The alien worlds and demonic vistas of Wayne Barlowe were another serendipitous internet find of mine in recent months. Barlowe’s dedication to depicting bizarre lifeforms and nightmares spans an impressive career path from the demonology of the Grimoire of Honorius, to Babylon 5, Hellboy, Harry Potter, Avatar and the Discovery Channel.
Despite the surreal quality to much of his work, there is also the delightful element of realism that seems to originate, at least in part, in the artistic inspiration provided to him by his parents, both of whom were artists interested in the forms and figures of natural history. For instance, “Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials” reads much like a field guide for naturalists, and his “Expedition: Being an Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV” is an aesthetic tour de force uniting a conservationist theme with studies of fantastical ecologies and creature. In doing so, it nevertheless manages to treat its subject with an exacting, evolutionary care and attention to detail.
When not looking through the kaleidoscope that takes the place of the naturalist’s binoculars, Barlowe’s demonic imagery strikes me as having much in common with the Russian artist Serge Sunne, particularly in the disturbing play on questions of identity that are manifested therein. Faces are everywhere, it seems, except where they should be, and when they do acquiesce to something like the human form, there always seems to be something so off kilter as to make them even stranger than the others.
I look forward to seeing more from him.
For More Information See:
Here is the first installment of my second “mural” piece. The actual story features footnotes and a brief introduction by the translator. I’ve been told that this was necessary otherwise the audience would have no idea what I was talking about. This assessment maybe fair, but there is something about inviting your readers to look things up that I think has been generally under-appreciated in contemporary writing, particularly since the advent of the internet has made this so easy. For the audio version I decided to skip these asides since it would be too jarring on the continuity of the piece, and I hope the atmosphere nevertheless shines through.
The Grey Men of the Desert of Dust 1:
The Grey Men of the Desert of Dust 2:
The Grey Men of the Desert of Dust is one of my few “Mural” pieces. The narrative of the story is driven more by an archetypal series of images and concepts than by characterization, creating an effect of a long, perplexing mural.
I’ve been told that works like this are almost unpublishable in the current reading environment because of the nonexistent use of character driven plots. That probably won’t stop me from writing them though, and I have some hopes, some day of writing an entire book in this mode.
It would be my own Sistine Chapel of the weird. It would also be an attempt to take the “weird” or “uncanny” story and do something with it that I do not think has been successfully done to date. It is a characteristic of these kinds of stories that they start to flounder past a certain size. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath always seemed to fall a little flat of my expectations, and I have yet to find a truly “weird” novel.
I might record and post another one of the mural pieces at some point.
I first encountered The Last Man in an art galley in Liverpool, England. It was painted by the English romantic John Martin (1789-1854), and I was immediately struck by the vastness of it. Often in the course of my scholarly or literary studies I am given cause to contemplate the end of things.
The poem “The Last Man” emerged many years later while I began collecting pieces for my upcoming collection Songs Unsung, Poems Unspoken and it also features in an issue of Fantastic Horror, a lovely community of eerie and horrific works that can be accessed in the Links of Interest section of this blog.
I do hope you enjoy it, even though I know it may seem macabre to some readers.
More information on John Martin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Martin_%28painter%29