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Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 2 September, 2020 03:58PM
Inspired by the poem appreciation thread and the recent thread for ranking stories, I thought it might be useful to make a thread in which we choose a CAS story to read and discuss together. Feel free to share any of your thoughts, feelings, critical assessments, notes, likes and dislikes, etc.

I can't think of any particular rules, since the discussions here are so fluid, but as with the poem thread, we should at least focus on one story at a time. Should we give each story suggestion a certain number of days before suggesting the next one?

Anyway, I have no story in mind right now, so the next poster can decide what to read and discuss!

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 September, 2020 07:10PM
If no other stories seem immediately more interesting, I'd suggest The Witchcraft of Ulua.

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: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 September, 2020 08:09PM
A good idea for a thread, Hespire!

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 2 September, 2020 09:36PM
I thought a thread like this might be just the thing for this website. It's surprising how little his individual stories are discussed online, even though many Lovecraft fans at least know of him.

Ulua? What an unexpectedly bold place to start! But I like the idea. If everyone is okay with it, we can start off by reading "The Witchcraft of Ulua", which can be found right here:

[www.eldritchdark.com]

I understand, Dale, that you aren't into oriental-type settings, but it would be fun if you could participate here and there. We can try CAS' medieval, modern, and alien settings as well.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 September, 2020 10:19PM
I’m up for discussion of this one, at least, but will need to revisit the story.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 September, 2020 11:11AM
I'll kick things off with an over-arching observation about CAS's spiritual cosmos: there's no mention of hint anywhere I've looked, in any story he has written, of kinds of benevolent supreme being whose approval one should seek in order to have a happy, prosperous life, and to similarly obtain a euphoric eternal afterlife.

There are, however, vague hints of benefits conferred during life by evil entities at the price of some form of possibly eternal suffering, or at least bondage--becoming the eternal personal valet for Thasaidon, for example. This seems limited to those willfully and knowingly practicing the dark arts, and does not include the common man ignorant of the intent of these practices, with the sole exception (that I'm aware of being in Tolometh:

Quote:

...

And yet, in ways outpassing thought,
Men worship me that know me not.
They work my will.
I shall arise
In that last dawn of atom-fire,
To stand upon the planet's pyre
And cast my shadow on the skies.

So, basically, in CAS's spiritual universe, there's no theological reason to resist temptations of the flesh, as there is in much western literature written in the Christian-influenced tradition. In these, there's an implied reward for resisting prohibited activities.

OK, we know that The Witchcraft of Ulua (WOU for future brevity) is a tale of sexual and sensual restraint rewarded--or more to the point, the wages of sin being *avoided*--and conversely licentiousness of this type being concretely punished. But if there is no benevolent supreme being promising rewards, the underlying question is...

Why refrain? Is it to escape the sort of fate that comes to Ulua and the rest of Miraab, apparently? Is there no counterbalancing reward?

It's clear that CAS wants us to side with Amalzain's resistance to the temptations to be found in Miraab (I see it as being a lot like LA in the 80s...;^) )--and especially Ulua--and by connection, his great-uncle Sambon, and the "sage and archmage, Yos Ebni" as the supreme example of self-restraint. If this is the case, what is the "reward" for doing so?

I have my own ideas about this, but would like to hear the ideas of others here.

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: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 3 September, 2020 12:56PM
Not bad at all! Plus a happy ending! (for Amalzain, anyhow).

"I see it as being a lot like LA in the 80's" :)

It's actually been a while since I read a CAS story, so I guess what struck me first was how well his prose stands up - I don't think there was a word out of place, although I had to check up migniard, which means 'tiny'. Like Sawfish, I've never seen CAS as a consciously religious writer, but here we do get a villainess who's doomed to go to her black lord, Thasaidon, in the seventh hell, although it's unclear whether she'd regard this as punishment - as an evil person, maybe she'd be as happy in hell as a good person would be in heaven?

What's the pay-off for Amalzain? Stories like this often revolve around a conflicted character - somebody who succumbs to temptation only to see the light - but Amalzain is pretty much a boy scout from the start. He doesn't change. Maybe another way of looking at the story is to see Ulua as the mc? (something that gains additional credence by how the story is named after her) - in which case, this is a story about a witch who overreaches herself and pays the price? Except that Ulua has no more emotional range than Amalzain - ie, she's as wicked as he is good. So any thoughts Sawfish (and anybody else!) might have in this regard would be much appreciated.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 3 September, 2020 02:13PM
(in response to Sawfish, since Cathbad posted while I was typing this!) You're right that "The Witchcraft of Ulua" is unique in its morality. Most of CAS' romantic stories feature protagonists—even good Christians—renouncing moral expectations in favor of passionate, forbidden, spur-of-the-moment love-making with lamias, witches, etc. When I first read this story, I expected it to end with upright Amalzain falling for Ulua's charms, and the reveal that Sabmon's celibacy was foolish! But I was satisfied by this change in formula.

I can't remember every story written by CAS, but I feel that most of his stories about forbidden love were portraying the liberation of people from the restraints of a needlessly restrictive society, or from a monotonous existence, and all the lamias, witches, sirens, etc. represented the mystery, ecstasy, and excitement needed to make life worth living, even with, or especially with, that risk of danger. Many of his poems also yearn for the archetypal siren, rather than shun her, and equate her with other worlds and magical ecstasy.

But in WOU, I had the impression Ulua represented something worse. Sabmon is portrayed from the beginning as a dignified wise old man who experienced much of life, both in its mundane and supernatural facets, so he knows a few things about the world. He's also portrayed as a self-made outsider, rather than a leader or member of some cult or temple, and CAS' stories tend to empathize a little more with outsiders. His home is composed of bones, chosen for their whiteness. I don't know if CAS felt any special significance in that description, it could simply be a weird detail befitting Zothique. But since Sabmon is a sorcerer and he chose those bones specifically for their whiteness, I thought they represented a sort of spiritual purity derived from a worldly perspective that doesn't shun the grit and roughness of life (death, decay, inhuman nature, etc.). Whiteness and bones represented purity and sorcery in a few real cultures after all, such as ancient China.

But Ulua dwells in a city known for its endless decadence, for its people who are not only sinful but drunk on petty pleasures. CAS enjoyed writing about decadent societies and corrupt kingdoms, but his stories don't often admire them, except maybe in a fascinated way. I recall his story "The Planet of the Dead" and how the two lovers found relief not so much in the masked throngs of drunken revelers, but in the lonely tombs far away from the mad cities. And in "Morthylla", the protagonist searched for something more meaningful or ecstatic than the simple reveries of his dying city. Ulua, on the other hand, dwells at the very center of this decadent society, and doesn't offer much outside of it, almost like she represents the heart of that doomed city. And as beautiful and mysterious as she is, her role is notably more malignant and aggressive than the lamia from "End of the Story", or the mischievous enchantress from "Holiness of Azedarac."

Every story carries its own perspective, but when considering CAS' fiction as a whole, I think WOU doesn't necessarily contradict his other stories' worldviews, it simply identifies a darker side to carnal pleasures and a lighter side to self-restraint.

Of course, this is only my perception, and it might not be worth much, but that is how I came to view the story after my initial confusion. Even if someone else had written this story, or if it was the only story by CAS I've read, I would still come out of it with the same conclusion, though the contrast with CAS' other supernatural lover stories makes it more fascinating.

As for the story as a whole, I'll have to comment on that later, gonna be busy today!



Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 3 Sep 20 | 02:43PM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 September, 2020 04:12PM
Great comment!

I'll reply interleaved. (I strongly agree with certain of your points, but differ somewhat on others...)

Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> (in response to Sawfish, since Cathbad posted
> while I was typing this!) You're right that "The
> Witchcraft of Ulua" is unique in its morality.
> Most of CAS' romantic stories feature
> protagonists—even good Christians—renouncing
> moral expectations in favor of passionate,
> forbidden, spur-of-the-moment love-making with
> lamias, witches, etc. When I first read this
> story, I expected it to end with upright Amalzain
> falling for Ulua's charms, and the reveal that
> Sabmon's celibacy was foolish! But I was satisfied
> by this change in formula.
>
> I can't remember every story written by CAS, but I
> feel that most of his stories about forbidden love
> were portraying the liberation of people from the
> restraints of a needlessly restrictive society, or
> from a monotonous existence, and all the lamias,
> witches, sirens, etc. represented the mystery,
> ecstasy, and excitement needed to make life worth
> living, even with, or especially with, that risk
> of danger.

Not sure that I agree that he seems to portray sexuality as transcendent and mostly positive in his prose--I think maybe he sees it as outside of moral consideration, for good or ill. I'll have to think about it some more.

> Many of his poems also yearn for the
> archetypal siren, rather than shun her, and equate
> her with other worlds and magical ecstasy.
>
> But in WOU, I had the impression Ulua represented
> something worse.

YES! YES!

Much, much worse.

Self-abasement and loss of personal dignity; immediate gratification at the cost of future enlightenment. Irreparable.

> Sabmon is portrayed from the
> beginning as a dignified wise old man who
> experienced much of life, both in its mundane and
> supernatural facets, so he knows a few things
> about the world.

Yes. He's portrayed as a tough, but admirable, character who has grasped the nature of existence, and it's not all roses, that's for sure. He has no time for nonsense at this stage of his life.

When presenting the protective amulet to Amalzain, he tells about Yos Ebni, a knowledge seeker cut from the same cloth as Sambon, it seems (or rather, vice-versa). He described Yos Ebni as:

"...sage and archimage, who won supremacy over men and demons in elder years by defying all mortal temptation and putting down the insubordination of the flesh."

Sounds like an unmediated argument between superego and id, doesn't it?

Sambon is saying that personal will power in the pursuit of knowledge is paramount and that without it, it's not possible to attain uncircumscribed power over men and demons.

In this sense, that sort of knowledge is linked to purity of mind and body.


> He's also portrayed as a
> self-made outsider, rather than a leader or member
> of some cult or temple,

Yes. An opinionated realist, beholden to no one.

> and CAS' stories tend to
> empathize a little more with outsiders. His home
> is composed of bones, chosen for their whiteness.
> I don't know if CAS felt any special significance
> in that description, it could simply be a weird
> detail befitting Zothique. But since Sabmon is a
> sorcerer and he chose those bones specifically for
> their whiteness, I thought they represented a sort
> of spiritual purity derived from a worldly
> perspective that doesn't shun the grit and
> roughness of life (death, decay, inhuman nature,
> etc.). Whiteness and bones represented purity and
> sorcery in a few real cultures after all, such as
> ancient China.

Not sure about whiteness being included in the story to represent anything, but maybe it is.

What really struck me was that after reading the first three paragraphs, you knew a whole lot about a) Sambon, and b) the nature of what Miraab was all about: it was a place where if you sucked up to corrupt power, you were likely to succeed:

"...This post, obtained for him by influential friends of his father, was much coveted among the youth of the land, and would lead to high advancement if he were fortunate enough to win the king's favor."

So Miraab is an awful and corrupting place, and Ulua is its perfect, complete personification.

>
> But Ulua dwells in a city known for its endless
> decadence, for its people who are not only sinful
> but drunk on petty pleasures. CAS enjoyed writing
> about decadent societies and corrupt kingdoms, but
> his stories don't often admire them, except maybe
> in a fascinated way.

That's right: he's observing them and marveling in their surface opulence, but is simultaneously aware that they are corrupt and decadent, and also what that implies: loss of innocence, dignity, pride of accomplishment, etc.


> I recall his story "The
> Planet of the Dead" and how the two lovers found
> relief not so much in the masked throngs of
> drunken revelers, but in the lonely tombs far away
> from the mad cities. And in "Morthylla", the
> protagonist searched for something more meaningful
> or ecstatic than the simple reveries of his dying
> city. Ulua, on the other hand, dwells at the very
> center of this decadent society, and doesn't offer
> much outside of it, almost like she represents the
> heart of that doomed city.

Yes. Closely bound, she's almost a distilled symbol of all that is wrong with Miraab--and there's a lot.

Bear in mind, her dad, Famorgh, was mentioned in Weaver in the Vault as having sent three "bravos" to bring back the mummy of a previous king, on the apparent whim of Lunalia, his now aged wife, and mother of Ulua. Therefore, she is at least a 2nd generation trouble-maker... ;^)

> And as beautiful and
> mysterious as she is, her role is notably more
> malignant and aggressive than the lamia from "End
> of the Story", or the mischievous enchantress from
> "Holiness of Azedarac."

She's willful and self-indulgent and amoral.

Great combination, huh?

>
> Every story carries its own perspective, but when
> considering CAS' fiction as a whole, I think WOU
> doesn't necessarily contradict his other stories'
> worldviews, it simply identifies a darker side to
> carnal pleasures and a lighter side to
> self-restraint.
>
> Of course, this is only my perception, and it
> might not be worth much, but that is how I came to
> view the story after my initial confusion. Even if
> someone else had written this story, or if it was
> the only story by CAS I've read, I would still
> come out of it with the same conclusion, though
> the contrast with CAS' other supernatural lover
> stories makes it more fascinating.
>
> As for the story as a whole, I'll have to comment
> on that later, gonna be busy today!

Great! Looking forward to it.

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: 3 September, 2020 07:50PM
You're probably right about his use of sex and romance as a force beyond morality. Thinking back to "The Holiness of Azedarac", the seductive enchantress had nothing to do with the conflict between the church and the scheming wizard Azedarac, and she convinced the well-meaning hero to relax and have fun with her rather than help the church or defeat the wizard. Sex and romance weren't good or evil in that story, in fact they sounded preferable to the whole dichotomy. I still sense some feelings of liberation and freedom in it, for the hero is drawn away from what was troubling his pious soul to embrace a relationship with a magician, but perhaps the transcendent aspect is secondary, or only a possible product, of romance as something that is simply pleasurable and wholly beyond moral troubles.

And I didn't realize Famorgh was mentioned in another story! These days I read only one or two CAS stories every once in a great while, so I never catch those subtle allusions to other stories. The decadence of Miraab knows no end!

As for my thoughts on the story, it's one of CAS' more wild and disturbing rides! It relishes in so many rich and weird details while telling a competent, even story. Amalzain's simple character makes a good vehicle for observing the city's depravity and his uncle's contrasting character, and not to mention Ulua's enchantments, which are so viscerally described I found myself shuddering, especially the times he tried to sleep but kept feeling all these dead things touching him and caressing him in the dark! It becomes little more than a nuisance after a while, but a what a vile and schizophrenic nuisance.

It also appeals to my personality, as one who would rather dwell among the palms, the stars, and a simple bone-house to focus on nature and internal cultivation, rather than crowd my life with decadent distractions that are common in California. Well, I can't live exactly like that, and California is no Miraab, but I'm content to be living in my simple home at the edge of a forest.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 September, 2020 08:48PM
Very enjoyable exchange!

Before moving on, I'd sum up my personal reaction to the story...

I liked and admired Sambon, and by extension Yos Ebni. They really put in the effort to acquire their skills/knowledge, and that appeals to me, personally.

I was happy and gratified that Amalzain escaped without any great harm.

And as a reader, I could feel the seductive power of Ulua. A young femme fatal, and then some...

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: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 3 September, 2020 09:08PM
The description of his sufferings from the amorous intentions of the dead & so on reminded me of de Quincey on "The Pains of Opium" and painters' renderings of the temptations of St. Anthony.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 3 September, 2020 10:07PM
Quote:
Cathbad
Like Sawfish, I've never seen CAS as a consciously religious writer, but here we do get a villainess who's doomed to go to her black lord, Thasaidon, in the seventh hell, although it's unclear whether she'd regard this as punishment - as an evil person, maybe she'd be as happy in hell as a good person would be in heaven?

