Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Daily Quota

"Those who have had any dealings with the odd are not interested in the disbelief of those who have not."

T C Lethbridge

I used this quote as the heading of my first editorial for Paranormal Magazine back in July 2008.

Oh OK, I should have used Google




Clever Mr Parker discovered the identity of my 'mystery' artist in an embarrasing short period of time, thanks to the power of Google. It is an Ian Miller, who is still prolific and showcases his work on his website, ian-miller.org I hope Mr Miller won't mind me reproducing one of his paintings here. It appears to be a (presumably later) version of the image he created for the cover of another H P Lovecraft Panther title, The Haunter of the Dark (my copy published in 1974). I guess I first wondered about the idenity of this artist in the pre-internet days - which wasn't that long ago, amazing though that now seems (I got the net in 99, I think). Anyway, it's a pleasure to have that question answered. Cheers, Porks!

Weird Wednesday


Two Panther paperbacks of classic weird literature, by William Hope Hodgson and H P Lovecraft respectively. The House On The Borderland dates from 1972 and Charles Dexter Ward from 1973.


But who is the artist? This guy was used by panther for all their Lovecrafts and I'm guessing most of their other weird/horror literature covers, too. It would be interesting to have a list of which titles' covers he illustrated. But it would be even more interesting to know who he or she was. What else did he or she do? I've looked for a signature but can't find one and there's no credit inside any of the books I have bearing this distinctive, elaborate and insane artwork.


I know it's highly unlikely (considering I have 5 followers!) but it would be great if someone one day finds out and lets me know!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Daily Quota

"Life's like a jigsaw: you get the straight bits but there's always something missing in the middle."

Andy Partridge, song lyric (All Of A Sudden, 1982)

Golden age fantasy fiction

The volume of Pearson's Magazine which I bought recently - Vol 6, July-December 1898 - has proved of interest. A book which helped encourage me to start buying these Victorian/Edwardian illustrated magazines was one Peter Haining's many: A Pictorial History of Horror Stories. It would seem that he owned Volume 6 of Pearson's himself, for the startling image I reproduce here was also reproduced by Haining in his book (click on it to view it bigger). It accompanies a particularly outre scene in a series of short stories about medieval Venice, The Monsignors of the Night by Max Pemberton.

In his book Haining also reproduced the headers from another story series in this volume, The Last of the Borgias, about a vigilante medico who bumps off undesirable people with undetectable poison. This series was written by one of the most interesting of the now forgotten fantasy writers, Fred M White. Aside from this rather surprising series about a murdering anti-hero - and indeed many others - Smith wrote several disaster stories about various dooms that might befall London, a yarn about killer trees in Meso-America [The Purple Terror] and one of my favourites, The Great White Moth.

In this tale - which appeared in Pearson's rival The Strand - adventurers try to make their fortune by securing exquisite and voluminous white feathers that would sell for a fortune to decorate ladies' hats. But, as you can guess from the title, they come not from birds but from monstrous moths. The gigantic insects live in a cave in (I think) darkest Africa, are worshipped (of course) by the locals and the plucky entrepreneurs get into all sorts of scrapes trying to secure a few plumes. I like it particularly because it could not have been written at any other time - the fashion for feathers, extensive parts of the world still unexplored, young men seeking to make their fortunes in exotic locations etc.

I'd LOVE to start reprinting some of this stuff. And one day I will.

Tuneful Tuesday

This Is Pop! It certainly is. XTC perform their jolly early single from 1978 on a TV prog called Revolver, introduced, bizarrely, by Peter Cook who obviously wishes he was somewhere else ('If that was Pop, I wouldn't want to meet mum.')
video

Monday, 29 March 2010

Daily Quota

'The kind of people who derive the greatest pleasure from art and literature are neurotics, decadents and sexual psychopaths.'

Lord Harberton in The Arrogance of Culture (1905).

I don't really know who Lord Harberton was but I imagine him as one of Graham Chapman's generals, writing a stiff letter to the BBC while dressed in a tutu and signing '(Mrs)' after his name.

Struggling with the first three dimensions


Dave Harper, who works for the BBC in Cardiff, spotted these shenanigans and managed to snap this photo. 'Why does it take six burly blokes to manhandle the Tardis into position?' he wondered, bearing in mind it's just an empty prop. 'Maybe because it's heavier on the inside than it is on the outside,' I oh-so-wittily suggested.
Presumably, the iconic Police Box is being shoved up there to grab some attention in advance of the new season starting on Saturday.
Many thanks to Dave for letting me post this - yes, I will buy you a pint!

Monstrous Monday


Mondays are often monstrous and therefore each deserves at least one monster to go with it.


