My first taste of any artwork associated with Keleck (aka Kelek), was at Boskone this year, where Andy Gelas brought my attention to two French paperback editions of Conan. These were Conan Le Guerrier, and Conan Le Cimmerian, in the Titres SF editions from the early 1980s. Needless to say, the eye-popping contrast in red and black, and the the purity of design in these covers hit me like a sucker-punch in a Philip Marlowe story. Le Cimmerian has a pure movie-poster effect, with that smashing red background, and the bare skin of the figures has a smooth air-brushed look, while the tightly delineated designs on the metal are all perfectly highlighted. The first thing I noticed about Le Guerrier is the darkness of the figure, of the rich draperies, of the stairwell vanishing into shadow. The hair is certainly done the same way as Le Cimmerian: frizzy threads in direct highlight against the background. But in Le Guerrier, the eyes, the skin, the deliberate brushstrokes on the wall, and the marble steps; they have a very different aesthetic from the super-slick air-brushing of Le Cimmerian. What is going on here?
It’s strange to think about the fun-fest of Readercon — which it always turns out to be — as a hotbed of controversy where ripples of fallout will radiate outward for weeks and months after the event. On the other hand, science fiction fandom is a sort of canary in the coal mine of society at large. The feuds and alignments and banishments and rapprochements that swirl around fandom, punctuated by mass scrimmage events (also known as cons), are now inextricably linked to the culture wars raging around us. It wasn’t always this way. Long ago, in never never land, cons were communal freak-outs held by like-minded escapists as a sort of exhibitionist rebellion against the bleakness of mundane culture. A con was where your propellor beanie, flowing cape, Vulcan ears, and purple velvet bag-of-holding concealing a pint of scumble were perfectly normal, and you were surrounded by fellow fen celebrating the freedom to be weird.