Weekend links 516

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Bats in space: an illustration by Henrique Alvim Corrêa from a 1906 edition of The War of the Worlds.

• Auf wiedersehen to Florian Schneider. Until he left Kraftwerk in 2009 (or 2006 or whenever it was), Schneider had been the group’s longest-serving member, keeping things running for the few months in 1971 when Ralf Hütter was absent. The brief period when Kraftwerk was Schneider plus soon-to-be-Neu! (Michael Rother, guitar, and Klaus Dinger, drums) fascinates aficionados over-familiar with the later albums. The music they produced was a wild and aggressive take on the rock idiom but Scheider maintained the link with Kraftwerk before and after, not only instrumentally but with his ubiquitous traffic cones, as noted in this post. There’s no need for me to praise Kraftwerk any more than usual, this blog has featured at least one dedicated post about them for every year of its existence, and besides, the group itself is still active. Elsewhere: Simon Reynolds on how Florian Schneider and Kraftwerk created pop’s future; A Kraftwerk Baker’s Dozen Special; Dave Simpson attempts to rank 30 Kraftwerk songs (good luck getting anyone to agree with this); Jude Rogers with ten things you (possibly) don’t know about Kraftwerk; Dancing to Numbers by Owen Hatherley; Pocket Calculator in five languages; Florian Schneider talks about Stop Plastic Pollution.

Intermission is a new digital compilation from Ghost Box records featuring “preview tracks from forthcoming releases and material especially recorded for the compilation during the global lockdown”. In a choice of two editions, one of which helps fund Médecins Sans Frontières.

• How groundbreaking design weirdness transformed record label United Artists, against all odds. By Jeremy Allan.

Sex in an American suburb is not quite the same phenomenon as sex in, say, an eastern European apartment block, and sex scenes can do a great deal to illuminate the social and historical forces that make the difference. All of which is to say that sex is a kind of crucible of humanness, and so the question isn’t so much why one would write about sex, as why one would write about anything else.

And yet, of course, we are asked why we write about sex. The biggest surprise of publishing my first novel, What Belongs to You was how much people wanted to talk about the sex in a book that, by any reasonable standard, has very little sex in it. That two or three short scenes of sex between men was the occasion of so much comment said more about mainstream publishing in 2016, I think, than it did about my book. In fact, in terms of exploring the potential for sex in fiction, I felt that I hadn’t gone nearly far enough. I’ve tried to go much further in my second novel, Cleanness. In two of its chapters, I wanted to push explicitness as far as I could; I wanted to see if I could write something that could be 100% pornographic and 100% high art.

Garth Greenwell on sex in literature

James Balmont‘s guide to Shinya Tsukamoto, “Japan’s Greatest Cult Filmmaker”.

• A Dandy’s Guide to Decadent Self-Isolation by Samuel Rutter.

Maya-Roisin Slater on where to begin with Laurie Anderson.

• The Count of 13: Ramsey Campbell‘s Weird Selection.

Adam Scovell on where to begin with Nigel Kneale.

When John Waters met Little Richard (RIP).

RB Russell on collecting Robert Aickman.

Weird writers recommend weird films.

Campo Grafico 1933/1939.

Ruckzuck (1970) by Kraftwerk | V-2 Schneider (1977) by David Bowie | V-2 Schneider (1997) by Philip Glass

Claude Shepperson’s First Men in the Moon

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In the week following the Moon-landing anniversary I’ve been re-reading The First Men in the Moon by HG Wells. This was a late entry in Wells’ extraordinary run of science fiction novels, and is both shorter and lighter in tone than his earlier novels, some of which veer at times into outright horror. The First Men in the Moon might have been a serious examination of interstellar travel but the narrative is overtly comic in places, rather like The Man Who Could Work Miracles, a Wells story in which a fantastic gift is offered to a character unprepared to make the most of it. Wells’ lunar explorers—Bedford, a failed entrepreneur, and Cavor, an absent-minded inventor—lurch from one mishap to another, yoked together through their own inadequacies. Early in the proceedings Cavor destroys his house when his gravity-repelling “Cavorite” generates a violent funnel of air before launching itself into space. Cavor regards this as fortunate, explaining that a slightly different set of circumstances might have removed the breathable atmosphere from the entire planet for a day or so. The trip to the Moon is conducted almost on a whim: Cavor has no real reason for going, and Bedford tags along in the hope of finding some future business opportunity. Like the hapless protagonists of Withnail and I, this is a lunar voyage undertaken “by mistake”.

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It’s probable that Wells regarded absurdity as being the best way to approach a story that was less original than his earlier works. The first edition of the novel opens with an epigraph from Lucian’s True History (or True Story), a book from the second century AD which includes a journey to the Moon among its planetary travels. Lucian’s book was the first to feature such a journey (and is often regarded as the first work of science fiction) but many others followed, even before From the Earth to the Moon (1865) by Jules Verne, a book which Bedford mentions during the expedition discussions. (Cavor has never heard of it.)

