Goto Thread: PreviousNext
Goto:  Message ListNew TopicSearchLog In
Goto Page: Previous12All
Current Page: 2 of 2
Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 10:03AM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I reckon - leaving aside how Chandler is probably
> one of the best prose stylists of the 20th century
> - that it is that precise sense of place that
> makes his work so memorable. Not just his sense of
> place, but what people are wearing etc.
> Everything! I actually know of very few other
> writers who’ve accomplished this, or
> accomplished it with such panache. And there’s a
> strong argument that all stories are fundamentally
> similar and that it’s the use of the local and
> the particular that sets one apart from the
> other.

The plots make little or no sense to me, and are less important than setting and character.

And the use of the vernacular...

"It was a blonde. A blonde to make the bishop kick a hole in the stained glass window."

and

"She had a smile that you could feel in your hip pocket."

Stuff like that.

There's one passage in particular, and I can't remember the novel, but Chandler starts a chapter by having Marlowe drive up over the Cahuenga Pass that separates the LA basin fro the San Fernando valley, very late at night--3 AM or so. The paragraph is almost rhapsodic--it's physical description overlain by Marlowe's subjective response to it.

So east on Franklin, north on 101, then west on Ventura Blvd, back in the late 1940s. He mentions no street names, but it's pretty clear from where he started out, and what he saw on he way.

>
> But maybe speculative fiction is different in this
> regard? Some of it anyhow? Take something like
> Vathek - an oriental fantasy written by a man who,
> while he'd travelled extensively in Europe,
> doesn’t seem to have ever ventured outside it.
> Books like that are inspired more by the idea of
> the orient than the reality.
>
> So I guess it depends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 10:37AM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I wholly agree, Knatigyn. ...
>
> I prefer CAS’s more overtly exotic, decadent work,
> and it’s generally what I look for when reading
> his stuff. I mean the Zothique sequence includes
> The Empire of the Necromancers which is - for my
> money - probably CAS at the peak of his form and
> which would automatically make me put the Zothique
> sequence above the Averoigne sequence - but to
> each his own, eh?
>

I too prefer Zothique. I think the locality of those tales is much inspired by the Arabian Nights, the Middle East, India. So I guess the question of correct geographical portraiture applies here as well. It is not an issue which bothers me. The important thing is that the created work has its own well integrated reality. It has been said that only bad artists slavishly imitate reality.

Ray Harryhausen said, that in creating fantasy you want to use a certain degree of realism to make the scene convincing; but you don't want to make it too real, for then the magic is lost.


As to Kipling's question if modern writers live up to Lovecraft's criteria, I am not literate enough to have a strong opinion about it, and I have not read many new weird fiction writers. I have read some of Robert Aickman, Ramsey Campbell, and Thomas Ligotti, and I enjoy some of their work. But I feel we live in a sadly cynical time, of the collective consciousness, for this kind of art. My impression is that the writers around the turn of the century, 1900s, Machen, Blackwood, de la Mare, actually believed in the supernatural. And the writers around the 1930s, actually believed in the weird and fantastic (in their souls, if not rationally). But I am not so sure about contemporary writers, whether they believe in anything supernatural beyond the materialistic mundane world; it seems they intentionally use supernatural gadgets as symbols to represent psychological and social issues. I may be wrong, for surely there have been some fantastic masterpieces (not least in film) made during the second half of the 20th century! (But did any of these rest on genuine supernatural conviction, of were they all calculated entertainment?)
I have no idea about the 21st century, for I have not read any of the books or seen any of the films of this new age.

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 12:21PM
Apropos 21st C "weird" cinema, I'd like to slide as far back as 1999 for The Blair Witch Project.

I heard about it at the time, but didn't get to see it until much later. I can recall participating in some discussion boards on this topic (the Blair Witch film) and there was a fairly constant claim by what I believe were fairly young males (20s-30s) that it wasn't a scary film, at all. They belittled it, mostly, and thereby raised a "flag".

They did protest too much--too ardently, if you take my meaning, and while I accepted their claims at face value at the time, something was very suspicious about their disproportionately forceful denials of the film's affect on them.

Then I saw the film on TV, and I feel that first time thru, it is *quite* effective, delivering its thematic payload by hint and incomplete innuendo, using the "found footage" trope, which is closely related to ideas behind HPL's narrative technique in the ghost written The Mound, and At the Mountains of Madness, Testimony of Randolf Carter, etc., where you have a sort of first hand record of very strange events.

So putting 2+2 together, it's my opinion now that the louder these young male viewers disclaimed fright, the more likely it was that this creepy little film scared the bejeezus out of them at points, but were too sophisticated and worldly and too filled with male pride to admit it.

