WITCHCRAFT AND BLACK MAGIC by Peter Haining and Jan Parker


In November 2010 I archived\scanned\stole WITCHCRAFT AND BLACK MAGIC, text by Peter Haining with paintings by Jan Parker, originally published by Bantam Books. This little book fascinated me as a child. I blame it all—ALL OF IT! ALL OF MY SHIT! — on Haining and Parker.

For your pleasure, the complete book.

V1 V2 V3 V4 V5 V6 V7 V8 V9 V10 V11 V12 V13


Nick Mamatas: Some Hells (for writers)


Nick says:

There are innumerable hells in which a writer can find himself or herself, and no heavens at all. Sick narcissists don’t deserve heaven, after all, and there’s a gateway to hell on every page someone might write. I suppose the following list can be seen as yet another set of “tips” or “writing advice”, but this list is not meant as advice. If anything, it is a map, created by a wide-ranging reader and often-frustrated teacher. Heaven is not on this map, and worse, it is the sort of map that needs to be read while still folded up as often writers exist simultaneously in several locations at once.

And now, some hells.


They get worse as they go.

The Hell of Sighs and Cringing is where many aspiring writers go. Their stories are all finger-wagging or unsophisticated revenge tales. Stop doing that, they hiss at the reader, but they are the ones who should stop. There is never a need for a story about the importance of fair-dealing, or that serves to make valid the claim that good fences make good neighbors, or that one should always be true in romantic relationships, or never molest children. These stories cannot persuade readers who love molesting children or cheating cashiers at the grocery store, and those readers who agree with these theme don’t need to read them. The road to this hell is a hope for a just universe, and perversely these very inadequate writers think that if the universe were just, they’d be its God. In the very depths of this hell some very experienced and acclaimed writers are frozen in ice, moaning that it is so unfair that the novel is superfluous to the culture. Let me tell you this, my child and my children: get down on your knees and thank Jesus that the novel is culturally superfluous, and that these monsters are encased in black glaciers of futility and uselessness forever.

The Hell With No Exit is definitionally inescapable—no hell is escapable, but this is the hell of failing to escape via escape. All fiction is “escapist” on some level—even weighty classics or experimental fiction promise escape from our personal problems (which lack thematic resonance and thus a sense of importance) and from the gray world of sense-making respectively. Writers are readers initially, and often especially enjoy the sense of escape reading offers. Their writing is designed to cultivate that escape…but writers cannot escape a prison any more than a live-in warden can. Even on vacation the warden is still thinking about his responsibilities back home. In the hell of escape, there is no escape. These writers obsess over their settings or characters, fetishizing them—making them ever stronger, which just makes the prison walls thicker. Attempting to get ones creations to approach some “reality” won’t allow a writer to escape into it as their work will never be real, and once in this hell they can never escape from it.

The Hell of Being Covered in Scar Tissue These writers can’t help but pick at their scabs—the injuries of early childhood, of their seminal (and semenal!) sexual experiences, or even (the poor dears) the trauma of memories of the first good books they ever read. Their writing is the expression of a grudge, and even lacks the social sanction of moral instruction. The grudge can never fade, the wounds never fully heal. The writers make sure of that, by raking their nails over their skin purposefully, in order to stay hurt and stay writing. In this hell, the scarring is truly permanent, as it can outlive the writer’s own flesh. Why do writers drink? Not to numb the pain of life, or of their special awareness—it’s anesthesia for daily self-administered anti-cosmetic surgery with rusty scalpels. Self-loathing is a powerful emotion; if you don’t start off as ugly and as fowl as you think you are, you’ll be sure to end up that way in this hell.

The Hell of Idiot Slavery is the home of many successful writers, especially those pre-occupied with story. The more sophisticated, but no more intelligent, denizens of his flaming hell may call it “Story” or “narrative”, but they all just mean the same thing: stuff happens so that readers can be happy. Dumb readers, usually. In this hell, there is only one story, and on some level everyone knows it—that’s why they speak of “the story” and not “stories.” Stephen King attempted to escape this hell once, but instead found himself shouting at a catering hall full of other authors during the National Book Awards as though addressing resentful high school students in a Maine classroom. What did he see in his hell that drove him so mad? Simple—he thought he was in another, better hell, picking his scabs, but he wasn’t. Story is like being chained to an oar, rowing a boat through a dead sea, only to one day realize that the drums have stopped, the overseer has abandoned ship, and the hold was always empty anyway, but you row on because you are still chained and there is nothing else to do except wait to starve. Then you recall that you had bought a passenger ticket and put the chains on your wrists and ankles yourself, for fun.

