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Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2021 02:03PM
In "Lovecraft At Last," that since-reprinted classic from the 70s, HPL explains his criteria for "real literature" as follows: "A work is primarily literature when it presents events in a really convincing perspective, with adequate emotional preparation for each development, honest delineation of character, plausible developments and motives, absence of artificially handled melodrama and synthetic 'adventure' cliches, and the sort of artistic craftsmanship which uses language gracefully and fastidiously and weaves an atmosphere of logical unfolding and momentary reality about the recorded scenes and happenings" (LAL 89-90). Lovecraft awards the encomium of literature to "the few choicest pieces" of CAS, C.L. Moore, and REH while noting that publishers had frequently turned down his own stories, following with the self-abasing statement, "By the standards of real literature, I simply don't exist..." (87-88). Question: If such a critical standard exists in the minds of many (which I doubt) are most of the modern writers of horror, now as then, sub-literary? I imagine some ED readers have read some of the contemporary authors in the field, but I have not (admitting that "ignorance is not innocence but sin" as Browning said). And a second question which I hope will engender interesting discussions: by laterLovecraft's standard as given, could the Averoigne series as a whole be considered more consistently fine literature than the Zothique series as a whole? It's a tough call, but I'll say yes, going against the grain.

jkh

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2021 04:39PM
This is an interesting topic for discussion, Kipling.

Interleaved, below...

Kipling Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> In "Lovecraft At Last," that since-reprinted
> classic from the 70s, HPL explains his criteria
> for "real literature" as follows: "A work is
> primarily literature when it presents events in a
> really convincing perspective,

OK, I would like to label the stylistic elements and more-or-less agree on what they are.

Here he was talking about voice and POV, I'd guess.

> with adequate
> emotional preparation for each development,

An honestly revealed plot, without resorting to gimmicks like deus ex machina, etc.

> honest
> delineation of character,

Organic character development, in that a character who seems like a hopeless neurotic does not become the savior of humanity, as in some of of the Young Adult genre...


> plausible developments and motives,

Plot?

> absence of artificially handled
> melodrama and synthetic 'adventure' cliches,

More about gimmickry.

> and
> the sort of artistic craftsmanship which uses
> language gracefully and fastidiously

Word choice, cadence, dialog, etc. General ability to construct an artful and graceful written narrative. And this does not mean that poetic devices need to be used, if it's not appropriate for the voice.

> and weaves an
> atmosphere of logical unfolding and momentary
> reality about the recorded scenes and happenings"

Plausible plot development. Logical consequences follow from action/events.

> (LAL 89-90).

OK, so HPL does little in the way of character development, although for short fiction this is not always possible. The narrative needs to focus on an event, and not necessarily a character, and short weird fiction is very often about events.

Voice is pretty consistently a sort of professorial level of conventional knowledge, a properly detached observer who has, or is becoming, unmoored due to the event(s) he relates.

HPL often focuses on description rather than plot--and sometimes plot is minimal, simply enough to explain why the POV is where he is to witness the central event, and to expound on its implications.

Plausibility in the plot is secondary, because after all, we're reading about unnatural events for entertainment. But even given that, HPL for the most part steers clear of gimmickry, I think.

It's good to add here, I think, that "melodrama" has a certain appeal because it draws a somewhat larger than life picture, with exaggerated characters and motivations, and for escapist fiction--which this is--this is why people are reading it.

So they bought Weird Tales magazine precisely because the content was melodramatic, probably.

> Lovecraft awards the encomium of
> literature to "the few choicest pieces" of CAS,
> C.L. Moore, and REH

I wonder what pieces those were. It would have helped to have had some concrete examples.

> while noting that publishers
> had frequently turned down his own stories,
> following with the self-abasing statement, "By the
> standards of real literature, I simply don't
> exist..." (87-88). Question: If such a critical
> standard exists in the minds of many (which I
> doubt) are most of the modern writers of horror,
> now as then, sub-literary? I imagine some ED
> readers have read some of the contemporary authors
> in the field, but I have not (admitting that
> "ignorance is not innocence but sin" as Browning
> said).

You're speaking to another sinner, then.

Moderns tend fall short on atmospherics, which is one of the main reasons I read this kind of fiction. They replace atmospherics with nihilism, as in the case of Ligotti, for example, or Clive Barker.

> And a second question which I hope will
> engender interesting discussions: by
> laterLovecraft's standard as given, could the
> Averoigne series as a whole be considered more
> consistently fine literature than the Zothique
> series as a whole? It's a tough call, but I'll say
> yes, going against the grain.

It *is* a tough call. For CAS, he does setting very, very well, like Ballard in Vermilion Sands. So I bought the main series settings: Zothique, Hyperborea, Averoigne. Less so Poseidonis and Xiccarph.

