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CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 01:26PM
We recently kicked around the idea that CAS's output was of a more varied quality than HPL's. I agree with this, but then I got to thinking...

We decided that "A Captivity in Serpens" was an example of sub-standard CAS work, but what would be a corresponding example of HPL's sub-standard output?

This needs to be calibrated: CAS's bad stuff, relative to his good stuff, is very poor, indeed. But HPL seemed to me to be very consistent, so that his poorer works were only sub-standard in a much less obvious manner than CAS's.

Now, this is different from simply not caring for a branch of his work--e.g., I've never much cared for his "What the Moon Brings" kinda stuff--it seems like pseudo-Dunsany, in a way. I think all of that material was coherent and well done, but it never clicked with me in the same fashion that At the Mountains of Madness clicked.

So thinking about, I nominate a story ghost written for Zealia Bishop: "The Curse of Yig". A very good story in many ways--atmospheric as hell, if you ask me--very professionally done and complete, but seems like it was "written to order" (which it was) and he was not personally invested in it.

Your thoughts on this?

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

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 01:48PM
Have not read it since my teens, but from my impression then, I nominate "Herbert West--Reanimator."

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 02:28PM
I might not be an HPL fan like I used to be, but I still appreciate his work and I think I consider them fairly. I'd like to participate, even if I think the other members here are more suited to this discussion.

It might be tempting for some fans to consider his Dunsanian fantasies "stinkers", but as they are generally well-written, spoken with sincere yearning, and filled with fabulous ideas described with fittingly fabulous language, I wouldn't call most of them stinkers, but rather an area he wasn't best at. They still stand very well for fanciful stories, higher than many writers who dedicate themselves to the genre.

But of his stories in that Dunsanian vein, I definitely consider his sequel "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" a very weak story. It's clear it was written by two different people who weren't on the same page, causing an unwieldy schism between the exotic mysticism and the cosmic horror, leaving both aspects of the story a bit sloppy and incomplete, and too packaged with hurried exposition. And as a sequel to "The Silver Key", it ruins what was a fine ambiguous ending.

It's been many years since I read his ghost writings, so my memories of "Yig" aren't the strongest, but I'm not surprised that some of his ghost writings and collaborations would be weaker than his wholly personal work. I remember finding "Horror in the Museum" fun but not much else. If it was HPL's intention to make a somewhat cartoonish Halloween story then I admit it was just okay, but if it was meant to be as solemnly impressive as "Call of Cthulhu" or "Shadow Out of Time", then I think it falls short.



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 25 Aug 20 | 02:43PM by Hespire.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 04:11PM
As to ghost-written stories, HPL did one for Bishop called "The Mound". I personally like the story, but for those who dislike At the Mountains of Madness because it's less plot driven than an extended compendium of cultural/historical observation (he spend many pages simply describing who the hell these being that built the Antarctic city were), well, he does the same with the race that lives beneath the mound.

But me, I *liked* it...liked them both.

Hah! A thought just came to me: did CAS ghost-write like HPL?

For "Reanimator", never read it. I saw an awful X-rated film of the same name, claiming lineage from HPL, at a drive-in theater in San Diego; my date thought I was some kind of degenerate, and it was the end of that romance. After that, I wanted only to forget everything about it, including the title.

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



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 25 Aug 20 | 04:14PM by Sawfish.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 05:04PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Have not read it since my teens, but from my
> impression then, I nominate "Herbert
> West--Reanimator."

Disagree. "Herbert West" is a hoot.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 05:32PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> But of his stories in that Dunsanian vein, I
> definitely consider his sequel "Through the Gates
> of the Silver Key" a very weak story. It's clear
> it was written by two different people who weren't
> on the same page, causing an unwieldy schism
> between the exotic mysticism and the cosmic
> horror, leaving both aspects of the story a bit
> sloppy and incomplete, and too packaged with
> hurried exposition. And as a sequel to "The Silver
> Key", it ruins what was a fine ambiguous ending.

Well, I happen to very much like "Through the Gates of the Silver Key". But differences of taste aside, I don't think the flaws you complain of (even if flaws are what they are) stem from the contributions of his co-author. I did read Hoffman-Price's original draft, so my opinion on this is not entirely uninformed.

I suspect HPL decides to "ruin" the ending of "The Silver Key" for much the same reason that he decided to "ruin" the ending to "Celephais" (in "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath"). He had rejected that solipsistic strain of thought. He realized, at least, that the mind cannot just turn in on itself.

I think I would rather dislike both "The Silver Key" and "Celephais", had HPL not decided to "ruin" them.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 05:36PM
I suppose no one will hasten to speak up for "Poetry and the Gods."

"The Hound"?

A number of his early stories probably get more love than they deserve because they are by HPL. "Herbert West," for sure.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 07:05PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I suppose no one will hasten to speak up for
> "Poetry and the Gods."

It's a stinker for sure. But it is also "by Anna Helen Crofts and Henry Paget-Lowe". Not only is HPL not given as primary author, but he evidently did not want his true name associated with the piece at all. It was dug up and attributed to him after his death.

