Thursday, January 18, 2018

Art for Weird's Sake: The Art of FORBIDDEN LINES, Part 2

As FORBIDDEN LINES continued, our circle of writers and artists expanded to include people beyond the immediate Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C. area. Because Charles Overbeck took a special interest in the design and illustration of the magazine, I didn't always know much more about the artists other than their name and the quality of their work. I would say the caliber of artists we attracted was generally higher than the writers who submitted stories. Of course we were getting in 20-30 stories a week, and far fewer art submissions. The main reason for this was that we tended to solicit illustrations from specific artists for particular stories. Charles handled most of our photographic needs in person--authors' photos used in interviews, for example.

In the final issue (#16, 1994), I compiled a complete index of all articles, reviews, stories, and artwork that appeared in FORBIDDEN LINES. Below is a JPG of the Artists' Listing. The numbers represent the issue in which the artists had work appear:

While I'd like to recognize and offer examples of every artist's work, that would take a lot of time and much space. So here's a kudo to everyone who contributed their time and talent to the unique publication that was FORBIDDEN LINES.

Eugene 'Gene' Gryniewicz's style was distinctive, and well suited to the darker side of FORBIDDEN LINES' fiction. More than just macabre, his work has a tragic quality. There's a lot of suffering in his characters' eyes.

From FL #7: "The Ward," by D. Douglas Graham.
Illustrated by Gene Gryniewicz.

From FL #6: "The Power of Prayer,"
by Vic Fortezza. Illustrated by
Gene Gryniewicz.

From FL #15: "Hands Across the Stars,"
by Jeff Janoda. Illustrated by
Gene Gryniewicz.

From FL #16: "Carnival," by Richard
Behrens. Illustrated by Gene 

Starting around issue 10 we found the brother writer-artist team of Matt (the writer) and Mike (the artist) Ehinger. Since we're talking art here, we'll focus on Mike.

Mike had a really fine technique. His eye for composition and style were top notch, as can be seen in this cover he did for issue 11:

UFO abductions were a hot topic in 1992. Bob Burchette and I had the opportunity to interview skeptic Philip J. Klass when he came to Chapel Hill to appear at the Morehead Planetarium. To compliment the Klass interview, I asked Mike if could render Rembrandt's famous 1632 painting "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp" as if aliens were examining an abducted human. He succeeded brilliantly. The result is my personal choice as best FORBIDDEN LINES cover ever. Yes, I did call it "Gray's Anatomy."

"And next, the anal probe."

Mike also did the cover of issue 10, illustrating his brother Matt's story "Pilgrims to the Armageddon Flower."

FORBIDDEN LINES #10, Winter 1993
Cover art by Mike Ehinger

Mike handled his assignments with beauty and panache. I don't know if he went on to a career as an artist or illustrator, but his talent was obvious.

Full page illustration by Mike Ehinger for
Michael Burris' story, "OBE," FL #13.

Another artist who, ah, graced the pages of the later issues of FORBIDDEN LINES was Frank Forte and his colleagues at Asylum Studios. Frank's work appeared first in issue 11, but he made every issue after that to the last, #16. His style could best be described as 'Madhouse Horror.'

FORBIDDEN LINES #14, Summer 1993
Cover illustration by Frank Forte
for Rick Skinner's story, "Roach Wars."

Everything is distorted in Frank's work, distorted yet disturbingly familiar. 

Like Blair Wilson, Frank often provided random illustrations as samples of his work. There is a distinct EC Comics flavor to Frank's work. Charles Overbeck worked Frank's drawings in wherever he could. In FL #16 we published an Asylum Studios portfolio, featuring Forte's work along with Asylum mates Mike Bliss, Bob 'The Doc' Murdock, Scott DiAngelis, Al Columbia, and Matang Gonzoles.

Charles' idea of a 'Please Subscribe' Ad, FL #11
Illustration by Frank Forte.
The old mailing address has been redacted.

The most celebrated artist associated with FORBIDDEN LINES must be Diego Marcial Rios. Like Blair Wilson and Frank Forte, Diego heard about FORBIDDEN LINES and offered us black and white versions of some of his engravings and woodcuts. They are strongly influenced by his Latin background, featuring surreal, macabre renderings of themes close to the artist's heart--war, oppression, the grip of drugs and religion on the lives of the poor. We used two of Diego's works as covers: FL #12 'Pope Poppy' and FL #13, 'Kiss Me, You Fool.'