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The illustrations here by Claude Allin Shepperson are also from the first edition, and are closer to the tone of the novel than those by other artists. E. Hering’s illustrations for American readers are in a style which is more detailed and inventive than Shepperson’s but which also suggests a more serious story. Readers expecting a new War of the Worlds would have been surprised. Shepperson’s drawing of Cavor’s spacecraft evidently provided the model for Ray Harryhausen in the 1964 film adaptation, although Harryhausen’s Selenites differ from both Shepperson and Wells’ descriptions. Nigel Kneale’s screenplay deviates from the book elsewhere but the film is still a more faithful adaptation than those based on Wells’ more popular novels, as are many of the other screen adaptations, the first being a lost silent from 1919. All of which reminds me that I’ve not seen Harryhausen’s film for many years. I’d welcome another date with the Grand Lunar.

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Continue reading “Claude Shepperson’s First Men in the Moon”

Weekend links 474

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AS11-40-5877 (1969).

• A minimum of Moon-related links this week because this is a subject I always return to. Previous links to NASA’s photo archives are now redundant after they changed their website but the archive of photos from the Apollo missions are currently hosted on Flickr…while Flickr lasts, anyway. The Albums section features whole film rolls from each of the missions.

• Mixes of the week: Stephen O’Malley presents In Session: Richard Pinhas (a re-posting of a mix from last year), and The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XVII by David Colohan.

• Living With The Human Machines: experimental artist Sarah Angliss speaks to Matthew Neale about the cyborgs, dummies and ghosts that populate her work.

• On And On And On: A Guide to Generative Electronic Music. Related: Deconstructing Brian Eno’s Music for Airports.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jesse Bransford presents…A List of Grimoires for the Twilight of the Age of the Book.

A Dandy in Aspic exclusive: Paul Gallagher interviewed cult author Derek Marlowe in 1984.

• From Ted Hughes to HG Wells: Jeanette Winterson picks the best books about the Moon.

• Tate acquires vast archive of British surrealist Ithell Colquhoun.

• At Greydogtales: Ten supernatural stories which stay with you.

• Emptyset turn to machine learning on new album Blossoms.

• Paul Grimstad on the absolute originality of Georges Perec.

• Valerie Stivers on cooking with Bruno Schulz.

• Blown out ’77: in the studio with Suicide.

Astronauts on record covers.

Back Side Of The Moon (1991) by The Orb | Moonshot (1999) by Hallucinator | Under The Moon (2019) by Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois & Roger Eno

Weekend links 437

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Rawmarsh Road, Rotherham, 1975 by Peter Watson.

Steel Cathedrals (1985), a composition by David Sylvian (with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kenny Wheeler, Robert Fripp & others) was originally available only on the cassette release of Sylvian’s Alchemy: An Index Of Possibilities, and a video cassette where the music accompanied views of Japanese industry by Yasuyuki Yamaguchi. The video hasn’t been reissued since but may be viewed here.

• “If, as Arthur C Clarke famously observed, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then can we accept that any sufficiently advanced magic is also indistinguishable from technology?” asks Mark Pilkington.

• “I didn’t like the idea of cartoons as just funny jokes, they had to have some relevant piece of observation in them to do with the society we are living in,” says Ralph Steadman.

I listen to music all the time, and I’ll often seek connections across quite disparate genres of that whatever I’m looking for. Sometimes it’s an aesthetic or a feeling, sometimes a pattern or structure, but it tends to cut across genres. The thing I liked about black metal and doom metal is the slowness and weightiness of it, it’s like deep time but in music. Sunn O))), Xasthur, and other bands captured this black gravity of sound. And they also tend to eschew the traditional vocal-lead guitar set-up, and everything is in the slow-moving wash and texture of sound.

I found that in other genres like noise music (especially Keiji Haino), the European avant-garde with composers like Ligeti, Scelsi, and Dumitrescu, dark ambient artists such as Lustmord or vidnaObmana, and contemporary works like Chihei Hatakeyama’s Too Much Sadness, Rafael Anton Irisarri’s A Fragile Geography, or Christina Vantzou’s No.4. There’s a lot to talk about in terms of music and forms of sorrow or grief, certainly every musical tradition has that—the funeral dirge, requiem, lamentation, or whatever.

Eugene Thacker listing a few favourite musicians and composers during a discussion with Michael Brooks about Thacker’s new book, Infinite Resignation

• The fourth edition of Wyrd Daze—”The multimedia zine of speculative fiction + extra-ordinary music, art & writing”—is out now.

• The Library of Congress has opened its National Screening Room, an online service for viewing films in the library’s collection.

The London Library discovered some of the books that Bram Stoker used for research when he was writing Dracula.

• “Oscar Wilde’s stock has never been higher,” says John Mullan, reviewing Oscar: A Life by Matthew Sturgis.

• Mixes of the week: RA Podcast 648 by Sarah Davachi, and Secret Thirteen Mix 269 by Sstrom.

• David Lynch directs a video for A Real Indication by Thought Gang.

• “Edward Gorey lived at the ballet,” says his biographer, Mark Dery.

• A new version of Blue Velvet Blues by Acid Mothers Temple.

• Photos of cooling-tower interiors by Reginald Van de Velde.

Aaron Worth on Arthur Machen: “the HG Wells of horror”.

• The Strange World of…Barry Adamson.

Glass And Steel No. 1 (1983) by Marc Barreca | Death Is The Beginning (1996) by Steel | Painless Steel (2000) by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore

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