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Re-reading
Posted by: Radovarl (IP Logged)
Date: 13 November, 2007 10:50PM
At the risk of temporarily steering the conversation away from matters Klarkash-tonian:

As the year winds down, I usually find myself re-reading authors I've revisited countless times before. I'm an avid but not especially omnivorous reader, and tend to return time and again to my old stand-bys. I'd like to break out of the rut this year, and although I fully intend to read vol. 3 of the Collected Fantasies when it arrives, and The Lord of the Rings again in December (it's a tradition with me), I'd also like to branch out. Since I seem to have exhausted my own meager talent for sniffing out worthy stuff, I thought I'd ask the good people here for suggestions. Obviously you have impeccable taste, as you are fans of or at least appreciate the stories of CAS, and I'd like to know which other writers (not necessarily fiction, and not necessarily F/SF) you find indispensable. I'll gladly take any suggestions, but if you would be so kind just list your 3 or 4 favorites from the fantasy and/or science fiction genres, perhaps with reasons for your choices. To give you an idea of my favorites and also the authors (aside from CAS) I've already totally exhausted:

Lovecraft
Tolkien
W. H. Hodgson
W. O. Stapledon
Fritz Leiber
Cordwainer Smith
Philip K. Dick
Roger Zelazny
Michael Moorcock
Jack Vance
Frank Herbert
Brian Aldiss
Peter S. Beagle
Lord Dunsany
(most 19th/20th centuray sociology and social philosophy, e.g., Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, Simmel, Weber, Durkheim, Habermas, et al.)

No Campbellian SF or pig-dogs from the other end of the techno-political spectrum need apply, I've read my Heinlein, Asimov, Van Vogt, etc. Some of it's good but it is not what I'm looking for... No "New Wave" (Ballard, Ellison, those listed above, etc.), and none of the current or recent "series whores" (i.e., Niven, Robert Jordan [RIP], GRRM, etc.).

Maybe I just need to go back and take seriously all of those high school English assignments I blew off back in the day, eh? I never read Hemingway, Faulkner, and the rest. In any case, bail me out here so I don't end up reading Ayn Rand or some other despicable relic of modernism. I'm sure one of you can come up with someone who will become my new favorite :).

Thanks in advance,

David

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Ken K. (IP Logged)
Date: 14 November, 2007 03:07AM
Dear David:
My taste is far from impeccable, but here are my suggestions (gleaned after a quick scan of my book-
shelves)-mostly fantasy, as I shamefully admit that I'm not up to date on modern SF.

1. Robert Holdstock--start with Mythago Wood. It won the World Fantasy Award, deservedly so. I would go so far as to state that this is a novel that anyone with an interest in mythology simply has to read.

2. Henry Kuttner/C. L. Moore--are more known for their Golden-Age SF, but check out their science-fantasy novels of the 1940's. In particular, The Valley of The Flame which, in its heady blend of mad science, lost race adventure, and vivid characters is probably my favorite pulp fantasy of all time.

3. M. R. James--when I get tired of modern horror fiction (or it just happens to be a good, stormy night outside) I can always take out The Collected Ghost Stories and see the master at work. James can still raise gooseflesh even though I know the outcome of every story.

Hope this is of some use. Thanks for the query--it's always good mental exercise to state why something is good!

Ken

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 14 November, 2007 11:09AM
I'd also recommend the following:

Brian McNaughton, The Throne of Bones: makes Zothique seem wholesome by comparison;

Brian Stableford, the "Werewolves of London" trilogy and The Hunger and Passion of Vampires;

any of the works of Thomas Ligotti; check out The Shadow At the Bottom of the World for a good overview;

Laird Barron, The Imago Sequence;

Reggie Oliver's forthcoming colllection from Ash-Tree Press. His first two collections were outstanding, but are long o.p. and rare, being limited to less than 300 copies each.

I also don't see any Arthur Machen or Algernon Blackwood on your list, or Sheridan LeFanu for that matter. All are essential writers in the genre.

Interestingly enough, I was reading Clive Barker's novella "The Hellbound Heart" recently and was struck by some concepts that were very Klarkash-Tonian. Read this story after reading "A Star-Change" and you'll see what I mean. And while Barker is quite explicit and rather gruesome, I don't find him that much worse than the CAS of "The Return of the Sorcerer" or "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" or "The Eidolon of the Blind." Barker is an uneven writer who often flounders in his own excesses and self-indulgences, but some of his work, especially the novels The Damnation Game and Weaveworld, are really fine pieces of work, and some of his short stories are very effective. I find his work much more interesting than any of the other "big name horror" writers, with the exception of Peter Straub.