The Hell of Endless Vomit Here, you never eat, you only spew. The “food” is inserted anally, and roughly, on a continuous basis via some devilish and rubbery reverse-enema kit. Here are the writers of what used to be called “potboilers”, and also of instructional material, ten-dollar joke books (like this one), spam e-mail advertising copy, press releases for cigarette companies, scripts for industrial films about electroplating, and the like. Once, this was a higher hell, because sometimes the potboiler or instructional guide actually did pay enough to allow one to write one’s good novel. However, all hells are full to bursting now, and as supply goes up and demand stays constant price falls and so all those damned to this hell can do is plant themselves on a tubular rubber spike, open their mouths, and aim streams of projectile vomit at one another, forever. It’s all instructional guides, service journalism for tourists, and advertorials about boner pills. In the midst of the great plain of this hell, bombarded from every direction, are the writers whose writing-advice guides outsell their novels or poetry collections, and those to credit for some other writer’s superior career.

The Hell of Being Tossed off a Cliff Forever These poor writers didn’t even realize they were in hell until rough hands grabbed them, dragged them to the edge of the nice meadow in which they were having a picnic lunch with their agents and editors, and off they went. The cliff never ends, but the rocks and branches protruding from the cliff face get harder, sharper, and reach out to buffet limbs and bang heads. Though there is a constant rain of writers falling from the cliff and bouncing off the walls, every single writer thinks he’s the only one in this hell. This is the hell of former best-sellers, cult authors whose work has fallen out of print, writers who cobble together unsuccessful self-publishing schemes in the hope of looking productive for the sake of a community college job, and all those people who published one short story or article in a decent venue one time. The mere fact of having formerly published doesn’t bring one in to this hell; it’s the continuing to write, or the giving it up, that sends writers here.

The Hell of The Spike In the Head Thousands of pages, all useless and stupid. Beginner mistakes, ossified and valorized for years. Some decent reading material on the shelves, maybe, but nothing in the brain. It may take years of people in this hell to decide that they are “ready” to submit their work, or take a course, or show their friends, and the spike in the head throbs and burns. When they’re critiqued, it’s an attack, when they’re casually rejected, it’s a lie. Every writer is a sick narcissist, but these are the worst of the lot, untreatable and incorrigible. What they see in their “mind” just isn’t what is on the page. Writing is intuitive, but reading is supposedly an exercise in ruthless logic—they badger and browbeat and demand why why why they’re not any good, cite chapter and verse (and imaginary conversations) that explains why their stuff really really is good and makes perfect sense. But the world won’t listen. And worst of all, this hell is proof that Dante was wrong—one cannot descend or ascend. You may be in three hells, and you’ll always be in three hells, but there is no way out.



I Am Gripped By A Strange Sudden Passion…

Gary Burghoff stars in M*A*S*H

Gary Burghoff as Walter “Radar ” O’Reilly in MASH

… to write a MASH fanfic called “Radar’s Brother.” It would fit into a “Haunted WW2″ collection monkey I’ve been thinking about for… sometime now.

Briefly: Radar’s older brother served in WW2. Whatever Radar’s latent psychic powers might have been, his brother’s powers were far greater. Quick tight short story. The government recognizes Radar’s brother’s abilities right away, and they use him in covert operations as a psychic throughout the course of 1939-1945. It has to end tragically with Radar’s brother’s death, and the government covers everything up. Radar and his family receive a letter, a medal, a flag. Radar idolized and loved his older brother. He is devastated. He never recovers from this loss. And this is why poor Walter O’Reilly is so twitchy and weird when he’s serving in Korea in MASH, wielding only a shrapnel of his brother’s power when he’d freeze and whisper, “Incoming.”


