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Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 30 April, 2020 03:58PM
Hello.

Can anybody recommend a good cosmic horror story which was not written by the mainstream authors like Lovecraft, Smith or Howard?

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 30 April, 2020 04:35PM
Something horrible saturated with humor, "Meet Miss Universe" by Jack Vance. I think CAS might have enjoyed this one, and I would have loved to see his reaction; I may be totally wrong of course.

Edit: On second thought, if you are dedicated smoker you will probably not find this story funny. CAS was a smoker. I was also a smoker, but struggled to stop, so I appreciated the humor.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 30 Apr 20 | 04:53PM by Knygatin.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 30 April, 2020 04:41PM
Do you know Robert H. Barlow? He isn't exactly mainstream, since even Lovecraft fans aren't usually aware of his work.

His stories tend to fall into one of two categories: weird fabulous fantasies inspired by Smith and Dunsany, or atmospheric pieces about people in a moody, post-apocalyptic world. But he wrote at least three stories which can be considered cosmic horror, though I think his emphasis is more on the cosmic side of things rather than horror, with the exception of one story. I'd say his three cosmic masterpieces are "The Night Ocean", "A Dim-Remembered Story", and "Origin Undetermined."

Most people don't realize that Lovecraft's contribution to "The Night Ocean" was very minimal, he merely edited a few parts of it to smooth out the words.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 1 May, 2020 02:38AM
"Fat Face" and "Polyphemus" by Michael Shea.

Dark Gods and The Ceremonies by T. E. D. Klein.

Cold Print by Ramsey Campbell.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 1 May, 2020 02:46AM
"Nethescurial" and "The Mystics of Muelenburg", etc., by Thomas Ligotti.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 1 May, 2020 03:22AM
The Metal Monster by A. Merritt. The unexpurgated version found serialized in Argosy All-Story Weekly, and in full by Hippocampus Press.

And, by the gods, don't forget Lovecraft's collaborations "The Mound", "Out of the Aeons", and "The Diary of Alonzo Typer".

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Ken K. (IP Logged)
Date: 1 May, 2020 07:24PM
I don't know if I've ever come across a definition of the term "Cosmic Horror", but judging from the stories above (the ones I'm familiar with, at least)--a "Cosmic Horror" story is one in which some vastly powerful and inimical force in this universe comes in contact with humanity (or some portion of it). This force is largely beyond our comprehension, and there is no possibility of defeating or destroying it. The most we can hope for is a stay of execution. If my definition is correct, then I would nominate William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland as being an early example. Does anyone know of any earlier ones?

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 May, 2020 12:05AM
I was thinking about Ligotti, his writing has been described as a natural step further in development from Lovecraft's cosmic horror. I wonder if Ligotti's stories may better be described as "existential horror"?

Someone on a different forum once contended that Bram Stoker's Dracula is cosmic horror. ???

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 May, 2020 06:46AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I wonder if
> Ligotti's stories may better be described as
> "existential horror"?

Over at the Ligotti forum several individuals seem to take his stories literally (somewhat like Lovecraft readers believing the Necronomicon to be a real book), nurturing a very pessimistic and self-effacing outlook.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 May, 2020 08:23AM
kojootti Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'd say his three cosmic masterpieces are
> "The Night Ocean", "A Dim-Remembered Story", and
> "Origin Undetermined."
>

I read "The Night Ocean" when younger, thought it alright and rather well written, but not very distinct and it left only a vague impression. I don't remember it today. Was there some connection to Lovecraft's sea gods? What are its particular literary qualities?

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 2 May, 2020 10:41AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I read "The Night Ocean" when younger, thought it
> alright and rather well written, but not very
> distinct and it left only a vague impression. I
> don't remember it today. Was there some connection
> to Lovecraft's sea gods? What are its particular
> literary qualities?


It's been at least five years since my last reading, so I can't think of so many specifics myself. What I can say is it was less of a story and more of a man's imaginative musings about the cosmos as he lives in isolation on a secluded shore where he sees strange fish-like entities emerging from the sea. It would be easy to forget, even for an admirer like me, but I recall it sharing some beautiful and immersive impressions.