> "The Hound"?

It's far from his best, but also far from a stinker, IMHO.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 25 Aug 20 | 07:44PM by Platypus.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 07:11PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> It's been many years since I read his ghost
> writings, so my memories of "Yig" aren't the
> strongest, but I'm not surprised that some of his
> ghost writings and collaborations would be weaker
> than his wholly personal work.

While I would not call them "stinkers", I would say that his ghostwritten pieces, or "revisions" are at least 2 steps below those he wrote under his own name. The exception would be the story he wrote for Houdini. Houdini was famous, so he got the benefit of a second-rate effort, rather than a third-rate effort.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 08:44PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hespire Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > But of his stories in that Dunsanian vein, I
> > definitely consider his sequel "Through the
> Gates
> > of the Silver Key" a very weak story. It's
> clear
> > it was written by two different people who
> weren't
> > on the same page, causing an unwieldy schism
> > between the exotic mysticism and the cosmic
> > horror, leaving both aspects of the story a bit
> > sloppy and incomplete, and too packaged with
> > hurried exposition. And as a sequel to "The
> Silver
> > Key", it ruins what was a fine ambiguous
> ending.
>
> Well, I happen to very much like "Through the
> Gates of the Silver Key". But differences of
> taste aside, I don't think the flaws you complain
> of (even if flaws are what they are) stem from the
> contributions of his co-author. I did read
> Hoffman-Price's original draft, so my opinion on
> this is not entirely uninformed.
>
> I suspect HPL decides to "ruin" the ending of "The
> Silver Key" for much the same reason that he
> decided to "ruin" the ending to "Celephais" (in
> "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath"). He had rejected
> that solipsistic strain of thought. He realized,
> at least, that the mind cannot just turn in on
> itself.
>
> I think I would rather dislike both "The Silver
> Key" and "Celephais", had HPL not decided to
> "ruin" them.


I hope I did not offend you. I don't have the sort of backbone you and the others have when it comes to disagreements. I really can't stomach any sort of argument, and normally back down the moment someone else is agitated or offers a stronger argument. And I can see you are quite passionate about Lovecraft, so by comparison I have nothing of use to say on this subject.

I would like to add that "Celephais" is a story I don't care much for, and "Dream Quest" is just okay to my taste, though its ending is what makes it stand out most in my mind, feeling naturally beautiful to someone like me, who hates the idea of using fantasy as a permanent escape from reality, a sentiment I am finding more and more examples of in this era.

As for the matter of "Silver Key", I'm not sure if you're accusing me of endorsing a particular philosophy, because most of all I was referring to how the story ends with Carter's disappearance, leaving it up in the air what became of him or if he ever returned, which I felt had good buildup once Lovecraft got over his ranting. While "Through the Gates" technically has that sort of ending too, it didn't feel satisfying to me because I felt some parts of the story, including the Zkauba plotline, weren't fleshed out enough for me to feel personally invested. The story has many brilliant ideas, and in fact it's one of my favorite stories by Lovecraft because of these ideas, but I would have preferred a much different approach to it. Rather than blaming either author, I assumed this quality I don't like was a result of them having conflicting ideas, and Lovecraft himself had mostly negative things to say about the story, even in spite of CAS' and others' enthusiasm for it. But maybe the story is far greater than my stuck-up attitude can appreciate.

I would ask more about the original Price manuscript, whose existence I was unaware of, but I think it is best if I bow out of this thread now. I can't stand the idea of saying things that would hurt, annoy, or conflict with others.



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 25 Aug 20 | 08:51PM by Hespire.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 10:28PM
Hespire Wrote:
----------------------------
> I hope I did not offend you.

Not at all. I can't even understand why you would say this.

> I would like to add that "Celephais" is a story I
> don't care much for, and "Dream Quest" is just
> okay to my taste, though its ending is what makes
> it stand out most in my mind, feeling naturally
> beautiful to someone like me, who hates the idea
> of using fantasy as a permanent escape from
> reality, a sentiment I am finding more and more
> examples of in this era.

We're more or less on the same page here.

> As for the matter of "Silver Key", I'm not sure if
> you're accusing me of endorsing a particular
> philosophy, [...]

Not at all. I'm merely explaining my own opinion.

> [...] because most of all I was referring to
> how the story ends with Carter's disappearance,
> leaving it up in the air what became of him or if
> he ever returned, which I felt had good buildup
> once Lovecraft got over his ranting. While
> "Through the Gates" technically has that sort of
> ending too, it didn't feel satisfying to me
> because I felt some parts of the story, including
> the Zkauba plotline, weren't fleshed out enough
> for me to feel personally invested.

That's fine. I enjoyed it. You did not.

> I would ask more about the original Price
> manuscript, whose existence I was unaware of, but
> I think it is best if I bow out of this thread
> now.

I'm not sure how I ever found it before, but if I find it again I'll post a link.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 26 August, 2020 12:50PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I hope I did not offend you.

