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HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Raven10 (IP Logged)
Date: 25 February, 2006 01:37PM
Hi! I was wondering whether or not you share my view that Clark Ashton Smith's writing style and use of english, was actually better than in Lovecraft's writing? Even so, I still have a high opinion of Lovecraft's stories too. Looking forward to your replies.

Julian L Hawksworth

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Glyptodont (IP Logged)
Date: 2 October, 2006 01:06PM
I can only say this -- Lovecraft's style takes some getting used to.

It is very dense, very ridden with Latin-root words, and uses lengthy sentences with complex structure.

Lovecraft was something of an antiquarian in many ways, and that extended to his style. In fact, his style may owe something to that of Poe, who was his favorite author.

Lovecraft also used many archaic words, such as "anent" meaning "concerning." Plus archaic spellings, or British usages. For those who love Lovecraft's writing, it's all part of the charm.

Once a person gets used to Lovecraft's style, it sails along pretty well. Unfortunately, many a reader has doubtless gotten a few pages into his writing and put the book aside.

I have read some Smith and I would say he uses the language with great skill, but in a more modern way.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: garymorris (IP Logged)
Date: 2 October, 2006 09:21PM
I've read most of both over the years and feel CAS is a far better writer by any measure you want to apply. Smith's short stories have the dazzling rhythm and color of poetry (no surprise), and his imagination just never stops. There's also the wonderful sardonic tone in some of them (Arthur Jean Cox has argued that HPL's use of italics shows he's actually putting us on, but the stories seem essentially humorless to me). Lovecraft was a smooth enough writer but for me CAS is in another league.

The letters are the only exception: CAS's, judging from the Arkham collection, lack the breadth and power of HPL's quite amazing ones. No criticism of Smith intended; he apparently wasn't driven in this direction the way Lovecraft was. The latter's letters are an astounding achievement, and his shining glory to my mind; I can read and re-read these forever, it seems, for his rich sensibility, vivid style, wit, and deep knowledge of so many fields. As the years go by, I find his stories and novellas (and the mediocre poetry), with a few exceptions, less intriguing. Ultimately CAS "delivers" in a way that HPL, who too often seems to be avoiding the horrors he creates, does not.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: walrus (IP Logged)
Date: 4 October, 2006 11:55AM
garymorris Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> (Arthur
> Jean Cox has argued that HPL's use of italics
> shows he's actually putting us on, but the stories
> seem essentially humorless to me).

HPL's opinion was that humour has no place in horror.

Juha-Matti Rajala

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 4 October, 2006 07:11PM
garymorris Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> (Arthur
> Jean Cox has argued that HPL's use of italics
> shows he's actually putting us on, but the stories
> seem essentially humorless to me).

According (I think) to Robert H. Barlow, HPL's voice would often become very theatrical and melodramatic when he read aloud the conclusions of his stories. The stories in themselves are fairly humorless, of course ---save for unintended humor, like his description of the "penguins" in Mountains of Madness as being "grotesque"; (only HPL could find penguins grotesque....), as well as some of the parodies HPL wrote in collaboration with Barlow.

I think that CAS is the better writer as compared with HPL, though ---more range, better style, a more sexual edge--- but in the end I like HPL more ---simply because I myself am very morbid and so appreciate HPL's morbid depravity.........



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 4 Oct 06 | 07:12PM by Gavin Callaghan.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Stan (IP Logged)
Date: 16 October, 2006 08:35PM
Quote:
Gavin Callaghan
The stories in themselves are fairly humorless, of course ---save for unintended humor, like his description of the "penguins" in Mountains of Madness as being "grotesque"; (only HPL could find penguins grotesque....)

In this connotation, "grotesque" means "ludicrous from incongruity; comically absurd," which, if you've ever seen a penguin, is fairly apt. This meaning would have been more predominant in Lovecraft's time; it is only relatively recently that grotesque has come to mean "gross" or "ugly." I say this not to be pedantic, but to defend HPL's word usage. He may have often used archaic or obscure words, and indulged in a kind of "it's eldritch because I say it is" adjective-itis, but I don't think he ever improperly used a word.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: rutledge_442 (IP Logged)
Date: 18 October, 2006 04:52PM
I have not read enough of Smith's works to form an opinion, but i will admit that i have to read the same passage a few times in Lovecraft's stories before i understand it.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 19 October, 2006 10:54AM
Dear Rutledge and others, particularly the younger readers -

plowing through CAS' work, even if you need the Hernia Edition of Webster's is a rewarding experience -- your vocabulary will increase markedly -- in general observation however, since Latin and Greek vanished from the school curriculum, wide vocabularies require much more work to acquire. After all, we see the word "impact" used as a verb constantly (the failure of the bond issue impacted the city council - indicating they all need an enema -- probably true since such groups are often full of it); and the word Homophobia is completely misused since it can only mean "fear of boredom" -
I recommend a shortcut for those who might avail themselves of it on a site that is very entertaining and useful: lexfiles.com.
When there check the "basics" link and go to "the fourteen words".
Mastery of this list of words' prefixes and roots will allow you to decode over 140,000 words in English.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: SeventhSon (IP Logged)
Date: 24 April, 2015 04:42PM
I like Lovecraft but I do think his style is far from perfect, first he does so much useless adjective excess, that I was often bored reading his work even for the first time. His Dunsany's imitations show his limitations as a "poet". On the other hand, I could learn CAS's best stuff by heart, as the best of a Poe or Shakespeare, it's amazing, it has it all, music, images, etc. Not many people can appreciate good poetry, or such kind of prose these days, so no surprise he is underrated, but he's definitely a better writer, one of the best of his century.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 23 May, 2015 11:37AM
In other words, if this cheap essay writing service had been available in the '30s, Lovecraft and Smith would be on the best-seller list today? I have to question the utility of an essay writing service advocated by someone who "will admit that I have to read the same passage a few times in Lovecraft's stories before i understand it".

I would hate to see any writer's work interpreted under those circumstances:

"John Keats wrote 'The Eve of St. Agnes', that tragic tale of 'silver, snarling trumpets' and a Beadsman's death, nearly 200 years ago in 1819 . . ."

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 25 May, 2015 12:32AM
It seems to me that most of what we have above (though not all) comes down more to personal preference or (in some cases) personal limitations of a particular reader rather than a seasoned judgment on the relative merits of either writer. There is certainly nothing wrong with such preference, but I question it as a critical assessment in the wider sense. Each writer, though certainly influenced by poetry to a great degree, was attempting something different from the other, and I think each succeeded extremely well. Lovecraft more and more saw himself as a prose realist in the main when it came to his approach, whilst Smith was much more interested in stretching the possibilities of language and its ability to convey imagery and sensual experience. Lovecraft wasn't simply an antiquarian (and Poe was only one of many of his older influences, albeit a particularly important one; another, almost equally important, was Samuel Johnson, and yet another was Richard Steele, whose work, despite his preference for Addison's style, actually seems to have had a greater affinity to Lovecraft's own writing -- compare the papers of each for The Spectator, for example), he was a man whose outlook was deeply imbrued by the Georgian writers, particularly the essayists and poets; and this, naturally, has its reflection in his prose style as well; which, as has been pointed out, is an odd blending of the classical essay form and prose-poetic techniques (his various uses of certain cadences in the writing, as well as a sonorous word-choice to provide what has been called by many a sort of "incantatory effect"; his reliance on such things as chiasmus, assonance, etc. to provide a certain mood or emotive cue to the reader, as well the modulation from one such technique to another to aid in building a complex synthesis of several moods. Try reading Lovecraft aloud (sans the sort of scenery-chewing perfervid tone I find in far too many audio renditions of his work), and you may find a refreshing view of how powerful his prose can be.

