Posts Tagged ‘H.P. Lovecraft’

Xelasoma on his Favourite Artists of the Fantastic

February 3, 2019

And now, as Monty Python once said, for something completely different. At least from politics. I found these two videos from the artist Xelasoma on YouTube, in which he discusses six masters of fantasy art and how they have influenced him. They are Roger Dean, Patrick Woodroffe, and Rodney Matthews in video 1, and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, Philippe Druillet and Ian Miller in video 2.

Roger Dean will be remembered by fans of ’70’s prog rock for his amazing album covers for the bands Yes and Asia. Woodroffe and Matthews are also artists, who’ve produced record covers as well as book illustrations. Moebius and Druillet are two of the geniuses in modern French SF comics. Moebius was one of the ‘Humanoides Associes’ behind the French SF comic, Metal Hurlant. Among his numerous other works was Arzach, a comic, whose hero flew across a strange fantastic landscape atop a strange, pterodactyl creature. As Xelasoma himself points out here, it’s a completely visual strip. There’s no language at all. It was also Moebius who designed the spacesuits for Ridley Scott’s classic Alien. Xelasoma describes how, after he left art school, Moebius spent some time in Mexico with a relative. This was his mother, who’d married a Mexican, and the empty, desert landscape south of the border is a clear influence on the alien environments he drew in his strips. Xelasoma also considers him a master of perspective for the way he frequent draws scenes as viewed looking down from above. And one of the pictures illustrating this is of a figure in an alien planet looking down a cliff at a sculpture of rock legend Jimi Hendricks carved into the opposite cliff face. Druillet, Xelasoma feels, is somewhat like Moebius, but with a harder edge, drawing vast, aggressive machines and armies of fierce alien warriors. He’s also known for his soaring cityscapes of vast tower blocks reaching far up into the sky, which also influenced Ridley Scott’s portrayal of the Los Angeles of 2019 in Blade Runner. The last artist featured, Ian Miller, first encountered in the pages of the British Role-Playing Game magazine, Warhammer. His style is much more angular, deeply hatched and very detailed. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will recognize several of the pictures Xelasoma chooses to represent his work as depictions of some of the weird, sinister gods from the Cthulhu mythos. They include not only Cthulhu himself, but also of the half-human, amphibious, batrachian inhabitants of the decaying port in the short story, The shadow Out of Innsmouth.

What Xelasoma admires about all these artists is that they don’t follow the conventions of modern western art established by the ancient Greeks and Romans and the Renaissance. They alter and distort the human form and that of other objects and creatures. He describes Dean’s landscapes as organic. Patrick Woodroffe and Matthews also create strange, alien creatures and landscapes, and with the creatures Matthews depicts also very different from standard human anatomy. Many of the creatures, machines and spaceships in Matthews’ art are based on insects, and appropriately enough one of the bands whose cover he painted was Tiger Moth. This featured two insects dancing on a leaf. Another picture, The Hop, shows an insect band playing while other bugs trip the light fantastic in the grass, surrounded by items like used cigarettes. His humanoid figures are tall, stick thin, with long, thin, angular faces and immense, slanted eyes. Xelasoma admires the way Matthews can take a train or a deer, and turn them in something uniquely his, as he shows here. He states that he first encountered Dean’s and Woodroffe’s art in the art books his mother had, such as Woodroffe’s Mythopoiekon. He also identifies somewhat with Woodroffe, as neither of them studied at art school. Woodroffe was a French teacher, while for Xelasoma art was far too personal for him to submit to formal training.

Xelasoma points out that these artists were creating their unique visions before the advent of computers using the traditional artist materials of paint and brush, and before courses in SF, Fantasy and concept art were taught at colleges and universities. Nevertheless, he finds their work far more interesting and inspiring than modern SF and Fantasy art, which may be more anatomically accurate, but which, too him, seems very ‘samey’. He complains that it doesn’t make him hallucinate, which the above artists do. Well, I hope he doesn’t mean that literally, as that could be very worrying. But I know what he means in that Dean, Woodroffe, Matthews, Moebius, Druillet and Miller create strange, fantastic worlds that have a striking intensity to them. They seem to be complete worlds, either in the far past or future, or parallel realities altogether, but with their own internal logic drawing you into them.

