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Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 11:33AM
Well I don't think CAS was consciously evoking Saint Anthony, just that maybe the idea of a good man being beleaguered by evil phantoms was at the back of his mind and might have been inspired by something he'd read or seen (more likely seen, as paintings of the same are legion).

As for Sabmon's house, I think maybe this was a conscious creative choice - ie, that having imagined a palace dedicated to carnal delights, CAS then tried to imagine a place as unlike the latter as possible; something small, stripped of everything but the 'bare' essentials etc, etc, but also something that reflected his ghoulish sense of humour (yeah, those brooms made out of mummy's hairs!). I guess we'll never know for sureā€¦.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 12:57PM
Former English majors aren't so common in forum discussions of weird fiction! I've done a lot of reading in my life, but between you and me (and everyone else who will read this post) I've never once set foot on a university campus, so pardon my occasional ignorance. But I look forward to more meaty discussions!

As Cathbad said, we can never truly know these things. Even I admitted it might have been little more than a fine detail to define the weird setting and character, while sounding nice to read. I just felt the possibility in my suggestion because I thought it was interesting he brought attention to it, in particular the whiteness of the bones. That and also my knowledge that CAS read a lot about folklore. He knew some extremely obscure stuff, and I always felt that his portrayal of sorcery, though naturally embellished in the way pulp fantasy embellishes things, was rather close to folkloric traditions, such as that talisman he gave to Amalzain. It's weird to us, but nothing new in history for people to use pieces of the dead as talismans!

So I think the possibility is there, and when reading the story that's just how I see things, but I don't hold any particular view dogmatically, and am open to most interpretations. Sometimes a besom made of mummy hair is just a besom made of mummy hair.

As for St. Anthony, I know with certainty that CAS was an admirer of Gustave Flaubert's novel The Temptation of St. Anthony, and when I read this book I saw quite a few similarities to his weird fiction, with the Devil trying to tempt him with visions of science and paganism, and especially that climax when Anthony is assailed by Hashish-Eater-esque visions of mythical animals, weird creatures, and an ocean of chaos. That's not to say CAS consciously thought of the artistic theme of St. Anthony, but it wouldn't be too far-fetched to say there was at least some influence, conscious or unconscious. I know CAS was proud of the integrity of his imagination.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 01:16PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Former English majors aren't so common in forum
> discussions of weird fiction! I've done a lot of
> reading in my life, but between you and me (and
> everyone else who will read this post) I've never
> once set foot on a university campus, so pardon my
> occasional ignorance.

All sincere inquiry and expression is never ignorant, and I'm at least as ignorant the least read here. As a scholar, I'm the veriest tyro... ;^) I don't pretend to be one, but approach these discussions more like the way a film reviewer might review a film, with the review intended for popular consumption.

> But I look forward to more
> meaty discussions!

Same here. That's why I'm here, at ED.

>
> As Cathbad said, we can never truly know these
> things. Even I admitted it might have been little
> more than a fine detail to define the weird
> setting and character, while sounding nice to
> read. I just felt the possibility in my suggestion
> because I thought it was interesting he brought
> attention to it, in particular the whiteness of
> the bones. That and also my knowledge that CAS
> read a lot about folklore. He knew some extremely
> obscure stuff, and I always felt that his
> portrayal of sorcery, though naturally embellished
> in the way pulp fantasy embellishes things, was
> rather close to folkloric traditions, such as that
> talisman he gave to Amalzain. It's weird to us,
> but nothing new in history for people to use
> pieces of the dead as talismans!

Here's something from deep left field, Hespire...

CAS's Zothique stories seem to me very much in setting and tone, to be like The Arabian Nights. There's no "frame story" but each of the pieces seem a lot like the kinds of tales that were told in the collection. Often darker and more pessimistic, but cut from the same bolt of cloth.

