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Re: August Derleth
Posted by: voleboy (IP Logged)
Date: 13 October, 2006 06:06PM
It may surprise some to hear that Bierce was also a very accomplished poet. He had a very strong sense of the satirical in verse, and his best is still as pungent as ever. The Devil's Dictionary includes some of his poems, and there may still be Black Beetles in Amber at Project Gutenberg.

I had, on one occasion, chance to confirm the pagination of one occurrence of a Bierce story, for S. T. Joshi, when he was working on his Bierce bibliography.

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 9 May, 2009 08:13PM
Welcome, Rutledge -- it's refreshing to see young people who actually want to buy the books rather than read the Works online! One great place to find a wide variety of Mythos fiction (fannish and professional, extremely good and rather not-so-good) are the Cycle Books edited by Robert M. Price for CHAOSIUM.

I've just started re-reading all of the Arkham House edition of THE WATCHERS OUT OF TIME & OTHERS so as to discuss each and every tale in a thread at alt.horror.cthulhu. I've read THE LURKER AT THE THRESHOLD many times and have always enjoyed it -- and I'm enjoying this new reading of it. It has atmosphere, good plotting and interesting characters, and it is absolutely Lovecraftian. I think the collaborations are often dismissed as weird fiction because we all realise that Lovecraft had absolutely nothing to do with their creation; but that does not say anything about their worth as weird fiction. The only one I remember actually hating -- yes, HATING -- is "The Shuttered Room," as it seemed such a complete and obvious rip-off of "The Dunwich Horror." Derleth had talent, imagination and dedication. Writing weird fiction was something he did to pay the bills -- he certainly wasn't trying to create literary art as was Lovecraft.

S. T. muses, in THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS, that Derleth couldn't sell most of these posthumous collaborations to professional magazines, noting that only two of them were so placed. S. T.'s opinion is that Augie couldn't place them because the tales were awful. Yet Derleth placed almost all of the tales published in the handsome volume, IN LOVECRAFT'S SHADOW (Mycroft and Moran, 1998) to WEIRD TALES, and they seem to me considerably weaker than the collaborations. I think, but do not know, that most of these fake collaborations were written specifically for Arkham House books. "The Dark Brotherhood" was probably written for the AH book for which it serves as title, as does "The Shuttered Room." Such is my supposition.

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

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 5 December, 2019 04:44PM
I read The Lurker at the Threshold back in the mid-1970s and am reading it again, but -- uff da, as people in my part of the country used to say -- it sure is vulnerable to criticism.

It's really repetitive. I'm halfway through, which puts me in the second section, in which the "Manuscript of Stephen Bates" recycles material we were already given from the omniscient narrator of the first part. I keep deciding that I'll go on for a bit.

Derleth's own Arkham House originally published this, which, I suppose, means there was no editor to work with him on improving the novel. There are annoying little things like the use of "might well" in two consecutive sentences (I didn't note the place, but I'm pretty sure of that). Derleth seems to have been writing by eye, not by ear (as well). So you get "....my preoccupation with the circle of stones in the vicinity of the round tower -- for my proposed 'walk' was nothing more or less than a round-about way of getting myself to the tower," etc.

The accumulation of obvious "hints" is annoying, as it sometimes is in Lovecraft's own stories. Ideally, "hints" should really make the reader wonder what is really happening, as perhaps they do in Phyllis Paul's novels; instead, the "hints" make the reader feel that the characters are being set up too obviously by the author, or are not very bright, and so on.

I think Derleth took a passage of 17th-century pastiche by Lovecraft and uses it as a passage from the following century or even later. I have been immersing myself in 17th-century prose over the past year and a half and more, and would say that Lovecraft's 17th-century passage is a pretty good imitation' which means among other things that it doesn't sound like something written a lot later.

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 5 December, 2019 09:03PM
"...his feet pained him. Since he was not given to trouble in his pedal extremities, he bent curiously...."

Of course, the bizarre construction "pedal extremities" draws more attention to the diction than a mere repetition of "feet" would have. Uff da!

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 December, 2019 10:24PM
Bluntly, I feel that Derleth is tone-deaf as an author.

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

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 6 December, 2019 12:29AM
Judging by the five or six stories I have read by Derleth, he must be one of the worst contributors to the genre ...

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 6 December, 2019 11:12AM
The Lurker at the Threshold has some historical interest.