Discussing their influence on him, he is critical of artists that simply copy the work of others, changing a few details but otherwise keeping to and appropriating the other artists’ own unique visions, some times trying to justify this by saying that their work is a ‘hommage’ to the others. Xelasoma is well aware that his own work is very different to the artists he talks about here, and that many of his viewers won’t be able to see their influence. But he goes on to describe how they have influenced him at the general level of form or composition, while he himself has been careful to develop his own unique style.

Dean, Woodroffe and Matthews have produced books of their work, published by Paper Tiger. Matthews and Miller also have their own websites, for those wishing to see more of their work. Moebius passed away a couple of years ago, but was the subject of a BBC4 documentary. There’s also a documentary about Roger Dean on YouTube, presented by that grumpy old Yes keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. Xelasoma believes in their fantastic depictions of landscapes and animal and human forms makes them as important and worth inclusion in museums and galleries as Graeco-Roman and Renaissance art. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would maintain that in their way, they are far more significant than many contemporary artists that have been promoted as ‘official’ art. Xelasoma’s documentary really shows only a few pieces from these artists’ works, and the bulk of these videos are about the particular impact they have on him. But nevertheless it’s a good introduction to their work, and explanation why they should be taken seriously as artists beyond their origins in popular culture.

Part I

Part II

Advertisements

BBC Drama about Horror Writer H.P. Lovecraft

October 30, 2018

This looks like it could be one for fans of the 1920s Horror/SF writer H.P. Lovecraft. Next Tuesday on Radio 4, 6th November 2018 at 2.15 pm Radio 4 are broadcasting a drama, ‘Talk to Me: H.P. Lovecraft’, by Sara Davies and Abigail Youngman. The blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

The strangest of all HP Lovecraft weird tales isn’t fiction at all but concerns his marriage to businesswoman Sonia Greene. The horrors which make Lovecraft’s fiction so chillingly effective may not have been merely a product of his imagination. (p. 139).

Weird Tales was the name of the magazine that published Lovecraft’s horror stories. Lovecraft is famous as the creator of the ‘Cthulhu mythos’, about a pantheon of evil alien gods – the Great Old Ones – that seeped down to Earth from the stars. They have been banished, but nevertheless still wait for their chance to return, when the stars are right and Great Cthulhu himself rises from the deep in the submerged city of R’lyeh. Either to destroy humanity, or bring about an unhallowed age of reveling and killing.

It’s hard to see how the cosmic horrors he described had any basis in reality. But Lovecraft himself was racist. He was anti-Semitic, despised Blacks and the non-White immigrants then entering New York and America. Recurring themes in his stories are racial decline, inbreeding and miscegenation. Not just with evil, non-human races, as in his short story The Shadow over Innsmouth, but also with other, human peoples. Cthulhu is worshipped by mixed race ‘mongrels’ like the rural people of Louisiana and the docks districts of the ports. He also had contempt for the rural ‘White trash’ of the southern US as well.

It’s questionable just how racist Lovecraft was. He was racist, but at the time so were many other Whites, and it’s actually debatable whether he was worse than most other people. I don’t know much about his personal life, except that he spent most of it in his home town of Providence, Rhode Island. I also think that his wife was Jewish. She said that she did her best for him, so that he would become a chrysalis out of which would emerge a great writer. She lamented that the great writer did indeed come forth, but that he became ever more distant from her. See the biography, The Strength to Dream. I suspect the drama’s about his deteriorating relationship with his wife, as he moved away from her to produce his tales of cosmic horror.

H.P. Lovecraft on Big Business Corroding American Culture

February 8, 2017

I also found this quotation by the American SF/ Horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft, in Fritz Leiber’s A Spectre Is Haunting Texas. The book’s about a skeletally thin actor from a lunar colony, who gets dragged into portraying death on stage to encourage the enslaved Mexican, Black, Indian and poor White populations to rise up against their oppressors in a post-holocaust nuclear America dominated by Texas.

