An Emporium of Automata
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An Emporium of Automata

by D. P. Watt
Release date: September 2010
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: fantasy, horror, short stories

Click here to see the full cover art of the Eibonvale Press edition (2013).

The original description (Ex Occidente Press, 2010):

Whether it be recalling the fading entertainments of the British seaside and the infant graves of a forgotten Welsh lead-mining town, or conjuring a troupe of fantastical travelling players that divert a mediocre Soviet official, the tales gathered in An Emporium of Automata embrace collectors and obsessives whose passions corrode even the narratives that enact them. History and storytelling collide in these peculiar literary manifestations, often interrupted by a vengeful narrator intent on disturbing both story and reader.

An Emporium of Automata draws together stories spanning a decade of writing. From the incredible clockwork mechanisms of ‘Erbach’s Emporium of Automata’ to the disturbing images on a grainy reel of film in ‘Dr Dapertutto’s Saturnalia’, section I: Phantasmagorical Instruments unearths the magical transformations of matter and the desperation of memory. The determinations of the book enthusiast are revealed in ‘Of Those Who Follow Emile Bilonche’. The cunning rituals of an ancient tradition offer a destitute woman otherworldly hope in ‘They Dwell in Ystumtuen’. And ‘The Butcher’s Daughter’ continues the family business in a fashion most unwelcome to the new tenants of her old home. The pomposity of a fading traditionalist is mirrored in the fate of a left-wing radical in ‘Room 89’. ‘The Condition’ finds the destiny of culture to be somewhat other than one might expect.

The five stories collected in section II: Genealogical Devices circle around a curiously ordinary femme fatale, Roberta Reid, whose quiet mystery captivates those who encounter her. But is her past as certain as it appears? Under the watchful gaze of a powerful, and decadent, landowner these characters reveal a local conspiracy that undermines the very tales themselves.

Section III: Ex Nihilo begins with two tales from beyond, erupting from the authors’ lives they were written against. The stories continue bookish themes as an academic encounters a living archive hungry for knowledge in ‘Bibliophobia’. ‘1 = 0’ find the perpetual battle between theology and philosophy enacted between father and son, with unfortunate consequences. An ageing collector has a few surprises for his dubious visitor in ‘Memento Mori’. ‘The Comrade’ gives a bereaved and broken man a new direction in life following the teachings of his new companions. We end with a tortured fable of power and madness in ‘The Tyrant’.

So, roll up! Roll up! And witness this phantasmagoria of metempsychosis. Stick a penny in the slot and marvel as these mechanical tableaux come to life; be careful though that their covetous gaze does not finally come to rest upon you, for the hollow eyes of toys and dolls are nothing less than visions of our own decrepit souls.

D. P. Watt is a writer living in the bowels of England. He balances his time between lecturing in drama and devising new ‘creative recipes’, ‘illegal’ and ‘heretical’ methods to resurrect a world of awful literary wonder. His first fiction collection, Pieces for Puppets and Other Cadavers (InkerMen Press) was published in 2006.

Contents:

  • I: Phantasmagorical Instruments
    • Erbach’s Emporium of Automata
    • Of Those Who Follow Emile Bilonche
    • They Dwell in Ystumtuen
    • The Butcher’s Daughter
    • Room 89
    • The Condition
    • Dr Dapertutto’s Saturnalia
  • II: Genealogical Devices
    • Telling Tales
    • Making History
    • Strategies
    • Zarathustra’s Drive Inn
    • The Architect
  • III: Ex Nihilo
    • Archaic Artificial Suns
    • Pulvis Lunaris, or, The Coagulation of Wood
    • Bibliophobia
    • 1=0
    • Memento Mori
    • The Comrade
    • The Tyrant
    • First Editions: An Afterwords
  • Acknowledgements

An Emporium of Automata is a sewn hardcover book of 222 pages with dust-jacket, silk ribbon, endpapers and a full-colour frontispiece. Edition limited to strictly 150 copies.

-----

Description of the Eibonvale Press edition (2013):

“There has existed all through the Ages an extraordinary idea that puppets are inanimate creatures controlled by human beings; but after spending some years behind the scenes in manipulating the strings of marionettes I am well assured that the position is quite the reverse, and that a puppet-showman is entirely at the mercy of his figures.”

- Walter Wilkinson, The Peep Show, 1933

I can think of no better quotation that sets the stage for this magnificent collection of timeless and haunting tales by British weirdsmith D. P. Watt. This new edition of the author’s collection, An Emporium of Automata, delivers a thesis of the theatrically strange. In these stories the frightening hints penned above by a literate Punch and Judy man long ago are cunningly proven and made starkly manifest. This fine new edition places in the hands of all seekers after the beautiful and weird a grand collection which, for so long, has been privy to the locked bookcases of collectors and connoisseurs of the macabre and fantastique.

Story after uncanny story unfolds before the reader; a maze of carnival mirrors that we fear we might never escape from. Here are missing tales from some lost, darkly romantic Germanic madman’s attic. The rotting, wooden fissures that manifest fill in a gaping and pockmarked wooden maw somewhere between E.T.A. Hoffmann, Nabokov and Ligotti. To name these vaguely reminiscent stylists is far too simple. Watt dips first and foremost into his own, personal experience.

Through his sepia colored lens we are allowed to gape inside the old trunks of puppet men who have sold their souls in the rain, so that they might write such stories as these. The reader senses the authenticity of these cryptic pains, ritualistic longings, gorgeous and slow destructions. A literary answer to the modern neon sewer, these pages embrace the worship of decay, the altars of the desolate and all things archaic or fundamentally grotesque. The violently attractive, dangerously jagged islands of the mind which Mr. Watt guides us to are his own half-charted territories. I must also note that the book is structured in a manner, and so dense, that one is really getting three books of first-rate outré literature for the price of one.

Puppets rejoice! Read herein these baroque fables in which the drifting souls, toys and ticking things of men revert to fulfill far more ancient impulses. You have nothing to lose but the strings of your mind. Just as Walter Wilkinson was finally convinced that “a puppet-showman is entirely at the mercy of his figures.” so too, the reader of An Emporium of Automata will find themselves utterly at the mercy of dark conductor, D. P. Watt, who wields his rusty-scalpel words with the precision and mad gusto of a wildly leering, yet jaded, carnival showman.

- Charles Schneider, author of The Mauve Embellishments

Contents:

  • The Imperium of Automata: An Introduction by Daniel Corrick
  • I: Phantasmagorical Instruments
    • Erbach’s Emporium of Automata
    • Of Those Who Follow Emile Bilonche
    • They Dwell in Ystumtuen
    • The Butcher’s Daughter
    • Room 89
    • The Condition
    • All His Worldly Goods
    • Dr Dapertutto’s Saturnalia
  • II: Genealogical Devices
    • Telling Tales
    • Making History
    • Strategies
    • Zarathustra’s Drive Inn
    • The Architect
  • III: Ex Nihilo
    • Archaic Artificial Suns
    • Pulvis Lunaris, or, The Coagulation of Wood
    • The Subjugation of Eros
    • Apotheosis
    • 1 ≤ 0
    • Memento Mori
    • The Comrade
    • The Tyrant
  • First Editions: An Afterword by Peter Holman

 

(updated 2013-04-06)

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