CAS once said "It is better to go to hell in one's own proper and personal way than to go to heaven in someone else's proper and personal way." Who knows what it's like down there in Thasaidon's kingdom ("Xeethra" offers an almost Edenic hint of it, but the whole is unknown), but your suggestion sounds like something I'd expect in some of these stories. Ulua might be thriving with her fellow succubi!

Quote:
Dale Nelson
The description of his sufferings from the amorous intentions of the dead & so on reminded me of de Quincey on "The Pains of Opium" and painters' renderings of the temptations of St. Anthony.

St. Anthony was the first thing I thought of after reading the story, emphasized by the presence of a desert-dwelling hermit. I'd love to see an ornate painting or two depicting Amalzain's hideous situation, with those bat-furred empusae and dancing lamiae.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 05:41AM
Never thought of Saint Anthony! There are definite corollaries.

And I think you may be onto something re Sabmon's home. Not only because the bones are white (equating them with purity) but because they've been divested of their flesh - reflecting how Sabmon himself has given up all interest in the sensual. Or maybe I'm just reaching?

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 11:16AM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Never thought of Saint Anthony! There are definite
> corollaries.
>
> And I think you may be onto something re Sabmon's
> home. Not only because the bones are white
> (equating them with purity) but because they've
> been divested of their flesh - reflecting how
> Sabmon himself has given up all interest in the
> sensual. Or maybe I'm just reaching?


As a former English major, and proud holder of an English Lit BA--which I soon found that along with 50 cents would get me a cup of coffee (this was the 70s, you see), which is why I eventually ended up in SW development--I think that it's a lot of fun looking, after the fact, at these sorts of connections, but...

Do we really suppose that CAS had any of this in mind when writing WOU? I realize that it's both possible and likely that he'd be familiar with St. Anthony, but do we think that he made the conscious connection while writing WOU?

I can recall some of the stuff we wrote in those classes, competing to find possible connections that we, on broad examination, could see, but never once considering whether the author, him/herself, ever had this connection in mind, or indeed was even aware of the situations being compared.

Remembrances of my own undergrad work sickens me, it was so trivial, and yet at the time I felt so shrewd and enlightened. Years later, on re-reading many of the works we studied, I found that I had completely missed the actual aesthetic effect of the piece, simply because I was too busy trying to be a smart-aleck, coming up with new "deep cultural linkages" in Finnegan's Wake, etc.

For years afterward, I continued to read criticism and other commentary on literary works, that, in my opinion, relegated the work under consideration to a secondary role and vaulting the cleverness of the critic into the spotlight. It's impossible to count the number of times I've seen Moby Dick used as fodder for showboating in this fashion.

Now, I'm not suggesting we're doing that here; to me this is a forum for expressing the personal enjoyment of weird fiction (a marginally acceptable genre for folks our age, huh?), as produced by a few talented authors, and in some cases to compare it to other weird influences. Sometimes we also speculate on the methods employed to build an effect.

So I can understand mentioning the color of his house and also that white represents purity in most western cultures, and that Sambon counseled purity as a general course of action, and bones are devoid of flesh and this suggests a detachment from the temptatins of the flesh, but this begins to sound like that part of the song, "Ya Got Trouble", from The Music Man...

Quote:
Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital "T"
That rhymes with "P"
And that stands for POOL!

Me, I'm 'way more interested that the directly stated benefit of such purity was because an earlier wizard "...won supremacy over men and demons in elder years by defying all mortal temptation". To me, this puts a very interesting wrinkle into *why* one should remain pure--it is known within the context of the story to provide great personal power, ostensibly when combined with diligent study.

Actually, significantly more power than Ulua has...

Too, I was much more intrigued with the idea of Sambon's brooms (besoms). They were made of mummy's hair.

YEOW! No respect for the deceased, huh? Sambon, that nice old man, apparently raids tombs and at the very minimum took the scalps of the deceased and used them for the mundane and demeaning purpose of sweeping out his house.

Hmmmm.... One wonders about the old coot... ;^)

And you know what: I doubt that *any* of this I just mentioned occurred to CAS when writing WOU, either. I think that used in the way he did, the besoms add immediate color and setting--this place is not like where we live. Houses are at the edge of deserts, made of bones of various animals and fitted together in such a precise way to exclude sand grains.

Have you ever *seen* such a thing? Have you ever imagined such a thing? Not me...

And what might one use to clean such a house, one might ask? Why, a broom made of mummy's hair, what else?

"We're not in Kansas any more."

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: 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 sure….

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."

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Chain of Aforgomon
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 03:45PM
I guess my interpretation is based on what what Calaspa says later on -

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.

But I wouldn't be dogmatic about it. We all agree that meddling with time had unforeseen (and negative) consequences, yeah?

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.

There's a bit at the end that seems to imply that Milwarp has been reincarnated multiple times, but that this is the final iteration of his spirit - the one that remembers its crime and pays the price etc, etc, -

At last, when the chasm has widened overmuch, thy soul shall fare no farther in the onward cycles of incarnation. At that time it shall be given thee to remember clearly thine ancient sin; and remembering, thou shalt perish out of time.


Then again, maybe not?

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Chain of Aforgomon
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 04:45PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 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?


Oh, so that's what you were asking about. I thought you meant Calaspa's influence on the universe at large, which the story mostly explained. Pardon my confusion!

> 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.


In that case, the priest sentencing Calaspa to his doom seemed to imply a curse has been placed on all of his future avatars, but it seems Milwarp is the only one who will remember the primal sin and suffer the burning punishment, perhaps due to the souvara.

Quote:
"Thou shalt pass hereafter through other lives in Hestan, and shalt climb midway in the cycles of the world subsequent to Hestan in time and space. But through all thine incarnations the chaos thou hast invoked will attend thee widening ever like a rift. And always, in all thy lives, the rift will bar thee from reunion with the soul of Belthoris; and always, though merely by an hour, thou shalt miss the love that should otherwise have been oftentimes regained."
"At last, when the chasm has widened overmuch, thy soul shall fare no farther in the onward cycles of incarnation. At that time it shall be given thee to remember clearly thine ancient sin; and remembering, thou shalt perish out of time. Upon the body of that latter life shall be found the charred imprint of the chains, as the final token of thy bondage. But they that knew thee will soon forget, and thou shalt belong wholly to the cycles limited for thee by thy sin."

And at the end, Calaspa mentions only one nameless phantom (Milwarp) writing down his history.

Quote:
Somehow, in another world, an exile phantom has written these words... a phantom who must fade utterly from time and place, even as I, the doomed priest Calaspa. I cannot remember the name of the phantom.

> 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?


This did not pass my attention, but I see CAS in it more than HPL. CAS enjoyed a moment of fame in his life, when he knew George Sterling, before disappearing altogether from public attention. And, in a wider view of life, Lovecraft is almost famous now, at least enough to inspire Cthulhu t-shirts and Mythos movies, whereas CAS is still obscure, even among Lovecraft's fans. A large number of Cthulhu Mythos fans assume Tsathoggua was created by Lovecraft, and a larger number know Tsathoggua was created by someone else but don't care to read the stories he came from.

Though I did wonder, in light of my Yog-Sothoth comment, if CAS might have been influenced to some extent by HPL's "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" when he was writing "Aforgomon." He liked HPL's story enough to want to illustrate it.



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 6 Sep 20 | 04:55PM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Chain of Aforgomon
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 05:08PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I guess my interpretation is based on what what
> Calaspa says later on -
>
> 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.
>
> But I wouldn't be dogmatic about it. We all agree
> that meddling with time had unforeseen (and
> negative) consequences, yeah?