MASH was one of the first “adult” TV shows I was allowed to watch as a child, and I was instantly fascinated by the character of Radar. Yeah, we all love Hawkeye—whatever—but Radar was weird, man. He was a misfit, a man-boy with no “real world” experience, sweet and gullible to a fault. Also, he had extra exceptional hearing, or he was psychic. He knew when the choppers were coming in with wounded. “Incoming.”


“Just write it down, write it down now. Because you will forget it.” — Warren Ellis


This is Kirby: Galactus-Centric, My Son’s Graphic Education, and a Few Words from Stan Lee



All Hail The King. Happy Birthday, Mighty Jack Kirby.

My son is ten years old. He draws comics all the time, and he’s into everything. All the Marvel and DC characters, the ninja turtles, kaiju, all the shit that’s on the kid tv channels (some of which are actually very charming), but fuck me, time and again, when he finds an image online that he likes that is a Marvel character, nine times out of ten, man—


It’s Jack goddamn Kirby.

(And not just Galactus. I’m just using three images of the Big G to make graphic points. I’m into unity these days.)

When my son brings me an image he likes and it’s Kirby, I’m always delighted. I always take the time to trace and point out the visual elements of the picture, how it works—big, small, contrast, perspective, light, dark, etc—and he gets it. I see it in his work the next day.

In full disclosure, I should say I do NOT offer such detailed analysis to every comic image Damien shares with me. Example: If it’s Superman punching through a planet and it’s awesome and it’s drawn by Jim Lee, I’ll look at it and concur, “Awesome!” But I won’t talk about it the way I talk about Kirby.

This might be my son’s favorite Kirby image:


My son is ten years old. If he could paint the Mona Lisa, it would look like this. Two of his favorite characters in pitched battle with superb graphic design—look at that hand, man!

Rounding this out with a few words from STAN LEE, cribbed from Neil Gaiman’s Tumbler

Stan Lee, 1968:
 … And we talk it out. Lately, I’ve had Roy Thomas come in, and he sits and makes notes while we discuss it. Then he types them up which gives us a written synopsis. Originally-I have a little tape recorder-I had tried taping it, but then I found no one on staff has time to listen to the tape again later. But this way he makes notes, types it quickly, I get a carbon, the artist gets a carbon…so we don’t have to worry that we’ll forget what we’ve said. Then the artist goes home…or wherever he goes…and he draws the thing out, brings it back, and I put the copy in after he’s drawn the story based on the plot I’ve given him. Now this varies with the different artists. Some artists, of course, need a more detailed plot than others. Some artists, such as Jack Kirby, need no plot at all. I mean I’ll just say to Jack, ‘Let’s make the next villain be Dr. Doom’… or I may not even say that. He may tell me. And then he goes home and does it. He’s good at plots. I’m sure he’s a thousand times better than I. He just about makes up the plots for these stories. All I do is a little editing… I may tell him he’s gone too far in one direction or another. Of course, occasionally I’ll give him a plot, but we’re practically both the writers on the things. 

All Hail The King.


Rewind: Kemper Norton, “Helston Music Fayre 1994″

Helston Music Fayre 1994, from forthcoming ep “Lowender”

I can’t stop listening to this damn track. Download it for free and find more at Kemper’s site.

(Special thanks to Kemper and The 4am.)


My Short Story THE LAST STAR IN THE SKY is now available as a Kindle Single


No, it’s not “new,” but I thought making LAST STAR available at the dreaded evil amazon might grant this beloved little story a bit more exposure and longevity. The formatting is finally up to my standards, and it’s cheap, too! 99 cents. If you have a little one, or if you have a soft spot in your heart for the story logic of old fairy tales, I gently tilt my chin. Give it a spin. And tell your friends.

THE LAST STAR IN THE SKY by SIMON DRAX available at amazon




Yes, blue. Blue is the new red.

You might remember I mentioned that I’m writing a series of essays on Twin Peaks for a forthcoming anthology. I’ve written one essay, some sketches, but I’ve become overcome by a passion to spill all the brain cells I have left regarding everything I think and feel about the “start” and the “end” of Twin Peaks, FIRE WALK WITH ME. I already have 100,000 words in my head regarding this remarkable movie, but the more I thought about it I realized I should watch it again. Easier said than done. A beloved film, but I didn’t have a copy of it. Netflix has the entire series, but not FIRE WALK WITH ME. Had to buy a 10 dollar used copy. Watching, and making copious notes TONIGHT. And yes. Blue is totally right. More later.

