Weekend links 274

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Lilith Births the Djinn (2015) by Rithika Merchant. Via Phantasmaphile.

Lord of Strange Deaths: The Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer, edited by Phil Baker & Antony Clayton, is a new publication from Strange Attractor. “This is the first extended attempt to do justice to Rohmer, and it ranges across the spectrum of his output from music-hall writing to Theosophy. Contributors focus on subjects including Egyptology, 1890s decadence, Edwardian super-villains, graphic novels, cinema, the French Situationists, Chinese dragon ladies, and the Arabian Nights. The result is a testimony to the enduring fascination and relevance of Rohmer’s absurd, sinister and immensely atmospheric world.”

• More weird fiction: Twisted Tales of the Weird promises “an evening of readings by some of the finest writers in the contemporary scene, a panel discussion about the mode, and a Q&A with the audience” at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, on 23rd October. Writers M. John Harrison, Helen Marshall and Timothy J. Jarvis will be reading from their works. The event is free but space is limited so tickets are required.

• More Lovecraft: “Lovecraft never said his entities were evil,” says Alan Moore discussing his new Lovecraftian comic series, Providence, with Hannah Means Shannon. At the University of Sterling, Chloe Buckley reviews the Ellen Datlow-edited anthology Lovecraft’s Monsters for The Gothic Imagination (with passing reference to my illustrations but no credit for the artist).

• One for completists or those who were there on the night: Earth playing There Is A Serpent Coming at the Columbus Theatre, Providence on 22nd August. I’d almost given up hope that someone might have recorded anything from this event so thanks to Mr Beast Rebel of the Hellscape for the upload. There’s also a song by Elder from earlier in the evening.

A Rose Veiled in Black: Art and Arcana of Our Lady Babalon edited by Robert Fitzgerald and Daniel A. Schulke.

Robin the Fog on Spectral Spools, Amplified Olympia and XPylons.

• Mix of the week: BerlinSchool Mix-A [Beginnings] by Headnoaks.

• At AnOther: Leonor Fini: Female Libertine

The lost tunnels of Liverpool

The Zymoglyphic Museum

Folk Horror Revival

Some Weird Sin (1977) by Iggy Pop | It’s So Weird (1983) by Bush Tetras | The Smallest Weird Number (2002) by Boards of Canada

Weekend links 58

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Oya by Alberto del Pozo (1945–1992). Also known as Yansa, Oya is Changó’s third wife. She is the goddess of the winds and of lightning and is mistress of the cemetery gates. Passionate and brave she fights by her husband’s side if needed. Her favorite offerings are papaya, eggplant and geraniums. From Santeria at BibliOdyssey.

Austin Osman Spare is a good example of the dictum that quality will out in the end, no matter how long it remains buried. Overlooked by the art establishment after he retreated into his private mythologies, a substantial portion of his output was equally ignored by occultists who wanted to preserve him as a weird and scary working-class magus. One group dismissed his deeply-felt spiritual interests in a manner they wouldn’t dare employ if he’d been a follower of Santeria, say (or even a devout Christian), while the other group seemed to regard his superb portraits as too mundane to be worthy of attention. Now that Phil Baker’s Spare biography has been published by Strange Attractor we might have reached the end of such short-sighted appraisals and can finally see a more rounded picture of the man and his work:

[Kenneth] Grant preserved and magnified Spare’s own tendency to confabulation, giving him the starring role in stories further influenced by Grant’s own reading of visionary and pulp writers such as Arthur Machen, HP Lovecraft, and Fu Manchu creator Sax Rohmer. Grant’s Spare seems to inhabit a parallel London; a city with an alchemist in Islington, a mysterious Chinese dream-control cult in Stockwell, and a small shop with a labyrinthine basement complex, its grottoes decorated by Spare, where a magical lodge holds meetings. This shop – then a furrier, now an Islamic bookshop, near Baker Street – really existed, and part of the fascination of Grant’s version of Spare’s London is its misty overlap with reality.

Austin Osman Spare: Cockney visionary by Phil Baker.

Austin Osman Spare: The man art history left behind | A Flickr set: Austin Osman Spare at the Cuming Museum | HV Morton meets Austin Spare (1927).

• More quality rising from obscurity: Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End. Skolimowski’s drama is one of unpleasant characters behaving badly towards each other. Anglo-American cinema featured a great deal of this in the 1970s when filmmakers disregarded the sympathies of their audience in a manner which would be difficult today. John Patterson looks at another example which is also given a re-release this month, the “feral, minatory and menacing masterwork” that is Taxi Driver.

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Echú Eleguá by Alberto del Pozo. Among the most ancient of the orishas Echú Eleguá is the messenger of the gods, who forges roads, protects the house, and is heaven’s gate-keeper. In any ceremony he is invoked first. He owns all cowrie shells and is the god of luck. A prankster, Echú Eleguá frequently has a monkey and a black rooster by his side. Like a mischievous boy he enjoys gossip and must be pampered with offerings of toys, fruit, and candy.

