I first came across Storm Constantine’s work in the early 90s, at the local gay bookstore. Her Wraeththu novels were post-apocalyptic fantasy that featured androgynous post-humans who all looked like a cross between David Bowie and members of an 80s goth band. The novels featured a fairly explicit sex-based magic(k) system that was groundbreaking to me. As much as I enjoyed the Wraeththu novels, it was her stand-alone novels that really grabbed me. Novels like Calenture, A Sign for the Sacred, and Hermetech were full of gorgeous prose, homoerotic imagery and dream-logic plots. They were New Weird before New Weird was a thing.
We got in contact when Storm started publishing Tanith Lee novels through the publishing house she founded, Immanion Press. In addition to bonded over Lee’s later work, Storm also let me write blog posts and blurbs for the reprinted collections, ultimately letting me write the introduction to Love in A Time of Dragons & Other Rare Tales.
Storm Constantine was a trailblazer in Queer Speculative Fiction and neo-Gothic/neo-Decadent fantasy. Her work explored eroticism, gender and ultimately, found family. She will be missed.
The mysterious arty graphics of 23 Envelope actually influenced my aesthetic sense. The late Vaughan Oliver (September 12, 1957 – December 29, 2019) instinctively knew how to combine text and image into visually arresting collages. I’ll even admit that I bought some albums just because of the cover art. His designs grace some of my favorite albums. The lace shrouded mannequin on Cocteau Twins’ Treasure. The erotic elegance of the Pixies first album, and the haloed monkey on their Doolittle album. The blurred out naked man dancing and/or swaying with a phallic object on The Breeders’ Pod. His album covers are works of art, and his unique style has influenced the graphic arts.
I read Alistair Gray’s epic novel Lanark around the time of my 4AD/Cocteau Twins fandom. The two of them are indelibly linked for me. That novel, which mixes a bildungsroman with a surrealistic dystopian novel is a classic of Weird Fiction. It was one of the books where I had an epiphany: much of life does happen in our private alternate realities and using fantasy and allegory are valid ways to talk about the human experience. Plus, the book was illustrated with his amazingly complex drawings that hinted at a personal mythology.
Rest in peace, Vaughan Oliver and Alistair Gray (December 28, 1934 – December 29, 2019).