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Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: LurkerintheDark (IP Logged)
Date: 17 July, 2009 06:35AM
I was thinking of getting this book; looking at the contents on HPLA, it looks like an interesting mixture of writing on a whole host of horror authors. The one thing which has stopped me from buying it right away though is the fear that Joshi may have re-cycled old essays for this new book from studies I've already got; I already own The Weird Tale and The Modern Weird Tale, and wonder whether he may have either reprinted essays from those volumes or simply just shortened them for this book. It's happpened a few times in the past; his essay Thomas Ligotti: Escape From Life was published in Studies in Weird Fiction #12, The Modern Weird Tale and The Thomas Ligotti Reader. Now, I don't mind if the essays collected in Classics and Contemporaries apppeared previously in small press journals (I don't own any and I'm sure they were), but if they appeared in either TWT or TMWT then there's little point in me getting the book. Does anybody own this book? If so could you give me some advice? Cheers ;)



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 17 Jul 09 | 10:34AM by LurkerintheDark.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 20 July, 2009 09:04AM
I won't be getting the book for a couple of months yet (waiting for a box to fill up before I'll have it shipped), but I don't think there would be much of an overlap. For example, the only essays that could conceivably overlap with The Weird Tale are the ones on Blackwood and Machen.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: LurkerintheDark (IP Logged)
Date: 20 July, 2009 10:10AM
Also the essays on Thomas Ligotti; Shirley Jackson; Thomas Tryon; Stephen King; Peter Straub; Ramsey Campbell; Clive Barker and Thomas Harris - these authors were discussed in The Modern Weird Tale. I think I'll probably end up getting it...it's just that I've bought so many books in the past which have overlapped that it begins to become somewhat tiresome.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 20 July, 2009 01:04PM
Heh -- I've got "The Call of Cthulhu" in more than a dozen books... :)

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: LurkerintheDark (IP Logged)
Date: 20 July, 2009 01:53PM
Wow, you really must be a pretty avid collector! I guess in a genre were short fiction is so common overlap is bound to occur more often...hehehe :)

Anyone else know anything about this book?

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 24 July, 2009 03:57PM
This is a collection of S. T.'s reviews -- some of which are rather scathing, all of which are fascinating and entertaining. This shews why Ellen Datlow referred to S. T. as the genre's "nastiest" critic. Contents:
Preface
I. SOME OVERVIEWS
Arkham House and Its Legacy
The Haunted House
Professionals and Amateurs
Some Thoughts on Weird Poetry
Bram and Bela and Mary and Boris
What the Hell Is Dark Suspense?
The Small Press
II. CLASSICS
Algernon Blackwood: The Straight Man
Author Machen: A Minor Classic
William Hope Hodgson: Writer on the Borderland
E. F. Benson: Spooks and More Spooks
A. M. Burrage: The Ghost Man
Herbert S Gorman: Where Is the Place Called Dagon?
Andrew Caldecott: The Well-Crafted Ghost
Rescuing Shirley Jackson
III. CONTEMPORARIES
Les Daniel: The Sardonic Vampire
Dennis Etchison and His Masters
Thomas Tryon: The Return of the Posthumous Collaboration
Stephen King and God
Peter Straub and the Blue Pencil
Ramsey Campbell: Alone with a Master
Clive Barker: Weird Fiction as Subversion
David J. Schow: Zombies, Tapeworms, and Kamikaze Butterflies
Donald R. Burleson: Enmeshed in the Bizarre
Norman Patridge: Here to Stay
Thomas Harris: Lecter as Albatross
Thomas Ligotti: The Long and Short of It
Michael Cisco: Ligotti Redivivus?
Sherry Austin: The Southern Ghost Story
Shades of Edgar and Ambrose
IV. SCHOLARSHIP
The Charting of Horror Literature
Classics and Contemporaries
V. H. P. LOVECRAFT
Some Lovecraft Editions
The Cthulhu Mythos
Lovecraft as a Character in Fiction
Some Lovecraft Scholarship:
Barton L. St. Armand
Donald R. Burleson
Peter Cannon
Robert M. Price
Kenneth W. Faig, Jr.
Edward W. O'Brien, Jr.
Robert H. Waugh
INDEX
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Allen Koszowski's colour cover illustration of S. T. in small clothes, imitating Virgil Finlay's famous portrait of Lovecraft, is delicious.

