Weekend links 594

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Eva und die Zukunft (1898) by Max Klinger.

• “It is no exaggeration to say that MAD invented the modern, postwar American takedown.” Thomas Larson reviews Seeing MAD: Essays on Mad Magazine’s Humor and Legacy.

• At the Internet Archive: Cartoon Modern: Style And Design In Fifties Animation (2006) by Amid Amidi, a book which has been made available as a free download by its author.

• New music: A preview of Metta, Benevolence by Sunn O))), recorded live in the Mary Anne Hobbs’ radio show in 2019; Veils by Víz; The Mountain (Blakkat Dub) by Ladytron.

• “For Harry Houdini, séances and Spiritualism were just an illusion,” says Bryan Greene.

• At Public Domain Review: Claude Mellan’s The Sudarium of Saint Veronica (1649), an engraving made with a single continuous line.

Alex Merola on the radical legacy of Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe.

TheStencil is Steven Heller’s font of the month.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Derek Jarman Day.

Nicky Mao’s favourite music.

Mad Man Blues (1951) by John Lee Hooker | Mad Pierrot (1978) by Yellow Magic Orchestra | Mad Keys (2002) by Al-Pha-X

Weekend links 410

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William Hope Hodgson’s final Carnacki mystery, The Hog, received its first magazine publication in January 1947. The cover art by AR Tilburne may not have been originally created for Hodgson’s tale but it complements the story’s atmosphere of febrile dread.

• It’s still April so that means it’s still the month that saw the 100th anniversary of the death of William Hope Hodgson, bodybuilder, manacler of Harry Houdini, and the author of several novels of weird fiction that continue to entrance new generations of readers. The edition of Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland that I illustrated for Swan River Press would have been on sale this month but print problems have caused delays with the run as a whole; anyone interested is advised to contact the publisher for news. • Meanwhile, Jon Mueller (composer of the book’s accompanying soundtrack CD) and myself talked to Swan River Press about the attractions of Hodgson’s novel. • More Hodgsoniana: Greydogtales acknowledged the Hodgson centenary via a discussion with Hodgson scholar Sam Gafford, while Michael Dirda reviewed the new edition of The House on the Borderland and another SRP title, The Scarlet Soul (whose cover I also designed), for The Washington Post.

• “From the ashes of countless decayed Modernities comes Neo-Decadence, a profaned cathedral whose broken stained glass windows still glitter irregularly in the harsh light of a Symbolist sun. Behind this marvellously vandalised edifice, a motley band of revellers picnic in the graveyard of the Real, leaving behind all manner of rotting delicacies and toxic baubles in their wake.” Drowning in Beauty: The Neo-Decadent Anthology edited by Daniel Corrick & Justin Isis is published this month by Snuggly Books, an imprint whose catalogue of new books and first-time translations will be of interest to anyone who comes here for Decadence, Symbolism or anything related. Related to the above: A Neo-Decadence Day at Dennis Cooper’s.

• “Witches are change-makers. They’re transgressive beings who dwell on the fringes of society, and so they’re the perfect icon for rebels, outsiders, and rabble-rousers, especially those of the female persuasion.” Pam Grossman talks to Grimoire about witchcraft and related arts.

• Mixes of the week: Resident Advisor Podcast 621 by Grouper, and Bacchus Beltane 5: The Owl Service by The Ephemeral Man.

• Back in black: Publisher/translator James Conway and designer Cara Schwartz on the cover designs of Rixdorf Editions.

• I was talking again this week at The Writer’s Corner where JKA Short asked me about working as an illustrator.

All Gates Open: The Story of Can by Rob Young is published next week. The Wire has an extract.

• Delusional Albion: Brad Stevens on how foreign directors saw Britain in the Swinging Sixties.

• “There’s no book I love more than Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature,” says Olivia Laing.

Eden Tizard on Soliloquy For Lilith, the drone album by Nurse With Wound.

Owls (1969) by Ruth White | Decadent & Symmetrical (1995) by ELpH vs Coil | The Owls (2013) by Félicia Atkinson

Yuggoth details

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Yuggoth Cultures (1994) by John Coulthart.

Earlier this week I spent a day scanning this painting—which I’m now surprised to find is 21 years old—so I might at last have a good quality digital copy. There’s been a copy on the website for years but that was a print made at a high-street copy shop that did nothing for the detail and range of colour. It’s quite a large piece—49.54 x 71.39 cm (19.5 x 28.1 inches)—done with acrylics on board. Since 2003 the painting has been used (in another poor reproduction) on the cover of The Starry Wisdom, the controversial collection of Lovecraftian fiction from Creation Books. The painting wasn’t originally intended for that collection, however, and doesn’t quite fit since a number of the portraits don’t feature in the book at all.

