Tag Archives: weird art

The Woman Who Drew William Hope Hodgson

We’ve always loved obscure facts, trivia and convoluted connections. So it’s a pleasure to publish something today which outdoes even our own usual delvings. That also means we have to apologise for the distinct lack of lurchers recently. The story so far is that we took on lots of editing, and we need to write to earn money, and… we’ll do better soon. Honest. Django has fleas at the moment, anyway. Where he got them’s a mystery, as he has no pocket-money left, but that should occupy us for a day or two – washing all our manuscripts at a high temperature and so forth.

We do however welcome back James Bojaciuk of 18thWall Productions. Writer editor and publisher, last year he considered the roots and imagery of William Hope Hodgson’s Hog for us. This time he focuses on the little known artist Florence Briscoe, who illustrated Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki stories. And we have the pictures. It’s Edwardian Arcane again!

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Incidentally we’re in the last two days of the already successful Kickstarter campaign for Occult Detective Quarterly, so do join in if you haven’t already. The more the campaign raises, the higher quality, the more illustrated and the more totally super the final magazine will be.

odqswampoccult detective quarterly kickstarter

Meanwhile, let’s hear from James…


Florence Briscoe: A Life in Scraps

James Bojaciuk

For every person who leaves behind enough papers, speeches, and letters that their lives can be parlayed into a nine volume history, there are thousands who disappear. They only leave newspaper notices, parish records, certificates, the unavoidable documentation that stalks us all. To piece together one such life is to piece together suppositions.

Florence Briscoe is one such life. Until this article she was only known as the original illustrator for Carnacki: The Ghost-Finder. But, even then, she was little more than a footnote. None of the dozens of editions have carried her illustrations, so far as I’m aware; her work only appears on scattered websites, and has only dimly inspired the general image of the character.

william hope hodgson
william hope hodgson

Florence’s birth is a mystery; what little we can surmise about her family life can flash us by in a few terse facts. She was born Florence Schulke, sometime in October, 1890. She certainly spent her teenage years in Liverpool, and was likely born there as well. Her family seems to have been Catholic. She married Joseph Briscoe on May twenty-seventh, 1912. She was twenty-two years old. Her handwriting was precise, but adorned with squiggles (I am tempted to write “happy squiggles”). Her occupation, oddly, was listed as “spinster.” But then, Joseph’s profession was nothing more impressive than a “bachelor” who had attained the rank, in this position, of “bachelor.”

At the time of their marriage, Florence and Joseph lived together at 162 Ma—. The handwriting is too imprecise to discern more without an essay’s worth of educated guesses. This is the last address we ever find put to her name, and we can somewhat safely assume (as safely as one can assume without facts) that she remained there the rest of her life.

a younger hope hodgson
a younger hope hodgson

It’s tempting to assume that she met Joseph on the way to class, if not in class itself. Beginning several years previously, somewhere between 1908 and 1910, Florence attended a co-ed art school in Clapham. This helps resolve an oddity in the records. At the time of their wedding, the couple had been living at the same address for some time. Even in the Edwardian era, some couples would cohabit prior to the wedding—but that is not the sort of thing even the most daring would write in the church records. But if Florence took up rooms in Clapham, funded by her professional art (more on that to follow), it’s likely that Joseph was either the son of her landlord or a fellow student rooming in the same building. I would wager more on the latter, given they had enough in common to marry, but it’s also difficult to credit an expanding family staying in a student’s apartment for decades. Either “student” or “son of the land lord” would explain why Joseph’s employment is merely “bachelor.” Of course, paperwork regarding later addresses may have been lost.

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the king and the girl

While attending art school, she entered her work in contests. We know her for pencil illustrations, but here she expresses a fascination for painted landscapes. She had a talent for it, as well, and took home second place in the 1910 Gilbert-Garret Art Contest (which continues to this day). The first place winner’s landscape has been preserved forever; Florence’s, however, suffers the way all second place winners do. Her work is lost. No-one thought to reproduce it for the papers. All of the winners, however, Florence included, had their art exhibited in South Kensington. This was her last known professional work.

Three years previously, she began working at The Idler. It is here that all of her surviving work was published.

And thus we come to the only reason Florence Briscoe is remembered by the world—her association with an obscure genre’s still yet more obscure character created by an all the more obscure author. We don’t know how she earned placement on the Carnacki series. By the time it began, she had been with The Idler for a few years, and illustrated a few minor series. There’s a distinct possibility that she knew William Hope Hodgson and he recommended her for the job. Then again, there’s the equally distinct possibility that they were assigned to each other (as authors and illustrations so often are), and struck off in friendship. There’s a yet third distinct possibility that they met once, and Florence found Hodgson’s face so unusual she simply had to use it in her professional work. The fact behind these theories: Florence regularly sketched characters after Hodgson’s likeness.

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check this against photo at start of article!

