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Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 03:10PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 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.


Double Shadow & Isle of the Torturers

My own feeling is that The Double Shadow is his best short story in that there are small details in the narrative that amplify the supernatural threat.

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: 5 April, 2020 03:12PM
kojootti Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 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!

I recognize the validity of your observations about the lengthy, repetitious nature of the story, and the ending, which I *liked*, personally, but I can see where others might not care for it so much.

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: 5 April, 2020 07:02PM
kojootti Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 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.


I mean to look up "The Gorgon." I'm curious about Smith's take on a Greek myth that was used in William Sansom's "Island of Fear" (in The Saturday Eveing Post, believe it or not) and -- possibly by way of Sansom -- C. S. Lewis's "Forms of Things Unknown."

Speaking of C. S. Lewis, he and his brother went to see King Kong too. I'm not sure CSL was all that taken with it, but the brother, Warren Hamilton Lewis, our source for the anecdote, liked it a lot. I get the impression they didn't often go to the movies. CSL went hoping for something in the Rider Haggard vein (and got it; in fact, one of Haggard's lesser-known novels, Heu-Heu or The Monster, may have been the inspiration). I wonder if the Lewis brotehrs invited Tolkien to go along with them...

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 07:06PM
Kojooti and Swawfish, the repetitions in "Seven Geases" -- including similar phrasing as each successive geas is laid upon the protagonist -- might remind one of folktales, in which the main character may have several successive labors to perform, counselors to help, hazards to deal with, etc. Smith's style, though, is very unlike the typically spare form of folktales, at least as I have found them in my readings therein. The folktale tellers were, I suppose, typically not highly literate, perhaps not able to write their names. Smith's style is elaborate and even arch.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 07:08PM
Kojooti, your comment about "Geases," "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," was intriguing.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 07:10PM
Sawfish Wrote:

> Double Shadow & Isle of the Torturers

OK.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 07:53PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> kojootti Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > 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.
>
>
> I mean to look up "The Gorgon."

Is this The Symposium of the Gorgon, or something ike that?

>I'm curious about
> Smith's take on a Greek myth that was used in
> William Sansom's "Island of Fear" (in The Saturday
> Eveing Post, believe it or not) and -- possibly by
> way of Sansom -- C. S. Lewis's "Forms of Things
> Unknown."
>
> Speaking of C. S. Lewis, he and his brother went
> to see King Kong too. I'm not sure CSL was all
> that taken with it, but the brother, Warren
> Hamilton Lewis, our source for the anecdote, liked
> it a lot. I get the impression they didn't often
> go to the movies. CSL went hoping for something
> in the Rider Haggard vein (and got it; in fact,
> one of Haggard's lesser-known novels, Heu-Heu or
> The Monster, may have been the inspiration). I
> wonder if the Lewis brotehrs invited Tolkien to go
> along with them...

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: 5 April, 2020 07:55PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Kojooti and Swawfish, the repetitions in "Seven
> Geases" -- including similar phrasing as each
> successive geas is laid upon the protagonist --
> might remind one of folktales, in which the main
> character may have several successive labors to
> perform, counselors to help, hazards to deal with,
> etc.

Yes, I have thought this, too.

> Smith's style, though, is very unlike the
> typically spare form of folktales, at least as I
> have found them in my readings therein. The
> folktale tellers were, I suppose, typically not
> highly literate, perhaps not able to write their
> names. Smith's style is elaborate and even arch.

It is, for sure. "Sparse" is not a term often associated with CAS's written style, at least not with a straight face.

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: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 07:57PM
Oh believe me, I enjoyed "The Seven Geases" as well, Sawfish. Comparing it to something as strange and imaginative as medieval Japanese bestiaries is a compliment on my part (I can almost imagine the entire creature cast of the Seven Geases illustrated in Japanese scrolls!), though I also agree with those who think it was a bit too light and monster-focused, and it does not rank among my favorites. I suppose my stance is somewhere in the middle!

In response to Dale, I see now the folkloric quality in the repetitions, though it is true that it feels a bit different combined with Smith's ornate and lengthy style of modern storytelling. Many folk tales had to be repetitious to memorize them better, and many were also told in the form of song. Still, I think the repetition does create, in this reader anyway, a hypnotic sensation that Ralibar Vooz himself must have felt. Altogether I would describe this story as interesting.

