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Optimistic endings in CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 09:46AM
A week or so ago someone mentioned in passing that it's hard to find anything even close to an upbeat ending in a CAS story. This, of course, had been pointed out pretty regularly ever since I joined the group.

So thinking about it, there do seem to be some stories that are fairly positive at the end, but most are either amiguous, or outright negative, in terms of what happens to the main POV.

So I thought it might be fun for us to try to identify some of CAS's stories and categorize them in terms of "postivie", "ambiguous", or "negative" conclusions.

Note that for "ambiguous", I'd tend to include stories where the POV is perhaps himself destroyed, but is in some sense vindicated in his destruction.

I'll get the ball rolling...

Positive - The Charnel God

Ambiguous - The Dark Eidolon, The Coming of the White Worm.

Negative - The Weaver in the Vault, The Death of Illalotha.

I look forward to your additions and/or comments!

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

Re: Optimistic endings in CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 10:18AM
"The Monster of the Prophecy" is one of CAS' most positive endings I can imagine, despite having one of the grimmer openings, in which the protagonist attempts to kill himself because of his lonely, penniless existence on Earth. His adventures on another planet prove little better, for the alien inhabitants treat him coldly and cruelly as a freak. But by the ending, he finds a land that accepts him, and a five-armed, three-legged, three-eyed alien queen who loves him and perfectly matches his personality as a romantic outsider.

I think "Vulthoom" counts as an ambiguous ending. On one hand the suffering protagonists die miserably, but on the other hand they manage to save two planets, albeit only for another thousand years or so. Vulthoom himself is such an ambiguous character, doing some cruel and cold things to others but clearly being above our conception of good and evil, and promising an immortal Eden to all who comply with him. And like the human protagonists, Vulthoom is an outsider too, adding an unusually sympathetic angle to the monster.

For a negative ending I almost counted "The Dark Eidolon", but your classification made me realize it can't be all that negative when oblivion is used as liberation from worse torment, and it's really only the evil people who suffer in the entire tale, bringing about their own destruction with their pettiness. Perhaps "The Seven Geases" might count then?



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 28 Aug 20 | 11:00AM by Hespire.

Re: Optimistic endings in CAS
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 11:04AM
Discussing which stories have positive endings is of course spoilerish. So ... (in case anyone cares) SPOILER ALERT

.........
.........
.........
.........

AMBIGUOUS: The ending of "Vulthoom" feels very positive to me. But I guess Sawfish would classify it as ambiguous, based on the criteria he supplies.

AMBIGUOUS: Personally, I have zero positive feelings about "The Monster of the Prophesy"; regardless of whether the protagonist feels satisfied at the end. One of my least favorite CAS stories.

AMBIGUOUS: Similarly, I cannot see the ending of "The Seedling of Mars" a/k/a "The Planet Entity" as positive, even though it technically works out (supposedly, though I don't believe it for a second) for the "sympathetic" characters. I don't hate the story, but that's because I have a sense of humor about it.

AMBIGUOUS: "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros"; one of CAS's most effective horror tales; proving, I think, that a little restraint, as well as contrast, can enhance the horror elements.

POSITIVE: "The Black Abbot of Puthuum", "The Master of the Crabs", "Rendezvous in Averoigne", "The Theft of the 39 Girdles". These are not necessarily his best stories. But I think they are among the best of his more-positive stories. And if I were to prepare a CAS anthology, I would certainly throw them in to give the reader some variety and a break.

Re: Optimistic endings in CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 11:16AM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> AMBIGUOUS: Personally, I have zero positive
> feelings about "The Monster of the Prophesy";
> regardless of whether the protagonist feels
> satisfied at the end. One of my least favorite
> CAS stories.

Ah, but what makes it an ambiguous ending, by your definition? Is it that Vizaphmal's wish for political power ended up failing? Or that there's something the protagonist lost and that his peace and satisfaction is an illusion he tragically never sees through?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 28 Aug 20 | 11:17AM by Hespire.

Re: Optimistic endings in CAS
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 11:42AM
Hespire Wrote:
> Ah, but what makes it an ambiguous ending, by your
> definition?

The useless protagonist is eternally exiled from his fellow human beings, being kept like a pet by an alien sugar mommy, and enjoying sterile sexual activity with an alien monstrosity that does not even look remotely human. Maybe that warms the cockles of some people's hearts, but if so, to each his own. To me it sounds like a fate worse than death. I'd rather be the characters in "Vulthoom".

Re: Optimistic endings in CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 11:53AM
I'm not sure if CAS imagined the eternal exile from humanity as such a bad thing. Wistful, certainly, and you raise an interesting point that made me realize most of CAS' stories are more ambiguous than anything, whether they end happily or unhappily for the protagonist. But it seemed a lot of his characters feel exiled from humanity even when among them, and a transition to an alien world is more or less an extension of living for them. "The Door to Saturn" had a similar ending in that the humans can never return to Earth, but the narration didn't seem to mind so much, at least on Eibon's part.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 28 Aug 20 | 12:17PM by Hespire.

Re: Optimistic endings in CAS
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 01:08PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'm not sure if CAS imagined the eternal exile
> from humanity as such a bad thing.

Maybe not in his worst moods, no. But hatred of humanity is not a very good perspective to have when one sets out to write stories for one's fellow humans.

For me, "The Monster of the Prophesy" starts badly, with the contemplation of suicide, and goes down hill from there. Or maybe (if you want to quibble) it picks up slightly while remaining in a very dark place. It does not seem likely to me that a semi-normal reader would regard the ending as unambiguously positive, even if he were not quite as repulsed by it as I was.

