BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders


Behold: another book cover. This is a design I was working on in October, the contents of which haven’t been disclosed yet but the cover has been made public so I can post it here. BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders is an anthology of short fiction with a Wunderkammer brief similar to that of The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, the collection that I illustrated in 2011 for Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. There’s an antique slant to both the books so I’ve reflected this in the graphics which are mostly from 19th-century sources. I was supposed to do the cover for the VanderMeers’ collection but HarperCollins went with their own designer; this was disappointing for the editors as well as myself so the latest cover makes up for that. Doug Murano is editing the new volume for Crystal Lake Publishing, one of five companies listed recently at Dirge Magazine as notable publishers of transgressive horror (and another of Doug Murano’s collections is their “must read”). BEHOLD! is slated for publication in early 2017 so watch this space.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Cabinet of Curiosities
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
The specimens of Alex CF
Walmor Corrêa’s Memento Mori
The art of Ron Pippin
Custom creatures
Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films
The Bowes Swan
The Museum of Fantastic Specimens

A Cabinet of Curiosities


When I still had a television I used to enjoy Lucinda Lambton’s films for the BBC, and this one—a short history of the British Wunderkammer—was a particular favourite. Lambton’s films cover similar ground to those of Jonathan Meades but with a lighter touch, and free of Meades’ often relentless pontification. This episode of 40 Minutes, first broadcast in 1987, includes some unusual architecture—a Lambton speciality—but concentrates for the most part on seeking out a few surviving examples of the ad hoc museums hidden away in country houses. Among the more notable features there’s Walter Potter’s taxidermy diorama, The Death and Burial of Cock Robin, and the full 40-minute programme showed the incredible Bowes Swan automaton in action. The copy of the film at YouTube is missing the last 10 minutes so the swan is absent although it’s easily seen elsewhere.


Previously on { feuilleton }
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
The specimens of Alex CF
Walmor Corrêa’s Memento Mori
The art of Ron Pippin
Custom creatures
Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films
The Bowes Swan
The Museum of Fantastic Specimens

Words and pictures


This one has been a long while gestating. Evan J. Peterson asked me late last year to contribute a cover to a new edition of Seattle’s Gay City anthology which he was editing with Vincent Kovar. In May this year the anthology successfully covered some of its production costs with a Kickstarter fund, and the anthology will have its official launch next month (although the book is on sale now). Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam combines a loose take on steampunk themes with spectral or horror material, and adds a queer twist. The contents are as follows:

Cover art by John Coulthart
Illustrations by M S Corley and Levi Hastings
Graphic story: Paper Lantern by Jon Macy

from Preternatural Conversations and Oblivious Imperialism is the Worst Kind by CAConrad
Dear Dr. Frankenstein by Jericho Brown
Anaphora as Coping Mechanism and American Dreams by Ocean Vuong
Orpheus on the 74 and The Resurrection Spell by Oscar McNary
Zombie Autopsy by Janie Miller
Moon Goddess by Imani Sims

Hybrid/Flash Fiction/Prose Poetry:
Psychopomp by Lydia Swartz
Thangs by Imani Sims
The Door, Casualties of War, and The Worst is that You Can’t Even Ask Him to Use Protection by Jeremy Halinen

Short Stories:
Demon Lover by Dorothy Allison
Monster Movie by Rebecca Brown
B.E.M.s by Gregory L. Norris
Feeding Desire by Steve Berman
Medium Méchanique by Catherine Lundoff
Study in Blue, Green, and Gold by John Coulthart
A Captive Audience by Ryan Keawekane
Splinter by Ryan Crawford
The Difference Men by Kat Smalley
Alexander’s Wrath by J L Smither
Quota by Amy Shepherd
Heart of the Labyrinth by Tony Rella

This isn’t the first occasion when I’ve produced the cover for an anthology and also contributed some fiction inside—The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases included a short fiction piece—but the Gay City anthology marks the first appearance in print of anything from my ongoing Axiom project. This is a long-term endeavour which I began in March 2001 but haven’t referred to much in public, mainly because the bulk of the project to date has been written fiction. There are few words more dismaying to hear than the dread phrase “I’m writing a novel”, especially today when the activity of fiction writing seems to have undergone an exponential increase. I tend to believe that unless you’re an established author there’s little to be gained by discussing your own literary labours in public until you have some results to offer. Well, now I have.

