Goto Thread: PreviousNext
Goto:  Message ListNew TopicSearchLog In
stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2018 11:40AM
To make it clear, it's well-known that Lovecraft had a hand in this story, and working from memory, it seems like his role was that of ghost-writer.

While waiting for some requested books to arrive at the local library, I decided to kill time by re-reading The Mound, and perhaps The Curse of Yig. This may be the 10th time I've read The Mound and it seems very clear that the organization, tone, mood, voice, are all quite similar to At the Mountains of Madness; even the length is similar. This is very clearly a Lovecraft work, dead-center in the revelatory narration body of work that includes At the Mountains of Madness, Call of Cthulhu, and others in this vein--a sort of searing warning against pushing the limits of knowledge, at risk of an overwhelming doom.

Do any of you know if Bishop was involved in the writing of the story, at all, beyond perhaps contributing the setting, in Oklahoma? I would be surprised if she wrote a single word, or made any revisions.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2018 05:47PM
"The Curse of Yig," "Medusa's Coil," and "The Mound" were all ghost-written by Lovecraft based on brief synopses or ideas from Zealia Brown Reed Bishop. Her initial concept for "The Mound" was:

Quote:
There is an Indian mound near here, which is haunted by a headless ghost. Sometimes it is a woman.

Lovecraft found this "insufferably tame & flat" (SL3.97) and added the Pellucidar-esque underworld and everything else.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2018 06:53PM
Thanks!

I knew I'd come to the right forum.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 21 May, 2018 03:09AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
>
> Do any of you know if Bishop was involved in the
> writing of the story, at all, beyond perhaps
> contributing the setting, in Oklahoma? I would be
> surprised if she wrote a single word, or made any
> revisions.


IIRC, HPL sent Bishop some sort of questionaire to get the Oklahoma setting right. That, and the extremely brief synopsis, was her only contribution.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 21 May, 2018 02:48PM
Thank you.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 27 May, 2018 12:26AM
"The Mound" is one of Lovecraft's best stories. Another incredible story is "Out of the Aeons", also written in collaboration with a colleague, but likely almost all of it Lovecraft's own words. The scene with the powerful vision displayed in the mummy's eyes, is especially memorable.

One might make a case for other authors of fantastic imagination and the supernatural. Authors like Poe, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James, W. H. Hodgson, Dunsany, Merritt, Tolkien, Jack Vance, moderns like Arthur C. Clarke, and others .... But Lovecraft towered above them all. He was the Grand Master of awe and of convincing weird scenes, handling it with an overwhelming authority, that those others only vaguely stepped near and touched upon. Together with kindred souls Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft was king of the mountain in the Weird Tales era, the greatest peaking period in the history of fantastic writing.

I bow down in reverence to H. P. Lovecraft. Then raise my right arm, and shout HAIL! HAIL!

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Zabdamar (IP Logged)
Date: 29 May, 2018 02:26AM
Knygatin I applaud the enthusiasm, but I humbly submit that CAS was the true 'kind of the mountain' in the Weird Tales era, both in terms of quality, and quantity of output (CAS was the most published of the three greats in WT).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 29 May 18 | 02:26AM by Zabdamar.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Radovarl (IP Logged)
Date: 6 June, 2018 11:52AM
At the risk of waxing rhapsodic myself, I'd argue that the author you mention, Knygatin, that towers above the others is clearly Jack Vance, not HPL, but to each her own :-). I think it depends on what one values most in a writer. All of those you cite have a firm command of the language, a flair for their own brand of narrative technique (well, maybe Hodgson stumbled a bit now and then.... Night Land, ahem), a distinct philosophical outlook, and almost all of them are trailblazers in one sense or another. They otherwise defy meaningful comparison. I am an enthusiastic fan of CAS and HPL (not so much the other "weird" era authors listed), but at the same time I understand why Vance (my favorite, in your list and overall) considered HPL not worth reading (and thought he had a made-up name to boot, LOL) and read CAS and thought his use of imagery was brilliant but thought he was a terrible writer otherwise (he is, to be frank, an undisciplined mess compared to Vance's masterful craftsmanship).

