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Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 26 August, 2020 10:27PM
Looking through my books of letters, I found this sample of HPL's lack of enthusiasm for "Through the Gates" in a letter to R. H. Barlow from August of 1933. Every time he brings up this story in other letters, it's to emphasize that he was reluctant and doesn't enjoy collaborating.

Quote:
Yes—Price told me you had the MS. of the Silver Key sequel, together with the preliminary draught he prepared. I'm no good at collaboration—having to fit another person's ideas spoils the whole creative process with me. I doubt whether Wright will take this hodge-podge—but Sultan Malik has now sent it on to him.

Of course HPL's reluctance cannot affect how anyone views his work; CAS liked "Through the Gates" just fine and I enjoyed other stories HPL claimed to dislike, but I do think his comments explain why I found this story so much weaker than what he usually wrote.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 26 Aug 20 | 10:29PM by Hespire.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 27 August, 2020 07:49AM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
>

This is all very interesting. And it illuminates some of the difference between European culture and Japanese culture. The ideas of democracy (Greece) and freedom of speech (Voltaire) are very much European ideas, and are not automatically taken for granted in other parts of the World. I don't believe Japan has any particular traditions of free speech or open arguments. But on the other hand, Japan has other (correct me if I am mistaken) cultural values, such as serving, discipline, respect for authority, perfecting of skills, dignity, and honor; qualities which in themselves can be of great value, and in part explains why Japan has become such a successful and stable nation. (Don't know if the same things can be said for Asian culture generally; but China is not quite the same, with a greater focus on total and silent obedience. Not sure how the situation was in China before the Revolution, but culture and art were certainly much higher standing; in other words, individual talent was favored.).

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 27 August, 2020 11:03AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This is all very interesting. And it illuminates
> some of the difference between European culture
> and Japanese culture. The ideas of democracy
> (Greece) and freedom of speech (Voltaire) are very
> much European ideas, and are not automatically
> taken for granted in other parts of the World. I
> don't believe Japan has any particular traditions
> of free speech or open arguments. But on the other
> hand, Japan has other (correct me if I am
> mistaken) cultural values, such as serving,
> discipline, respect for authority, perfecting of
> skills, dignity, and honor; qualities which in
> themselves can be of great value, and in part
> explains why Japan has become such a successful
> and stable nation. (Don't know if the same things
> can be said for Asian culture generally; but China
> is not quite the same, with a greater focus on
> total and silent obedience. Not sure how the
> situation was in China before the Revolution, but
> culture and art were certainly much higher
> standing; in other words, individual talent was
> favored.).


I'm half japanese, and spent most of my life surrounded by Americans, especially the white side of my family (a very loud, roaring bunch), so I would probably seem more quaint, amusing, or even barbaric to a fully Japanese person raised in Japan. But what you say is true from what I've learned through my mother, and the times I've taken interest in her homeland (haven't ever visited!). Harmony is a key thing, and most disagreements, both minor and major, have to be suffered in silence when in public. Political and intellectual matters are best kept to yourself, or shared only with close friends and family. No doubt my American upbringing makes me more likely to raise an unwanted opinion, and although my mother might have been shy even for a Japanese person, I learned both beneficial and crippling traits from her.

On the subject of Japan, I have an online Japanese friend who told me the Cthulhu Mythos is a bit of a hit over there, and many Japanese artists enjoy illustrating its stories and creatures. CAS also has a very small presence there, but few of his stories have been translated. My friend, who speaks decent English, can hardly understand what CAS is saying in the original English, for obvious reasons! Once he also shared a fascinating illustration of CAS' monsters terrorizing the Japanese countryside in the style of traditional paintings! But this is getting out of hand, I didn't expect a discussion based on my heritage, I was simply explaining why I'm a bit of a nuisance. Passive-aggressiveness is more common in Japan than direct arguing, at least in public, and when you're raised by an overly aggressive father and a meek mother, you learn some things.



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 27 Aug 20 | 11:20AM by Hespire.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 27 August, 2020 11:31AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hespire Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > 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.
> >
>
> This is all very interesting. And it illuminates
> some of the difference between European culture
> and Japanese culture. The ideas of democracy
> (Greece) and freedom of speech (Voltaire) are very
> much European ideas, and are not automatically
> taken for granted in other parts of the World. I
> don't believe Japan has any particular traditions
> of free speech or open arguments. But on the other
> hand, Japan has other (correct me if I am
> mistaken) cultural values, such as serving,
> discipline, respect for authority, perfecting of
> skills, dignity, and honor; qualities which in
> themselves can be of great value, and in part
> explains why Japan has become such a successful
> and stable nation. (Don't know if the same things
> can be said for Asian culture generally; but China
> is not quite the same, with a greater focus on
> total and silent obedience. Not sure how the
> situation was in China before the Revolution, but
> culture and art were certainly much higher
> standing; in other words, individual talent was
> favored.).