Kinda reminded me of the worst parts of my youthful self... :^(

It was like they were whistling in the dark, or doing a lot of macho posturing around the fire, months after the battle with a rival tribe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 06:27PM
Oldjoe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This is a really interesting discussion, but
> reading the excerpt from "Lovecraft At Last" that
> Kipling used to prompt the discussion, I don't
> derive much that could be used to try and decide
> which of the Averoigne or Zothique story cycles
> could "be considered more consistently fine
> literature."
>
> I'm not necessarily disagreeing with Lovecraft's
> criteria in that statement, I just think perhaps
> he doesn't capture the complete picture. For me
> as a reader, if I'm going to spend time reading
> something, I want to walk away from the experience
> with some sort of insight into life, the universe,
> and everything. That all sounds a little
> pretentious, but it really just means I want to
> hear from someone else what there is to be learned
> from their real or imagined experiences. That
> doesn't by any means exclude genre or pulp
> literature, which can do the job as well as
> anything.
>
> Speaking from that point-of-view, I rate the
> Zothique stories as the more compelling
> experience, simply because they form a loose
> narrative of the end of the human experience on a
> dying planet. Characters in the Zothique stories
> don't necessarily achieve any great moral or
> philosophical insights, but their adventures do
> allow the reader to contemplate a wildly
> imaginative end to the species. So after reading
> the best of the stories from that cycle, I often
> find myself pondering the possibilities: when the
> human race does eventually reach the end of the
> road, will we manage to do so with any sort of
> grace?
>
> In contrast, the Averoigne stories are fun to
> read, but I've never closed the book on one of
> them and found myself prompted into much
> reflection on what I just read. Good stories, but
> not much to chew on afterwards.


Interesting. So,the Zothique cycle has a thought-provoking resonance found only marginally in the Averoigne stories... I don't see a qualitative difference there because the Averoigne series, for me at least, reflects on cultural aspects within a self-contained fantasy world. Regarding the Lovecraft passage, a defense of my premise hinges on the phrase "plausible developments and motives". The excellent podcast wherein "The Charnel God" is read and discussed included a comment or two about the gullibility or lack of plausible motivation in the characters. It reminds me of a criticism of Ramsey Campbell-- the view that his protagonists are too passive. In contrast, the characterization in the Averoigne tales is fairly faultless. These are men and women motivated by their passions, fears, and creeds. Smith loved Balzac's "Droll Stories", as well as Flaubert as a prose stylist, so I guess I am saying that by a close analysis of the dialogue, characterization, and plotting in the 2 series, one could support the argument that the Averoigne l tales fit more smoothly into HPL's criteria.
Incidentally, a story in the NY Post today about an astonishing discovery on a farm in Mexico parallels "The Disinterment of Venus," one of the best Averoigne fantasies. A statue of a female figure was uncovered by a farmer while clearing the land, and was eventually unearthed, intact, by 5 men. It is believed to derive from a Gulf coast culture that created many statues of strong women, but the farmer's initial research led him to the belief that it represented a "goddess of lust". Check it out for details and photos of the statue.

jkh

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: DrWho42 (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 06:36PM
i think i prefer zothique but i've read more zothique stories?

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 07:27PM
Kipling Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Oldjoe Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > This is a really interesting discussion, but
> > reading the excerpt from "Lovecraft At Last"
> that
> > Kipling used to prompt the discussion, I don't
> > derive much that could be used to try and
> decide
> > which of the Averoigne or Zothique story cycles
> > could "be considered more consistently fine
> > literature."
> >
> > I'm not necessarily disagreeing with
> Lovecraft's
> > criteria in that statement, I just think
> perhaps
> > he doesn't capture the complete picture. For
> me
> > as a reader, if I'm going to spend time reading
> > something, I want to walk away from the
> experience
> > with some sort of insight into life, the
> universe,
> > and everything. That all sounds a little
> > pretentious, but it really just means I want to
> > hear from someone else what there is to be
> learned
> > from their real or imagined experiences. That
> > doesn't by any means exclude genre or pulp
> > literature, which can do the job as well as
> > anything.
> >
> > Speaking from that point-of-view, I rate the
> > Zothique stories as the more compelling
> > experience, simply because they form a loose
> > narrative of the end of the human experience on
> a
> > dying planet. Characters in the Zothique
> stories
> > don't necessarily achieve any great moral or
> > philosophical insights, but their adventures do
> > allow the reader to contemplate a wildly
> > imaginative end to the species. So after
> reading
> > the best of the stories from that cycle, I
> often
> > find myself pondering the possibilities: when
> the
> > human race does eventually reach the end of the
> > road, will we manage to do so with any sort of
> > grace?
> >
> > In contrast, the Averoigne stories are fun to
> > read, but I've never closed the book on one of
> > them and found myself prompted into much
> > reflection on what I just read. Good stories,
> but
> > not much to chew on afterwards.
>
>
> Interesting. So,the Zothique cycle has a
> thought-provoking resonance found only marginally
> in the Averoigne stories... I don't see a
> qualitative difference there because the Averoigne
> series, for me at least, reflects on cultural
> aspects within a self-contained fantasy world.
> Regarding the Lovecraft passage, a defense of my
> premise hinges on the phrase "plausible
> developments and motives". The excellent podcast
> wherein "The Charnel God" is read and discussed
> included a comment or two about the gullibility or
> lack of plausible motivation in the characters.