CAS also does a whole lot more with character development than almost anyone else is short weird fiction *of the writers I'm aware of*. He also seems to portray the cultural characteristics of each setting in a distinct manner. Simply put, the characters in Hyperorea are more vital and vigorous and a bit more optimistic than those in Zothique, and it's plausibly because of moral vigor (or decline) based on the perceived state of their environment.

So I guess I'm saying that I don't see a heck of a lot of difference, so far as HPL's criteria for worthy literature, between Zothique and Averoigne.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 1 Feb 21 | 05:24PM by Sawfish.

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2021 06:16PM
Yes, I agree that both series fulfill HPL's definition in all aspects, but with respect to the historical verisimilitude in the Averoigne tales, is there not more attention given to the relationships between characters? It seems to me that there is more dialogue as well. I must apologise for omitting Lovecraft's inclusion of Henry S. Whitehead along with Smith, Howard, & Moore. Whitehead's best stories are perhaps underrated due to a lack of melodrama, which readers of Weird Tales naturally tend to expect. Yet they do focus brilliantly on events and delineate character and personality in the logical development of those events.

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2021 07:46PM
I guess my issue with the Averoigne stories would be the level of historical versimilitude? CAS seems to have been following in a recognisable tradition here - ie, American authors who wrote fantasy work in a pseudo-French setting, often without ever even visiting the country. Poe and James Branch Cabell both spring to mind (in fairness, Robert W. Chambers had actually lived in Paris at one stage). This is a bit like a European writing Westerns. It happens but the results are mixed. Clark’s Averoigne stories are about as accurate a depiction of medieval Europe as - say - a film like The Pit & the Pendulum whereas his imaginary worlds are uniquely his own. And yeah, I think that does tip the balance in favour of the Zothique stories, even though some of the Averoigne stories are pretty strong.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 1 Feb 21 | 07:52PM by Cathbad.

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2021 07:50PM
Trying to remember...

I have only read the Averoigne stories once completely, and then spot re-readings. I feel that it is quality writing, bit found it less attractive to read, in part because of the overarching sense of Dark Age superstition and dread that pervades the stories for the most part. This means that CAS *succeeded* in creating setting and mood and that it affected me greatly, but for reason of my own tend to find it oppressive.

Let's see: is there at least one recurring character? If so there'd be a chance for deeper development.

I'm sorta conflating some of the Averoigne tales with those ones of Satampra Zeiros in those 2 Hyperborea stories, mzybe.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2021 07:58PM
Thanks for breaking down HPL's points, Sawfish. As for particular masterworks by the Weird Tales authors, he told Conover that Moore's "Shambleau," "Black Thirst" & "Black God's Kiss" are superior to her later works. He regarded Howard's Kill tales as a possible "weird peak,"--that would surely mean "The Shadow Kingdom" & "The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune," and, of the Conan stories, probably "Shadows in Zamboula" and "The People of the Black Circle" were rated highly. For your aforementioned "atmospherics" he said Howard's "Black Canaan" is excellent in a regionalist sense, but typically falls short of meeting the literature standard in other ways. Any comments on any of these, or on Whitehead's work? Those Moore stories are not to be missed, and I think Lovecraft may have been unduly harsh toward her work on the whole.

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2021 08:18PM
Other than a few mentions of Eibon, there are no recurring characters in the cycle of Averoigne stories. Azedarac was meant to meet his untimely end in a sequel to "The Holiness of Azedarac", but CAS never wrote it. Regarding the oppressive atmosphere of the setting, I wouldn't be surprised if it was derived from CAS' own experiences with his town, but I'm not sure how relevant that is to the literary significance of these stories.

On the subject of American authors who wrote about France without visiting, I notice similarities between Smith's Averoigne and Cabell's Poictesme, especially the wry humor and mythical references, and CAS joked about the two provinces being neighbors. But Cabell wasn't nearly so concerned with atmosphere or drama as much as he was dialogue and satire. I wonder if HPL would have considered his stuff literature like many old-school fantasy enthusiasts have.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 1 Feb 21 | 08:19PM by Hespire.