Smith, on the other hand, was indeed in many ways more modern in his use of language; at least as far as utilizing poetic technique in his prose; but he, too, tended to use a great number of archaic, arcane, and even recondite words or phrases which few modern readers are likely to have encountered -- even rather widely-read ones. This is by no means an adverse criticism; at his best, Smith's prose works (his poetry is damn near in a class by itself) are scintillating examples of language pushed almost to its limits, an assault on the citadels of sense which can overwhelm and (as with William Blake) even make the reader almost intoxicated on the experience... a sort of Dionysian rather than Apollonian (HPL's favored dichotomy) approach.

In a way, it has always struck me as odd that Lovecraft had such a low opinion of Le Fanu given that there are (at least, so it seems to me) certain similarities in approach with their prose styles. While each in many ways is very direct about what would appear to be the horrors or wonders they are attempting to evoke, the actual strengths in their writing often lie in a rather more oblique approach to these matters, an approach which allows for a more cloudy, associative effect upon the reader's perceptions and apprehensions, one which, indeed, grows with each rereading and even by later pondering on certain phrases or words and the spreading ripples of their implications. Smith, it seems to me, does this as well, though from a different angle, thus achieving an effect which, while closely related, is nonetheless different, with different strengths.

In the end, though, I would say that both Smith and Lovecraft were, by dint of honing their particular use of language, almost perfectly suited for what each was attempting (and not infrequently succeeding) to do.

On the idea of Lovecraft's use of humor in his tales -- I would say it is definitely there, though seldom overt. He didn't care for overt use of humor, feeling it diluted the emotional response he was seeking to evoke; but carefully ironic use of language was certainly a part of his style -- again, in part the result of his early absorption of the Augustan writers (though, again, Poe was by no means averse to such usage himself). Hence, he didn't at all mind a bit of dry wit or a sly pun, so long as it did not break the mood. (The example of the penguins may -- I stress the may, though it would be perfectly in accord with his practice elsewhere -- be such a case, as it not only carries the connotation given above, but comes, as Lovecraft well knew, from a term meaning literally "of a cave". It may also be a link to the Gothic influence, as the grotesque, in both these senses, was a very prominent part of that movement -- see, particularly, the early works of Ann Radcliffe, such as The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne. Such a multilayered pun was the sort of thing he relished; and, if it could be used in such a way as to enhance the weirdness, by way of incongruity, he was aiming for, all the better.)

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 1 June, 2015 02:19PM
For me it is a matter of preference, I guess. I think HPL is a far better writer in every way: prose style, ideas, imaginative range, atmosphere, characters. I am compell'd to return to Lovecraft again and again, and his weird fiction never fails to captivate me. CAS is now an author I adore, but it wasn't an easy or instant admiration, because so much of what I read at first simply didn't interest me. That admiration came with maturity, after my first stage of writing my own stuff.

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: SeventhSon (IP Logged)
Date: 20 June, 2015 05:49PM
If it is a matter of preference, then HPL is not a "far better writer".

Well, I already said what I think about it.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 20 August, 2016 10:50AM
Raven10 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Hi! I was wondering whether or not you share my
> view that Clark Ashton Smith's writing style and
> use of english, was actually better than in
> Lovecraft's writing? Even so, I still have a high
> opinion of Lovecraft's stories too. Looking
> forward to your replies.

Yes, I would say Smith's prose style is more strikingly original and more versatile than Lovecraft's, but not to a great degree. Smith's style invokes his themes in a smoother and occasionally more compelling manner, and his best tales--"The Dark Eidolon", "The Double Shadow", "Xeethra", "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis", "The City of the Singing Flame", are a bit more diverse in their settings. Aside from the consideration of length, they stand on equal ground with HPL's best-- the 2 "Shadow" novellas, "The Colour out of Space", "Cthulhu" and the Antarctic novel. Criticism of either author's style is of negligible value; one can pick at an over-use of simile in some passages just as one can fault Lovecraft's excesses with adjectives. What is primarily interesting to me is that Smith was the better all-around creative artist, a claim that can hardly be denied after reading his prose poems and verse.
"There is nothing more unpoetic than the life of the average American"
-- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

jkh

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2016 10:07AM
Excellent points!

By circumstance, when mentioning specific Smith titles, you named two of my favorites--they are absolutely powerful and inspired, in my opinion--The Double Shadow, and The Dark Eidolon--while for Lovecraft's work, the "Antarctic novel", which is probably At the Mountains of Madness, is also at or near the peak of Lovecraft's work.

My opinions, only...

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2016 09:56PM
On the topic of characters I must disagree. He had his narrator but developed characters very sparsely. Smith, on the other hand, created a great deal of depth for even minor characters, like Zotulla's favorite courtesan, Obexa. A really good example of this is that we know that she's from Uccastrog--and if you've read the other Zothique stories, you understand what this means.

We know that when young, she had a lover whom she betrayed to his death, for amusement, apparently.

And we know that when she was escorted to Namirrah's banquet, under circumstances of extreme duress, upon first seeing Namirrah, the first thing she wondered, to paraphrase Smith was "what he was like in his congress with women...".

That's a lot to know about a minor character. I see nothing that compares to this in Lovecraft.

Similarly, the characters in The Witchcraft of Ulua are all well-formed and individual, even to the king and his queen, to a lesser degree, very minor characters, again.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 31 October, 2016 04:01PM
About the many faces of H. P. Lovecraft:

Reputation says that Clark Ashton Smith was quite a ladies man. What about Lovecraft?

What did Lovecraft and his wife Sonia do for fun in New York, during their marriage? After all, women hate dull and scrimping men. And I am sure Lovecraft tried his best to please her. Did they visit the jazz clubs, boogie-woogie, and have a few drinks?

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 31 October, 2016 06:07PM
Lovecraft was a teetotal, but his letters suggest that they entertained at their apartment and went to plays.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Zabdamar (IP Logged)
Date: 27 March, 2017 09:54PM
It goes without saying that both men had the deepest admiration for one another, and would probably baulk at such a comparison; but as an avid fan of both authors I will offer my two cents.

I understand that stylistic proclivities will govern most peoples thinking, however I'm of the opinion that CAS was a superior writer to HPL in almost all areas, and furthermore, I propose that were the question put before HPL he would state the same (I base this conjecture from reading the correspondence between the two, and the fact that HPL achieved little success in his own lifetime, whilst CAS was a lauded poet who had received critical acclaim from the likes of Sterling and Bierce amongst others).

In terms of prose, descriptiveness, vocabulary, pacing, and imagination, CAS was the clear superior writer, and I doubt that few would contend that HPL could come close to him as a poet. Joshi places CAS amongst the great poets that have come out of the USA, and his contemporaries compared him to Keats and Byron...heady company indeed.

CAS' stories are ageless, someone unfamiliar with his work could read one of his shorts and believe it to be a contemporary piece, whereas HPL's work is clearly dated, and many modern readers will be put off for purely stylistic reasons.

Some will contend that HPL was superior in the arena of horror, but I dispute this claim as well, and am of the opinion that the 'Dweller in the Gulf' is a more curdling, horrific tale than anything in the Lovecraft Canon, and that creatures like the entity in 'The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan' and the snouted fiend from 'The Abominations of Yondo' are more sinister and terrifying than anything conjured by Lovecraft. Smith had the remarkable ability to describe these fantastical, alien creatures in a way that made them seem utterly and completely real. It is this 'tangibility' that makes some of his work so horrifying, and being able to blend believability with such fantastique is a talent that I think Smith alone holds.

