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Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 25 March, 2019 03:01PM
Wow!!!

Thanks a lot! :^

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2019 01:42PM
I am glad to say I am feeling much better now, after a week's convalescence. The doctor told me, after long talks, that I suffered from a mental overstrain, and recommended outdoor walks (at first accompanied by one of the pretty nurses, in the park behind the hospital) and other wholesome mundane activities. But told me to stay away from fantastic literature. Of course, I will not, and cannot, obey his last order. ... ;)

Recently I have read my first book ever by Philip K. Dick, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Lem's Solaris (translated by Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox), and in-between a few stories by Robert Aickman.

The Three Stigmata ... was rather well written. Dick is especially good with flowing dialogue (he was obviously a very social person). But I thought the book used too much focus on drugs and its negative effects, and on career striving, using science fiction more as a superficial setting tool. However, the early introduction of Palmer Eldritch was very evocative and suggestive of the possible mental changes in him after having visited and lived for ten years in a distant star system; and I was hoping for a weird re-visit and re-exploration there. But towards the end of the book his identity turns out too exaggerated and silly, with traditional sci-fi space-opera tropes, to be convincing. I will read more by PKD!

Solaris is partly written as a story, but in structure feels much as a treatise, with references to academic documents, searchings through multiple-volumed tomes in libraries, conflicting theories and ongoing arguments between scientists of different schools. It affirms that Lem in real life was academically schooled and a doctor of medicine. It is a very good book indeed, taking quite a serious literary approach, with many well thought through weird and fantastic elements on beautiful display. It has some action, but is also a very intellectual philosophical book. Some sections of it appear now as blanks to me, and that may be a blessing, ....

My favorites by Robert Aickman are still "The Wine-Dark Sea" and "The Swords", the first two stories I read. But after those I have been mildly disappointed. His stories are not clearly about supernatural phenomena (he can not hold a light to Blackwood, M. R. James, or to Walter de la Mare, for example, in this regard), although I have seen a few good ghosts in his stories; they are more concerned with socially dysfunctional individuals, and seem to deliberately introduce grotesque symbolical elements simply for the effect of driving home a psychological analytical point. The stories lack the mystical quality of the other mentioned authors; they are instead psychological, and therefore much more materialistic/worldly. In "The Inner Room" for example, which seems to be his most celebrated story by fans, I was really excited at the beginning, and waiting eagerly for the weird inner room of the doll-house to finally be exposed; instead it proved to be just a symbol for the girl's inner repressed psyche. That was really disappointing, ... and mundane.
Anyway, that is my personal impression of his work.
But "The Wine-Dark Sea" was a beautiful story. I will stick with him for a while longer, for I am still curious what more he has in store.


Next I will amend for my youth's sin of not reading Robert E. Howard's Conan tales. (But on the other hand I did read all of Kull, Bran Mak Morn, and Solomon Kane.) I made the same mistake (but much more serious I believe) with E. R. Burroughs, when I chose to read his Venus tales instead of his Barsoom tales!
So now I will go on marathon read with all of Howard's Conan tales, in the beautiful volume The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Centenary Edition! I hope my interest will keep up all the way. Generally I am bored by action adventures, but I know that Howard had deeper qualities sparkling in his prose, and at his very best he was at least/or nearly the equal of Lovecraft and CAS.

But first, for relaxation, a small short-story, "The Smell of Evil" by Charles Birkin.

P.S. The edition of Conan I have uses the texts from the original publications in Weird Tales, which are regarded as much much purer than L. Sprague de Camp's later heavily edited paperback versions. But there has also been another Conan edition (Wandering Star/ Del Rey) drawing directly from Howard's original manuscripts. Does anyone here know the nature of the edits in the original magazine versions, compared to the manuscripts? Were they minor and formal, or were they perhaps political, with excessive language and sections censured?

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2019 02:56PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> P.S. The edition of Conan I have uses the texts
> from the original publications in Weird Tales,
> which are regarded as much much purer than L.
> Sprague de Camp's later heavily edited paperback
> versions. But there has also been another Conan
> edition (Wandering Star/ Del Rey) drawing directly
> from Howard's original manuscripts. Does anyone
> here know the nature of the edits in the original
> magazine versions, compared to the manuscripts?
> Were they minor and formal, or were they perhaps
> political, with excessive language and sections
> censured?

So many of R.E. Howard's stories are public domain that there is always going to be a temptation to revise them for reasons of renewed copyright.

Whether there would be any actual excuse for reverting to manuscript, in R.E. Howard's case, I do not know.

My general prejudice is towards treating the published version as the final draft and the manuscript as an early draft. On the other hand, it is possible that Howard was strong-armed by evil editors, and accepted their suggested edits with gritted teeth and tears in his eyes. But rather unlikely, I'd say. It was probably more cooperative than that.

I know that WEIRD TALES versions of HPL's stories were remarkably faithful. Differences between published version and manuscript often resulted, not from editorial interference, but from HPL making additional edits after asking to see the proofs.

I'm not sure if they had a different relationship with REH.

The only Conan story I have an opinion about is "The Gods of the North" a/k/a "The Frost Giant's Daughter". There are a number of different versions and edits. The only version that can really claim to be authorized by REH is "The Gods of the North", since that was the version published in Howard's life. Of course, no-one ever wanted to use that version, because REH threw it directly into the public domain by sending it to a fanzine, after WEIRD TALES rejected it.

