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where is fiction going
Posted by: maeterlinck (IP Logged)
Date: 28 November, 2005 08:48PM
I am alone with my books and follow the minds of great men who died long ago Smith, Lovecraft, Howard, hodgson, Gautier, Lindsay, Dunsany, Shiel. In todays world I can only find solace in the pages of those great men who loved the written word. What inspired such great writing ? Maybe it was the world before the unweaving of the rainbow by science. Maybe it was before the age of T.V. and entertainment was in large part through books. Poetry has all but died, modern prose is crumbling into stagnant waste. Common letters written just two centuries ago between folk offer insight into the handle people used to have on simple prose. Will their ever be another time when writing will become great again or is it all downhill from here.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: Ghoti23 (IP Logged)
Date: 29 November, 2005 07:26PM
maeterlinck wrote:

> I am alone with my books and follow the minds of
> great men who died long ago Smith, Lovecraft,
> Howard, Hodgson, Gautier, Lindsay, Dunsany, Shiel.
> In todays world I can only find solace in the
> pages of those great men who loved the written
> word. What inspired such great writing? Maybe it
> was the world before the unweaving of the rainbow
> by science.

That doesn't really fit Lovecraft, but then he is the least aesthetically pleasing of those you named.

> Maybe it was before the age of T.V.
> and entertainment was in large part through books.

Yes. Photography killed painting, film killed literature.

> Poetry has all but died, modern prose is crumbling
> into stagnant waste. Common letters written just
> two centuries ago between folk offer insight into
> the handle people used to have on simple prose.
> Will their ever be another time when writing will
> become great again or is it all downhill from
> here?

All downhill, unless an asteroid strikes and we revert to barbarism, when we can start climbing uphill again.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: maeterlinck (IP Logged)
Date: 29 November, 2005 09:01PM
that would be great !

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 3 December, 2005 10:48AM

There is an added factor - more mundane perhaps -

the public school system has lost all sense of direction and value. The great writers of the 19th and early 20th century emerged from an educational environment in which reading great books was essential - and the curriculum was largely homogenous. By the end of HS Cooper, Twain, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Shakespeare (either R&J or Macbeth), and the essays of Emerson had been read - In my time (early 50's)brighter kids took Latin, and the Sophomore English class was world Lit. Everybody went through the same curriculum by and large - Obviously not everyone learned at the same level, but the exposure was there - Thus was created an immense pool of more or less literate folk, out of which seething pot emerged a handful who could write - by having read good writing, the emulation of it gave a foundation for beginning -- we see this in Bradbury's tribute to CAS, whose short stories inspired him to want to write. Tons of coal are required to produce one diamond; thousands of horses must be bred to produce one champion - Today, most of what is being read at the elementary level is drivel written (politically correctly) by so called "professional" educators. Add the TV and computers into the mix and we have no stew from which a choice morsel may be drawn. This has made those who wish to write increasingly defensive, and frustrated, and has darkened their writing and turned it inward where they gnaw their own bowels and call it "art." There are signs of a reaction and turning back, but they are meagre glimmers. The privately schooled and Home school kids are being exposed to the good stuff, and perhaps they will provide the fine writers of the future. I have just been reading some of the excellent etymological studies by my old mentor John Ciardi (he had been my hist. professors close friend and colleague and showed up often) - John had founded the famous "Saturday Review of Literature" - which at least provided a forum for poets to be heard - but it closed its doors after his death - no provision had been made and no one found who cared enough to keep it afloat - a societies bards
need to speak to it in telling and potent terms, yet our modern world's concept of poetry tends toward the Hallmark Greeting Card, and the voices crying in the wilderness have no pulpit.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: maeterlinck (IP Logged)
Date: 3 December, 2005 06:53PM
Well I am only twenty nine and I have always loved books and started at age fifteen reading science books. I read "The Voyage of the Beagle" when I was fifteen. From then on I read books on theoretical physics, philosophy and the great natrualist Emerson, Thourea, Eiseley etc. In my aerly twenties I started reading great fiction and seven years ago I read my first CAS stories and poems. I have been hooked ever since and can not get enough of CAS, Howard, Lovecraft, Shiel, Hodgson, Blackwood, Machen etc. It is sad how little people my age read and even sadder what they read. When everyone started reading Harry Potter I thought I would try it and and found it to be poorly written, trite garbage. Anyway I have been writing the last couple of years for my own self for fun and had some very good mentors over the last couple of years that have taught me a great deal about writing. I sure feel alone anymore though, I go to used book stores here in New Jersey and they are mostly void of people or are just about to close down because of the internet. Well I guess thats just the way of the world today and i think their are still some people still reading good books. I grew up with video games and instant entertainment on cable, T.V. and DVD.


Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 4 December, 2005 06:17PM

Based on your reading list - there is an amazing text book (yes I said textbook) long out of print, which I used when teaching History of Science at Syracuse Univ. many (googols?) years ago - "The History of Science" by Sir Edmund Dampier. The knowledge contained herein has been valuable and useful to me all my life in both content and perspective.

If you find one in your bookstore wanderings, buy it - it has become rare. I still have, and occasionally read, my copy.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: maeterlinck (IP Logged)
Date: 4 December, 2005 08:26PM
Have you ever heard of Loren Eiseley ? Out of all the science writers I have read I think he is the best. He wrote about ten books and they are wonderful. I have not heard of Edmund Dampier but I will keep my eye's out for him. Loren's books are easy to find and all of them are great.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: NightHalo (IP Logged)
Date: 5 December, 2005 02:05AM
I am not trying to deny that the public school system is lacking. However, at my high school we read all the writers Dr. F mentioned above and many many more with the exception of Cooper. Maybe it was because I was in honors classes? It may be. I do know though that everyone had to read a Shakespeare play each year and Twain was absolutely required reading.

Therefore, I do not believe it is a lack of exposure at all. I think it is a lack of motivation, especially with the allure of TV's and video games. I do have hope though. I would rather see kids reading Harry Potter than not read anything at all.

That's just my opinion.




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 5 Dec 05 | 02:06AM by NightHalo.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 5 December, 2005 09:47AM


On a National level, the kids are not being exposed to these writers - except, rarely, as you suggest in honors classes -- In this I speak from direct classroom experience in the public schools in several states both as teacher and consultant. Where I presently live, almost any child who is seriously supported in his education by literate parents, can succeed - but "universal free education", has lost its sense of direction.
Today in many schools you cannot say that one thing is better than another - In a recent situation in South Carolina, a teacher resigned rather than continue to be subjected to profanity and sexually demeaning behavior from 7th and 8th grade black kids -- the administration of her school system told her she had to put up with it because "that's their culture" which must be repected in the name of "diversity". Nothing could really be a worse stereotype by the very people who ought to be recognizing the need to pull children out of ignorance and poverty.

On the subject of Harry Potter, I have to disagree with my friend Ludde on its quality.
It is first and foremost a morality play using a delightful satirical take-off on the English public school -- the first book teaches the kids that a seemingly harmless adult can be "two-faced" (literally). In book two, innocence can be lured into destructive behavior which requires heroic efforts to save; book three, chocolate turns out to be the cure for depression! - charming (obviously written by a woman lol)
The clever use of names and situations by this author provides a level of delight that can help beginning readers begin to prepare to read more profoundly. I find a sense in these stories very similar to Dr. Lewis avowed purposes behind the "Chronicles of Narnia" - a children's work he hoped would provide a foundation of experience which the reading in mature works on the same subject would find the same concepts familiar to them. Isn't one of the great delights of CAS to be thrust into place which intoxicates the mind with newness and strangeness (even including revulsion as in La mere des Crapauds"), yet the return to the real world after reading finds the world more interesting, more mysterious and wonderful than before? As a standard, I frequently review in my mind what kinds of books call me back to re-read - CAS has always been that way for me. The same is true in film - I have seen a few good films in recent years that have been entertaining, and occasionally moving, but if "Casablanca" comes on, though I know every word of the dialogue, I will watch it.
The books or films whose content continues to invade the mind, and which each reading or viewing reveals something I had not seen before, or I hear an implication or inference I had somehow missed. That's where real quality lies; true works of genius will continue to feed you intellectually and spiritually as you yourself age, mature, and grow. Dr Arthur Bestor in 1954 wrote in his book "educational wastelands", that at the end of 30 years there are two kinds of folk (in any field): those who have indeed had 30 years of experience, and those who have had one experience thirty times.
It is so nice to see you back on the forum.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: Ludde (IP Logged)
Date: 10 December, 2005 09:27AM
Maeterlinck,

Writers of today can't possibly be expected to write like they did. In their perspective Earth was still largely unexplored and filled with shadows and dark mystery. No one will ever write like that again. Unless society totally collapses, and man should have to start over again in the dark. Every era has it's own qualifications, with changing issues in focus. And we can't deny our present everyday perspective. To write believable spinechillers today a fresh point of view is needed, and maybe Space is the only stage left (or possibly, to dig deeper into the mundane, and rip holes in the illusions of dominating science). To emulate the old writers will only turn out pathetic. Or is anyone of a different opinion? Is there still room for creating horror and ghost tales in the old masters' way, or medieval fantasies (besides as shallow sentimental nostalgia)?