FORBIDDEN LINES #13, Winter 1993
Cover art by Diego Marcial Rios, for
Del Stone's story, "Kiss Me, You Fool."

Also from "Kiss Me, You Fool."

From Diego Marcial Rios' website:

A Brief History of Subversive Woodcuts

April 7, 2015

There is something dramatic about black and white. The black/white woodcut media is an excellent media to express complex political and social beliefs. Woodcut or relief images consist of powerful black and white images with limited lines and grays areas. The results are striking!

During Medieval times in Europe, monks used prints from woodblocks to express their moral and social concerns.  In later centuries, in Europe great artists such as Albrecht Durer and many others artist used   black/white woodcuts to illustrate social problems and deep religious beliefs.  During the late early 20th century, the famous Mexican graphic artist Posada used relief prints to illustrate social issues faced by common Mexicans. During the depression era of the 1930’s many artist including Orozco and Kollwitz produced the woodcut media to express social problems.

Today the woodcut /relief media is still used by many artists to illustrate books, magazines and even blogs.  Woodcuts designs are also often used as the graphic images for clothing and newspapers articles. I have continued the tradition of producing social critical art in the woodcut / relief media.  Long live the woodcut and relief media!

Last time I mentioned all the fine work our staff artist Cindy Holtslag did for FORBIDDEN LINES. In many ways her magnum opus with us was the "The Cereal Murders," a 22 page graphic story written by Donald Trull and brilliantly illustrated by Cindy. This is the kind of story I would have published every issue, had we the resources to do so:

From FL #8, January/February 1992:
"The Cereal Murders" by D. Trull.
Illustrated by Cindy Holtslag.

"Murders" is the story of a breakfast cereal mascot (Freddie the Ferret) who, facing the end of his reign with Fruity-Toots cereal, takes justice into his own hands . . . The sardonic nature of Trull's story is made all the sharper (and funnier) by Cindy's 'wholesome' art style.

FORBIDDEN LINES was a modest part of the great zine scene in the 1990s. It came and it went, but while it lasted it featured the work of a lot of talented people. Most of them were quite young; Charles Overbeck was 22 in 1992; Cindy Holtslag was a few years younger. I was 34 in 1992, the old man of an editorial board that mostly consisted of college students. Many of the contributors, writers and artists, I have not heard from since the magazine ended. I wish them all well.

I will post the full index of FORBIDDEN LINES as its own entry.

Next: "Pink Bells, Tattered Skies" The Invisible Surrealist

Friday, January 12, 2018

Forbidden Art: The Look of FORBIDDEN LINES, Part 1

Read on!

It was essential to the format of FORBIDDEN LINES that the magazine look as experimental as the text. The earliest issues relied heavily on clip art by Charles Overbeck and myself. Clip art was very much de rigueur in those days. It was cheap, it was weird, and it was a quick and dirty way to illustrate a zine.

From FL #5: "Diane Sawyer and the Space 
Aliens," an experimental short-short by
Ron Massa. Clip art by me.

We had a few artistically inclined people in the Writers' Group even when we did the anthology. Yeaton Clifton, then a undergraduate Physics major, did a couple of illustrations (and poems) for the anthology. He also contributed to the magazine. His style was distinctive. He used dabs of paint on paper or poster board. They were in color, but we were only able to reproduce them in black & white. I called his style Cartoon Impressionism:

From FL #3: "I Remember the Name of the
Moon," by Tony Realini. Illustration by
Yeaton Clifton.

Before long we secured the services of Cindy Holtslag, also an undergrad at the University of North Carolina (I think she joined us while just a freshman). Cindy had a charming, relaxed style that might seem at odds with the edgy, creepy tone of the magazine, but her humor and humanism were an invaluable asset to FORBIDDEN LINES.

From FL #11: "The Torcher," by Calvin Clawson.
Illustration by Cindy Holtslag.
An ironic story in the noir manner.
The bartender is not Mikhail Gorbachev.

Back cover, FL #5, by Cindy Holtslag.
Just for fun. The gag line reads:
"By the year 2000--
64% of the solar system will be colonized
Books and magazines will be obsolete
Everyone will drink freeze-dried orange juice."

Notice the little girl is reading 
Bad parents! Bad!

Also in FL #5 (busy woman!) Cindy rendered her own
six-page version of "The Blue Light," by the Brothers
Grimm. This is page 5 of 6. 

I love the girl's expression in the last panel!