Florence had a tendency to reuse a person’s appearance from story to story. A man with a pointed beard and mustache appears in almost every set of illustrations; many of her women appear to be modeled off a single woman (perhaps a self-portrait); and a certain off-used young man is identifiable by his broad chest, worked-out physique, short stature, and rather unique haircut. You may be prepared to cry foul; I would as well, were it not for the fact that this model is drawn remarkably true to life in a single instance, and in that instance the young man is the living image of William Hope Hodgson.

hodgson-model4_detail-from_when-i-got-down-i-found-the-cousin-had-arrived_the-horse-of-the-invisible
the horse of the invisible

Hodgson appears unmistakably in Florence’s second illustration for “The King’s Cigarette Case.” There is no room for argument. The perspective has thrown off his eyes’ placement, somewhat, but the face and hair are inescapably Hodgson’s. Let us call him the “Hodgson model.”

Knowing Florence’s predilection for reusing models—and never bothering to alter their features from story to story—we find Hodgson throughout her illustrations, standing out due to his striking face and unusual body-type. Though in one instance the “Hodgson model” wears a mustache (“Lord Ernest’s Trap”), the rest of his design is unmistakable.

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lord ernest’s trap

We can take this one step further. It is my contention that Florence based Carnacki’s appearance on Hodgson. He shares in many of the general attributes Florence ascribed the “Hodgson model.”

gateway of the monster
gateway of the monster

It is perhaps an unprovable contention, like proving the Rorschach shows what you see. Before we begin, let one thing be said: Carnacki is inescapably linked with a mustache. He and it are inseparable. Find any artist who has drawn the ghost-finder; the character’s face is graced with a mustache. There is one problem. Carnacki was neither described—nor drawn—with any facial hair. So far as I can tell, this portrayal began when a low-resolution version of Florence’s header found its way online in the early days of the internet. What was a shadow, thanks to pixilation, became a mustache. Without any of Florence’s other illustrations at hand, the idea of a mustachioed Carnacki flourished.

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note lack of moustache

Carnacki illustrations share in the same aspects as the Hodgson model. He has the same unique haircut seen in photographs of Hodgson. He has the same short, stocky strength-trainer’s build. In most of the illustrations, he shares his author’s nose, chin, and eyes.

If this identification is accepted, it throws significant light onto Hodgson. First, much can be made of the fact he allowed his character to resemble him. Second, we possess art of Hodgson that was apparently drawn from life. Our picture of him expands. All of this due to Florence’s skill, and her reliance on a handful of models.

To return to Florence: the most striking thing about The Idler, as one combs through its back issues a century later, is how many women illustrated its stories. Male artists are rare, and almost absent. As much as some may like to present Edwardian women imprisoned within their homes—making a single career, as Florence did, was hardly unusual.

Artistically, Florence was far above most—truthfully, all—of the artists working alongside her at The Idler. Her work has an excellent command of shadows, and her characters have that rare spark of light. Unlike many artists from her era, her crosshatching is only present to draw the eye, and her shadows are controlled. Readers who have only seen her Carnacki illustrations have not seen her full range. Those pieces of art are more controlled, and lean more toward darkness—a style well-fitted to ghosts, but not a style which has not aged nearly so well as the remainder of her illustrations, given Edwardian printing and the unkindness of digital conversion. Her Carnacki illustrations are muddy, now, and occasionally illegible.

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If she enters the historical record with Carnacki, she departs with him as well. When the series ended at The Idler, so too did her employment. An imaginative “historian” can devise any number of reasons why she might. A historian can only shrug. All that remains on record of Florence Briscoe can be discussed in a matter of paragraphs.

On the twenty-first of March, 1921, Florence witnessed the marriage of her sister Matilda to Seth Hellen.

At a time unknown, Florence and Joseph had a son, Gerald. On December twentieth, 1959, Gerald married Helen Vassallo in St. Patrick’s Church, Sliema. St. Patrick’s of Sliema is not an ordinary church, however, and almost exclusively catered to British servicemen. It seems likely Gerald served in the British armed forces, and possibly in World War Two.

Try as I might, I have uncovered no death certificate. My attempts to track down her family have begun where they started. Florence’s story, as with so much involving early weird fiction, ends in a question mark.

lcovE


The weekend will bring new delights, but what they are we do not know as yet…

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Mr Hyde, Mr Poe and Mr Carnacki: An Interview with M S Corley

Today, a classic occult detective returns in fully illustrated glory, along with some alternative ‘Harry Potter’ books and other interesting ideas galore. We had intended to discuss London being destroyed by an avant garde airship, but we’ve been fortunate enough to procure a most excellent interview with top-notch artist M S Corley. So London must wait, for one of our interviewee’s projects is perfect for our Edwardian Arcane theme, as you will soon see.

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Mike Corley is an experienced freelance illustrator and graphic designer with a wide range of work under his belt. In addition to the ideas which we discuss below, he also put out a rather neat Kindle Motion book this year – Darkness There: Selected Tales of Edgar Allan Poe – which we have to mention because it contains animated illustrations. Want to see the pendulum swing? Now you can.