Lovecraft is undoubtedly one of the great writers of his genre, but his political views were extremely unpleasant. He was a racist, and the threat of racial intermixture is a very strong element in his novels. In The Shadow over Innsmouth, he portrays a town, whose inhabitants are no longer entirely human due to generations of breeding with a fish-like undersea race. Several of his stories about families that have mutated or regressed through in-breeding, and the worshippers in the Louisiana swamplands of the dread god, Cthulhu, are described as ‘mongrels’.

The quotation makes it quite clear that Lovecraft was no Socialist, but he thought them far less of a threat than that posed by big business to genuine culture.

One thing I’ll say for labour (the British labor Party); and that is, that it isn’t as offensive as the corresponding mutatory force which now threatens culture in America. I refer to the force of business as a dominative motive in life, and a persistent absorber of the strongest creative energies of the American people. This intensive commercialism is a force more basically dangerous and anti-cultural than labour ever has been, and threatens to build up an arrogant fabric which it will be very hard to overthrow or modify with civilised ideas. (p. 163).

Now my views on what count as ‘civilised ideas’ are probably very different from Lovecraft’s. But he is right in one sense about the corrosive effect of business. Thanks to the massive influence of business on American politics, America is no longer a democracy. The country and its allies are sending their brave troops to fight and die in an ever increasing number of wars for the profit of the military industrial complex and the oil companies in particular.

Nazi Stormtrooper Publishes Book on Satanism, with Ideas Drawn from Horror Novels

April 17, 2016

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting things on here for over a week or so now. I’ve been doing other things, that have kept me busy. Thanks, however, to everyone who’s persevered with the blog in that time and kept reading, just in case. Your interest and support is appreciated.

I found this interesting little article by Matthew Collins over on the Hope Not Hate site. It seems Ryan Fleming, a member of the National Front has published a book, the Codex Aristarchus, on Satanism. Fleming is a member of the Nazi Satanist group, The Order of the Nine Angles. He also knows a thing or two about evil. In the book, he quotes extensively Ian Brady, the notorious Moors Murderer, and the book puffs itself as ‘coming from the blood-stained moors of England.’ He was also sent down by the beak for two years for forcing a vulnerable young man to perform a sex act on him.

So, this is a guy, who can be reasonably described as vile and sick.

See the article at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/nazi-sex-offender-releases-book-4836

What struck me is that the book promises to teach its readers how they can turn themselves into an astral vampire, so they can feed off the human herd. Interestingly, the term he uses for ‘astral vampire’ is ‘wamphyri’. This should be familiar to aficionados of the British horror writer, Brian Lumley. It comes from Lumley’s own vampire novels, the ‘Necroscope’ and ‘Blood Brother’s series.

Necroscope Wamphyri pic

Lumley’s vampire novels are a strange mixture of the supernatural and straightforward science fiction body horror. The vampires – wamphyri – are humans infected with a pernicious symbiont, a tape worm-like creature that warps their minds and bodies. Those infected not only feed on blood, but they also develop the ability to warp and mould their bodies into any shape, rather like the demonic members of the upper classes in the Brian Yuzhna 1980s horror flick, Society. Or the mutating Doctor Praetorius in Yuzhna’s From Beyond. Back in their home dimension, the vampires’ lairs, their eyries, are made out of the mutated body parts of their victims, which they sculpt into the required shapes using their arcane skills in creating monsters. This element of the novels ultimately derives from the various mad scientists, and their experiments in manufacturing monsters from the ghastly fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. Which is entirely natural, given that Lumley started out writing horror and fantasy fiction within Lovecraft’s own Cthulhu mythos.

As for astral, or psychic vampires, I think this comes either from Aleister Crowley, or from Anton LaVey, the late head of the Church of Satan. The connection between Lumley’s vampires and Satanism is that in his book, Shaitan is the first vampire. It is, however, only hinted that the character is the fallen angel of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Lumley’s Shaitan has no real memory of who or what he was before he fell and turned up on the vampire creatures’ extra-dimensional homeworld, and his powers, although supernatural, are derived entirely from his infection with one of the creatures.