>
> So I think the possibility is there, and when
> reading the story that's just how I see things,
> but I don't hold any particular view dogmatically,
> and am open to most interpretations. Sometimes a
> besom made of mummy hair is just a besom made of
> mummy hair.


Hah! Exactly!

Used as a device to color the setting and subtly inform the reader of the "norms" of a world like Zothique, it's a minor brushstroke by a great master.

>
> As for St. Anthony, I know with certainty that CAS
> was an admirer of Gustave Flaubert's novel The
> Temptation of St. Anthony, and when I read this
> book I saw quite a few similarities to his weird
> fiction, with the Devil trying to tempt him with
> visions of science and paganism, and especially
> that climax when Anthony is assailed by
> Hashish-Eater-esque visions of mythical animals,
> weird creatures, and an ocean of chaos.

Good one. I've have to check out Flaubert's novel, although I'm not a big fan of his style, and like Madame Bovary because of the character and circumstance, rather than the narrative style.

> That's not
> to say CAS consciously thought of the artistic
> theme of St. Anthony, but it wouldn't be too
> far-fetched to say there was at least some
> influence, conscious or unconscious. I know CAS
> was proud of the integrity of his imagination.

Could be.

Do I smell "thesis"?... ;^)

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 03:49PM
This is more apropos the e-reader conversation, but I was just able to get The Temptation of St. Anthony from Project Gutenberg, for free, which is always a good deal.

At some point fairly soon I'll read it.

While searching for it I was reminded that Flaubert also wrote Salambo, a sort set in Carthage, when it was a major power. I liked it pretty well, but mainly for its exotic setting. Red it maybe 40 years ago.

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2020 12:38AM
The Arabian Nights have a surprisingly dark and morbid sense of humor, and take place in a world in which cruel or fortunate things can happen at any moment. CAS seemingly took those qualities, particularly the cruelty, and included a cosmic and ironic sense of fatalism to his Zothique stories. WOU is unique in that its protagonist had so much fortune on his side!

It's been a while since I've read Flaubert's work. I remember enjoying his smooth and florid writing style, but finding his stories and characters rather lacking. The best parts of St. Anthony, for me, were the weird, wild, and exotic descriptions, same with Salammbo, though even those can get monotonous, for me anyway. Perhaps I should read St. Anthony again, as my favorite of Flaubert's works and as something relevant to this forum. As for a thesis, ha! If only!

Would anyone like to say anything else regarding WOU? If not, I got a story suggestion which might be interesting. I could wait another day or two if necessary. I figure anyone could suggest anything, but taking turns could spice things up a bit.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 5 Sep 20 | 01:15AM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2020 11:35AM
I'm ready to move on, if other participants are. Looking forward to it, in fact.

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2020 01:11PM
Alright. I assume everyone who's interested had a chance to check this thread, so I'll be moving on. You're all still free to comment on Ulua.

The story I'd like to suggest is "The Chain of Aforgomon." It interests me as one of his rare otherworldly fantasies that have nothing to do with his famous fantasy cycles or his sci-fi alien adventures. Here's the link:

[www.eldritchdark.com]

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2020 01:21PM
Hah! Someone here mentioned it about 6 mos - 1 year ago, and I read it for the first time.

It *scared* me, but my memory is short and I look forward to reading it again.

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2020 01:40PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> It *scared* me, but my memory is short and I look
> forward to reading it again.

There is nothing else like the pleasure of re-reading (provided it is good literature). Certainly beats the first time reading, because on 2nd, 3rd reading, everything falls in place with doubled force and meaning. Children know the pleasures of re-visiting a story, and demand to hear the same fairy tale over and over again.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2020 03:06PM
Smith comes closest in WOU to consciously religious expression, and here as elsewhere in his work there are evidences of his interest in the physiology of the brain
and the phenomena of the Will. The sensory impressions received in the cerebral cortex are transferred there to thought and action, either with an empowering understanding or a corrupting absence thereof. The fine characterization, psychological mood and setting of the story, as referenced in this excellent discussion, elucidate a moral perspective, present less saliently, perhaps, in other tales. To close, here's a quote from a book published in 1883 that I've just been reading: "Noble or vile, heroic or vulgar, every thought as well as every affection springs from the brain... thus it can be said without a paradox that the head makes the heart" --Abbe A. Riche, 1883