Regarding your comments following Smith's "The Gorgon", you must know some very obscure stuff. I can't find any information on this "Island of Fear" on Google, even with the author's name! How does it deal with Medusa or gorgons?

Speaking of myths and throwbacks to older storytelling, perhaps Smith's highly obscure story "The Tale of Sir John Maundeville" could be of interest to you Dale, especially with your knowledge of medieval literature. It's Smith's attempt at writing in an archaic style, according to his own words, and it's basically an untold chapter of Sir John's wonder-travels.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 5 Apr 20 | 08:46PM by kojootti.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 08:23PM
Oh, as for Sawfish's question, the CAS story I speak of isn't "Symposium of the Gorgon", just "The Gorgon." Two very different tales.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 April, 2020 08:39PM
kojootti Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Oh believe me, I enjoyed "The Seven Geases" as
> well, Sawfish. Comparing it to something as
> strange and imaginative as medieval Japanese
> bestiaries is a compliment on my part (I can
> almost imagine the entire creature cast of the
> Seven Geases illustrated in Japanese scrolls!),
> though I also agree with those who think it was a
> bit too light and monster-focused, and it does not
> rank among my favorites. I suppose my stance is
> somewhere in the middle!
>
> In response to Dale, I see now the folkloric
> quality in the repetitions, though it is true that
> it feels a bit different when combined with CAS'S
> ornate and lengthy style of modern storytelling.
> Many folk tales had to be repetitious to memorize
> them better, and many were also told in the form
> of song. Still, I think the repetition does
> create, in this reader anyway, a hypnotic
> sensation that Ralibar Vooz himself must have
> felt. Altogether I would describe this story as
> interesting.
>
> Regarding your comments following Smith's "The
> Gorgon", you must know some very obscure stuff. I
> cannot find any information on this "Island of
> Fear" on Google, even with the author's name! How
> does it deal with Medusa or gorgons?
>
> Speaking of myths and throwbacks to older
> storytelling, perhaps Smith's highly obscure story
> "The Tale of Sir John Maundeville"

This was a great recommendation!

I read it last week and wondered "How in the world did I ever miss this?"

I'm not looking for perfect narratives, but for *compelling* narratives, and this was certainly it. Too, we must bear in mind that we're drawing this stuff from *PULP FICTION*, and for christ's sake talk about a hidden gem! Silk purse from a sow's ear, and all of that over-the-top stuff!

> could be of
> interest to you Dale, especially with your
> knowledge of medieval literature. It's Smith's
> attempt at writing in an archaic style, according
> to his own words, and it's basically an untold
> chapter of Sir John's wonder-travels.

Great thread!

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: 5 April, 2020 08:42PM
“Island of Fear” was picked up in one of the anthologies credited to Alfred Hitchcock, I think. I encountered it first around 8th grade in a free magazine that used to be passed out in English classes, circa 1968. In Sansom’s story, a modern adventurer discovers a Greek island with incredibly lifelike stone statues scattered behind a wall that’s been built on it. He gradually recalls the legend of Medusa. He hears a hissing sound behind him. Though he knows he shouldn’t, he turns ...and looks. The End.

You can learn about Read, the free magazine, in my article in Bob Jennings’ fanzine Fadeaway #61, July-August 2019, posted for free at efanzines.com.



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 5 Apr 20 | 08:53PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 6 April, 2020 12:24PM
kojootti Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Though I'm not Sawfish, I'd like to see what other
> people think of Smith's little-known tale "The
> Gorgon."

I think it's an okay tale, but not I would not count it among CAS's best. It is reminiscent of "He" by HP Lovecraft, so it's not CAS's most original effort either (and I think "He" is the better story).

I did enjoy CAS's other Medusa story, "Symposium of the Gorgon". But it is not serious horror.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 6 Apr 20 | 12:28PM by Platypus.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2020 01:21PM
For me,”The Double Shadow” was, beneath the lush prose, a familiar story, of the gradual overtaking of a curious person(s) by a gruesome fate. The story is so lavishly furnished with monstrous sights that the prospect of one more horrible manifestation is not very impressive. This is a characteristic of many Smith stories, it seems to me.

He too obviously wants to conjure an exotic phantasmagoria and to make your flesh creep.

When de Quincey wrote of the horrors of opium nightmares, he set the most fantastic of them in the context of other details.

Re: Sawfish's list of recommended CAS stories
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2020 03:43PM
I'm not saying Clark Ashton Smith should have tried to "be" Thomas de Quincey, of course.