While I deeply believe that ultimately, human interaction between individuals is ultimately what is the defining nature of that relationship, it is also fair and mostly justifiable to make cultural generalization, as a sort of "first cut" in understanding an emerging social dynamic when dealing with those of a differing cultural background.

Those who are less generous tend to call this "prejudice", but in fact, one's personal ability to make considered judgements about emerging situations is the single biggest source of personal power/authority, or, if poorly done, self-inflicted misery, that one has in one's life.

In my observation, the simplest difference between Japanese and Chinese contemporary cultural norms is that a granular level of subservience is evident in Japanese culture and less evident in Chinese. By this I mean that the ***tendency*** in Japanese culture seems to me that many more socially-recognized "castes" existed at one time and much of the baggage from this carries on to this day, such that when any two individuals meet, the relative ranking must be sorted out before proceeding. Perhaps this is a by-product of a form of feudalism that was present in Japan, and relative to Chinese levels of social organization, more recently, historically.

In contemporary society the differences in "caste" have eroded, but what remains is the elaborate social "politeness". My best guess, therefore, is that what appears to the western eye to be a concern with politeness is simply an evolved response of subservience to a (potentially) higher caste member--one who in former times had life or death power over you.

You'll note in contemporary business relationships among Japanese, a level of vocal restraint by those of less status, and a heightened vocal projection, often terse, in response from those who are of higher status, as they relate to each other.

Now, my wife of 35 years is 2 generations removed from this (just as I'm 2 gen removed from my cultural forebears--but from the other side of the globe), and also from Hawaii--which is pretty laid back, relaxed. Much of this has eroded, but over the years she shares with me the sort of stuff she had seen from the older folks, right straight from Japan, and sometimes she'll mention something we see on TV, a certain expressed attitude or tendency.

I have had less exposure to contemporary Chinese culture, but what I've seen of it is much less of this sort of fixed social status response as there is among contemporary Japanese.

These are only my own opinions an therefore subject to flaw.

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

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 27 August, 2020 11:52AM
I'm going to diverge into social stuff, Hespire. It is fun and if no one objects...

If they do, I will refrain after this. This site is *special* and I'm not going to change it if most here prefer to keep this stuff off the forum...

Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > This is all very interesting. And it
> illuminates
> > some of the difference between European culture
> > and Japanese culture. The ideas of democracy
> > (Greece) and freedom of speech (Voltaire) are
> very
> > much European ideas, and are not automatically
> > taken for granted in other parts of the World.
> I
> > don't believe Japan has any particular
> traditions
> > of free speech or open arguments. But on the
> other
> > hand, Japan has other (correct me if I am
> > mistaken) cultural values, such as serving,
> > discipline, respect for authority, perfecting
> of
> > skills, dignity, and honor; qualities which in
> > themselves can be of great value, and in part
> > explains why Japan has become such a successful
> > and stable nation. (Don't know if the same
> things
> > can be said for Asian culture generally; but
> China
> > is not quite the same, with a greater focus on
> > total and silent obedience. Not sure how the
> > situation was in China before the Revolution,
> but
> > culture and art were certainly much higher
> > standing; in other words, individual talent was
> > favored.).
>
>
> I'm half japanese, and spent most of my life
> surrounded by Americans, especially the white side
> of my family (a very loud, roaring bunch), so I
> would probably seem more quaint, amusing, or even
> barbaric to a fully Japanese person raised in
> Japan.

Hah! My wife says that in Hawaii she ran into Japanese tourists and/or students (in college there she tutored Japanese students in English) who seemed to cast doubt on her level of "Japaense-ness".

Very insular culture, it seems.

So, our daughter is like you--in Hawaii the term is "hapa". Personally, I think she's very pretty, but I'm badly biased... ;^)


> But what you say is true from what I've
> learned through my mother, and the times I've
> taken interest in her homeland (haven't ever
> visited!). Harmony is a key thing, and most
> disagreements, both minor and major, have to be
> suffered in silence when in public. Political and
> intellectual matters are best kept to yourself, or
> shared only with close friends and family. No
> doubt my American upbringing makes me more likely
> to raise an unwanted opinion, and although my
> mother might have been shy even for a Japanese
> person, I learned both beneficial and crippling
> traits from her.

