Weekend links 354

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The Dolly, Dolly Spy (1968).

• As mentioned previously, Concrete Desert is a musical collaboration between The Bug (Kevin Martin) and Earth’s Dylan Carlson inspired, they say, by Los Angeles and the fiction of JG Ballard. Martin & Carlson talked to Patrick Clarke at The Quietus about the album’s creation. Elsewhere, Kevin Martin compiled a list for Bleep of ten musical influences on the album, and Dylan Carlson had a Fireside Chat with Red Bull Music.

• Phil Legard of Xenis Emputae Travelling Band and Hawthonn has released a new EP, Hesperian Garden, featuring compositions derived from the Monas Hieroglyphica of John Dee.

• More Ballard: Mike Holliday maps the evolution of Crash, a novel which is published in a new “Collector’s Edition” by Fourth Estate next week.

Teleplasmiste “bridge the oscillation gap from deep listening ambient music and the heaviest of doomy drones,” says Richard Fontenoy.

David Barnett on Adam Diment, “the superstar spy novelist who vanished for four decades”.

• The queer art underground of 1980s London as photographed by David Gwinnutt.

A sculpture of a Buddhist deity made from 20,000 beetles.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 483 by Jane Fitz.

• RIP Gilbert Baker, designer of the rainbow flag.

• Rubber Dolly Rag (1930) by Uncle Bud Landress with Georgia Yellow Hammers | Voodoo Dolly (1981) by Siouxsie and the Banshees | Cosmic Funky Dolly (2003) by Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.

Weekend links 349

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• Before Stanley Kubrick fixed an image of Alex and his droogs in the popular imagination, artists could get away with playing on the threat of biker gangs as Wilson McLean does in this vaguely psychedelic cover from 1969. (McLean’s interpretation may possibly derive from a 1965 edition.) LibraryThing has a collection of Clockwork Orange covers from around the world which run the gamut of cogs, orange hues and variations on David Pelham’s famous Penguin design from 1972. Meanwhile, AL Kennedy celebrates 100 years of Anthony Burgess by examining the writer’s career as a whole, although the web feature still manages to get a photo of Malcolm McDowell in there.

• “Even bad books can change lives,” says Phil Baker reviewing The Outsider by Colin Wilson and Beyond the Robot, a Wilson biography by Gary Lachman. I wouldn’t call The Outsider a bad book but Wilson’s more wayward opinions (and later works) are best treated with scepticism.

• “Murtaugh refers to his subject’s ‘pervasive sense of doom’ and Welch himself speaks of ‘the extraordinary sadness of everything.'” David Pratt reviewing Good Night, Beloved Comrade: The Letters of Denton Welch to Eric Oliver, edited by Daniel J. Murtaugh.

• At The Quietus this week: Tinariwen bassist Eyadou Ag Leche is interviewed by Richie Troughton, Jane Weaver unveils a new song from her forthcoming album, Modern Kosmology, and Danny Riley explores the strange world of Ben Chasny.

• “A micro-history of cultural gatekeeping: once told by the censors what we may read, then by critics what we should, we are now told merely what we can read.” Ben Roth writing against the use of “readability” as a literary value.

• Yayoi Kusama’s amazing infinity rooms are at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, until May. For the rest of us, Peter Murphy’s panoramic photo is still online.

• More music: my friends Watch Repair have become visible enough to be interviewed by an Argentinian website. The group’s Bandcamp page recently made three new releases available.

• Yet more music: They Walk Among Us, a new song and video by Barry Adamson, and Anymore, a new song and video by Goldfrapp.

• Earth and The Bug announce Concrete Desert, a collaborative album inspired by Los Angeles and the fiction of JG Ballard.

• Bad Books for Bad People: Episode 7: The Incal – Epic French Space-Opera Comics.

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 589 by Aisha Devi, and Secret Thirteen Mix 212 by Qual.

Eduardo Paolozzi‘s forays into fashion and furnishings.

Cooking with Vincent [Price]

Moroccan Tape Stash

• Tin Toy Clockwork Train (1986) by The Dukes Of Stratosphear | Clock (1995) by Node | Clockwork Horoscope (2009) by Belbury Poly

Science Fiction Monthly

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Art by Chris Foss.