And . . . in FL #5, "Ice Skimmer," by
Paul C. Schuytema. Cindy could do nicely
evocative images as well as comic ones.

There is much more of Cindy's work in FORBIDDEN LINES. Her work is featured in most every issue after the first, tapering off in later issues as we broadened our artists base and Cindy discovered the rigors of college life. More from Cindy Holtslag later.

Another student artist who worked for FORBIDDEN LINES was Alex DeGrand. As I recall he knew Charles Overbeck, perhaps through Charles' work on THE PHOENIX campus news magazine, or through the daily newspaper, THE DAILY TAR HEEL. Alex's work debuted grandly (pun intended) in issue 3 with his "A Rock and Roll Fairy Tale."

From FL #3: A Rock and Roll Fairy Tale," 
written and illustrated by Alex DeGrand. 
This was a 26-page satire about breaking
into the music business. This is my favorite 
panel. "The Clugg" is the name of DeGrand's 
fictional band.

Alex illustrated other stories for us later. 

From FL #9: "Small Sacrifices," by 
M. Leigh Martin. Illustrated by Alex DeGrand.
Alex had a talent for drawing furious females.

Because we printed so many strange, often horror-themed stories, having artists who could render the bizarre visible was a must. Another talented, frequent contributor was John Sowder.

From FL #9: "Rocket City," by John Riley.
Illustrated by John Sowder.
I am always struck by this image and how
much it reminds me of those old Laser Books
covers from the 1970s. For example:

Every Laser Books cover had the same 
format, an outsized face on the cover.
(Did you spot the author's name?
"Augustine Funnell?")

John's artwork is better.

John Sowder's technique worked really well in FORBIDDEN LINES. He could do cosmic, horror, and humorous images equally well.

From FL #7: "Ghost Witch & Brute Doctor," 
Illustrated by John Sowder.
FL's answer to Virgil Finlay?

From FL #11: "Melvin Moon and the Hairball,"
by Michael Burris. Illustrated by John Sowder.

(Where's punk Waldo?)

Besides illustrators, FORBIDDEN LINES attracted some pure, abstract art. It didn't get any more abstract than Blair Wilson.

From FL #9: "My Presidential Teeth," by
Blair Wilson. 

From FL #11: Random artwork by Blair. 
He called his style "Squigglism."

Blair was very much a creature of the zine scene. Charles would ask him for work, and Blair would send an envelope of bizarre, wonderful, and unique images. They weren't usually illustrations per se. They were strange tales told in a single intricate drawing.
Here's another:

Back cover, FL #11. Never mind the finger; 
we loved our readers.

Next: Art for Art's Sake; Weird for Weird's Sake: Art from FORBIDDEN LINES, Part 2.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Story from FORBIDDEN LINES: "Verdor," by Del Stone, Jr.

Here we have an example of the original fiction published in FORBIDDEN LINES. In this case, "Verdor," by Del Stone, Jr. Illustrated by the talented Cindy Holtslag, then a UNC student and FL's staff artist. Graphics and layout by Charles Overbeck.

From FORBIDDEN LINES #9, March-April 1992:

I've redacted the addresses of illustrator Mike Moon and author Holly Lisle, as they are private (and probably way out of date). The Regulator Bookshop still exists and deserves your patronage.

"Verdor" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 1992, but alas, did not win.

Next: samples of FORBIDDEN LINES artwork

Monday, January 1, 2018


1992 was a such a resounding year, there seemed to be no place to go but up. Unfortunately this was not the case. The novel business for myself and Toni took a sharp downturn and did not really recover for seven years. In the period 1993-2000, we published just one book, the Dragonlance novel THE DARGONESTI (TSR, 1995). I continued to write at a steady pace, writing three full length original novels during this period: HUNTERS AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT, RED LION, WHITE BIRD (aka THE CARPATHIAN NIECES), and a completely revised and re-written version of RAIDEN. All three of these failed to find a publisher, though much later I self-published RED LION as an experimental e-book. I'll go over these novels in separate blog entries of their own.

The 'cover' of RED LION, WHITE BIRD
A Victorian pastiche about alchemy, 
the illustration is from the famous 
illuminated alchemical treatise 

During this same period, I was involved with two major writing/publishing projects. The first was an outgrowth of the Science Fiction Writers' Group I helped start at the University of North Carolina. We had, in September 1989, published an original trade paperback anthology under the name FORBIDDEN LINES, which contained original fiction, essays, an interview with a famous movie director, and poetry, all with a science fiction, fantasy, or horror theme. 500 numbered copies were printed and were first offered at $8.00 apiece.