But we must roll up our sleeves and get down to it…

An Interview with M S Corley

1greydog: Welcome to greydogtales. Although we dragged you here to talk primarily about your Carnacki project, it would be churlish of us not to mention other aspects of your work. It’s actually hard to know where to start. You do book covers, concept work, prints, games characters, comic book illustrations and the lot. Was this a commercial decision, or one which reflects a personal interest in exploring a range of fields?

mike: I would say mainly it was a personal interest decision, I’ve had a clear idea of things I liked in general but never knew in specific what I’d want to do in the day to day work. Almost everything you listed there fell into my lap and wasn’t something I sought out like “Oh, I’d like to draw a comic now, or work on a video game, etc”. Someone came to me and offered me the position and I took it when it seemed like a right fit. It’s been a real rollercoaster of a career as I never knew what I’d be doing next, and trying it all seemed like a good way to learn what I like and didn’t like as far as work goes.

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These days I’d say I work nearly exclusively on book covers, making up probably 95% of the work I take on. I’ve found a place for myself in the cover industry and feel like I fit quite well there and the demand is enough to make it so I don’t need to take on jobs I don’t like as much anymore. And with book covers it’s always different, so I can’t really get bored with the work itself which is nice.

greydog: You were particularly acclaimed for your work on The Strange Case of Mr Hyde for Dark Horse Comics, written by Cole Hadden. How did you feel about the process of working closely with another creator to achieve a unified result?

mike: Hah, well I don’t know if I’d say acclaimed, but that is a comic I did and it was quite an experience. Dark Horse holds the majority of my attention when it comes to comics that I read, mainly due to Hellboy and the rest of the Mignolaverse so when I was contacted by them out of the blue it was like a dream come true.

I had done a 8pg story prior to Strange Case, which is what Cole saw and what landed me the gig. And then working on Strange Case was the first multi-issue series I got to work on, with around 24pages per issue. It was very hard work for me, it took a long time because I am a very slow artist, but I couldn’t have had a better starter situation working with Cole as the writer.

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It was his first time writing a comic too (if I remember correctly) so having both of us being newbies at the professional comic scene I think helped because we didn’t have any preconceived notions on how working with an artist or writer should go. And we helped each other over the finish line without losing too much hair along the way. Really great guy and we struck up a friendship over similar horror interests and old timey stuff. He introduced me to a lot of classic Hammer films which I might never have discovered without him.

All in all, that comic was a huge undertaking for me, and I learned a ton about my style of drawing and how I work best in the comics medium. So I can’t thank DH and Cole enough for the opportunity, but I doubt I would ever be able to get back into the ‘professional’ comic scene again. I’ve done a couple more short one-shots for DH, but the timeline and deadlines outweighs my enjoyment for that kind of work in a ‘for a company’ sense.

greydog: We couldn’t help notice your stylish alternative ‘Harry Potter’ covers. They’re reminiscent of the finer Penguin Books covers. Was that deliberate?

mike: I often joke with my wife and a close friend, that when I die my tombstone will say “Here lies Mike, he made those one Harry Potter covers”. Nearly every single job I’ve had after I made those covers in 2008, can directly be related back to those covers themselves.

Correct, I used the old Marber grid system that Penguin used in the 60s, and I just made them for a fun side project as I saw a small trend going on at the time of people adapting movies or video games as retro book covers, Olly Moss’s work at the time in particular was an influence. And I thought, well I can’t do any better than what these guys are doing with the cleverness of turning movies and whatnot into covers, so why don’t I just make a book cover of a book.

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I had just finished listening to the audio versions of HP at the time so I thought that would be a good place to start with making covers. I put them online and it went around like a whirlwind. And since then, on nearly a weekly basis someone has emailed me about them, mainly asking for prints.

Which back in the day I tried to make and then Warner Brothers lawyers came at me and said in no uncertain terms that I shouldn’t pursue making prints and selling them for profit. So that got shut down quickly. I did end up putting prints up in the end, but removed all the text (which was the legal issue) for if anyone ever wanted them. Granted I know part of the charm was having the text on there so they looked like old books. But they’re out there if someone wants them: potter covers

greydog: And we note that your art will feature in the premium edition of Orrin Grey’sNever Bet the Devil & Other Warnings”, which has just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. Presumably this will be a major project for you, or have you already sketched out many of your ideas?

mike: I’m pretty excited about this one. Orrin and I have been wanting to work on a book together for a long time. We did work on a personal project together a while back, Gardinel’s Real Estate. A small chapbook of 13 haunted houses that I drew and Orrin wrote short bios on in the vein of a real estate pamphlet, which was a lot of fun (see link below image).

6gardinel is available here

Since then we had been hoping that someday the stars would align for me to do a cover to one of his books, and then Strix Publishing came around for the deluxe reprint of Never Bet the Devil (a book I personally enjoy) and Orrin pitched me as the artist and they agreed and here we are. That was the first Kickstarter I was a part of as well, and I was quite nervous during the whole campaign but thrilled to see it funded in the end (and overfunded too). I have a few of the interior images complete and now have started the heavy lifting for drawing the rest, as funding was just released to us this week.

