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Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 April, 2020 12:28PM
Well, I have hunted for the list of stories that Sawfish posted probably in early February of this year to show the variety in Smith's tales, but I haven't found it. The only story I'd picked up, out of about five, for discussion had been "the Voyage of King Euvoran," in mid-February. Could Sawfish or someone else post that list here? It deserves a dedicated thread anyway. I apologize for my negligence.

DN

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 2 April, 2020 12:59PM
I do recall that "The Voyage of King Euvoran" did stand out to me as one of CAS's better stories, when I read it, some time back. I wish I had something more insightful to add, but at the moment, I do not.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 April, 2020 04:03PM
Not a problem, Dale.

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

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 April, 2020 04:12PM
Not much of a list, but:

It came to me that CAS's best work routinely employs such character attributes as dignity and nobility (e.g., The Witchcraft of Ulua, as per Sambon and the preceding "sage and archimage" whose name eludes me now), pathos (The Last Hieroglyph), bathos (The Voyage of King Euvoran) hubris (The Seven Geases), and other character traits found in classical sources.

I hope that everyone on ED is doing well.

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

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 April, 2020 04:12PM
Great! Thank you.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2 Apr 20 | 04:13PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2020 04:30PM
"The Witchcraft of Ulua" reminded me of the painters' renderings of the Temptation of St. Antony. The subject gave them the chance to depict the alluring and the extremely grotesque. The saint was protected by prayer and grace, young Amalzain by the amulet and the intervention of Sabmon, the sage. Smith hasn't felt the need to complicate the story. By the way, the original account, by St. Athanasius, is good reading. It's in the Paulist Press "Classics of Western Spirituality" series. Athanasius's Life of Antony is probably one of the foundational documents of Western civilization, really, but you don't see it mentioned in such lists.

That recent translation may be borrowed here:

[archive.org]

It may be read in an older rendering here:

[archive.org]

Was Smith consciously recalling that work? I wonder!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 3 Apr 20 | 04:31PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2020 09:44PM
"The Last Hieroglyph" reminded me of the movie The Incredible Shrinking Man, though they're not for most of the time very much alike, but the progression towards a strange destiny might be a little bit similar, though the movie ends (as I recall -- it's a while since I saw it, and I'm not sure I've seen it more than once) with wonder rather than a bleak consummation of the inevitable. It was interesting how Vergama is evidently the representative of air, the fourth element, what with the breath that blows the three journeyers (servant, dog, and astrologer) onto the book-page. That, in turn, reminded me of the line in one of Lovecraft's poems about how the "idiot Chaos blew Earth's dust away," If that's how it goes. However, Vergama is not an "idiot" and speaks to the astrologer with some courtesy, mitigating the bleakness. The astrologer had been hoodwinking his clients, it seems, but it didn't seem that his fate was presented as club-you-over-the-head poetic justice in the manner of some pulp stories.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2020 04:14PM
"The Seven Geases" seemed, to this, reader, a bit tedious, as an exercise in overkill. As it stands, it must depend for such success as it attains on the reader's enjoyment of Smith's invention of ghastly, or dreadful, or revolting creatures. Well, he is inventive. I think this is the kind of monster presentation that does not actually rely, for lots of readers, on being frightening; and surely most of the creatures are so outlandish as not to be very frightening. Rather, the reader who likes monsters might feel (in our time) like saying "Cool!" if he likes, say, Tsathoggua or Atlach-Nacha. It's as if Smith wanted to please the reader: "You thought that creature was bizarre? Wait'll you meet the next one! And the next!"

As for the hubris element -- I think many readers (like me) will forget about the protagonist's pride as the long sequence of bizarre creatures passes, one after the other, before his eyes.

I wondered too about the protagonist's demise, the sheer accident that dooms him after his sevenfold ordeal. Doesn't that seem a bit cheap?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 4 Apr 20 | 04:35PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2020 07:33PM
It's really splendid seeing some discussion on Smith's individual stories, especially from people with historic and literary expertise! Can't wait to see more comments and whatever arises from them!

Regarding "The Seven Geases", it certainly has inventive monsters, but I agree that it was a bit much and with little pay off. I've always been under the impression that Smith partially wrote this story to dump some old monster ideas he never made individual stories out of. The antehuman sorcerer Haon-Dor was supposed to star in his own story titled "The House of Haon-Dor", and Smith wrote a note to himself about the idea for a spider-god spinning vast webs across Cimmerian gulfs. I think these creatures would have worked in their own stories, and many of them even feel like they come from very different stories, but together they feel more like a monster march for its own sake. I think it's a fun march, reminding me of how medieval Japan had a love for richly detailed bestiaries of exceedingly bizarre folkloric creatures, but it isn't much else besides its opening premise of a tale of hubris.

