Monday 3 June 2024

Seek not to know for whom the Moon Gackles

GACKLING MOON - the latest publication from Patrick Stuart. Except not purely the work of the False Machine, this time. As Kickstarter backers were warned:

This will be quite different to any standard False Machine book. Gackling Moon is a production of 'Formling' Press, run by Emile Frankel.

But it has roots in two sets of posts over on False Machine: here is the rising of the Gackling Moon - and here the mists part and reveal the Wodlands. Well, the Wodlands are now the Moonlands and everything has been set together in a hardback - which I have a few thoughts on.

Firstly, presentation is very different - beyond the obvious. Gone is the initial Wodlands illustration and the colours associated with it. The Gackling Moon hardback is white, with black and white interior illustrations. The book is counterintuitively white: summoning up images of our own Luna, rather than shattered, faintly goblinoid Gackling Moon. It also constantly taunts you with the prospect of spilling red wine or coffee on it.

Illustrations are provided by Tom K. Kemp (no relation?), working in a mix of charcoal and other analogue media enhanced with digital techniques. They are intended to act something like photographic plates in a museum catalogue (or similar). Sometimes this works quite well, as hazy images of a distant land or sketches by an archaeologist. Sometimes it looks unfitting - as if this expensive museum catalogue can't afford a decent photographer.

Text is in single columns of seriffed characters. The Printer's Imp has been left unchecked, which is vaguely fitting for Gackling Moon if loosely vexing to stodgy boring types like myself. Though there's something I dislike about the way the text curls around the page numbers.

Speak to us of the Moonlands.

Imagine a carefully imagined alien landscape, with numerous details about those who live there and how they survive. Improbably weather patterns and beasts, wily folk adopting uniquely geared folkways to match their land. Something like Villenueve's Dune and his sparse, echoing Arrakis or stark Geidi Prime - or the vision of the Southern Reach in Alex Garland's Annihilation.*
    And then someone comes and fires the Terry Gilliam Ray at it, sending several brilliant shafts of Terry Gilliam penetrating the scenic vista. Gilliam piercing everything. 

This sounds like a colourful exaggerated description to grab my audience; it is, in fact, basically true to the nature of the setting. Landscapes like the Plain of Anaesthetic Fire and the Asbestos Bedouin who dwell there interrupted by GOBLINS emerging in rickety steampunk submarines from the Vermillion Sea, quite possibly to the sound of Sousa marches played on ill-tuned and worse-conceived instruments. 

You may think this sounds a little tiresome, so described - and depending on your tolerance for Goblins - but it is neatly leavened by the sheer variety of Goblin, and the welcome appearance of the beautifully conceived Anti-Goblins. (I don't know where the name 'Esploradoj' came from, but it sounds just right.)

I'm also quite fond of the Manticore-hunting Nobles. The Incoherent Isles are beautifully drawn. 

And over it all, the changing face of the Gackling Moon casting baleful shadows across a tormented land - driving men into horrifying emotional extremes. 

Does it hang together? Does it have the certain spark?

Sometimes. Though I suspect that this is something to be mined for parts - little dimensional adjuncts and strange intrusions. (The Gackling Moon as Outside Context Problem?) The sort of thing that the Wilderness of Taroc and some of the rest of the material clustered under Translucent Polities gets at. One can imagine the Gackling Moon itself becoming a Gackling Comet, tearing across the realms of men causing terror and havoc in equal measure. Or one can imagine the phases of the Gackling Moon as quasi-divine Star Archons, coming in and out of alignment with the world below. 

However, certain elements of the presentation aren't pulling their weight. The Museum Catalogue elements could be leant into rather more heavily. If The Sabbat World Crusade is a benchmark, you need multiple sources of art. It worked in Fire on the Velvet Horizon because that was a region that felt the size of or as populous as (say) Northumbria: the Moonlands feel...the size of the Iberian peninsula maybe? The final essay by Frankel is rarely use and even rarer ornament: if you want to think about the image of the Heavens and what a Moon might mean, you are far better reading Chapter Five of The Discarded Image and meditating on 'dull sublunary lovers'.


Read some of the blog posts and decide for yourself whether you think it would be useful to have them enhanced, expanded and bundled together somewhere. 

*I have read Frank Herbert; should I read Vandermeer? Answers on a postcard, to the usual place.

1 comment:

  1. Probably not the etymology, but "esploradoj" in Esperanto is "researches" (plural noun), which I'd take in the opposite direction of anti-goblins.