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Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 8 November, 2019 05:29PM
I can recommend the Fontana Books of Great Ghost Stories, volumes 1 - 8, which were edited by Robert Aickman. These books have a great variety of high quality supernatural stories, by many different authors, all selected by Aickman.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 10 November, 2019 07:50AM
I took the trivial statistical effort of counting all the authors in those 8 volumes, and the number ended at 77.

Robert Aickman was well-read. I also learned at Wikipedia that Aickman was a longstanding member of the Society for Psychical Research and The Ghost Club, so I will have to admit being overly hasty and perhaps reevaluate my earlier comment about him not having any actual belief in the supernatural.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 11 November, 2019 01:29PM
Knygatin, I know of no reason to doubt that Aickman read widely and deeply in the field, and that the selections are indeed his. However, his name as editor doesn't guarantee that. There are anthologies attributed to famous people (e.g. Alfred Hitchcock), but the real work of reading and at least preliminary selection was done by others (eg. Robert Arthur). Aickman wasn't famous like Hitchcock, of course.

It would be interesting to know how those Fontana books were, in fact, assembled. Could be that Aickman did the work all by himself. Maybe friends who knew of his interest helped him by pointing out stories, etc.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 15 November, 2019 03:14PM
Well, I have read some more stories by Bradbury ("Jack-in-the-Box", "In a Season of Calm Weather", "The Dwarf", "And the Rock Cried Out" etc.) and I must say I am not impressed by him at all ... One of the stories, "The Garbage Collector", is really good, but the rest of is not worth its salt. (at least in my case). Maybe I am not "tuned" properly to fully appreciate works by good old Ray.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 15 November, 2019 03:34PM
Minicthulhu Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Well, I have read some more stories by Bradbury
> ("Jack-in-the-Box", "In a Season of Calm Weather",
> "The Dwarf", "And the Rock Cried Out" etc.) and I
> must say I am not impressed by him at all ... One
> of the stories, "The Garbage Collector", is really
> good, but the rest of is not worth its salt. (at
> least in my case). Maybe I am not "tuned" properly
> to fully appreciate works by good old Ray.


I think Bradbury is a lot about a romantic sense of the past. The weird is secondary to this. He was a conservative. If you can tune into that, you will find he is gold.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 15 November, 2019 03:46PM
And Bradbury is all in the details of descriptions! He is very exact! Brilliant! That is what you must look for.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 17 November, 2019 05:35PM
Opinions on the following Tolkien books?

The Children of Húrin
Beren and Lúthien
The Fall of Gondolin


The texts in these books are patched together from Tolkien's various uncompleted manuscripts.

I registered as a member at the Barrowdowns forum, to ask for a little more details about these books. But for some reason the moderators would not allow me to become a full member by activating my account, and neither did they reply to my reminders to them about this, and so, because of this I cannot post on that forum.
According to a Barrowdowns discussion thread, the second and third book contain nothing new that cannot already be found in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The History of Middle-Earth. But the state of the first book appears less clear, of whether it contains anything new by J. R. R. Tolkien, or not. It does contain additions to the text by Tolkien's son, Christopher Tolkien, filled in to make the story flow better, compensating for missing parts, making the story complete. In principle I don't object to this, since J. R. R. Tolkien gave his permission for his son to do this. But personally I would prefer the adventurous exploration of reading the story from Tolkien's original manuscripts, present inside the earlier publications, piecing together the story, although it be incomplete. On a second reading, I would read the full The Children of Húrin, for comparison.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 17 November, 2019 06:25PM
I'm glad that you, Knygatin, mention these books in the context of this thread, because the first two, at least, show Tolkien's weird imagination at work. The Beren and Luthien story is pretty close to sword-and-sorcery; I don't say it IS sword-and-sorcery since the treatment is different from that which we would expect a writer of S&S to use. For example, if the story were written by a typical writer of S&S, Beren might have espied Luthien dancing nude or in filmy garments, and there would be more emphasis on blood when the hound Huan and the wolf Carcharoth are tearing at each other. But the weird element should appeal to S&S readers. In The Children of Hurin, there are also horror-elements enough, e.g. the father compelled from a high viewpoint to watch what happens to his son, and the ravages of the dragon.

As I recall, one of Howard's stories, "The Valley of the Worm," is (it is suggested) represented as being the origin, in the distant past, of the Sigurd-and-the-dragon story (which so captivated the young Tolkien). I'd like to think that Howard would have been intrigued even by the suggestion in Tolkien's Beren and Luthien legend that here is the real origin of the Rapunzel story.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 17 Nov 19 | 06:25PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 24 November, 2019 08:07AM
I very much look forward to The Children of Húrin and the other two in HoME. I have only sporadically dipped in, and a single line of Tolkien's wisdom concerning language or of some lush metaphor, can be very rewarding and lift my spirit into an exalted condition.

