The Fantastic Fiction of Hannes Bok

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A belated note of thanks to Robert T. Garcia who sent me a PDF of this book a few weeks ago. The Fantastic Fiction of Hannes Bok is a hardcover collection of three fantasy novels by artist Hannes Bok, all of which have been out of print for decades (75 years in the case of Starstone World). Bok has a lasting reputation as an illustrator of fantasy, science fiction and horror during the pulp era but he also wrote fiction and poetry for the pulps, in addition to essays for Mystic Magazine that included a short-lived astrology column. Two of Bok’s novels were published posthumously by Lin Carter in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, the existence of which intrigued me for many years, not least because the Ballantine paperbacks weren’t easy to find in UK bookshops. Bok’s fantasy isn’t quite to my taste (I prefer things to be generally darker and more grotesque) but I’m pleased to see these stories back in the world.

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Contents:
The Fantastic Fiction of Hannes Bok‘s cover art is by Bok (published previously in Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration in a poor image, scanned here for the first time from the original).
• Original Introduction by Charles de Lint!
• Ballantine Adult Fantasy editor Lin Carter’s introductions to The Sorcerer’s Ship and Beyond the Golden Stair, plus an all-new afterword detailing the publishing history of The Sorcerer’s Ship by Bok collector and college professor William Lorenzo. Publisher, Bob Garcia provided an introduction to Starstone World.
• A number of unpublished photos of Bok.
• Bok’s pulp art for The Sorcerer’s Ship is included, plus two paintings specified by the artist as illustrating that novel: a color reprise of an interior illustration and a color portrait of the creature Yanuk done for a fan.
• Since the other two novels did not have artwork by the artist, Jim Pitts provides us a wonderful original frontispiece for each.
• Bok sketches from The Hannes Bok Sketchbook Folio, and A Hannes Bok Sketchbook plus unpublished sketches.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Ballantine Adult Fantasy covers

Things

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Art by Drew Struzan.

One of my current commissions is a piece of art for a book based on John Carpenter’s The Thing, due to be published next year. This was a request I agreed to immediately, having been astonished by the film when it appeared in 1982 (I saw it three times), and having rated it ever since as Carpenter’s best and also one of my all-time favourite horror films. I haven’t started on the planned piece just yet but the commission encouraged me to upgrade my DVD copy of the film to the Blu-ray version, and to also read for the first time John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? (1938), the short story that was the origin of Carpenter’s film and also the 1951 adaptation directed by Christian Nyby. Reading the story set me hunting around for other interpretations of Campbell’s alien.

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UK poster. Art by Les Edwards.

The story was instructive in several ways, the first being how closely Bill Lancaster’s script for the Carpenter film follows the story’s outline. The paperback collection I was reading has an introduction by James Blish which complains about the Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby production turning the polymorphous alien into another clone of Frankenstein’s monster. That’s true but the Nyby film still scared me to death when I first saw it aged 11 or so, and it has its merits. Lancaster not only stayed closer to the original shape-shifting premise but also kept many of the character names, plus details such as the blood test and the Thing’s attempt at the end to build a machine to escape from the encampment. The unforgettable opening, however, with the lone helicopter pursuing the dog, is all Lancaster’s.

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Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1938; artist unknown. “Don A. Stuart” was a pseudonym for John W. Campbell, at that time the newly appointed editor of Astounding. Campbell’s editorship changed the name of the magazine from Astounding Stories to Astounding Science-Fiction.

It was face up there on the plain, greasy planks of the table. The broken haft of the bronze ice-axe was still buried in the queer skull. Three mad, hate-filled eyes blazed up with a living fire, bright as fresh-spilled blood, from a face ringed with a writhing, loathsome nest of worms, blue, mobile worms that crawled where hair should grow—

Campbell’s description of the ice-bound alien is better than some of his writing elsewhere. I’m used to tempering my judgement when visiting stories written for the pulps but Campbell’s writing is really awful, and a reminder of why I never got very far with the early SF writers. Weird Tales magazine had its share of ham-fisted journeymen (and women) but Campbell’s contemporaries such as Clark Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft read like the most finessed and mandarin prose stylists in comparison. But The Thing isn’t the first great film to be based on a poor-quality story so we can at least thank Campbell for his scenario, although how much of it was his own has never been clear. The idea of ancient aliens in Antarctica (some of which are amorphous shape-shifters) had already been explored by HP Lovecraft in At the Mountains of Madness; Lovecraft’s story was published in 1936 by Astounding Stories, the same magazine that published Who Goes There? two years later. This lineage, and the possible influence, makes The Thing one of the foremost Lovecraftian films even without all of its tentacled abominations.

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Art by Hannes Bok.

The story provided the title of Campbell’s debut collection of short fiction in 1948. I’ve known the Hannes Bok cover art for many years but hadn’t realised until recently that the three-eyed monster on the front was a Bokian rendering of Campbell’s alien. The figure on the back is presumably a human/husky hybrid, while I’d guess the robot relates to one of the author’s other stories.

Continue reading “Things”

Weekend links 123

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La Perspective Curieuse (1663) by Jean François Nicéron. From Curious Perspectives at BibliOdyssey.

1612 Underture is a forthcoming album by The Eccentronic Research Council and Maxine Peake which extends the electronics + occult concept to encompass Kraftwerk and the Pendle Witches. The Quietus has a review of their album, and an interview and report about a recent live performance (I missed the latter, unfortunately), while the Guardian’s interview with the splendid Ms Peake reveals that “musically, her tastes range from Japanese black metal, garage rock and folk, to techno and psychobilly.” The famous Lancashire witches also happen to be the subject of Jeanette Winterson’s latest novel, The Daylight Gate.