The owls are flying.



Gloomy Psych Folk for a Monday Evening: Muscae Volitantes by Gyron V


It’s not dreamy and light. Song titles include Killing for SatanShepherd of the Owls, and A Blood-Red Rose of 49 Petals. There are echos of Leonard Cohen, The Smiths, Pink Floyd. Give it a spin.

 Muscae Volitantes by Gyron V


Anime 101, a draxian list for a friend, part 1 — MIGHTY ATOM

Others may disagree, but in my opinion anime really starts here:


I haven’t seen this since it was shown on American shores sometime after its run in Japan, when I was like three or four. It was a shock to revisit it today. So dark by today’s standards for children’s television, so surprisingly funny, violent, and inventive. It’s 26 minutes long. If you’re having a gloomy Saturday, I promise this will brighten your day. And oh man, I can’t wait to show this to my son.



I’m cutting and pasting this from BoingBoing because the art is just too beautiful—I want to hold it and stroke it and love it and name it George.

Art in the Infographic Age

Artists Tom Whalen and Kevin Tong break into the sophisticated, rapidly growing world of infographs with their exhibition, Info•Rama.

No one wants to read anything any more, or so I keep reading on the interwebs. Which is one reason why infographics have become the preferred method of delivering news and information for newspapers, magazines, and online-only publishers. In fact, data visualizations have been around since at least the Victorian Era, and savvy schoolteachers have long known that if they pair pictures with text in an engaging way, kids tend to pay attention.

Now two artists, Tom Whalen and Kevin Tong, have merged infographics with fine art in an exhibition called Info•Rama (August 23 – September 17, 2014) at the Phone Booth Gallery in Long Beach, California. Consisting of a dozen limited-edition screenprints, six by Whalen and six by Tong, the exhibition features colorful charts on leafcutter ants, an homage to the P-51D Mustang (“The most recognized and celebrated American fighter of the second World War”), the component parts of an Extravehicular Mobility Unity (we know this device as the spacesuit) and a diagram detailing Samurai armor worn in feudal Japan.

“Kevin reached out to me more than two years ago about the possibility of putting on a two-man show,” says Whalen of the show’s genesis. “We were both fans of each other’s work, and after a lot of spitballing, Kevin, who had just created an infographic-style poster for “Breaking Bad,” threw out the idea of a show full of infographics.”

The result is a dozen images on topics from technology to nature. “I worked on the octopus first,” Whalen recalls, “Kevin started with the leafcutter ants. We didn’t have a hard-and-fast list of subjects at the beginning, but my son is a train fanatic, so he was the inspiration for the transcontinental-railroad piece.”

With most of the printing handled by DL Screenprinting in Seattle (Ohdanielsan of Los Angeles printed Tong’s Spacesuit and Zeppelin prints), the series features small edition sizes (no more than 100) and dimensions from 12 inches tall by 36 inches wide (and vice versa) to the more standard 18-by-24. “As varied as they are, the sizes are all suited to standard off-the-shelf frames,” says Whalen. And while both artists would obviously be happy if some of their prints ended up on a few living-room walls, discounts are available to teacher who wants to use Whalen and Tong’s infographics in their classrooms.

Photo IDS:

Kevin Tong


Leafcutter Ants

12 x 36 inches

Ed: 60

Printer: DL ScreenprintingPrint

Nikola Tesla

12 x 36 inches

Ed: 100

Printer: DL ScreenprintingPrint


18 x 24 inches

Ed: 80

Printer: OhdanielsanPrint


18 x 24 inches

Ed: 80

Printer: Ohdanielsan

Tom Whalen Print


12 x 36 inches

Ed: 90

Printer: DL Screenprintinginfographics_P-51mustang_dev1

Transcontinental Railroad

36 x 12 inches

Ed: 80

Printer: DL Screenprintinginfographics_P-51mustang_dev1

P-51 Mustang

18 x 24 inches

Ed: 75

Printer: DL ScreenprintingPrint




12 x 36 inches

Ed: 100

Printer: DL Screenprinting


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