Goto Thread: PreviousNext
Goto:  Message ListNew TopicSearchLog In
Goto Page: Previous12All
Current Page: 2 of 2
Re: The "Cthulhu Mythose" Stories That Matter
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 2 April, 2019 11:44AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Similarly, Dreams in the Witch House (DITWH) is
> thematically related to The Picture in the House;
> (PITH) these are, indeed, New England supernatural
> tales and no more.

I'm thinking maybe you need to re-read "Dreams in the Witch-House".

It includes, among other things, visits to other worlds, and a direct encounter with the Starhead Aliens from "At the Mountains of Madness". It also plays heavily with the idea that witchcraft may in fact be a form of alien science.

Re: The "Cthulhu Mythose" Stories That Matter
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 April, 2019 01:37PM
Here's something from Mythlore #1 (dated Jan. 1969), the journal of the Mythopoeic Society:

Mythlore, the quarterly journal of The Mythopoeic Society, is primarily interested in the fictional works of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. It is also interested in general aspects of fantasy and myth, by themselves and in relation to literature. Mythlore is also interested in other writers, who in some way are related to the three authors, such as George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, E. R. Eddison, Olaf Stapledon, Dorothy Sayers, William Morris, Arthur Machen, Owen Barfield, H. P. Lovecraft, to mention a few."

Also: "the word Mythopoeic is derived from myth and the Greek infinitive po-ein, which means to make, thus the word means to make myths or mythmaker."

Back in those days, you might see artwork by Tim Kirk illustrating Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Lovecraft in various fanzines.

Re: The "Cthulhu Mythose" Stories That Matter
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 2 April, 2019 02:56PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Platypus, my article took as its starting-point
> the musing of Glen Goodknight around 1969, that
> the Mythopoeic Society might concern itself not
> only with Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, &c, but even
> with Lovecraft.*

The Inklings were indebted to G.K. Chesterton, not so much because Chesterton was a great fantasist, but rather because Chesterton vigorously defended fantasy, and escapism, and mythmaking, as valuable and valid forms of art.

Chesterton did not view escapism as a solipsistic exercise. As he saw it, a person who indulged in escapism was analogous to a person trying to escape a prison, in search of something ultimately greater and more real than the prison walls in which he was trapped. It was not about the self-worship of the human imagination. That way, he would have said, lay madness. It was about reaching outside of oneself for something greater than oneself. He of course presented these ideas in the context of his Christian belief, which the Inklings shared. To him, fantasy was not or should not be a rejection of reality, but was fundamentally loyal to reality. Chesterton thought that it was everyone's duty to be a patriot, loyal to "the Flag of the World."

We see such ideas, for instance, in C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair, in the debate between Puddleglum et al. and the Emerald Queen. This debate can be read on many levels, but on one level, it is a debate about "escapism" between a jailer and her prisoners. This core idea -- this "joke" -- is one that Lewis took directly from Chesterton.

HPL and Chesterton were contemporaries. I doubt HPL read much Chesterton, and the one time I recall him mentioning Chesterton, he dismisses him with a sneer.

HPL was, in his own way, very much preoccupied with escapism. However, he was unable to put these ideas in the context of a Christian framework. For him, the lure for escapism, though perhaps healthy by itself, was also, under his materialist philosophy, logically, a lure towards solipsism. And of course, that way lies madness. HPL struggled with these contradictions in his fiction,, without, I suppose, ever fully resolving them. But one does see certain curious developments.

One of the most solipsitic of HPL's works is an early piece called "Celephais" (1922), wherein the hero, Kuranes, retreats from dreary reality into the world of dreams. This is, however, quickly followed by "Hypnos" (1923) where a retreat into dreams leads to horror and madness.

Similar (sort of) to Celephais, is "The Silver Key" (written 1926, published 1929), where Randolph Carter, the hero, retreats from dreary adulthood into the world of his boyish imagination. But HLP's later exploration of this issue suggest that, this too, is a dead end.

> My article was addressed to people versed in
> Tolkien and interested in the Inklings, and who
> might be interested in an assessment of Lovecraft
> as a creator of a "legendarium" somewhat as
> Tolkien was, though of much less scope and depth.

> It seemed to me that, in the four stories I
> identified, Lovecraft presented almost everything
> that matters for making the claim for him as a
> "mythopoeic" or "myth-making" author.

