Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Adam Roberts vs. Adventure Time: When Astounding Worlds Collide!

Readers expecting graphic Snark on this holiday posting will be disappointed; I have to confess that I'm too pooped to come up with the requisite Snarkian goods.

Instead, I'll regale you with some behind-the-illustrative-scenes gossip which you can mull over while enjoying your Christmas Gluhwein and curry … because here at chez Snark we're busy turning out not one but two books at once, as befits our bipolarsexual book mania:

The highly esteemed & talented SF writer, Adam Roberts, have very kindly allowed me to illustrate his latest novel, 20 Trillion Leagues Under the Sea. I adore the works of Jules Verne and frankly, most contemporary variations & updates of his oeuvre leave me unimpressed if not revulsed. But Adam has delivered the goods with this one, it's a corker on every level and I think that even Jules would approve.

Adam's novels are as tightly written, mind-blowing and well-plotted as anything from the earlier British New Wave — perhaps more so, to be honest — and for this illustrator, those far-off days remain a fond memory of SF's (second) salad days. North American SF is now healthier than the 1970s but to be honest, the vast bulk of it is still as thoughtless and timid as ever. But 20 Trillion Leagues demonstrates that SF can be both a Ripping Yarn and a conceptual tour-de-force complex enough to satisfy even the pickiest thesis-hunting post-grad.

In any case, it's a highly humid book and I'm fast becoming an expert on drawing terrified sailors in a doomed submarine. Plus, the villain is super cool and there's some sly Snark references! In fact, there's something vaguely Lovecraftian about this work, better than Lovecraft actually … god, there's a boring author who deserves to return to pulp Limbo. I'll take Robertsian horror any day, it's more … crafty …

I'm also contributing to the new Adventure Time Encyclopaedia by Martin Olson. Readers may remember Martin as the sick, twisted genius behind The Encyclopaedia of Hell and he's recruited most of the same talented team of fellow twisted, easily gulled sickos to do this new book for Abrams. It's been almost 30 years since I did some kid's stuff (Don Diego and his Time-Travelling Llama, remember that?) and Adventure Time seems to be a bit more popular with the kids. My agent assures me that fame and fortune are soon to follow, or at least a clever simulacrum of them.

I can't divulge any details of the book but I can assure younger readers that neither Finn nor Jake are sucked into a watery abyss bent upon the annihilation and subjugation (or is it the other way 'round?) of the human race, just for cheap humid thrills. That's Adam Robert's speciality.

Instead, they are crosshatched within an inch of their lives by a ink and tea-swilling Indo-Germanic proto-surrealist hack, plus Tony Millionaire, Celeste Moreno, Sean Tejaratchi and Aisleen Romano do something unspeakably Californian to them. Awesome, huh?

But don't worry, that's nothing compared to what Hunson Abadeer has planned for them, the honey-tongued scamp!

Alors … quelle heure est il? Il est le temps d'aventure!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snark vs. Adventure Time: The Final Battle

“’Tis the note of the Jubjub! Keep count, I entreat;
You will find I have told it you twice.
‘Tis the song of the Jubjub! The proof is complete,
If only I’ve stated it thrice.”

Another crypto-scholastic cri de coeur from the Subtle Don, Lewis Carroll, cunningly palmed off by him as the Butcher’s usual Snark Hunting blather. For the benefit of readers who may have just emerged from the washroom and are discreetly eying the exit whilst wondering what all the ruckus is about, scholasticism was an insidious bit of Continental thinkery brought over to England in unlicensed bathing machines and then peddled discreetly in certain no-questions-asked academic circles frequented by the finest medieval chatteratti of the day.

Scholasticism was advertised as strong medicine for all manner of mental boojums, in particular, the disconcerting lapse between how we think things should be and how we actually find them to be. Such lapses seemed to plague the rook racked and river-rounded purlieus of Oxford in particular, so much so that Gerard Manley Hopkins found it necessary to work his inimitable brand of poetical juju upon the place …

… these walls are what
He haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace;
Of realty the rarest-veinèd unraveller …

The unvaricose Oxonian unraveller that Hopkins is rhapsodizing is none other than Duns Scotus, the professional theologian and fiendish disputant of all things trinitarian. If his name is not one which is lightly bandied about your dinner table, fret not; his Warholian fifteen minutes will be over before you have even finished your dessert!

This will be a simple transmogrification. We liberally apply several gallons of india ink recycled from an obscure Surrealist travel poster atop the hapless Duns; then we accessorize him with an appropriate chapeau and finish by triumvirating him.

Gosh, dada was right, the hat does make the man! Our rather pasty-faced theologian is now become a strapping, young specimen of a Snark Hunter flexing his rhetorical muscles with a showstopping visual demonstration of the Clochetic Rule of Three!

Yes indeed, gentle readers, this successful demonstration of a tautological trinity of Jubjubs is proof positive that wishful thinking trumps logic as far as Snark Hunting goes. Henceforth, please keep your minds empty and your beliefs in an upright and locked position for the road to hell is paved with good intentions.*

* Yes, yes, I know. And while we’re on the subject of the Great Cham, have you seen this?