For me, Jack Vance, born 1916, is the sofisticated extension of that group (especially of CAS. He has taken some of Smith's ideas and developed them. Like the dying Earth or his superb handling of animated plants in Star King) even if he is not so much into pure horror. And he still writes; although he may have been at his best during the 1950s -1980s. At the same time he is uniquely his own and freestanding. He mixes in more fatalistic humour, and is a bit of a materialist while still a dreamer (his characters love exquisite foods and luxurious accomodations, whenever their purse will allow it); but above all, he has a richly colorful neverending imagination, and a sense of the weird.



(Just for the record: I never commented Harry Potter on this forum.)

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: Ludde (IP Logged)
Date: 10 December, 2005 11:20AM
"For me, Jack Vance, born 1916, is the sophisticated extension of that group..."

I want to correct that statement. I wouldn't compare Vance to writers like Machen and Blackwood. Instead I'd like to say that Vance is partly a sophisticated extension of the Weird Tales tradition.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: CameronPierce (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2005 10:45PM
Good fiction still exists, you just have to look a little harder. Thomas Ligotti is amazing. A "best of" collection of his work was just released this October. Darren Speegle's "A Dirge for the Temporal" is a wonderful collection of literate horror. Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God" is also great, but I need to read a few more novels by him. "Spider" by Patch McGrath is one of the darker novels I've read and he's a contemporary writer as well. And also Matt Cardin's "Divinations of the Deep" and Tom Piccirilli's "A Choir of Ill Children."

I didn't read over most of this discussion, but from what I saw, you seemed to be searching for good modern writers. Those are just a few I"ve found.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: J. Bryan Shoup (IP Logged)
Date: 17 December, 2005 02:10AM
It is quite easy to lose heart in one's own day and age, but it seems to me those who feel thusly in modern times would have felt the same way had they been born a century past or a century in the future.

Rest assured, there are many of us just now leaving university who are eager to stamp our marks on literature. Whether or not we succeed, we will be emulating the masters you revere as much as modern-day heroes.

But sometimes you need a little Pynchon with your Lovecraft and Dunsany.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: Raven10 (IP Logged)
Date: 22 February, 2006 06:46PM
Hi! It's quite a while since I last posted any messages on this website. This seems as good a place as any for me to return to. As far as "where is fiction going" is concerned, I feel that more could be done to encourage potential writers to use their talent. In particular, I would love to see more of the fantasy-style horror fiction which made Clark Ashton Smith famous after his time. What I mean is, why are there so few writers to follow in his foot steps. On the otherhand, clones of Clark Ashton Smith would simply be dull and no doubt fail to live up to the high standard of writing which he set. Only HP Lovecraft even comes close to challenging the reader's capacity to believe in fantastic worlds, whether on this planet or elsewhere. Students of English need to train their minds to use the descriptive language and not restrict themselves to producing dull stories set in contemporary surroundings.

Re: where is fiction going
Posted by: Ludde (IP Logged)
Date: 25 February, 2006 10:34AM
I have never seen Frank Herbert's book DUNE mentioned on this forum. I am very curious to know if anyone here has read it, and what you think of it. I have tried several times to read it, but just couldn't get into it. It bored me. Very different from Smith's writing style.
The personal David Lynch film adaption of DUNE has always been a favorite of mine, although I couldn't understand what it was about. Now I have the extended film edition on DVD, and after having seen both versions I am beginning to put pieces together, and find that it really is a very fascinating story, with many interesting detail elements. I can watch this film over and over, both for its visuals, and complex ideas. I may read the book some day.

Another writer I enjoyed as a kid is Alan Dean Foster. I remember his books as more light-hearted space adventure. My favorites were MIDWORLD and MISSION TO MOULOKIN. They had some very nice imagination. Has anyone other opinions of these books?

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