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I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure it will be available for regular purchase after all the Kickstarter backers are given their copies. If so, I highly recommend readers pick up the book for the writing itself, I don’t read a lot of modern horror or supernatural work as it seems a lot more clichéd than turn of the century work (which I prefer) but there is something wonderful about Orrin’s writing that lets him be one of the few modern readers I will actively read for pleasure.

greydog: Mr Hyde and Orrin Grey lead us into the mood for another one of your current projects, Carnacki: Recorder of Things Strange. First of all, perhaps you could outline the general concept of Recorder of Things Strange for those who haven’t yet encountered the idea?

mike: Actually, I made a one page comic to help give an idea of what to expect!

8I describe it on the site as a comic inspired by the character created by William Hope Hodgson. The Carnacki I have in these stories is not meant to be the exact character from Hodgson’s original stories as I could never successfully add onto what he wrote about his Carnacki. This is a new story of the character I have loved for many years, as I see him and the world he inhabits in my mind.

It is and will be a continuing comic series written and illustrated by myself, published as soon as I can get each volume out. I’ve described it to some people being similar to the ‘middle years’ of the Hellboy series, where he’s wandering around just dealing with certain monsters and situations. It has a bit of that vibe (which to me were the most enjoyable stories of Mignola’s work)

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What I’m doing with it as well is adapting classic fiction and ghost stories and folklore from around the world and having Carnacki investigate it. There is an overarching plot that will drive the story forward, but I am purposefully writing it out of order so that it can be put together in the end by faithful readers who like that kinda mystery ( like me).

The current plan is releasing them in short volumes, roughly four to five individual stories per volume, and they are grouped by location more than anything. In volume one they all take place in the UK, but are in a range of years from both the beginning of his career or where you might say the ‘main plot’ kicks off, and close to the end of his tale as well. But that won’t be apparent right away until later volumes come out and you can put together the timeline (well besides me pointing that out here of course).

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Volume one is plotted, written and panelled out, just going through and drawing everything now (the hard work). I was hoping to have it done by the end of the year but it seems that it will take a bit longer looking at where I’m at now. And then I have Volume 2 written and 3-5 plotted on the stories I will write once I get to those volumes.

Throughout the series Carnacki will meet up with various influences on myself in the form of authors or characters mostly. For example him teaming up with John Silence in a story to solve a case. Stuff like that, which when I’ve said that it makes people immediately draw the conclusion that this is like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but I’d say it couldn’t be further from that idea. This isn’t a team book, he just stumbles across people from time to time, and I rarely spell it out on who it is, a lot is hidden in the details for the viewer to discover.

11greydog: This is something that you’ve been working on for a long time. What sparked the idea originally, and why Carnacki in particular?

mike: Yes quite a long time, I had read the Carnacki stories a long while back, but in 2010 (around the time of working on Strange Case of Mr. Hyde) I remember I was in a hot tub with my wife discussing the things I don’t enjoy about professional comic work for a company, and if I could do my own book at my own pace without any rules or restrictions, what would it be of. And the first and only idea that popped into my head was an adaptation of Carnacki.

Shortly there after I started sketching what Carnacki looks like to me, and after about a month I found the look and did a quick ink wash just to base my future ideas off of. He’s changed a bit since then but this was the first ‘real’ image of him I ever drew.

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And why Carnacki in particular… there’s just something about him. He’s not a super hero, he has no powers, he isn’t a vast intellect like Sherlock or anything along those lines. He’s just a normal guy investigating abnormal situations who often gets genuinely scared by what he encounters. I can really relate to him as a character. And honestly, your article back in July ‘The Carnacki Conundrum’ summed up my views on why he’s great in a far more eloquent way than I ever could.

greydog: Glad that we share that common ground – makes us even more excited to see your own Carnacki. How familiar are you with the pastiches and re-imaginings of recent years, such as Willie Meikle’s new Carnacki adventures, Josh Reynolds’ Charles St. Cyprian and greydog’s own Tales of the Last Edwardian? Or do you avoid these things to keep on track with your own vision?

mike: I know of their existence for sure, but I tend to avoid it. Not that I don’t want to read them (I do) but I have a very particular route and story and idea of who the Carnacki I’m making is. And I am doing my best not to be influenced by other people’s interpretations of the character.

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I did read CARNACKI: The New Adventures, from Ulthar Press. Mainly for the fact that I designed the cover and wanted to tie in visuals from the story. And it was a good book, I remember the play in there was particularly enjoyable for me (and I don’t enjoy reading play scripts).

greydog: Your illustrations are stunning, it has to be said, and Carnacki has never looked better. It does look as if you’re also doing all the scripting in this case, is that right?

mike: Thank you kindly. I am doing my best with the art, and that is partly why its taking so long for me. It’s a personal project I’m doing on the side so I work on it when I can, but I have a certain standard of art I want to keep up for the books as a whole.

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And yes, I’m doing all the plotting and writing, I have a couple of close friends who have been supporting me from the beginning, two of which are writers (one of which is in fact Orrin) who I bounce ideas with and they are also there for editorial purposes. Because I am not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, I have a story and I know how to speak the bits I want, but I want to make sure nothing is overly confusing or sounds funky to a reader besides myself. So they have been a help with that for me.

greydog: You describe the work as “A new story of the character I have loved for many years, as I see him and the world he inhabits in my mind.” Have you found yourself making many changes to the canonical Carnacki as Hodgson described him?

mike: I don’t know if I’ve done (or plan to) do anything that directly contradicts Hodgson’s original stories. His nine stories actually fit in my timeline and I will reference back to them at appropriate times. In fact I’m also working on an illustrated version of Carnacki: The Ghost-Finder which will come out between Volume’s 1 and II of my comic.