Ultimately, aside from Smith's finer writing chops, I think the defining characteristic that elevates him above Lovecraft is this: Smith was a true mystic, a true fantasist who believed in (was intimate with?) the supernatural scape, whereas Lovecraft was a stone-cold materialist, a skeptic who had a talent for writing fantasy/horror stories. There is a vast gulf between those two positions, Smith was in effect, reporting back on mystical visions and hidden things that he had glimpsed, whist Lovecraft was just 'making things up', and had no inherent belief in the veracity of his own horror or fantasy.

CAS was a genius, any who doubt that claim should read his juvenilia, which is utterly remarkable for someone so young. He was self-taught in Latin, French and Spanish to a level required not only for translatory work, but also for writing poetry...remarkable! He had an eidetic memory, and had committed the contents of an unabridged dictionary to memory. I agree with George Haas when he wrote that CAS' tremendous vocabulary is "without parallel in literature...and that I know of no other writer living or dead, who has had at his command such an incredible, comprehensive vocabulary and the ability to use it so effectively."

Comparing CAS and HPL reminds me a little of the old comparisons between Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton (bear with me here!). Both men were superlative guitarists, but I think Jack Bruce summarised it best when he said "Eric was just a guitar player, but Jimi was a force of nature" and I think the same sentiment applies to CAS and HPL. HPL was a master of his craft, and his work far excels most that have come before and after, but at the end of the day he was just a writer. CAS was a genius, a true mystic in every sense of the word. The fact that this mysticism was combined with transcendent writing ability is something that has never happened before and is unlikely to happen again.

CAS, the acme of fantasy.



Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 27 Mar 17 | 10:09PM by Zabdamar.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 3 April, 2017 11:22AM
Smith's best fiction often seems relatively unflawed compared to Lovecraft, whose use of first-person narration carried attendant risks. There is a tendency to explain to excess, manifested in repetitive phrasing. Also an overuse of namedropping, as in [i]At the Mountains of Madness [i] when the biologist messages the narrator's party saying that he knows they will understand the impression made upon him because they are familiar with Clark Ashton Smith and the Necronomicon. We ask ourselves, are these really scientists or just members of the Lovecraft Circle? "The Whisperer in Darkness" should have been written in the third-person, possibly as a full-length novel. As it is, few objective critics can take seriously the pretense that Akeley's letters are committed to Wilmarth's memory verbatim after he had destroyed them all prior to visiting Wilmarth. The gullibility of the narrator has been widely observed, and the name-dropping already mentioned recurs of course. The fabric of realism is torn & frayed in Lovecraft, to say the least. A less salient example is the repeated sentence toward the closing of "The Colour out of Space"-- the phrases "deep skyey voids" and "an odd timidity" are portentous at the beginning of the story but rather pointless at the end.
Smith's fantasies are less grounded in realism or what might be called the rhetoric of horror (Zabdamar notes this), yet they sustain reader-involvement more creditably due to his masterful control of narrative distance. Conceptually and stylistically, they have exerted a uniformly positive influence on the development of fantastic fiction, excepting Lin Carter but including Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Tanith Lee, and Harlan Ellison. The same can't be unreservedly said of Lovecraft's work; witness the endless piles of egocentric garbage composed by his admirers, for some of whose efforts outlandish claims to literary excellence are made. Smith is indeed the better author. He appeals more forcefully to what Dr. Johnson called "the common sense of readers uncorrupted with literary prejudices," taken to be the chief "criterion of literary fame" (S.C. Roberts, "The Cult of Sherlock").

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 4 April, 2017 09:12AM
They were equal geniuses, but different in approach. Personally I think Lovecraft was greater. Smith may have been a better writer technically (although I am not so sure; Lovecraft's wrting was perhaps "clumsy", on and off, (I don't see it that way myself), but he was a sorceror with words in his own right, each completed story resulting in a powerful spell.). Technicality does not count for everything. The overall movement is the most important. Smith was also cooler and more detached, except for grim sardonic humour. He was better at painting visuals with words, colorful exotic settings, ... but Lovercraft had a wider wisdom, and understanding of vital meaning, and consequently was a greater authority. Smith was a reincarnated voice from Hyperborea, Zothique, and Xiccarph. But none of his invented creatures can measure themselves with Cthulhu. Lovecraft sweeps the floor here.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 6 April, 2017 02:31PM
I agree that they were equal geniuses. So how does it follow that Lovecraft displays a "wider wisdom," or "greater authority," or "understanding of vital meaning" than Smith? What a ridiculous claim. Lovecraft said that he liked Hitler, but what Germany really needed was a Mussolini. What a pearl of wisdom that was. Smith on the other hand did not believe Socialism could ever work in America and rejected it, unlike HPL. Any form of the supernatural was rejected out of hand as unscientific by Lovecraft; whereas, no such dogmatism was embraced by Smith. By "supernatural" I do not of course refer to religion in any way, but HPL's skills as a debater on that subject are possibly overrated (like the Rainbow Coalition). Repetitious as opposed to convincing on all points. BTW, I meant to say that Akeley lost the Wilmarth correspondence, not "destroyed" it--same difference. As far as what you mean by "the overall movement" of a story being the essential factor, I will concede the point, but there's no getting around my point that the reference to Smith's paintings in "Mountains of Madness" is an out of place literary in-joke compromising the central effect. The paintings of Nicholas Roerich are also mentioned ad nauseum, something like 14 times. Yes, "Cthulhu" is an almost perfect story; too bad Farnsworth Wright foolishly rejected it as its acceptance might have buoyed up Lovecraft's confidence and led him to avoid certain lapses in the seriousness of tone shown in some later works ("The Thing on the Doorstep," "The Shadow Out of Time," "The Haunter of the Dark"), to which I have alluded. Self-parody does nothing to enhance horror. With regard to prose realism, btw, Henry S. Whitehead was superior to both Smith and Lovecraft; he's the only Weird Tales author who is seriously underappreciated.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2017 04:15AM
<<but there's no getting around my point that the reference to Smith's paintings in "Mountains of Madness" is an out of place literary in-joke compromising the central effect.>>

Since it didn't have that effect on me, that is a statement of personal taste, not a statement of fact.