Recent uploads at the Internet Archive include an incomplete run of British magazine Science Fiction Monthly, a large-format collection of SF art and original fiction that ran for 28 issues from 1974 to 1976. Science Fiction Monthly was significant for my generation since it was the only regular British SF magazine available in the mid-70s. (Michael Moorcock and co. were still producing issues of New Worlds but the only ones I saw were the quarterly paperbacks). Science Fiction Monthly was published by New English Library which made it seem at first glance like a promotional tool for the publisher, even more so when most of the cover art and almost all the ads were for NEL titles. The early issues lean heavily on NEL content but later issues had a broader reach and contained all the features you’d expect from an SF magazine of the period: news columns, film reviews, interviews, a bad comic strip, and so on. The thing I liked most at the time was the reproduction of book cover art at a large size, with full-colour paintings filling the broadsheet pages or spreads, all printed with the intention of being removed and fixed to bedroom walls. The early issues were also unique in giving regular attention to the artists, running interviews and even showing photographs of the people responsible for all of that familiar paperback art. I didn’t see all of the early issues but the interviews were later collected in book form by NEL in Visions of the Future (Janet Sacks ed., 1976), a volume that made a considerable impression since it showed me that SF and fantasy illustration was a viable career rather than the product of remote and mysterious talents.

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Artist Bruce Pennington (see this post).

A few page samples follow. It’s a shame the collection at the Internet Archive is incomplete since the magazine’s contents were interesting to the end. The only copy I own today is the one for October 1975 (not currently available online) which is almost a JG Ballard special, with a feature on the writer, an interview about his new novel, High-Rise, and an original piece of fiction.

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Art by Bruce Pennington.

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Art by David Pelham.

Continue reading “Science Fiction Monthly”

Weekend links 333

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Time Out (London), no. 2403. No illustrator or designer credited.

• October isn’t all about the dark, there’s also psychedelia: Ned Raggett reviews a new collection of British psych, Let’s Go Down And Blow Our Minds: The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1967, while Floodgate Companion, a forthcoming collection of art by Robert Beatty, is previewed here.

• Mixes of the week (aside from my own, of course): Samhain Seance 5: Invasion of the Robot Witch by The Ephemeral Man, Thee Finders Kreepers Halloween Spezial, and Secret Thirteen Mix 199 by Blue Hour.

• “No diggin’ ‘ere!” Adam Scovell revisits the ghostly locations of the BBC’s A Warning to the Curious, and presents a short film based on the same.

• Stanley Kubrick’s film of The Shining has lost its shine through endless quotation and over-familiarity, says Anne Billson. Hard to disagree.

Between Ballard’s Ears: in which two short stories by JG Ballard—Track 12 and Venus Smiles—are dramatised in binaural sound.

John Carpenter talks to Adam Woodward about remakes, his love of early synthesisers and why nostalgia works in mysterious ways.

• Next month at the British Library: Brion Gysin: A Centennial Invocation with Alan Moore, Iain Sinclair, Barry Miles and others.

Peter Bebergal on the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, “a shadowy medieval brotherhood that probably didn’t exist”.

Until The Hunter, a new album by Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions, is streaming here.

• San Fran-disco: Geeta Dayal on how Patrick Cowley and Sylvester changed dance music forever.

• A small portion of Bill Laswell‘s vast back catalogue is now on Bandcamp.

• At MetaFilter: The strange history of books bound in human skin.

• Italian composer Fabio Frizzi remembers 50 years of cult horror.

Matthew Cheney on the strange horrors of Robert Aickman.

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s favourite records

Dark Start (1995) by ELpH vs Coil | Darkstalker (2000) by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore | Dark (2012) by Moritz Von Oswald Trio

Old Weird and New Weird

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Savoy Books, 1984.

A couple more recent arrivals that feature my work. These are of minority interest but worth noting since academic articles don’t always travel beyond a small audience of subscribers.

A recent issue of Foundation (The International Review of Science Fiction), Volume 45.1, number 123, contains an article by Mark P. Williams, Underground Assemblages: Savoy Dreams and The Starry Wisdom. This examines the legacy of New Worlds magazine under the editorship of Michael Moorcock (from 1964 to 1974) via two writing collections, Savoy Dreams (Savoy Books, 1984) and The Starry Wisdom (Creation Books, 1994). The two collections are very different: Savoy Dreams, edited by David Britton and Michael Butterworth, was an eclectic overview of Savoy’s publishing endeavours up to that point. Among the original writing there’s fiction by Butterworth, M. John Harrison (the first publication of the Viriconium story, Lords of Misrule) and others, plus a reaction by Michael Moorcock to William Burroughs’ Cities of the Red Night, a book that Savoy had contracted to publish before police harassment forced the company’s bankruptcy. The rest of the book is taken up with press reviews of Savoy books.

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Creation Books, 1994. Cover art by Peter Smith.

