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Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: Dexterward (IP Logged)
Date: 8 September, 2008 02:05AM
Recently I have been looking for good weird literature that for one reason or another has been overlooked in the standard compilations of the "Weird Canon." To start with, has anyone read anything by the nineteenth century Scot, George Macdonald? I am told by a fairly reliable authority that his "Princess and the Goblin" is quite good. I have the book and look forward to reading it, but I don't think Lovecraft mentions his name in "The Supernatural in Literature." Anyhow, another possibly interesting author that I've stumbled across is Otfried Preussler, who wrote a once popular novel called "The Satanic Mill." (I can't vouch for it's quality or it's "weird status," since I only know of it by hearsay, but it certainly sounds like there might be something to it. Someone told me it's like Harry Potter but good!)

My purpose in mentioning these two authors, is to start start a thread that can be used as a resouce for identifying and discussing weird fiction (for those of us who can't afford the Encyclopedia) that has for one reason or another fallen under the radar of those like HPL, Joshi, and other "codifiers" of the weird.

Finally, at the risk of rambling a bit, let me just throw out the name of ETA Hoffmann, as someone in the genre whom I can recommend unreservedly. Lovecraft does mention him in his "Supernatural in Lit." but it's obvious that he only read a few stories from a library book (very likely a poor translation). I've always thought Lovecraft's review of Hoffmann to be too cursory and dismissive. At any rate, stories like "The Golden Pot" and "Princess Brambilla" are masterpieces of their kind--and I often wonder if Lovecraft even read them.

Again, forgive the length of this post, but I thought it would be useful to have a thread where people can throw out names that might appeal to our crowd, but which aren't typically found in the usual lists of weird fiction.

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 8 September, 2008 03:00AM
Actually, Lovecraft does mention MacDonald, though he concentrates on Lilith: "George Macdonald's Lilith has a compelling bizarrerie all its own; the first of the two versions being perhaps the most effective" (The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature, p. 57).

Joshi notes, however, that the earlier version has yet to be published, and HPL was going on a paraphrase (which is probably why he qualified his statement). I've yet to read The Princess and the Goblin (or any of Macdonald's other longer works except for Lilith and Phantastes, both of which I would recommend -- though I prefer the former more than the latter, I must admit), but I've yet to encounter negative comments on it save for his usual tendency toward allegory. His short fairy tales are also of interest.

On the subject of Hoffmann, I'd also suggest the E. F. Bleiler collection Best Tales of Hoffmann as a good introduction to the variety of his work; such tales as "The Mines of Falun" and "A New Year's Eve Adventure" are quite memorable (if at times a bit whimsical as well); and, of course, there have been several new editions of his work over the past few years. especially those from Penguin and Oxford, I believe (though I've come across some things on the recent edition of The Devil's Elixir -- not by either, I hasten to add -- that give me pause).

I'm not familiar with Preussler at all, but would be interested in any information. As for other weird work that HPL didn't mention... there are tons of Victorians and Edwardians he left out of his essay, and many of these have been recently been brought back into print. One such venture is the Wordsworth Editions of Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural, which has become a rather sizeable series at this point:

[www.wordsworth-editions.com]

And, of course, such places as Ash-Tree Press, Tartarus Press, and Midnight House/Darkside Press have brought out quite a lot in the field, many of which have been forgotten or overlooked for some time. It is especially nice, for instance, to have a couple of new collections by Edward Lucas White, not to mention a selection of the best of W. C. Morrow and Robert S. Hichens, as well as Joshi's selection from the supernatural tales of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch....

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 8 September, 2008 07:41AM
If I may be so bold as to mention it myself, Tartarus has recently published a collection of E. T. A. Hoffmann's Night Pieces.

Jim

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 8 September, 2008 10:59AM
Indeed; my apologies for neglecting to mention that. I will simply plead exhaustion and poor short-term memory at this point....

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 8 September, 2008 12:23PM
Without question, the finest near-unknown work of weird fiction, to my mind, is Adrian Ross's [Arthur Reed Ropes's] 1914 novel The Hole of the Pit.

Although it displays touches of naive domesticity that no doubt would have repelled Lovecraft, I also must recommend Eleanor Ingram's 1921 novel The Thing from the Lake, of I am also very fond, and which is very Lovecraftian, in certain respects.

