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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Weekend links 443

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• Yet more Gorey: Mark Dery’s biography of the artist prompted The New Yorker to unearth a piece of cover art that Edward Gorey submitted 25 years ago. In the same magazine Joan Acocella reviews Dery’s book and examines Gorey’s life and art. At Expanding Mind, Erik Davis talks with Mark Dery about Surrealism, the gay voice, Penny Dreadfuls, and the occult and Taoist influences in Gorey’s work.

Moving Through Old Daylight: Mark Fisher, Jim Jupp & Julian House of Ghost Box Recordings, and Iain Sinclair in conversation at the Roundhouse, Camden, London, 5 June 2010. Topics under discussion included Nigel Kneale, TC Lethbridge, John Foxx, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, alchemies of sound, the homogenisation of culture, imagining space and the impersistence of memory.

• “A radical retelling of our relationship with the cosmos, reinventing the history of astronomy as a new form of astrological calendar.” The Space Oracle by Ken Hollings.

There was a deliberate, almost prickly quality to Fisher’s writing and thinking that is rare nowadays, when criticism is more likely to involve open-minded rationalizing than steadfast refusal. He was not one to frolic in ambiguity or irony. “Just because something is current doesn’t mean it is new,” he writes in K-Punk, as he wonders if a time traveller from the nineties would find any contemporary music as radical as post-punk or jungle had once seemed to him. When everything is cheerfully “retro,” Fisher argued, we lose our grasp on history—and, without a sense of why the past happened the way it did, our anything-goes embrace of “happy hybridities” is an empty gesture. “What pop lacks now is the capacity for nihilation, for producing new potentials through the negation of what already exists,” he writes.

Hua Hsu on Mark Fisher’s K-Punk

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on The Wind Protect You (1946), a novel by Pat Murphy which Mark describes as a forgotten precursor of Watership Down.

• “At once tiny and huge: what is this feeling we call ‘sublime’?” Sandra Shapshay explores the Romantic aesthetic.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2018. Thanks again for the link here!

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 572 by Nastia, and FACT Mix 683 by Casino Versus Japan.

A Child’s Voice (1978) by David Thomson, an overlooked ghost story starring TP McKenna.

• Jean Cocteau’s Orphée returns from the underworld via BFI blu-ray next month.

Rated SAVX: The Savage Pencil Scratchbook

Orpheus (1967) by The Walker Brothers | Orpheus (1987) by David Sylvian | Overture To Orpheus (2003) by Colin Booth

Weekend links 367

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Human Nature by Esther Sarto.

I Feel Love: “Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder created the template for dance music as we know it”. Bill Brewster on the creation of one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

The Tearoom by Robert Yang “is a (free) historical public bathroom simulator about anxiety, police surveillance, and sucking off another dude’s gun”.

Tim Walker’s Leonora Carrington-themed fashion shoot with Tilda Swinton reaches i-D‘s website at last. More pictures and in better quality.

Joe Dante on the legacy of Nigel Kneale. Related: We Are The Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale, edited by Neil Snowdon.

Beth Comery‘s report on the progress of Gage Prentiss’s planned statue of HP Lovecraft for Providence, RI.

• The Plagiarist in the Kitchen: Jonathan Meades talks food and cooking with John Mitchinson.

• At Dangerous Minds: “Forget Louis Wain’s psychedelic cats, here are his crazy Cubist ceramics”.

• “Court orders Salvador Dalí‘s body be exhumed for paternity test.”

Flash the flesh: Manchester’s gay club heroes – in pictures.

Rick Poynor on the joy and sadness of dust.

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From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…To The Hell-Holes Of Uranus: “Beguine”, “Mambo”, “Tango” (1981) by Landscape | I Feel Love (Patrick Cowley Mega Mix) (1982) by Donna Summer | Martian Sperm And Bagpipes (1991) by Helios Creed

Weekend links 343

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Sidhe, the white people of the Tuatha Dé Danann (1954) by Leonora Carrington.

• January brings a wealth of recommended-reading lists for the new year, together with the feeling that many of those lists are merely clones of each other. Not so the recommendations at Strange Flowers which also includes links to forthcoming events such as this exhibition of Symbolist art at the Guggenheim, New York.

Some Ceremonies are Better than Others, an exhibition of sound objects and drawings by Matthias König & Ibrahim R. Ineke inspired by Arthur Machen’s The White People, at The Bries Space, Borgerhout, Belgium, from 21st January. Previously: Ineke’s comic-strip adaptation of the Machen story.