Yep, Our only variation is from what moment was time disrupted, moving forward, and this doesn't matter much.

>
> 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.
>
> There's a bit at the end that seems to imply that
> Milwarp has been reincarnated multiple times, but
> that this is the final iteration of his spirit -
> the one that remembers its crime and pays the
> price etc, etc, -
>
> At last, when the chasm has widened overmuch, thy
> soul shall fare no farther in the onward cycles of
> incarnation. At that time it shall be given thee
> to remember clearly thine ancient sin; and
> remembering, thou shalt perish out of time.
>
> Then again, maybe not?

That seems about as clear as one could expect in fantastic fiction.

So it was the diminishing ripple effect, looks like.

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 05:26PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > 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?
>
>
> Oh, so that's what you were asking about. I
> thought you meant Calaspa's influence on the
> universe at large, which the story mostly
> explained. Pardon my confusion!

It's both: what was the nature of the disruption (when started, what happened, how was it perceived), and also what generally happened to each of Calaspa's descendants, up to Milwarp?

Milwarp we knew that by taking souvara, he found out what happened and in doing so got incincerated, although he had some sneaking suspicion that he'd had previous lives.

>
> > 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.
>
>
> In that case, the priest sentencing Calaspa to his
> doom seemed to imply a curse has been placed on
> all of his future avatars, but it seems Milwarp is
> the only one who will remember the primal sin and
> suffer the burning punishment, perhaps due to the
> souvara.

Yes. A sort of concrete reason to "Just Say 'No" to Drugs."

>
> "Thou shalt pass hereafter through other lives in
> Hestan, and shalt climb midway in the cycles of
> the world subsequent to Hestan in time and space.

OK, this is concrete. He will go halfway thru Time, then...

> But through all thine incarnations the chaos thou
> hast invoked will attend thee widening ever like a
> rift. And always, in all thy lives, the rift will
> bar thee from reunion with the soul of Belthoris;
> and always, though merely by an hour, thou shalt
> miss the love that should otherwise have been
> oftentimes regained."

He's going to miss Belthoris' subsequent reincarnations, with zero chance of reunion.

[Interesting to note that here CAS expands the idea of personal reincarnation to include Belthoris, and by implication, everyone else, most likely.]

>
> "At last, when the chasm has widened overmuch, thy
> soul shall fare no farther in the onward cycles of
> incarnation. At that time it shall be given thee
> to remember clearly thine ancient sin; and
> remembering, thou shalt perish out of time. Upon
> the body of that latter life shall be found the
> charred imprint of the chains, as the final token
> of thy bondage. But they that knew thee will soon
> forget, and thou shalt belong wholly to the cycles
> limited for thee by thy sin."
>

That seems clear enough...

> And at the end, Calaspa mentions only one nameless
> phantom (Milwarp) writing down his history.
>
> Somehow, in another world, an exile phantom has
> written these words... a phantom who must fade
> utterly from time and place, even as I, the doomed
> priest Calaspa. I cannot remember the name of the
> phantom.

Yep. The otherwise unaccountable speedy failure of the rest of humanity to recall the final incarnation, Milwarp, is a part of the curse, it seems.

>
> > 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?
>
>
> This did not pass my attention, but I see CAS in
> it more than HPL.

Me,too.

> CAS enjoyed a moment of fame in
> his life, when he knew George Sterling, before
> disappearing altogether from public attention.
> And, in a wider view of life, Lovecraft is almost
> famous now, at least enough to inspire Cthulhu
> t-shirts and Mythos movies, whereas CAS is still
> obscure, even among Lovecraft's fans.


But written in 1935, CAS wouldn't know this at the time. So he was ironically prescient.

> A large
> number of Cthulhu Mythos fans assume Tsathoggua
> was created by Lovecraft, and a larger number know
> Tsathoggua was created by someone else but don't
> care to read the stories he came from.
>
> Though I did wonder, in light of my Yog-Sothoth
> comment, if CAS might have been influenced to some
> extent by HPL's "Through the Gates of the Silver
> Key" when he was writing "Aforgomon." He liked
> HPL's story enough to want to illustrate it.


To me, The Chain... was structured a lot like an HPL story, with a narrator relating what happened to an acquaintance.

Good story choice! I'm satisfied that I understand it much better than before we started the discussion.

Are we ready to move on yet? I'm prepared for either someone to raise othefr issues about Chain... or to suggest a new story.

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: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 05:31PM
"That seems about as clear as one could expect in fantastic fiction."

Pretty much! I'm not sure CAS knew himself. :)

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 05:35PM
Oh I wasn't suggesting CAS magically knew HPL's future fame or his future obscurity (though he accepted the idea of remaining obscure to the world). I was just looking at it from today's perspective. CAS has become much more like Milwarp than HPL, though I'm not sure how happy HPL would be with how his visions have been used today!

I think we should wait at least one more day to see if anyone else wants to comment on Aforgomon, tempting as it is to keep going! It's a lot of fun delving into these stories so few people discuss.

Cathbad, Knygatin, Kipling, anyone can suggest the next story. But if no one else does, the choice will go to Sawfish.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Chain of Aforgomon
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 06:10PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "That seems about as clear as one could expect in
> fantastic fiction."
>
> Pretty much! I'm not sure CAS knew himself. :)


Hah! Good one...

You've got to give these fantasy guys some room for aesthetic license...

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: 6 September, 2020 06:53PM
Hespire (or any other readers), do you see a similarity in the theme, if not mood, of Chain... and The Last Incantation, where Malygris gets the bright idea to see his idealized youthful love, his ophidian familiar sort of is less than enthusiastic, and when it bombs (basically), tells him that all positive remembrances take on an imagined golden hue?

His first love did not live up to his recollection, and in Chain..., when I mentioned what I take to be the lover's spat over a dead moth, the same outcome happens to Calaspa.

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: 7 September, 2020 12:57AM
I do, but "Aforgomon" is much more grim about it! Whereas Malygris merely died alone, Calaspa received one of the severest punishments ever imagined in CAS' fiction, to the extent that even his future avatars will never behold their star-destined lover. I wonder where that darker element stemmed from... I must admit that although I've had a couple girlfriends and an ex-wife, I never had the urges or carnal needs most men seem to have, so the romantic aspect of CAS' fiction is something I can't always relate with, at least not deeply. I understand when a story or poem expresses a yearning for some past love, but I don't exactly share the feelings themselves, though I can relate with general feelings of loss, nostalgia, love, etc. So while I can see the definite similarities between the stories, I'm not sure how to comment on them! I never overestimated my previous relationships and therefore never had to go through the lessons Malygris and Calaspa did.

Perhaps I'd have to be a smooth tomcat like CAS to understand?



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 7 Sep 20 | 12:59AM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 7 September, 2020 09:58AM
Hah! That's a good way to describe CAS! A "smooth tomcat"...!

Yep, mood differs between the two stories, and the narrow part I was focusing on is even in question--did the chance assignment of that one re-lived hour--that I read as simply by happenstance contains a sort of tiff over the moth (this is so funny that CAS would think to mention a small detail like this), but it could be, as Cathbad says, that it was indication of a distortion of events--serve as bittersweet reminder that our memory casts a golden light unrealistically on happier moments? This was the central message of Last Incantation, the wise-guy serpent/familiar even drives it home explicitly--rubbing it in--but it is a mere side observation in Chain....

And yes, it was a really grim curse and fate for the blaspheming priest. Probably the worst in all of CAS.

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: 7 September, 2020 11:47AM
Nostalgia, lust, and wonder are common themes in his poetry and fiction, but what I find refreshing about CAS is how he explores those things under different shades of ambiguity. He recognized the endless beauty in the nostalgia for lost things, yet expressed a cynical perspective that recognized this as an illusion. Yet sometimes he shows the illusion is preferable to the reality, resulting in stories like "The Enchantress of Sylaire", or that scene in "The Hashish-Eater" about kings curing their "wounds of wisdom." That petty quarrel over the moth was just the sort of thing nostalgia might sweep under the rug, and that's something at least I can relate with. Lost love isn't something I've yearned for so deeply, but nostalgia itself is a feeling I know.

