An unseasonable bloom

orchid1.jpg

It’s a strange thing to compare the covers of Der Orchideengarten in Franz Rottensteiner’s The Fantasy Book (1978) with the facsimile of the first issue which has just been published by Zagava. For years the two covers and Rottensteiner’s laudatory description were all I knew of a magazine that nobody else seemed to write about. As with all such enigmas, this made the magazine all the more intriguing. Der Orchideengarten was short-lived, running from 1919 to 1921, and German, which no doubt did little to aid its post-war reputation. Whatever reputation it may have had was quickly eclipsed by Weird Tales and a host of other Anglophone publications some of whose creations still dominate the fantasy landscape today. One of the many services Rottensteiner’s study provided was to treat fantasy as a genre with manifestations all over the world, not only in Britain and America.

orchid2.jpg

The visibility of Der Orchideengarten began to change in 2009 when Will at the now-defunct A Journey Round My Skull, having also had his curiosity piqued by Rottensteiner’s book, acquired a few copies of the magazine. I ran some of the interior illustrations here, the sight of which was genuinely revelatory since these weird and macabre drawings had been buried for 90 years. The situation changed again late last year when the entire run of the magazine was made available at the University of Heidelberg’s remarkable online archive.

What struck me in 2009—and what continues to strike me today—is the difference in tone between the illustrations, covers included, of Der Orchideengarten with its later Anglophone counterparts, especially Weird Tales. The latter presented itself very much in the pulp tradition, and many of the illustrators of the early issues were just as happy working with adventure or detective titles as they were with fantasy or horror. The German artists are less illustrational and much more grotesque, closer at times to Expressionist painting than anything you’d find in an American magazine. I continue to wonder how fantasy as a genre might have developed if it had owed less to Britain’s ghost stories and America’s adventure idioms.

orchid3.jpg

Any speculation is easier now we have this facsimile of the first issue which (as I mentioned in a weekend post) contains a translation into English by Helen Grant of the complete contents of the magazine. This has been cleverly achieved by interleaving narrower pages of translated text with the originals so the integrity of the magazine is maintained. The facsimile is a quality production with superb printing of all the illustrations and graphics. One of the ironies of our connected world is that contemporary magazines continue to be killed off while the easier accessibility of so much culture from the past makes resurrections like this one more likely.

orchid4.jpg

Whether we see more facsimile issues will no doubt depend on the success of this first number which may be ordered here. A few more page samples follow.

Continue reading “An unseasonable bloom”

Weekend links 234

dezso.jpg

The Devil in the Green Coat by Andrea Dezsö, an illustration for a new, uncensored edition of the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales.

• That { feuilleton } object of cult attention, Penda’s Fen, a 1974 television film by David Rudkin directed by Alan Clarke, continues its long journey out of the shadows. To coincide with a screening in London of a 16mm print, Sukhdev Sandhu looks back at a unique drama, and examines its connections to other British films of the period. There’s still no sign of a DVD release although rumours persist. Related: Penda’s Fen at A Year In The Country.

• “One of the reasons I’m sure I found the horror genre congenial is that it’s almost always focused on the body. The body is the center of all horror films.” David Cronenberg talking to Calum Marsh about his novel, Consumed.

• Mix of the week: Antony Hegarty’s Future Feminist Playlist, and Secret Thirteen Mix 134 by James Ginzburg & Yair Elazar Glotman. Related: Nimbes by Joaniele Mercier & James Ginzburg.

• Another week, another Kickstarter: Suzanne Ciani: A Life in Waves is a planned feature-length documentary about the American synthesist and composer.

• “[Marjorie] Cameron’s connections to Scientology and powerful men once drew headlines, but now her art is getting its due,” says Tanja M. Laden.

Jay Babcock found a Hawkwind Tarot spread in International Times for 1971. Is this an overlooked Barney Bubbles design?

• “Tempered in the flames of hell”: Helen Grant on the precursors of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Bottle Imp.

Hawthonn: Phil and Layla Legard (and others) remember John Balance with a special musical project.

Derek Jarman Super 8 by James Mackay, a book of stills from Derek Jarman’s Super 8 films.

• “Coltrane’s free jazz wasn’t just ‘a lot of noise’,” says Richard Brody.

This might be the world’s first book on colour palettes.

Paris 1971 (1971) by Suzanne Ciani | The Fifth Wave: Water Lullaby (1982) by Suzanne Ciani | Blue Amiga (2014) by NeoTantrik & Suzanne Ciani