For tourists & other trespassers
by Richard Littler
I can’t say when I first stumbled across Littler’s Scarfolk site. Probably one of the usual suspects (Brazill or Billson). I’m pretty sure it was on Twitter, but it doesn’t really matter. What I discovered was that I knew that place very well. A lot of my friends had been scarred by living in 1970s Britain which seemed to be a time and place determined to foist the uncanny onto all its citizens. People would speak in hushed tones with glazed eyes and trembling lips of that Donald Pleasance-voiced public information film, or the weirdness of all those various warnings to the curious that frightened them so badly as children. Television was full of unsettling stories from Penda’s Fen and The Owl Service or off-kilter programmes like The Tomorrow People (isn’t that the one, Mr. B?).
Imagine being held captive there forever.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it because Littler has created it through books, posters, pamphlets and brochures and now a creepy, amazing book that will delight and amuse and make you cringe and keep turning the pages while you shudder at some of the ideas. It’s all beautifully and convincingly rendered. Littler has a terrific eye for replicating those 70s design styles in a palette of colours that look just right for the time but aged as if they have lasted. Even the endpapers look well aged and wholly convincing, the WE WATCH YOU WHILE YOU SLEEP from the omnipresent Scarfolk Council Public Information Bureau, who warns “for further information please reread this poster” against the image of an all-seeing eye (in your face, T. J. Eckleberg!) and the line of gloomy row houses.
It would be enough if the images were simply entertaining — and they certainly are. The skill and the choices are so disturbing and well done that you cannot fail to be amused if you are of that sort of mind (deeply twisted and able to laugh at horrible things). More than mere amusement, however, Littler has put a finger on the pulse of how we make our horrors — how we create fear and things to fear. We’re in the midst of the worst Dark Ages now, a time when willful ignorance reigns, when we have the knowledge of history at our fingertips and communication with the world an instant away but use that to divide ourselves, torture our enemies and (especially in the United States) kill each other in the name of ‘rights’ that are deliberately misinterpreted.
I highly recommend this book. I know it will continue to amuse and unsettle me for a very long time — and I’m not saying that because I took my Lobottymed. It is quite likely that Todd has put up some links to fine, overlooked A/V today (or will) so check them out.