Lumley’s books are, however, straightforward works of Science Fantasy/ Horror fiction. They’re not remotely Satanic, except in the sense that they are set in worlds where supernatural evil is real. If anything, they’re more strongly influenced by Spiritualism – the Necroscope of the title, Harry Keogh, can talk to the dead rather like Spiritualist mediums. The last book in the series also shows a slight Christian influence, in that Keogh finally wins the battle against the vampires after they crucify him. But that’s it. There’s no great mystical teachings there, and the whole thing is purely for entertainment. Christopher Lee in an interview on Pebble Mill once described the Hammer Horror movies he was in as morality plays. Dracula rose from the grave to prey on the living, but after causing carnage and mayhem, good eventually won. Usually in the form of Peter Cushing with a stake in one hand and a hammer in the other. Lumley’s book are the same.

So, if you’re looking for a good book on vampires, I recommend Lumley. I read them about twenty years ago. They’re fun pieces of body horror, good wins in the end, and they don’t pretend to teach you any great mystical secrets of the universe. Although multidimensional mathematics is discussed with the disembodied souls of leading German mathematicians in the first book, Necroscope.

Or you could go to the all-time classic itself, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. As for wanting to be a vampire, you’re far better off watching the classic Hammer films and listening to Goth tracks like Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Undead, Undead). Those won’t teach you any great mystical secrets either, but then, neither will Ryan Fleming, or A.A. Morain as he styles himself as the book’s author. But unlike Fleming, Lumley, Stoker and Bauhaus don’t pretend to.

Robin Ince and Alan Moore Explore the Hollow Earth

April 7, 2015

Next Saturday on Radio 4 at 10.30 am, the cult comics writer, Alan Moore will be one of the guests on Robin Ince’s show, Hollow Earth: A Travel Guide. The blurb for the programme states

Robin Ince explores the Hollow Earth theory, which suggests that a substantial interior space inhabited by all manner of creatures exists beneath the Earth’s crust. This idea has been around since ancient times. With the help of a classicist, a biblical scholar, a literary critic and graphic-novelist Alan Moore, Robin sets out to investigate this imagined world.

The Hollow Earth and subterranean worlds and civilisations have been a feature of SF for well over a century. Examples include Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, Jules Verne’s At the Earth’s Core, the subterranean civilisation of the Great Race in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and Edgar Rice Burrough’s Pellucidar books. I remember these last from the Marvel adaptation that used to run as backing strip in Star Wars comic when I was at junior school. More recently, Stephen Baxter, the quantum physicist and SF novelist, wrote a series of novels about an underground people that reproduced asexually evolved from a lost Roman legion.

This won’t be the first time Moore has appeared on one of Ince’s programmes. He appeared with him on one of the other radio programmes hosted by Ince, discussing the nature of science. Moore is one of Britain’s best known comics creators, the author of V for Vendetta and Watchmen, so this should be quite interesting.

Tintin Parodies: Tintin Meets Cthulhu

January 9, 2014

This is for all the fans of H.P. Lovecraft out there. Muzski over at Deviantart has created a series of Tintin book covers, in which Belgium’s greatest comic book hero meets the ghastly things from beyond that came out of H.P. Lovecraft’s fevered imagination. Enjoy!

Tintin Dunwich Horror

Tintin From Beyond

Tintin Innsmouth

Tintin Mountains of Madness

Tintin Reanimator

Tintin Whisperer In Darkness

Tintin R'lyeh
Tintin Shadow out of Time

A Happy Cthulhu Christmas!

December 26, 2013

I’m a fan of the work of the horror/SF pulp writer, H.P. Lovecraft. I found this picture of Providence’s most famous son and his gruesome creations celebrating Christmas, or Yule, over at Steve Nile’s tumblr site, Arcane Images. Nile’s site is devoted to pictures and photos from Horror and Comics. And so for everyone, who’s read old Howard Philips’ chill prose about the Elder Gods and unhallowed tomes of occult lore, and wondered if their library had a copy of the Necronomicon, even if only the Olaus Wormius’ edition, here it is:

Cthulhu Christmas

Aya Shub-Niggurath! In his house in R’lyeh dead Cthulhu lies sleeping!

Or as the great Nigel Molesworth once said, ‘Dream on, dear child, and do not get the blood all over the bed.’