Also, I see there hasn't been much activity since yesterday, so I think it's time we move on to the next story! I'd like to see if anyone else, like Cathbad, Knygatin, etc. would like to suggest a story. But if a few hours pass and no one does, the choice is all yours, Sawfish! And if anyone wants to comment on "Aforgomon" before then that will be fine.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 9 September, 2020 02:41PM
Hespire, do you feel that we're ready to move on?

If so, and if no one objects, I'd recommend a story that someone here referred us to a while back: The Tale of Sir John Maundeville.

[www.eldritchdark.com]

Personally, I see this as a very straightforward story, unlike Chain...

But I *really* liked it! I hope others do, too. To me, the ending is a masterful use of ironic understatement that, as in HPL's "Picture in the House", made me laugh aloud.

But then, that's just *me*...

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: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 10 September, 2020 11:23AM
I don't think I ever read this story before: it's is a very powerful and atmospheric piece, and I guess CAS was setting a precedent by having a giant worm as its ruler, as opposed to a cadaver, or whatever! Sure there are a couple of anomalies; if your diet is human flesh, scaring away any humans who trespass onto your domain seems a bit short-sighted. And whose corpse did Sir John share the crypt with if there were no people in Antchar? All the more so if this is a corpse capable of providing a tasty meal to any passing worms (ie, it must be of relatively recent vintage)?

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - The Tale of Sir John Maundeville
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 10 September, 2020 12:58PM
Ha, I was giving you full permission to post your story suggestion whenever you wanted, Sawfish!

I've been swamped with personal business, so it's convenient this story is so short and simple, and so rich with weirdness. To be honest, I keep forgetting it exists, a shame when it's the most dazzling morbid story I've ever read. Its straightforwardness allows it to focus on building this eerie, and eventually surreal, atmosphere. Almost all of CAS' stories impress me with their otherworldly suggestions, but this is among the few, along with "Aforgomon", that really unsettles me and pulls me out of my surroundings, making me feel as lost and disoriented as those fearful Armenians. I understand Sir John's desire to hide this from the world!

Sir John himself is a fun character, as a reckless adventurer and satirically devoted Christian. I wish CAS had written more of his undocumented adventures.

Has anyone else read the travels of Sir John, by the way? He claimed to discover things like a race of dog-headed men, a land where people dwell within the shells of giant snails, an ocean made of gravel, and a forbidden plain at the edge of the world where faerie trees rise from the ground by day and sink into the ground by night. Not only was CAS at home in this world, but he sure seemed to enjoy showing how inhumanly weird it can get.

Cathbad's questions are fun to consider. My guess, regarding the Worm at least, is that as a supernatural being in league with Death, it doesn't share the biological needs of mortal creatures.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 10 Sep 20 | 01:00PM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - The Tale of Sir John Maundeville
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 10 September, 2020 01:59PM
Great stuff, Hespire!

I'll come back to this and contribute.

We seems to have some decent, stimulating exchanges going!!!

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - The Tale of Sir John Maundeville
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 10 September, 2020 02:33PM
Indeed! It's strangely active around here! Too active for me to engage deeply, with my current schedule, but I'm reading these discussions eagerly.

I'll just add something on top of my thoughts on the Worm's immortal biology. I always felt the Worm was more or less the figurehead, spirit, avatar, metaphor, etc. of Death itself, so when it said it conquered and devoured the entire kingdom, it was metaphorically saying that death, pestilence, famine, or whatever made the kingdom unlivable. Of course, knowing these stories, it also could have literally eaten everyone! But the great thing about vague suggestions is they allow all kinds of speculation.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10 Sep 20 | 02:33PM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - The Tale of Sir John Maundeville
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 11 September, 2020 09:50AM
That's another thing that's great about ED, Hespire: a reader can gain much ancillary or introductory knowledge.

I'd never heard of Sir John Maundeville prior to your quick background on him. He as a sort of earlier version of Von Munchausen, seems like...thanks for this!

To me, the story took the form of an extended, dry joke, using suitably creepy imagery to ramp up the suspense and anticipation.

You have a repeated structure, as in 7 Geases (which is about four too many, if you ask me), with each subsequent warning becoming more and more dire, with those steadfast Armenians, exercising much common sense, much more so than Sir John.

Now, Sir John is portrayed as a worthy knight, not pompous, nor filled with prideful arrogance: not a conqueror, but rather a seeker of knowledge such as can be gained thru exploration.

Nevertheless, after using some significant willpower to stay the course after having heard warnings from a talking jackal, and later a snake, he persists until his horse will go no further--which is too far, since almost immediately he is snagged by two enormous beings, somewhat reminiscent of the "escorts" in The Dark Eidolon.

Then he's dragged before the talking cadaver worm, who is very stern, but merciful, apparently recognizing the potential for...ah..."rehabilitation" in Sir John, and instead of killing him outright, or eating him, the worm sentences him to a limited stay that will be for his own good...

Quote:
The Worm

Yea, still alive, it shall be thine to descend and remain in the very midst of death and putrefaction, for such length of time as seemeth meet to correct thy folly and punish thy presumption."

BTW, does the worm seem to remind you of the white worm, in The Coming of the White Worm?

Now CAS does a great thing in letting our imaginations fill in the blanks. Unlike HPL, who spelled out every possible detail of Whately's grotesque appearance in The Dunwich Horror, as Dale and I were discussing earlier, CAS merely ***suggests*** what the entity was like that Sir John roomed with for a while..

Quote:
Sir John was aware of a sullen clangor, and knew that the brazen door had been opened. And now, for the first time, by the dimness of twilight that had entered the tomb, he saw in all its piteousness and repulsion the thing with which he had abode so long. In the sickness that fell upon him at this sight, he was haled forth from the sepulcher by those who had thrust him therein;

So the punchline comes at the end, when mention is made of Sir John's collected travel tales--but with the visit to Antechar notably missing.

...and we know *why*... :^)

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: 12 September, 2020 11:16AM
Maundeville finds a lot of fortune throughout his travels, and insists on increasingly bizarre discoveries, like a desert where six-legged monsters dwell and an ocean that touches the sky. He is indeed the medieval Munchausen! With that in mind, I also find this story subtly and darkly humorous for how it humbles this spinner of tall tales. And you're right that the story feels like an extended joke, in a similar vein as some old moralistic folk stories, adding to its archaic charm.

"The Coming of the White Worm" was also on my mind when that Worm appeared. The idea was clever and almost obvious, yet because I had already read one CAS story about a giant worm claiming an entire land, I didn't at all expect it again! Clearly CAS was impressed by this imagery to use it twice. It feels to me like a more literal illustration of the Poe poem "The Conqueror Worm."

And I couldn't agree more about this website. Through my years of testing different forums, message boards, etc. I've found that most places, even various Lovecraft fan sites, don't really expand your mind with new ideas, new texts, or new perspectives. ED is among the few I gained a lot from, along with a few other sites dedicated to literature with an older crowd. I always look forward to what someone has to say here.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12 Sep 20 | 11:17AM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 12 September, 2020 01:45PM
Btw, I'm open to more discussions on "Maundeville", but since a few days have passed, shall I suggest the next story? Something more sci-fi than these last three fantasies, "The Invisible City."

[www.eldritchdark.com]

I'm not very fond of this one, but I enjoy parts of it, and I'd like to see what others think.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 12 September, 2020 02:14PM
Sounds fine to me, Hespire.

Invisible City it is...

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: 12 September, 2020 03:34PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sounds fine to me, Hespire.
>
> Invisible City it is...