Yes. There most certainly *are* beneficial traits from my wife's side. I can see them in our daughter and as a young adult starting out, I'm *extremely* happy she has picked them up. They are going to benefit her in life, for sure.

>
> On the subject of Japan, I have an online Japanese
> friend who told me the Cthulhu Mythos is a bit of
> a hit over there, and many Japanese artists enjoy
> illustrating its stories and creatures. CAS also
> has a very small presence there, but few of his
> stories have been translated. My friend, who
> speaks decent English, can hardly understand what
> CAS is saying in the original English, for obvious
> reasons!

Hah! There are native English speakers who'd say the same!!!

> Once he also shared a fascinating
> illustration of CAS' monsters terrorizing the
> Japanese countryside in the style of traditional
> paintings! But this is getting out of hand, I
> didn't expect a discussion based on my heritage, I
> was simply explaining why I'm a bit of a nuisance.


Not to worry; no nuisance. Please stick around. Your observations/comments have great value to the forum.

Some posters here are just naturally gruff. That's OK, too.

> Passive-aggressiveness is more common in Japan
> than direct arguing, at least in public, and when
> you're raised by an overly aggressive father and a
> meek mother, you learn some things.

Hah!

I would like to think that when I'm aggressive--which is not too much, I hope--it's for the outside world. Like car repair folks, etc.

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: 28 August, 2020 11:11AM
A while ago I learned from my friend that sometimes Japanese people will openly question the "Japanese-ness" of a person, especially those who lived in foreign countries or half-Japanese people, when they don't behave as most Japanese do! It's amusing to learn an example of that from someone else. Hearing about your wife and daughter was very pleasant, and it sounds like you have a great life going. Nothing can make me smile more!

Interestingly, I learned about "hapa" just this month. I've never been to Hawaii, but from what I've read that word implies a more friendly or accepting take on mixed race than usual. It even sounds pleasant to say!

I'll leave things here, as I don't want to further annoy anyone by accident, but discussions on societal matters like this might perhaps be suited to Knygatin's universal thread, perhaps?

To bring things back to Lovecraft, I'll just add that I've read Sawfish's suggestion of "The Mound" a long time ago, and it definitely never struck me as a stinker. Lovecraft's investigations of alien civilizations are fascinating and more realistic than most sci-fi's I've read. It seems his ghost writings are pretty decent because he still had some creative control, while "Through the Gates" was more difficult because he had to find some way to merge Price's perspective with the story Lovecraft would have preferred telling.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 11:33AM
WRT to HPL's ghost writing as opposed to CAS--of whom I'm unsure if he ever did *any*--I'm intrigued to think that *maybe* HPL had clients for his services *because* he is so damned professional and consistent.

I mean, he really seemed to put in a very professional effort, no matter what. Very admirable work ethic.

And yes, I agree that maybe social stuff should go on the "general" super-thread, but...

Yes, we *do* have a very pleasant life!!! Very, very lucky, I am...

And yes, "hapa" in Hawaii, and here on the mainland too, is a sort of positive identifier. My daughter has told e that she feels a sort of special kinship to other hapa kids, and seeks them out when possible. She say it raises amusing observations...

"Oh, is your Dad willing to eat natto? Not mine...can't say that I like it much, either".

My introduction to the way race is treated in Hawaii was foundational; I was exposed to it the first time at about age 38 or so. There, race has little extra baggage; it has roughly the same significance as the paint job on your car.

Very relaxed...

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: 28 August, 2020 02:08PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Harmony is a key thing, and most
> disagreements, both minor and major, have to be
> suffered in silence when in public. Political and
> intellectual matters are best kept to yourself, or
> shared only with close friends and family. ...
> Passive-aggressiveness is more common in Japan than direct arguing, at least in public,
>

Passive-aggressiveness is part of every civilized culture. Otherwise our society would have looked like a battlefield out of R. E. Howard's Conan. In European culture the intellectual debate has evolved to sidestep violence. The more repressed communication in Japanese culture can have some negative neurotic side effects, for sooner or later energy has to go somewhere. Akira Kurosawa's films examine this, and, I am sure, so do also many modern Japanese films that I have not seen.



> I have an online Japanese
> friend who told me the Cthulhu Mythos is a bit of
> a hit over there, ... CAS also
> has a very small presence there, ...

Europeans have much respect for the sophistication of Japanese culture, especially the samurai tradition, and of course technology, have made a great impression. Likewise Japanese are very curious about Western culture. There is a polite but dedicated fanbase in Japan for almost every little obscure underground cult band or artist we have (and most of us don't even know about). The Japanese are very enthusiastic. But this extreme open-mindedness also make them vulnerable and run the risk of threatening Japanese culture, from destructive liberal capitalist influences flooding the country.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 02:38PM
I'll cut/paste this to the super-thread...under "Observations on Japanese culture".

