Planète magazine covers

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Planète was a French magazine of “Fantastic realism” which ran throughout the 1960s. I’ve never seen a copy but sight of the immediately recognisable covers has always fascinated because this was the magazine established in the wake of the huge success of The Morning of the Magicians (1960), a unique “Introduction to Fantastic Realism” by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. Rather than enthuse at length about The Morning of the Magicians I’ll simply point you to this piece by the late RT Gault from his now-defunct website.

Pauwels and Bergier’s book was oft-imitated but never equalled during the 1970s. Where later authors such as Erich von Däniken tended to plough a single, narrow furrow, Pauwels and Bergier leapt breathlessly from one subject to another: alchemy in the 20th century, Forteana, a lengthy examination of the occult preoccupations of the Third Reich, speculations about nuclear physics, speculations about biological mutation, Hollow Earth theories, etc, etc, all the time dropping quotes from HP Lovecraft, Arthur Machen and Albert Einstein. It’s a very heady mix which is great fun to read even though there’s nothing like a solid argument that comes out of it all.

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Planète continued the blend of Futurology and fringe philosophy while using the magazine format to print translations of science fiction and fantasy stories; among other things it was notable for bringing the stories of Jorge Luis Borges to a wider audience in France. The magazine’s name may have been science fictional but the magazine as a whole is closer to the kind of borderline sf/art magazine that New Worlds became under Michael Moorcock’s editorship in the late 1960s. I’ve never seen Moorcock or anyone connected with New Worlds mention Planète but the covers at least pre-empt the style adopted by New Worlds during its large-format run: consistently bold typography and imagery that only obliquely relates to the contents.

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All these covers are from Noosfere where the story contents for each issue are also listed. No credits for the designer, unfortunately. If anyone knows who was responsible for the magazine design then please leave a comment.

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Readouts

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The HAL Project.

January flew by in a blizzard of work so posting here tended to rely more on pictures than words. As usual the things I’ve been designing will be unveiled when they’re closer to being published or released but for now here’s some new or not-so-new items worthy of note.

The HAL Project screensaver. I’ve never had much time for gaudy screensavers, I prefer something which doesn’t get annoying when I’m otherwise engaged. For a while now I’ve been using the Mac-only Lotsawater which turns your monitor into a vertical water tank with slow motion ripples. I replaced that this week with Joe Mackenzie’s HAL Project screensaver (for Mac and Windows) which throws up random samplings of the HAL 9000 monitor animations from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sounds a bit dull until you see it in action, very crisp and detailed graphics, many of which mimic the animations of those in the film. I’ve belatedly realised how similar these fields of colour and their lines of white type are to the opening titles of A Clockwork Orange, yet another connection between the two films. Now I can sit trying to figure out some of the less obvious 3-letter codes for the spacecraft’s systems; Stanley Kubrick was so thorough you just know they all mean something.

Via the Kubrick obsessives at Coudal.

A pair of new blogs. Designer Barney Bubbles should need little introduction here but if you require one then read this. Paul Gorman has been in touch to inform me of a new online companion to his BB book, Reasons To Be Cheerful, which already looks like a treat with displays of Bubbles creations that didn’t make the book.

Writer Russ Kick was also in touch this week with news of his books and book culture blog, Books Are People, Too. Russ is the author of several books for Disinformation and his Memory Hole website notoriously caused a headache for the Bush regime when he forced photos of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq onto the front pages of American newspapers.

Songs of the Black Würm Gism. And speaking of books, the much delayed sequel to DM Mitchell’s landmark Lovecraft anthology, The Starry Wisdom comes shambling into the light of day at last. The Creation Oneiros website describes it thus:

The Black Würm Gism Cult – oceanic insect porn – a vortex of cosmic mayhem stalked by ravening lysergic entities – a post-human psychedelic seizure of Lovecraftian text, art and fragments. SONGS OF THE BLACK WÜRM GISM picks up where the acclaimed anthology THE STARRY WISDOM left off and goes beyond – way beyond! – what H.P. Lovecraft dared to show. Editor D.M. Mitchell presents an illustrated brainstorm of visceral deep-sea dream currents, aberrant trans-species sex visions, and frenzied ophidian entropy.

Contributors include: alan moore (cover illustration), john coulthart (introduction), grant morrison, david britton, ian miller, john beal, david conway, kenji siratori, herzan chimera, james havoc, reza negarestani, & many others

Yes, the rather pompous introduction for this volume is mine and the cover is Alan Moore’s psychedelic arachnoid rendering of the demon Asmodeus, the same picture I used to create my little hidden film on the Mindscape of Alan Moore DVD. The Starry Wisdom roused a vaporous fury among the more staid Lovecraft readers so I look forward to seeing what squeaks of outrage this new book inspires. Publication is set for September 2009 but you can order it now from Amazon and other outlets.

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Ghost Box haunts again. And if anything was going to provide a suitable soundtrack to “aberrant trans-species sex visions, and frenzied ophidian entropy” you could do worse than some of the works of the Ghost Box collective, especially the spooky and abrasive Ouroborindra by Eric Zann. Ritual and Education is a new download-only sampler of Ghost Box tracks and probably an ideal place to start if your curiosity is piqued by my recurrent raves about these releases. From An Ancient Star is the latest CD from Belbury Poly which swaps the Pelican Books graphics of earlier works for a convincing piece of crank lit. cover art which wouldn’t look out of place in the RT Gault archives.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Demon Regent Asmodeus
The Séance at Hobs Lane
Ghost Box
2001: A Space Odyssey program

Arthur Machen book covers

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The House of Souls (1923). 

Well, a handful anyway. The late RT Gault put a page of Machen cover scans on his book site which also included the excellent Absolute Elsewhere catalogue of “Fantastic, Visionary, and Esoteric Literature in the 1960s and 1970s”. The cover for The House of Souls is a very odd piece by Sidney Sime and going by some of Sime’s Dunsany illustrations I think this was how he thought souls actually looked. The Three Imposters (below) was part of John Lane’s Keynotes series which also included Machen’s The Great God Pan among the titles, all of which sported covers designed by Aubrey Beardsley.

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The Three Imposters (1895). 

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive
The illustrators archive