Weekend links 495

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Angelus Novus (1920) by Paul Klee.

• “Compared to [László] Krasznahorkai’s earlier fiction, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming is funnier and more stylistically accessible—despite its length and seemingly endless sentences—but it is also his most unremittingly ruthless work,” says Holly Case. Elsewhere: “Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming may not bring joy or consolation, but reading it is a mesmerisingly strange experience: a slab of late modernist grindcore and a fiercely committed exercise in blacker-than-black absurdity,” says Sukhdev Sandhu.

Zeitraffer (“Time-lapse“) is an exhibition devoted to Tangerine Dream which opens at the Barbican, London, in January. Also coming in January is a new album, Recurring Dreams, by the current iteration of the group which will be available on CD and double vinyl. I was impressed by the last TD release, Quantum Gate, so I’m looking forward to this even if it is only a reworking of popular pieces from the Virgin years.

• RIP Gershon Kingsley, an electronic music pioneer best known for the silly but fun albums he made with Jean-Jacques Perrey, and for being the composer of that evergreen synthesizer novelty, Popcorn.

The first major study in English of ancient Greek sexuality—especially the way relationships between men were both common and celebrated as a perfect embodiment of love—A Problem in Greek Ethics helped set the stage for the modern-day gay rights movement. But it did so surreptitiously, behind closed doors, as required by the times. Symonds printed it privately in 1883; a print run of just 10 copies reduced the risk that it would fall into the wrong hands. The typesetter complained about the content. Symonds circulated it cautiously, to people he trusted or had reason to think would be discreet. Until now, researchers believed that only five copies survived.

Rachel Wallach on the discovery of a sixth copy of John Addington Symonds’ landmark study

Contagious Magick of the Super Abundance is a book of art by the late Ian Johnstone, former partner of John Balance and cover artist for some of the last releases by Coil.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2019. Thanks again for the link here!

• At the BFI: Hannah McGill on the umbrellas of cinema, and Jasper Sharp on 10 essential films by Yasujiro Ozu.

• Bobby Krlic, aka The Haxan Cloak, talks to Claire Lobenfield about creating the soundtrack for Midsommar.

Joker and Chernobyl composer Hildur Gudnadóttir: “I’m treasure hunting”.

Joshua Rothman on how William Gibson keeps his science fiction real.

Samantha Rose Hill on Walter Benjamin’s last work.

Scientific phenomena photographs of the year.

The Dream Before (1989) by Laurie Anderson | Angel Tech (1994) by The Grid feat. Sheila Chandra | Angel Tech (1994) by Pete Namlook & Bill Laswell

Daughters of Forgotten Light by Sean Grigsby

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I’ve spent most of the year so far working on more black-and-white illustrations for Editorial Alma—47 full-page pieces to date—so this cover design made a welcome break, especially since all the black-and-white art has a late-Victorian setting. More about that later. Sean Grigsby’s second novel for Angry Robot Books is previewed at the Barnes & Noble SF blog as follows:

A floating prison is home to Earth’s unwanted people, where they are forgotten…but not yet dead, in this wild science fiction adventure.

Deep space penal colony Oubliette, population: scum. Lena “Horror” Horowitz leads the Daughters of Forgotten Light, one of three vicious gangs fighting for survival on Oubliette. Their fragile truce is shaken when a new shipment arrives from Earth carrying a fresh batch of prisoners and supplies to squabble over. But the delivery includes two new surprises: a drone, and a baby. Earth Senator Linda Dolfuse wants evidence of the bloodthirsty gangs to justify the government finally eradicating the wasters dumped on Oubliette. There’s only one problem: the baby in the drone’s video may be hers.

The gangs are biker gangs, riding machines with wheels of light, so the brief was for a design as much reminiscent of a rock poster as a science-fiction cover. I don’t stray very often into the SF world so this again made a refreshing break from the 19th century and its heavy furnishings. There’s a touch of Syd Mead in the background, a reference suggested by the Tron-style bikes, but he’s long been a favourite visual futurist of mine even before Blade Runner (as I noted recently). The side panels and parts of the halo are adapted from Art Deco designs, the panels being based on embellishments for a New York skyscraper. It doesn’t take much to push the aerodynamic qualities of Deco style into the Space Age (the Soviet Monument to the Conquerors of Space could have been designed in 1930), a suggestion that William Gibson explored from a different angle in The Gernsback Continuum.

The Barnes & Noble post linked above also has an extract from the beginning of the novel. The book itself will be out on 4th September, 2018.

Futurismo!

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It’s good to finally have some new work posted on the front page of this website. I’ve been busy since before Christmas but everything I’ve been working on for the past few months is waiting to be revealed until the scheduling wheels have turned their revolutions.