It was, to date, the longest Mythos story, surpassing At the Mountains of Madness by ten thousand words if the statements about the lengths of the two works I've seen are correct.

It confirmed the template of the typical Mythos story:

An independent scholar(s) finds evidence of the manifestation, as threat in the present, of a being(s) worshiped in the past as a horrible god(s). The scholar eventually catches up with the reader in putting 2+2 together, working with "hints" whose significance is not ambiguous or doubtful. There is some elaboration of the Mythos added to references to properties (locations, books, entities) familiar to readers of other such stories. A problem is that one or other of such stories, if encountered as someone's first Mythos story, might be pretty creepy, but, conversely, the later-read stories may feel like watering the soup when read by someone familiar with the Mythos.

To a considerable degree, Lurker was written in conformity with Lovecraft's serious notions and his playful guidelines. As a serious effort to write a weird story, it does the things Lovecraft recommended in his various remarks on the composition of such stories, e.g. the gradual disclosure of the horror, the attempt to work up atmosphere, the evocation of "cosmicism" with the corollary of human littleness, and so on. But also Lovecraft encouraged his friends to write these things as a game. And I imagine he felt some gratification in seeing other writers keep rolling a ball he started in motion. I do think that, if someone dislikes Lurker, he or she has to parcel out some of the blame to Lovecraft.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 6 Dec 19 | 11:15AM by Dale Nelson.

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 6 December, 2019 02:02PM
P. S. I wasn't thinking of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward; if it's a Mythos novel, then, no, Lurker wouldn't be the longest Mythos story to date. Here is not, perhaps, the place for discussion of whether the HPL novel is or isn't Mythos -- or, for that matter, about what makes something "Mythos" or not, perhaps not a worthwhile discussion.

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 6 December, 2019 03:11PM
Just a personal aside, if I may indulge myself: I read Lurker in 1975. That was also the year I read the first volume of Lovecraft's Selected Letters, the de Camp biography of HPL, and Lumley's Transition of Titus Crow. In the second half of the previous year I'd read Lumley's Burrowers Beneath and the entirety of the HPL revisions, The Horror in the Museum. In this period I also read "Supernatural Horror in Literature" for the first time, and, probably, much of the Frierson booklet HPL, borrowed from one of my professors. My attempt at a Mythos-type story, "The Intruder," was published in APA-5, in, as I recall, a 'zine edited by Terry Lee Dale and/or Loay Hall.

1974-1975 seems to be the watershed period for my interest in Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos, though I have continued to reread a few HPL favorites such as "The Whisperer in Darkness." But I don't suppose I ever again read so much Lovecraft-related material in a comparable period, much of it for the first (and perhaps only) time. About ten years later, in the mid-1980s, I got the other three volumes of Selected Letters but by then my interest level was such that I never did more than dip into them. While studying library science around 1985 I wrote a term paper on Arkham House for a course on publishing.

That 1974-1975 period was not just evidently the culminating time of my interest in Lovecraft and the Mythos, but also a time of discovery of a number of authors such as Chesterton who quickly became favorites, at least for a time (Mervyn Peake), or of going more deeply into some other authors I already liked.

So revisiting The Lurker at the Threshold provides occasion for me to reflect on some of my reading shortly before I entered my twenties. But it's been in recent years that I've gone back to Lovecraft enough to write a lot of list postings and a few articles about his work, to evaluate his achievement and to get a better grip on the appeal some of his stories have had on me and perhaps other readers.

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 6 December, 2019 04:30PM
That previous message is misleading -- actually, my time of most intense interest in Lovecraft, that time of first discovery and collecting his books, was more a few years earlier. Whatever.

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 December, 2019 07:48PM
This is very interesting and brings to mind when I first discovered this sub-genre (if it's even correct to use this descriptor) and it began with Tolkien, but I needed something more--a more compelling connection to life as I saw it, or life's possibilities. On recommendation I may have read a few Howard stories. These were too obviously a form of macho worship and hence were sort of debasing, in a sense.

That's when I came across CAS; the Ballentine Zothique volume.

While almost all, or maybe even *all* of the stories resonated with me, but some came at me from my blind side--really threw me a curve. These especially:

The Witchcraft of Ulua
The Death of Ilalotha
Morthylla

This is not to say that these are my favorites, even from that volume, but they really upended at a young reader of fantastic fiction that, to that point, had a read only adult fantasy that very large element of hero worship or at least hero adulation.