This is The Prapsnot, drawn by Sidney Sime for a book of Bogey Beasts published in 1923 (many years before Ricky Gervais's Flanimals). Sime is one of my favourite illustrators, as well-known as Arthur Rackham in his day but now sadly neglected. In my opinion he was the most influential of the Victorian/Edwardian fantasy artists, his work certainly inspiring the great pulp illustrators like Virgil Finlay as well as the psychedelic imagery of the late 1960s.


Bogey Beasts was a bit of fun, however. It contained 15 monsters made-up by Sime, who also contributed some lines of doggerel verse ('jingles' he called them) to accompany each one, with a muscial score for each composed by one Josef Holbrooke (about whom I know nothing). It was published in very small numbers and is jolly rare: a facsimile reprint was made in 1975 by a small press, and I had to pay a bit just for that, and send off to Amercia for it.


No doubt I shall shove up a few more Bogey Beasts on forthcoming Monstrous Mondays, and definitely some more work by Sime from time to time. Meanwhile, here are the first few lines of the Prapsnot jingle:


'They have no Prapsnot

In

The Zoo,

And if you ask

The Keeper

The reason

Why?

He'll look askew,

And slowly

Wink his peeper.'

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Daily quota

'The lack of money is the root of all evil.'

Mark Twain

Couldn't agree more!

I've got enough notebooks stuffed with wordage for me to be able to find some inspirational, insightful or obscene quote on a daily basis, I hope. I'll give it a go.

Spooky Sunday


It's a pleasant spring day outside but I'm horribly hungover and therefore my throbbing brain turns to thoughts of gloom and gruesomeness - as it so often does. I think I'll make every Sunday Spooky Sunday, digging up something unpleasant from my ever-growing archive of the uncanny (cue creaking coffin lid FX and demoniacal laughter).


The above picture is a chapter heading from one of the many, many books by Elliott O'Donnell, a rather fey Irishman who was either the world's greatest ghost-hunter of the world's biggest fibber. He certainly wasn't afraid of writing down some of the most grotesque, bizarre and dramatic 'true' ghost accounts on record, while placing himself Dr Who-like in the midst of the action. Too often his yarns are unsupported by witness names and precise locations ('to protect the innocent' etc) but in the case accompanied by this Lovecraftian image (by an uncredited artist) he states that he was joined on his investigation by a member of the Society of Psychical Research, Bill Terry, who went mad during it, such was the horror they encountered. I wonder how verifiable that is?


Anyway, 'The Ghostly Horrors of Rainford Hall' appeared in a 1959 book called simply Ghosts and refers to an ancient manor house in Warwickshire. Here, claims O'Donnell, the built-up evil of a former owner manifested itself as a hideous, demonic presence in giant insect form, 'a huge, black, shadowy, scaly thing with long, cockroachy legs', that crept up the staircase towards them. A serious brown-trouser moment, I'm sure you'll agree.


Incidentally, for more ghost stories from Britain, check out my other blog (becoming sadly neglected) at http://www.uncannyuk.com/.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Saturday Manatee


Well, why not?
Dr Karl Shuker sent me this picture as part of a bunch of illustrations for an article he's written on Mermaids for the issue of Paranormal Magazine I'm currently working on, issue 48.

Saturday Matinee


Old film posters can be great fun. I've been collecting horror, sci-fi and exploitation movie poster images off the net for a while so I shall shove one up every Saturday. I know nothing about this crap looking movie, but it's a classic poster of it's kind. I just love the way the Octopus's eye is peering lecherously down at the woman he's nabbed.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Paranormal Magazine, issue 47


The latest edition of the magazine I edit, Paranormal. It should be on the shelves today, in the UK at least. Lots of weird stuff - the wendigo phenomenon from the frozen wastes; the paranormal power of lightning; the 'alien hunting ground' of South America; strange goings on in a Sussex woodland; a review of the rise in supernatural reports during the English Civil War; and a discovery pertinent to the Holy Grail cult in Britain, among other stuff. It can be bought online, too (postage free in the UK) from http://www.paranormalmagazine.co.uk/ and as a downloadable e-zine from zinio.com.

The wrath of God



This was the highlight of my visit to Tate Britain - John Martin's 'The Great Day of His Wrath'. I love John Martin. He was one of Blake's acolytes and specialised in astonishingly OTT, often apocalyptic images, of Classical and Biblical subjects and fantasy landscapes that outdid any of his 'sublime' contemporaries.

