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James Cawthorn, RIP: 1929-2008

Author: • Dec 4th, 2008 •

Category: Ballardosphere, New Worlds, parody, pastiche, visual art

Ballardian: James Cawthorn

Cover scan via Moorcock’s Miscellany.

David Pringle reports that the fantasy and SF illustrator, James Cawthorn, has died. Cawthorn was a fixture of the New Worlds era, and had a strong link to Ballard’s work. He illustrated Ballard’s ‘Equinox’ for NW #142 (above), and also wrote in 1967 what is surely the very first JGB parody (or is it a pastiche?), a fragment entitled ‘Ballard of a Whaler’, for New Worlds #170. I’ve reproduced the piece below, in a move that is bound to enrage further the killjoys who have attacked this site for running the occasional parody in the past. But as ‘Ballard of a Whaler’ demonstrates, the Ballard pastiche/parody actually has a long and noble history.

For more on Cawthorn and his work with New Worlds and Savoy Books, see John Coulthart’s commemorative post.

by ‘J. Cawthorn’

Each morning Konrad would go down to the edge of the moraine and gaze across at the skinners stripping the blubber from the whales. Architectural rather than organic, the white bones of the stranded monsters traced the structural relationships of underlying strata with the world above the ice, counterpointing in their curved sequence the prismatic and crystalline complexity of the glaciers, embodying the forms of all sequential aspects of duration. Engrossed by their fundamental geomorphic resonance with the rib-cage of Ulrica Ulsenn, he did not immediately notice the towering figure of Urquart the whale-hunter by his side. The harpooner’s eyes were sombre and brooding and when he spun his eighteen-foot lance end-over-end in a characteristic gesture and drove it splinteringly into the ice, he betrayed by no flicker of a muscle that he had impaled his left foot.

New Worlds #170, 1967.

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6 Responses »

  1. Heh, I nearly posted that pastiche myself!

  2. Snap!

  3. Good to see ‘Ballard of a Whaler’ revived. It remains a delight, and is a useful reminder of the more playful side of New Worlds. Thanks. Vale, James Cawthorn.

  4. I think that we all sometimes underestimate the wry humour in the Ballardouniverse. His take is ironic, sometimes gutwrenchingly accurate, but the charm and optimism shines through. This piece is so obscure I am unbelievably grateful it has been posted. It is, also, great fun! Thank you. Anthony.

  5. According to Mike Moorcock, Ballard wasn’t a fan of the piece:

    “”Cawthorn’s Ballard of a Whaler, a parody of both Ballard and me, didn’t go down too well with Ballard, but it made me laugh a lot…

    It was only a page. A tribute to Ballard, I think, that he is so often parodied (or imitated).”


  6. Yes, it was a parody of my subject (The Ice Schooner) and Jimmy’s style. As a matter of interest I also wrote a brief parody in I think the first Hawkmoon book. As I recall, it was early on and begins, of course: At dawn, when…
    Jimmy didn’t respond to the parody and as you say I got the impression he didn’t like it. Jim’s Storm Bird illustrations were done with a felt tip, as he said, very rapidly — which was often the way to get Jim’s best work, since he tended to overwork stuff. You had to know when to leap in and shout ‘deadline’ while the drawings were ‘unfinished’.

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