I personally prefer Barlow's "A Dim-Remembered Story", which might appeal more to most people because it involves wandering through a few places in time and space to the end of the world and beyond. Nothing hugely dramatic, mind you, just subtly eerie and growing throughout.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 2 May 20 | 10:46AM by kojootti.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 May, 2020 11:46AM
Thank you kojootti. Sounds good. I will reread "The Night Ocean" when my book-pile allow me to get around to finally read/reread some of the other stories in The Horror in the Museum and other Revisions.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 2 May, 2020 11:54PM
Ken K. Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I don't know if I've ever come across a definition
> of the term "Cosmic Horror", but judging from the
> stories above (the ones I'm familiar with, at
> least)--a "Cosmic Horror" story is one in which
> some vastly powerful and inimical force in this
> universe comes in contact with humanity (or some
> portion of it). This force is largely beyond our
> comprehension, and there is no possibility of
> defeating or destroying it. The most we can hope
> for is a stay of execution.

I would put it more simply. Cosmic horror is merely a horror tale in which vastnesses of space and/or time are used within the context of the story to enhance a sense of (horrific) awe. I see no need to overload the term with too much pessimistic philosophy.

> If my definition is
> correct, then I would nominate William Hope
> Hodgson's The House on the Borderland as being an
> early example.

And perhaps THE NIGHT LAND as well, but I'm not sure either would fit your definition. In THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND, the Recluse perhaps could have saved himself by leaving the House, as he was warned to do by the ghost of his lost love. Also, the visions of the Recluse are suggestive of the possibility of salvation, as well as of damnation.

But I think both would fit the definition I proposed.

> Does anyone know of any earlier
> ones?

THE TIME MACHINE, by H.G. Wells. PARADISE LOST, by John Milton.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 3 May, 2020 04:09PM
"The Red Brain", by Donald Wandrei.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Ken K. (IP Logged)
Date: 3 May, 2020 04:21PM
Yes, I think that I prefer your definition to mine--it's more inclusive (and more succinct, to boot!)

You raise good points about the relative optimism/pessimism of Hodgson's novels. The theme of ultimate entropy seems to pervade both works (and certainly The Time Machine, as well) This may be one reason these novels are still being read over a century later--modern readers continue to find this scientific concept frightening. I know I do!

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 11 May, 2020 05:05AM
I would be curious to read "The Tower of Moab" by C. L. Lewis, or even his whole Tales of the Grotesque collection. Is this one essential for horror and supernatural connoisseurs?

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 11 May, 2020 05:10AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> C. L. Lewis ...

I meant L. A. Lewis.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11 May 20 | 05:20AM by Knygatin.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 11 May, 2020 10:50AM
L. A. Lewis reminds me of John Metcalf in that he is virtually forgotten and his stories are very bizzare, true weird tales. The best of them is probably "Animate in Death", a story about a partly decomposed, living corpse, suspended in some strange green fluid medium in another dimension and eaten alive by hideous water snakes. The tales bring nothing new to the table, so to speak, one can find popular motives that appeared in various fiction magazines of the era like "Weird Tales" or "Amazing Tales" (a horrible hybrid offspring; an aeroplane that can think and take revenge; a strange model of a castle which is connected with the real edifice standing god knows where; an object that convicts the culprit of murder in a mysterious way etc.) but, all in all, they are entertaining, I enjoyed most of them. "The Tower of Moab" is about a gentleman who sees or thinks he sees a monstrous tower rearing in London that grows up, night after night, to the heaven and that no else seems to see. He begins to investigate the phenomenon and the consequences are not pleasant for him. It is not a bad story but it gradually loses the quality of the opening parts which are very promising.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11 May 20 | 10:52AM by Minicthulhu.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 11 May, 2020 12:05PM
Thanks Minicthulhu, L. A. Lewis sounds fairly interesting. I read a few introductory lines from "Animate in Death", and thought they were quite powerful. Such as, "The emaciated sodden legs beat a ceaseless march on the unresisting veil, like those of a gallows victim marking time in air.".

How about "The Seeds of Death" by David H. Keller?

