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general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 11:51AM
When considering any given author, do you find that you are more interested in that person's life experiences and/or stated beliefs (as perhaps derived from reading his/her correspondence), or are you more interested in the varied effects that author produces in his/her works, and the techniques s/he tends to employ, or the themes explored?

Of course it's not likely to be simply one or the other, but an admixture, with one aspect more important than the other.

On reflection, I find myself much less interested in *why* an author writes as s/he does, as informed by his/her experiences, but more interested in the techniques used to create the chosen effect. To a degree I'm also interested in possible influences on his/her work, and how his/her work has influenced others. I prefer to do this by analysis and comparison, rather than by authoritative reference, or even statements by the author, him/herself.

When you think about it, what aspects of any given writer's work seem most interesting to you: personal life/experiences, or stylistic/thematic influences and techniques?

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

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 02:26PM
We are talking about "authors" right? Given the context of the forum, are we not assuming authors whose fame primarily depends on literary material (e.g. fiction) that is not explicitly autobiographical? Given those premises, does not the question answer itself?

If the author is my dad or my sister, that of course changes things.

And of course, if I have already read the author's primary literary output, then that leaves more room for me to become interested in other aspects of his life, including private letters. But surely the latter interest will be derivative of my appreciation of the author's fiction or (less likely) his poetry.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 02:45PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> We are talking about "authors" right? Given the
> context of the forum, are we not assuming authors
> whose fame primarily depends on literary material
> (e.g. fiction) that is not explicitly
> autobiographical? Given those premises, does not
> the question answer itself?
>
> If the author is my dad or my sister, that of
> course changes things.
>
> And of course, if I have already read the author's
> primary literary output, then that leaves more
> room for me to become interested in other aspects
> of his life, including private letters. But
> surely the latter interest will be derivative of
> my appreciation of the author's fiction or (less
> likely) his poetry.


Ah, I see the response stated in the final paragraph.

You seem to be saying that you favor familiarizing yourself with the principal examples of an author's output, then considering the author's life experiences and any private letters.

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

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 03:12PM
Sawfish Wrote:
> Ah, I see the response stated in the final
> paragraph.
>
> You seem to be saying that you favor familiarizing
> yourself with the principal examples of an
> author's output, then considering the author's
> life experiences and any private letters.

Essentially, yes (given the premises I stated), though I was also checking to make sure I did not misunderstand the question. Of course, in the context of reading for entertainment, both steps are always purely optional. One is not obliged to read a horror writer's works at all, and one certainly need not progress to his private letters.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 22 Aug 20 | 03:16PM by Platypus.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 06:39PM
I think maybe it depends on the author? I read and re-read CAS in my teens and twenties, and re-read a lot of his stories again around ten years ago. Increasingly - with authors like him, Howard & Lovecraft - I'm interested in the context; the kind of lives these men led, how (as I think Hespire conjectured) living in Auburn must have influenced CAS, as I reckon environment is a big influence on any author's imagination. What was it about the place that inspired CAS to write the kind of stories he wrote? Or were his stories a retreat from that same environment? And so on and so forth.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 06:53PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think maybe it depends on the author? I read and
> re-read CAS in my teens and twenties, and re-read
> a lot of his stories again around ten years ago.
> Increasingly - with authors like him, Howard &
> Lovecraft - I'm interested in the context; the
> kind of lives these men led, how (as I think
> Hespire conjectured) living in Auburn must have
> influenced CAS, as I reckon environment is a big
> influence on any author's imagination. What was it
> about the place that inspired CAS to write the
> kind of stories he wrote? Or were his stories a
> retreat from that same environment? And so on and
> so forth.

I think there's always that facet--e.g., I've become increasingly interested in a point brought up here over the last few months: in what sense does HPL's materialism inform his writings?

But for the most part I spend a lot more time on the particular work, itself--how various effects were achieved (or conversely, how they failed). What's the central idea of the piece and where/how does it fit into a larger philosophical framework of thought?

There is, also, the effectiveness of any attempt at inducing an emotional response in the reader.

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

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 07:26PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think maybe it depends on the author? I read and
> re-read CAS in my teens and twenties, and re-read
> a lot of his stories again around ten years ago.
> Increasingly - with authors like him, Howard &
> Lovecraft - I'm interested in the context; the
> kind of lives these men led, how (as I think
> Hespire conjectured) living in Auburn must have
> influenced CAS, as I reckon environment is a big
> influence on any author's imagination. What was it
> about the place that inspired CAS to write the
> kind of stories he wrote? Or were his stories a
> retreat from that same environment? And so on and
> so forth.


Seems like a natural progression. But it also seems like your interest in his more private aspects are derivative of and secondary to your interest in his public output. And I don't see how it could be otherwise, given that none of us are his close family.