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



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 24 Jul 09 | 04:08PM by wilum pugmire.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 24 July, 2009 05:15PM
When Joshi calls a spade a spade with regard to the absurdly over-rated Ramsey Campbell, whom he seems to idolize, then I'll say Joshi's earned his stripes as the "nastiest critic". He'll be a more reliable and trustworthy critic, too.

I imagine that the Thomas Ligotti Online crowd must hate Joshi, since he dares to criticize "The Master". I have never seen any group of fans get so irate at the merest suggestion that their idol is not, like Mary Poppins, "practically perfect in every way"!

Shirley Jackson's over-blown reputation is in severe need of a take-down, too, by the way.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 24 July, 2009 05:54PM
Oh good, we can dump on Ramsey Campbell?

1. Once you have read a few of Campbell's stories, you can easily write your own. All of them involve use of the same small number of techniques, over and over again.

2. Campbell's film criticism, in Video WatchDog and elsewhere, consists entirely of giving extremely detailed synopses of the plots of movies. What is the point?

3. There is an interesting conspiracy theory involving Campbell and some manuscripts Robert Aickman left behind when he died. You can find it if you trawl cyberspace diligently enough.

That said, there are some things of Campbell's that are worthy. They were written 30 years ago, however, and have become rather overshadowed by the massive amounts of repetitive garbage he has produced since then.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: LurkerintheDark (IP Logged)
Date: 25 July, 2009 01:42PM
wilum pugmire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This is a collection of S. T.'s reviews -- some of
> which are rather scathing, all of which are
> fascinating and entertaining. This shews why
> Ellen Datlow referred to S. T. as the genre's
> "nastiest" critic. Contents:
> Preface
> I. SOME OVERVIEWS
> Arkham House and Its Legacy
> The Haunted House
> Professionals and Amateurs
> Some Thoughts on Weird Poetry
> Bram and Bela and Mary and Boris
> What the Hell Is Dark Suspense?
> The Small Press
> II. CLASSICS
> Algernon Blackwood: The Straight Man
> Author Machen: A Minor Classic
> William Hope Hodgson: Writer on the Borderland
> E. F. Benson: Spooks and More Spooks
> A. M. Burrage: The Ghost Man
> Herbert S Gorman: Where Is the Place Called
> Dagon?
> Andrew Caldecott: The Well-Crafted Ghost
> Rescuing Shirley Jackson
> III. CONTEMPORARIES
> Les Daniel: The Sardonic Vampire
> Dennis Etchison and His Masters
> Thomas Tryon: The Return of the Posthumous
> Collaboration
> Stephen King and God
> Peter Straub and the Blue Pencil
> Ramsey Campbell: Alone with a Master
> Clive Barker: Weird Fiction as Subversion
> David J. Schow: Zombies, Tapeworms, and Kamikaze
> Butterflies
> Donald R. Burleson: Enmeshed in the Bizarre
> Norman Patridge: Here to Stay
> Thomas Harris: Lecter as Albatross
> Thomas Ligotti: The Long and Short of It
> Michael Cisco: Ligotti Redivivus?
> Sherry Austin: The Southern Ghost Story
> Shades of Edgar and Ambrose
> IV. SCHOLARSHIP
> The Charting of Horror Literature
> Classics and Contemporaries
> V. H. P. LOVECRAFT
> Some Lovecraft Editions
> The Cthulhu Mythos
> Lovecraft as a Character in Fiction
> Some Lovecraft Scholarship:
> Barton L. St. Armand
> Donald R. Burleson
> Peter Cannon
> Robert M. Price
> Kenneth W. Faig, Jr.
> Edward W. O'Brien, Jr.
> Robert H. Waugh
> INDEX
> ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
>
> Allen Koszowski's colour cover illustration of S.
> T. in small clothes, imitating Virgil Finlay's
> famous portrait of Lovecraft, is delicious.

