2015 marked the half-centenary of Dune, Frank Herbert’s epic science-fiction novel that is so vast in scope it almost defies categorization, although the combination of psychodrama, political thriller, eco-fable and space-opera-cum-Western begins to hint at its complexity. Much like The Lord of the Rings – perhaps the only title it can be compared to, in terms of the scale and credibility of an entirely invented world – its iconic images are familiar parts of popular culture even to people who have never read it; unlike Tolkien’s novel, Dune has achieved this without the aid of a wildly successful movie adaptation. (David Lynch’s film version, released in 1984, was commercially unsuccessful and critically panned as being so confusing as to be virtually unwatchable, and Lynch himself regarded it as a turkey, going as far as to have it credited to ‘Alan Smithee’ – the pseudonym used by Hollywood directors when they wish to disown a film – in the TV releases.) Stillsuited Fremen warriors, the addictive and life-extending drug melange, or ‘spice’, the shaven-headed Reverend Mothers of the Bene Gesserit and, above all, Paul Atreides with his blue-within-blue eyes riding a colossal sandworm across the endless Arrakeen desert – these are all recognizable to many internet users as memes, often turned into animated .gifs or image macros, or referenced in comics and animations.
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Been an age since I made a post, but I was thinking about this fantastic website the other day for some reason. Internet users of a certain age and range of interests will no doubt have come across it many years ago, but on the offchance you haven’t, do please take a look. There’s a whiff of psychogeography about the whole enterprise, although in an extremely lighthearted way, and some of the photos have an air almost of suburban Lovecraftianism about them. And the great thing is, once you’re aware of the concept, you see them everywhere – and if you ever meet someone else who’s seen the site, you’ll both be like “Oh, that’s one of them entrances to hell”, and other people who aren’t in the know are like “Huh?”, and then you have the pleasure of explaining it.
My favourite for name alone is ‘Ssssuuuuft’, but there are many others.
Tooky is a sister-entrance to Quetty Orarna but unlike that entrance, which was bricked up by explorers, Tooky is still available. Scene of the devils last minute escape before Christmas 1942, when Al Capone made his ill-advised attempt to kidnap the devil’s son, Big Joe. Tooky’s great beauty and renown draws many admirers from overseas who come to inhale the emanating warm wind.
Radiation trace: nil
Well, available a couple of weeks ago, actually. But I only just thought to mention it on the blog. Only a fiver, and if you buy a copy and get in touch I can send you a physical copy as well!
These works are dedicated to the master architects of delirium: to Edgar Allan Poe, to J.K. Huysmans, to Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, to Arthur Machen, to Robert W. Chambers, to H. P. Lovecraft, to William S. Burroughs, to Haruki Murukami, to Junji Ito, to David Lynch, to John Carpenter, to Maurice Sendak, to Peter Ackroyd, to Thomas Ligotti, to Kristen Alvanson and to Reza Negarestani.
To all those whose vocation it is to disrupt reality and invite the hallucinatory experiences whereby Art and Myth are manifested:
NOTHING IS SACRED. EVERYTHING IS FAIR GAME.
I drained the dregs of my American-style IPA and opined: “Well they’re OK really, but they all taste the bloody same – Citra, Citra and more sodding Citra. It gets to the point where they just start tasting like an alcoholic version of lemon barley water.”
Steve nodded over his half of porter. “What brewery’s it from again?”
“Um, Eynsham Brewing Co., I think. Yet another of these craft micros that are springing up like mushrooms after rain and pumping out black IPAs and hoppier-than-thou Yank-type pale ales. Still, the more pubs around here that serve something other than Greene Muthafuh King, the better, surely”, I replied, using my devastatingly witty personal nickname for Bury St. Edmund’s’ industry leader in mediocrity. We were each a good six or seven halves into the Saturday session of the White Hart’s annual mid-May beer festival; the westering sun was still just about peering over the crumbling stone wall to my right as I faced out into the spacious garden filled with couples, groups of friends, families with toddlers and the occasional owd regular standing and sitting in the balmy air upon the cusp of early summer. Behind me the Jacobean bulk of the pub itself reverberated with beer-fuelled laughter and conversation, and the air was filled with the tantalizing scent of grilled meat from the barbecue along with a slight sourish top-note from the rivulets of spilled beer and cider running across the paved stone floor beneath the outdoor bar. Butterflies of various species flitted among the lushly planted borders and periodic squabbles broke out between pigeons and jackdaws for supremacy of the tiled rooves of the old stables that formed the back edge of the garden – the only above-ground structure remaining from the site’s original purpose as a mediaeval hostelry associated with the ancient St. Andrew’s Church across the road, as the assistant manager had once told me.
Well, two versions of one tune, really. I say “tune”…
A couple of tunes (or rough sketches of tunes) I’ve made recently.
It was early October when the man took over the job of directing restoration work in the ancient house in the east of the city, near the tidal tributary that flows south to join the estuary of the great river, along which trade was plied before Memphis and Babylon. The house, despite its Georgian frontage, had been built during the reign of Henry VIII upon the remains of a still older dwelling, the cellars of which had recently been excavated. Fragments of Saxon pottery and glassware from the late Roman period, found during digging work to shore up the foundations in the damp clay that lay beneath the city, showed the house to be a palimpsest of construction dating back some seventeen centuries.
None of this was the man’s immediate professional concern as he carefully oversaw the renovation of Tudor timbers and Jacobean windowpanes, but he’d always been deeply fascinated by history and especially by the layering of remains upon still older remains over the course of hundreds or thousands of years. The work he was now undertaking of course required him to have a good understanding of the current building, of how it had originally been laid out in the Tudor period before being altered in subsequent centuries, of the specific type of brick and cuts of timber from which it had been constructed and of the techniques its builders had used almost five hundred years ago. But in the course of his researches into the construction and fabric of the house, the conservator uncovered fascinating hints about one of its past inhabitants.
* * * * *
Arguably the most mysterious book in the world is a velum codex, probably created in northern Italy in the fifteenth century, which has since 1969 resided in Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Known as the Voynich Manuscript, after the book dealer Wilfrid Voynich who acquired it around a century ago, it appears to be a sort of illustrated encyclopedia of natural history, with particular emphasis on botany, medicine and astronomy, of a type that was not uncommon in Renaissance Europe. But that is where resemblance between the Manuscript and any other known work of the period – or of any other period, come to that – ends.