And speaking of revolutions… Pirate Utopia is a novel by Bruce Sterling that will be published by Tachyon later this year. The cover was made public this week so I can post it here. I’m also designing and illustrating the interior but it’ll be a while before I can show off any of the rest of the design, especially since I’m still working on it. Bruce Sterling is a well-known writer and futurist (with a small “f”) who was one of the leading cyberpunk authors in the 1980s; with William Gibson he collaborated on The Difference Engine (1990), an early steampunk novel. Pirate Utopia is shorter and less ambitious than The Difference Engine although both books are alternate histories, the new title being a dieselpunk affair set in the Free State of Fiume, (now Rijeka, Croatia) in 1920. The story concerns the exploits of a torpedo engineer and his gang of rude mechanics, and features appearances from some real-life characters whose identities I won’t spoil. It’s a fun book to read, and it’s great fun to work on. The brief from Tachyon was for a cover design riffing on classic Soviet propaganda posters, hence the vaguely Constructivist style. There will be more of the same inside although I’ve been poring over the works of the Italian Futurists recently, and borrowing motifs and typographic cues from designers like Fortunato Depero. Stock up on the Campari for this one.

Steampunk in the Tank

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Plague doctor mask by Tom Banwell.

Last month I wrote a little about the Steampunk: Art of Victorian Futurism exhibition that’s been running since the beginning of October in Beijing, this being the same event that was staged in Seoul earlier in the year. Five of my book cover designs have been featured in these shows, together with some very impressive artworks, designs and constructions by international artists. This week the organisers of the show, Artcenter IDA, sent their own photos of the event.

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Locomotive Square.

As mentioned before, the venue is an exhibition space in 751 D-Park outside central Beijing, an area I’ve been told was formerly an industrial complex manufacturing armaments during the Cold War. If we occasionally find that life these days imitates the fictions of JG Ballard or Philip K Dick, 751 D-Park strikes me as a very William Gibson kind of place: Cold War industrial complex transmuted into an international art space—Beijing Design Week is hosted here each year—that on this occasion is showcasing antique science fiction. The 751 website has a map of the area with links to photos and other information. I’m rather taken with “Crached Furnace Square” and “Locomotive Square“.

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Continue reading “Steampunk in the Tank”

Weekend links 229

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Untitled (2007) by Remko van Drongelen.

• Another week, another Kickstarter project: Frank Woodward’s 2008 documentary, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, was an excellent study of HP Lovecraft’s life and work featuring interviews with John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Peter Straub, Guillermo Del Toro and leading Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi; the film also included a few examples of my Cthulhoid artwork. Disc copies of the film have been out-of-print for a while so Frank’s fund is hoping to raise money for a new Blu-ray edition featuring extended interviews and other extras.

• David Cronenberg’s debut novel, Consumed, “reads somewhat like a mashup of William Gibson, the king of near-future SF cool, and 1970s horror maestro James Herbert,” says Steven Poole. I’d have thought a more obvious analogy would be with JG Ballard; descriptions of Cronenberg’s narrative make it sound like Ballard’s concerns repurposed for our current era of electronically-mediated everything. Related: Crash by Sanyú, “adaptación de un fragmento de la novela de J. Ballard”.

• “To commune with the music of Cyclobe is to enter not just a strange world, but strange constellations – interdimensional, atemporal zones of carefully cultivated auras bordering wild, unstable forces.” Russell Cuzner talks to Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower about Derek Jarman, hurdy-gurdies and the deceptive nature of time.

…there are no rules in fiction even if creative writing programs everywhere have tried to make people believe there are. When I read fiction that has passed through the filter of too many workshops, I often get the feeling that I’m reading the same novel over and over again: the same way of being humorous, the same way of being candid, the same way of creating empathy.

Valeria Luiselli talking to Jennifer Kabat about fiction, cities and maps.

• The rationale behind Silent Partners: Artist & Mannequin from Function to Fetish is “to explore the way that the artificial human figure has routinely provided artists with the most direct and reliable route to visual realism. And then to work out why that makes us so upset.” Kathryn Hughes on a new exhibition.

• “It immediately throws up some interesting thoughts: Bowie as the young dandy and the obvious comparisons with Oscar Wilde and The Picture Of Dorian Gray, with the portrait that ages.” Designer Jonathan Barnbrook on the cover photos for David Bowie’s forthcoming album Nothing Has Changed.

• October brings all the music mixes. This week there’s a choice of FACT mix 463 by Dntel, Autumn’s Whirr by Café Kaput (aka Jon Brooks), and Suspected Rural Telephone Box Poltergeist by The Geography Trip.

• “…when you first go into the room it’s like entering a furnace… a furnace of sound.” Scott Walker talks to John Doran about recording with Sunn O))). The new album, Soused, is out on 20th October.

We are the Martians: the Legacy of Nigel Kneale, a new collection of Kneale-related essays and appreciations, edited by Neil Snowdon.

• Kim Newman is one of the contributors to the Kneale collection. Here he is on the main types of ghost story, and how to recognize them.

Issue 7 of Glitterwolf magazine is out on the 15th, and it’s a Halloween special.

Etai Rahmil makes mask-pipes from glass for weed smokers.

Accidental Cool Art

Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) by Donovan | Hurdy Gurdy Man (1970) by Eartha Kitt | Hurdy Gurdy Man (2009) by Patrick Cowley & Jorge Socarras