Not very Klarkash-Tonian, but still fun, are the works of Kim Newman. I'd recommend his novel The Quorom as one of the best "deal with the devil" stories done in recent years, as well as his collections The Man from the Diogenes Club and The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club. Newman writes ingenious metafictions that combine fictional and historical figures; probably his best work is Anno Dracula, a wonderful alternate history in which Van Helsing not only failed, but the Count turns Queen Victoria and brings vampires "out of the coffin".

Scott

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Radovarl (IP Logged)
Date: 14 November, 2007 12:37PM
Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

I'm not much on horror, despite having read most everything by Lovecraft/CAS (I came to them more from the Dunsanian fantasy side and then branched out). I consider most of Lovecraft's mature work sort of philosophical/cosmological scifi of the Stapledonian type, though obviously he's coming from a completely different angle. Don't get me wrong, I still find some of it "scary", but my favorites ("The Colour out of Space", "The Shadow out of Time", "At the Mountains of Madness", etc.) tend to be the ones with the vast cosmic vistas or at least hints thereof. Similarly with CAS. "The Eternal World" is one of my favorite stories of his--I'm probably alone on that one, haha.

I'm an absolute materialist (broke my mother's heart at the age of 12 when I declared myself an atheist :), so "ghost stories" as such don't really do it for me--might take me a while to get around to M. R. James and A. Blackwood, or the vampire and werewolf stuff. I tend to find most horror either hilarious or sickening (if it's gory). I have a feeling Barker might turn me off. Is there an anthology in-print with a sampling of various "classic" horror authors that you know of? What about Ramsey Campbell, is he worth a try?

Machen--I've read a little Machen ("The Three Impostors"), and liked it, so maybe I'll pick up The Great God Pan at some point.

Robert Holdstock--Mythago Wood--This one keeps coming to my attention, so I suppose I should give it a whirl. For some reason from reviews I've read it doesn't seem to be a book I'd like, but I've thought that before about other books and been mistaken.

I don't know much about Ligotti, Barron, McNaughton, Newman, so I will definitely do some research and consider reading them. Newman's stuff in particular sounds interesting.

Thanks again,

David

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 14 November, 2007 05:08PM
I wouldn't count "horror" (or weird, terror, or supernatural, whichever term one prefers) literature out, as the best has some fascinating philosophical underpinnings and insights into human emotion... not to mention that a lot of the classics are just well-written.

As for an anthology, I'd suggest Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, ed. by Phyllis Wagner and Herbert Wise, which runs the gamut from non-supernatural suspense tales such as Geoffrey Household's "Taboo" to Balzac's "La Grande Breteche", as well as such supernatural gems as the ethereal "The Beckoning Fair One" by Oliver Onions, the delicate and poignant "They" by Rudyard Kipling or "Ancient Sorceries" by Algernon Blackwood, or the very unpleasant (and quite different) encounter of "How Love Came to Professor Guildea" by Robert S. Hichens.

Here's a link where you can look up the table of contents:

[www.amazon.com]#

You might also browse through HPL's "Supernatural Horror in Literature" for some suggestions, as quite a bit of what he offers in there is simply good reading in or out of the field....

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Stan (IP Logged)
Date: 15 November, 2007 04:29PM
Some of your favorites are also some of mine, so here's a few more of mine you might like:

Phantastes and Lilith by George MacDonald. Darkly beautiful fantasy worlds.

The Ship of Ishtar by A. A. Merritt. Romantic (with a capital R) fantasy adventure.

A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay. A little heavy on the philosophy, but a glitteringly weird world setting.

Beyond the Golden Stair by Hannes Bok. Influenced by Merritt, but outdid him in this novel.

MacDonald and Lindsay are still in print, but you may have a little trouble finding the others.

If you don't like ghost stories or gore, then Ramsey Campbell is definitely worth a try. His understated, subtle tales, like modern incarnations of M. R. James' stories, always raise a shudder. Try any one of the short story collections, or the novel The Parasite.