• “These must-reads explore Dada, Futurism, Surrealism, and the art of opposition,” says Carol Cooper. One of the titles under discussion is the Bruce Sterling book I designed and illustrated last year, Pirate Utopia. Sterling talked to Wired about the book and its relation to the present moment.

RIP Mark Fisher, a cultural theorist whose death was announced just as extracts from his latest book, The Weird and the Eerie, were beginning to appear. One of those extracts is at The Quietus. Related: Fisher’s k-punk blog and its earlier incarnation.

James Cargill (ex of Broadcast) announces a debut release by his new group, Children of Alice. Related: Jonathan Miller’s 1966 TV film of Alice in Wonderland rescored with Broadcast songs.

We are the Martians: the Legacy of Nigel Kneale, a collection of Kneale-related essays and appreciations edited by Neil Snowdon, is finally appearing in print from PS Publishing.

• Pursuing paths hauntological, The Electric Pentacle offers “an unholy stew of library music, Kosmische, arcane ritual electronica, modular synthesisers and shortwave radio”.

• Mixes of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XVI by David Colohan, and Low Visibility Across Sunken Village by The Geography Trip.

• “With Reflection, [Brian Eno] offers generative music for a turbulent time,” says Geeta Dayal.

Anna Biller, director of The Love Witch, talks to New Jack Witch about her film.

• The story behind Gay Bob, the world’s first out-and-proud doll.

Alice (1969) by Jon Plum | Alice (1982) by The Sisters of Mercy | Alice (2009) by Sunn O)))

Weekend links 282

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Thomas Ligotti photographed by Jennifer Gariepy.

• More Thomas Ligotti (he’s been marginalised for decades, the attention is overdue): “Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe are fugues of the creeping unknown,” says Peter Bebergal who profiles Ligotti for The New Yorker, and gets him to talk about the impulses that produce his fiction; at the Lovecraft eZine eleven writers and editors ask Ligotti a question related to his work.

• As usual, Halloween brings out the mixes. This year there’s a choice of The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XII by David Colohan, Samhain Séance 4 : The Masks of Ashor by The_Ephemeral_Man, The Voluptuous Doom of Bava Yaga by SeraphicManta, Spool’s Out Radio #27 with Joseph Curwen, and The Edge Of The Holloween Oven – 10/26/15 by The Edge Of The Ape Oven.

Broadcast’s James Cargill has provided a soundtrack for Peter Strickland’s radio adaptation of The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale. John Doran and Richard Augood review the new and old versions for The Quietus. Related: Peter Strickland’s favourite horror soundtracks.

My mission was to make sounds that didn’t exist in reality, whether it’s a star ship or a laser or a monster or an exploding planet. You started with basic sounds that were acoustic and then you manipulated them. There’s a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when he falls into the well of souls and pushes over that statue and there are all those snakes? The sound of the snakes was made by pulling masking tape off glass. When the statue falls over and breaks the wall there’s the noise of lots of big rocks breaking. We just took some bricks and smashed them up and then slowed the tape recording down. I remember doing a lot of great scary effects using dry ice and a bunch of pots and pans out of the kitchen. You heat them up really hot and then you drop a load of dry ice into the hot pan so the rapid thermal change would make it scream.

Composer and sound designer Alan Howarth talks to Mat Colegate about working for films

Jordan Hoffman reviews Jacques Rivette’s legendary 13-hour feature film Out 1: Noli Me Tangere (1971). The film will be in cinemas next month, and available on DVD/BR in January.

The Stone Tape was originally a one-off TV drama shown at Christmas in 1972. Michael Newton looks at the BBC’s habit in the 1970s of screening ghost stories at Christmas.

Steven Arnold’s Epiphanies: A look back at some of the artist’s surrealist photographs.

Greydogtales just concluded a month of posts dedicated to William Hope Hodgson.

• At Dirge Magazine: Tenebrous Kate on seven songs based on dark literary classics.

Phil Legard opens some grimoires for a short history of signs and seals.

Micah Nathan on Tuesday’s Child, “LA’s best Satanist magazine”.

• “The Occult was a kind of awakening,” says Colin Wilson.

Shagfoal: witchcraft and horror-blues by Dante.

Jenny Hval‘s favourite albums.

The Attic Tapes (1975) by Cabaret Voltaire | Those Tapes Are Dangerous (1997) by The Bug | The Black Mill Video Tape (2012) by Pye Corner Audio