Brian Ruckley's News & Views

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Frankenstein 1934

I mentioned how much I like Frankenstein a while ago. Now some very classy illustrations from a 1934 edition of the novel have shown up online, and I don't think I can remember a visualisation of the story I've liked more.

The image above is a fair sample, but there are many larger and more striking ones to be seen at Nick Mullins' blog. He's done the world a small service by scanning these and getting them online, I reckon. They're by someone called Lynd Ward, and the fact that they're woodcut engravings just makes them all the more impressive, if you ask me. It's amazingly dark, dramatic and dynamic art, especially in the way it handles the monster.

Want the book these illustrations adorn. Cannot have. Out of print. Life unfair.


Monday, August 25, 2008


A variation on the standard interview: the Bookgeeks put me, Alastair Reynolds, Jeff Somers and Jaine Fenn together in a virtual room, asked us questions and then cruelly forced us to comment on each other's answers. The topics under discussion are maps, cover art, illustration, that kind of thing. The results can be seen here.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Crushing the Frantic Penguins

An entirely pointless and idle detour into the backstreets of randomville. Further to my last post, I was vaguely curious about what googling 'crushing the frantic penguins' would reveal. (I've no idea why. Just because I can, I suppose. Which could be the defining slogan of our internet-enabled world, I suppose).

Not a lot, is the answer, but as always where the internet's concerned, a couple of interesting snippets. Especially the last one, though I'm not sure 'interesting' is really quite the right word for it.

Lovecraftian graffiti

A photo of some ridiculously big starfish

Clearing a giant fatberg from the London sewers. Yeuuch.

And now I'm off to do something slightly less futile than googling phrases culled from horror fiction masterworks.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Half A Millennium / Alien Surfaces

With merry inevitability, Festival season has descended upon Edinburgh once more. A month or so of arty (and not so arty) madness is underway. (And lo, with almost equal inevitability, the heavens did open and they did rain at considerable, if intermittent, length upon all the multitudes of tourists. I suspect no one benefits more from the Festival than Edinburgh's umbrella sellers.)

My sole dipping of toe into Festival waters so far has been two bookish things:

At the National Library of Scotland, they're marking the 500th anniversary of the first book to be printed in Scotland. It's an interesting little exhibition, but it took a little while for the causative fact to really sink in. Half a millennium of printing books.

And they actually have that first book sitting there in a glass case: someone speaking to you through the printed word from 500 years ago. It's not all that easy to read, since the language has changed a fair bit since then and, funnily enough, legibility doesn't seem to have been the most immediate priority of the first font designers. But even so, it's a nice moment to lean over and read something printed that long ago. Kind of wonderful, even. In the most literal sense of wonderful.

And that transformative, revolutionary technology of 1508 connects beautifully to our very own current transformative revolution-in-progress, because anyone anywhere in the world can, if they can access the internet, also read the very first book to be printed in Scotland, because it's online, every single page of it, here. Might not make much sense to most, since it's in pretty heavily Scottished and archaic English, but even so: that is also kind of wonderful, still in the literal sense, when you stop to think about it.

And at Edinburgh's specialist sf bookshop, Transreal Fiction, they do Festival stuff too: a rather cool little exhibition of semi-abstract images by Madeleine Shepherd, each one inspired by an sf book. The series is called 'Alien Surfaces', and there's an online gallery where you can see (and buy, for that matter) most of them. Click on an individual image there to see the passage of text that inspired it.

It's good fun. They're pleasing on the eye, particularly when paired with the relevant quotation:

'...a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of litter.' - HP Lovecraft, At The Mountains of Madness.

That Lovercraft text made me think three things, by the way:

1. the guy really was remarkably good at what he did;
2. is it actually possible for a tunnel to be evilly free of litter?; and
3. if I was thinking of starting a blog about 20th century horror fiction I would totally call it 'Crushing the Frantic Penguins'.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Posting While the Rain Falls

To be honest, there are already enough short fiction podcasts to make it tough to keep up with them, but the latest addition is far too cool to ignore: TTA Press, the publishers of the UK's major sf/fantasy and horror fiction magazines, as well as a rather good (if excessively infrequent) crime one, have launched Transmissions from Beyond, podcasting selected stories from their huge, multi-genre back catalogue. I'll be listening.

Another new podcast: Reality Break is putting out interviews with authors, most of them originally done for radio in the 1990s. Some notably big guns have already been deployed: Will Eisner, Cory Doctorow and the late Robert Jordan.

Free Fantasy Reading: you can download a free pdf of Black Gate magazine no. 12. Got to admit I haven't actually read it, but the magazine's got a pretty good reputation, and there's certainly a lot of content: 224 pages of it.

Since Watchmen featured in the last post here, thought I'd mention an interesting transcript of a 1988 round table discussion about the series. But first: BEWARE! This is as SPOILERIFIC a discussion as could possibly be contrived by the wit of Man. If you have not yet read Watchmen, or if you want to see the upcoming movie without actually knowing every last detail of the plot in advance (and, believe me, you really do), FLEE! The imminent link will utterly and completely ruin the whole thing, including all of the many surprises the story has up its sleeves. Seriously. For those who have already read Watchmen, it's a fascinating discussion, because Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are involved, and it unpicks in great detail a lot of the story's many layers, influences and concerns. It can be found here.

An interesting historical side note: The Picts appear to have had a whole lot more going on in their part of the world (Scotland) than was previously thought.

Thanks to everyone who's e-mailed asking about a release date for Fall of Thanes. It's nice that people care enough to be interested! I wish I had a more definitive answer to offer, but at the moment I don't. It's taken longer than I hoped and intended to finish the thing off, for a mixture of writing and non-writing related reasons, but it is almost done. Should be going to the publisher for consideration in the next few weeks. In the past, it's taken about a year to get from that point to publication. Sorry I can't be any more specific than that yet. More news as and when it's available.

It has been raining all day. Raining hard, for a lot of it. Frankly, it's all a bit disappointing, as the weather has been for weeks and weeks. So I thought I'd post a photo, grabbed in one of the few sunny interludes I remember from the last couple of months. It commemorates the chance discovery of a wonderful country lane, thick with wildflowers, bees and butterflies. As I sit here listening to the rain gurgling along the gutters and down the drainpipes, perhaps it will provide a little remembered warmth, and remind me that we do still notionally have things called summers, even if these last couple of years the only possible description of that season has been 'damp squib'.

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