<<The paintings of Nicholas Roerich are also mentioned ad nauseum, something like 14 times.>>

Roerich is mentioned 7 times. I see no problem with that.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 7 April, 2017 12:23PM
I thought Roerich was mentioned 8 or 9 times, if precision matters here. Taste is everything, as Poe said. Or nothing. You even praised "In the Walls of Eryx". Do you like "Out of the Aeons" too? Anyway, I have no "problem" with the cross-referencing or sardonic reflexive bits in the tales I mentioned; they reflect his primary literary influences and are intended to accent his cosmicism. Which is the central effect. Flaws may affect that effect; for example, with only a couple of edits, he could have made the narrator less of a credulous stooge in "The Whisperer in Darkness". In the Antarctic novel, the narrator resorts to similar specious reasoning about the cause of the deaths of Lake's party when it is obvious to the reader what has actually occurred. But in that case HPL had less viable alternatives. The reference to Smith and the Necronomicon, on the other hand, could have been omitted or altered, intensifying, arguably, both the horror at Lake's camp and the controversial ending of the novel. Smith's more balanced approach eschews the deliberate minimalization of potential characterization which Lovecraft, the more idiosyncratic author of the two, preferred to exercise.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2017 12:51AM
Roerich is referenced 6 times, mea culpa, but one of the references comes from Lake, the biologist leading the doomed detachment. So he's just a mouthpiece for the narrator; no individuation or dialogues as in Smith, whose tales also have more colorful descriptive detail and physical movement, generally.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 8 Apr 17 | 12:57AM by Kipling.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 8 April, 2017 11:15AM
I adore "Out of ye Aeons," especially as I judge it to be almoft entirely Lovecraft's text. The tale captivated me when I first read it at a young age, and does not disappoint whenever I return to it. Lovecraft's description of the singular crouching mummy with shrivelled features that actually elicit an emotional response from viewers is brilliant. I have dreamt, more than once, of wandering that hall of mummies, and once wrote an early tale set therein. Shub-Niggurath is distinctly referred as a female entity--a point that is still debated, for I believe that elsewhere she is described as a kind of airy element akin to ye colour out of space. The references to the Black Book form one of my favourite Lovecraftian tropes. I've return'd to ye tale often and it never fails to entertain.

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 8 Apr 17 | 11:18AM by wilum pugmire.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 9 April, 2017 01:23PM
"Coming then to a wayside shrine of Yuckla, the small and grotesque god of laughter, whose influence was believed to be mainly benignant, they were glad to go no farther on that day, but took shelter in the crumbling shrine for fear of the ghouls and devils, who might dwell in such vicinage to those accursed ruins." ("The Weaver in the Vault")

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 April, 2017 10:57AM
walrus Wrote:
> HPL's opinion was that humour has no place in
> horror.

And yet I find "Herbert West" and "The Lurking Fear" to be hilarious.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 16 May, 2017 11:58AM
On a sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph level, CAS is the better writer. He is leaner, meaner, tighter, and more elegant. However, when it comes to comparing the whole to the sum of its parts, HPL tends to make up for lost ground.

I won't necessarily say that HPL pulls ahead, because I have yet to read everything by CAS.

I once read "The Shadow over Innsmouth" aloud to someone, who was snickering at his prose the whole time, but who at the end admitted the story had an impact that sneaks up on you and gets to you in the end.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 16 May 17 | 11:58AM by Platypus.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 16 May, 2017 02:48PM
Well put Platypus. I agree, but could not put it into words as clearly.

I think it is impossible to objectively say that one, on the whole, is a better writer than the other. Nature does not allow itself to be measured that way. Only in the simplistic little games we humans make up, when chasing time or length.
We can compare different aspects of their writing (like Sawfish so wisely does above), and see weaknesses and strengths, but we should refrain from saying than one is a better writer than the other on the whole.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 21 August, 2017 11:39AM
This exchange is really stimulating, and frankly very enjoyable.

I tend to re-read my favorite authors...a lot. Don't laugh, please, but I've probably read all of the major Raymond Chandler novels somewhere between 20-25 times (I used to live in LA and it is like a sort of nostalgic tour of the Hollywood/Sunset/Santa Monica area), with multiple readings of Steven Crane ("Manacled"...YEOW!--what might Crane have achieved had he lived beyond his 20s...), Cormac McCarthy, Hemingway, Nathaniel West, and various others. I probably read Catch-22 between 10-20 times.

Lovecraft and Smith are among this number.

So I'm now re-reading some of Lovecraft's work (currently Shadow Out of Time), and I there's a sort of unique aspect of his work that surfaces repeatedly, though not always. It is linked to the Mythos, but not in the way commonly thought of. He is not like Tolkien in the creation of a complete alternate world within the context of the trilogy, but is concerned at extraordinary depth with the cosmological details of that world. In short, within the context of At the Mountains of Madness, or Shadow Out of Time, or in his ghost-written work for Zealia Bishop (esp. The Mound), he spends an extraordinary amount of time on the details--day-to-day activities as well as broader historical trends, such as wars.

It is less a cultural history than Tolkien's Silmarillion, but more like an account by a cultural anthropologist, like The Golden Bough.

This can be off-putting to many readers, but when one considers the depth of his absorption in the detail of his setting--whether immediate or in the past, thru dreams or other narrative mechanisms (like reading the inscriptions in the dead city in At the Mountains of Madness)--they are beyond doubt impressive, and I, for one, enjoy this level of detail. In supplying this, he perhaps inadvertently supplies us with a compelling rationale for the behavior and the motives of such alien entities as Cthulu--and I'd facetiously share with you my conception of Cthulu, as described in The Call of Cthulu, as Pan on crack cocaine.

We might compare Smith superficially. He, too, creates entire alternate worlds and pantheons, which are fairly consistent (although I doubt he cared as much about a coherent mythology as he did about narrative impact, as in Weaver in the Vault or Isle of the Torturers), but his narrative cosmos is of a much more common variety. I'd compare his conception of the setting of Zothique to J. G. Ballard's idea of Vermillion Sands. This is to say that he does not seem to work obsessively within his setting, but uses it as a canvas for his very strong *human* themes--almost classical: revenge, mortality, etc.

I'd also like to add, in closing, that Smith seems to me to evoke sensuality--mainly visual, but he deal a bit in the other sense--and in this he reminds me of my impressions of Flaubert's Salammbo.

Comments/opinions are of course welcome.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 21 Aug 17 | 12:36PM by Sawfish.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 8 February, 2020 12:35PM
I disagree with any suggestion that Lovecraft's thematic concerns, however they might be construed, and his artificial mythology make up the ground lost when comparing his stylistic excellence and technical versatility with that displayed in Smith's fiction. The "Cthulhu Mythos" was largely a hybrid spawned from the influence of Machen and Blackwood (not Lord Dunsany). Cthulhu also bears a superficial resemblance to Merritt's "Metal Monster," published in 1920. Criticism of Merritt's florid micro-description aside, he was the preeminent American fantaisist during HPL's gestation period. Lovecraft was only a fledgling author while Smith was a renowned poet whose cosmicism was more akin to that of his mentor George Sterling, or to someone like David Lindsay, than it would ever be to the stubbornly materialistic Lovecraft. Smith's genius took a more original turn in fiction than Lovecraft's, whose tales were aptly described as fascinating but "too redolent of the Lamp." I forget who it is I'm quoting there, if someone could tell me I'd appreciate it. So, essentially I agree with Zabdamar's comparison.

jkh

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 8 February, 2020 02:54PM
If I remember correctly, Lovecraft didn't discover Merritt's masterpiece The Metal Monster (be sure folks, that you read the complete version) until after he had written "The Call of Cthulhu". I don't see the direct resemblance myself, but there might well be a parallel resemblance that comes from the specific energy quality of the time era both wrote in.

Smith was genius, and a natural talent. He had read all the books in Auburn's library, so in a way he was well educated to become a poet/writer. But I see him as more instinctual in approach, when compared to Lovecraft. Lovecraft's genius comes purely from intellectual study and research, and his built up wisdom was probably wider and all-encompassing, than Smith's laid-back happy-go-lucky wine-drinking attitude. But Smith was probably a bit, or slightly, more street smart. On the other hand he didn't have Lovecraft's hot-livered temperament to defend himself if something went wrong out on the street. And have you seen some of the photographs of tall Lovecraft in full suit? He was actually a beefy guy! Had very wide shoulders. And slim hips. Very manly. I wouldn't have liked to be put up against him in a boxing match!