I'm sure that, in the eyes of Almighty God, CAS's simple value as a unique human being is worth infinitely more than any of his works, public or private. But to a puny mortal like me, he is just one man, out of billions who lived on this planet during the last century. If not for the horror stories he wrote, I would and could not be interested in him, whether he deserves it or not.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 07:46PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Cathbad Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I think maybe it depends on the author? I read
> and
> > re-read CAS in my teens and twenties, and
> re-read
> > a lot of his stories again around ten years
> ago.
> > Increasingly - with authors like him, Howard &
> > Lovecraft - I'm interested in the context; the
> > kind of lives these men led, how (as I think
> > Hespire conjectured) living in Auburn must have
> > influenced CAS, as I reckon environment is a
> big
> > influence on any author's imagination. What was
> it
> > about the place that inspired CAS to write the
> > kind of stories he wrote? Or were his stories a
> > retreat from that same environment? And so on
> and
> > so forth.
>
>
> Seems like a natural progression. But it also
> seems like your interest in his more private
> aspects are derivative of and secondary to your
> interest in his public output. And I don't see
> how it could be otherwise, given that none of us
> are his close family.
>
> I'm sure that, in the eyes of Almighty God, CAS's
> simple value as a unique human being is worth
> infinitely more than any of his works, public or
> private. But to a puny mortal like me, he is just
> one man, out of billions who lived on this planet
> during the last century. If not for the horror
> stories he wrote, I would and could not be
> interested in him, whether he deserves it or not.


Against all odds I think that we agree on this important point: that there are concentric circles of those whom we value as persons, and their independent value diminishes the further removed they are from our inter-relationships.

I don't wish to define your views on this point, Platypus, so please feel free to correct/expand.

The reason I first initiated this topic was to broach the subject of what amounts to hero worship as it relates to public figures, including literary figures. My gut feeling is that there are some who near-idolize literary figures (Cult of Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, etc.) and hence may be attracted to aspects of their lives--and this tends to influence their evaluation of that figure's works.

I try very hard indeed to separate the message from the messenger. For the most par I don't much care about the messenger--am interested in the message. That s/he may have created the message is of some interest, but not a lot.

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

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 08:51PM
Sawfish Wrote:
> I think there's always that facet--e.g., I've
> become increasingly interested in a point brought
> up here over the last few months: in what sense
> does HPL's materialism inform his writings?


On the latter question, I can only recall expressing my own opinion, and I don't recall much push-back.

But certainly, if two fans were to argue about to what extent HPL's fiction could be characterized as "materialist"; it would not be entirely irrelevant that HPL was in fact a materialist, and this could be proven by appealing to external evidence -- for instance by quoting HPL's letters. I don't think that would necessarily end the argument (and in this case I think it does not), but it would certainly be a fair and relevant thing to bring up.

But, of course, the only reason the two fans care about this question is because they care about HPL's fiction in the first place.

I happen to own some volumes of HPL's letters in the Arkham House editions. I have also read some of his letters in their original form as scanned on the Brown University website. But of course, I never would have been sufficiently interested in HPL to do this, if I did not enjoy his fiction.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 09:35PM
Sawfish Wrote:
> Against all odds I think that we agree on this
> important point: that there are concentric circles
> of those whom we value as persons, and their
> independent value diminishes the further removed
> they are from our inter-relationships.
>
> I don't wish to define your views on this point,
> Platypus, so please feel free to correct/expand.

Well, I tried to distinguish his value as a person from his value TO ME as a person. But apart from that, yes, that is more or less what I was trying to say.

I need a specific reason to be interested in the private life of one of the billions of people on the planet who died before I was born, and cases like this, it is because I like horror stories, and CAS and HPL happened to write some stories that I like. It is not that I am necessarily uninterested in their private life, but that is entirely secondary to my interest in their fiction, and my desire to understand their fiction.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 11:12PM
I myself don't have a very good reason for my interest in CAS' personal life. I generally don't peek into the private lives of authors, and I don't worship any human being (not even CAS, who has written many stinkers I complain about elsewhere, and has expressed sentiments I partially or wholly disagree with). I simply found his stories and poems so special to me compared to any other writer, and when I discovered this website I was interested in te articles about him and letters written by him, finding the man interesting and closer in spirit to my lonely soul compared to most people I've met. But I've long since given up this period of studying his life, especially when I came to understand CAS' distaste for biographers, who he compared to vultures.

I still find the man's life very interesting, but it is indeed secondary to his work, which is the real draw for me. His stories speak a lot for him, anyway, and a lot beyond him too, which is the great appeal of stories above their creators.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 22 Aug 20 | 11:22PM by Hespire.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 11:42AM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I myself don't have a very good reason for my
> interest in CAS' personal life. I generally don't
> peek into the private lives of authors, and I
> don't worship any human being

Yes, same here, and perhaps I overstated the attachment that enthusiastic readers have to an admired author as "worship". It's closer to a fan club, or a level of personal admiration, maybe.

> (not even CAS, who
> has written many stinkers I complain about
> elsewhere, and has expressed sentiments I
> partially

This part really intrigues me, Hespire. I see it that way, too; CAS seemed to clearly have written both very inspired stuff, and also almost painfully uninspired stuff--both for commercial publication. Now, when I consider HPL, I see a whole lot more consistency. None of the HPL stuff I've read (I've read most of the popular press collections multiple times), I don't consider any of it to be uninspired like some of the CAS stuff is.

[NOTE: I keep saying that about CAS, and maybe right after I finish this, and maybe some more coffee, I'll try to look at the Stories list here on ED and find an example of a stinker. Maybe I'm exaggerating this; it'll be a good way to find out.]


> or wholly disagree with).

