Weekend links 419

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Cover art by Leo & Diane Dillon, 1975.

Art is not supposed to be easier! There are a lot of things in life that are supposed to be easier. Ridding the world of heart attacks, making the roads smoother, making old people more comfortable in the winter, but not Art. Art should always be tough. Art should demand something of you. Art should involve foot-pounds of energy being expended. It’s not supposed to be easier, and those who want it easier should not be artists. They should be out selling public relations copy.

Typical of the late Harlan Ellison to describe his vocation in terms of difficulty and struggle even when his prolific output made writing seem effortless. When my colleagues at Savoy Books published a Savoy issue of New Worlds magazine in 1979 one of the features they ran was an introduction by Michael Moorcock to an Ellison story collection. (They also published two books of Ellison’s around this time.) A copy of the magazine was duly sent to the subject of the essay since Ellison always liked to keep track of his print appearances. The back page of that particular issue is blank but for a few words in bold type from singer PJ Proby: “I am an artist; and should be exempt from shit.” Ellison cut this slogan from the magazine then glued it to his typewriter, no doubt transferring it to later models since it was still visible in the 2008 Ellison documentary, Dreams With Sharp Teeth.

My first encounter with Ellison’s work was also my first encounter with what became labelled the new wave of science fiction, via a reprint of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream in a book in the school library. I was only about 12 or 13 at the time, and found Ellison’s story so shocking and disturbing that it overpowered everything else in the collection. The only other story that made an equivalent impression at the time was The Colour Out of Space by HP Lovecraft, so it’s perhaps fitting that Ellison gave my work a favourable mention in his introduction to the huge Centipede Press collection of Lovecraft artwork, A Lovecraft Retrospective: Artists Inspired by HP Lovecraft. I still haven’t got over that one. After the initial encounter, the Ellison-edited Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions were just as important for me as the paperback reprints of stories from the Moorcock-edited New Worlds: a handful of books that showed science fiction to be a literary form of limitless possibilities, as opposed to the stereotype of space adventure and future technology. The Ellison and Moorcock anthologies led me to William Burroughs, James Joyce and all points beyond; they also soured for me the preoccupation with space adventure and future technology which persists today.

My final connection with Ellison replayed his compliment in a small way, when editor Jill Roberts and I took extra care with the typesetting of Jeffty is Five for The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2. Ellison was the only author I’ve encountered in the digital age whose corrections were still handwritten comments on printed sheets; these had to be faxed to San Francisco then scanned and emailed to me (to this day I still don’t know why the oft-reprinted story required so many adjustments). It was awkward but amusingly so, a benign taste of a legendary bloody-mindedness and insistence on precision.

• “Laughing about an acid trip with members of Can and opening up about some of the ‘scars’ left from his association with Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life In the Bush of Ghosts, [Jon] Hassell is candid in a way that comes naturally to those who’ve lived life on their own terms.”

• Drone Metal Mysticism: Erik Davis talks with music scholar and ethnographer Owen Coggins about amplifier worship, sonic pilgrimage, “as if” listening, metal humour, and his new book Mysticism, Ritual and Religion in Drone Metal.

Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond; “Letters between the men who coined the term ‘psychedelic’ and opened doors to a different way of thinking about human consciousness.”

Artaud 1937 Apocalypse: Letters from Ireland by Antonin Artaud; translated and edited by Stephen Barber.

• “I thought female sexuality was an OK thing?” says writer and porn performer, Stoya.

• “How did a major label manage to lose a John Coltrane record?” asks Ted Gioia.

• Welcome to the dollhouse: Alex Denney on a century of cinematic cutaways.

• The trailer for Mandy, a new (and much-awaited) film by Panos Cosmatos.

• Rest in Anger, Harlan Ellison (1934–2018) by Nick Mamatas.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 659 by BD1982.

Emily Gosling on library music design.

