Peculiar Shocks

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My cover design for Body Shocks, the body-horror story collection edited by Ellen Datlow, appeared here back in March. Now that the book is out from Tachyon I can show some of the interior design. In the earlier post I mentioned cover drafts that featured anatomical illustrations, none of which worked as well as the eyeball collage that became the final cover. The rejected pieces were better suited to the interior which combines engraved illustrations with the kind of sans-serif typography you might find on modern medical labels.

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The diagram of veins that fills out the contents spread looks like an illustration from a 19th-century edition of Gray’s Anatomy but it’s actually an illustration from a book about massage whose title I don’t seem to have made a note of. Gray’s is a thorough volume, being a complete guide to the human body, but the illustrations aren’t as large or as detailed as those you can find elsewhere. The header bands used to indicate the beginning of each story are from Gray’s, however, while many of the stories end with full-page plates from The Anatomy of Humane Bodies by William Cowper. These are mostly engravings of autopsies which I processed by inverting the images then overlaying them with parallel lines. You can still tell the pictures are medical illustrations but they’re not as obtrusive as they would be if they’d been left untreated.

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Continue reading “Peculiar Shocks”

Foiled at last

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I’ve already written about the design for this story collection from Swan River Press but the gradient layout does nothing to convey the splendour of the foil-embossed printing. In the past when I’d suggested to publishers that foil printing might be an option the idea was always turned down for reasons of cost. My original intention for The Far Tower was for the design to be printed in a metallic ink so it might resemble the gold-on-green cover of the Yeats book which was the model for this volume. Metallic inks don’t always work too well, however, especially on a darkish background, so I said to Swan River “Or we could do it in gold foil…” To my surprise and delight they said “Why not?” So here’s the result. A great end to the year. The book is available here.

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And back in October, I posted what everyone thought at the time was the final design for Of Mice and Minestrone, a new book of Hap and Leonard stories by Joe R Lansdale. The Hap and Leonard books are popular works (there was a TV series based on them a while back) so they’re subject to the demands of the marketplace which in this case required a cover more in line with the red/white/black arrangement of some of Lansdale’s related titles. I’d already done most of this as an additional draft during the work on the first design so the reworking wasn’t too time-consuming. The rodent in the soup is more visible in this version which is another point in its favour. Of Mice and Minestrone will be published by Tachyon in May next year.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Far Tower: Stories for WB Yeats
Of Mice and Minestrone

The Far Tower: Stories for WB Yeats

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I said a couple of weeks ago that I had more cover designs waiting to be revealed, and this was one of them, arriving two years to the week after my earlier cover for The Scarlet Soul: Stories of Dorian Gray. Both books are collections of original fiction edited by Mark Valentine for Swan River Press, and both offer variations on works by Irish authors prominent during the 1890s:

“All Art that is not mere story-telling,
or mere portraiture, is symbolic…” — WB Yeats

Stories of magic and myth, folklore and fairy traditions, the occult and the outré, inspired by the rich mystical world of Ireland’s greatest poet, WB Yeats. We invited ten contemporary writers to celebrate Yeats’s contributions to the history of the fantastic and supernatural in literature, drawing on his work for their own new and original tales. Each has chosen a phrase from his poems, plays, stories, or essays to herald their own explorations in the esoteric. Alongside their own powerful qualities, the pieces here testify to the continuing resonance of Yeats’s vision in our own time, that deep understanding of the meshing of two worlds and the talismans of old magic.

Yeats had a career that extended beyond the fin de siècle, of course, and the title of The Far Tower alludes to The Tower, a collection of poems that Yeats published in 1928. (The first poem in the book, Sailing to Byzantium, is the origin of the phrase/title “no country for old men”.) Yeats’s poetry is very different to the Modernists, however, and remained infused with mystical resonances, something I tried to reflect in the cover design. In addition to the very Yeatsian symbol of the rose there are symbols for the four elements, and a pair of robed figures who can be taken as adepts of one sort or another, either the Golden Dawn (who Yeats was involved with for a time) or the various Theosophists and Rosicrucians of the period who fed his imagination.