I'm not sure tat I've seen any attitude or conveyed belief that I really don't like in CAS--or in most authors, now that I think of it. So I guess in my case this proves nothing.

> I simply found
> his stories and poems so special to me compared to
> any other writer,

I agree that he's a sort of "lightning-in-a-bottle" kinda guy. Some of the stuff seems *so* personally invested, in terms of the author (CAS) *personally* occupying his narrative as he creates it--and this conveys verisimilitude and gravitas, even in his fantastical settings--that it was instantly magnetic to my sensibilities.

Too, he has that little twist of fatalistic irony, often off-set by wry and ironic humor, and I always found that immediately appealing.

So right off the top of my head, the stories "The Double Shadow", "The Dark Eidolon", "The Isle of the Torturers", and "The Coming of the White Worm", were of the type that *immediately* grabbed my attention, and hold it still.

> and when I discovered this
> website I was interested in te articles about him
> and letters written by him, finding the man
> interesting and closer in spirit to my lonely soul
> compared to most people I've met.

I started on the letters/article but they never hooked me.

But it's certainly true that I've always tended to be a loner by choice. For the first 6 years of my life I lived 'way the hell out in the country, in rural CA, and just wandered around with a slingshot, and later a BB gun. There were no playmates, no houses all that close. My folks bought an encyclopedia set from a traveling salesman, and I liked that really well.

Now that I'm thinking of it, that's an area of commonality with CAS, I suspect.

> But I've long
> since given up this period of studying his life,
> especially when I came to understand CAS' distaste
> for biographers, who he compared to vultures.

Hah!

*That's* the spirit!

That's actually very funny to consider, and in a sense dead-center in his zone of humor.

>
> I still find the man's life very interesting, but
> it is indeed secondary to his work, which is the
> real draw for me. His stories speak a lot for him,
> anyway, and a lot beyond him too, which is the
> great appeal of stories above their creators.


Thanks for your views! Very interesting!

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

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 12:31PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
> > I think there's always that facet--e.g., I've
> > become increasingly interested in a point
> brought
> > up here over the last few months: in what sense
> > does HPL's materialism inform his writings?
>
> On the latter question, I can only recall
> expressing my own opinion, and I don't recall much
> push-back.
>
> But certainly, if two fans were to argue about to
> what extent HPL's fiction could be characterized
> as "materialist"; it would not be entirely
> irrelevant that HPL was in fact a materialist, and
> this could be proven by appealing to external
> evidence -- for instance by quoting HPL's letters.
> I don't think that would necessarily end the
> argument (and in this case I think it does not),
> but it would certainly be a fair and relevant
> thing to bring up.

The part that resonates with me is a sort of perceived contradiction that is admittedly based on my subjective assessment of HPL's attachment to the worldview portrayed in most, if not all, of his fiction. In short, he portrays a very threatening physical cosmos, of which mankind, his small portion of the known universe is painfully, creepily insignificant.

To the modern mind, it kinda slaps "exceptionalism" upside the head...so to speak.

So this all appears consistent with an unexplored physical (material) cosmos, and to my mind supports the idea that he's a materialist at heart--as I am, so this resonates with my own sensibilities.

But he so consistently injects his idea of the expanded cosmos, the one that we have no information of, with an almost subjective malevolence, that the entities that might appear to humans as both powerful and threatening, and that they do *indeed* wish us ill. It's not exactly like stepping on ants inadvertently; there seems to be a sort of delight in doing so, and *this* is an injection of Judeo-Christian or gnostic malevolence.

Cthulu, in a sense, comes off as a mean kid with a magnifying glass on a sunny day, by an anthill.

This attribution of *intent* seems at odds with materialism, and when I combine this with my perceived--again, subjective--assessment that HPL is in some sense emotionally attached to his subject matter (he writes with a restrained conviction that comes across as consistent within the body of his main works) that it makes me wonder if he has rationally adopted materialism, but is deeply agnostic in his convictions.

That to him, there just *might* be cosmic, subjective evil out there...and he give voice to this doubt in his works.

Does this make any sense to you, Platypus? I'm just playing around with this idea because I'm retired, bored, and this is interesting, in an odd way.


>
> But, of course, the only reason the two fans care
> about this question is because they care about
> HPL's fiction in the first place.

Yes, this makes sense to me. No one (or hardly anyone) would be introduced to an author of fiction as a historic figure, then read exhaustively about his/her life without reading his/her works. There are exceptions, I suppose. The Marquis de Sade is probably someone of whom more is read than their works are actually read.

I suppose I was trying to explore when a reader becomes a fan, to the degree that their admiration begins to distort their objective judgement.

>
> I happen to own some volumes of HPL's letters in
> the Arkham House editions. I have also read some
> of his letters in their original form as scanned
> on the Brown University website. But of course, I
> never would have been sufficiently interested in
> HPL to do this, if I did not enjoy his fiction.

Again, makes sense.

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

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 01:13PM
Quote:
Sawfish
> (not even CAS, who
> has written many stinkers I complain about
> elsewhere, and has expressed sentiments I
> partially

This part really intrigues me, Hespire. I see it that way, too; CAS seemed to clearly have written both very inspired stuff, and also almost painfully uninspired stuff--both for commercial publication. Now, when I consider HPL, I see a whole lot more consistency. None of the HPL stuff I've read (I've read most of the popular press collections multiple times), I don't consider any of it to be uninspired like some of the CAS stuff is.