Lesssee...

That's the one about the young couple traveling. She's subject to something like narcolepsy to their great misfortune, she has an attack when they're staying i a city where Mordiggan, who claims all dead bodies--or rather, his priests do, "to do with as the wish...". GULP!

Sorta starts out like the Mary & Jospeh story, almost.

Now to my mind CSAS has at least three stories of lovers separate by circumstance, wh=ith the male trying to save his love, and this is the most successful rescue, as I recall. The others have the young man's love stolen by slavers while he's out hunting (or something), and the other has a magician steal the girl to make into a statue for his maze, I think.

Both of these end badly, although in one the couple gets to fish for pearls as zombies.

None of these were very strong stories, thematically--melodramatic for sure, but with that ole Game of Thrones curveball in that in two out of the three the heroes fail.

Not sure that I can recall specifically what was implausible, over and above the existence of dog-faced talking acolytes.


> It
> reminds me of a criticism of Ramsey Campbell-- the
> view that his protagonists are too passive. In
> contrast, the characterization in the Averoigne
> tales is fairly faultless. These are men and women
> motivated by their passions, fears, and creeds.

I thought the character development was very plausible for quasi-French people in the Dark Ages. No problems there for me.


> Smith loved Balzac's "Droll Stories", as well as
> Flaubert as a prose stylist, so I guess I am
> saying that by a close analysis of the dialogue,
> characterization, and plotting in the 2 series,
> one could support the argument that the Averoigne
> l tales fit more smoothly into HPL's criteria.

I'd say we're really starting to split hairs. I'll have to re-rad Averoigne, but I don't recall that the defining feature of this series was characterization so much as setting and mood.

>
> Incidentally, a story in the NY Post today about
> an astonishing discovery on a farm in Mexico
> parallels "The Disinterment of Venus," one of the
> best Averoigne fantasies. A statue of a female
> figure was uncovered by a farmer while clearing
> the land, and was eventually unearthed, intact, by
> 5 men. It is believed to derive from a Gulf coast
> culture that created many statues of strong women,
> but the farmer's initial research led him to the
> belief that it represented a "goddess of lust".
> Check it out for details and photos of the statue.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 3 February, 2021 09:36PM
Yes, but "setting and mood" are predominant in almost all of Smith's weird fiction. Plot scenarios and development are what I was driving at (erratically I admit), Characterization, naturally, is less important although there's nothing wrong with "splitting hairs", after all. The Zothique cycle is larger and more impressive in imaginative power and in the horror element, but I think Lovecraft's critical orientation, such as the downplaying of "action & adventure" artificially introduced for its own sake, suggests a strictly theoretical favoring of the more naturalistic plot scenarios and dramatic rather than melodramatic developments in the Averoigne stories. So, Averoigne is closer to Arkham than Tasuun.

jkh

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: The Sojourner of Worlds (IP Logged)
Date: 2 March, 2021 05:45PM
I don't really find Averoigne all that oppressive, to be honest. Or at least not as oppressive as some of his other settings dominated by an omnipotent individual born of human flesh, such as Xiccarph or Poseidonis.

As for Averoigne, it is more than just medieval France. It is specifically medieval central France, the most isolated, and hence the most pagan, part of this medieval Christian kingdom, dominated by a forest that is apparently yet to receive the news of death of the Great God Pan, as long ago proclaimed by a mysterious voice near Paxi.

Quote:
From this high knoll against the brine
Like those about Dodona's shrine:
For here Apollo still is god
And living dryads tread the sod
And love is Grecian and divine.

Not hidden with sad dreams of ill
Where Venus holds her vaulted hill,
For us the two, for us the three,
Here dwells the fair antiquity
Glad and august and pagan still.

Furthermore, it is not only medieval central France but very specifically Occitania, the land of troubadours and courtly love.

There's another thing. Clark Ashton Smith, to me at least, was very clearly a man with very strong sympathies for some form of dualism. I don't mean to declare him a dualist or a Gnostic or whatever since by no means am I certain he was one, but he very clearly gravitated towards that kind of cosmology. There are traces of it all over his works but probably more in Averoigne than anywhere else, even if Thasaidon or Vergama may disagree.

Goto Page: Previous12All
Current Page: 2 of 2


Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
Top of Page