O’Connor Shops, Canberra, 1994

O'Connor Shops, Canberra, 1994

O’Connor Shops, Canberra, 1994

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New SF short story – “Tumbleweeds”

andromedaspaceways64cover

A new story by my third favourite author: Tumbleweeds by Ainslie Hill. Available from the good people at Andromeda Spaceways (issue 64).

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S.H.U. – Arkham Towers

Arkham Towers

A sonic project I am involved in. Our latest “album” available here.

More S.H.U. evil available here.

Posted in Canberra, Cut-ups, Détournement, Music, Poetry, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Study for a failed painting

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Warhol’s fake boxes: It’s the economy, stupid

The following essay was first published on the now defunct blog http://antyphayes.blogsome.com/ on 9 January 2008. I wrote it in response to the “revelation” that the Warhol Brillo boxes then on display at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art were “fakes”. Of course the revelation was nothing of the sort. Warhol, like the detestable Avida Dollars, was never above faking his own work — not to mention working his own fakes. In the case of the Brillo Boxes, Warhol’s “creativity” amounting to reproducing what had already been mass reproduced in a factory. Which is to say, a slight variation on Duchamp’s readymade with none of the original’s verve or corrosive criticism.

One of the themes of this piece is the venality of self-professed “internationally renowned art experts” like Pontus Hulten. As wiser people have remarked about such shady characters, they’re only in it for the money.

There are a few things I would change if I was writing…

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Alien Earth (1949) by Edmond Hamilton – sf short story review

First appearance: in Thrilling Wonder Stories (April 1949) – ed. Sam Merwin, Jr.

The version I read: in The Great Science Fiction Stories Volume 11, 1949 (1984) – ed. Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg

TWONSAPR1949

I hazard to even guess what is going on in this pic. At the very least the contrast in clothing options is remarkable.

Poor Edmond Hamilton! Should I even say such a thing?

“The slow, pulsing beat of day and night alone was enough to unseat one’s reason.” (152)

Variously known as the world saver and world destroyer, Hamilton was one of the few kings of the 1930s pulps who continued to have a relatively successful career after the Campbell “revolution”. To the extent that this was also helped by his marriage to the excellent Leigh Bracket, author of the cool Eric John Stark stories (and script writer of one of the best westerns bar none, Rio Bravo) is a question worth pursuing – but sadly beyond the scope of this brief review.

“But modern man has forgotten this other Earth. Except me, Farris – except me!” (156)

Alien Earth is a story published some years after Hamilton’s pulp heyday. Even though it is perhaps more ruminative of the insignificant fate of the human against the background of “nature” than much pulp, it’s pure pulpy goodness nonetheless. The fetid, jungle setting initially reminded me of Ballard’s The Crystal World (The Drowned World?). Even the central conceit of Ballard’s novel appears to be influenced by Hamilton, albeit filtered through Ballard’s self conscious concern with literary modernism. In the story Hamilton channels H.G. Wells and William Hope Hodgson, in the process turning Wells’ The New Accelerator on its head to reveal a hidden world which surrounds and under-girds humanity’s misplaced self-importance. All with a dash of colonialist hierarchies (the drug addled intellectual fled to the authenticity of the jungle frontier) and you have the perfect pulp confection.

Just my kind of story!

THGRTSCNCF1984

At the gates of a mysterious and needless to say futuristic city our hardy protagonist ponders her fate astride a Kanger-Tauntaun…

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The Cave of Night (1955) by James E. Gunn – sf short story review

First appearance: in Galaxy Science Fiction (February 1955) – ed. H.L. Gold

The version I read: in S-F: The Year’s Greatest Science-Fiction and Fantasy (1956) – ed. Judith Merril.

Find a version here.

Galaxy, February 1955

Cover by Ed Emshwiller. Some type of space music? Human-alien fusion? Jazz-ftrrlyk?

James E. Gunn‘s The Cave of Night is the first of what will be the Station in Space novel. I read most of the novel in an e-version (in desperation) after reading The Cave of Night and wanting more Gunn goodness. A review of the entire Station in Space novel is available here (once again following in Joachim’s footsteps…).

This first story is a cracker. Without spoiling anything much the story revolves around, ahem, mankind’s first shot into space. Gunn builds up the tension and it still plays out beautifully after 60 years (and 54 years years after it was overtaken by events, though arguably he already was in 1957). To top it all he has an excellent twist that plays to the collective paranoia of a latter time as much as it did to the cold 1950s.

There was even a radio adaptation made of Gunn’s story, now available through the wonders of space age technology:

Gunn apparently based his space program on the most common scientific projection of the day. You can find visual accompaniments to his story in the famous if blandly and ominously entitled Man Will Conquer Space Soon! series written by ex-Nazi Wernher Von Braun. Published in Colliers magazine it is accompanied with some cool Chesley Bonestell paintings. Or check out this propaganda film from the Disney corporation:

Propaganda you say? Von Braun’s lecture presentation has all of the monotonous vim of a bureaucrat outlining the various uses of the V2 rocket. Only here the presentation is brought to you courtesy of an American (quasi) fascist – Walt Disney. Skip ahead to 37 minutes 12 seconds and strap in for the ride (or to 33 minutes 50 seconds for those of you who insist on getting some of Von Braun’s lecture). The animated film gives you a good idea of how Gunn and others pictured the first human orbital mission in the mid-1950s.

Judith Merril's SF The Year's Greatest in Science-Fiction and Fantasy

Richard Powers channeling a bit of Yves Tanguy on this one. And did I mention the collection is introduced by AWESOME WELLES!?

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