An Emporium of Automata
by D P Watt
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“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
The Imperium of Automata: An Introduction
I: Phantasmagorical Instruments
Erbach’s Emporium of Automata
Of Those Who Follow Emile Bilonche
They Dwell in Ystumtuen
The Butcher’s Daughter
All His Worldly Goods
Dr Dapertutto’s Saturnalia
II: Genealogical Devices
Zarathustra’s Drive Inn
III: Ex Nihilo
Archaic Artificial Suns
Pulvis Lunaris, or, The Coagulation of Wood
The Subjugation of Eros
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First Editions: An Afterword
‘D. P. Watt’s An Emporium of Automata is a marvel. A strange concoction that is equal parts Borges, Millhauser, Kafka, and Ligotti, all viewed through a distorted lens; the book is not one so easily definable, and yet is instantly unforgettable. These stories will affect forever the way you view the world, as all great weird fiction must.’
- Simon Strantzas, author of Cold to the Touch and Nightingale Songs
‘This particular text is full of great stories that stand on their own – Jamesian, Samuelsian, Ligottian, Meyrinkian, but above all Wattian... This book, by retrocausality of night’s fidgeting words, now takes on a new vantage point, where aeon swallows moment, and vice versa.’
- D. F. Lewis, author of The Last Balcony and Real Time Reviewer
‘Watt has real talent. His work is not easily defined, but his stories, like Aickman’s, may be categorised as ‘strange’. They deal with questions of identity, illusion and reality, shifting perspectives and moral structures. This may sound daunting, but the quality of the writing engages the reader. Watt writes in a neo-decadent style: elegant, euphonious, with an observant eye and ear... Watt is a writer who offers us a consistent vision. It touches on and reflects the world we know, but as in a glass darkly. Performance and puppets play a role in many of these stories because they both examine and defy what we imagine to be reality...’
- Reggie Oliver, Wormwood 17, November 2011
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 short stories have appeared with Side Real Press, Megazanthus Press, Hieroglyphic Press and his two novellas, The Ten Dictates of Alfred Tesseller and Dehiscence are available from Ex Occidente Press. You can find him at The Interlude House:
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