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 12 May, 2020 10:02AM
I have read some stories by Keller, but not this one. So one of these days I am going to read it because the title itself sounds inviting. :-)

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 12 May, 2020 01:02PM
Perhaps the lengthy list in this thread have some items you have not encountered before. Obscure Weirdness Hunt

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 14 May, 2020 02:12PM
Thank you. The list is very interesting. A lot of stuff I have never read so far.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 May, 2020 03:48PM
Here is a list of all the 170 authors, and their stories in the Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories series: Fontana's Great Ghost Stories. Robert Aickman, who had a very good sense for quality, edited the first eight volumes. Not all are typical ghost stories, some are more of supernatural weird tales.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 16 May, 2020 04:17AM
I read "The Red Brain" today and I cannot but feel about it like I did when I read it for the first time years abo. The story reminds me of "The Masque of The Red Death." by Mr. Poe in some way.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 17 May, 2020 05:32AM
Minicthulhu Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I read "The Red Brain" today and I cannot but feel
> about it like I did when I read it for the first
> time years abo. The story reminds me of "The
> Masque of The Red Death." by Mr. Poe in some way.

How about "Colossus" and The Web of Easter Island?

I have only read some of Donald Wandrei's letters, in Mysteries of Time and Spirit, but couldn't quite hold up my interest. I thought he was not up to the intellectual level and impressive authority of Lovecraft, and a third of the way into the book I started skipping/skimming most of his part in the correspondence.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 17 May, 2020 10:08AM
I have not read "The Web of Easter Island" and judging by the reviews I can find about the book, I am not sure I ever will.

As for his short stories, I have read cca. fifteen of them (not in “Colossus” but in “Don't Dream: The Collected Horror and Fantasy Fiction of Donald Wandrei” which also includes his poems, essays and illustrations) and I must say I was not impressed too much. You can find scores of similar stories which were written in the prime of pulp magazines (Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, etc.) by half-forgotten authors like Thorp McCluskey, David H. Keller, Frank Belknap Long and others. The best ones are “The Red Brain” (by the way, he wrote it when he was only sixteen years of age) and “A Fragment of a Dream” which reminds me of “Abominations of Yondo” in that it virtually has no plot and it is more or less a description of horrors and monsters inhabiting an abnormal and alien landscape the hero plunges through. “Spawn of the Sea” is about finding a shipwreck with an unknown life form that has developed inside the old hull, a story very similar to “The Derelict” by W.H. Hodgson. “A Scientist Divides” is about a guy who has found a chemical coumpound by means of which he is capable of dividing himself into two similar entities, one of the several stories in the collection which have a promising opening parts but gradually degenerate to something naive or ridiculous. Most of the tales are of such a quality I am not able to remember what they are about even I am reading their passages right now but what I have found really great about them is the fact they are very, very short so it is an ideal stuff to read before going to sleep – you are quite sure you can finish this story ot that because it is just three or four pages long.

“Don't Dream: The Collected Horror and Fantasy Fiction of Donald Wandrei”)
[www.goodreads.com]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 17 May 20 | 10:10AM by Minicthulhu.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 17 May, 2020 10:49AM
Thanks Minicthulhu, that was interesting. I don't think I will be reading much of Wandrei's work, aside from "The Red Brain" and "Colossus", and possibly The Web of Easter Island or at least parts of it if I can find it online. "The Tree-Men of M'Bwa" has an appealing fantastic title, I will probably take a closer look at it.

I once started reading "The Red Brain", but stopped because I thought the first sentences were not dynamic enough prose. The story may still have interesting conceptual ideas of course, which is what it is famous for.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 18 May, 2020 11:28AM
Maybe Arthur Machen, specifically The White People? Plus I did read a collection of short stories - Last Stop Wellsbourne - recently by a UK author, which I guess had overtones of cosmic horror.

Somebody mentioned Michael Shea - Nift the Lean is a classic of its kind (it won the World Fantasy Award in 1982). I'm not sure if it counts as 'cosmic horror' but Nift's visits to a demonic underworld are pretty hair-raising.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 19 May, 2020 02:00AM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Nift the Lean is
> a classic of its kind (it won the World Fantasy
> Award in 1982). I'm not sure if it counts as
> 'cosmic horror' but Nift's visits to a demonic
> underworld are pretty hair-raising.