WEIRD TALES was REH's market for his Conan stories, and he did not want to step on their toes, so he changed the title to "The Gods of the North", and had Conan use an alias. Of course, any attentive Conan reader would have already known that "Amra of Akbitana" was just one of Conan's many aliases. I can understand the temptation to restore his original chosen title, and edit Conan's name back in. But it is really not necessary. The story is fine as is.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2019 03:34PM
Today I finished a short book called “Newton´s Brain“ by Jakub Arbes. It is a satire, dull and very boring, about a guy who was killed in The Battle of Königgrätz (1866), but what is very interesting about the story is the last few chapters are about a strange mechanical and electrical device that can travel faster than light so when it reaches some distant point in space, those aboard can see the past. It was written in 1877 so I wonder if it could be the first example of a time machine used in literature.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2019 04:03PM
Interesting input Platypus, thank you. The different versions of "The Frost Giant's Daughter" is mentioned briefly in the afterword of the book I have. Wright wrote Howard, telling him he didn't care much for the tale, and so rejected it. The version in my book is not the same that was later published in 1953, but this one is copyright 1976 by Glenn Lord, said to be the last published version "as left by Howard before his death". So I assume Howard also kept the original Conan version manuscript, after his rewrite.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2019 11:04AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Solaris is partly written as a story, but ...


So, today I finished Solaris. At last. I read a lot of positive reviews about it before I got to reading it so it may be that I expected too much; the fact is the book made no great impression on me. Of course, one can find a lot of fascinating things about Solaris (the descriptions of what the inteligent ocean can do, how it can reconstruct human memories into strange inanimate objects and living forms etc.), but most of the book was incredibly boring. In actual fact, there were places so dull, so tedious, I caught myself thinking about something else in reading them, a thing so rare with me … Chiefly, the never-ending, pseudo-scientific treatises, full of technical terms that were above my head, and the uselessly long dialogues between Kris and Harvey (and other members of the station, for that matter) with nothing going on for several pages, got really on nerves. Solaris is probably not a book I will read again and I must say that 1960s sci-fi has not gone down well with me so far because cca. two months ago I happened to read a short story collection by Clifford. D. Simak from the same period (1955-1960) and it left a lot to be desired like Solaris (1961) did. Slight disappointment.

P.S. I must say that in reading Solaris I sometimes felt very sorry for the translators because to translate such a text from a Slavic language into English must have been a real martyrdom. :-)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 7 Apr 19 | 11:05AM by Minicthulhu.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2019 03:17PM
Minicthulhu Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So, today I finished Solaris. At last.
> ... most of the book was
> incredibly boring. In actual fact, there were
> places so dull, so tedious, I caught myself
> thinking about something else in reading them, a
> thing so rare with me … Chiefly, the
> never-ending, pseudo-scientific treatises, full of
> technical terms that were above my head, and the
> uselessly long dialogues ...
> got really on nerves.

Hmm, ... while there was not much action (or 'echun' as Lovecraft and CAS would have put it) in the physical sense, it is full of "inner" action, intellectual and philosophical, and also has plenty of detailed descriptive observations of interesting phenomena (which also displayed an aesthetic sense in the author for beauty of form and color, to a remarkably high degree, I think. At times reminding me of both Smith and Lovecraft, and Vance.). Plus much of social and existential insights.
I think it is one of the best science fiction books I have read.
This shows how our brains perceive and appreciate things differently, partly probably from inborn leanings, but also from gradually built up previous experiences and references that define what we personally find meaningful.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2019 03:36PM
I assume you read the same English translation of Solaris that I did. It has been translated more than once, with different results. It is also a book that requires patience, ... I looked up all the technical terms I did not understand, and read about them until I did understand; that way the reading experience naturally becomes richer.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2019 04:06PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I assume you read the same English translation of
> Solaris that I did.

I read a Czech translation of the book from 1971. To read the book with so many technical terms in English would be a suicide. :-)

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2019 12:54AM
Minicthulhu Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> To read the book with so many technical terms in
> English would be a suicide. :-)

Not at all, not at all! A pleasure, and an honor to have it available in my hands! ;)


> I read a Czech translation of the book from 1971.

I think you are privileged then. I guess Czech and Polish are fairly similar, ... perhaps you can even understand each other in speech (and perhaps, all the way down to Hungary and Romania)?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 8 Apr 19 | 12:58AM by Knygatin.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2019 03:11AM
The languages (Czech and Polish) are similar in some respects but people do not understand each other. And Romanian and Hungarian languages are totally different from Czech language, like English is different from Italian or Portuguese.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Avoosl Wuthoqquan (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2019 09:39AM
Minicthulhu Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> P.S. I must say that in reading Solaris I
> sometimes felt very sorry for the translators
> because to translate such a text from a Slavic
> language into English must have been a real
> martyrdom. :-)

Translators of literature are gluttons for punishment. Most of us tend to enjoy wrestling with linguistic problems and doing a bit of research every now and then, not unlike lovers of cryptic crosswords. Couldn't get the job done otherwise. It's not a line of work you get into for the big bucks or the groupies. :)

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