I absolutely agree regarding consistency in Lovecraft's work. It was a satisfying journey when I began reading him in my youth, as it was rather rare for him to write a story I did not enjoy in some way. It felt like returning to a service whose quality you could always count on. He never entered a story without any painstaking care, devotion, or enthusiasm. (Unless he did so in some of his ghost writings, which I haven't read in a long while.)

Quote:
Sawfish
[NOTE: I keep saying that about CAS, and maybe right after I finish this, and maybe some more coffee, I'll try to look at the Stories list here on ED and find an example of a stinker. Maybe I'm exaggerating this; it'll be a good way to find out.]

My idea of a "stinker" might differ from others and I'm always open to reconsidering my opinions, but I consider his "Captivity in Serpens" a bit of a stinker. It wasn't poorly written (in my memory, at least) but it was a long ramble of sci-fi action cliches which felt underwhelming and pointless. Some of the alien descriptions were wonderful, especially the faery-like city and its vampiric inhabitants, but it was mostly a playground for the usual space-explorer tropes.

Quote:
Sawfish
> or wholly disagree with).
I'm not sure tat I've seen any attitude or conveyed belief that I really don't like in CAS--or in most authors, now that I think of it. So I guess in my case this proves nothing.

That might have sounded stronger than I intended! And now that I think about it, the only thing I know of CAS that I strongly disagree with are his views on sex and romance, or what we know of them at least, but this is a personal lifestyle choice rather than any fault of his own. Otherwise, any disagreements I've had with him were partial. His dismissal of psychology, for instance, is a bit too strong for my worldview, but I mostly agree that people who obsessively analyze everything through psychology (or worse, pseudo-psychology, which a lot of young people today are into) often miss the point of the thing, especially when it's some form of art.

Quote:
Sawfish
I agree that he's a sort of "lightning-in-a-bottle" kinda guy. Some of the stuff seems *so* personally invested, in terms of the author (CAS) *personally* occupying his narrative as he creates it--and this conveys verisimilitude and gravitas, even in his fantastical settings--that it was instantly magnetic to my sensibilities.
Too, he has that little twist of fatalistic irony, often off-set by wry and ironic humor, and I always found that immediately appealing.

Indeed! CAS was the first fantasy/sci-fi author who made me realize that one can transcend genre, opening a door to a rich experience (to Saturn?) rather than amusing readers for a half-hour or so. His ancient and alien settings, his phantasmic creatures, and his almost folkloric sense of sorcery feel real no matter how strange they are. His characters have nuanced personalities which I can connect with more easily than Lovecraft's scholarly narrators (though I recognize the personal strength in them for Lovecraft's uniquely realistic style). And on top of that, his rich use of irony adds a memorably emotional, intellectual, and ambiguous touch to his stories often missing in the usual fantasy and sci-fi fare. There are other writers like this, such as Jack Vance, but they are quite rare, and I only began reading Vance in the last few years.

Quote:
Sawfish
I started on the letters/article but they never hooked me.
But it's certainly true that I've always tended to be a loner by choice. For the first 6 years of my life I lived 'way the hell out in the country, in rural CA, and just wandered around with a slingshot, and later a BB gun. There were no playmates, no houses all that close. My folks bought an encyclopedia set from a traveling salesman, and I liked that really well.

I was born in California too, and unfortunately it was in the highly urbanized part of it, which never appealed to my spirits since early childhood, not aesthetically and not culturally, so I was never popular with people. I was meant to be a country boy, and fortunately am one now! I almost envy the sort of childhood you described, but I suppose the grass is greener as they say. Certainly sounds like a lot of idle adventuring. One thing you and I share in common is the use of encyclopedias our parents bought, which I also used to delight in. Gave me a great escape into history, prehistory, other cultures, sciences, mythology, religion, etc. Perhaps for this reason I found interest in CAS' life, a fellow Californian, with tastes similar to my own, but from a different world I always yearned for. I don't delude myself into thinking he's some excellent example of humanity, but it made for a nice escape from my urban existence.

Quote:
Sawfish
Hah!
*That's* the spirit!

That's actually very funny to consider, and in a sense dead-center in his zone of humor.

I'm no necromancer, except in a uniquely personal sense, so I'd rather let the dead rest! My ex-wife once joked about a story idea, about a long-dead author's corpse resurrected through sorcery by his fans, who force him to write more stories! Like the dead from "The Empire of the Necromancers", I can't imagine a worse fate!



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 23 Aug 20 | 01:43PM by Hespire.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 03:32PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My idea of a "stinker" might differ from others
> and I'm always open to reconsidering my opinions,
> but I consider his "Captivity in Serpens" a bit of
> a stinker. It wasn't poorly written (in my memory,
> at least) but it was a long ramble of sci-fi
> action cliches which felt underwhelming and
> pointless. Some of the alien descriptions were
> wonderful, especially the faery-like city and its
> vampiric inhabitants, but it was mostly a
> playground for the usual space-explorer tropes.
>

CAS was pissed off with the pulp publishers who demanded this kind of stuff from him. He wrote to Lovecraft along the lines of "I'll give them their eck-shun this time!!"