Do you know whether or not any of these essays appeared either The Weird Tale or The Modern Weird Tale? I've got those books and fear that I may have read large parts of C&C already, in those other books. Surely somewhere in the book Joshi notes where the essays were first published?

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 25 July, 2009 02:04PM
I know that some of these were reprinted in THE EVOLUTION OF THE WEIRD TALE, and I have a feeling that many of them have also appeared in the books you mentioned -- books that I don't think I own. The acknowledgments in CLASSICS & CONTEMPORARIES lists only the first appearance of the essays and reviews (Necrofile, Weird Tales, Lovecraft Studies, Studies in Weird Fiction). S. T. likes to recycle his writings, so I have a feeling that this new book is for mainly for fans and those who collect S. T.'s books.

Ramsey Campbell's fiction is so wonderful, so excellent, that the pallid critiques of detractors can never touch it.

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

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: priscian (IP Logged)
Date: 25 July, 2009 02:09PM
wilum pugmire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Ramsey Campbell's fiction is so wonderful, so
> excellent, that the pallid critiques of detractors
> can never touch it.

Ooh, I've got a good seat to watch this one from!

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 26 July, 2009 06:48AM
I like Campbell's Mythos fiction in the collection Cold Print. He has very fertile imagination, and a lucid language. And I remember I enjoyed The Tomb Herd (in Crypt of Cthulhu #43) with its "fungous-overgrown white garden and distorted shadows". But they are not up to the quality of Lovecraft's imagination and atmosphere, and lack Lovecraft's wider wisdom and insights. Where Campbell can use descriptions for purely striking visual effect, there is deeper meaning behind Lovecraft's every word. I also have the collection Alone With the Horrors, but have not got around to reading it yet.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 26 July, 2009 06:57AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Where Campbell can use descriptions for purely striking
> visual effect, there is deeper meaning behind
> Lovecraft's every word.

Agreed. I've only read one novel and one collection of RC and I have to say I think his descriptions of the mundane are uniquely odd and at times beautiful, but otherwise found his stories strangely lacking. They seem to promise much but only deliver the mildly disconcerting. Still I have another couple of his books on my straining shelves I mean to try before I totally make up my mind.

As for Joshi: he's obviously an excellent scholar of HPL; however, while I only have a couple of his books, they do repeat themselves a lot!

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 26 July, 2009 04:06PM
Has this Aickman/Campbell conspiracy theory ever gone beyond the bitter conjectures of a single man? And has anyone ever produced a shred of evidence to support it? A person can express any opinion on the internet

I echo Wilum's assessment of Campbell's work. The novels do not all work for me, but about half of them do so remarkably well. Of his short stories, I think DEMONS BY DAYLIGHT, DARK COMPANIONS, and ALONE WITH THE HORRORS are superb collections; if the other collections are not as consistently excellent as these three, each of them contains at least a handful of fine, haunting work. His attention to language, evocation of atmosphere, grasp of character and ability to blur the line between neurosis and the numinous are masterful.

The 2006 edition to the Oxford Companion to English Literature did not single out Campbell's work for praise based on a whim.

Ligotti is also excellent, but of more limited range; Klein's work never seems to have captured the level of the novellas he wrote up to the publication of DARK GODS; which leaves only a few other authors currently writing supernatural fiction whose work I believe rivals that of Campbell in concept, execution, and range - of those, I would rank the still too-little-known Reggie Oliver the best.

Jim

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 26 July, 2009 05:12PM
jimrockhill2001 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Has this Aickman/Campbell conspiracy theory ever
> gone beyond the bitter conjectures of a single
> man? And has anyone ever produced a shred of
> evidence to support it?

No need; I like it as it is! Unfortunately, I now find I cannot locate it anymore. Did you alert the authorities?

> which leaves only a few
> other authors currently writing supernatural
> fiction whose work I believe rivals that of
> Campbell in concept, execution, and range

To be sure, but this is just an indication that we are not exactly living in the Golden Age of supernatural fiction. (Which ended, as far as I am concerned, with the death of Aickman.)

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 26 July, 2009 09:30PM
No, I did not alert anyone. The rumor will doubtless surface again, as such things do.