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2021 10:44PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I guess my issue with the Averoigne stories would
> be the level of historical versimilitude? CAS
> seems to have been following in a recognisable
> tradition here - ie, American authors who wrote
> fantasy work in a pseudo-French setting, often
> without ever even visiting the country. Poe and
> James Branch Cabell both spring to mind (in
> fairness, Robert W. Chambers had actually lived in
> Paris at one stage). This is a bit like a
> European writing Westerns. It happens but the
> results are mixed. Clark’s Averoigne stories are
> about as accurate a depiction of medieval Europe
> as - say - a film like The Pit & the Pendulum
> whereas his imaginary worlds are uniquely his own.
> And yeah, I think that does tip the balance in
> favour of the Zothique stories, even though some
> of the Averoigne stories are pretty strong.
Well, without reading a pairing or two for comparative impressions, I will have to agree with you that the Zothique series is the most potently imaginative of them all. Your comment about American fantasy authors using European settings, often with less than satisfactory results, is curious. Do you mean to say that Averoigne is not just as much an imaginary world of the past as Zothique is of the future? I find the Averoigne cycle to be very much in the alternate world mode; thus, my idea of historical ambience may differ from yours. I love the sardonic mood and how it accentuates the sinister atmosphere. It's a little more subtle than in the Hyperborean fantasies. Perhaps there is more of Smith's cynical world view present, which may be disconcerting. But there is lighter satire and humor, too.

jkh

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2021 11:31PM
I didn't expect Averoigne to reflect the actual nation, France, any more than the Arthurian legend cycle reflected England.

I also think CAS did a clever thing: he took what *seems* to be a recognizable geographic location, in general, and subtly distorted it so that my gut reaction was that this was France, and yet not France.

It's hard to convey how this affected my appreciation of the stories.

It sure did, though...

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 04:40AM
E. R. Burroughs wrote the Tarzan books without having visited Africa. I believe that not visiting a location, but perhaps only having seen a few old black & white photographs in books, can actually spark more inspiration and an even richer creativity of the imagination. Visiting a place can result in a certain obese satisfaction of the senses, and no remaining need to add more.
Lovecraft wrote of different exotic geographical locations, probably better than most locals would have been able to do despite having grown up in those environs.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2 Feb 21 | 04:44AM by Knygatin.

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 05:46AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> perhaps only having seen a few old
> black & white photographs in books, can actually
> spark more inspiration and an even richer
> creativity of the imagination.

And likewise, visiting museums, botanical gardens, etc. The imagination will reach out to where the body cannot go.

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 06:29AM
I wholly agree, Kynatagin. I think sometimes an author’s idea of a particular place can be far more compelling than the place itself - that his or her ignorance actually works to the story’s advantage* - I’m just not sure that this is true in the case of the Averoigne stories; that is (names etc aside) they never felt particularly French to me or even inspired by an idea of what medieval France might be like. My impression is CAS liked the idea of setting some of his stories in medieval Europe (just as Poe had done) and France seemed as good a place as any.

I should add that Kipling has a point; the stories are often tonally more nuanced than CAS’s other work, but your appreciation of this is primarily a matter of taste rather than whether one sequence of stories is better or worse than another; 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?

* for some reason Rosseau’s painting The Dream springs to mind, a depiction of Africa by a man who’d never been in Africa yet which is all the better for it - maybe because you mentioned visiting the Botanical Gardens as a potential source of inspiration and this is precisely what Rosseau did?

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 08:49AM
It certainly has two sides, Cathbad...

I'm sitting, thinking about "what if Chandler had never been to LA and made up all the locations?" This would jump right out to me because I'm somewhat familiar with many of them.

Too, nothing really fantastic happens in the stories, so if a setting is portrayed as taking place in a known locale, the accuracy of the setting comes more into focus. You had better be sure that Spring Street is downtown, and not in Bel Aire, for example.

(Interestigly, he did invent place names for actual locations--Bay City for Santa Monica, and some stuff he describes and has given a bogus name seem to me to be near Encino.)

But if you've never been to LA, maybe this wouldn't matter so much, and since I've never been to Europe, much less France, it doesn't register.

So I can see your point, bit I still buy the French setting as fully as I accept that of Zothique.

Quick aside apropos the physical descriptions of Zothique...

Again, there is a sort of disconnect, and this one may not be purposeful and/or intended.

CAS tells you in so many words that the sun is now red and smaller, that the sky is a very dark color, etc. And yet reading many of the stories--and especially those dealing with the encroachment of deserts (and there are many) I automatically picture the setting for the particular story as a bright, hot, baking landscape. Nor does it even seen possible for humans--and those in Zothique are always portrayed as having evolved physically no further than we are--to actually perform some of the actions described, if it's as dark as CAS tells us Zothique is.

E.g., those two brothers who find the vault in Tomb Spawn, it just doesn't seem possible to see well enough to even enter the city...

So as I had mentioned earlier with Averoigne being "France, and yet not France", it sets up an odd intellectual dissonance that seems to disorient expectancies in just the *right* way.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 09:11AM
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.

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.

Re: Averoigne vrs. Zothique
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 09:17AM
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.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2 Feb 21 | 09:19AM by Oldjoe.

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.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.



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