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 07:53PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> CAS was pissed off with the pulp publishers who
> demanded this kind of stuff from him. He wrote to
> Lovecraft along the lines of "I'll give them their
> eck-shun this time!!"


I remember that letter! He wrote "A Captivity in Serpens" in response to these demands for more plot and action. He must have enjoyed writing various novelties in it, like the faery-city and vampiric aliens I mentioned, but otherwise it felt like he was just churning this thing out for the money, and perhaps with an air of passive-aggressive irony on his mind. It also seems that the story I mentioned isn't even available on the Eldritch Dark!

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 08:05PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > CAS was pissed off with the pulp publishers who
> > demanded this kind of stuff from him. He wrote
> to
> > Lovecraft along the lines of "I'll give them
> their
> > eck-shun this time!!"
>
>
> I remember that letter! He wrote "A Captivity in
> Serpens" in response to these demands for more
> plot and action. He must have enjoyed writing
> various novelties in it, like the faery-city and
> vampiric aliens I mentioned, but otherwise it felt
> like he was just churning this thing out for the
> money, and perhaps with an air of
> passive-aggressive irony on his mind. It also
> seems that the story I mentioned isn't even
> available on the Eldritch Dark!

So I noticed. Perhaps to spare us!

Do you have any other suggestions for CAS stinkers available online?

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

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 08:36PM
Sawfish Wrote:
> The part that resonates with me is a sort of
> perceived contradiction that is admittedly based
> on my subjective assessment of HPL's attachment to
> the worldview portrayed in most, if not all, of
> his fiction. In short, he portrays a very
> threatening physical cosmos, of which mankind, his
> small portion of the known universe is painfully,
> creepily insignificant.
>
> To the modern mind, it kinda slaps
> "exceptionalism" upside the head...so to speak.
>
> So this all appears consistent with an unexplored
> physical (material) cosmos, and to my mind
> supports the idea that he's a materialist at
> heart--as I am, so this resonates with my own
> sensibilities.

All of which, to one who is not a materialist, sounds like a complete non-sequitur. "Anti-exceptionalism" and "materialism" have little to do with each other. Seems to me that all HPL has done is resurrect the perspective of the ancient sailor on the wild ocean, or the ancient peasant tilling his precarious fields between on the border of a demon haunted forest and in the shadow of a god-haunted mountain.

Perhaps this is blasphemy to certain 18th century rationalists who, having dethroned God, were perhaps sometimes tempted to imagine that Man could claim God's throne and become gods themselves. And perhaps some strains of Christianity were sufficiently vainglorious to adopt similar perspective, and perhaps they too would have been offended by HPL's anti-exceptionalism. But I don't see how that gets us to materialism. Not even close.

> But he so consistently injects his idea of the
> expanded cosmos, the one that we have no
> information of, with an almost subjective
> malevolence, that the entities that might appear
> to humans as both powerful and threatening, and
> that they do *indeed* wish us ill. It's not
> exactly like stepping on ants inadvertently; there
> seems to be a sort of delight in doing so, and
> *this* is an injection of Judeo-Christian or
> gnostic malevolence.

It is almost as though his fiction world were haunted by powerful demons. He even insists on using the word. I'm not saying he actually believes in demons. But he sure as hell loved to write about them.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 09:04PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
> > The part that resonates with me is a sort of
> > perceived contradiction that is admittedly
> based
> > on my subjective assessment of HPL's attachment
> to
> > the worldview portrayed in most, if not all, of
> > his fiction. In short, he portrays a very
> > threatening physical cosmos, of which mankind,
> his
> > small portion of the known universe is
> painfully,
> > creepily insignificant.
> >
> > To the modern mind, it kinda slaps
> > "exceptionalism" upside the head...so to speak.
> >
> > So this all appears consistent with an
> unexplored
> > physical (material) cosmos, and to my mind
> > supports the idea that he's a materialist at
> > heart--as I am, so this resonates with my own
> > sensibilities.
>
> All of which, to one who is not a materialist,
> sounds like a complete non-sequitur.

Which is why I find it interesting and why I raised it specifically as a "perceived contradiction".

> "Anti-exceptionalism" and "materialism" have
> little to do with each other.

Maybe, but to consider humanity as an exceptional creation imbued with a spark of God's divinity--He creating us in His likeness, you see--seems contrary to materialism, which reduces everything to conceivably knowable matter--quantum mechanics being the logical extension, I would suppose.

So "exceptionalism" is at odds with "materialism", to me it seems like "anti-exceptonalism" is at least in the same philosophical hemisphere as "materialism".


> Seems to me that
> all HPL has done is resurrect the perspective of
> the ancient sailor on the wild ocean, or the
> ancient peasant tilling his precarious fields
> between on the border of a demon haunted forest
> and in the shadow of a god-haunted mountain.

Yes. It seems to me like that too, and then one wonders: why would a convinced and committed materialist do this by choice, since it deals not with the material world, but with the spiritual realm?