jkh

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Chain of Aforgomon
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 11:36AM
Re-read this last night and WOW! The mechanism of the time distortion is, or may be, recursive, and to aid in my better understanding of the entire story, I would first like to unravel what, exactly, happened to Calaspa, the priest of Aforgomon, the time-god of the planet Hestan. I need to know whether the described temporal distortion was cyclical and infinite, or was more like a disturbed liquid, with outward rippling "waves" that, ostensibly, would gradually diminish to nothing.

SPOILERS!!!!!


...








OK, we know that Calaspa wanted to relive a single hour with his beloved--not to do a seance with her spirit and talk to her, nor to reanimate her as a zombie (yech!), but to basically roll back the clock to when she was still alive and in love with Calaspa. He did this with the aid of Atmox, described as a "dark sage and sorceror", who strongly advised against it for reasons that hinted at unintended consequences.

They got the time distortion going, and sure enough Calaspa got to be with Belthoris, his love--although the first small irony comes in (this is CAS, for ya), since Calaspa did not specify any particular hour to recapture (and this is a lot like the central gag in the 1967 film, "Bedazzled", one of my favorite comedies), the recaptured hour ended in a petty lover's tiff over a dead moth.

Pardon my sense of humor, but to me, this is why I read CAS--he loves irony and throws it in at appropriate moments--at least to my taste.

So his hour was up, he was unable to schedule any future visits, and that was that...but now we find out what the spell actually did. I'll quote the explanation, so we can more easily refer to it:

Quote:
...What genius of the nadir gulf had tempted me to this thing and had caused me to overlook the consequences? Verily, when I called up for myself and Belthoris an hour of former autumn, with all that was attendant upon the hour, that bygone interim was likewise evoked and repeated for the whole world Hestan, and the four suns of Hestan. From the full midst of spring, all men had stepped backward into autumn, keeping only the memory of things prior to the hour thus resurrected, and knowing not the events future to the hour. But, returning to the present, they recalled with amazement the unnatural necromancy; and fear and bewilderment were upon them; and none could interpret the meaning.
For a brief period, the dead had lived again; the fallen leaves had returned to the bough; the heavenly bodies had stood at a long-abandoned station; the flower had gone back into the seed, the plant into the root. Then, with eternal disorder set among all its cycles, time had resumed its delayed course.

No movement of any cosmic body, no year or instant of the future, would be precisely as it should have been. The error and discrepancy I had wrought would bear fruit in ways innumerable. The suns would find themselves at fault; the worlds and atoms would go always a little astray from their appointed bourns.

So to me it looks like the entire Hestanian solar system (four suns, and all), reverted from spring, back to the previous autumn for one hour. This affected everyone and every thing, and while they were apparently going about their normal springtime business, they were snatched backwards into the same autumn that Calaspa conjured--unexpectedly, I might add. They lost all memory of the time between that autumn hour and the actual normal time in the spring where they rightfully belonged, and then were snatched back into the springtime that they had left--with no apparent memory of the time elapsed between that former autumn hour and the springtime in "normal" time. To their perceptions, they were in the fall one instant, and in the springtime the next.

It meant that if someone had died that winter, those alive in the spring wouldn't know about it--they would just have disappeared, Hoffa-like, until their survivors found maybe a tombstone or other such record. Naturally, all of this confused the hell out of them and they were rightly disquieted, likely for the remainder of the lives of all those then alive.

The solar system of Hestan had been gaslit, on a grand scale... Or had indulged a system-wide blackout drinking session..."Where did this tattoo come from?..."

But that's not the worst part...