I like both the S&S style of Howard or Leiber and Tolkien's more conservative outlook (should we say "prudish", although I think it's really more about having a different focus of interest). I am not shocked or offended by an opulent richness of imaginary details, of visual forms and colors, or by naked flesh. As long as it is good art painted with dynamic representations. If it is bad/false art, then I am bothered.

I don't think Howard and Tolkien are much comparable in a meaningful sense. The only things they have in common are the use of faux historical settings, and the expert handling of big armies and war scenes. A concern with racial/cultural belonging. All set in markedly different fantasies. Otherwise they have nothing in common. Completely different artistic perspectives. I don't like to compare them, they require very different scales of excellency.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 25 November, 2019 10:17AM
Yes, there isn't a lot of point in comparing Howard and Tolkien -- except that, for some of us who aren't so young as we used to be, that's almost an inevitability. Tolkien, Howard, and Lovecraft were all authors whose fiction fascinated me at an impressionable age. (I suppose I began to read Tolkien when I was 11, and Lovecraft and Howard when I was 14.) Coinciding with one's developing self-awareness as regards other areas, one might well compare and contrast them. (Similarly, I remember conversations with a fellow Marvel comics fan aboutthe merits of or lack thereof of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, etc.)

Another reason people of my age might discuss Tolkien and Howard was.... that publishers did that for a while:

[tolkienandfantasy.blogspot.com]

[tolkienandfantasy.blogspot.com]


You seem to have hesitated over the word "prudish" to describe Tolkien's depiction of sexuality. I'd hesitate to use it, too, because it connotes someone whose attitude to sexuality is defective on account of embarrassment or shame. I don't really think that most people reading Tolkien get that impression; I don't think they get the impression that he was ashamed of sexual feelings in himself or others, didn't like to be reminded of sexuality as evident in bodies, was embarrassed by the thought of sexual intercourse.

A reader today might have to make an extra imaginative effort because he would expect Beren and Luthien to go to bed together prior to Beren winning Luthien by fulfilling her father's demands; but for them to have physically consummated their love on the sly, or in defiance of Luthien's father, would have cheapened themselves and their love and their sexuality. They are noble people, as most of Tolkien's good characters are, and nobility implies living according to a code of ethics that, among other things, prizes sexuality and raises it above the animal level. In our society, you are supposed to grant that people possess personal integrity on whatever terms they wish; how dare you insinuate (in our society) that a boy lacks integrity if he has sexual relations with half the girls in his high school, or criticize those girls who include him in the stable of their partners? But Tolkien is working with a code, or rather two codes, that would look down on such behavior. The first code is that of Christian ethics. The second is that of chivalry, the aristocratic ideal. The former code regards sexual activity outside the marriage of man and woman as sinful, and the latter regards promiscuity as worthy of thralls and the like -- the people who do the dirty work, who are illiterate, who cannot govern themselves, who don't count. (I'm always struck, in Malory, by the bit in which Lancelot fights his fellow aristocrats with sword and spear, but when a peasant made a grab at him, he killed him by striking him with the back of his hand. You don't use your sword on rabble.) I don't think Tolkien holds this second code except in a very modified form. The hobbits save the world, and they are not aristocrats.

More in a moment.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 25 November, 2019 10:39AM
Now, about sexuality in Howard's stories. I have to say that I have read his Conan, Kull, Bran, and Solomon Kane stories (some of them many times), and some of his horror stories, but not his historicals, his fight stories, etc. In what I'm going to say I'm thinking of the Conans.

The main things that strike me about the sex in the Conan stories are how repetitive the scenarios are and how limited they are in what they deal with. The women are almost all interchangeable, and Howard almost always imagines only two aspects of sexual experience: the original excitement of seeing a beautiful and probably scantily-dressed woman; and the beginning of the first sexual embrace. In short it's rather masturbatory. Howard seems to have almost no notion of what it might be like to be actually living with a woman. There's the exception of Belit in "Queen of the Black Coast," but I'm not sure anyone will try to argue that Howard there exhibits much awareness of the range of experience involved in a genuine relationship.

Yes, I understand that Howard is writing adventure stories. He wants, in a few thousand words, to give the reader an intense (if brief) experience, a fantasy experience. The daily life together of Conan and Belit is "another story." So we don't fault Howard for not including "domestic" scenes, or reporting the pillow talk of Conan and Belit. At the same time, I'm probably not the only one who suspects Howard couldn't have written about any aspect of their lives together except the aspects he depicts.

Howard never deals with the real-world issues that might have come up if Conan had been a real person. For example, suppose Conan, while cohabiting with Belit, had seen some other woman who attracted him a lot? What would have happened?

The issue (that word now becomes a pun) that has often occurred to me over the years is: supposing Conan to have been fertile, he must have left a lot of bastards scattered around the Hyborian world. What about them? he seems to inhabit an adolescent's fantasy-world of endless sex but in which women never become pregnant -- of unchecked sexual gratification without consequences.