Speaking of Lovecraft, as an aside, I agree with Lovecraft with regard to Hoffmann.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 8 Sep 08 | 12:31PM by Kyberean.

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 8 September, 2008 03:02PM
Those of you who have read my memoir in Sword of Zagan will recall that I mentioned George Macdonald as having been read and enjoyed by CAS - we discussed his work on several occasions, and readers of CS Lewis will be aware that Lewis considered him a major influence - - Macdonald shows up as a character in Lewis' "Great Divorce", and Clark had gotten a big kick out of that device - with a somewhat obverse twist, Dr. Moreno in "Schizoid Creator" was a similar use, only a jibe at an individual and profession despised by Clark. I know of no instances in which he wrote of Macdonald as an influence - but then, neither did he write of Dylan Thomas or Henry Reid, though he loved their work - it just wasn't his genre, nor a part of his life experience - of course, his life experience was unique, and, indeed, hard to imagine replicating in this day when even the poorest have electricity, running water, plumbing, and the standard appliances, and never see the sky as it is in true night.

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 8 September, 2008 03:22PM
George Macdonald was, in turn, heavily influenced by the German Romantic writers of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, especially Novalis (Macdonald did a fine translation of the Hymns to the Night) and Tieck. I wonder whether CAS knew and appreciated these German authors, as English translations of their work were (and remain) relatively scarce.

At any rate, some of Ludwig Tieck's weird tales, such as "Wake Not the Dead" (although some question his authorship), "Fair Eckbert", and "The Runic Mountain" are also under-appreciated, I think.

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 8 September, 2008 06:02PM
jdworth Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> [www.wordsworth-editions.com]

The Wordsworth Mystery and the Supernatural series is indeed fantastic value for money, almost too good to be true. Except for a few things:

1. It free-rides to a large extent on the previous research efforts of the Ash-Tree Press and others.

2. The production values are somewhat substandard; for instance, original dates of publication are usually omitted. It is typically unclear which specific edition of a collection of stories is being reprinted.

3. The editor of the series, David Stuart Davies, has decided to include a not insignificant number of his own works.

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 8 September, 2008 11:45PM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> jdworth Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> >
> [www.wordsworth-editions.com]
> px?pg=154&pnum_books=1&pnum_forthcomingbooks=1
>
> The Wordsworth Mystery and the Supernatural series
> is indeed fantastic value for money, almost too
> good to be true. Except for a few things:
>
> 1. It free-rides to a large extent on the previous
> research efforts of the Ash-Tree Press and
> others.
>
> 2. The production values are somewhat substandard;
> for instance, original dates of publication are
> usually omitted. It is typically unclear which
> specific edition of a collection of stories is
> being reprinted.
>
> 3. The editor of the series, David Stuart Davies,
> has decided to include a not insignificant number
> of his own works.


All points freely granted. It still remains an excellent way to inexpensively latch onto a rather large number of such things which have either been out of print or only available in limited editions. For those who can afford to go the Ash-Tree, Tartarus, etc., route, I heartily encourage their doing so. I've picked up quite a few of them myself and will continue to do so as often as I can. They do excellent work and produce beautiful books; kudos all 'round. But ... for those with tight budgets who are nonetheless desirous of following up on such items, it's difficult to fault the Wordsworth set for making such things available to them....

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 9 September, 2008 06:49AM
jdworth Wrote:
[snippage] there are
> tons of Victorians and Edwardians he left out of
> his essay, and many of these have been recently
> been brought back into print. One such venture is
> the Wordsworth Editions of Tales of Mystery and
> the Supernatural, which has become a rather
> sizeable series at this point:
>
> [www.wordsworth-editions.com]
> px?pg=154&pnum_books=1&pnum_forthcomingbooks=1
>
> And, of course, such places as Ash-Tree Press,
> Tartarus Press, and Midnight House/Darkside Press
> have brought out quite a lot in the field, many of
> which have been forgotten or overlooked for some
> time. It is especially nice, for instance, to have
> a couple of new collections by Edward Lucas White,
> not to mention a selection of the best of W. C.
> Morrow and Robert S. Hichens, as well as Joshi's
> selection from the supernatural tales of Sir
> Arthur Quiller-Couch....