Ha, I understand this type of story, especially with this type of dialogue, isn't your thing. It isn't mine either, and I'd never put this in a "best of CAS" collection, but perhaps it could be interesting to discuss one of CAS' less impressive things, for now anyway!

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 13 September, 2020 02:50PM
This isn't CAS at his best, but it's interesting to see him operating outside his comfort zone. I actually thought the dialogue was OK. I think the key problem was that having established a contemporary tone with the dialogue, CAS felt obliged to do something similar with the prose, and that this produced mixed results. As for the story itself - I came across something Chandler said about writing detective fiction recently -

'As I look back on my stories it would be absurd if I did not wish they had been better. But if they had been much better they would not have been published. If the formula had been a little less rigid, more of the writing of that time might have survived. Some of us tried pretty hard to break out of the formula, but we usually got caught and sent back. To exceed the limits of a formula without destroying it is the dream of every magazine writer who is not a hopeless hack.'

I guess maybe something similar held true for magazines like 'Weird Tales'? How else to explain the plethora of stories dealing with explorers stumbling upon some lost civilisation only to end up destroying it?

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 13 September, 2020 03:58PM
"The Invisible City" is one of several science-fiction adventures CAS wrote for the paycheck more than anything, explaining the great ideas conveyed through somewhat dry exposition and less than poetic prose. It disappointed me yet held my attention with its mysterious first half, so I was curious to learn more of its development. I wondered if CAS intended it to be a more atmospheric piece, and only added that whole segment with the alien villains and suspenseful gunplay for the sake of pleasing his editors, and according to The Collected Fantasies this is at least somewhat true, though it was conceived even in its earliest stage to be sold to a magazine known for its "cowboys and indians" in space. It seems CAS' notes and synopses emphasized only the dead city and its haunting mysteries, and never mentioned living inhabitants or an action-packed climax, which would also explain why that part of the story felt so rushed.

Thanks for that quote. Knowing CAS' difficult artist-editor relationship with Wonder Stories, Astounding Stories, etc. and his need to sell stories for the sake of his parents, I can see its wistful relevance here.

I enjoyed this story somewhat, at least the first half had some suspenseful pacing and some sense of anxiety and disorientation. But it's true that contemporary dialogue and prose weren't CAS' strengths here. If he were allowed to be more atmospheric and indulge in his poetic sensibilities this could have been as impressive as his famous fantasy stories, but it turns out even CAS wasn't so interested in this, feeling it didn't have enough atmosphere to suit his own taste or enough consistent action to appease the magazine's audience. In the end it was a collection some fine ideas that fell short.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 13 Sep 20 | 04:01PM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 13 September, 2020 04:12PM
That's a valid point, Hespire - the story is strongest at the start. Your mention of 'Cowboys and Indians in space' made me suddenly wonder why the story didn't involve two explorers on a strange planet rather than on earth, as this would have been a lot more credible.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - INVISIBLE CITY
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2020 12:11PM
OK, I finally got around to reading it. I had thought that maybe I had read it before, but...


THe first thing I'd note is that as compared to CAS's better stories--and this would include almost all of his thematic works (Zothique, Averoign, etc.) it comes off as uninspired and undistinguished. Narratively, it is "tight" enough, but it's sorta like by the end, "Who cares?"

Then it dawned on me--if I didn't already know, before reading, that CAS wrote it, would I tend to attribute the story to him? I mean, it lacks a lot of his best-known trademarks--the ornate and archaic language, sometimes women, the subtle humor that often comes into the longer stories in multiple places, etc.

If you are familiar enough with his lesser works--those adventure-like stories, and this is sure one--yeah, you *might*. But if all you ever read were the main thematic collections (and this is mostly *me*) you might not even guess it was him. Standard "no-name" pulp writing.

Second thing is that in some ways this story is influenced by HPL's ideas of secret, hidden alien races who have some ability to threaten our existence here on earth. These particular aliens are none too potent, nor are they overly motivated to kick Earthing butt, but still--not friendly, by any stretch.

Very much in the mold of the subterranean culture in HPL's ghost-written (for Zealia Bishop) tale, "The Mound"...

"OK, so now you've found us. It's true that we don't much like you or your ilk, but we're at this point content to just live isolated from humanity.

"Oh, and by the way: you can never go home again..."

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



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 14 Sep 20 | 12:54PM by Sawfish.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - INVISIBLE CITY
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 15 September, 2020 11:08AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> THe first thing I'd note is that as compared to
> CAS's better stories--and this would include
> almost all of his thematic works (Zothique,
> Averoign, etc.) it comes off as uninspired and
> undistinguished. Narratively, it is "tight"
> enough, but it's sorta like by the end, "Who
> cares?"

Indeed, by its end neither the protagonists nor the readers can take much from the story. This grand alien civilization is discovered, their beyond-ancient city is destroyed, and it's all brushed away by a cheap and cheeky little joke as the men return to a seemingly normal life. HPL's lesser efforts leave a bigger impact with their haunting discoveries, how the sheer existence of those reptiles from the Nameless City could create an uncomfortable chill when considering human history.

> Then it dawned on me--if I didn't already know,
> before reading, that CAS wrote it, would I tend to
> attribute the story to him? I mean, it lacks a lot
> of his best-known trademarks--the ornate and
> archaic language, sometimes women, the subtle
> humor that often comes into the longer stories in
> multiple places, etc.

I thought about that myself while reliving my disappointment. If I never knew who wrote it, I don't think I would have guessed it was CAS, unless, perhaps, if I were more familiar with his Volmar stories rather than his thematic fantasies. Only a few passages, like the description of the city in the moonlight, allow his mastery of descriptive prose to bleed in. Even his other stories of discoveries in foreign countries, like "The Seed From the Sepulcher" and "The Uncharted Isle", have more imaginative prose, vivid atmospheres, and characters more psychologically engaged with the weirdness.

> Second thing is that in some ways this story is
> influenced by HPL's ideas of secret, hidden alien
> races who have some ability to threaten our
> existence here on earth. These particular aliens
> are none too potent, nor are they overly motivated
> to kick Earthing butt, but still--not friendly, by
> any stretch.
>
> Very much in the mold of the subterranean culture
> in HPL's ghost-written (for Zealia Bishop) tale,
> "The Mound"...

This is making me want to read that HPL collaboration or ghost-story (I forget which it was) about an invisible labyrinth and a legion of lizard people. I forget the name, but surely it must be more engaging given his experience in describing alien civilizations.

> "OK, so now you've found us. It's true that we
> don't much like you or your ilk, but we're at this
> point content to just live isolated from
> humanity.
>
> "Oh, and by the way: you can never go home
> again..."


All those tedious paragraphs of exposition! CAS' alien races are a mixed bag, but this was one of his least impressive, in spite of the fascinating ideas behind them. Another sign he was not enthusiastic for this story.

Btw, it's been a few days. If you have nothing else to say about "The Invisible City", I think it's safe for you to choose the next story!

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - INVISIBLE CITY
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 September, 2020 12:08PM
Terrific exchanges, Hespire! I'm really enjoying these explorations of CAS's work.

Would you be OK with one of my favorite "small stories" by CAS, "A Vintage from Atlantis"?

Very simple and straightforward, conceptually. I'm mostly interest in the characters of "Red Barnaby" Dwale and the narrator, "a staunch Rechabite", and the descriptive color CAS brought to bear.

In many ways this is a trivial story, but a very "tasty" one, like an after-dinner truffle. Lots of little fun stuff in it, humor, etc.

...or at least it appeals to me, for whatever that's worth.

Sound all right to you?

[www.eldritchdark.com]

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Vintage from Atlantis
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 15 September, 2020 01:35PM
After a dreary trudge through the desert, I'd love to follow up with a good vintage by the sea. Since no one else is suggesting their own stories, "Vintage" it is!

