden Age of Wacky Classical LP Covers — Westminster Gold and the Westminster Gold discography.

Chez Fini: Little Augury looks at the work and workplaces (and cats!) of the marvellous Leonor Fini.

• There’s yet more Lovecraft (and much else besides) in Nomad Codes, a new book from Erik Davis.

• The Irrepressibles: “They’re scared of what we’re going to do next”.

• New Scientist asks Is this evidence that we can see the future?

Of Electricity And Water: A Thomas Dolby Interview.

Jarvis Cocker talks to Brian Eno.

Fuck Yeah, Gay Vintage

Hog Callin’ Blues (1962) by Charles Mingus. Play loud and often.