>
> Perhaps this is blasphemy to certain 18th century
> rationalists who, having dethroned God, were
> perhaps sometimes tempted to imagine that Man
> could claim God's throne and become gods
> themselves. And perhaps some strains of
> Christianity were sufficiently vainglorious to
> adopt similar perspective, and perhaps they too
> would have been offended by HPL's
> anti-exceptionalism. But I don't see how that
> gets us to materialism. Not even close.
>
> > But he so consistently injects his idea of the
> > expanded cosmos, the one that we have no
> > information of, with an almost subjective
> > malevolence, that the entities that might
> appear
> > to humans as both powerful and threatening, and
> > that they do *indeed* wish us ill. It's not
> > exactly like stepping on ants inadvertently;
> there
> > seems to be a sort of delight in doing so, and
> > *this* is an injection of Judeo-Christian or
> > gnostic malevolence.
>
> It is almost as though his fiction world were
> haunted by powerful demons. He even insists on
> using the word. I'm not saying he actually
> believes in demons. But he sure as hell loved to
> write about them.

Yes. He sure did.

To my perception, much of his fiction, excluding maybe ghost written stuff--presumes that mankind is no great shakes when it comes to the cosmos. If we consider the cosmos as unequivocally material, then maybe it makes better sense than I first thought: a materialist challenging the security of conventional thought. He is bringing the narrator, whom we usually take as an educated and conventional observer with late 19th C sensibilities, face-to-face with just how over-matched he, and everything he assumes to be true, is when compared to infinite existence.

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

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 11:48PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Do you have any other suggestions for CAS stinkers
> available online?

I almost feel bad for calling them stinkers, because even CAS' lesser efforts have some memorable details and conceptual merits, but I do find several attempts at his planetary sci-fi adventures lacking in substantial storytelling, especially his early ones, like "The Metamorphosis of the World", "The Immortals of Mercury", "Marooned in Andromeda", "An Adventure in Futurity", and "The Invisible City." I feel these five in particular have grand ideas, but are written as though they were rushed at many segments, as if CAS wanted to get some neat ideas out of the way and get that paycheck sooner.

"The Immortals of Mercury", for instance, deals with a race of hyper-intelligent immortals who dwell in the caverns of Mercury. The first half is interesting, when CAS describes their world and builds an atmosphere of suspense surrounding its eerie society, but midway through it drops all intrigue for an extremely drawn-out series of run-of-the-mill action scenes. There's some suspense to it, but it pales in comparison to truly dedicated adventure writers like REH or Merritt. And the fatalistic ending wouldn't be bad, if it weren't just an ironic cap for all that pointless action.

"The Invisible City" had a wondrous idea, about two men who discover an ancient alien city invisible to the human eye. The marvelous inhabitants were intent on assimilating the humans into their multidimensional culture, but on a split-second whim the humans suddenly hate the aliens with all their will, and turn the story into another heroic action-adventure which does nothing to explore or expand on its ideas.

It's interesting that these aren't so good even though one of his first planetary adventures, "The Monster of the Prophecy", was a good example of science-fantasy. By comparison, it had more engaging characters, a unique plot, a believable sense of immensity, and some truly creative settings and creatures, all beautifully described. Perhaps it's true he wrote the ones I listed earlier for the money, while "Monster" was a more personal project for him. What else is interesting is that at some point in the middle of his career, CAS started writing consistently decent planetary tales again, starting with his Aihai (Martian) cycle.

But I ramble about useless things here! You were simply asking for stinkers! I think the ones I mentioned count the most though.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 23 Aug 20 | 11:56PM by Hespire.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 12:14AM
Sawfish Wrote:
> > I remember that letter! He wrote "A Captivity
> in
> > Serpens" in response to these demands for more
> > plot and action. He must have enjoyed writing
> > various novelties in it, like the faery-city
> and
> > vampiric aliens I mentioned, but otherwise it
> felt
> > like he was just churning this thing out for
> the
> > money, and perhaps with an air of
> > passive-aggressive irony on his mind. It also
> > seems that the story I mentioned isn't even
> > available on the Eldritch Dark!
>
> So I noticed. Perhaps to spare us!

More likely, i would guess, because he sold the rights to it, & in this case those rights were actually renewed by the owner.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 09:30AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Yes. It seems to me like that too, and then one
> wonders: why would a convinced and committed
> materialist do this by choice, since it deals not
> with the material world, but with the spiritual
> realm?
>

Perhaps because he was brought up to think and socially behave with rational sensibility. In his letters, and in his own eyes, he wanted to be a respectable man, not come across as a "cuckoo".

Jack Vance did something similar, by more or less denying his own fascination with science fiction and fantasy, saying he did it for the money, and that he rather would have been a mystery writer if it only had payed more. Wanting to come across as a macho man, sailor, worker, family supporter, who rolls up his sleeves, and sits down at a table with a whiskey in his hand, engaged in burly conversation with the other chaps.

Men want to come across as capable, with both feet on the ground. Science fiction and fantasy (and a bearded god sitting in the clouds) is 'cute'. And sexually unattractive. Courting a beautiful woman and telling her first thing, "I like science fiction and fantasy!", is sure to make her turn on her heels; she will never want to bear your children. Unless of course, you are able to make money from your fantasy, or have some other successful career up your sleeve, that you can pull out (and you better be quick about it).

Have you seen photos of Lovecraft from the short period he was engaged? He was a completely different man, transformed. Handsome, stable, relaxed, and self-assured looking. A real ladies man! Not at all the awkward, distant dreamer we see in many photographs.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 10:40AM
These are very interesting observations.