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Radovarl (IP Logged)
Date: 16 November, 2007 08:17AM
Stan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Some of your favorites are also some of mine, so
> here's a few more of mine you might like:
>
> Phantastes and Lilith by George MacDonald. Darkly
> beautiful fantasy worlds.
>
> The Ship of Ishtar by A. A. Merritt. Romantic
> (with a capital R) fantasy adventure.
>
> A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay. A little
> heavy on the philosophy, but a glitteringly weird
> world setting.
>
> Beyond the Golden Stair by Hannes Bok. Influenced
> by Merritt, but outdid him in this novel.
>
> MacDonald and Lindsay are still in print, but you
> may have a little trouble finding the others.
>
> If you don't like ghost stories or gore, then
> Ramsey Campbell is definitely worth a try. His
> understated, subtle tales, like modern
> incarnations of M. R. James' stories, always raise
> a shudder. Try any one of the short story
> collections, or the novel The Parasite.


Ah ha! I think this is the sort of thing I'm looking for... I have The Moon Pool by Merritt in paperback, which I attempted to read a few months back (got to about page 5 and decided I wasn't in the mood at the time). Would you recommend The Ship of Ishtar over it, or are all of his equally good? Lindsay sounds especially promising; maybe I'll start there. I like "heavy on philosophy", so it's probably right up my alley.

I think I'll pick up the horror anthology mentioned above, also. Least I could do after asking for advice is take some of it, even if I'm unsure...

Thanks again, everyone.

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Stan (IP Logged)
Date: 16 November, 2007 02:25PM
Coincidentally, I just read The Moon Pool a few months ago. It's been many a year since I read Ship of Ishtar, but from what I remember, I'd say yes, it's definitely better than Moon Pool. Most of Merritt's novels were "lost race" stories, but Ishtar was more of a fantasy than his other books.

Glad to be of help.

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 16 November, 2007 04:50PM
I'd second the suggestion of Merritt, though I, too, would advise putting The Moon Pool further down the list. M.P. has a strong tendency for the romance of the latter part (the sequel to the original short story and therefore the bulk of the novel) to be painfully silly, rather seriously marring some otherwise magnificent work. Worth reading, but by no means his best. I'd also put in a word for The Face in the Abyss and Dwellers in the Mirage as very good, atmospheric (and colorful) adventure novels, as well as the collection of his shorter tales, The Fox Woman. I also heartily endorse the mention of Kuttner and Moore, especially "Mimsey were the Borogoves", "The Children's Hour", and "Vintage Season".

On a somewhat different note, if you've not read them, the works of James Branch Cabell -- especially his Biography of the Life of Manuel -- might be of interest. Deft, witty, ironic, and beautifully written; these have largely been brought back into print recently by Wildside Press, the few remaining books of the set being fairly easy to find, should you be interested.

[en.wikipedia.org]

Where possible, the editions illustrated by Frank C. Papé are especially fitting, as he was in many instances to Cabell what Sime was to Dunsany.

You might also try E. R. Eddison's books. While The Worm Ouroboros is largely a straightforward fantasy epic (albeit written in a very archaic style, one which adds considerably to the experience), the other three novels -- Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, and the unfinished but nonetheless fascinating The Mezentian Gate -- also have varying layers of philosophical speculation in them, as well as intertwining multiple parallel lifelines of the main characters. Another well worth trying is Fletcher Pratt's The Well of the Unicorn which, through the lens of fantastic story, has some very probing examinations of politics, social mores, philosophy, and the basis of ethics as well....

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 16 November, 2007 07:55PM
Read The Moon Pool in its original novelette form, and not the bastardized book version that (shades of "The City of the Singing Flame!") merged it with its inferior sequel, "Conquest of the Moon Pool." It is available currently in H. P. Lovecraft's Favorite Stories, edited by Douglas A. Anderson.

Scott

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Radovarl (IP Logged)
Date: 16 November, 2007 09:15PM
Wow, all this should keep me busy for quite some time. Can't thank everyone enough for their two cents (and in some cases a buck fifty or so) worth. Though I've heard of most of these works, getting a succinct account of the possible appeal of each is a great help in prioritizing my future reading.

I'll certainly track down Anderson's H. P. Lovecraft's Favorite Stories. I only previously knew him from the annotated edition of The Hobbit.

