Mind Fields

Mind Fields is a book featuring paintings by the Polish artist Jacek Yerka and short stories by the American author Harlan Ellison. The 34 paintings by Yerka were created first. Ellison then wrote a short story based on his reaction to each of these paintings. The only exception was the story "Under the Landscape" which was based on two similar paintings.


1) The Creation of Water 12) Susan 23) The Agitators
2) Twilight in the Cupboard 13) Between Heaven and Hell 24) Truancy at the Pond
3) Amok Harvest 14) Shed of Rebellion 25) Ammonite
4) Theory of Tension 15) To Each His Own 26) Base
5) Back to Nature 16) Eruption 27) Foraging in the Field
6) Internal Inspection 17) The Inquisition 28) Traffic Prohibited
7) Metropolis II 18) Beneath the Dunes 29) Afternoon with the Bros. Grimm
8) In the Oligocenskie Gardens 19) The Silence 30) The Cosmic Barnyard
9) Europe 20) Darkness Falls on the River 31) Under the Landscape (two paintings)
10) Fever 21) Paradise 32) Ellison Wonderland
11) Attack at Dawn 22) Express Delivery 33) Please Don't Slam the Door


The paintings in Mind Fields are typical of Yerka's neosurrealist painting style. According to Yerka, many of the paintings, including "Between Heaven and Hell" and "Attack at Dawn", draw on his childhood memories from the 1950s as their primary inspiration. Other paintings, such as "Amok Harvest" and "Express Delivery", draw on his experiences traveling through the Polish countryside.

Yerka was responsible for the title of all but two of the story-paintings, which were named by Ellison. The first of these, "Susan", was named after Ellison's wife. Ellision also named the painting "Ellison Wonderland" after one of his short story collections and his home in California because he "was hoping that they would give [him] that painting. The painting was later given to Ellison as a gift shortly after the book was published during an interview with Tom Snyder on Tomorrow Coast to Coast.


Ellison became involved with Yerka's paintings when he was asked to write an introduction to the Mind Fields collection. According to Ellison, he found the paintings so inspiring that he told his publishers that he wanted to write a story for each one. While Ellison generally based the narrative of each story on some aspect of the painting, this was not always the case. In "Attack at Dawn" for instance, the story has little to do with the physical objects represented in Yerka's painting. Instead, Ellison chose to base the story on the painting's prominent themes of transformation and attack.

Ellison also wrote many of the stories to reflect subjects and themes that commonly occur in his work. "Twilight in the Cupboard" and "The Silence" both prominently feature the themes of Jewish assimilation and the Holocaust. The former was inspired in part by Ather D Morse's 1967 book While Six Million Died. "Eruption" and "Ammonite" embody the lost city/Atlantis theme present in much of Ellison's work. "Metropolis II" also incorporates themes from many of Ellison's other stories. In particular, it mixes autobiographical details with fiction in a manner similar to "All the Lies that are My Life" and other stories.

Although Ellison did not follow his usual custom of writing an introduction to the book, he did provide commentary on 17 of the stories in the form of endnotes. These notes describe the background to some of the stories, and point out important themes. Yerka's son Philip died during the creation of the book, and Ellison dedicated the final story "Please Don't Slam the Door" to his memory in one of the notes.




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