The Starry Wisdom should require less of an introduction since the book has been in print since 1994, and has a small, possibly notorious, reputation among HP Lovecraft enthusiasts. Editor DM Mitchell felt that the assembling of post-Lovecraftian fiction up to that point had been too cosy and insular: too many story collections were being edited and written by groups of friends in the genre fiction “community”, with the result that the stories were often stale and complacent. The startling newness of Lovecraft’s imagination in comparison to many of his contemporaries in Weird Tales seemed to have been bled away into pastiche, a process that began soon after Lovecraft’s death. Mitchell’s solution was to commission original pieces of Lovecraft-inspired work from writers outside the genre world, notably Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and newcomer David Conway; he also reprinted pieces that would never appear elsewhere as Lovecraftian fiction, including Wind Die. You Die. We Die. by William Burroughs, and Prisoner of the Coral Deep by JG Ballard. Burroughs and Ballard connect directly to New Worlds, of course (Ballard wrote about Burroughs for the magazine), while the pair cast a shadow over many of Savoy’s book productions. Both Savoy Dreams and The Starry Wisdom featured comic strips; Tales of the Cramps by Kris Guidio appeared in Savoy Dreams, while The Starry Wisdom contained strips by Mike Philbin & James Havoc, Rick Grimes, and the first publication of my own adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu.

I was surprised—and pleased—that my comic strip receives a fair amount of scrutiny in Williams’ piece. My Lovecraft strips have received almost no attention from the comics world, a consequence of having been printed by book publishers and distributed to book shops. (A rare exception was this recent piece by Matt Maxwell.) When you’ve been overlooked in this manner it’s a surprise to find your work receiving serious evaluation from an entirely different quarter. Mark P. Williams’ essay examines the contents of both collections, my strip included, as “assemblages”. This is a valid critique in the case of the Cthulhu strip since Lovecraft’s story is itself an assemblage of what seems at first to be unrelated data. The comic adaptation assembles a range of cultural references—some genuine, others invented—to parallel the narrator’s investigation, and even uses genuine documents in places, including columns from The New York Times. I don’t know if Williams has seen the blog post I made that points out many of the cultural references but he notes some of the more overt ones, such as Joseph Conrad appearing as the doomed Professor Angell, Arnold Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead, and so on. While I was drawing the strip I was trying to imagine the story as an RKO production, a hybrid of two island films—The Most Dangerous Game and King Kong—and Orson Welles’ unmade Heart of Darkness. These references, many of which aren’t very obvious, were largely for my own amusement. The series I created with David Britton that followed the Lovecraft strips, Reverbstorm, puts assemblage and cultural reference at the forefront.

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Cover art is my illustration for Remnants from Lovecraft’s Monsters, edited by Ellen Datlow.

The Cthulhu strip and the Reverbstorm series—now collected as Lord Horror: Reverbstorm—are the subject of a very perceptive piece by Benjamin Noys in the latest edition of Genre, an academic journal published by Duke University Press. This number of the journal is a kind of Weird special edited by Benjamin Noys and Timothy S. Murphy. Noys’ Full Spectrum Offence: Savoy’s Reverbstorm and the Weirding of Modernity is the final article in a publication that examines aspects of the “Old Weird” (ie: the Lovecraft-era Weird Tales) and contrasts it with the more recent “New Weird”. The latter was a short-lived label coined by M. John Harrison in 2003 for a range of fiction that was ignoring genre boundaries, and consciously developing the Weird as a project. China Miéville was one of the most visible proponents of the New Weird, and Harrison’s term emerged in part as a response to Miéville’s fiction. Miéville is interviewed in this issue of Genre where, as usual, he has some very worthwhile things to say. He prefers the term “haute Weird” for the original manifestation, possibly because it avoids the negative connotations of the word “old”.

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A spread from part 7 of Reverbstorm.

Benjamin Noys’ article is lengthy and resists easy summary, but it begins by investigating the way my work on the Lovecraft strips permeated the Lord Horror comics and dictated some of the imagery, in particular the architectural forms and eruptions of monstrosity. Later discussion concerns the way that Reverbstorm forces the Weird and Modernism together, a collision that I believe is still unique anywhere, never mind in the comics medium. Noys’ piece has given me a lot to think about, not least for its being the first substantial critical appraisal of Reverbstorm. The series is a difficult one, being deliberately excessive and avant-garde, and presenting the reader with a torrent of interrelating cultural references. Many of these are itemised in the appendix but the success (or not) of their working together, and the potential sparking of connections, depends very much on the prior knowledge of the individual reader. Noys is not only knowledgeable but adept at forging his own connections while situating the series in the larger context of the Weird, old (or haute) and new. Even without the inclusion of my work inside the journal and on the cover, I’d recommend this issue of Genre to anyone with an interest in the subject. One of the reasons I favour the Weird as a chosen work label is the way it evades (or ignores) generic boundaries. Years ago I realised that many of the things I liked the best in the arts were the chimeras, those works that transgress boundaries and created new hybrids. No surprise then that I enjoy a genre that refuses easy definition. There aren’t many masts I pin my colours to but the Weird is one of them.

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The Weird