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I will never fully adapt those stories into full length comics, but this is the next best thing in my mind to make it all feel like that’s still canon. Imagine that mine is a parallel universe Carnacki to Hodgson’s official version, that they both experienced those same 9 cases, and then the before and after I’m filling in.

But mainly, when I say that it’s a new story of the character, its that if there are any Hodgson scholars out there I don’t want to annoy them and pretend that I am trying to write and be like W.H.H. They will immediately be able to tell the difference, both in where I’m taking the character, and in writing style alone, on how mine is different entity entirely. My Carnacki speaks very plainly without much of the older Edwardian style/tone, simply for the fact that when I tried to write that way it sounded forced, Carnacki’s voice is an extension of my own. So he lives in the 1900s but sounds like me, which might be a bit of an anachronism but hopefully it won’t sound to strange in the end. Time will tell.

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greydog: Are you a reader of earlier supernatural and horror in general? As we’re running our Edwardian Arcane theme at the moment, who apart from Hodgson appeals to you in period fiction?

mike: Absolutely, that’s my preferred read. As I stated before I’m not a huge fan of modern horror/supernatural, there’s just something about the old stories that felt fresh. You can tell they haven’t watched all the same movies and tv shows that writers these days have and are inspired by (if not subconsciously). Besides Hodgson (who would be my first pick) I like Lovecraft, M.R.James, Algernon Blackwood. And various names I can’t remember but fill the ghost/supernatural/horror story collections I’ve gathered over the years.

greydog: And what about contemporary tastes? Orrin Grey, for one, we presume?

mike: Orrin for sure. I don’t know if it counts but I really enjoy Susanna Clarke. I took a break at this question and perused through my bookshelves trying to find someone else that is modern supernatural/horror that I like and all I could come up with is Mike Mignola. Which even he feels old fashioned in regards to supernatural horror, and the medium is different too, but he’s probably one of the best modern storytellers in the genre. In my opinion.

greydog: We’re obviously excited by the thought of this new illustrated Carnacki. On a practical basis, will these be self-published, coming out from a press, or is all that to be decided yet?

mike: Self-published to begin with. If a press picks it up and wants to produce fancier printings than I can with my budget I’m open to it. But I’m not counting on it. These comics are mainly for myself, so that when I’m on my death bed I can say ‘at least I made that’.

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If I find out that someone else enjoys them too, that’s even better (hopefully I learn that before being on my deathbed).

greydog: We’re sure that you will. Many thanks for joining us – we wish you every success, and hope that one day our new Occult Detective Quarterly will be running coverage of Carnacki: Recorder of Things Strange.

mike: Hopefully very soon! I will keep you guys updated on Volume 1 when it’s released.

Out you go!


You can find out more, or contact M S Corley, by following the links below:

Email:  corleyms at yahoo.com (replace with @ as usual)

Blog/website: m s corley blog

Carnacki site: thomascarnacki.com

Twitter: @corleyms

And you can have a look at Darkness There via the link below the image:

poe-telltaleheartdarkness there: selected takes of edgar allan poe


Run away! Back in a couple of days with more Edwardian Arcane, new books to examine, and next week, the October Frights Blog Hop and doggies as well, we hope…

 

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A Chill Equation – John Coulthart and More

We’re back, with bumper fun in the form of the wonderful Equation Chillers series, including Algernon Blackwood. We’re also going to enjoy the work of a couple of weird artists in the field – the renowned John Coulthart’s Lovecraftian art and the mysterious Boris Dolgov with his pulp illustrations from the forties and fifties.

We’ll start with John Coulthart, because we’ve been in touch with him recently. When we interviewed him at length on greydogtales at the end of last year (see john coulthart – axioms & other dark beasts), he alluded to various forthcoming projects, and two of these are here, or on their way soon.

Moby Dick Full Cover+

The first is the new collection from Barnes and Noble, The Complete Cthulhu Mythos Tales by H P Lovecraft, a massive book of six hundred pages in their Collectible Editions line. As you might expect, it contains twenty three of those Lovecraft stories which relate to what later became a whole myth cycle (for which August Derleth is mostly to be praised or blamed). The book includes six collaborative “revisions”, and has an introduction by Lovecraft scholar S T Joshi.

Moby Dick Full Cover+

Mostly importantly for us (we have read a lot of HPL already, after all), it has wonderful front and back covers, plus endpapers, by John.

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We haven’t yet seen a UK distributor for this, but here’s the link to the US source:

cthulhu mythos- barnes and noble

Also worth a mention is John’s work for a new collection, Out of Tune Book Two, for which he has provided fifteen new illustrations. This is due to be published by JournalStone sometime soon.

