+ THORACIC DROP: < Deposit
> news appropriate to this site.
+ AUTOGEDDON: Subscribe to Ballardian & receive automatic email updates
Horror PanegyricAuthor: Simon Sellars • May 21st, 2008 •
Keith Seward is a writer based in New York. He has a new book out, a limited-edition hardcover called Horror Panegyric. Published by Savoy Books, this is Seward’s apppraisal of Savoy’s notorious Lord Horror novels by David Britton and Michael Butterworth. The novels tell the story of Lord Horror, who, Seward writes, “is based on a historical personage: Lord Haw-Haw, aka William Joyce, British fascist and radio announcer”. The books are alternative histories of a fascist England, brutal, bloody, highly confrontational and shot through with a violent Surrealism.
According to Seward:
Lord Horror takes the repository of symbols bequeathed by World War II and pours it into a cauldron boiling over with pop culture. Bigots and death camps get cooked up with rock and roll, comic strips, esoterica. It’s a “what if the other side had won the war” trip like you’ve never seen before.
Constant harassment — which continued into the late 1990s — from an obsessed constabulary would have quashed most publishers, but Britton and Butterworth operated under a maxim more along the Nietzschean lines of “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Far from folding up shop or retreating into less controversial publications, the two launched an all-out assault. Though the novel Lord Horror was effectively suppressed and remains difficult to find even today, the character Lord Horror multiplied, made appearances in different media, spawned other characters who in turn featured in their own books, comics, music. In short, the death of the book was the birth of a twisted empire, a reich of deviant imagination that neither Allied nor Axis powers would ever have recognized.
Their franchise of Lord Horror productions is provocative, original, visionary, and contains at least one outright masterpiece (Motherfuckers). Young writers should be looking at it the same as they do Naked Lunch, i.e. as a work that shows them what the possibilities are in the hands of a master. Academics should be crawling all over it with their magnifying glasses trying to figure out what it means and what it says about society. Anyone interested in literature should be reading and experiencing the damn thing. A few cognoscenti are there already, snapping up the first editions of Lord Horror before everybody else catches on and prices them out of the market. But the victory celebration hasn’t happened yet, and it is hard to understand why.
The Lord Horror books are now difficult to find, but following Seward’s essay in Horror Panegyric are excerpts from the works that are guaranteed to stoke the fire. Perhaps you might even find yourself sharing Colin Wilson’s reaction:
I think that, as an exercise in Surrealism, Lord Horror compares with some of the best work that came out of France and Germany between the wars, for example Georges Bataille… Britton is undoubtedly brilliant, but when I came to the bit about Horror hollowing out a Jewess’s foot and putting it over his penis, I started skipping. With the best will in the world, I couldn’t give his brilliant passages the attention they deserve because I kept being put off by this note of violence and sadism. No doubt it is because I belong to an older generation that is still basically a bit Victorian.
…:: Previously on Ballardian:
+ J.G. Ballard: the Visual Tribute (including work from John Coulthart)
+ The 1st Annual Ballardian Home Movies Competition (featuring Supervert)
+ A Home and a Grave (Mike Holliday’s essay on Ballard’s Unlimited Dream Company, analysing it as a “fascist novel” with similarities to Lord Horror)
+ J.G. Ballard: The Corridor Interview (a republishing of a 1974 Ballard interview from Corridor, Michael Butterworth’s early fanzine)
Newer: Bunker Tales »