I wasn't much impressed with the ending myself. I thought it was a little too cruel and spontaneous even for Smith, even if his intention might have been to portray the helplessness of humanity or the unpredictability of fate. Maybe Sawfish will have some interesting thoughts that can open my mind a little to it!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 4 Apr 20 | 07:41PM by kojootti.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2020 10:39PM
"It's really splendid seeing some discussion on Smith's individual stories" --

a couple more?

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2020 11:55PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "It's really splendid seeing some discussion on
> Smith's individual stories" --
>
> a couple more?


A couple more of what? Please excuse my ignorance.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 09:26AM
Would Sawfish like to suggest a couple of CAS stories for discussion? That’s not to imply that the stories already mentioned have had all the discussion anyone wishes. Sawfish, though you didn’t start this thread, it’s yours to manage.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 5 Apr 20 | 10:01AM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 01:00PM
Though I'm not Sawfish, I'd like to see what other people think of Smith's little-known tale "The Gorgon."

On the subject of "Seven Geases", I recall reading somewhere that Smith had watched King Kong in theaters only a few months before he wrote this story, and that Smith enjoyed this film, especially for its scenes in the jungle. Smith himself had little to no interest in movies, so this detail stuck in my mind. I wonder if this story was partially inspired by the exotic monster panorama from the movie, or at least his scene with the Cavern of the Archetypes, which featured all those mist-like dinosaurs in a nebulous jungle.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 5 Apr 20 | 01:01PM by kojootti.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 03:06PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "The Seven Geases" seemed, to this, reader, a bit
> tedious,

Tedious, yes!

I almost mentioned it in warning.

> as an exercise in overkill. As it
> stands, it must depend for such success as it
> attains on the reader's enjoyment of Smith's
> invention of ghastly, or dreadful, or revolting
> creatures. Well, he is inventive. I think this
> is the kind of monster presentation that does
> not actually rely, for lots of readers, on being
> frightening; and surely most of the creatures are
> so outlandish as not to be very frightening.
> Rather, the reader who likes monsters might feel
> (in our time) like saying "Cool!" if he likes,
> say, Tsathoggua or Atlach-Nacha. It's as if Smith
> wanted to please the reader: "You thought that
> creature was bizarre? Wait'll you meet the next
> one! And the next!"

No doubt.

Some of their "mission statements" were interesting on their own merit. The font of archetypes, or something like that.

It seems that they specialized...

>
> As for the hubris element -- I think many readers
> (like me) will forget about the protagonist's
> pride

Possibly, but you will recall that it was CAS's use of hubris I was trying to identify, and the events are surely initiated in the main by hubris.

> as the long sequence of bizarre creatures
> passes, one after the other, before his eyes.

I especially liked his entry into the den of the Voorhies (sp?), with the entire tribe, males/females/children, attacking him ineffectually as an alien intruder.
He was, after all, on a hunting party with these as the prey.

>
> I wondered too about the protagonist's demise, the
> sheer accident that dooms him after his sevenfold
> ordeal. Doesn't that seem a bit cheap?

It could, but I liked the sudden and arbitrary finality that was not of any agency other than pure chance. In this sense, chance--perhaps quantum chance ;^)--trumps all of the combined supernatural elements in the story.

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



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 5 Apr 20 | 03:14PM by Sawfish.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 03:07PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "The Last Hieroglyph" reminded me of the movie The
> Incredible Shrinking Man, though they're not for
> most of the time very much alike, but the
> progression towards a strange destiny might be a
> little bit similar, though the movie ends (as I
> recall -- it's a while since I saw it, and I'm not
> sure I've seen it more than once) with wonder
> rather than a bleak consummation of the
> inevitable. It was interesting how Vergama is
> evidently the representative of air, the fourth
> element, what with the breath that blows the three
> journeyers (servant, dog, and astrologer) onto the
> book-page. That, in turn, reminded me of the line
> in one of Lovecraft's poems about how the "idiot
> Chaos blew Earth's dust away," If that's how it
> goes. However, Vergama is not an "idiot" and
> speaks to the astrologer with some courtesy,
> mitigating the bleakness. The astrologer had been
> hoodwinking his clients, it seems, but it didn't
> seem that his fate was presented as
> club-you-over-the-head poetic justice in the
> manner of some pulp stories.

There was a subtle gentleness to this story, I felt.

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

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