For what it's worth, I agree with the underlying, often unspoken, tension between creation and exploitation--and by the latter I don't wish to convey a negative connotation, but it's the best word that I can come up with this early for the act of utilizing resources for one's own (and one's family's) benefit.

So a writer is a creator--which carries with it the cultural connection with the feminine, while the labor/worker, or even entrepreneur or salesman, is a form of exploiter, which carries the idea of a masculine preoccupation.

In writing there's probably a hierarchy of what's more acceptably masculine, and this would include Hemingway-type stuff, and Jim Harrison, Cormac McCarthy, etc. You'd even have hard-boiled crime guys like Chandler, Hammett, Elmore Leonard, etc.

Then you have poets...another case entirely... :^)

This is a very interesting point you raised.

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

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 10:51AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Platypus Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> > "Anti-exceptionalism" and "materialism" have
> > little to do with each other.
>
> Maybe, but to consider humanity as an exceptional
> creation imbued with a spark of God's divinity--He
> creating us in His likeness, you see--seems
> contrary to materialism, which reduces everything
> to conceivably knowable matter--quantum mechanics
> being the logical extension, I would suppose.

The above sentences reference God and perhaps, by implication, the human soul. That, and not the "exceptionalism", are what makes the above Christian teaching inconsistent with materialism.

HPL wrote in his fiction that cats were sacred to the gods, and made in the image of the divine sphynx. That is just as contrary to materialism. Whether or not it is also contrary to Christianity is beside the point.

> So "exceptionalism" is at odds with "materialism",
> to me it seems like "anti-exceptonalism" is at
> least in the same philosophical hemisphere as
> "materialism".

Materialism fails to ascribe any value to anything at all. It seems to me to be meaningless to say that it is either for or against human exceptionalism. The materialist, at least, is capable of appreciating that there exists a tendency, perhaps natural, for humans to be species-centric, ethno-centric, and ego-centric. Materialism offers no particular incentive to resist such urges or tendencies; though of course, neither does it forbid such resistance.

Materialism refuses to allow that reality has any spiritual component whatsoever. Materialism does not allow for the tiniest and most insignificant imp, nor does it allow for the most ultra-powerful god or demon. Debating on where the human soul stands in the hierarchy of spirits, and what the Christian position on this might be, is utterly beside the point. The argument is over the instant you allow that any god, demon, imp, human soul or animal soul exists at all.

On a side note, you will have a much easier time arguing that HPL's fiction was (often) un-Christian or anti-Christian.

Even there, though, you may be a bit unsure what to do with "Psychopompos" or "Dreams in the Witch-House".

And even there, arguing that HPL's rejection of human exceptionalism is an un-Christian aspect of his fiction would be an extraordinarily weak point. Chistianity merely teaches that God in some sense put Man above the animals. It says nothing about whether humans are more powerful than demons, or are more important in the eyes of god than angels or other powerful spirits. And it expresses no opinions on space aliens either. IIRC, Swedenborg, in the mid 1700s, speculated that certain space aliens might be children of god with analogous status to men; and I doubt he was the first. Had HPL used his fiction to agitate in favor of equal rights for bunnies and cockroaches, you might possibly have argued that this contradicts the Christian doctrine that humans are higher than the animals. But HPL did not believe in equal rights for cockroaches. Nobody does. Not really. It's a non-issue.

And HPL could be quite the "exceptionalist" in the sense of being a class-snob and a race-snob. And this does influence his fiction at times. Arguably, he might have been less of an exceptionalist, rather than more of one, had he made more attention to Christian teachings such as "Christian humility", the sin of pride, the value and dignity of the poor in the eyes of God, and the universal brotherhood of mankind.

Christianity does anticipate an apocalypse in which ultra-powerful demons will arise and destroy mankind. Hmmm. Sounds vaguely familiar.



Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 24 Aug 20 | 11:25AM by Platypus.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 11:36AM
That was a good job of creating both sides of an argument and proceeding to argue with yourself.

We're done.


"It is Pointless, and endless Trouble, to cast a stone at every dog
that barks at you."

--Sawfish

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 12:43PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> That was a good job of creating both sides of an
> argument and proceeding to argue with yourself.
>
> We're done.
>
> "It is Pointless, and endless Trouble, to cast a
> stone at every dog that barks at you."

Did you just compare me to a barking dog? There are more graceful ways of bowing out of a discussion that no longer interests you. You do not owe me your time, after all. Note that I did not insult you in any way, and I shall try not to do so, even now.

As for your first sentence, I am unsure if you are accusing me of misrepresenting your position, or contradicting my own. In either case I'm not aware how I have done so. I guess I won't expect further clarifications. Peace!



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 24 Aug 20 | 01:09PM by Platypus.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 10:57AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Jack Vance did something similar, by more or less
> denying his own fascination with science fiction
> and fantasy, saying he did it for the money, and
> that he rather would have been a mystery writer if
> it only had payed more. Wanting to come across as
> a macho man, sailor, worker, family supporter, who
> rolls up his sleeves, and sits down at a table
> with a whiskey in his hand, engaged in burly
> conversation with the other chaps.

This may be true, but it sounds wrong to me. When exactly did Jack Vance deny his interest in sci-fi and fantasy?