The 1989 anthology. The cover photo 
is of an industrial site near 
Wilmington, North Carolina.
Photo by Charles Overbeck.

Forbidden lines:
In spectroscopy, a forbidden mechanism (forbidden transition or forbidden line) is a spectral line associated with absorption or emission of light by atomic nucleiatoms, or molecules which undergo a transition that is not allowed by a particular selection rule but is allowed if the approximation associated with that rule is not made. For example, in a situation where, according to usual approximations (such as the electric-dipole approximation for the interaction with light), the process cannot happen, but at a higher level of approximation (e.g. magnetic dipole, or, electric quadrupole) the process is allowed but at a much lower rate.  [from Wikipedia]

As the cover lists, we were able to solicit gratis contributions from some famous professionals including Frederik Pohl, John Kessel, and 'Joe Bob Briggs' (the pen name of John Irving Bloom). The interview with cinematographer and director Byron Haskin was reprinted with permission from a book-length interview published by The Scarecrow Press

The anthology table of contents:

Introduction (Paul B. Thompson)

Grandy Devil (short story, Frederik Pohl)

Kiss of the Kiwi (novelette, Tony Realini)

Evenstar (short story, Elizabeth Wyrick)

"Circuits Saying" (poem, Yeaton Clifton)

Black as Sin (short story, Anthony Enns)

The Superior Liar (essay, John Kessel)

If Bird or Devil (short story, Angeli Primlani)

"Night Dweller" (poem, Arlene Medder)

"Ice Pirates" (movie review, Joe Bob Briggs)

"Elspeth, at the Betrothal" (poem, Joanne Wyrick)

Zen Arcade (short story, Greg Dee Rawlings)

Into the Outer Limits (interview, Byron Haskin)

Queen of the Nothings (short story, Angeli Primlani)

"How the Owl was Silenced" (poem, Yeaton Clifton)

Halloween (short story, Peter Louton)

"Requiem for a Vampire" (poem, Joanne Wyrick)

To Hear the Sea-Maid's Music (short story, Tonya Carter)

Day Million (short story, Frederik Pohl)

Velocity Exercises (essay, Frederik Pohl)

"Winter's King" (poem, Joanne Wyrick)

Beast Singular (short story, Charles Overbeck)

"The Archer" (poem, Joanne Wyrick)

A few contributors' notes: Tony Realini became an M.D. opthalmologist. Joanne Wyrick has published a number of novels under her pen name, Jo Graham. In addition to being a writer, John Kessel is Professor of English at North Carolina State University. Greg D. Rawlings is a criminal lawyer in Denver, Colorado. Tonya Carter is, of course, my friend and collaborator Tonya C. Cook. Anthony Enns is Professor of English at Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia. My wife Elizabeth Wyrick is chief publicist for the Music Department at Duke University. Angeli Primlani works with 3Arts, a theater and artists' collective in Chicago, IL. Yeaton Clifton received his PhD and lives and teaches in Michigan. 

Corrections or revelations to the above list are welcome.

The anthology was an interesting exercise, but not exactly a sales success. Out of the print run of 500, about 150 sold. Fifteen years or so later, most of the remaining stock were remaindered and probably pulped. A dozen or so unsold copies are left and can be found on eBay.

Out of this experience Charles Overbeck decided a periodical was a better bet, and in late 1990 proposed we publish FORBIDDEN LINES as a bimonthly magazine. Charles had gained considerable editorial and production experience working for the student news magazine THE PHOENIX, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Charles had a strong interest in samizdat publishing, and conceived of FORBIDDEN LINES magazine as a sort of guerrilla style periodical devoted to science fiction, horror, and experimental fiction à la William S. Burroughs.

William S. Burroughs

His timing was good. The 1990s saw the final flowering of the self-published zine culture, which had grown expansively from the availability of low cost, high quality computer printing and paper copying. In less than a decade zines would become virtually obsolete as the World Wide Web made print publication redundant in most areas of interest catered to by print zines. But circa 1990-91 was a good time to enter zine publication, and the first issue of FORBIDDEN LINES the magazine appeared as a October-November 1990 issue.

The first issue of FORBIDDEN LINES,
October/November 1990.
Note the lack of credit lines on the 
cover. Still, it contained 64 pages 
of fiction, illustrations, poetry, 
and general weirdness.