The dark sage, Atmox, tells him that while only he and Calaspa actually knew what had happened--which was of small comfort, I would think--and all the others were completely at a loss, the very continuity of time had been disrupted and the future would contain distorted outcomes that differed from their fated resolutions.

That's enough from me. I would like to solicit any ideas/corrections/expansions of what happened, then move forward as others feel appropriate.

Great topic, Hespire! Lots to unwind, lots to think about!

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



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 6 Sep 20 | 11:40AM by Sawfish.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Chain of Aforgomon
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 01:43PM
My reading of it was slightly different - I think everybody got to relive that one hour, but that events within that one hour often unfolded differently? For example, I think that business of the moth didn't happen the first time round. It was a bum note which soured the whole experience for Calaspa (be careful what you wish for!) but was also illustrative of what was happening elsewhere - the replay varied for everybody, I'm guessing in minor details, but minor details with big consequences for 'the future'.

This story has a lot going for it, but is maybe a bit too complicated for my tastes - I think I prefer 'The Last Incantation', a similar story, but more straightforward.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Chain of Aforgomon
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 01:50PM
I had a feeling this story would inspire some interesting thoughts! It's one of my favorites, though I was surprised how little it's been discussed online. I marvel at its atmospheric effect, how the narrator describes such a fluid, dream-like transition from his world to the other world, and immediately brings the reader into that world without much need for introduction (beyond setting up the characters and events). It creates a unique sensation I don't often sense in fiction, when both earth and the other world equally feel like dreams. That combined with its cosmic scale (time is distorted and the planets and stars are thrown out of balance!) digs a deeply disquieting impression in me, especially with that intimate, vulnerable, and fatal moment between the lovers in the midst of that otherworldly dread.

Your idea of what might have happened to any Hestanian individual during the disruption is both wondrous and horrific. Assuming I understand your question correctly, I thought the temporal disruption left an infinite effect on the flow of space and time, based on the story's description of events turning out a little differently from what they're destined to be. Or if it is reversible then it's through some pains that Aforgomon would rather not have to deal with. Whatever the case, it must be worse than a cosmic ripple to justify the annihilation of a being's sequence of avatars, which must itself cause further alterations in time!

But correct me if I misunderstood your point.

On a slightly unrelated subtopic, this is one of the few stories by CAS which I hadn't read when I was younger. I was aware of it for a long time because of the internet, but only found it a few years ago when I ordered Volume 5 of the Collected Fantasies. Before that, all I knew was that Aforgomon was Yog-Sothoth, according to Google search results! So when I started reading, I came in expecting it to be a Cthulhu Mythos story, only to find out Yog wasn't mentioned at any moment! Does anyone have an idea where this misconception came from? Or did CAS really equate Aforgomon with Yog in a letter or something?

Anyway, even knowing what the story is actually like now, the experience has irreversibly affected my view of it. Now I can't help but imagine Aforgomon as the Yog-Sothoth from Lovecraft's "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", in which he was also portrayed a time-god presiding over reincarnations.

Quote:
Cathbad
This story has a lot going for it, but is maybe a bit too complicated for my tastes - I think I prefer 'The Last Incantation', a similar story, but more straightforward.

I thought the same thing the first time I read it, and I can see that it has many things going on at once. There's even that whole subplot with the demon! But for me the experience flows nicely, and the strangeness and unevenness of it enhances the otherworldly factor.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 6 Sep 20 | 01:59PM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Chain of Aforgomon
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 02:49PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My reading of it was slightly different - I think
> everybody got to relive that one hour, but that
> events within that one hour often unfolded
> differently? For example, I think that business of
> the moth didn't happen the first time round.

I'm a big supporter of following the text for both explicit and implicit direction, from the writer to the reader. This can be either overtly stated or simply hinted at or implied.

Given this, do you see any textual support for the idea that Calaspa retained an earlier memory of the hour that differed from the relived one--the one with the dead moth? Either by implication or explicit statement?