I guess the best analogy is to culinary appetites. Sometimes I am in the mood for a dense, flourless chocolate cake of a tale, rich with a single flavor but short on nuance (HPL), sometimes a salad of a dozen ingredients where flavors commingle willy-nilly to the point of being indistinguishable (CAS), but sometimes I want a meal prepared by a master chef, with each flavor perfectly balanced against ever other, even if it is always Thai cuisine (JHV). And sometimes I want a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips (WHH), haha.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Zabdamar (IP Logged)
Date: 8 June, 2018 09:11AM
Radovarl Jack Vance is a hack when compared to CAS, and an underwhelming author in general. I'm surprised that you'd characterise CAS as an 'undisciplined mess', when Vance's ridiculous capers read like the drunken ramblings of a man with neither talent, or an editor.
Vance's characters are shallow, his storylines absurd, and his prose pathetic when weighed against the sublimity of CAS. Ultimately Jack's work is third rate and belongs amongst the likes of Zelazny or Cook, but never amongst the annals of first rate fantasists such as HPL or CAS.
CAS rightfully belongs in the canon of great American poets (Joshi has spoken at length about this) whereas Vance will forever languish as a fringe fantasist, a hobo of the second-hand book bins. His name would have long been forgotten had it not been for Gygax's citation in the DMG.

Vance saying CAS was a terrible writer is akin to some college tier 3 basketballer saying that Michael Jordan was a terrible player, complete and utter nonsense. I've seen the quote before but frankly I'm skeptical of its origins. As bad as Vance was, the derivative nature of his 'Dying Earth' setting suggests a deep admiration for the work of CAS, and for that at least he should be respected.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 8 Jun 18 | 09:14AM by Zabdamar.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Radovarl (IP Logged)
Date: 11 June, 2018 02:40PM
Wow. Just wow. No need to be skeptical of the quote's origins, for I can cite it for you chapter and verse with the consultation of but a single dusty tome.... one moment.... From Dream Makers Volume II, "An Interview with Jack Vance" by Charles Platt (1983). Presumably this is "The Quote" to which you refer so dismissively:

"One of the things I read was the old Weird Tales magazine, which published Clark Ashton Smith. He was one of the generative geniuses of fantasy...Smith is a little clumsy at times, but at least his prose is always readable.

"When I wrote my first fantasies, I was no longer aware of Smith--it had sunk so far into my subconscious. But when it was pointed out to me, I could very readily see the influence."

Sooooooo, not too sure with whom you're so angry. Neither I nor Vance is insulting CAS or disregarding his work entirely. Apparently Vance was captivated enough by CAS's stories to be influenced by them significantly, and I certainly didn't intend to impugn Smith's writing, merely contrast his style with those of HPL and Vance, among others. I'm posting on a CAS fan site, and own a number of cherished small press treasures by the man, and in particular admire his prose poems and certain stories greatly. To argue that CAS wasn't "clumsy at times" seems an uphill climb to me. If anything Vance is damning with faint praise, while I have actual objections to some of CAS's work.

Being a CAS fan doesn't force me to believe he's the second coming of Shakespeare. That the mildest of critical comparisons between another author and CAS would send you into such a fit of apoplexy is regrettable. One wonders what manner of reaction pointing out that Jack Vance used his thesaurus like an enchanted spice rack, employing its precious contents judiciously to bring his literary cooking to perfect balance, while CAS appears to have had a penchant for copying entire pages from it, would elicit.

And "hack"? Really? They both wrote for money, to the specific requirements of the markets and editors to which they sold. The worst of Vance's output (some of the early "gadget stories") is bad enough if at least always workmanlike, but no worse than Smith's, which could be sheer drudgery at times (we can debate the merits of individual stories if you like, but suffice to say both penned some duds). If there is any difference in their "hackery", it is that Jack Vance was a consummate professional who consciously set out to write adventure fiction as a career, where CAS was a shiftless dreamer who we'd only have a handful of self-published poems from had he not been forced to turn to fiction.

There is worse company than Zelazny, though I think Vance is superior. I have no clue who "Cook" is. Captain? You think Vance would be unknown but for Gygax's charity? Please. More like the other way around. Gygax's writing style, the D&D magic system, and a number of other "Dungeons and Dragons" tropes are cribbed straight out of Vance's playbook.

Oh, and if I haven't mentioned it enough already, I'm a CAS fan. And an HPL fan. And a Hodgson fan.