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Right, let’s go back a few years. Nearly three decades, in fact. One of our finds of the late eighties was the short-lived Equation Chillers series. Sadly, only eight books were ever produced directly under the imprint. We have battered copies of all of them which we bought at the time, thank goodness.

They were, in a way, the precursor of the Wordsworth Editions, where lost, rare or unusual stories of the supernatural suddenly became available at an affordable price. Equation revived a whole haunted house full of Victorian and Edwardian short stories, and it’s worth noting all eight volumes here, with the occasional comment from us.

1) THE FLINT KNIFE. Further Spook Stories by E.F. Benson
Selected and introduced by Jack Adrian (1988).

2) IN THE DARK. Tales of Terror by E. Nesbit
Selected and introduced by Hugh Lamb (1988).

(No, you’re right – we couldn’t find our copies of the two above to scan them. It’s that damned Magic Loft again…)

3) WARNING WHISPERS. New Weird Tales by A.M. Burrage
Selected and introduced by Jack Adrian (1988)

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4) STORIES IN THE DARK. Tales of Terror by Jerome K. Jerome, Barry Pain, and Robert Barr
Selected and introduced by Hugh Lamb (1989)

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An uneven but fascinating collection from the author of Three Men in a Boat and two of his friends and colleagues. Jerome and Barr founded The Idler magazine together in the late 19th century, though Barr is best remembered for his crime and detective novels. Pain was a writer and editor himself, producing a lot of non-supernatural work. Readers may already be familiar with his story The Undying Thing.

The Haunted Mill by Jerome himself is an especially wonderful example of his dry sense of humour.
5) BONE TO HIS BONE. The Stoneground Ghost Tales of E.G. Swain
Introduced by Michael Cox (1989).

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We daren’t say much about this one, because we’ve often droned on about E G Swain being one of our favourite writers of the supernatural. Gentle, humorous and wonderful little stories with perfect characterisation, to be read again and again.

Uniquely, this volume not only reprinted the 1912 edition of The Stoneground Ghost Tales but included six stories by David Rowlands, excellent later pastiches of Swain’s content and style. Rowlands has also written many tales of his own, including those concerning “the endearing Father O’Connor, who is constantly brushing up against the supernatural and the uncanny in stories that range from the whimsical to the terrifying”.

6) THE MAGIC MIRROR. Lost Supernatural and Mystery Stories by Algernon Blackwood
Selected and introduced by Mike Ashley (1989)

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An interesting and diverse collection, particularly as it includes a number of Blackwood’s tales for the BBC, including the text of the very first official radio ‘talk’, by Blackwood, from July 1934 – The Blackmailers. The BBC director responsible apparently commented “I don’t doubt that we shall have a good many letters from listeners saying that we are corrupting the youth of England with morbid fancies and distasteful subjects”.

dolgov
dolgov

Blackwood went on to make over sixty radio broadcasts, and you can listen to one of them here:

7) DRACULA’S BROOD. Neglected Vampire Classics by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood and Others
Selected and introduced by Richard Dalby (1989).

brood

A most fine collection because Dalby deliberately avoided well-known or commonly anthologised tales. His choice of twenty three stories ranges from 1867 to 1940, and includes Mary E Braddon, Vernon Lee, Alice and Claude Askew, M R James and Frederick Cowles. Worth trying to find because of its range and the rareness of some of the stories.

8) THE BLACK REAPER. Tales of Terror by Bernard Capes
Selected and introduced by Hugh Lamb (1989).

capes

After this the series folded, rather tragically. They had announced, but never released:

FEAR WALKS THE NIGHT. Tales of Terror by Frederick Cowles
To be selected and introduced by Richard Dalby.

Equation Chillers can still be found second hand. Amazon even has a few on offer through its marketplace dealers.

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dolgov

While musing on Blackwood and looking at related illustrations of his work, we were reminded of the artist Boris Dolgov. A New York artist, virtually nothing is known about him, not even the dates of his birth and (presumed) death.

8560021701_c7739ea5ff_bDolgov produced seven (we think) covers for the magazine Weird Tales, and numerous interior illustrations, a few of which we’ve included in this post, from the mid-forties to the early fifites.

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It is known that Dolgov was a friend of the artist Hannes Bok, and he collaborated with Bok a few times under the name Dolbokov. He also produced at least one book cover, that of A E Van Vogt’s 1952 book Destination: Universe!

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You can see more of Dolgov’s work here:

dolgov on monsterbrains

And to close, a mention that Equation also produced the book Ghost and Scholars: Ghost Stories in the Tradition of M.R. James. This fine collection was not under the Chillers imprint, though. Selected and introduced by Richard Dalby (as mentioned above) and Rosemary Pardoe, this came out in 1989, and included an essay by MRJ, himself, “Ghosts–Treat Them Gently!”

“Following James’s lead, the writers represented here conjure up an ordered, placid world into which the supernatural–usually in malevolent form–slowly but surely intrudes itself.”