I knew there were some Martins at the Tate but didn't know which, so was really chuffed to find my favourite of the lot hanging there, along with its two companion pieces, 'The Last Judgment' and 'The Plains of Heaven'. The nabbed-off-the-net JPG here just can't do justice to the impact of this colossal canvas, the fiery and gory reds, the details of the city as it crumbles into the abyss or the faces of the damned as they vainly flee the destruction crashing all about them. I was entranced, I have to admit and kept gong back to it, standing there with a gormless grin on my face.
Room 9 is the room and my favourite for additional reasons, including a Snowdonia landscape by local lad Richard Wilson (he lived the last years of his life at Colomendy Hall near Loggerheads in Flintshire) and Blake's 'Ghost of a Flea' (which turned out, in contrast to Martin, to be tiny - about A5). I wish more Blake had been on display, and Samuel Palmers, too (another Blake follower and favourite of mine). There were only three and again it was surprising how small they were, but exquistely coloured and detailed, like medieval stained glass. I did find Tate Britain a bit sound-bitey and could have done with fewer Turners (although it was fun to see 'Sunrise With Sea Monsters', surely the best - if unofficial - title of any landscape painting).

Another thing that put a stupid smile on my face was the bottle of superb Perry on sale in the cafe. They also had Dunkerton's organic cider, one of the finest you can get, but I went for the Perry. There's a lot of really crap pear ciders on sale right now - but this was the good stuff and an ideal intoxicant with which to view the likes of Palmer and Constable, who I am sure would have thoroughly approved. Can't remember who made it - some bloke in Gloucestershire, I think. Tipsyness and art appreciation go well together, I've decided.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

A triumph of Death


I've seen some gruesome gothic monuments in my time but this is easily the most spectacularly grim. It's the Memorial to Lady Elizabeth Nightingale to be found in one of the side chapels of Westminster Abbey. The Abbey was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to London - although the £15 entrance fee was something of a shock (what was that about 'not turning my Father's house into a marketplace'?). And this grotesque monument was one of the highlights of the Abbey.


What you see is a life-size representation of Lord Nightingale trying to ward off an equally er... death-size... Death as his wife dies in his arms. All in marble, of course, and superbly executed. I forgot to take a note of the date, but 18th century. The postcard - you're not allowed to take your own photos in the Abbey despite the entrance fee - doesn't quite do justice to the drama of the piece. Lord Nightingale's horror and despair are palpable and so is the loathsome eagerness of Death - all rotting rags and yellowing bones - as he leaps out and aims his spear at the dying woman. It's just extraordinary.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

An eBay bargain


But why wait till Thursday? It's just occurred to me that one major enthusiasm which I intend to splurge all over this blog and which I didn't mention in the post above is the one I have for Victorian and Edwardian magazines. I have a growing collection which includes 80-odd volumes of The Strand which I bought recently for a big chunk of dosh I couldn't really afford and a number of Pearson's, Wide Worlds and a few Pall Malls.


I was reminded of this because I've just acquired one off eBay for a very reasonable £15 (plus £4.50 p&p). It's Pearson's Magazine Volume 6 and I also just bought vol 13 off Amazon of all places for £17. This means I now have vols 1-13 complete, plus 15 and some 20-somethings. So I'm filling in gaps.


What's fun is that you don't know what you're going to get in them till you've got 'em. Vol 13, for example, turned out to have the first publication of one of Kipling's most famous short stories 'How The Leopard Changed Its Spots' and a few parts of a daft series involving a well brought-up young palmist/clairvoyant lady who ends up solving crimes with her miraculous powers. I love this sort of stuff and intend to start repupblishing some of it if I can get the money together.


I'll let you know what goodies I find in Vol VI when I get back from London (no doubt the postman will dump it in the space above the leccy meter like he does with all my parcels whether I'm in or out). I'm particularly pleased with this one since it's in the original binding and appears to be in especially nice condition. I've attached the eBayer's photo of it. Pearson's has the most handsome off all the Victorian magazine bindings, a beautiful art nouveau affair. Unfortunately, the seller's flash has bleached the colours but you get the idea.



Hello, hello

Having been bullied into setting up a general blog all about my tedious life and the eclectic stuffage that I'm into by Jonathan (I Heart Pencils) and Louise (Felt Mistress), it's slightly unfortunate that I'm off to London for a few days from tomorrow and won't be able to add to it for a few days.

But not to worry, I hardly ever go to London and I'm visiting te V&A, Tate Britain and the National Gallery - at least that's the plan - so I should have some stuff to gush on about on my return (including the horrors of railway stations and the Tube, for I am a truly shit traveller).

Providing I manage to drop a blog once a day thereafter, I guess it'll generally reflect my suprious interests in ghosts, monsters, folklore, antiquities, Dr Who, Hammer Horror, golden age Sc-fi movies and the general frustrations of being a non-writing writer with permanent writer's block. I'm hoping it'll inspire me to magic up some small bits of creative things that I can post as well (and no doubt I'll post stuff by other vastly more talented people, too).

So, er, much to look forward to - on Thursday, probably.