Browsing through Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, I was quite taken by the powerful image from 1844 called: “The Game Laws; or the sacrifice of the Peasant to the Hare.” The image of a scrawny rabbit on a pedestal, glaring with new found power down at the bound peasant on his knees is eerie; while the pompous aristocrat, bearing a sword emblazoned ‘according to law’ is either preparing to strike off the peasant’s head or to give him clemency…his disinterest in the outcome being completely obvious.
Looking over some covers for Pennant Books and Bantam Books from the 1950s, I noticed several interesting and moody paintings with a signature that reminded me of Bayre Phillips. See for example Phillips signature on the left, and the signature of Charles Binger on the right. Although they both have a downward stroke in the middle, Phillips tends to have a rounder, upslanting B, and always ends with a curving capital E with an accent mark! Once I knew that that Binger was a unique painter, I gathered up the best images I could find, and there were some excellent ones! In addition the science fiction covers that follow (below the jump), there were quite a few in mystery, adventure, romance, western and the like…all of them with a soft, fluid style, using watercolors and oils, presumably, for some terrific effects. If I had to identify a hallmark style in these paintings, I would say that Binger likes to separate areas of the composition with color shapes that are smudged, that look like edges of torn rough-fiber paper softened with water. It’s a pity that I can’t find any biographical info on Binger in any of the usual reference books or on the internet. Hopefully, someone out there will contact me and fill in the life story of this fine artist.
I’ve had these wrappers laying around on my desk for over a year, already, sheesh! Elizabeth Kaske brought them when she visited us for a brunch last summer, explaining that her Russian friend always had plenty to share. These chocolates are part of the Red October (Красный Октябрь) series of confections, commemorating the Soviet takeover of Petrograd in 1917. My favorite is the “Capitol Candy” label, featuring one of the famous Stalinist Cake buildings in Moscow. Of course, the squirrel is amusing, too. I didn’t know squirrels in Russia had sea monkey antennas. Thanks, Elizabeth!
Gordon van Gelder launched the session by asking the panelists to relate an anecdote about great editing, and Patrick O’Leary started off with a note about David Hartwell. O’Leary said, “Hartwell grasped the contents of a story I sent him and shook them down to their basic elements, then he tossed them back at me and demanded a rewrite, along the lines of: Does the main character of this story have to be a monster, a pederast, AND a fire-breathing dragon? Why not just pick two of those and go with that?” Brian Francis Slattery pointed out, that even though editors suggestions can often save a bad story, if they get too involved in the writing process, they can edit the story into incoherence. He cited an example of his own editing in which he so completely rewrote the story that it was both unrecognizable as the author’s style and had, at the same time, become incomprehensible. Barry Malzberg said that if he had to choose an example, he would cite Horace Gold, “for pulling the Demolished Man out Alfred Bester, which was a great exploit!” Van Gelder asked, “What about Daniel Keyes and Flowers for Algernon? Isn’t there a story about Gold asking Keyes to change the ending, and Keyes’ neighbor said to him, if you do that, I’ll go back to my house, get a baseball bat and use it break both your knees!”
Great fun at this year’s Readercon 2010, which left me with plenty of food for thought! My stash was nicely replenished with a few dozens books, including some works by Jack Vance, Mack Reynolds and Tim Powers, whose backlist I’ve been catching up on recently. Speaking of Vance, our friends at StarShipSofa have conducted a fine hour-long interview with him, worthy of a listen. In the dealer’s room, I have to say that Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld and Wyrm Publishing) had a terrific rack of cheap books, for which I thank him immensely! Neil had a signed copy of the rare Fain the Sorcerer by Steve Aylett, who wrote the really strange biography of SF’s mysterious Lint, among other excursions into the bizarre. Although Neil’s price was really reasonable, it would have cost more than the entire stack of books I purchased at the con… so maybe when I get rich! Dark Hollow books, along with all their fine supernatural horror selection, had a box of 50 cent paperbacks where I scored copies of Moorcock’s Hollow Lands and Fury by Henry Kuttner. Thanks kind people! Also of interest was my conversation with Darrel Schweitzer about my good friend Harry O. Morris. Darrell said that it was Harry O., in his famous Lovecraftian zine Nyctalops, who discovered both the writer Thomas Ligotti and the artist J.K. Potter. Although Harry often mentioned various works by Ligotti and Potter in our conversations, he never once bragged about having “discovered” them, in any sense. So it was really a pleasant surprise to hear those words of recognition from a supernatural horror writer and scholar of Schweitzer’s stature. Disclosure: I suppose Harry O. “discovered” me too, since my teenage participation in various exquisite corpse poems (with Harry O.) and collages (with Leslie Hall) were published in Nyctalops here and there. Caveat: probably “discovery” doesn’t count unless I do something more significant, like publish a novel or painting elsewhere, though, alas…