I have to ask if you've even read Vance? and if so, what? With any author there're wrong places to start, and maybe you did.



Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 11 Jun 18 | 02:53PM by Radovarl.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Zabdamar (IP Logged)
Date: 13 June, 2018 06:55AM
Thanks for the quote and citation Radovarl, but that wasn’t the quote I was referring to. You said in your post that Vance said that Smith was a: “terrible writer” which closely matches the quote that I had in mind and have seen bandied about the net. Here is the quote in its entirety:

“Then there was Clark Ashton Smith who wrote for Weird Tales and who had a wild imagination. He wasn’t a very talented writer but his imagination was wonderful”.

THIS is the quote I take exception to. The quote you produced from Dream Makers is tangental and perfectly fine. Vance labelling Smith as a ‘genius’ is adequate and appropriate praise, and him saying that Smith could be “clumsy at times” is no great slight, and a generalisation that could be applied to any author.

You’ve come to a CAS fan site, of which there are few, and labelled him an “undisciplined mess”, I would’ve thought it common sense to anticipate some pushback? Unlike many fans of weird fiction who are first and foremost acolytes of HPL or Howard, and come to Smith merely to round out the triumvirate, I am a genuine CAS aficionado, and I make no apologies for ‘defending the turf’ so to speak. If I were to visit a Jack Vance fan site and declare him an “undisciplined mess”, I would expect some fiery rebuttals, as you should here.

Your point regarding the ‘thesaurus’ is apposite though not in the manner you intended. I could imagine the ‘journeyman’ writer, Jack Vance doing that very thing while he worked dutifully on a craft that he had a modest amount of talent for. Writing and consulting the thesaurus as he wrote, looking for the right word like a plumber looking for the appropriate wrench. Contrast this with CAS who was a veritable genius, and worked directly from memory, a mystic channeling rather than contriving. The man had a command of English vocabulary unparalleled in modern literature (and even taught himself multiple foreign languages and translated many French and Spanish works). I cite the testimony of George Haas, who said that when he queried CAS about his remarkable vocabulary, Smith replied that when he was young he had simply gone through an unabridged dictionary and learnt all the words even down to their Sanskrit origins. Joshi amongst others also speaks of Smith’s eidetic memory.
This is the nub of the affair. There are a myriad of writers but only so much time to devote to reading, and Jack Vance was a tradesman at best and hack at worst. Contrast this with Smith who was a bonafide literary genius across multiple formats. ’The Hashish-Eater/The Apocalypse of Evil’, by itself, invalidates anything penned by Vance.
You say ‘shiftless dreamer’, I say inspired genius. If some workmanlike ethic is your barometer for artistic merit, then we may as well toss out the lions share of great artists across the ages. All the depressives, opium eaters, ether drinkers, alcoholics, suicidal men and women of genius…OUT!

Zelazny is garbage and I would agree that Vance is superior though that is no great distinction. (BTW I was referring to Glen Cook whose ‘Black Company’ gets praise but is barely readable.)

My Vance library is extensive, but in all honestly the only story of his that I thought carried any merit was ‘Eyes of the Overworld’. I’ve encountered nothing else of his beyond the mediocre.

The other authors you cite are all legitimate artists and worthy of praise. Even Hodgson, who in terms of sporadic clumsiness exceeds anyone heretofore discussed, was a genius in his own right. ‘House on the Borderlands’ is pure visionary art, a numinous work. Even ‘The Night Land’, despite its shortcomings, is an original, transcendent work. A legitimate work. There is nothing in Vance’s canon that comes close to its originality or profundity.

You are mistaken about Gygax. Granted that certain idiosyncrasies would be missing from D&D sans Vance, but the game would’ve rolled on, just with a different flavour. The game can sustain itself without ‘prismatic spray’ and ‘imprisonment’, and though the magic system would be different who can say if it would be better or worse? Incidentally there is much debate in the community about the merits of the Vancian system (I am actually a proponent) and as far as Gygax’s writing style is concerned, that is no point of praise for Jack. High Gygaxian is distinctive but it is rarely good. In fact aside from the description of the ‘Vault of the Drow’ I can’t recall anything redeeming by Gary as a writer.
Make no mistake, whilst Gygax was undeniably influenced by Vance, that influence was not integral to the game itself. I’ll go as far as wagering that Vance would’ve gained more readers from Gygax’s endorsement than from any other means. Gygax made Vance, not the other way around.