> It
> was a bum note which soured the whole experience
> for Calaspa (be careful what you wish for!) but
> was also illustrative of what was happening
> elsewhere - the replay varied for everybody, I'm
> guessing in minor details, but minor details with
> big consequences for 'the future'.

This makes sense *if* there is any indication that there was any instance of difference, noted either by the characters, or mentioned by the narrator, and ultimately the author, CAS?

The way I'm seeing it, Atmox's death was the first noted instance of any change, and the way I'm reading it, the hour that he repeated was a session in the previous fall where he conjured a very potent demon that was tough to control; it took two exorcisms to get rid of him.

During both sessions, I believe we can infer, the demon tells him:

Quote:
"Thou hast summoned me at thy peril. Potent are the spells thou hast used, and strong is the circle to withstand me, and I am restrained by time and space from the wreaking of my anger upon thee. But haply thou shalt summon me again, albeit in the same hour of the same autumn; and in that summoning the laws of time shall be broken, and a rift shall be made in space; and through the rift, though with some delay and divagation, I will yet win to thee."

And Axton tells us that in the first session he has difficulty exorcising the demon, and nothing he says indicates it was any different the second time, but he is really worried...

Now this is tough to parse, at least for me.

The original conjuring was done in the "normal autumn" and the demon was marginally in control. The demon tells him at that time "Maybe you'll call me up again, but it'll be the *same* time and season as now [original autumn], and at that time things will be different, and I'll be able to get a hold of you."

This would seem to support your idea of the second time being different from the first.

Calaspa learned about what happened to Axton two days after the time distortion, and the possible timeline is that after the conjuring to create the time distortion, Axton told Calaspa about his second experience with the demon, which was just like the first, except that when Axton went home, the demon was still there from the *second* summoning, and made mincemeat of him.

So I'd guess that Axton was killed as soon as he got home, but Calaspa didn't hear about it for two days, being:

Quote:
"Stricken with terrors beyond those of Atmox, I kept apart in my mansion amid the city of Kalood. I was still weak with the loss of blood I had yielded to Xexanoth; my senses were full of strange shadows; my servitors, coming and going about me, were as phantoms, and scarcely I heeded the pale fear in their eyes or heard the dreadful things they whispered.... Madness and chaos, they told me, were abroad in Kalood; the divinity of Aforgomon was angered."

Now this is a strong hint, but I think it's the only one that indicates that original events changed in the "second autumn" hour, or *immediately* afterward.

>
> This story has a lot going for it, but is maybe a
> bit too complicated for my tastes - I think I
> prefer 'The Last Incantation', a similar story,
> but more straightforward.

The complexity is one of the things I like about this one.

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Chain of Aforgomon
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 03:11PM
It's a heck of a cosmos, isn't it?

What I'd like additional help in nailing down is what is the temporal mechanism that gets us from Calaspa, on Hestan, to John Milwarp, in 20th C Earth?

I think it's in the story, maybe, but it would be good to know if the descendants of Calaspa *each* end their lives by being fried unexpectedly, as if having a giant filament from a colossal light bulb wrapped around them (cyclical, infinite) and the light turn ON, or if the souvara was needed, and hence Milwarp was the last of Calaspa's lineage (diminshing ripple ending with Milwarp. In that case, he'd actually be having a *second* hour to relieve (execution), just as Calaspa had with Belthoris.

I would really like to figure this out, if others are interested...

A side observation I'd like to raise to other reader: did it seem to anyone else that the narrator, the guy who had Milwarp's diary, when he described Milwarp at the beginning, it was very close to a description of how the rest of the world may have seen HPL, or CAS, himself?

The more we look at CAS's works, the greater my respect for not only his skill as a writer, but of his intellect and imagination, even more so.

I was never a rabid fan, but there was a lot more to his constructs than I had imagined.

There's also junk, too.

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

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