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 8 February, 2020 03:18PM
Knygatin, when you refer to Lovecraft's "wisdom," do you mean things like self-knowledge, ability to make a reasonable judgment about consequences of one's actions or inaction, that sort of thing?

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 8 February, 2020 04:03PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin, when you refer to Lovecraft's "wisdom,"
> do you mean things like self-knowledge, ability to
> make a reasonable judgment about consequences of
> one's actions or inaction, that sort of thing?

Yes, I most definitely do. And also in a wide range of other things, in understanding how things tick and interconnect in all aspect of life; concerning society, psychology, culture, art, politics, biology, geology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, ... etc. A well-rounded wisdom. Not scientifically specialized in each and every single branch of course, but with a very good general grip overall, and accordingly also a phenomenal ability of derivation. I think that is what makes him such an ever interesting person.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 8 February, 2020 04:35PM
It might be interesting to consider Lovecraft in terms of C. P. Snow’s once-famous idea of the “Two Cultures,” but a complication right off would be HPL’s position as a self-taught figure. He was interested in some, at least, of the sciences, but from books like Lovecraft’s Library it would appear that he had to rely primarily on popular works and encyclopedias, etc. And then he had his literary arts side (I don’t have the sense that he was very knowledgeable about music, the visual arts, theater and dance, etc., or history aside from his immediate passion for New England. So in either case his *method* was basically to please himself, and he had not undergone the rigors of advanced learning on either side. Still, I think one might be able to work with the “Two Cultures” idea with reference to him to some extent.

But my sense with Smith is that he was wholly on one side, the aesthetic-literary, in the “ Two Cultures” business, and would have possessed very little knowledge of science and technology even on a popular level. People here might correct me if this is mistaken.

So this could be a point of difference between the two at least as regards temperament.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 8 February, 2020 04:44PM
PS I hope no one will feel compelled to rush to the defense of HPL and CAS since I imply a taking note of their lack of formal training in the arts and sciences. I would like to think that smart people can go far without it. But I imagine both men felt the lack, and that HPL might have wished it had worked out that he could have majored in astronomy, and that Smith might have recognized an amateurishness in his drawings that could have given way to greater knowledge of anatomy, perspective, landscape, etc. if he had studied formally.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: kojootti (IP Logged)
Date: 8 February, 2020 05:37PM
Judging from Smith's tastes, and his insistence in one or two letters that he generally didn't care for classical or realistic art, he seemed to prefer a mixture of folk art and unique art that sought to convey feelings related to that which is ancient, alien, demonic, or divine. Not to say he had no appreciation for anatomy, perspective, etc. but rather he didn't seem concerned with adhering to the styles and expectations of others.

I do have to agree that Smith didn't seem especially invested in technology or the sciences, though. He certainly had some awareness and interest in the latter, and supposedly had many books on different histories and cultures, but his mind seemed to linger, like the vast majority of his poetry and many of his stories, among trees, mountains, lakes, and other natural and mythical sights.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 8 Feb 20 | 05:41PM by kojootti.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 8 February, 2020 06:32PM
I wrote at 4:35 above:

"And then he [Lovecraft] had his literary arts side (I don’t have the sense that he was very knowledgeable about music, the visual arts, theater and dance, etc., or history aside from his immediate passion for New England. So in either case his *method* was basically to please himself, and he had not undergone the rigors of advanced learning on either side."

I didn't spell out the thought here. Lovecraft did have firsthand knowledge of some canonical novels, poetry, and essays.* He certainly knew these things better than some current college grads with bachelor's degrees in English. But he read pretty much, so far as I know, to please himself, so, again, there is that limitations with reference to the "Two Cultures" idea. I hasten to add that Lovecraft would, so far as I know, have been able to answer the simple questions that Snow suggested could be asked of a party of arts people --

"Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics...I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question – such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? – not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language."

[en.wikipedia.org]

So I suggest Lovecraft was -- in a degree -- a man with a foot in each of the "two cultures" (to the extent that that's a valid concept), while Smith had both feet in (his corner of) the humanities.

Does anyone know, by the way, how competent of a mathematician Lovecraft was?

*So far as I know, Lovecraft possessed very little philological or linguistic knowledge -- something from which I suffer myself although I studied English in college, a situation that is getting worse all the time as universities drop English major requirements regarding proficiency, or even a working knowledge of, Old English/Anglo-Saxon and Middle English. (The pathetic state to which things have arrived is suggested by an academic seminar of which I was aware a few short years ago. It was to be devoted to "early British literature." From the list of presentations, "early British" had come to accommodate works from far more recent times than the time of Beowulf. There was even a presentation dealing with "Lawrence" and someone or something else. Whether T. E. or, as I assume, D. H., that "Lawrence" seemed awfully recent to me, for a gathering of scholarship on "early British" literature......It looked to me like they had to stretch the concept out of shape to try to make sure they had enough people present to fill up the time. I declined to attend (and got a bit of stick about that).

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 8 February, 2020 09:27PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> PS I hope no one will feel compelled to rush to
> the defense of HPL and CAS since I imply a taking
> note of their lack of formal training in the arts
> and sciences. I would like to think that smart
> people can go far without it. But I imagine both
> men felt the lack, and that HPL might have wished
> it had worked out that he could have majored in
> astronomy, and that Smith might have recognized an
> amateurishness in his drawings that could have
> given way to greater knowledge of anatomy,
> perspective, landscape, etc. if he had studied
> formally.

Seems like I can recall that HPL had a sort of wistful fixation with Brown, almost as if he had wished he'd been able to go there to study.

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

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: zimriel (IP Logged)
Date: 7 July, 2020 12:06PM
walrus Wrote:
> HPL's opinion was that humour has no place in horror.

I do find humourous irony in HPL's best work, though. "Shadow Over Innsmouth", "Shadow Out Of Time", "Cats of Ulthar" - actually, much of the Dreamlands and Dunsany pastiches. It's just that Dunsany and Smith were better at it.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 9 July, 2020 03:46PM
I always reckoned CAS was by far the better writer, not just as a prose stylist but because his work has a genuinely visionary quality - but then I've never been a HPL fan. I always found his prose style hokey and overcooked, to the extent that I'd wonder how seriously he took his work himself: it seems very tongue-in-cheek.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 14 July, 2020 05:31PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I always reckoned CAS was by far the better
> writer, not just as a prose stylist but because
> his work has a genuinely visionary quality - but
> then I've never been a HPL fan. I always found his
> prose style hokey and overcooked, to the extent
> that I'd wonder how seriously he took his work
> himself: it seems very tongue-in-cheek.

There's something to what you say. HPL was a materialist, and so on some level did not believe a word of anything he wrote. But on the other hand, I do think that on some level he believed very deeply in what he wrote.

Beyond that, I enjoy his work, and his stylistic flaws, if that's what they are, do not bother me much. But to each his own.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 20 July, 2020 09:50AM
I guess I came to HPL quite late? My exposure to CAS was soley through anthologies. And there's something to what you say, too - HPL was a funny mix: a rationalist who didn't really believe his own stories, yet those same stories were a result of his various neuroses.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 20 July, 2020 12:53PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I guess I came to HPL quite late? My exposure to
> CAS was soley through anthologies. And there's
> something to what you say, too - HPL was a funny
> mix: a rationalist who didn't really believe his
> own stories, yet those same stories were a result
> of his various neuroses.


