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Browsing the Otherworldly Bookshelves of Wyrd Britain

Wyrd Britain, if you don’t know about it, is a website where Ian Holloway wanders amongst and explores the, appropriately enough considering its name, wyrder side of culture and it has something of a bent towards the “spookier” side of wyrd culture and has posts on related TV programmes, radio dramas, books etc:

“Wyrd Britain is a blog (and Facebook page) concerned with stories in, of, from and about the stranger places of Britain. Stories that explore a Britain other than the one we think we know. A Britain where the ghosts are unquiet, where the woods are alive and where distinctions between the present, the future and the past are permeable… Through our [bookshop] we hope to be able to pass on to like minded souls some of the treasures we find on our wanderings.” (Quoted from Wyrd Britain’s Etsy bookshop.)

It’s also an online bookshop, which, while it has a quite broad remit generally specialises in vintage science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal, fringe culture etc books and I often find myself popping over to visit to have a browse of what new treasures have turned up on it.

Above is a selection of some of the books and covers that caught my eye at the Wyrd Britain bookshop when I popped over just now, which includes a few favourites from the “back pages” of A Year In The Country, including  Geoff Taylor’s surreal cosmic artwork for Richard Cowper’s The Twilight of Briareus and the “Knockouts” edition of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos… and is it just me or does the cover art to Frank Lauria’s The Priestess somehow bring to mind Barbara Steele’s character in The Curse of the Crimson Altar?

When I was growing up I had an uncle who still had a lot of the odd/slipstream-esque 1970s and early(ish) 1980s science fiction, fantasy etc books that he’d read when he was at university back then and every now and again when I was visiting I’d browse amongst them. Because of the distinctive and often cryptic, surreal etc cover designs and artwork they had it was like being given a glimpse into an adult, esoteric, exciting  other world.

Browsing the online shelves of Wyrd Britain’s bookshop is not all that dissimilar; a lot of the books that are for sale there are from a similar era as the books my uncle had and there’s a similar sense of looking into and exploring a strange, far off world.

To a degree, I guess a lot of 1970s science fiction book artwork had that sense, which is something I’ve written about before:

“In the 1960s and 70s, science fiction novel covers seemed to often allow space, or free rein for quite out-there slipstream-like illustration and design, including Peter Haars’ psychedelic illustrations for editions of books published by Lanterne in Norway [see the above image] which included those by local authors and the likes of Stanislaw Lem, Ursula K. Le Guin, Brian W. Aldiss, C.S. Lewis and Kurt Vonnegut. Viewed today such covers seem to encompass a sense of a kind of paral- lel-to-the parallel-world of a hauntological record label, and a point in time when the likes of ‘speculative fiction’ magazine New Worlds and Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius captured and expressed a moment where science fiction and related writing was hiply and exploratively psych like.” (Quoted from A Year In The Country: Straying From The Pathways.)

If you’re thinking “Hmmm, Ian Holloway, that name sounds familiar…” then you may well have come across some of his other work.

He has released music under his own name and as the (presumably Quatermass inspired) The British Space Group, amongst other names, including a track on the A Year In The Country themed album Fractures back in 2016. He also used to post about not dissimilar culture as that which he now writes about at Wyrd Britain at his site, which if memory serves correctly was one of the frontier-like outposts of wyrd related culture before the interest in such things exploded.

Links elsewhere:

Wyrd Britain’s site

Wyrd Britain’s Etsy bookshop

Wyrd Britain’s Bandcamp

Ian Holloways’ Quiet World Bandcamp


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