But I digress, if you have any recommendations of Vance then by all means let me know and I’ll check them out. In the meantime I’ll keep flying the flag.



Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 13 Jun 18 | 07:27AM by Zabdamar.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Radovarl (IP Logged)
Date: 13 June, 2018 08:16AM
Ah, I've seen that quote too, and it is indeed a little more dismissive of CAS's work, though not untrue. I have that one around somewhere too, but I couldn't presently be bothered to include the citation, so your "skepticism" can flourish without fear of disconfirmation.

Anyone can read the dictionary and garner a large active vocabulary, even with (gasp) many words that have Latin roots. It doesn't make one a genius, it makes one an auto-didact, with all of the attendant shortcoming educating oneself brings, including the kinds of gaping holes in knowledge and unevenness in tone we see in Smith. I myself read the dictionary cover-to-cover as a child, along with the encyclopedia, and as you can see I'm hardly a genius, what with my lack of slavish devotion to your idol and my lack of receptiveness to being overawed by your superior arguments.

My estimation of Zelazny has declined over the years, but mostly because re-reading his sixties and seventies work I find I'm dealing with the world's least self-conscious sexist pig. The view of women on display in the Amber series, for instance, is something akin to that of a 40-year-old virgin with mother issues. I didn't notice so much when I was 15 as I do now at fifty. "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" and some of his other early short work is sheer brilliance, though.

Eyes of the Overworld? Really? Wow, if you were trying to find the Vance work with the least merit, you've hit the jackpot. Talk about sexist? If Vance could be accused of misogyny, his Cugel stories would be the sole necessary piece of evidence. I've lost count of how many rapes that bastard commits in the two relatively short novels where he's showcased. The Vance I admire is the one who wrote Emphyrio and Night Lamp, "The Moon Moth" and "The Miracle Workers" among others. I don't claim that Vance is a "genius" or that he's perfect. My initial post was about cherishing each of these authors for what they offer, while not being blinded to their shortcomings, not to cut down on anyone in particular. I have plenty of criticisms of Vance. One is that his longer work is essentially "plotless" (I think one can see this as a sort of feature, but that's another discussion). His fascination with sexual assault is another. We all enjoy different aspects of these writers' fiction for different reasons.

No wonder this site is dead. With calonlan gone, I thought the preening pseudo-intellectual prickliness might dissipate. Apparently not. Being an uncritical fanboy is fine, but overcompensating for whatever your personal inadequacies are by using it as a basis for "defending" your pet writer is silly. Smith's output is uneven at best, a bit of a mess at times, and I see no particular reason why that should be controversial. Jack Vance was a living embodiment of mid-twentieth century American individualist ideology, with all of the cultural nonsense that entails. But I certainly have no intention of bandying words with the likes of you any longer. Fuck off.

Whoever is in charge of this dumpster fire, please remove my registration.