Though it's short and simple enough, this story stands out strongly among CAS' work, not only for its awe-inspiring visions at the climax, but for its unusual choice of characters and narration. Who expected him to make a Dunsanian tale of pirates? It could have been in the same world as Dunsany's "Poor Old Bill"!

My knowledge of pirate history and pirate literature is scant, so I have no clue how genuine or masterful this portrayal is, but the narrator is such a colorful and lively fellow, even when describing the dark and sober moments of his account. I like him! And I can't help but snicker a little, in my head, knowing he's both a devoted Christian and a pirate by trade. I like that weirdly believable nuance in character personalities. Even violent gang members can believe in Jesus.

Red Barnaby is also a fun character. Rough and thuggish, yet unexpectedly erudite. Because of my lack of historical knowledge, I have no clue how realistic this is, so I don't know if CAS is either portraying a realistic pirate captain or if he's purposefully subverting expectations, but I get a kick out of it. Perhaps it makes sense for a pirate to know some things about valuables and their histories, though.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 15 Sep 20 | 01:38PM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Vintage from Atlantis
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 15 September, 2020 04:42PM
I really enjoyed this. It's pretty slight, as Sawfish pointed out, but - as with CAS at his best - there are enough embellishments to make this unimportant: Red Barnaby's erudition, the amphora being encrusted with unfamiliar sea flowers, how the crew dine on turtoises(?) and their eggs. So much so, I'm not sure if the degree of accuracy matters.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Vintage from Atlantis
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 September, 2020 09:41PM
Like Cathbad, I really enjoyed this story.

It's a lot like an overdrawn, overacted 1940s/50s Hollywood B film that is short, simple, and nothing more than enjoyable entertainment.

I think many of CAS's works are often very "visual"--in this regard they might be thought of as "cinematic"--and this is one of them. He makes an attempt to inject a few colorful, overdrawn characters (Dwale, whom I see as a sort of brawling cross between Sterling Haden and Wallace Beery; the mate, Roger Aglone, who has "a gloomy turn of mind"; and the narrator, Stephen Magbane, the "one Puritan amid that Christless crew"...and a tea-totaler to boot!).

First, I found it very amusing to think that there is a religious tea-totaler who, other than finding the rest of his shipmates to be drunken and ribald, apparently has nothing bad to say about the fact that they rob, steal, and likely are very violent, if "Red" Barnaby deserves his nickname.

The story starts as Magbane apparently is refusing a drink, using the refusal as a lead in to the moral tale. He makes reference to Solomon.

The dialog is 'way, 'way overdrawn, probably (it's like a Hollywood Scottish or German accent--no Scot or Geran actually has an accent like that, but it's what we've been conditioned to accept as "normal"), but adds to my enjoyment by rendering the tale in Techincolor, with all the stereotypes we expect and love.

We've got the captain, who give us a lecture not only on Roman and Spanish wines, but on Plato's thoughts on Atlantis, and who uses the most exaggerated nautical blasphemies and curses imaginable.

And when they find the amphora, *OF COURSE* the very first thing they're going to do is get plastered, being pirates, and all.

They we get the preparations for the beach party/barbeque and they drew me in; they felt right in terms of a film.

The effect of the wine is drawn out just a bit for suspense, and the climax and resolution, such as they are, seems appropriate to the nature of the tale--which for us is a simple and entertaining little diversion. It was completely satisfying and pleasing.

Reading this story, and some others, he seems to me like if he was sufficiently motivated ad channeled, he'd have been a very good screenwriter of adventure tales.

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Vintage from Atlantis
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 16 September, 2020 01:39AM
I agree. Now that you mention it, this story is excellent material for a short film. I'm a little surprised it hasn't been done before, especially learning that "Mother of Toads" became a film. All you need is a shore, some pirate costumes, the amphora, and some genius effects and artful taste to make that vision of Atlantis.

Ah, there's that subject of adapting CAS' stories into film again! I think the 40s/50s would have captured his sensibilities better than most films today. CAS' most interesting characters can only be played by personalities that are theatrical and larger than life, which I think films are lacking these days. And the limitations of special effects might have forced a greater emphasis on atmosphere.

Anyway, this was already what I considered a good story, but discussing it with you guys has suddenly made it a deep favorite of mine! I'm glad this thread brings new perspectives to the table.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - Vintage from Atlantis
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 16 September, 2020 04:33AM
Funnily enough, I was thinking the exact thing while reading it - how it would work as a film. I was imagining something along the lines of a Roger Corman movie. Maybe because CAS is a visual writer and film is a visual medium? One thing that would get lost in transition would be CAS's prose.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - THE ICE DEMON
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 19 September, 2020 11:24AM
Since it seems the "Vintage" discussion has ran its course, I'd like to suggest a Hyperborean story people rarely talk about, "The Ice-Demon."

[www.eldritchdark.com]

A few weeks ago, in the folklore thread, I told Dale Nelson that CAS had never written anything in the general style of northern European myths. This story is still told with CAS' poetic opulence, and its subject is typical for weird fiction, but it's also the closest thing he's written to a grim, cold, almost folksy tale of the far North. It has a little less of the opulent writing he's known for, almost getting straight to the point, at least compared to most of his fantasies. I'd like to see what others have to say about this somewhat unique CAS story.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 19 Sep 20 | 11:26AM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - THE ICE DEMON
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 19 September, 2020 12:56PM
Sounds good to me!

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - THE ICE DEMON
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 20 September, 2020 11:36AM
I really liked this one, all the more so - as you say - as it marks a change in setting. Sure the idea is pretty preposterous - a glacier that moves with startling rapidity, and only when your back is turned - but (as with the last story) CAS is able to embellish his premise with little touches that cumulatively overcome any reservations you might have. So his prose style isn't the only factor in building mood: there's a lot of circumstantial detail here too, sometimes deployed with a grim relish - e.g. The body of Hoom Feethos, pierced through and through by one of the icicles, and ground down by the blunter teeth, was spurting blood on the glacier, like the red mist from a wine-press. Nice!

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - THE ICE DEMON
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 September, 2020 01:05PM
For right now I'm going to work from memory...

There's this underlying theme that there's no such thing as a free lunch in both this story and in the first one in the Hyberborea volume, The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan.

In both stories a treasure that is owned by a supernatural being is taken by humans, and recovered by the being, with a negative outcome for the humans involved.

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - THE ICE DEMON
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 September, 2020 01:26PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I really liked this one, all the more so - as you
> say - as it marks a change in setting. Sure the
> idea is pretty preposterous - a glacier that moves
> with startling rapidity, and only when your back
> is turned - but (as with the last story) CAS is
> able to embellish his premise with little touches
> that cumulatively overcome any reservations you
> might have.

Hi, Cathbad.

As before, I am puzzled by your statements about credibility or plausibility in some fantasy stories. I want to be sure that you understand that I'm not criticizing your way of judging this aspect, but it's very difficult for me to get my head around what things might be implausible in a story that is by definition a fantasy. For it to do that, it would have to violate its own rules--ones established either implicitly or implicitly.

In this story, the first six paragraphs basically tell you that it's *not* the world in which we live, but sorta resembles it in that humans, as we understand them, live it it. There are also wizards, which implies a sort of fantastic physic is at play here.

And there is also the disquieting basis for their quest: an army, going to war against the ice, was overwhelmed by it in an instant, and frozen in place.

These are GIANT hints at what is possible in this particular world.

Now, me, I get to disbelieving in fantasy stories if one or more dei ex machina (sp?) are used to resolve the plot to a certain "unlikely" outcome.

But that's just the way I tend to see stuff. If you can think of a fantasy story that employs fantastic elements (supernatural, advanced scientific concepts, etc) that *is* plausible, what might be an example, and how does it differ from the present story, in terms of plausibiliry--i.e., what makes it more plausible?