HPL was definitely infected, to some extent, with the world-building bug. He certainly did not carry it to Tolkien's extreme, but, on the other hand, I don't know why one would want to limit its scope by keeping it to four narrow works.

HPL was more inclined to expand his world-building, by incorporating by reference other works he liked, such as certain tales of R.E. Howard or Clark Ashton Smith or Robert Chambers. This was one way of rejecting the solipsism implied by "Celephais". He wanted his imaginary world to be something that was ultimately bigger than himself.

> And they
> are "mature" fictions" in the sense, on one hand,
> of showing him at the height of his powers as a
> maker of a "secondary world," and, on the other
> hand, of being less constrained by pulp horror
> fiction conventions or other limitations than he
> is in many of his stories.

HPL was never "restrained" by pulp fiction conventions. He might have been influenced, however, by the sort of stuff he enjoyed reading as a boy.

> I'm afraid that I found myself unable to complete
> a second reading of The Dream-Quest of Unknown
> Kadath a few years ago (the first having been when
> I was a teenager and would read anything by
> Lovecraft).

"The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" is ultimately a rejection the solipsism of "Celephais" and "The Silver Key". For one, the dream world is made so vast, that is is hard for the reader to imagine that it is all in Randolph Carter's head. One can suspend disbelief in this mystical realm, in a way one cannot do with the disappointing "Celephais".

During his quest, Carter meets Kuranes in his city of Celephais, and we learn that things have not worked out that well for Kuranes. This is a direct rejection of the implied solipsistic message of "Celephais".

Finally, the dream-quest leads Randolph to the brink of hell and madness. Carter ultimately saves himself by hurling himself off the Shantak, and falling to the green earth of New England below. Thus does Carter (and HPL) declare his allegiance to "the Flag of the World", as Chesterton might put it.

This reminded me strongly of a similar scene in Chesterton's "The Ball and the Cross", where a hero saves himself by leaping from Prof. Lucifer's flying machine, as it heads for the dark mad stars. I don't think HPL was influenced by the earlier book. But I still find the analogy striking.

> My impression is that few readers
> would contend for its being a "mature" work (or
> that Lovecraft would have).

"Dream Quest" certainly has transitional aspects to it, as far as his approach to "escapism" is concerned. IIRC it was the last thing he wrote in the "dream cycle", until E. Hoffman Price nudged him into writing a sequel to "The Silver Key". But the sequel, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", also sends Carter to hell and madness, and ends with him, perhaps unsuccessfully this time, trying to return to the green earth of New England.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2 Apr 19 | 03:03PM by Platypus.

Re: The "Cthulhu Mythose" Stories That Matter
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 April, 2019 05:39PM
Wow, Platypus, that's one of the richest replies I have ever received to anything I have posted. Thank you.

You incline me to revisit some of those earlier HPL stories with your thesis about escape in mind. Too bad you didn't have it to shop to Mythlore back in 1970!

There's a related notion that I have had in mind for a while. I think C. S. Lewis and Lovecraft both were confronted by an inner division in as young men. They loved realms of imagination -- their reading and writing was of enormous importance to them. At the same time, they believed in intellectual rigor. They wanted to accept the facts (as they understood them to be) about life that science had revealed. They had considerable ability to see the intellectual failings of other people. "Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless," Lewis wrote. Now isn't that exactly what Lovecraft might also have written? Lovecraft loved sunsets, antiquities, etc.; but he believed that these loves were ultimately nothing but effects of personal development and chance etc. on the "grey matter." They were -not- signs of transcendence.

From what I know of Lovecraft, he resolved the division between intellect's picture of cosmic meaninglessness and the charms of imagination basically by saying that he knew the latter meant nothing, finally, but they had their interest and personal meaning for him and so he would continue to enjoy them. Lewis resolved the matter as narrated in Surprised by Joy, or one could read "Yearning for a Far-Off Country" by Malcolm Guite in C. S. Lewis and His Circle (Oxford UP 2015) -- and this isn't really the place to go into that.

But this is part of that "escape" topic that you mention, which is so important for Lovecraft as, arguably, a mythopoeic author.

More to say later!

Re: The "Cthulhu Mythose" Stories That Matter
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2019 11:22AM
Platypus wrote, "HPL was definitely infected, to some extent, with the world-building bug. He certainly did not carry it to Tolkien's extreme, but, on the other hand, I don't know why one would want to limit its scope by keeping it to four narrow works."