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



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 28 Aug 20 | 02:39PM by Sawfish.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 09:35PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
[Re: "Through the Gates of the Silver Key"
> 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.

Carter's "beyond good and evil" perspective is to some extent HPL's perspective, since HPL is (philosophically though perhaps not "aesthetically") a moral nihilist.

But in story terms, what happens here is that Carter makes a deal with demon, loses his humanity, and becomes a monster. Maybe that's the aesthetics acting up, and overwhelming the philosophy.

> 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.

Yes, well, perhaps this is consistent with our different reactions to "The Monster of the Prophesy". I found it very easy to understand that, after a while, Carter began to long for the return of that which he lost.

> 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.

What Nyarlathotep did was try to draw him out into space. Carter decides he is loyal to the World, throws himself off the Shanktak, falls to the earth, and retains his humanity.

But in "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", Carter lets himself get drawn out into space by Yog Sothoth, realizes he wants to return too late, and loses his humanity.

In some way the message of both tales is very consistent. The difference is that in "Dream Quest ..." Carter jumps ship just on time; and in "Through the Gates ..." he changes course too late.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 28 Aug 20 | 09:39PM by Platypus.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 10:02PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 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.


I disagree with your endorsement of "Through the Gates of the Silver Key," and "Under the Pyramids"; they are stinkers, as are "From Beyond", "He", & that all-time snoozer, "In the Walls of Eryx". Smith's "A Captivity in Serpens" is a dull example of pulp prolixity, but his style makes even less stellar tales such as "The Immortals of Mercury" or "The Immeasurable Horror" hold my interest. He himself felt that "The Door to Saturn", which has a trite plot, was stylistically strong, possibly moreso because of its initial ecclesiastical satire.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 10:18PM
After our discussion on "Monster of the Prophecy", I see this is mostly a matter of taste. I concede that "Through the Gates" is far from the worst. In fact it only seemed so bad because I felt it was weaker than most of Lovecraft's other cosmic horrors, and a bit too uneven for his Dunsanian fantasies. I still don't consider it a good story, but I'll admit I might have been a bit harsh on it. I can appreciate many aspects of it though, especially the strange and darkly humorous ending.

Your comparison of the two Carter tales makes me appreciate them as alternate outcomes for a similar mental state.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 28 Aug 20 | 10:21PM by Hespire.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 11:24PM
Kipling Wrote:
> I disagree with your endorsement of "Through the
> Gates of the Silver Key," and "Under the
> Pyramids"; they are stinkers, ...

Calling "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" (the historically correct title; there is no good reason to call it anything else) a "second rate effort" was not much of an endorsement from me. I would not say the same about "Through the Gates ...". On "Through the Gates ...", we have more of a disagreement.

Still, "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" was by far the best of the 3 pieces Houdini wrote for WEIRD TALES.

> as are "From Beyond", "He", ....

I'm okay with both stories, particularly "He" which has some memorable imagery. I would rate "Cool Air" and "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" lower.

> & that all-time snoozer, "In the Walls of Eryx".

A piece of revision work HPL redrafted for Kenneth Sterling. In substance (if not style) it is probably mostly Sterling's. I doubt if there is any good reason to suppose that HPL ever wanted his name attached to it. That occurred after his death.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 28 Aug 20 | 11:31PM by Platypus.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 12:43AM
Kipling Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> that all-time snoozer, "In the Walls of Eryx".
>

It is the best story about being stuck in a labyrinth I have ever read. I like it a lot.

Other labyrinths that come to mind, are in movies, Laurel and Hardy Goes to Oxford and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

Re: CAS had "stinkers"...how about HPL?
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 30 August, 2020 10:16PM
Have you read Edmund Hamilton's invisible labyrinth fantasy, "The Monster-God of Mamurth", or Smith's "The Invisible City"?Lovecraft got quite a kick out of the former, back in the 20s when it appeared in Weird Tales. The distinctive of HPL's story (which he wrote almost entirely despite what Platypus avers), is the documentary framing device. This method, while effective in "The Mound," for example, doesn't gather as much suspense in "Eryx" as the standard dramatic narrative employed by both Smith and Hamilton. The Hamilton story is the best of the three, and more original since it pre-dates Smith and Lovecraft. I think C.L. Moore used the idea too in "Werewoman", but I may be mistaken.

jkh

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