That book has several memorable weird scenes. Great imagination. Terrific in details. But not so very well developed and integrated as stories. The last episode I found pretty incomprehensible.

Michael Shea was really brilliant. I love "Fat Face" and "Polyphemus".

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 19 May, 2020 05:10AM
Absolutely - ie, I'd remember the Nift sequence mainly for its visual flair.

It's been a while since I last read the original quartet but I did read 'The A'rak' around ten years ago and was struck by the corollaries between the world Nift inhabits and the insect world; Shea seems to have used insect behaviour, life-cycles etc, as the basis for some of the stories.

I'm not sure what that last story was about either (aren't they assembling some sort of giant skeleton?) - it's as atmospheric as it is incomprehensible.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 19 May, 2020 06:30AM
I don't have The A'rak, but I am eagerly waiting for In Yana, the Touch of Undying to surface in my towering to-read book pile.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 19 May, 2020 07:01AM
A. E. van Vogt - The Voyage of the Space Beagle. Which includes four connected stories. "Black Destroyer" (has my favorite science fiction moment ever, in both book or film, when they step out on the planet in translucent space suits. A feverishly inspired vision.) and "Discord in Scarlet" are both good classic s-f horrors. "M33 I Andromeda" is very cosmic, and carries relation to John W. Campbell's "The Last Evolution", "Twilight", "Night", and to Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars. It gives an effective glint of Man's future machines which become perfected self-repairing and self-generative geological automatons that start growing and multiplying, and change the nature of the galaxy. A very interesting concept and take on cosmic creation.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 19 May 20 | 07:06AM by Knygatin.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 19 May, 2020 07:32AM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>Nifft the Lean
>
> I'm not sure what that last story was about either
> (aren't they assembling some sort of giant
> skeleton?) - it's as atmospheric as it is
> incomprehensible.


Yes, building or reinforcing some sort of giant structure. That at the same time is eaten away by other forces? And they find aid beneath the sea, from some element that help them in the building? I can't remember. Strange and evasive as dream.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 19 May, 2020 10:49PM
Dracula is one of the most horrifying books I have read! I am reading it slowly, one chapter at a time every now and then, in-between other books. It is a book that can be read that way, because it is very rational and clear, easy to understand and remember. It is extremely well written! I would call its approach basic and logical, but Bram Stoker does it masterfully, sees the underbelly, and nails every creepy situation just right! A true joy, and I feel no rush at all to get it done, no sense of labor to this reading, not a trace of padding.

Can Dracula be called cosmic horror?

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 20 May, 2020 06:47PM
George R.R. Martin is not a lesser-known author, but he did write a lesser-known sci-fi piece called THE DYING OF THE LIGHT (1977), which was his first novel. I don't know if I would classify it as cosmic horror, but perhaps it could be classed as cosmic melancholia. Certainly, Martin used the vastness of space as a prop to enhance the mood of nihilistic despair that was apparently engulfing him when he wrote it, one that, in the novel at least, is in some way obscurely related to mourning a lost love.

I don't think it is a good book, and I don't agree with its nihilistic message, which, in a nutshell, is despair and the pointlessness of human existence. But it has its points, and it is interesting as an illustration of the use of the vastness of space as a mood enhancer.

The opening chapter is where most of the cosmic elements are found, and I once had fun writing a mocking summary of this opening chapter and its over-the-top nihilism. I also read the book all the way through, which I do not necessarily recommend, though there is an impressive passage here or there. Also, a piece of trivia for those who are familiar with DUNGEONS AND DRAGON sourcebooks … this is the work where the "githyanki" are first mentioned, the name having been borrowed from Martin without permission by the folks at TSR.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 21 May, 2020 05:45AM
A. E. van Vogt's "Repetition" (aka "The Gryb"). Emissary struggles for survival on one of Jupiter's moons under hellish conditions, hunted by invulnerable and persistent monster. Simulates the sensation of a nightmare, when not being able to escape.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 May, 2020 12:45PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "M33 I
> Andromeda" is very cosmic ... it gives an effective glint of
> Man's future machines which become perfected
> self-repairing and self-generative geological
> automatons that start growing and multiplying, and
> change the nature of the galaxy. A very
> interesting concept and take on cosmic creation.