I know some people have been curious about the Axiom project so—keeping things brief—I can say it’s two novels, one finished, the second one nearly finished. Axiom was written from 2001 to 2007, and concerns a year in the life of an invented city. It’s fantasy of a sort but closer to the world of Reverbstorm than anything you’ll find on the swords-and-dragons shelves. The idea began in the late 1990s when I was working on Reverbstorm with David Britton and realised I could easily shift the city in that book a few degrees sideways to provide a setting for my own obsessions. I’d been writing a lot of fiction in the 1980s—short stories and two unfinished novels—and wanted to return to this seriously having tired of collaborations and illustrating the work of other people. Axiom marked out some territory I wanted to explore; the new novel, Vitriol, uses the territory to stage a “psychedelic apocalypse”. The project as a whole is loose enough to evolve into other media, and eventually there should be some Axiom-related art. I’ve been working on Vitriol since August 2006 (there was some overlap while finishing the first book); my contribution to the Gay City anthology, Study in Blue, Green, and Gold, is an extract from the work-in-progress which happened to function quite well as a self-contained piece. Despite the anthology theme it’s not quite a steampunk affair but there are some steam locomotives present so it has the required flavour.

Whilst working on the new book I’ve had an agent (Leslie Gardner at Artellus) trying to sell Axiom. This would have been in print by now if the London publisher who agreed to take it 18 months ago hadn’t gone bust after they’d sent us a contract. I’ve been considering putting out a limited hardback edition of the novel, although I’m busy enough as it is, and don’t relish having to self-distribute even a small number of books. For now it’s an option that remains open.

Gay City’s own site points to Amazon for sales of Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam so on this occasion I’ll do that too. If you’re in the Seattle area there’s a launch party on September 27th. Details here.

Update: I’ve belatedly noticed that Evan is interviewed about the anthology here.

World Fantasy Awards


Presenting some of the cover art and interior illustration from 2011 which won me the World Fantasy Award for best artist in Toronto on Sunday. (The complete awards list is here.) It was a surprise to be nominated, and even more of a surprise to win since working in different areas—book, music, comics—is never a good way to get noticed for doing one particular thing. It’s also the case that sf/fantasy art awards tend to favour painters or virtuoso digital artists over people such as myself who I suppose are more illustrator-designers; that’s not a criticism, just an acknowledgement of the strength and popularity of highly-refined pictorial art in this area of the literary world. The recognition hazard works in the opposite direction: the design world often gives the most attention to graphic design alone, with the illustration quotient being regarded as secondary content.

I’m not exactly sure what the judges were looking at of my work so these examples have been chosen for being published during the year under examination. They’re also covers that people seemed to like a lot, especially KW Jeter‘s Morlock Night (even though I still prefer Infernal Devices!), and those for Mike Shevdon‘s books. The Jeter and Shevdon volumes are all published by Angry Robot who will also be publishing Lavie Tidhar‘s The Bookman Histories early next year sporting another of my covers. Lavie’s novel Osama won best novel in Toronto while Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (editors of the Lambshead book below) picked up a best anthology award for their monumental The Weird. And to add to the good company, my regular publishers Tachyon saw one of their authors, Tim Powers, gaining best story collection. Congratulations to everyone, and a big thanks to Ann for collecting my award.

I’m always using these posts to point to other artists so it’s only right that I encourage everyone to go and look at the work of the other nominees. Here they are (although Jon Foster’s site appears down at the moment):

Julie Dillon
Jon Foster
Kathleen Jennings
John Picacio

John Picacio has a rather gorgeous calendar due out soon, details here.



Title page for The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (Harper Voyager).


Continue reading “World Fantasy Awards”

Skull, 1983


Mention yesterday of pencil drawing prompted me to dig out this item from one of my old portfolios. It was drawn shortly after I was given a somewhat battered human skull by a student nurse (hello, Victoria, wherever you are), an object I sketched on a number of occasions before eventually making it into the finger-slashing fetish object below which appeared recently in the The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. The drawing dates from 1983—I remember listening to the Art of Noise EP Into Battle whilst working—and it’s unusual for me in showing the drawn object alone on a sheet of paper with no attempt made to place it in a scene. It’s also a slightly misjudged rendering; this ink drawing from a year later shows a more careful representation of the skull’s proportions, spoiled a little by the pointless and unconvincing seascape I placed behind it.