The problem with the Wordsworth series is that many of their volume are essentially pirated editions of small press books. issued w/o creditting the source. Compare a listing of the Wordsworth series with a catalog of Ash-Tree Press and this will become apparent. Somebody should license some of the o.p. titles from these publishers for reprinting, and if they compiled a new edition of the same material that would be proper, but simply copying the work of Jack Adrian or Richard Dalby or Hugh Lamb, to name just three editors who have done groundbreaking work in these areas, is not right.

Scott

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 9 September, 2008 10:18AM
Quote:
simply copying the work of Jack Adrian or Richard Dalby or Hugh Lamb, to name just three editors who have done groundbreaking work in these areas, is not right.

With regard to Wordsworth, I take an "innocent until proven guilty" approach in this matter. If the situation is as egregious as all that, then let Ash Tree and Tartarus bring suit against Wordsworth. I dare say that with their pricing, they can afford the attorney's fees.

For the rest, to me, what is definitely not right is charging extremely high prices and feeding the collectors' market with absurdly limited editions in unnecessary "luxury" packaging.

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 9 September, 2008 11:22AM
There is nothing illegal about it, as long as the works themselves are in the public domain. It is just a bit petty not to acknowledge that the discovery of the works in question, or of the potential market for them, is the work of others. The case might be different if Wordsworth reprinted anthologies specially put together by, e.g., Ash-Tree Press, in which case the specific selection of stories might be copyrighted---but this does not seem to have happened.

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 9 September, 2008 11:28AM
Scott Connors Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
>
> The problem with the Wordsworth series is that
> many of their volume are essentially pirated
> editions of small press books. issued w/o
> creditting the source. Compare a listing of the
> Wordsworth series with a catalog of Ash-Tree Press
> and this will become apparent. Somebody should
> license some of the o.p. titles from these
> publishers for reprinting, and if they compiled a
> new edition of the same material that would be
> proper, but simply copying the work of Jack Adrian
> or Richard Dalby or Hugh Lamb, to name just three
> editors who have done groundbreaking work in these
> areas, is not right.
>
> Scott


Thanks for passing that on, Scott. I was unaware of this -- I've not looked into them well enough, it would seem. While making such books more easily available is a laudable goal, I agree that credit (at least) should be afforded those who did all the work. Nor is it at all right if they've been simply reprinting the contents (as far as the fiction itself is concerned) without both providing such acknowledgement and at least some form of fee for doing so. As you say, these editors have done valuable work and deserve to reap the benefits from same....

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 9 September, 2008 01:09PM
There are cases. however, if which it is very difficult to argue this did NOT happen, since the contents and ordering are the same (despite the rarity of the periodicals in which some of the stories appeared), and the only published source for some of the information in the introductions is the Ash-Tree editions. However, the editor who oversaw these editions is no longer with Wordsworth, and the current editor has not continued this dubious practice.

Nonetheless, I do not believe Wordsworth's deserves to be boycotted for what seems to be the activities of one person. I collect Ash-Tree and am also happy to have several of the (unsuspicious) Wordsworth collections on my shelf. Their upcoming Amelia Edwards book contains some fiction not included in Ash-Tree's Edwards collection, and I am particularly looking forward to that one. Mark Valentine's recent anthologies for Wordsworth are also worth pursuing.

Jim

Re: Less Familiar Weird Literature
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 9 September, 2008 02:32PM
jimrockhill2001 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> There are cases. however, if which it is very
> difficult to argue this did NOT happen, since the
> contents and ordering are the same (despite the
> rarity of the periodicals in which some of the
> stories appeared), and the only published source
> for some of the information in the introductions
> is the Ash-Tree editions. However, the editor who
> oversaw these editions is no longer with
> Wordsworth, and the current editor has not
> continued this dubious practice.

Could you give an example, as I am not sure what you are referring to? The Wordsworth collections I own are, as far as I remember, all of them reprints of books that had had earlier editions before, in applicable cases, Ash-Tree reprinted them. That is, in these cases Ash-Tree did not collect stories scattered in different periodicals, but simply reprinted earlier collections. An example is the Sir Andrew Caldecott omnibus.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the idea of reprinting these works must originate with the Wordsworth editor studying the Ash-Tree catalog carefully.

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