Witchcraft seems a simple morality tale (and is, in fact), but Smith's succinct way of describing a great sage of former times:


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


YEOW! "putting down the insubordination of the flesh"! Is there a finer way of describing a mastery of carnal desire or even any sensory pleasure? I thought not, and still do!

Sometimes, when I try to diet for a while, or I need to get myself to the gym, I wryly tell myself that I'm "putting down the insubordination of the flesh".

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

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 9 December, 2019 11:11AM
"The Maze of Maal Dweb" in Carter's anthology The Young Magicians (1969) must have been the first story by Smith that I read. I bought the Ballantine Hyperborea when it was new and owned the BAF Smith titles in the early or mid-1970s. But what with the morbidity of his fantasy, he was not an author much to my taste.

Your comment about the absence of hero worship in Smith's stories as compared to Howard's is thought-provoking. The thing with Howard's best-known hero is that he's not all that heroic. He's heroic in the sense of being expert in the arts of war and in being courageous, certainly. But according to hsitrocially-informed ideas of heroism, Conan falls short. His skills, strength, and courage are in the service of no one and nothing but himself as a rule. He's the sort of warrior a hero might hire as a mercenary when war looms. But the kind of hero worship Conan is likely to evoke comes from the relatively small number of people whom he has personally defended or rescued. One might also imagine a youngster who is learning the arts of war feeling adulation for Conan because he is so good at them. Eventually Conan will die by treachery, or because he has at last been outmatched in battle, or perhaps because he's just old, but Conan's death will simply turn off the tap of his adventures. Howard's worldview seems to be one without tragedy.

It seems to me that Smith's stories lack even this kind of appreciation. Aren't they basically stories of antiheroes? But this might not be something for discussion on an August Derleth thread. Maybe someone would like to start a thread on the theme of heroism / antiheroism in Smith.

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 9 December, 2019 12:40PM
Very briefly, and for immediate clarificaton as regards Conan as a hero...

He is a hero in the same sense that Phillip Marlowe is a hero in Chandler's works. In spite of many traditionally negative attributes this sort of character is written with such appeal that it's impossible to imagine that there is not a substantial portion of readers who identifies positively with the character. Perhaps with reservation, but still...

So I would accept that perhaps Conan (and Kull, etc.) are closer to flawed heroes, and hence anti-heroes.

But for Smith's central characters, there seems to me to be no actual intent to create a persona that is much more that a vehicle for the narrative point of view. I would use as a handy example the aboriginal young man in the Maze of Maal Dweb. He evokes sympathy, perhaps, and a degree of fleeting admiration for his attempt to rescue his lover, but he's neither a traditional hero nor an anti-hero.

I'll try to start a new thread on these topics later today, Dale. I realize just how far off topic this is, but I needed to jot something down before I forgot it... :^(

BTW, far off topic: have you read any Michel Houellebecq? I started "Submission" yesterday and I'm quite impressed with at least the translation, which I'd like to think is accurately inspired by the original.

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

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 9 December, 2019 01:00PM
I recognize Houellebecq's name and I think I even know how to pronounce it (wellbeck?), but haven't read him.

Your phrase "no actual intent to create a persona that is much more that a vehicle for the narrative point of view" sounds right. A topic for discussion would be: what legitimate artistic effects are attainable, not only by use of this method, but only by use of this method, of writing?

Because my view is that one incontestably outstanding use of a given form or genre shows that the form is legitimate, even if almost all of the actual works in the form or genre are garbage. For example, suppose for the sake of argument that we saw one could go to the movies weekly for ten years and in that whole time see nothing but garbage. Yet if there is just one movie that surely does achieve great and worthy artistic effects, and these are ones that could be attained only in a movie, then the legitimacy of the cinema is proven. Throne of Blood. QED

Re: August Derleth
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 9 December, 2019 01:08PM
I've already drifted well off topic, Dale, and am reluctant to go further, but I'm intrigued by this new direction you've taken, and if you either a) start a new thread under this topic, or b) want to continue to grow this thread organically, following it where it goes. I'm willing.

To me, this site is purely recreational, and hence I feel no necessity to be overly fastidious about staying on topic. :^)

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

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