We never see Conan, in one story, remembering a woman from one of the other stories -- or anything else from the other stories, I suppose. The Hyborian world of Howard's imagination is thoroughly adolescent. That, of course, is a lot of the reason why some of us relished these stories when we were boys. It is a world without limits on the individual's will: one in which his eyes light upon a conveyor-belt of exciting experiences for him to pluck in turn.

Conan appeals to the young reader as someone who is always able to impose his will. If he wants to take that girl, he can and will. If he wants to fight that foe and beat him (or it), he will. The glittering prizes are always there and always winnable. Any wounds suffered in battle merely make it more interesting; one heals instantly. But, like the adolescent, Conan is basically passive, drifting from experience to experience without any real focus or purpose. His is a world really without love, without attachments of affection, friendship, or even eros. Conan doesn't yearn to be united, body and soul, with a woman. He just goes from sexual prize to sexual prize. For Howard, because Conan is always on the move, he never has to deal with adult responsibilities. And we never stop to think about any of the other characters, like that princess or whoever left holding the baby.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 25 November, 2019 11:51AM
As my experience with Tolkien is limited to his "Fellowship of the Ring" and his short stories (some of which may appeal to admirers of Smith's fantasies), I cannot contribute so much to the comparing of Howard and Tolkien, except that I think it is very much worth comparing the two, both being progenitors of very different yet also weirdly similar sub-genres of heroic fantasy.

What I can say is that as much as I enjoyed the Conan stories when I was still fresh out of high school, I have greater admiration for the Kull stories precisely because they are a little less like the adolescent fantasies of Conan, in which the unbound Conan can go about anywhere, slaying monsters and laying with wenches all over the place. Since the Kull stories almost always emphasize Kull as the king who is reluctantly yet dutifully tied to his throne, we get to explore him and his world a bit more thoughtfully. Of course he still has grand adventures, but there's a greater sense of responsibility and even tragedy in Kull. It's a shame Howard didn't do more with that setting, but I acknowledge the significance (and greater commercial value) of the Conan stories, even if they're no longer my tankard of ale.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 25 Nov 19 | 12:29PM by kojootti.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 25 November, 2019 11:54AM
I remember liking the Kull stories for similar reasons and should revisit them.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 25 November, 2019 02:56PM
Several good points Dale, and I agree with most of them. On the other hand, Conan was part of a prehistoric barbarian culture, long before Christian traditions. I am not saying that there weren't stable relationships back then, chivalry, nobility, honor, and codes of ethics, and Conan had some of these qualities, in his own rough cut way. The Vikings had such, and they were not Christians, they were proud pagans.
But it was never uncommon for strong, successful, and attractive persons to have several sexual partners. It does cause instable societies however, if such behavior is generally encouraged. Howard mentions, for the record, that Conan had several children by different women, but that none of them were suited successors to the throne of Aquilonia. He surely got his share of tragedy.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 25 Nov 19 | 02:58PM by Knygatin.

Re: A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 25 November, 2019 03:40PM
I thought I knew my Conan stories, Knygatin, but I don't know them all -- it must be decades since I read "The Hour of the Dragon." Is that the one you are referring to when you mention Conan reflecting that his children were not suited to the Aquilonian throne? or is it possible that was something de Camp or Carter added?

I was keeping my comments on Tolkien separated from those on Howard, and had nothing to say about Christian beliefs in my comments on the latter. I don't criticize Howard for his lack of Christian morals. But I do try to describe what it's actually like to read Howard when he is writing about Conan and women.

I said that Howard's world is one without love. Thanks in large part, though not exclusively, to the influence of Christian tradition -- which elevated the status of women* in the Greco-Roman world -- our culture has tended to focus on men and women in stories of love. Howard doesn't attempt to depict the love of man and woman in its affective aspect but only its physical, and that almost never in anyway except at the beginning, i.e., in his view, the moment of "conquest."

But also, and I think this is interesting, he doesn't pick up the Classical emphasis on the love of men for men. By this I don't mean physical homosexuality, but rather a kind of romantic friendship based on their belonging to the same aristocratic rank and their appreciation each of the other's accomplishments as warriors. In ancient literature this kind of love might be emphasized more than the love of man and woman. (I'm leaving aside the topic of the warrior's possible affection for his catamite boy.)

Again -- Howard's Conan stories evoke an adolescent sense of sexuality, from a boy's point of view; and his imaginary world is one without love. By the way, I'm not saying that I'm sure love has been important and evident in all societies, although there must, at least, have been some parental or at least maternal affection for small children to be able to survive. After several decades, perhaps, of exposure to the outside world, the Ik whom Colin Turnbull described may have acquired a capacity for love that they didn't have before. I haven't read more than a few words about all that.

Conan comes across as amoral, which of course could be believable of some individual. The thing about Howard's adolescent-type fantasy is that Conan always gets away with it, and we never see anyone hurt by his amorality. That's a bigger fantasy than the giant apes and serpents....

*See the Classicist Sarah Ruden's illuminating book Paul Among the People.

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