The green-and-gold colour scheme matches the gold on green design that Thomas Sturge Moore created for the first edition of The Tower. Sturge Moore produced covers for a number of Yeats’s books but it was his splendid design for Axel by Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam that gave me the nested circles and vertical division of the board. That edition happens to have a preface by Yeats so as an influence it isn’t too remote.

The Far Tower will be published in December but is available for pre-order now.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Scarlet Soul: Stories for Dorian Gray
Form and Austin Osman Spare
Golden apples and silver apples
A Book of Images by WT Horton
The Savoy magazine

Form and Austin Osman Spare

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The University of Heidelberg‘s scanning programme continues to be a source of delight for those of us without professional or financial access to rare book collections. Having recently made the entire run of Der Ochideengarten available, they’ve added scans of another journal that was on my list of magazines I’d been hoping would eventually turn up online. Form was the first of two short-lived publications edited by Austin Osman Spare from 1916 to 1924, the second being The Golden Hind. Spare and co-editor “Francis Marsden” (Frederick Carter) published two issues of Form before Spare was conscripted in 1917. After the war, publication resumed with two further issues. Spare aficionados have long been familiar with the drawings in these publications, many of which have been reprinted over and over in collections of Spare’s art but often with no indication of their original context.

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Seeing the drawings in situ like this not only restores the context but also sets them beside the accompanying work by Spare’s fellow writers and artists. Some of the other contributors need no introduction—WB Yeats, Robert Graves—while others have been neglected or even forgotten. Most descriptions of Form mention its following in the lineage of The Yellow Book, publisher John Lane having been responsible for both publications. But looking through the first two issues I’d say the model is as much The Savoy, the magazine that Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Symons put together after The Yellow Book kicked out Beardsley in the wake of the Oscar Wilde trial. Yeats was a contributor to The Savoy, and two other artists present in Form—Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon—were friends and publishers of Wilde.

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The samples here are mostly Spare’s work, and only a small selection at that. Enthusiasts are encouraged to download the PDFs for themselves. I had seen one of these issues before (Alan Moore has an enviable collection of Spare publications) but the rest were magazines I’d been waiting decades to see in full. I’m hoping now that the excellent staff at Heidelberg may have copies of The Golden Hind waiting for similar treatment.

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Continue reading “Form and Austin Osman Spare”

Weekend links 299

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Starman (2016) by Nyahzul Blanco. From the Saint Bowie exhibition at Stephen Romano Gallery, NY.

• “…[Dashiel] Hammett’s first-hand experience of political sleaze, industrial violence and the everyday routine of an agent allowed for a realism that brought hard-boiled fiction to new heights.” Oliver Harris reviews a new life of Hammett, a history of the American detective, and a study of film noir.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 177 by Vladislav Dobrovolski, The After-School Club by Melmoth The Wanderer, and Perfect Monolake by Rich Ears.

Inside High-Rise: product designs by Michael Eaton and Felicity Hickson for Ben Wheatley’s feature film.

Yeats is not the only respected writer to make use of the tarot: Italo Calvino, Salvador Dalí, and even Charles Williams, a novelist and theologian who belonged to the Inklings literary circle, also drew on the cards. Still, the cards remain firmly associated with the occult—and, while [Jessa] Crispin is sympathetic to that tradition, she aims to bring tarot to those who may be skeptical of that way of thinking. Her references are more literary than arcane.

Peter Bebergal talks to Jessa Crispin about making the Tarot literary again

Legowelt’s best free paranormal synth samples, occult instruments and lo-fi effects.

• At Dangerous Minds: a smorgasbord of sorcerous bad taste via Vintage Occult.

• Free download: Cavern of Anti-Matter live at Acad, Berlin, 2015.

• Conversing with your Subconscious: The Art of Adrian Cherry.

Diagonal Science is the debut album from Black Helicopters.

111 Photographs of 111 Westminster Street in Providence, RI.

• More magick: occult documentaries of the 1970s.

• A Bosch-themed fashion feature by Tim Walker.

Cycloid Drawing Machine

Dark Star (1984) by Harold Budd | Dark Start (1994) by ELpH vs Coil | Dark Star Blues (2004) by Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.