Supernatural fiction, just like all art forms adapts to the needs of its readership, the social mores/stresses of the time in which it is written. We are currently glutted with a lot of fiction that will doubtless not be of any interest to anyone a generation or more from now; but I think there is quite a bit of good work being done at present, mostly in the shorter forms. What may not seem of Gold to us now may be treasured by those not distracted by current societal concerns and market forces. Mozart and Bach had limited fame during their lifetime; Le Fanu and Machen could barely make ends meet throughout their troubled lives.


Jim

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2009 01:36AM
To put my two cents' worth in on both points: There is some overlap in the volume and the previous collections mentioned; but this is mostly in the chapters on Campbell, Schow, and Machen, and in the latter two cases, such repetition is only a small portion of what he has here. Likewise, the Campbell chapter has material not included in earlier volumes. In other words, you have a total of roughly 20-25 pages where there is a certain amount of overlap, though not identity; the rest (save for general statements here and there) is not reproduced from any of the previous collections.

On Campbell: Though I must admit that I have an enormous amount of his work still to read, nonetheless, I have sampled work from various periods, and I can't at all agree that he is simply repeating himself either in form, substance, or technique, save to the degree that any writer is likely to do, no matter how able or ingenious. Has he written work that doesn't succeed? Undoubtedly. Has he even written hackwork on occasion? I'd say yes. But the majority of what I have read continues to impress me with his abilities to evoke a genuine sense of the numinous and of gradually increasing suspense and terror or horror -- not at all the same thing -- with a remarkably fine hand. I recently read his Needing Ghosts and, while initially I found it very irritating, gradually I came to the conclusion that his approach there was precisely what was needed for what he was attempting; and in the end I found the tale a superb tour-de-force (to use a much abused term). The very openness of the ending's interpretation reflects back on everything within it, increasing the effect retrospectively; something which I find only grows with repeated readings. I've not yet read his Darkest Part of the Woods, The Overnight, or The Grin of the Dark, but I have them set aside for a reading at my earliest opportunity. (As I have remarked elsewhere, I'm involved in a very lengthy reading project which, frankly, takes up all the precious little reading time I have... at least for the next couple of years or better.) But, having glanced through them, I find no lessening of his abilities with the language, imagery, or evocation of atmosphere, so I don't expect I'll be terribly disappointed....

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2009 03:18PM
Just to demonstrate to you how easy it is, I have amused myself by composing an ultra-short Campbell-esque vignette, which in a single sentence captures what Campbell is all about. Let us see if you do not agree! I was unable to think of a title for it, but here goes:

Of course they could not really be faces.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2009 05:08PM
Amusing, but hardly accurate. Campbell is someone who often deals with those "spaces between" concerning our perceptions, yes; but then, that is true of so many who have written the supernatural tale, and can be found in instances in Le Fanu, M. R. James, Russell Kirk, Thomas Ligotti, Vernon Lee, and so forth. Nor is he restricted to this type of thing, by any means.

No, Campbell has his faults, certainly; but he cannot be reduced to such a simplistic statement any more than Melville's Moby-Dick can be reduced to "a story about a really big fish", or Le Fanu's "Carmilla" can be reduced to a "lesbian vampire tale" -- there is some truth in each, but it is very limited.

Suffice to say that I find Campbell to be a modern writer working in something of the same vein as many of the more memorable writers of the Victorian and Edwardian weird tale, and a worthy addition to such company.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: LurkerintheDark (IP Logged)
Date: 27 July, 2009 05:14PM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Just to demonstrate to you how easy it is, I have
> amused myself by composing an ultra-short
> Campbell-esque vignette, which in a single
> sentence captures what Campbell is all about. Let
> us see if you do not agree! I was unable to think
> of a title for it, but here goes:
>
> Of course they could not really be faces.