Minutes, a compilation on the LTM label from 1987: William Burroughs, Jean Cocteau, Tuxedomoon, Jacques Derrida, The Monochrome Set, and er…Richard Jobson. Thomi Wroblewski designed covers for a number of Burroughs titles in the 1980s, and he also provided the cover art for this release.

Mikel Marton Photography: a Tumblr of erotic photography and self-portraits.

From Death Factory To Norfolk Fens: Chris & Cosey interviewed.

NASA announces results of epic space-time experiment.

Oritsunagumono by Takayuki Hori: origami x-rays.

Plexus magazine at 50 Watts.

Mother Sky (1970) by Can | Late For The Sky (1974) by Jackson Browne.

The Mask of Fu Manchu

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Myrna Loy, Charles Starrett and Boris Karloff.

Los Alamos ranch school where they later made the atom bomb and couldn’t wait to drop it on the yellow peril. The boys are sittin’ on logs and rocks eating some sort of food there’s a stream at the end of a slope. The counsellor was a southerner with a politician’s look about him. He told us stories by the camp fire culled from the racist garbage of the insidious Sax Rohmer. “East is evil, west is good.”
William Burroughs, The Cat Inside.

More pulp, and yes, it’s still racist garbage but Charles Brabin’s 1932 film which stars Boris Karloff as Sax Rohmer’s Oriental super-villain has its pleasures if you look past the severely dated attitudes. Together with The Black Cat (1934), where Boris plays a Satan-worshipping modernist architect (!), this is one of the best non-Frankenstein Karloff films of the 1930s, as I was reminded this weekend when re-watching it along with several Sherlock Holmes episodes.

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Christopher Lee is elegantly diabolical in the later Fu Manchu films but their cheap budgets force him to skulk around in dismal underground lairs. Boris’s Doctor has a lavish Art Deco pad whose huge rooms are furnished with a noisy Van de Graaff generator and other scientific apparatus, plus a series of torture rooms where his guests can endure death by encroaching spikes (the “Slim Silver Fingers”), being lowered into an alligator pit or driven mad by the incessant tolling of a giant bell. I happened to notice that the Doctor’s throne is quite possibly the same one (with a fresh coat of paint) as was used a decade earlier by a notoriously unclad Betty Blythe in The Queen of Sheba (1921), a lavish silent epic which is now unfortunately lost.

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Betty Blythe as the Queen of Sheba.

The flaunting of Ms. Blythe’s breasts were one of the many occurrences which led to Hollywood’s adoption of the Hays Code in the 1930s, although the Code’s full effects weren’t felt until later in the decade. The notable scene in The Mask of Fu Manchu where hunk Charles Starrett appears strapped to a table dressed in nothing but a skimpy loin cloth (having previously been thrashed by Fu’s lustful daughter) would have been toned down considerably had the film been made a few years later. All the more reason to watch it today, such scenes only add to the fun.

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The Doctor prepares to inject his captive with a serum which will turn the man into a compliant slave.

The Mask of Fu Manchu | A page about the original serial, the subsequent novel and its illustrators.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Wladyslaw Benda

Boys Own Books

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More pulp revenants come blinking back into the light. The runaway success of The Dangerous Book for Boys among fathers as well as sons has set British publishers casting about for new ways to exploit masculine nostalgia. Repackaging a few old warhorses is Penguin’s solution and a cheap one since most (all?) of these titles are out of copyright. I like these covers (and can’t find a design credit unfortunately), they’re well done, capture the right tone and look great as a set.

zenith.jpgThe Man Who Was Thursday seems to be the odd man out (as it were) story-wise. All the other books are typical adventure fare but in Chesterton’s novel what appears at first to be a pot-boiler turns out to be a metaphysical allegory closer to Charles Williams than John Buchan. One of Sax Rohmer‘s Fu Manchu volumes would have been more suited to this series but I suspect their “Yellow Peril” racism makes that less easy today. The Chesterton cover is curiously out-of-synch too, a pastiche of El Lissitzky/Bauhaus styles rather than the Edwardian designs the others are imitating. This isn’t a mistake, however, the fractured lettering suits a tale of anarchists with a plot full of twists and surprises. I tried a similar Modernist approach in 2001 with my jacket for Savoy’s edition of Zenith the Albino. In that instance the style was derived from Mondrian, with the colours coming from the initial description of the albino’s black clothes, white skin and red eyes. I’d venture to suggest that Anthony Skene’s thriller is a far better book than all of the above, Chesterton included, but then I am rather biased.

Update: Coralie from Penguin has the credits in the comments.

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The book covers archive