Also, if you ever use this passive-aggressive whining on me again, I WILL be offended. I don't expect you to apologize for your opinions, and have no intention of apologizing for mine.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 26 August, 2020 02:27PM
I have no issue with disagreements or corrections. My only issue is a neurotic fear of bothering others by wording my opinions too strongly. Text doesn't always properly convey tone, or I don't read text properly, so I assumed your tone was one of annoyance or offense at my disrespect for something you admired. Maybe it's my particular Asian upbringing, I don't know, all I know is I don't handle confrontations over intellectual opinions well, and I fear disrespecting something which other people hold dearly. It's one reason I would make a terrible critic, and am both thrilled and shocked by S. T. Joshi's strongly worded essays, even when I might agree with him. One reason I singled out "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" as a "weak" story is because I usually don't see anyone defending it, and even Lovecraft wasn't fond of it. I assumed I could share my opinion without stirring any controversy, but this experience goes to show that anyone can like and defend anything.

I apologize for my response, sincerely, I just have unhealthy fears of expressing my honest thoughts to strangers, even when I try to. I was hoping I could work on that weakness here, among mature and educated individuals, but perhaps it would be wiser, and more peaceful for everyone, to work on it elsewhere before returning here.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 26 Aug 20 | 02:37PM by Hespire.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 26 August, 2020 03:14PM
Not to worry, Hespire!

My wife is 2nd gen Japanese American, by way of Hawaii. She's not really comfortable in that situation, either.

Often I've speculated aloud that the main reason she keeps me around is to strong-arm other people, when it come in handy. She just smiles coyly...

...but, you know, *maybe* there's something in that... (gulp!)

;^)

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

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 26 August, 2020 07:57PM
Every time I post an opinion on this site, no matter how foolhardy or enthusiastic I sound, it's always with doubt and anxiety. It's why I felt a little bad when considering which of CAS' stories are "stinkers", fearing both disapproving members and the imaginary ghost of CAS, and why I insisted that other people here are better at discussing HPL's stories than me. Funny you share your experience with a Japanese wife, because my Japanese mother definitely instilled this in me.

With that said, I did read "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" last night, fearful of my ignorance and arrogance as a reader and eager to change my mind. In spite of my complaints, I've always considered it one of my favorite HPL stories because of its open-minded nature and wild ideas. It's the only story I know in which Lovecraft (or rather Price, but HPL left this in) acknowledged that calling ancient alien beings "abominable" and "malignant" is a bit overly judgmental, and that entities like Yog-Sothoth couldn't possibly be so evil because they are far too grand to even think of harming little ol' humanity. It offers a rare perspective on Lovecraft's mythos that resonates with me, though I'm no Theosophist or orientalist. And the plot with Yaddith was a fun idea for a cosmic horror, and I mirror Robert E. Howard's sentiment that a whole story about Yaddith would be great.

But unfortunately I still found the story rather lacking, even with my attempt at opening my mind to it. It's a brilliant idea from beginning to end, but I found the whole plot with Yaddith so rushed and so different from what came previously that I couldn't immerse myself in it. Maybe I would have preferred it if HPL had just focused on a story about Carter, Zkauba, and Yaddith, and left out Price's Theosophic lecturing and the adventure with Yog-Sothoth. It felt like two very different stories with very different perspectives, rather than a natural progression from one thing to the next. And I understand that maybe HPL wanted it to be a shocking revelation, that humans can dream of other worlds but could never truly thrive outside of their own, and that human senses wouldn't handle the shock of being suddenly dropped into an alien dimension. But none of that spoke to me, because even after spending ages with all these otherworldly adventures (adventures which were too vague to entice my imagination), Carter simply hated being an alien, and I couldn't put myself in his shoes because I don't think this side of his conflict was explored very deeply. There was too much summary for me to feel for his plight.

Even if "Dream Quest" isn't one of my favorites, I still appreciate the progression of feelings and events leading up to the revelation that Carter's true dream-city was his home all along. There was a long, ambling, but definite progression rising up to that exact moment. And the twist that Nyarlathotep, his mysterious arch-nemesis, is the one to reveal this to him was a stroke of genius. But in "Through the Gates", it felt too sudden and too much at odds with Price's contribution. Again, none of the ideas are bad, but the presentation of them felt discordant to me, and rushed as if HPL might not have enjoyed writing this, which might be true because he stated he wasn't eager to write any sort of sequel to "Silver Key." I would have preferred this either as a longer novel or perhaps as two different stories, so that all the ideas could breathe and be explored more deeply.

Maybe CAS, who was so enthusiastic about this story, could have done something a little more unified with it, since he had written several stories dealing with men visiting alien worlds. And the idea of an alien avatar hating its human avatar but forced to share the same body sounds like the sort of drama and humor he would have played up. Almost along the lines of the subtle humor and horror in his "Monster of the Prophecy."

I refuse to call any story a "stinker" now, but I do feel that this story is one of Lovecraft's notably weaker efforts.



Edited 8 time(s). Last edit at 26 Aug 20 | 08:14PM by Hespire.

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