I've lost interest in Lovecraft since I was a teenager, and I never felt satisfaction with his work all the times I returned to him, but I think there was more to HPL than that. He was the truest and strictest materialist I've ever encountered in literature, yet quite a few of his stories were clearly yearning for something beyond an empty black universe, even if he viewed this, perhaps, as simple aesthetic preference. In his letters he expressed a poetic admiration for Norse myths and Norse gods, especially in their cosmic, elemental nature. And based on his story "The Silver Key", Lovecraft did feel mystical yearnings, if not inclinations, but these are reigned in by a very definite sense of materialism, so that the beautiful sides of religion, to him, can enrich life without being necessary.

That said, one of the reasons I prefer CAS over HPL is partially because of the former's boldness and passion, allowing him to plunge deeper into mysteries than Lovecraft ever could. The way I see it, most of Lovecraft's stories end where Smith's best stories often begin. And there's nothing wrong with that, if you enjoy Lovecraft's foreboding atmosphere and terrified anticipation, but my personality doesn't click with his fearfulness, and there are times when Lovecraft's message veers unintentionally into a fear of anything beyond his comfort zone. There's a stiffness in Lovecraft's personality, even at his most passionate and his most convivial (both in his fiction and in his letters), and a fearful insincerity (being a scientific materialist did not elevate him above fallacious thinking) which simply doesn't appeal to me.

Even so, I acknowledge the differences between the two writers' strengths. CAS, being a poet of romantic and mythological spirit, could never bring such weird horrors to startling reality in the way HPL could through his clinical, journalistic, and dramatic sense of writing. Only Lovecraft can make me see the crab-like gait of a Mi-Go, or the slippery film on the bricks of Rlyeh, or the erosion of time on a forgotten ruin. In light of this realism it's a shame that so many Lovecraft artists can only see his work through a lens of cliched fantasy art.

CAS has lasted with me over the decades, and will continue to inspire me to the end, and HPL will likely always feel "incomplete" to me, but this isn't a matter of which writer is better. I simply prefer one over the other.



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

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 26 July, 2020 04:28PM
Hespire, that is a well put and well rounded, self-contained comment, with a guarded balance of both negative and positive personal views on Lovecraft. Leaving a neat and pleasantly complete circle, with little reason for approached counterargument.

How much of Lovecraft have you read?

A different opinion might be that Smith's outlook was actually even darker, and more pessimistic and cynical, than Lovecraft's. Lovecraft was closely attached to his historical heritage and culture, and found ecstatic pleasure from these surroundings. He dressed neatly, which is also an indication of at least partial wellbeing. I think he also had a lifelong and proud Hellenistic pagan outlook, and acknowledged the damage done to European culture through the tool of Christianity. He was very passionate about it. Smith did not seem to value a sense of cultural belonging where he lived (little wonder since it was the wild west); he was poor, mostly wore rags, and seemed to be even more depressed and obsessed with death, than Lovecraft was. That may be one explanation for his astounding and colorful imagination; that he needed to escape into fantasy, or a deeper essence. Lovecraft nurtured a philosophical detachment from sorrows. Smith did not do that. Smith was intellectually more open to the spiritual supernatural dimension, but I doubt that he was happier than Lovecraft.

Like most others, I chime in with the sign of these strongly polarized times, so as not to offend anybody, or step on anybody's toes, by making apology and saying that this is of course only my personal opinion.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 12:57PM
Hespire Wrote:
> He was the truest
> and strictest materialist I've ever encountered in
> literature, yet quite a few of his stories were
> clearly yearning for something beyond an empty
> black universe, even if he viewed this, perhaps,
> as simple aesthetic preference.

The first part of this sentence is true if you go by certain of his private letters. If you go by his fiction it is the second part of the sentence that is more relevant, IMHO.

HPL's fiction - the stuff he is actually famous for - cannot be said to be strictly materialist literature. His materialism did indeed influence his fiction, but was not the sole or even the main driving force behind it. He wrote fiction more to escape his philosophy than to indulge it. Call it a "simple aesthetic preference" if you like, but the final product was still the final product, and when he wrote it, he chose to suspend disbelief in things he refused to countenance when he wrote philosophical rants in his private letters.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 27 Jul 20 | 01:05PM by Platypus.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 01:03PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> A different opinion might be that Smith's outlook
> was actually even darker, and more pessimistic and
> cynical, than Lovecraft's.

I would tend to concur with this view.

At least, that would be my assessment of the outlook of their works of fiction; setting aside the question of how well their respective works of fiction embodied their private philosophies.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 01:58PM
I hope I didn't offend you, Platypus. Online text doesn't often allow people to express the tones I can communicate with more easily in real life, so I can't tell if anyone is annoyed with my ignorance. I will readily apologize to anyone who feels I went too far in my previous post.

I never once implied that one author is darker than the other, and that this makes one superior to the other, I only said that in his fiction, Lovecraft is more often fearful of the fantastic things he portrays, which makes sense because Lovecraft often dealt with horror, a genre I don't usually enjoy, though I easily perceive the strengths of a good horror story and appreciate them as they are. Lovecraft is one of those good authors I simply can't enjoy to the same extent his fans can, not an author I hate or regard as poor. As for how much Lovecraft I've read, I can easily say I've read all his fiction, all his poetry, and several books worth of his letters, all of which I still cherish and admire even if I haven't been a Lovecraft enthusiast in ages. I find the man endlessly interesting and even admirable in ways, though perhaps I allow him as a person to eclipse him as a storyteller too often, if that's what Platypus is suggesting.

It is not necessary for anyone to explain to me that Smith is the darker author, because I did not argue otherwise. Smith is the one of the two who more often expresses misanthropic and even cruel feelings, and often portrays it bluntly, sometimes crudely, in his own fiction. And more often than Lovecraft Smith has an unsettling fascination for corpses, tombs, dying empires, cosmic oblivion, and the thematic interplay between love and death. These things aren't lost on me, but the way Smith approaches them appeals to me, and at times I can even relate with it.

Regarding Lovecraft and mysticism, I hope no one is under the impression I was mocking or dismissing Lovecraft. My simplification wasn't conscious on my part, and I felt I must have been doing Lovecraft good by acknowledging his private sentiments regarding mystic and religious ideas. Even if my attempt was poor, I did not try to mock him, I wanted to show respect to his materialist belief while acknowledging his transcendent yearnings.

I try not to express my opinions online very often, because even with my best intentions (like in my previous post, in which I tried to defend Lovecraft, with all the knowledge of him I had, while expressing my preference for Smith), I often cause trouble. I am sorry, to all of you, I promise not to post anything here because I don't wish to bother anyone.



Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 27 Jul 20 | 02:40PM by Hespire.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 09:15PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I hope I didn't offend you, Platypus.

Not at all. I was merely expressing some thoughts that popped into my head. As far as I was aware, I was merely trying to exchange an idea or two. And I certainly hope you will feel free to disagree with anything I say without any fear of offending me.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2020 09:46PM
To elaborate on what I said before: If I were to pick a well-known author of fantastic fiction, whose fiction work was reasonably consistent with a strictly-materialist worldview, I think I would choose H.G. Wells.

I would not place HPL or CAS in the same category, as far as "materialism" goes. I would say that CAS comes closer more frequently. But CAS makes no particular effort to be consistent. See, for example "Schizoid Creator", which might be called blasphemous, but is certainly not materialist. It is just that CAS is less likely than HPL to go out of his way to insert obviously-supernatural elements into his stories.

Again, this is not an attempt to offend or be offended by anyone. They just be some thoughts that just jumped into my head.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 27 Jul 20 | 09:46PM by Platypus.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2020 05:37AM
Hespire, you have nothing to apologize for, for you certainly have not offended anyone. Your views on Lovecraft and Smith were sensible and balanced.