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Unfortunately, this is now both hard to find and expensive. Bums.

dolgov
dolgov

We’ll be back later in the week, dear listeners, with more weird fiction, weird art and even weirder lurchers…

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Eoliths and Nephilim: A Word with Cobweb Mehers

There is an unsettling shiver on the air, a darkness on the waters where the light should fall… yes, it’s Folk Horror Time once more, and today we have a mover in the movement, that gifted artist (and occasional writer) Cobweb Mehers with us to talk about everything from Goth music to sculpture and the art of the Upper Palaeolithic. We make it sound as if we know what we’re talking about, and Cobweb makes it clear that he does. It’s our big interview for this week, so we’ll get straight down to it…

Cobweb low res version

greydog: Welcome to greydogtales, Cobweb. Many of your areas of interest seem to overlap with ours, so we may be testing you today, quite unfairly. We first came into contact via the Folk Horror Revival movement. Did you yourself get involved with the Revival from a folklore background, a love of horror, or both?

cobweb: Initially I got involved to support a friend. Andy Paciorek (see  interview with the weirdfinder general) had some very big ideas and his enthusiasm and vision was a little contagious. It was a genre I was only vaguely aware of by name but I was already very at home in that aesthetic. I enjoy a lot of the related music and films but my real interest lies more with folklore inspired art. It was through Andy’s Strange Lands book that I started to get to know him, so that was my starting point.

I’m very excited about the various projects the group is looking at for the future. There is an enormous wealth of musical, artistic, and literary talent within the group and it’s great to see people interacting and bouncing ideas around. There’s so much more going on in the background that you don’t really see on the Facebook group. It really is the start of a revival and evolution of Folk Horror and I expect to see great things come from it.

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field studies, mehers

greydog: We agree with that, and are enjoying the Revival immensely. You may have noticed that despite the lure of dark forests and sacred groves, we draw a lot of inspiration from the sea and its boundary with the land. Do you have any affinity for the cold grey waters, or are you a woodsman when you seek out folk influences?

cobweb: I’m very much a sacred groves kind of person. I lean far more towards Machen’s Pan than Lovecraft’s Deep Ones, but I do have a thing for liminal zones. When I lived on the North East coast my favourite thing was to walk deserted beaches in thick fog. You’re caught between the sea and the land but both are silent and indistinct.

greydog: It’s a perfect moment. Now, you’ve spoken elsewhere of your admiration for the group The Fields of the Nephilim. As we don’t really cover enough music here (and we love their album Dawnrazor), maybe you could say a bit about this for our listeners?

cobweb: Dawnrazor was a revelation to me. I was 15 when I first heard it and it completely changed the way I saw the world. Initially it was more a case of atmosphere and style but the substance came with time. They’re a band I’ve grown up with and they’ve grown with me. I’m still finding new ideas and inspiration in their work. Fields of the Nephilim have been a catalyst for most of what I’ve done in one way or another.

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When I first discovered the internet in the late 90’s I spent many happy hours dissecting their lyrics with other fans and discussing the inspiration behind songs. I established friendships with people across the world who shared my interests in the esoteric, ancient history, archaeology, and myth. Most of them I’ve since met in the flesh and count amongst my closest friends.

It was through his work on the first Fields of the Nephilim videos that I got to know Richard Stanley. While we no longer see eye to eye, it was Richard who first invited me to visit Montsegur and experience the high strangeness of the Languedoc up close and extremely personally. It’s an amazing part of the world; initially I was drawn to it as during the Middle Ages it was a melting pot of esoteric and heretical ideas from across Europe and the Middle East, but there have been people there for over thirty thousand years so there’s a lot more to it.

In the Upper Palaeolithic it was where all the coolest artists and magicians hung out and it has been ever since. I fell in love with the region and go back whenever I can to climb the mountains of the gods, visit the sacred groves, and explore lost ruins and secret caves.

this is a terrible place, mehers
this is a terrible place, mehers

greydog: Speaking of the offspring of fallen angels (cheap link), we were always disappointed that the Book of Enoch was considered non-canonical – Azazel and the Watchers etc. And then we saw your piece about the Biblical Nephilim in the Folk Horror Revival book ‘Field Studies’. What interests you about this particular theme?

cobweb: It’s a subject I’ve been obsessed with for decades. It actually predates my love of Fields of the Nephilim and is what initially made me listen to the band. The reason it interests me has changed dramatically over the years as I’ve discovered more about it. The mythology grew out of a pivotal moment in the history of civilisation. On one level it’s our way of coping with the leap from nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled agriculturalists.

There are definite historical events that lie behind it that are probably nowhere near as exotic as the stories, but there’s also a spiritual aspect to what happened that’s much harder to pin down and unsettlingly pervasive. What may come down to little more than an argument about sharing technology and a fear of climate change thousands of years ago still forms the basis of the way we perceive the world. We can’t forget even if we can’t quite remember what it is we can’t forget. It’s something I find endlessly fascinating.