And it seems to me that one has to consider the reader too. It can't be just how CAS feels about it; which cannot really be verified anyway. If I were to pick "positive" CAS stories to put in a CAS anthology, to leven the doom-&-gloom stories a bit, this would not be on my list.

And again, this is just my opinion.

Re: Optimistic endings in CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 01:43PM
This exchange is a lot healthier than our previous disagreement, and I'm glad I'm not scared this time of appearing rude or ignorant. Thank you.

Misanthropy is not something I can relate with, even with my experiences as a loner who doesn't try making friends. In fact I tend to find it shallow and narrow-minded, and when I mentioned disagreeing with some of CAS' sentiments a while ago, his seemingly misanthropic tendencies were among them. While I relish alien imagery, and this story had a lot of it, I do not negate my own humanity or the humanity of others in favor of it. Perhaps I tolerate this more in fiction however, especially in writers like CAS who can downplay it (for me) with the wild, fantastic, or alien imagery I'm truly interested in.

Regarding the exile from Earth, I suppose in some or maybe most of CAS' cases it stems from misanthropy, but as someone who isn't misanthropic, I can see the idea of this situation as wistful, frightening, and exciting all at once. And in stories like "Monster" and "Door to Saturn" or even "Voyage of King Euvoran", I find it soothing knowing a person can thrive in a strange and foreign place, though I admit in these stories there's a sardonic middle finger involved. For me it's almost life-affirming, rather than life-negating or earth-hating, to find one's place on a world of headless men or whitish skies or venomous half-plant monsters. This might not be CAS' intention, but as you reminded me, it's the reader's choice that matters most of all.

I must admit, I'm the sort of person who probably wouldn't mind a romantic relationship with a bizarre alien being, as long as I had the time to know them, and they aren't too far-removed from my human way of thinking. I think the creatures of Vizaphmal's species look graceful and beautiful! But maybe my imagination wasn't envisioning them in the way others would.

While I still class this story's ending as "positive", I agree that it cannot be considered universally happy among all readers. And, to be fair, I don't consider this one of Smith's great stories, though I do consider it a good one. I just singled it out because it was one of those rare stories with a cliched happily-ever-after romantic ending.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 28 Aug 20 | 01:50PM by Hespire.

Re: Optimistic endings in CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 28 August, 2020 05:55PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This exchange is a lot healthier than our previous
> disagreement, and I'm glad I'm not scared this
> time of appearing rude or ignorant. Thank you.
>
> Misanthropy is not something I can relate with,
> even with my experiences as a loner who doesn't
> try making friends. In fact I tend to find it
> shallow and narrow-minded, and when I mentioned
> disagreeing with some of CAS' sentiments a while
> ago, his seemingly misanthropic tendencies were
> among them. While I relish alien imagery, and this
> story had a lot of it, I do not negate my own
> humanity or the humanity of others in favor of it.
> Perhaps I tolerate this more in fiction however,
> especially in writers like CAS who can downplay it
> (for me) with the wild, fantastic, or alien
> imagery I'm truly interested in.
>
> Regarding the exile from Earth, I suppose in some
> or maybe most of CAS' cases it stems from
> misanthropy, but as someone who isn't
> misanthropic, I can see the idea of this situation
> as wistful, frightening, and exciting all at once.
> And in stories like "Monster" and "Door to Saturn"
> or even "Voyage of King Euvoran",

This s one of my all-time favorites stories *in terms of comedic entertainment".




SPOILERS!!!




It's almost like The Emperor's New Clothes in that it's a commentary on the foibles of human nature.

It's just one thing after another, right from the get-go...

They can't deal with the wandering necromancer, whose image in my mind is a lot like an elongated Straw Man from The Wizard of Oz.

He (the necromancer) freely admits to his crimes, and King Euvoran (looking for sadistic fun) can't even make the punishment stick, and in the process loses his crown, which has profound significant meaning and symbolism to the ruling family.

We see that once the crown is removed, Euvoran is balding...

Things go from bad to worse until, in the end, he finds out that his ancestors were conned by the traveling mariner who sold them the stuffed gazolba bird, and his sole sustenance on the island, where he is to live out his life with an unimpressed co-maroonee, is eating gazolbas.

Too great for words, so far as ironic and biting comedy.

Does anyone think that HPL would have ever written such a tale? I don't, and this, alone, is the most profound difference between them.

I'd term this "ambiguous" because he lost everything, but did not die (was not stuffed by birds!) and seemed reasonably resigned to his eventual fate.

> I find it
> soothing knowing a person can thrive in a strange
> and foreign place, though I admit in these stories
> there's a sardonic middle finger involved. For me
> it's almost life-affirming, rather than
> life-negating or earth-hating, to find one's place
> on a world of headless men or whitish skies or
> venomous half-plant monsters. This might not be
> CAS' intention, but as you reminded me, it's the
> reader's choice that matters most of all.
>
> I must admit, I'm the sort of person who probably
> wouldn't mind a romantic relationship with a
> bizarre alien being, as long as I had the time to
> know them, and they aren't too far-removed from my
> human way of thinking. I think the creatures of
> Vizaphmal's species look graceful and beautiful!
> But maybe my imagination wasn't envisioning them
> in the way others would.
>
> While I still class this story's ending as
> "positive", I agree that it cannot be considered
> universally happy among all readers. And, to be
> fair, I don't consider this one of Smith's great
> stories, though I do consider it a good one. I
> just singled it out because it was one of those
> rare stories with a cliched happily-ever-after
> romantic ending.

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



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