• Yet more Marker: The Owl’s Legacy: Chris Marker’s 13-Part Search for Western Culture’s Foundations in Ancient Greece, and J. Hoberman on The Lost Futures of Chris Marker.

Dr Oliver Sacks talks about how hallucinogenic drugs helped him empathize with his patients.

Paulo Coelho’s ill-judged Joyce-bashing has made him a butt of scorn this week, but he’s a safe target because, with books that multitask a little too openly as self-help manuals, he’s not so clubbable. Unlike, say, Ian McEwan, who not-that-differently declared against “the dead hand of modernism“, for all the world as if the dominant literary mode in post-war England was Steinian experimentation or some Albion Oulipo, against which young Turks hold out with limpidly observed interiority, decodable metaphors, strained middle-class relationships and eternal truths of the human condition(TM).

China Miéville on the always contentious future of the novel.

The Foliate Head: a new book by Marly Youmans with illustrations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

Hysterical Literature: Session Two: Alicia reads from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

Dreaming in Dirigibles: The Airship Postcard Albums of Lord Ventry.

The Art of the Literary Fake (with Violin) by Jeff VanderMeer.

RIP Neil Armstrong, first human on the Moon.

Macho Man: Morgan Meis on Robert Hughes.

• Book covers by Hannes Bok.

This Is Now!

Squid Moth

Lunar Rhapsody (1947) by Dr Samuel J. Hoffman | Lunar Musick Suite (1976) by Steve Hillage | Back Side Of The Moon (Steve Hillage’s Under Water Deep Space Remix) (1991) by The Orb.

Morlocks, airships and curious cabinets

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Things I was working on late last year continue to percolate or, if you prefer, build a head of steam. My cover for KW Jeter’s Morlock Night appears in a short piece by Rick Poynor in July’s Creative Review. That feature is prompted by the British Library’s Out of the World exhibition. Nice to see something of mine with Hannes Bok’s illustration for Who Goes There? by John W Campbell, the story which was filmed as The Thing from Another World, and later, John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Morlock Night is also one of my contributions to the lavish Steampunk Bible which editors SJ Chambers and Jeff VanderMeer have been promoting for the past couple of months. USA Today ran a feature on the book which included my piscine airship among the selected illustrations.

Next up will be the Thackery T Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities for which I’ve provided a number of illustrations and decorative title pages. Jeff V has a preview shot of the cover. That will be out next month. More later.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Steampunk Bible
Steampunk Reloaded
Steampunk overloaded!
Vickers Airship Catalogue
The Air Ship
Dirigibles
More Steampunk and the Crawling Chaos
The art of François Schuiten
Steampunk Redux
Steampunk framed
Steampunk Horror Shortcuts
The Airship Destroyer
Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls
The Hetzel editions of Jules Verne

Weekend links 47

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DG-2499 (1975) by the fantastic (in every sense of the word) Zdzislaw Beksinski (1929–2005). See the Dmochowski Gallery for a comprehensive collection of the artist’s work. Thanks to BibliOdyssey for the tip.

• More ICA events: From Animism to Zos: Strange Attractor Salon will be “a series of weekly events, consisting of a talk and a film, exploring some lesser-known intersections of culture, history, mind and nature” running from 10 March–12 May, 2011.

• And on May 10, the London Word Festival presents a Dodgem Logic evening with entertainment provided by contributors to that magazine:

Alan Moore’s reinvigoration of the underground fanzine, Dodgem Logic, comes alive in the non-conformist surroundings of Hackney’s Round Chapel. A night of art, comedy, comment and put-something-back localism. (…) With Robin Ince heading up a colossal stand-up bill, artists Steve Aylett, Savage Pencil, Melinda Gebbie and Kevin O’Neill panel-up to talk about their comic work, while music comes from hyperactive racketeers The Retro Spankees. With an exhibition of artwork from the magazine, and conducted by editor-in-chief Alan Moore.

• Taschen publishes a collection of Dennis Hopper’s photographs this week. The Independent has a small selection here. Also new from Tachen, Alex Steinweiss, The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover.

Bass Notes: The Film Posters of Saul Bass at the Kemistry Gallery, London.

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DG-2507 by Zdzislaw Beksinski.

While riding through the bustling streets of London from 1603 to 1621, one was liable to hear the shout “Long live Queen James!” King James I of England and VI of Scotland was so open about his homosexual love affairs that an epigram had been circulated which roused much mirth and nodding of the heads: Rex fuit Elizabeth: nunc est regina Jacobus—”Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen.”

There’s more about the private life of the man who gave his name to the King James Bible here.

Addams and Evil, a Tumblr devoted to the great Charles Addams.

Hannes Bok again at Golden Age Comic Book Stories.

Caravaggio’s crimes exposed in Rome’s police files.

Deserted City, photographs by Kim Høltermand.

• The blue sand dunes of the planet Mars.

• A map of the ghost signs of Chicago.

The movie title stills collection.

The pitfalls of e-book buying.

Life On Mars? (1971) by David Bowie | Uncle Sam’s On Mars (1979) by Hawkwind | Eyes On Mars (1980) by Chrome | Cache Coeur Naif (1997) by Mouse on Mars.