Record Label Logos

The Deathbird Song (1997) by The Forbidden Dimension | Eidolons (2017) by Deathbird Stories | Deathbird (2017) by Tempos De Morte

Future Life magazine

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One thing I never expected about the future was that so many of my youthful enthusiasms would keep rising from the past, but here’s another, stumbling into the room reeking of cemetery earth and old newsprint. Future Life was a spinoff from Starlog magazine, and where the parent title concerned itself with science fiction and fantasy in film and television, the focus of Future Life was technology, popular science, scientific speculation, and written science fiction (all from an American perspective, of course); film and TV productions were there to attract general readers but never dominated the proceedings. Future Life ran for 31 issues from 1978 to 1981, and in many ways the magazine was a kind of OMNI-lite: not as lavish as its rival but not as expensive either. For a while this was a magazine I always looked out for (together with Heavy Metal, with whom it shared a music writer, Lou Stathis) but I missed the first nine issues, and many of the later ones before it vanished altogether, so it’s gratifying to find the complete run available as a job lot at the Internet Archive.

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It’s become commonplace today to regard Generation X as the first generation with no optimistic future to look forward to, but Future Life shows how much optimism there was at the beginning of the 1980s. The mood darkened just as the magazine expired, with genuine fears of a nuclear war persisting through much of the decade, and the Challenger disaster reminding everyone that leaving the planet was still a hazardous business. Future Life wasn’t blind to the problems posed by technology—there were features about the dangers posed by nuclear power and climate change—but it remained upbeat about the potentials, especially where space colonies were concerned. Most issues carried an art feature although these were generally about realistic space artists or spaceship painters, with none of the eye-popping weirdness favoured by OMNI. But this magazine was my first introduction to the work of Syd Mead, a few years before Blade Runner made him deservedly famous. On the writing side, many of the articles were by popular science fiction writers—Roger Zelazny on computer crime, Norman Spinrad on a pet theme, the future of drug-taking—which you can now read with the full benefit of hindsight. In later issues there was Harlan Ellison filing a succession of lengthy and inimitable film essays; several pieces by Robert Anton Wilson; and some good music articles with features on Larry Fast (issue 12) and Robert Fripp (issue 14), while Lou Stathis profiled and interviewed Bernie Krause (issue 18), The Residents (issue 19), Patrick Gleeson (issue 22), Jon Hassell (issue 24), Captain Beefheart (issue 25), and everyone’s favourite robots, Kraftwerk (issue 31).

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The Internet Archive currently has all the files stuck on a single page so most people will either have to download everything at once (I’d advise using the torrent file) or sample issues at random. Fortunately there’s a very thorough breakdown of the entire run of magazines here for those who prefer to pick through the detail. In the universe next door we’re reading these back issues while floating above the earth in our L5 space colonies.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Science Fiction Monthly

Weekend links 337

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A Post-traumatic History Lesson (2009) by David Avery.

• Last week it was the teaser, this week it’s the full thing: When a New Trick Comes Out, I do an Old One / Exit Pantomime Control by Moon Wiring Club, 29-minutes of woozy and degraded psychedelic VHS weirdness.

• Over the summer I watched 32 Robert Altman films. When faced with such a diverse and unpredictable filmography it helps to have a guide; Geoff Andrew suggests where to begin.

• Some tools in the ongoing war against the Agents of the Control Virus: The Best Anonymous VPN Services of 2016.

Sky Blue Press bills Auletris as a work that “breaks many taboos.” Fans of [Anaïs] Nin know that she has covered plenty of salacious territory before: tubercular nymphomaniacs, exhibitionists, voyeurs, orgies, gender bending, bondage, bestiality, incest, hermaphroditism, etc. Nin was a pioneer of women’s sex writing in English, and all contemporary erotica authors are indebted to her, whether they realize it or not. In the 1940s, she wrote risqué stories for an anonymous private collector at the rate of a dollar a page. Despite how Nin downplayed her bespoke smut as “literary prostitution,” compared to other explicit writing of her time in English, hers was revolutionary. The two steamy volumes, Delta of Venus and Little Birds, were not published for the public until the ’70s, just after her death, but they were best sellers and set a new standard for erotica.