> So his prose style isn't the only
> factor in building mood: there's a lot of
> circumstantial detail here too, sometimes deployed
> with a grim relish - e.g. The body of Hoom
> Feethos, pierced through and through by one of the
> icicles, and ground down by the blunter teeth, was
> spurting blood on the glacier, like the red mist
> from a wine-press. Nice!

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - THE ICE DEMON
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 20 September, 2020 01:55PM
I guess a fantasy world only works for me if it's rooted in reality? For example, if the hero is embarking on a quest to kill a dragon, he should travel on horseback, the journey should be arduous etc. This adds credibility to the basic premise: the author spends so much time describing the hero's journey, I'm ready to believe that the mc really has gone on such a journey in order to kill a dragon and - by extension - that dragons really exist. Plus the dragon will seem all the more credible to me if the author deploys analogies with the real world; it's like a giant lizard, it has leathery wings (like a bat), it radiates heat (like a stove) because it is a fire-breathing creature and so on and so forth.

In this instance, CAS's villain is a sentient glacier that's behaviour is so inconsistent with what I know about glaciers (and ice!) it stretches credulity to breaking point even if there's enough good writing to let him off the hook. I'd have dispensed with the 'glacier' analogy entirely and had a creeping cold that results in sudden snow storms that vanish as suddenly as they appear, leaving frozen human popsicles in their wake, plus a lot of a seismic unrest caused by the disparities in temperature etc, etc, because these would seem more plausible, while still having a supernatural vibe. Just my two cents' worth!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 20 Sep 20 | 01:55PM by Cathbad.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - THE ICE DEMON
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 September, 2020 02:52PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I guess a fantasy world only works for me if it's
> rooted in reality? For example, if the hero is
> embarking on a quest to kill a dragon, he should
> travel on horseback, the journey should be arduous
> etc. This adds credibility to the basic premise:
> the author spends so much time describing the
> hero's journey, I'm ready to believe that the mc
> really has gone on such a journey in order to kill
> a dragon and - by extension - that dragons really
> exist. Plus the dragon will seem all the more
> credible to me if the author deploys analogies
> with the real world; it's like a giant lizard, it
> has leathery wings (like a bat), it radiates heat
> (like a stove) because it is a fire-breathing
> creature and so on and so forth.
>
> In this instance, CAS's villain is a sentient
> glacier that's behaviour is so inconsistent with
> what I know about glaciers (and ice!) it stretches
> credulity to breaking point even if there's enough
> good writing to let him off the hook. I'd have
> dispensed with the 'glacier' analogy entirely and
> had a creeping cold that results in sudden snow
> storms that vanish as suddenly as they appear,
> leaving frozen human popsicles in their wake, plus
> a lot of a seismic unrest caused by the
> disparities in temperature etc, etc, because these
> would seem more plausible, while still having a
> supernatural vibe. Just my two cents' worth!

OK, I'm starting to get it, and thanks for spending the time in explaining it.

Two more questions on the same topic, if you are game:

1) You use the example of a dragon as having some level of parallel to existing earthly objects ("known" objects). So this explains stories that sorta parallel our known world. But for stories that attempt to explore an entirely different reality--more like something like in the film Solaris--or really, much of HPL's cosmology--would this make it easier to suspend disbelief because there is no "known" parallel to compare it to?

2) How do you rate The Lord of the Rings trilogy for plausibility? This seems to me to be a fairly close parallel to the earth we know.

Like I said, I tend to accept most of this stuff so long as they don't pull rabbits out of the hat to resolve the plot.

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

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - THE ICE DEMON
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 20 September, 2020 03:14PM
I guess I'd make a distinction between world-building and plot?

So you're talking about reader expectations - which is entirely legitimate. For example, if I read a murder mystery, there's an unspoken contract between me and the author that he's going to provide all the necessary clues for me to solve the mystery while also trying to surprise me as to who the actual culprit will turn out to be.

World-building is more of an sf thing. So the world has to have an internal coherence, especially in longer work. I'd classify CAS as a fabulist - his stories are short and vivid and extremely well-written, so world-building isn't an immediate issue (with the odd exception!) because the length doesn't necessitate it to the same degree and because CAS's other talents as an author give him a free pass. I'm also reminded of what somebody once said about scriptwriting - an audience will always forgive an unlucky coincidence, never a lucky one. Cautionary tales confirm our sometimes pessimistic worldview and it's a trait that CAS exploits.

I actually prefer 'The Hobbit' to LOTR. One thing it has going for it (amongst many other things) is a very clear sense of place. Reading it again a few years ago, I was struck by how much detail Tolkien goes into when describing a location. He never actually describes what a troll or a goblin looks like but because the setting is so well described, we're more than willing to meet him halfway - which sort of goes back to what I mean about every fantasy needing to be rooted in some kind of reality.

Re HPL. I've actually read very little HPL, but I don't see his work as being about world-building per se: it's inspired by man's visceral terror of the unknown - that something gigantic and malevolent lurks in the darkness beyond our brightly-lit world. That's a very old fear, and easy to tap into. The fact that HPL's descriptions of these creatures is largely incoherent is what makes them so effective, because what he's basically telling the reader is that this was something so horrific, so hideous, it was impossible to describe.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS - THE ICE DEMON
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 20 September, 2020 03:40PM
As someone who indulges in myths and folktales, I'm not terribly surprised by things like food items talking to people, a woman turning into a bird by wearing its feathers, or a sorcerer tying a few blades of grass together to create a dragon (all of which come from actual folk stories). By comparison a malignant glacier is pretty sensible to me. Anyway, CAS hints at an otherworldly intelligence and mystery behind it, befitting a genre in which aliens beyond our current understanding of the universe can exist, like Cthulhu.

Like Sawfish, I can accept almost anything as long as the plot and narrative aren't resolved in an unexpectedly half-assed way.

That said, it's fun reading Cathbad's very different thoughts on the matter. One of the great joys in life is seeing how someone can be weirded out by something you find normal! And I think his suggestion for an ice-themed weird story could make an excellent read.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 20 Sep 20 | 03:46PM by Hespire.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: The Sojourner of Worlds (IP Logged)
Date: 26 September, 2020 09:11PM
I'm a bit late. Sorry about that.

1) I strongly agree with Sabmon's house of bones as representing his victory over the temptations of the flesh. That's a great little detail right there.

2) Xexanoth is described as 'the chief cosmic power antagonistic to Aforgomon'. However, it is never precisely stated, as far as I can tell, what he exactly represents, what is his portfolio. All we get is that he is known as the Lurking Chaos which, to be frank, is a fairly generic sobriquet as far as cosmic horrors go and doesn't really say all that much.

I, for my part, am kinda leaning towards concepts such as nostalgia, memory, perhaps even love or happiness. I suppose some of it comes from the writer himself, his personality, sensibilities, tendencies. You, of course, may take a completely different route.

3) Smith really had a thing for deserts. I wonder, assuming he ever reaches Lovecraft's fame, if deserts will become to him what sea is to Lovecraft.

Re: Discussion Thread for the stories of CAS
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 26 September, 2020 09:25PM
Nice to see someone new engaging in this thread!

Xexanoth is such a passing name and plot device in the story, yet as usual for CAS and his minor details there is much enticement in it. And I never once considered what the opposite of Aforgomon could be until now. Aforgomon clearly has some kind of sense of organization for time and space, so with a sobriquet like "Lurking Chaos" (a little similar to Nyarlathotep's "Crawling Chaos", yes?) I imagine Xexanoth stands for whatever goes against that complicated system. Xexanoth seems to supply the wrench to Calaspa, with which to throw into the cosmic system.

Regarding deserts, I thought the exact same thing after suggesting "The Invisible City" for reading. Zothique itself is naturally a world of deserts, but CAS also wrote "Maundeville", "Invisible City", "The Ghoul", "Yondo", and other desert-based stories. I think CAS can be linked with the theme of desolation even more than Lovecraft can.



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