Apropos of nothing in particular … what time is it? It's Adventure Time! Thanks to the honeyed tongue of Martin Olson, this artist and a host of other talented artists and designers are eschewing the usual holiday festivities to cobble together what promises to be the publishing event of the post-Armageddon year … more to come, but for now, feast your hipster eyes upon this oddly compelling cover, designed by Sean Tejaratchi and illustrated by yours truly. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hardboiled Snark

“’Tis the voice of the Jubjub!” he suddenly cried.
(This man, that they used to call “Dunce.”)
“As the Bellman would tell you,” he added with pride,
“I have uttered that sentiment once.

The story so far: An Oxford don, known to the authorities as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, has been apprehended whilst soliciting various persons whose names begin with the letter B, urging them to participate in what he calls his "hunting of the snark". When pressed for more substantial details, the self-styled Mr. Lewis Carroll claimed that he had absolutely no idea what it all meant and that furthermore, he was himself being harassed by a certain Jubjub, a person of unspecified origin with possible links to a notorious organized-poetry syndicate.

And now …

A screaming comes across the sky. Somewhere a Jubjub bird was wreaking havoc on some other, less fortunate part of Oxford but the Butcher wasn’t buying it. Not anymore, not today. The Bellman had warned him long ago. Be a man, he’d said, three times, like he really meant it … but that was long ago … the Bellman was gone now.

They were all gone, it was just him and the Beaver. And she’d lost it way back in Fit the Fourth, in that freakshow scene with all that black lace and the Barrister just watching her, just watching her blow her mind.

It was all up to him now, Carroll had said, take it easy.

Sure, take it easy, try taking it easy when the anapaests are hammering your skull like jackhammers and the crosshatching makes your skin crawl. Yeah, take it easy while every two-bit, punk academic with a jones for a quickie dissertation topic takes a cheap shot at you. Like the Butcher needed a college degree to know that it was all absurd, that it was all just nonsense and that there was a Boojum waiting at the end of the road.

The Beaver said something incomprehensible in Japanese and an origami crane fluttered by. It’s time, the Butcher thought to himself.

Without thinking at all, with his mind totally empty of any thought save one, the Butcher raised his hand, slowly at first and then faster, ever faster; he raised it as high as he could, even higher than that disembodied hand with which they had all grappled every night after dark, as high as the Hand which was now turning and pointing towards him and the Butcher thought to himself, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on, and then it was over; he’d already forgotten the question and it was too late, the Hand had passed him over — again!

“Like a dunce!” the Butcher said, it was as if the shame of it must outlive him.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The snarkish prime of Miss Jean Brodie


He thought of his childhood, left far far behind —
That blissful and innocent state —
The sound so exactly recalled to his mind
A pencil that squeaks on a slate!

Go ahead, think of your own childhood. Was it a labyrinthine Hunt for an indefinable Snark? Was it an interminable stretch of anapaestized nonsense? Did you secretly wish that you could just softly and suddenly vanish away? Of course, Victorian childhood was an entirely different matter. The uprearing and education of children in those days was a Gradgrindish matter of Facts and just the Facts, harrumph, harrumph!

Look here! The Beaver and Butcher are busy at their lessons right now, this is a perfect opportunity to observe how one can transmute Nonsense into Facts in an approved pedagogical manner with minimal expense to the taxpayer.

The Butcher is an idiot man-child, we can safely ignore him for the nonce but the Beaver is a tougher nut to crack, as we educators like to say! She seems to be constructing an origami crane according to the diagram being sketched out upon the squeaky slate by a disembodied hand. Referring to the previous stanzel of last week, we see the same hand employed with its fellow hand in the casting of a shadow, the shadow of an immense and threatening bird, the dreaded Jubjub!

The overly excitable amongst us might think that all of this is some species of symbolic play which you rather fancy, but Mister Gradgrind, the proprietor of this particular school, will have none of that. He will point out to you, after the necessary light flogging conducive to Victorian pedagogy, that you are not to fancy, no, you are to Fact! Fact, Fact, Fact!

If the artist responsible for this drawing had wished to depict a Jubjub Bird, he would have done so. In fact, Mr. Gradgrind adds (idly re-adjusting your thumbscrew), this business of human and castorian hands manipulating Jubjubian references which are typologically generating additional motifs of birds, childrens’ play and postlapsarian anxiety is not a Fact at all! If it was, the Jubjub, a patently imaginary creature, would have to exist, QED.

After a bit more pedagogically necessary fiddling about with alligator clips and car batteries, Mr. Gradgrind will point out, with a world-weary smile, that this is how it always begins, that someone starts supposing that one thing actually means another, and so on and so on and before you know it, we’re living in a Snarkian Multiverse where the very fabric of language and logic itself is ripped asunder by the unleashed superpowers of Symbolic Metaphor.

And if you dare to point out to him that language itself is symbolic metaphor, why, he’ll give you a flogging that you’ll never forget. Cheeky thing, the bliss and innocence of childhood is too good for the likes of you! And that’s a Fact!

Next week: Winston Smith substitutes for Mr. Gradgrind 


Attention Snarkistas!

Michael McNeff's short film adaptation of The Hunting of the Snark has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign here.  The film was narrated by Sir Christopher Lee and features over 150 visual effects shots.  The movie is almost complete and funds raised will be used to finish up the visual effects.  By pledging just $5 you can get a digital download of the film and a making of documentary.  Let's face it, if you shelled out $20 to watch any of the visual atrocities that Hollywood has inflicted upon us of late, then Michael's Snark at $5 is a steal. And your brain cells will thank you afterwards.