If you don't appreciate the evocative vastness of this, then you are really missing out. It is utterly fantastic, while at the same time harboring a likely future, which makes it all the more compelling for the soul and senses. It is science fiction completely in touch with Time and Space and the Cosmos. Science fiction genius at its very best.

For example, I don't think Jack Vance ever reached this high level, comparatively his stories are "space opera", contemporary human interaction set against a space back-screen. As to CAS, well, I don't know, ... I would call his "science fiction" tales fantastic fantasy, and I appreciate them for what they are; bizarre, rich imagination, and their truths are more on the spiritual level, than scientific. And a well developed artistic sense. Similar for Vance.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 23 May, 2020 03:36PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If you don't appreciate the evocative vastness of
> this, then you are really missing out. It is
> utterly fantastic, while at the same time
> harboring a likely future, which makes it all the
> more compelling for the soul and senses. It is
> science fiction completely in touch with Time and
> Space and the Cosmos. Science fiction genius at
> its very best.
>
> For example, I don't think Jack Vance ever reached
> this high level, comparatively his stories are
> "space opera", contemporary human interaction set
> against a space back-screen. As to CAS, well, I
> don't know, ... I would call his "science fiction"
> tales fantastic fantasy, and I appreciate them for
> what they are; bizarre, rich imagination, and
> their truths are more on the spiritual level, than
> scientific. And a well developed artistic sense.
> Similar for Vance.

As I recall, CAS was not very fond of writing science-fiction, stating he preferred the imaginative, unbound freedom of writing fantasy stories, so I can see why most of CAS's sci-fi feels half-hearted and forgettable, while his best ones usually verge on fantasy to some extent. I've only begun reading Vance, so I can't say much about him, except that he is at least a creative and highly competent writer.

I am very interested in "M33 in Andromeda" and will read it very soon. Strangely, it's uncommon for science-fiction authors to write anything that expresses and appreciates the vast scope of existence, so I look forward to something that can follow a humanistic and futuristic perspective without losing that very primal, glorious, above-human element.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 23 May 20 | 03:51PM by kojootti.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 23 May, 2020 07:14PM
'I would call his "science fiction" tales fantastic fantasy'.'

Very much so. The first CAS story I ever read was The Maze of Maal Dweb. Apart from the extraordinary prose, what struck me was that - as a story - it was unclassifiable. In my head, 'fantasy' meant some sort of quasi-medieval culture and 'science fiction' meant spaceships. The Maze of Maal Dweb is neither, or rather it is primarily fantasy, but with SF trappings (Dweb's giant metal servitors, for example) although I appreciate it was being written at a time when the divisions between the two genres wasn't as clear as they later became.

'Strangely, it's uncommon for science-fiction authors to write anything that expresses and appreciates the vast scope of existence.'

It is strange! I find the notion of space - its vastness, its coldness, its general emptiness, those huge areas of darkness - far more unsettling than some tentacled being from the deep, but SF rarely conveys or acknowledges this, perhaps because (a) in most SF books, space is just a place between destinations & (b) a tendency of the genre to stress the positive: that man has mastered space and (by extension) somehow contained it.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 May, 2020 11:02PM
For notions of the vastness of space and time, we may also have Olaf Stapledon who wrote Last and First Men and Star Maker, but I cannot assess his quality, because I have not read him yet. He was an inspiration for Arthur C. Clarke.

Not sure though if Stapledon touched on the unsettling aspects of space. Most authors make of space an intellectual gymnastics, but rarely explore the horror of it.

I think CAS referred to space as the Abyss, so he had an artistic poetic notion that somewhat perceived the horror.
Lovecraft reminded us of the madness that would consume us, if our minds were confronted by and opened to this vastness.

Re: Cosmic horror by less known authors
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 12 June, 2020 03:08AM
"The Terror on Tobit" (1933) by Charles Birkin. A fine little weird tale, taking place on the summer Isles of Scilly. I also recommend his stylish and harrowing conte cruel "The Smell of Evil" (1964). And "Ballet Nègre" (1964), about voodoo magic visiting England in the form of a theatrical group.



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