I was sarcastic in my previous post, and I apologize for that. I could perhaps have expressed myself differently and more civilized. But that did not concern your or others' opinions about these two authors, but was more an observation of the general times we live in. The night before I had been watching an old Jonny Carson interview from the 1970's with Oliver Reed, and Reed freely expressed his opinions. I feel that discussions and debates were much more lively in those days, and people were not afraid to speak their perspective and to clash with each other for having different views. The social climate is very different today, much more repressed. This fear of saying something outside of consensus, make people relativize themselves, and their own opinions, instead of passionately standing up for their own perspective. I affects even minor topics of communication. It affects my own behavior too. I find it sad. It makes life lukewarm and half-hearted. It can be seen in art too, which is more and more standardized, instead of expressive. I encourage people to break free from this repression.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 31 July, 2020 03:20AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Smith did not seem
> to value a sense of cultural belonging where
> he lived ...; he was poor, mostly wore rags, ...

I would like to modify that. Smith was able to dress up when called for, even in necktie. But was generally much more bohemian in style than Lovecraft. Lovecraft always dressed like a gentleman. Smith was eccentric, with big shirt collars spread widely over the shoulders of his jacket, looking almost like a mediaeval character.

I assume these differences in appearance is reflected in their different writing styles, although I can not define just how. Lovecraft was more methodical?, and mechanical? (although there is nothing intellectually mediocre or stiff about his writing), while Smith was more loose? No, I wouldn't say that either. And I don't think either one was ultimately better writer than the other. But one thing is for sure, Lovecraft would never have started a story similarly with an exclamation like this:

"'Why, you big ninny! I could never marry you,' declared the demoiselle Dorothée, only daughter of the Sieur des Flèches. Her lips pouted at Anselme like two ripe berries. Her voice was honey — but honey filled with bee-stings. ..."

--Clark Ashton Smith: "The Enchantress of Sylaire"

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 August, 2020 10:32AM
This will be more of an open question to the group, and it departs also, somewhat.

Below:

Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
>
> > Smith did not seem
> > to value a sense of cultural belonging where
> > he lived ...; he was poor, mostly wore rags,
> ...
>
> I would like to modify that. Smith was able to
> dress up when called for, even in necktie. But was
> generally much more bohemian in style than
> Lovecraft. Lovecraft always dressed like a
> gentleman. Smith was eccentric, with big shirt
> collars spread widely over the shoulders of his
> jacket, looking almost like a mediaeval
> character.

I come to the enjoyment of literature from the consumption of the works, alone, and if I read enough of any given author's work, I form up a sort of judgement on that body of work, and make any connections to other authors with whom I'm familiar--past, present, future--as they relate to the author under consideration.

Occasionally I may read *about* an author (Hemingway) or may read some correspondence, although I do very little of this.

Occasionally I may read scholarly explorations--if any exist--but since I'm reading to please myself, I don't place much importance in such commentary.

So my speculation about CAS's personal outlook, his life habits, his career trajectory are necessarily limited by the preceding explanation. I'd seen far too much of this as an English Lit undergrad.

With CAS, I read bits and pieces published that are about him, and have read a very few of his letters. For quite a while now I've felt that he had early success as an emerging young bohemian under the wing of Sterling in the early 20th C Pacific coast aesthetes' movement.

So he had a ready-made audience of appreciative and sophisticated readers of his poetry--since I get the impression that he thought of himself as a poet, first and foremost, and at that early stage, perhaps exclusively.


For reasons of which I'm unaware, this seemed to dry up early on, and at that point, with Sterling dead, and with no new sponsor, and possibly the disintegration of the bohemian circle of which he was a part, CAS was on his own to make a living.

I suspect that this was not as he had supposed his career would evolve. It probably seemed to the young CAS a huge and unaccountable set-back--arbitrary and threatening.

From this point he was forced by necessity into more commercial writing, and he augmented this with manual labor. He got married later in life, perhaps to find a sort of workmate to share the task of a modest survival. And essentially he died in this state: a marginal struggler who had a body of serious poetry that was, like most poetry written in the 20th C, of no commercial importance, and a significant amount of commercial prose into which his considerable poetic vocabulary, and an instinctive narrative skill, leaked. This combination produced some outstanding pulp content that rewarded the readers of popular escapist fiction with unexpected quality.

I think he, as a person, adapted fairly well to this early on (he seemed to not have had any great life expectancies as he was growing up) and basically just plowed along, writing pulp stories for a very modest living. Like newswriting, the necessity of producing work on a regular basis meant that his commercial output was of varied quality. Speaking to that, I first discovered his work in about 1969/70, in the Ballentine Zothique volume, and my readings are mostly limited to that series. These were selected and arranged by Lin Carter, and I now realize that these stories are probably among his strongest, most artistically viable stories. I've intermittently broken outside this subset of his work, but for the most part have been disappointed. It was during these forays that I formed the opinion that a lot of his commercial work was a simply uninspired effort to get a paycheck. I do not see this in Lovecraft's body of work nearly as much: there is no real variation in quality, but there is vast variation in themes and motifs that he explores, and this accounts for the varied appeal of some of his works.

Since these are only my opinions, I would welcome any thoughts/comments. It will help me to refine my view of CAS, and concomitantly, Lovecraft.



>
> I assume these differences in appearance is
> reflected in their different writing styles,
> although I can not define just how. Lovecraft was
> more methodical?, and mechanical? (although there
> is nothing intellectually mediocre or stiff about
> his writing), while Smith was more loose? No, I
> wouldn't say that either. And I don't think either
> one was ultimately better writer than the other.
> But one thing is for sure, Lovecraft would never
> have started a story similarly with an exclamation
> like this:
>
> "'Why, you big ninny! I could never marry you,'
> declared the demoiselle Dorothée, only daughter
> of the Sieur des Flèches. Her lips pouted at
> Anselme like two ripe berries. Her voice was honey
> — but honey filled with bee-stings. ..."
>
> --Clark Ashton Smith: "The Enchantress of Sylaire"

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

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 3 August, 2020 11:51AM
I forgot to say that "The Enchantress of Sylaire" which I cited from above, is a favorite of mine. So, saying that Lovecraft would never have started a story like that, was not criticism. I love that opening line.


Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> CAS basically just plowed along, writing pulp stories
> for a very modest living. Like newswriting, the
> necessity of producing work on a regular basis
> meant that his commercial output was of varied
> quality.

It is really sad that neither Lovecraft or CAS had someone to look after their interests, like for example Ray Bradbury had. Because they were unable to handle that themselves, being purely artists and not lawyers or businessmen. Instead they were used by the pulp magazine publishers. Lovecraft's and CAS's talents were way above pulp standards.
In their correspondence with each other, Lovecraft and CAS discussed their own story manuscripts that they mailed to the magazines, and both raged over late and even completely neglected payments, and some of their stories were simply kept by the publishers with no comment and without being published.

On the other hand, what happens when a writer becomes financially successful? Will the creative and artistic quality be retained, or will corporeal comforts insidiously take over?

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 5 August, 2020 11:24AM
I think CAS's poetry was anachronistic, even when he was being heralded as a youthful genius. His stuff is much more reminiscent of the 19th century than the 20th. My understanding is that the stories were written to cover his parents' medical expenses - ie, that he might never have written them otherwise; a not uncommon example of a writer producing work of merit despite their own inclinations (I think at heart CAS would have seen himself as a poet rather than a short-story writer). I'm open to correction!