That is all.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Zabdamar (IP Logged)
Date: 13 June, 2018 09:01PM
Radovarl Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Ah, I've seen that quote too, and it is indeed a
> little more dismissive of CAS's work, though not
> untrue. I have that one around somewhere too, but
> I couldn't presently be bothered to include the
> citation, so your "skepticism" can flourish
> without fear of disconfirmation.
>
> Anyone can read the dictionary and garner a large
> active vocabulary, even with (gasp) many words
> that have Latin roots. It doesn't make one a
> genius, it makes one an auto-didact, with all of
> the attendant shortcoming educating oneself
> brings, including the kinds of gaping holes in
> knowledge and unevenness in tone we see in Smith.
> I myself read the dictionary cover-to-cover as a
> child, along with the encyclopedia, and as you can
> see I'm hardly a genius, what with my lack of
> slavish devotion to your idol and my lack of
> receptiveness to being overawed by your superior
> arguments.
>
> My estimation of Zelazny has declined over the
> years, but mostly because re-reading his sixties
> and seventies work I find I'm dealing with the
> world's least self-conscious sexist pig. The view
> of women on display in the Amber series, for
> instance, is something akin to that of a
> 40-year-old virgin with mother issues. I didn't
> notice so much when I was 15 as I do now at fifty.
> "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" and some of his other
> early short work is sheer brilliance, though.
>
> Eyes of the Overworld? Really? Wow, if you were
> trying to find the Vance work with the least
> merit, you've hit the jackpot. Talk about sexist?
> If Vance could be accused of misogyny, his Cugel
> stories would be the sole necessary piece of
> evidence. I've lost count of how many rapes that
> bastard commits in the two relatively short novels
> where he's showcased. The Vance I admire is the
> one who wrote Emphyrio and Night Lamp, "The Moon
> Moth" and "The Miracle Workers" among others. I
> don't claim that Vance is a "genius" or that he's
> perfect. My initial post was about cherishing
> each of these authors for what they offer, while
> not being blinded to their shortcomings, not to
> cut down on anyone in particular. I have plenty
> of criticisms of Vance. One is that his longer
> work is essentially "plotless" (I think one can
> see this as a sort of feature, but that's another
> discussion). His fascination with sexual assault
> is another. We all enjoy different aspects of
> these writers' fiction for different reasons.
>
> No wonder this site is dead. With calonlan gone,
> I thought the preening pseudo-intellectual
> prickliness might dissipate. Apparently not.
> Being an uncritical fanboy is fine, but
> overcompensating for whatever your personal
> inadequacies are by using it as a basis for
> "defending" your pet writer is silly. Smith's
> output is uneven at best, a bit of a mess at
> times, and I see no particular reason why that
> should be controversial. Jack Vance was a living
> embodiment of mid-twentieth century American
> individualist ideology, with all of the cultural
> nonsense that entails. But I certainly have no
> intention of bandying words with the likes of you
> any longer. Fuck off.
>
> Whoever is in charge of this dumpster fire, please
> remove my registration.
>
> That is all.

You give a fool enough rope and he'll hang himself, and Radovarl you have done just that.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 13 Jun 18 | 09:21PM by Zabdamar.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 24 June, 2018 01:12PM
I will attempt to pull out this nasty hook that seems to have stalled the forum, by saying (even though it is off topic), for whatever it's worth, that during my recent move from our old house I spontaneously packed down my C. A. Smith books together with my Jack Vance books in the same box. My Lovecraft books went down in a box together with Dunsany and Hodgson.

I tend to pair CAS and Vance together. They have a similar mood and sardonic humour. I agree that Smith's writing is more of mystical genius, while Vance be more of expert craftsman and tradesman. But Vance at best is also a great Artist, and a few of his fantasies are like intellectually sophisticated further developments from Smith. My greatest problem though with some of Vance's novels is that the fantasy element is just a small part, and the rest is bloated human dialogue, drama, and endlessly repeated intrigue and negotiations over money and other materialistic concerns, which is a waste of at least my time. Smith is more spiritually ecstatic and obsessive in his artistic vision (not caring so much about being socially acceptable for the market), than Vance usually allows himself (or is interested enough) to be.

Re: stylistic consideration of Zealia Bishop's "The Mound"
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 24 June, 2018 10:40PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I will attempt to pull out this nasty hook that
> seems to have stalled the forum, by saying (even
> though it is off topic), for whatever it's worth,
> that during my recent move from our old house I
> spontaneously packed down my C. A. Smith books
> together with my Jack Vance books in the same box.
> My Lovecraft books went down in a box together
> with Dunsany and Hodgson.
>
> I tend to pair CAS and Vance together. They have a
> similar mood and sardonic humour. I agree that
> Smith's writing is more of mystical genius, while
> Vance be more of expert craftsman and tradesman.
> But Vance at best is also a great Artist, and a
> few of his fantasies are like intellectually
> sophisticated further developments from Smith. My
> greatest problem though with some of Vance's
> novels is that the fantasy element is just a small
> part, and the rest is bloated human dialogue,
> drama, and endlessly repeated intrigue and
> negotiations over money and other materialistic
> concerns, which is a waste of at least my time.
> Smith is more spiritually ecstatic and obsessive
> in his artistic vision (not caring so much about
> being socially acceptable for the market), than
> Vance usually allows himself (or is interested
> enough) to be.

I think that may be one of the most accurate comparisons I've seen of the two. Nicely put.



Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
Top of Page