As a side note, although I appreciate the suggestion I tried to read Eddison's Ouroboros once, and while I found the language gorgeous and the imagery captivating, the story itself and the "world-building" (for lack of a better term) frankly made me chuckle a bit. Impland? Goblinland? Yikes. And the group dynamic among the main characters was a bit like what I imagine an English public school might have been like at the turn of the (20th) century. I mean, I can definitely see how this one partially inspired the male bonding, male friendship-centered aspect of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories of Leiber (of which I'm a "fan", if I'm a fan of anything) and is also similar to the Fellowship in LotR, but there comes a point where it starts seeming a little...um...well, you know what I mean. If I recall correctly I made it to page 196 and had to give up, after about 3 months. I was only able to digest about 4 or 5 pages per day, and it wasn't the density of the prose that was slowing me down. Probably says more about me than the novel.

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Ken K. (IP Logged)
Date: 22 November, 2007 03:02AM
Don't feel too bad about having a hard time slogging through E. R. Eddison--I never finished reading that novel either. (Not that it's Eddison's fault, of course). And I vividly recall laboriously wading through the endless shoals of archaic diction in William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land. I made myself finish 15 pages a day and it was like climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen. Now that it's in a nice new Night Shade Books edition I find myself perversely tempted to give it another go...

Ken

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 22 November, 2007 10:59AM
Radovarl Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> > As a side note, although I appreciate the
> suggestion I tried to read Eddison's Ouroboros
> once, and while I found the language gorgeous and
> the imagery captivating, the story itself and the
> "world-building" (for lack of a better term)
> frankly made me chuckle a bit. Impland?
> Goblinland? Yikes. And the group dynamic among the
> main characters was a bit like what I imagine an
> English public school might have been like at the
> turn of the (20th) century. I mean, I can
> definitely see how this one partially inspired the
> male bonding, male friendship-centered aspect of
> the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories of Leiber
> (of which I'm a "fan", if I'm a fan of anything)
> and is also similar to the Fellowship in LotR, but
> there comes a point where it starts seeming a
> little...um...well, you know what I mean. If I
> recall correctly I made it to page 196 and had to
> give up, after about 3 months. I was only able to
> digest about 4 or 5 pages per day, and it wasn't
> the density of the prose that was slowing me down.
> Probably says more about me than the novel.

Yes, the nomenclature in Worm has thrown more than a few people. (As I recall, it even had HPL a bit reluctant to go through it, though in the end he had high praise for the novel.) I think I understand what Eddison was doing there, and if so, it makes sense... just as the use of Mercury in the beginning does, or the Lotus Room. But it can be offputting to many, which is a pity, as it is a marvelous book full of fascinating concepts and conceits. As for the other three (which can be read independently of Worm, by the way) they do not have this problem, and are, as I noted, much more given to thought-experiments and a much more complex weaving of plot(s) and stories.

On Hodgson... the problem with Hodgson (as opposed to Eddison) is that his archaism is, by and large, very badly done; it's the attempt of a young man to write in an antique style which he really didn't grasp that well, and it is full of false archaisms, clunky anachronisms, and outright nonsense (dialectically speaking). What carries Hodgson in these cases is his stunning imagination; the tableaux, the concepts, the sheer fecundity of bizarrerie he displays.

However, in either case, the reader must go with what is most comfortable for them -- unlike assignments in school (unless you're doing such reading for some project of your own where it counts as research), the point is to enjoy the books; and if the style or an idiosyncracy of the writer jolts you out of that enjoyment, I'd suggest letting it go... at least unless you get a hankering to attempt it again, once you're prepared for such "road bumps"....

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: Radovarl (IP Logged)
Date: 22 November, 2007 10:21PM
Yeah, strangely enough I got through The Night Land in about 3 days while it took me 6 months at 5 pages/night to get to the point where I was ready to give up on The Worm. With the latter, I felt like I was trapped on a country-wide bus tour with a homoerotic highschool wrestling team, and just couldn't bring myself to get involved. Contrariwise, I became used to Hodgson's undeniably ridiculous attempt at 17th century English (I chose to believe it was the language of the Last Redoubt for purposes of temporary suspension of disbelief) within 30 pages or so, and just immersed myself in the monomania. His treatment of women later in the novel (i.e., Naani) I took with a heavy dose of salt, considering his inexperience with women at the time of writing. As a feminist, I found it extraordinarily disconcerting, but at the same time somewhat touching. The man was certainly a case.

Re: Re-reading
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 23 November, 2007 08:57PM
Try a genre in translation that has some of this most stunning and powerful imagery I have ever encountered - anything by Nikos Kazantzakis, but I particular recommend "the Fratricides" and "The Greek Passion" (art film made from this many years ago entitled "He who must Die"

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