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 August, 2020 04:14PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think CAS's poetry was anachronistic, even when
> he was being heralded as a youthful genius. His
> stuff is much more reminiscent of the 19th century
> than the 20th. My understanding is that the
> stories were written to cover his parents' medical
> expenses - ie, that he might never have written
> them otherwise; a not uncommon example of a writer
> producing work of merit despite their own
> inclinations (I think at heart CAS would have seen
> himself as a poet rather than a short-story
> writer). I'm open to correction!

Speculating, do you think he had it in him to deal with a novel?

I see no evidence of it, but have to admit that the simple fact that he did not proves nothing as to his capacity to do so..

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

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 5 August, 2020 06:25PM
I'm actually finding it really hard to imagine what a CAS novel would be like, maybe because the short story format was such a good fit for him? I think he'd have struggled, though. My impression - rightly or wrongly - is that he only wrote the stories reluctantly, but worked hard on them nonetheless and that his self-imposed regime was one story a month (over a ten year period). Given that he was doing a lot of hard manual work as well, this is still a pretty impressive achievement, and I think it took its toll. I don't think he'd have had the stamina or the skill-set to write a novel, but of course I could be wrong (it happens, occasionally).

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 5 August, 2020 09:43PM
I'm glad I didn't upset anyone. I might be tactless and unfairly critical at times, but never consciously spiteful. Even with my preference for the Romantic and necromantic sense of rebellion in CAS, HPL is an author I can still appreciate, and that I sometimes revisit his work shows that they appeal to my need for imaginative wonder. There are many ideas by HPL I enjoy, and many passages that excite my imagination in the most visceral way, but a good deal of his stories have certain impositions or limitations I'm not so fond of, like whenever he insists on something being abominable when I can't agree with him.

As to the matter of CAS writing novels, he had written one novel in his youth under the title "Black Diamonds", an oriental adventure a la 1001 Nights. It's a juvenile work, so it hardly reflects his matured style, but it was an interesting and semi-competent read. I'm sure he could have written a decent novel as an adult, but a good or exceptional one is harder to gauge. He attempted to write what was either a novel or a longer novelette titled "The Infernal Star", which promised a much grander scope than his average stories, possibly involving Thasaidon and a whole planet of demonic god-like entities, but he only wrote a few chapters before giving up, and right before the truly wild stuff was about to happen!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 5 Aug 20 | 10:17PM by Hespire.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 August, 2020 12:04PM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'm glad I didn't upset anyone. I might be
> tactless and unfairly critical at times, but never
> consciously spiteful. Even with my preference for
> the Romantic and necromantic sense of rebellion in
> CAS, HPL is an author I can still appreciate, and
> that I sometimes revisit his work shows that they
> appeal to my need for imaginative wonder. There
> are many ideas by HPL I enjoy, and many passages
> that excite my imagination in the most visceral
> way, but a good deal of his stories have certain
> impositions or limitations I'm not so fond of,
> like whenever he insists on something being
> abominable when I can't agree with him.
>
> As to the matter of CAS writing novels, he had
> written one novel in his youth under the title
> "Black Diamonds", an oriental adventure a la 1001
> Nights. It's a juvenile work, so it hardly
> reflects his matured style, but it was an
> interesting and semi-competent read. I'm sure he
> could have written a decent novel as an adult, but
> a good or exceptional one is harder to gauge. He
> attempted to write what was either a novel or a
> longer novelette titled "The Infernal Star", which
> promised a much grander scope than his average
> stories, possibly involving Thasaidon and a whole
> planet of demonic god-like entities, but he only
> wrote a few chapters before giving up, and right
> before the truly wild stuff was about to happen!


During this discussion comparing HPL and CAS, which invites us to categorize and compare the various attributes of their work, someone mentioned the short story "Schizoid Creater". It's on this site and I read it.

It's a very mediocre piece so far as a commercial narrative--might be a first draft, actually--but what it does is to explore the nature of God--and the plausible inference that God might be mentally disturbed--and what's more, speculate that both Satan and Jehovah are one and the same.

And this is done with ironic humor.

It is impossible to imagine HPL ever going anywhere near an interpretation like that, nor with the humorous aspect. His imagination is more channeled, less free-wheeling.

I *like* HPL a lot; he is a guaranteed product, high and consistent quality, and to me, a sense of mood and a central theme of man as he fits into a greater cosmos that he can imagine.

It's hard to describe, but HPL is as consistent as Arthur Conan Doyle in terms of mood and well-set reader expectancies; I can feel the streets of Providence, Innsmouth, etc., just as I can feel the streets of London.

Speaking to this consistency, HPL ghost wrote, or co-wrote, several stories; can you imagine CAS doing that, or anyone even asking him to?

By contrast, CAS is all over the place, with some excellent, excellent works that contain exoticism, color, sensuous imagery, recognition of sexuality (if not direct descriptions, but hints), humor, but over all of this is irony. I point simply to the ending of "King Euvoran's Voyage" and "The Isle of the Torturers". The situations that exist when the stories start, as opposed to where they conclude.

It's harder to find that kind of movement in HPL, who dwells on minutia and the feelings it may evoke in the POV.

In a final divergence, there been a lot of discussion around HPL's identification with philosophical materialism, and with readers/posters here trying to rationalize his immersion in the ultra natural and/or supernatural; they seem to view it as an act of will: "I'll write about this cosmic horror stuff (a lot!), but I really don't believe any of it; it's patently impossible".

I differ with many here, I think, in that I see HPL as a self-avowed materialist, but with deep attachment to spiritual elements of human nature. To this end, I'd see his stories less as willful efforts of a non-spiritual author to create stories in which he does not believe, but more like a sort of "whistling in the dark"--making the frightening elements of the universe concrete and hence more easy to deal with. He is venting his fears, in a sense.

I think he says that he's a materialist, but... :^)

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



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 6 Aug 20 | 12:33PM by Sawfish.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 6 August, 2020 03:11PM
Oh believe me, I've told others that HPL is the more consistently fine writer, and elsewhere I've expressed disappointment in quite a few of CAS's stories (I can barely stomach his "Captivity in Serpens"; there are bland rip-offs of Conan that were more satisfying pulp adventures than that!), or in certain decisions he made within otherwise decent stories. It just happens that in spite of his inconsistencies, I really enjoy CAS's high points in word-weaving, dark irony, and creative conjurings more. Even so, I praise and defend some of HPL's qualities, and acknowledge the differences and even weaknesses in CAS's work. For instance, as I mentioned in another post, HPL is one of those extremely rare authors who can make me feel the sheer presence of mysterious Elder Ones, make me hear the gibbering and fluttering in unknown darkness, and make me lose my breath in the sheer vastness of some time-flung city! CAS does the same for me, of course, but not consistently, and Lovecraft's heightened sense of realism gave him an advantage in that element.

I'm suddenly in a hurry to go somewhere, so I'll have to continue this discussion next time I'm around. I'm eager to learn more about HPL's unique worldview: that strange realm of magic within a material universe. In his letters he is extremely certain, enthusiastic, and sometimes strongly insistent about his purest materialistic worldview, so it would be interesting to explore the deeper nuances in that, especially compared to CAS's own philosophical and mystical inclinations. As I recall, CAS is not religious at all, but has poured libations to Dionysus, and mused about human senses not perceiving a greater, stranger world right under their noses.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 6 Aug 20 | 03:15PM by Hespire.



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