Hawkwind: Days of the Underground

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As mentioned at the weekend, Joe Banks’ account of the first ten years of Hawkwind will be published by Strange Attractor Press later this year with a wraparound cover of my design. I never expected to be doing anything else for Hawkwind after moving on to other things in 1985, but it was the group’s first decade of music that fuelled the drawings which brought me to their attention, so this cover design brings everything full circle. The earliest of my Hawkwind drawings dates to 1979 which means this cover is also an anniversary piece.

The design combines Barney Bubbles’ Space Ritual template with elements of the art he created before and afterwards, notably the inner and outer sleeve of Doremi Fasol Latido, and the futuristic Art Deco of his tour poster for The “1999” Party. All the Bubbles Hawk-art up to and including Space Ritual is a blend of the ancient (Egypt, tribal motifs, characters that resemble pirates or barbarians), the previous century (Art Nouveau in particular), and the far future as depicted in comics and pulp magazines. I wanted to reflect this blend without being too imitative of the details, so the cover works a variation on Space Ritual, with a similar hieratic woman as the focus, and a margin of stylised flames separating the foreground from Laurie Lewis’s photos of the band (the latter are unused shots from the same session used for Space Ritual).

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Art by Bob Haberfield, 1970.

All the background elements run across the wrap but this hasn’t been revealed yet so you’ll have to wait a while to see the full design. The flames are based on Tibetan designs in a nod to the ancient side of the equation, as well as Bob Haberfield’s covers for the Moorcock novels published by Mayflower in the early 70s, many of which featured art derived from Tibetan Buddhism. (And one of the Mayflower Moorcocks, The Black Corridor, is the origin of the monologue of the same name on Space Ritual.) The full wrap shows a futuristic city whose Frank R. Paul-derived architecture is either on fire or menaced by a wall of encroaching flames. Many of Hawkwind’s songs of the period concern flight from cities or from the Earth itself—Born To Go, Time We Left (This World Today)—so the back cover also has a number of vehicles fleeing the scene: the radical escapism of the book’s subtitle in literal form. “Sign my release from this planet’s erosion,” as Nik Turner sings in Brainstorm.

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Robert Louis Stevenson’s Moral Emblems

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Being the owner of half the volumes in the Tusitala Edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s collected works I’m not exactly unacquainted with the author’s books but this is one I hadn’t seen before. It is included in the Tusitala set (vol. 22) but this is one of the books I don’t own. The Moral Emblems & Other Poems Written and Illustrated with Woodcuts were published originally in Edinburgh Edition in 1898. The copies here are from a book edition prepared by Stevenson’s stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, in 1921. The 35 Tusitala volumes followed in 1924. Stevenson enjoyed sketching while on his travels so these crude woodcuts aren’t without precedent even if he didn’t make a habit of adding illustrations to his writing.

Emblem books were a popular form of moral instruction from the 16th century on. This particular example shares some of the pious qualities of its ancestors albeit with a wry attitude typical of its author. Regarding a man (“who might be you or me”) who pushes another into the sea, we’re told “And he will spoil his evening toddy / By dwelling on that mangled body.” The verses being written some years after Treasure Island, pirates appear in a couple of places, especially in the last sequence: Robin and Ben: Or, The Pirate and The Apothecary. The final illustrations aren’t as successful as his rough little vignettes but for someone with no reputation as a draughtsman they’re better than you’d expect. See the rest of the book here or download it here.

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Tentacles #2: The Lost Continent

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If William Hope Hodgson’s The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’ represents the Sublime of tentacular sea fiction then The Lost Continent, a 1968 Hammer film based on Dennis Wheatley’s 1938 novel Uncharted Seas, is the correspondingly Ridiculous end of the subgenre. The Lost Continent is an irritating film for Hodgson enthusiasts since it’s still the most Hodgsonian film out there, at least where the Sargasso side of things is concerned.

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Illustration by SR Boldero (1960).