Yuggoth Cultures would have been an earlier collection of Lovecraftian fiction and non-fiction that Alan Moore had begun writing for Creation in 1993. Alan’s idea was to take Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet sequence as the basis for a collection that would explore Lovecraft’s fictional world and also draw together a variety of figures from the same era: fellow writers, occultists like Aleister Crowley and Austin Spare, and Harry Houdini for whom Lovecraft ghost-wrote Imprisoned with the Pharaohs in 1924. Unfortunately the stars were not right on this occasion; Alan took the sole copy of the half-written manuscript to London in order to read selections at an event in Soho but left the papers in a cab. Some pieces survived, having been copied and stored elsewhere—The Courtyard in The Starry Wisdom is one of these—and there was talk for a while of the lost pieces being rewritten but enthusiasm for the project flagged.

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This is Alan’s sketch for the cover, the idea being to have a Lovecraft head made of fungal growths rather like an Arcimboldo painting. The head would be sprouting tendrils whose loops would contain pictures of some of the people featured in the book. Alan’s quick sketch is actually a better approximation of Lovecraft’s strange features than my painted version which isn’t narrow enough. For the record (and because people always ask), the other people on the cover are Alan himself, Austin Osman Spare, Aleister Crowley, Harry Houdini, Robert E Howard (not Al Capone as people often think) and Clark Ashton Smith.

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While searching through the archives I discovered these lettering designs although they’re probably not bold enough to read very well on such a busy painting. Before I started using a computer, designs like this had to be drawn at large size then scaled down using a photocopier.

Continue reading “Yuggoth details”

The Bookman Histories

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Now that Angry Robot books has revealed the cover design which kept me busy throughout July I can do the same here. The Bookman Histories is an omnibus reprinting of Lavie Tidhar‘s steampunk trilogy which comprises The Bookman, Camera Obscura and The Great Game. The stories are frenetic, crowded with incident and feature a huge range of characters that find real people such as Jules Verne and Harry Houdini encountering contemporaries—both human and non-human—from the fiction of the late 19th century. All the requisite steampunk boxes are ticked. David Icke will be thrilled to know that in these books the British royal family are a bunch of lizards from space…

My initial impulse when faced with far too much material was to cram every square centimetre of the cover with detail but if I’d have done that I’d probably still be working on it, and would also have run the risk of it turning into an incoherent mess. So this layout, which is crowded enough, is something of a compromise. I also wanted to save some space for the title design.

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The main body of the title isn’t a font but was created from scratch based on letterforms and decorative elements from this fantastic set of fire insurance title pages. I’d been wanting to try something based on these hand-drawn designs ever since Mr Peacay posted them at BibliOdyssey last year. This particular design provided the basic letter shapes although I had to invent several of missing characters.

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In the third part of the trilogy the Martians from HG Wells’ War of the Worlds invade, so I spent rather too much time fashioning a Martian tripod from lots of tiny bits of machinery. This is one of the earlier drafts. It was an odd thing finishing this cover (which includes the planet Mars in the background) whilst the world was getting excited by the real landing on Mars of the Curiosity Rover.

The Bookman Histories will be published in March next year. Meanwhile there’s more steampunk design on its way. Watch this space.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Aether Cola
Crafting steampunk illustrations
SteamPunk Magazine
Morlocks, airships and curious cabinets
The Steampunk Bible
Steampunk Reloaded
Steampunk overloaded!
More Steampunk and the Crawling Chaos
Steampunk Redux
Steampunk framed
Steampunk Horror Shortcuts

More Golems

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Golem by Jiri Barta.

There are always more golems. Among recent reading I’ve been catching up with the works of Michael Chabon, and have just finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), a novel concerned with several things that obsessed me when I was 13, namely Harry Houdini, conjuring tricks and the Empire State Building. Chabon even acknowledges JC Cannell’s The Secrets of Houdini, a book I re-read many times trying in vain to learn some of Houdini’s card tricks. What didn’t obsess me at that age happens to be the main subject of the novel: superhero comics. Chabon does a good job of communicating the enthusiasm that powered the early days of the American comics industry, however, and I can appreciate the enthusiasm that history generates for him even if I don’t quite share it. Lurking at the back of his story is the mute and symbolic figure of Rabbi Loew’s Golem of Prague, mention of which prompted me to see whether Czech animator Jiri Barta had managed to complete his film of the Golem story, a project which has been stalled since the 1990s. He hasn’t, unfortunately, but there is a trailer which I hadn’t seen before, a sight that makes the prospect even more tantalising. Someone give this man some money to finish his film.

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Emet (2009).

Elsewhere, there’s Emet by Bonsaininja Studio, Milan, a short steampunk take on the Golem creation story. Great use of CGI and digital animation but I’d still prefer to see Barta’s version. Meanwhile, the whole of Paul Wegener’s The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920) is now on YouTube. If you’ve never seen Wegener stomping around medieval Prague with his shopping basket then here’s your chance.

See also:
Golem: The Recipe For Life by Michael Chabon

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hodgson versus Houdini
Das Haus zur letzten Latern
Hugo Steiner-Prag’s Golem
Barta’s Golem