I wanted to offer to readers a manageable corpus of Lovecraft stories according to which my contentions about Lovecraft could be evaluated, and those four works seemed representative of Lovecraft's mature achievement as writer. It's in those four stories, it seems to me, that Lovecraft elaborates his lost history most thoroughly.

In them, Lovecraft expresses the desire to survey depths of time and space and to communicate with other living creatures. It's his variation on something Tolkien writes about in "On Fairy-Stories."


Platypus also said, "HPL was never 'restrained' by pulp fiction conventions." Wasn't he? Don't we sometimes feel that he falls back on a pulp horror-story template because he doesn't know what else to do -- since there has to be *some* kind of narrative?

Here I would urge the reading of C. S. Lewis's "On Stories." Lewis says there that you sometimes get imaginative works in which the sequence of invented events is present since a story is the only way available to an author to try to catch or evoke something that, in its essence, isn't essentially narrative. He refers, as I recall, to William Morris and The Well at the World's End in this connection.

It would be interesting to press Lovecraft on this matter: *why* do you keep on writing horror stories? Does the horror story, with its buildup to a dyscatastrophic ending, really do everything you want to do as an author?

(Tolkien's essay talks about the "eucatastrophe," the joyous ending that evokes the reality often obscured by the dull film of familiarity, etc. Lovecraft's stories end with the narrator doomed and/or expecting the imminent doom of humanity, or with a drastically and downward-revised view of humanity, etc. Lewis's Perelandra climaxes in a vision of reality as a Great Dance, while Lovecraft's imagery suggests that things are really like an idiotic dance enacted in ungainly wise to the discordant sounds of moronic musicians.)

Re: The "Cthulhu Mythose" Stories That Matter
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2019 12:34PM
Hi, Dale.

Concerning this last part...

"...while Lovecraft's imagery suggests that things are really like an idiotic dance enacted in ungainly wise to the discordant sounds of moronic musicians."

A clear example would be the narrative in "Nyarlathotep", is this correct?

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

Re: The "Cthulhu Mythose" Stories That Matter
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2019 12:42PM
Certainly, Sawfish, or this:

"the ancient legends of Ultimate Chaos, at whose center sprawls the blind idiot god Azathoth, Lord of All Things, encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a demonic flute held in nameless paws" ("Haunter of the Dark")

Re: The "Cthulhu Mythose" Stories That Matter
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2019 02:03PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Certainly, Sawfish, or this:
>
> "the ancient legends of Ultimate Chaos, at whose
> center sprawls the blind idiot god Azathoth, Lord
> of All Things, encircled by his flopping horde of
> mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the
> thin monotonous piping of a demonic flute held in
> nameless paws" ("Haunter of the Dark")


Hah!

As I wrote my response this AM, there was in my mind a scene in a story whose name I could not remember. The specific image was of mindless piping as keyed by sub-human hands.

In short, it was the very fragment you have supplied.

Dale, I'm ill-prepared to exchange in any form of historic or academically critical analysis. While my degree was in English literature, it was taken nearly 50 years ago, and I was, and still am, fixated on the aesthetic effects achieved, and the techniques used to achieve them. More like appreciation than scholarship.

I may chime in from time-to-time, but I would be out of my depths in relation to your specific subject line.

Very enjoyable and informative posts!

(Hmmm.... Interesting thought just now...

CAS has a story in his Hyperborea cycle, The Seven Geases, in which the main character encounters the source of all creation (as I recall) and it is portrayed as chaotic, random, and primordial.

There is, too, a story called Ubbo-Sathla, and as I recall, it too is primordial and chaotic.

I think the concept is related to, but not congruent with, HPL's existential chaos.)

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

Re: The "Cthulhu Mythose" Stories That Matter
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2019 02:47PM
I've read those two CAS stories, Sawfish, but wouldn't be prepared to take that particular discussion farther.

Feel free to register at Science Fiction and Fantasy Chronicles Forums and to send me (Extollager) a private message there (since the moderator here hasn't linked us up so far), & I can get back to you with the Lovecraft-Inklings paper and the one on Lovecraft & Tolkien's Notion Club Papers.

[www.sffchronicles.com]

DN

Goto Page: Previous12All
Current Page: 2 of 2


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