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ice age art

greydog: Let’s talk about your artistic work. You’re the talent behind Eolith, which specialises in a range of striking mythic and pre-history sculptures. Is the work you do for Eolith your main day-to-day focus, or just one of many sidelines?

cobweb: Eolith Designs is the platform for any work that’s my own idea rather than for commissions. I try to make it my main focus but I get distracted by other projects from time to time. I’ve just finished a cover design for Volume 6 of Cumbrian Cthulhu (cumbrian cthulhu), which I think comes out in the Autumn, and I’ll be doing some illustrations for upcoming Folk Horror Revival fiction releases.

swimming reindeer low res version
swimming reindeer, mehers

greydog: We believe that you contributed to the British Museum’s exhibition “Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind” a few years ago, is that right?

cobweb: Initially the British Museum wanted to sell some of my Ice Age art inspired sculptures in conjunction with the exhibition. I also offered to create a new work based on one of the pieces in the exhibition. It’s a thirteen thousand year old carving called The Swimming Reindeer and it means a lot to me personally but I’d not accounted for anyone else being as interested in it as I was. I expected to sell a dozen at most but it was insanely popular. I spent nearly a year doing little more than making reindeer and three years after the end of the exhibition they’re still selling them.

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venus, mehers

greydog: Which do you prefer, the detailed recreation of a genuine early artefact or having licence to experiment with mythological imagery?

cobweb: The Swimming Reindeer is the only sculpture I’ve done where I deliberately set out to do a detailed recreation. The British Museum sent me loads of very nice photographs and that forced me to work in a completely different way than I usually do. Even that isn’t an exact reproduction, but having seen mine in the same room as the original it isn’t far off.

The work I’ve done based on genuine artefacts has generally been a result of me trying to get inside the head of the original artists and work out why they did things the way they did. Everything is an experiment and an exploration of ideas. I do a lot of research before I start anything and I sculpt quite slowly so the process forces me to spend a long time focused on thinking about one particular thing and that is gradually distilled into the final piece.

albion - a prophecy, mehers
albion – a prophecy, mehers

greydog: You also do ‘flat’ art, of course. Do you find it less satisfying than sculpture?

cobweb: I probably paint and draw more than I sculpt, but I approach 2D art in an entirely different way. I use it for more immediate things; recording dreams and visions and things glimpsed at the more exotic ends of the consciousness spectrum. It’s not the kind of thing that lends itself well to going on people’s living room wall. I’ve been pondering putting a book together for a while now, as I think that would probably be a better format for them, but it’s finding the time.

entrance, royal palace at ugarit
entrance, royal palace at ugarit

greydog: We read once that you have an interest in Ugaritic studies, which would seem terribly niche except that we do too. In our case, it’s because of the Dagon/Ioannes connections and the whole Hittite and Sumerian mythology scene. This is an amazing resource for the stranger branches of fiction, including the Cthulhu Mythos writers – and bits of our own work. How did you get into the subject?

cobweb: This was another side effect of my Nephilim obsession. The Nephilim turn up in Canaanite myth as The Healers and they feature in the literature found at Ugarit. I very quickly developed a fondness for Canaanite culture and mythology. There’s a deceptive simplicity to it and a humanity that’s very easy to relate to even today. I have a particular affection for the goddess Anat; there’s a touch of genius to personifying war as a teenage girl. The Devourers are also worth looking into. They’d be right at home in a Lovecraft story.

dagon

greydog: As you know, weird fiction is at the heart of greydogtales. We’re guessing that you’re quite well-versed in that area – which writers resonate with you?

cobweb: I don’t read a lot of fiction these days but when I do it tends to be the classics of that particular genre. I discovered Lovecraft first and again that was down to Fields of the Nephilim. We’ve become overly familiar with him in many ways and he’s not taken seriously enough. He’s not the greatest writer from a technical point of view but there are still things in his work that are actually really scary even after repeated rereads.

shub niggurath, mehers
shub niggurath, mehers

Machen I identify much more with and I enjoy his non-fiction as well as his stories. I’d love to have met him partly because I have a lot of questions, but mostly because I think we’d have got on really well. I’m also quite keen on Lord Dunsany and have been known to dabble with Clark Ashton Smith.

pan by sgorbissa, deviantart
the great god pan by sgorbissa, deviantart

greydog: And to finish with, our perennial question – what’s coming from you in the next year? Any plans or projects you’d like to share with us?

cobweb: I have a couple of new sculptures in progress that should see the light of day before too long. One is my interpretation of what archaeologists call Judean pillar figurines, because archaeologists have no imaginations. The other one will eventually be one of a pair and is an exploration of ideas about the Nephilim covering a lot of history and geography. His other half will have to wait for a while though because the big project for the rest of this year will be jewelry.

I started my artistic career making jewelry and it was always something I intended to come back to when I started Eolith Designs. I’m really just aiming to make tiny wearable sculptures in silver.

greydog: Thank you very much, Cobweb Mehers, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. If you’d like to see, or know more about, Cobweb’s sculpture and design work, have a look here:

eolith designs

Not forgetting the music – if you don’t know the Neph then you can listen to the Dawnrazor track itself here:

And why not try exploring the Folk Horror Revival. We think it’s great. The website’s below, and the first book’s on the sidebar.

folk horror revival website

albion - a prophecy, mehers
albion – a prophecy, mehers

Next time: Don’t ask. Just don’t ask. Our brains hurt, and the dogs need to go out…

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