Here's the passage from the Opium-Eater that I had in mind. The "Malay" was a sailor from that region whom de Quincey happened to see in the British place where he was living. Under the influence of the drug, the unsuspecting sailor haunted de Quincey....


May 1818
The Malay has been a fearful enemy for months. I have been every night, through his means, transported into Asiatic scenes. I know not whether others share in my feelings on this point; but I have often thought that if I were compelled to forego England, and to live in China, and among Chinese manners and modes of life and scenery, I should go mad. The causes of my horror lie deep, and some of them must be common to others. Southern Asia in general is the seat of awful images and associations. As the cradle of the human race, it would alone have a dim and reverential feeling connected with it. But there are other reasons. No man can pretend that the wild, barbarous, and capricious superstitions of Africa, or of savage tribes elsewhere, affect him in the way that he is affected by the ancient, monumental, cruel, and elaborate religions of Indostan, &c. The mere antiquity of Asiatic things, of their institutions, histories, modes of faith, &c., is so impressive, that to me the vast age of the race and name overpowers the sense of youth in the individual. A young Chinese seems to me an antediluvian man renewed. Even Englishmen, though not bred in any knowledge of such institutions, cannot but shudder at the mystic sublimity of castes that have flowed apart, and refused to mix, through such immemorial tracts of time; nor can any man fail to be awed by the names of the Ganges or the Euphrates. It contributes much to these feelings that southern Asia is, and has been for thousands of years, the part of the earth most swarming with human life, the great officina gentium. Man is a weed in those regions. The vast empires also in which the enormous population of Asia has always been cast, give a further sublimity to the feelings associated with all Oriental names or images. In China, over and above what it has in common with the rest of southern Asia, I am terrified by the modes of life, by the manners, and the barrier of utter abhorrence and want of sympathy placed between us by feelings deeper than I can analyse. I could sooner live with lunatics or brute animals. All this, and much more than I can say or have time to say, the reader must enter into before he can comprehend the unimaginable horror which these dreams of Oriental imagery and mythological tortures impressed upon me. Under the connecting feeling of tropical heat and vertical sunlights I brought together all creatures, birds, beasts, reptiles, all trees and plants, usages and appearances, that are found in all tropical regions, and assembled them together in China or Indostan. From kindred feelings, I soon brought Egypt and all her gods under the same law. I was stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered at, by monkeys, by parroquets, by cockatoos. I ran into pagodas, and was fixed for centuries at the summit or in secret rooms: I was the idol; I was the priest; I was worshipped; I was sacrificed. I fled from the wrath of Brama through all the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me: Seeva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had done a deed, they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at. I was buried for a thousand years in stone coffins, with mummies and sphynxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed, with cancerous kisses, by crocodiles; and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, amongst reeds and Nilotic mud.

I thus give the reader some slight abstraction of my Oriental dreams, which always filled me with such amazement at the monstrous scenery that horror seemed absorbed for a while in sheer astonishment. Sooner or later came a reflux of feeling that swallowed up the astonishment, and left me not so much in terror as in hatred and abomination of what I saw. Over every form, and threat, and punishment, and dim sightless incarceration, brooded a sense of eternity and infinity that drove me into an oppression as of madness. Into these dreams only it was, with one or two slight exceptions, that any circumstances of physical horror entered. All before had been moral and spiritual terrors. But here the main agents were ugly birds, or snakes, or crocodiles; especially the last. The cursed crocodile became to me the object of more horror than almost all the rest. I was compelled to live with him, and (as was always the case almost in my dreams) for centuries. I escaped sometimes, and found myself in Chinese houses, with cane tables,& c. All the feet of the tables, sofas, &c., soon became instinct with life: the abominable head of the crocodile, and his leering eyes, looked out at me, multiplied into a thousand repetitions; and I stood loathing and fascinated. And so often did this hideous reptile haunt my dreams that many times the very same dream was broken up in the very same way: I heard gentle voices speaking to me (I hear everything when I am sleeping), and instantly I awoke. It was broad noon, and my children were standing, hand in hand, at my bedside—come to show me their coloured shoes, or new frocks, or to let me see them dressed for going out. I protest that so awful was the transition from the damned crocodile, and the other unutterable monsters and abortions of my dreams, to the sight of innocent human natures and of infancy, that in the mighty and sudden revulsion of mind I wept, and could not forbear it, as I kissed their faces.

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