That's Charles Overbeck, playing
guitar in an industrial ruin 
near Wilmington, N.C. 
Photo by David C. Ball.

The magazine was printed by photo-offset in Benson, North Carolina, at first entirely on newsprint. Later the cover was printed on heavier weight white paper and more color was used. The last couple of issues had slick covers with three colors. The initial print run was 500 copies per issue. By the tenth issue or so, we upped that to 1,000 copies. At first we distributed copies ourselves, taking 5-10 copies per issue to independent bookstores, coffee houses, and the occasional head shop. In time we obtained (semi) professional distribution through a newspaper vending service. Peak circulation came around the twelfth issue, when 1,200 copies were printed and over 1,000 were sold. We provided review copies to semi-prozines like LOCUS and SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE. Advertising ourselves led to more and better submissions, and by the sixth issue the Writers' Group were no longer writing most of the material in the magazine. 

Charles sells FORBIDDEN LINES 
at a local SF convention, 1991. 
I make out three issues on the table,
plus stacks of the anthology.

A strange phenomenon developed at this point. Although the circulation of later issues reached 1,000 or so, we were never able to sell more than a dozen subscriptions. We did not pay for material we published--not in money--but in author's copies, whereupon all rights to the work reverted to the author. Even so, very few of our authors or those who submitted stories to us bothered to subscribe. Inability to build a subscriber base eventually led to the end of the magazine. By 1994, Charles and I talked it over and decided to end publication. FORBIDDEN LINES was consuming a lot of time (and a lot of money) and not growing into a full-time, professional publication. Rather than limp along, we decided it was better to stop. The last issue, #16, was the sole issue in 1994. (We had switched from bimonthly to quarterly in late 1992).

The 9th issue, showing more advanced 
graphics, color, and layout. 
Art by Blair Wilson.

The early to mid 1990s was not only the final flowering of the print zine, it was also a boom time in horror fiction. Piggybacking on the mainstream success of writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Whitley Strieber and others, a wave of horror novels and films dominated the genre during that time. The epitome of this era was the rise of the so-called 'splatterpunks,' writers who brought extreme gore and violence to the genre. Partly inspired by its own title, FORBIDDEN LINES got more than its share of this kind of fiction. While Charles and I and the staff (mostly from the old Writers' Group, plus new recruits from the ranks of UNC students) wanted variety, graphic horror fiction began crowding out other genres. To vary the content we resorted to more non-fiction pieces, especially interviews with well known writers like James Morrow, Connie Willis, our old mentor John Kessel, and even non-fiction writers like UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass. Horror was not excluded, as we interviewed rising genre star Poppy Z. Brite, and visited the set of Hellraiser III, which was being filmed near High Point, N.C.

Forbidden Lines #7
Hellraiser III was filmed
in High Point, N.C. 

Given the rise of Internet based websites, the eventual death of FORBIDDEN LINES seems inevitable. I learned a lot from the experience. Having been a writer at that point for about a decade, I got a lesson on what it meant to be a publisher and editor too. Publishing a genre magazine, even one as uncommercial as FORBIDDEN LINES, put me in contact with talented people, primadonnas, and outright weirdos I would never have encountered under ordinary circumstances. I discovered that some of the worst writers in the English language regarded their scribblings as so magical, so golden, that they had hysterical fits if anyone tried to edit them into readable condition. There was no direct correlation between talent and hauteur, but generally speaking, the best writers we dealt with were also the sanest, most down to earth, and least arrogant. 

Reading slush at our weekly editorial meetings could be wonderful, or terrible, boring, or riveting. The good stuff was rare, but rewarding to find. We did cherish certain supremely bad manuscripts, and compiled a list of the worst turns of phrase gleaned from submissions. Don't ask; that list has long been suppressed.

All in all, I have to rate my experience as a publisher as a negative, by which I mean it did not advance my career. Though all experience teaches, and I learned a lot about publishing and managing a periodical from my days with FORBIDDEN LINES, I suspect my time would have been better spent writing my own work and developing wider contacts in the publishing world. The doldrums that lay ahead were entirely due to complacency on my part. I had a good thing going with TSR, but it couldn't--and didn't--last.

Next: Some samples from FORBIDDEN LINES Magazine.

Art for Weird's Sake: The Art of FORBIDDEN LINES, Part 2

As FORBIDDEN LINES continued, our circle of writers and artists expanded to include people beyond the immediate Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, ...