Laura Frost reviewing Auletris, a book of rare fiction by Anaïs Nin

HP Lovecraft’s Fungi From Yuggoth and Other Poems, a new collection of readings by William E. Hart.

The Harlan Ellison® Books Preservation Project is on the brink of achieving its Kickstarter target.

The Haunted Ceiling, a neglected ghost story by HG Wells, is being published for the first time.

• A Quietus Hour Radio Special: Shirley Collins on her favourite songs.

Kellie Woodson recommends “5 transgressive horror publishers”.

Alice in Wonderland‘s engravings—a forgotten story in pictures.

• “Alan Moore’s Jerusalem is a moveable feast,” says Alan Wall.

Musiceureka: “collecting vinyl in a special way”.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Terrarium makers.

• RIP Pauline Oliveros.

Bye Bye Butterfly (1965) by Pauline Oliveros | Lear (1989) by Pauline Oliveros / Stuart Dempster / Panaiotis | Silence Echoes (1997) by Pauline Oliveros & Randy Raine-Reusch

Weekend links 197

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Posters by Jay Shaw for Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England which receives a US release this month.

Alvin Baltrop’s Gay New York: “the clandestine activities taking place under New York piers between 1975 and 1986”. AnOther samples some of the work on display at the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. Meanwhile, BUTT has some shots from Texas Porno Road Trip, a photo series by Mike McLeod. Related: HBO will show you anything but a male erection, says Justin Moyer.

• “[Robert] Desnos quickly proved himself to be one of the most gifted in these experiments – eventually known as ‘the period of sleeping fits’. He was capable of writing, speaking, drawing and composing entire fantastical narratives.” Eugene Thacker on the Surrealist séances of the 1920s.

• “It’s history, not a viral feed,” says Sarah Werner. A complaint about the way the ongoing decontextualisation of images is both pernicious and potentially lucrative.

His prose is a palimpsest of echoes, ranging from Eliot’s Preludes and Rhapsody on a Windy Night (lines like “Midnight shakes the memory / As a madman shakes a dead geranium” are Burroughsian before the fact) to Raymond Chandler’s marmoreal wisecracks and Herbert Huncke’s jive. I suspect that few readers have made it all the way through the cut-up novels, but anyone dipping into them may come away humming phrases. His palpable influence on JG Ballard, William Gibson, and Kathy Acker is only the most obvious effect of the kind of inspiration that makes a young writer drop a book and grab a pen, wishing to emulate so sensational a sound. It’s a cold thrill.

Peter Schjeldahl reviews Call Me Burroughs by Barry Miles.

• “Dance music was born in LGBT communities, but has this been forgotten?” Luis-Manuel Garcia on an alternate history of sexuality in club culture.

• Avant-Grade Hallucinogens: the Poetics of Psychedelic Perception in Moving Image Art by Stuart Heaney.

No Condition Is Permanent: weekly radio shows from Count Reeshard at LuxuriaMusic and iTunes.

The Golem: where fact and fiction collide. David Barnett on 100 years of Gustav Meyrink’s novel.

• Don’t Let Harlan Ellison Hear This: Nick Mamatas on a great writer.

• Mix of the week: the Ela Orleans Mix at A Sound Awareness.

Amon Düül II playing live on French TV, 1971 & 1973.

• A soundmap of London canals and minor rivers.

The Peculiar Underworld of Rare-Book Thieves.

• At Pinterest: William Burroughs and Phalluses.

Architecture of Doom

Hallucinations (1967) by Tim Buckley | Phallus Dei (1969) by Amon Düül II | Hallucinations (In Memory of Reinaldo Arenas) (1994) by Paul Schütze

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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