Despite its Wheatley origins the similarities to Hodgson’s sea stories are no coincidence: Wheatley chose two Hodgson titles—Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder and The Ghost Pirates—for the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult series that Sphere Books published in the 1970s. In the introductions Wheatley notes that Hodgson was a favourite writer whose work he discovered in the 1920s; he also mentions having collected a set of Hodgson first editions. Wheatley could have justifiably claimed that the “Weed-World” as a location wasn’t unique to Hodgson but Uncharted Seas also features the giant crabs, marauding octopuses and besieged castaways familiar from The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’ and the short stories.

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Tentacles #1: The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’

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Famous Fantastic Mysteries, June 1945. Illustration by Lawrence (Sterne Stevens).

Following last week’s revelation of Lovecraftian horror, I thought it might be worth demonstrating just how much the tentacle-menacing-a-ship scenario is owned by William Hope Hodgson. The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’ (1907) is one of Hodgson’s lesser novels, overshadowed by the cosmic horrors of The House on the Borderland and The Night Land, but it’s a memorable work all the same. The narrative fits into his cycle of Sargasso Sea stories: a small band of 18th-century sailors, survivors of the wreck of the ‘Glen Carrig’, drift across the Atlantic into the weed-strewn “cemetery of the oceans” where they have to fight off giant octopuses and the predations of “weed men”, humanoid creatures with tentacular hands. As will be seen below, it’s the attack on a wrecked ship trapped in the weed that many of the illustrators have chosen to focus on.

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Illustration by Lawson Wood (1911).

This was something I hadn’t seen before: an illustration for a story with a scenario very similar to ‘Glen Carrig’ where the sailors journey under canvas in their lifeboats. Another tale of the sinister Sargasso:

This is the fifth message that I have sent abroad over the loathsome surface of this vast Weed-World, praying that it may come to the open sea ere the lifting power of my fire-balloon be gone, and yet, if it come there, how shall I be the better for it? Yet write I must, or go mad, and so I choose to write, though feeling as I write that no living creature, save it be some giant octopus that lives in the weed about me, will ever see the thing I write. (more)

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Les Canots du “Glen Carrig” / La Maison au bord du monde / Les pirates fantômes (1971). Illustration by Philippe Druillet.

A French Hodgson collection, the octopoid cover of which can be seen here. These were the endpapers; the rest of Druillet’s illustrations can be seen here.

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S. Latitude 47°9′, W. Longitude 126°43′

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Then, driven ahead by curiosity in their captured yacht under Johansen’s command, the men sight a great stone pillar sticking out of the sea, and in S. Latitude 47°9′, W. Longitude 126°43′, come upon a coastline of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror—the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults and sending out at last, after cycles incalculable, the thoughts that spread fear to the dreams of the sensitive and called imperiously to the faithful to come on a pilgrimage of liberation and restoration.

HP Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu (1928)

“Great Cthulhu and his hordes…” People never mention the hordes, do they? I’m pleased to say that the loathsome horde gathered in my forthcoming Cthulhu Calendar are in situ at last, since I’ve found the time this week to get everything finished. I still need to write a couple of new web pages then upload all the images to CafePress. I’ll be doing that over the weekend so Monday will be the launch day.

For the final piece I decided against doing another portrait in favour of a picture of an attack at sea as it might have appeared in a 19th-century newspaper. This kind of imagery will now make many people think of the Kraken scenes in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film but it predates cinema, of course, as it also predates Lovecraft. Despite Lovecraft’s indelible association with monstrous tentacles there are a lot more incidents of this nature in William Hope Hodgson’s stories and novels than in the Cthulhu Mythos. In which case this scene, which will be the page for December, can be regarded as a tip of the hat to William as much as to Howard.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Resurgam variations
De Profundis
Cthulhoid and Artflakes
Cthulhu for sale
Cthulhu God
Le Poulpe Colossal
Cthulhu under glass
CthulhuPress
Cubist Cthulhu
Druillet meets Hodgson