And he wrote enough profitless mysteries that we can hardly doubt his interest there was also sincere. I hardly think we can doubt he would have written more of them if they could have earned him money.

And surely he was indeed, to a significant extent, a macho man, sailor, worker and family supporter, who did indeed like to hang out with his buddies (who included Poul Anderson and Frank Herbert, neither of whom were likely to look down on his interest in sci fi). It sounds strange to say that he merely "wanted" to be these things. He had a real experience of life, and an interest in the real world, that gives his sci fi and fantasy a level of conviction that it would otherwise lack. His interest in and knowledge of boats (for instance) also influenced his sci fi stories (e.g. "The Moon Moth" and "Showboat World"). I don't see the conflict here that your words imply.

HPL was maybe less of a "macho man" (relatively speaking) than Vance was, but he too had "real world" antiquarian interests that inform his writings and give them conviction.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 11:35AM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Jack Vance did something similar, by more or
> less
> > denying his own fascination with science
> fiction
> > and fantasy, saying he did it for the money,
> and
> > that he rather would have been a mystery writer
> if
> > it only had payed more. Wanting to come across
> as
> > a macho man, sailor, worker, family supporter,
> who
> > rolls up his sleeves, and sits down at a table
> > with a whiskey in his hand, engaged in burly
> > conversation with the other chaps.
>
> This may be true, but it sounds wrong to me. When
> exactly did Jack Vance deny his interest in sci-fi
> and fantasy?
>
>

I see him as both interested in practical things and in fantasy. But he preferred to discuss practical things, like sailing for example, have a good laugh and dinner with friends, play music in aband, more than discuss his books which he regarded as his professional job and way of income. He was very private about the details of his writing. It was many years ago, but I think I remember reading an interview with him in which he said he did not enjoy reading science fiction but read science articles. And his own work was of a cultural exploration, drama, and humor, accidentally in a space setting, more than pure sci-fi. I also seem to remember he said something along the line that sci-fi and fantasy can easily come across as cute and childish or non-serious in people's eyes.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 12:40PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I see him as both interested in practical things
> and in fantasy. But he preferred to discuss
> practical things, like sailing for example, have a
> good laugh and dinner with friends, play music in
> aband, more than discuss his books which he
> regarded as his professional job and way of
> income. He was very private about the details of
> his writing.

Sounds perfectly understandable to me. A good story should speak for itself, no? Why would a writer necessarily be eager to discuss the details of his writing? Nothing about this implies he wanted to deny his love for fantasy and sci-fi.

> It was many years ago, but I think I
> remember reading an interview with him in which he
> said he did not enjoy reading science fiction but
> read science articles.

I recall something similar (not, as I recall, that he did not enjoy sci fi, but merely that he no longer read it), but don't remember the year. But Vance wrote sci-fi until he was 86. This sounds like a perfectly credible statement at a certain stage of his career. I'm sure he said it because it was the simple truth, and not because he was trying to deny his love for sci fi and fantasy. Certainly he did not deny having read and enjoyed sci fi and fantasy in his youth. But later, he is the story-teller, and not the story-reader. He expresses his love for sci-fi by telling stories, not by reading them. And he reads real-world articles, and seeks real-world experience, in part for their own sake, and in part so he can inform his sci fi and keep it from being stale and derivative.

> And his own work was of a
> cultural exploration, drama, and humor,
> accidentally in a space setting, more than pure
> sci-fi.

Vance wrote sci fi and fantasy, even in his old age. I don't know what "pure sci-fi" is. If I ever read "pure sci fi", I might not like it. But certainly Vance was none too interested in the nuts and bolts of how interstellar space ships work. They were just a device for reaching alien planets. But I don't think anyone can deny Vance's sincere interests in the alien planets and cultures he created.

> I also seem to remember he said something
> along the line that sci-fi and fantasy can easily
> come across as cute and childish or non-serious in
> people's eyes.

Well, if he ever said that, it was simply a true statement. No?



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 25 Aug 20 | 12:46PM by Platypus.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 01:09PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> > I also seem to remember he said something
> > along the line that sci-fi and fantasy can
> easily
> > come across as cute and childish or non-serious
> in
> > people's eyes.
>
> Well, if he ever said that, it was simply a true
> statement. No?

Yes, would seem so.

I think he didn't want to come across as a dreamer of fantasy, but as a capable and practical man with both feet on the ground. So he presented his profession as something he did to make money, not as a hobby or simply for the joy of it.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 04:52PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think he didn't want to come across as a dreamer
> of fantasy, but as a capable and practical man
> with both feet on the ground. So he presented his
> profession as something he did to make money, not
> as a hobby or simply for the joy of it.

I think Vance was who he was, told the simple truth about himself and was not trying to come across in any particular way. Houseboating with his buddy Frank Herbert was not for him a practical occupation. Jazz playing with his band was not a practical occupation. These are things that dreamers do. The difference was he could actually make a bit of money from sci fi and fantasy.

Sci Fi was how he earned his living; how he supported his wife and children. If he had said "I write sci fi simply for the joy of it and not for any other reason", he would have been lying. But I would say there are reasons he ended up earning his living as a sci fi writer and not as an accountant. And those reasons have to do with who he was.

Re: general question to ED members...
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 05:03PM
Yes, he was who he was, and I am thankful he was the man he was.



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