Very good XD

Campbell is very good though... the last short story of his I read, 'The Interloper' in Demons By Daylight, is an absolutely exquisite tale of terror. The Grin of the Dark, the last novel of his I read, was also very stong indeed. Yes, Campbell has his own little stylistic signitures which I guess could be singled out for parody (one somewhat tiresome recurring motif in The Grin of The Dark is a clownish grin slapped chillingly on some ordinary person's lips - it's used far too frequently in the novel), but he's still a master. One must remember that Lovecraft is a very easy authour to take-off as well, but most of us appreciate his brilliance.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2009 12:07AM
Every writer--HPL, CAS, REH, Blackwood, Ligotti, King, Bradbury, Dr. James, whoever--has their own stylistic peculiarities that lend themselves to parody, and Campbell is certainly no exception. Ramsey has produced a lot of work that frankly leaves me cold. (So did Algernon Blackwood, but is anyone arguing that "The Willows" or "The Wendigo" were flukes?) However, when he is "in the zone," which is IMO most of the time, he is astonishingly scary. It took him awhile to find his metier in the novel; some of the early ones are frankly very weak. His recent work, especially THE DARKEST PART OF THE WOODS, THE GRIN OF THE DARK, and NAZARETH HILL, are all first rate pieces of work, and I admire ANCIENT IMAGES, MIDNIGHT SUN, and THE HUNGRY MOON very much as well. Ramsey's work, like Aickman's, emphasizes ambiguity: one is never quite certain just what happened in a lot of his work. Sometimes this ambiguity is resolved at the end, but usually the reader has a choice of possible explanations, none of which are exactly comforting. I think that he is probably the finest writer working in the field today, and considering some of the talent out there--Reggie Oliver, Glen Hirshberg, Laird Barron, Gary Fry, Joel Lane, Tim Lebbon, Neil Gaiman, etc.--that's pretty impressive.

Scott

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2009 06:12AM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Of course they could not really be faces.


Brilliant: A career in flash fiction beckons! :)

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2009 10:23AM
jimrockhill2001 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Ligotti is also excellent... Klein's work... the novellas he wrote up to the
> publication of DARK GODS; ...I would rank the still too-little-known
> Reggie Oliver the best.



Scott Connors Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> ...considering some of the talent out
> there--Reggie Oliver, Glen Hirshberg, Laird
> Barron, Gary Fry, Joel Lane, Tim Lebbon, Neil
> Gaiman, etc.--that's pretty impressive.




Stephen King?... Dean Koontz?... Peter Straub?... Clive Barker?...

I am not familiar with these writer's work, except for King's. Out of curiousity, why are these names so seldom mentioned on this site, when presenting one's taste? Highbrowism? Embarrassment? Pride? I understand they write mainstream litterature, with all its crowd-pleasing inflated fillings. But how is the quality of their handling of weird and supernatural elements?


I never can be tied to the strictured contents of raw, new thrads...

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2009 03:32PM
Knygatin Wrote:


>
> Stephen King?... Dean Koontz?... Peter Straub?...
> Clive Barker?...
>
> I am not familiar with these writer's work, except
> for King's. Out of curiousity, why are these names
> so seldom mentioned on this site, when presenting
> one's taste? Highbrowism? Embarrassment? Pride? I
> understand they write mainstream litterature, with
> all its crowd-pleasing inflated fillings. But how
> is the quality of their handling of weird and
> supernatural elements?
>
>

I should have mentioned Straub's name, he is indeed worthwhile, and a real gentleman as well. Koontz is a very successful commercial writer, but he fails to impress me. I like a lot of Barker, and I like him personally from the few times we've met, but his work for the last ten years or so strikes me as self-indulgent, and anyway I am really not a fan of gore for its own sake, so I don't rank him as highly as the others. I haven't read any King since NEEDFUL THINGS, although I have JUST BEFORE SUNSET and understand that there's at least one really good story therein. I don't begrudge Koontz or Barker or King their success, and in King's case I understand that it has come at a rather high personal price, but I think that there are other writers, such as Campbell, who are just as deserving. YMMV.

Scott

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2009 05:52PM
I agree with everything Scott has written about Barker, King, Koontz, and Straub. I liked several of the stories and novellas in Barker's early books, but have not cared for any of the novels.

As I wrote earlier, I think it is too early to claim the present is not an extension of the Golden Age of weird fiction or another Golden Age. A glance at the fiction published in such magazines as F&SF, Interzone, Supernatural Tales, etc., or the contents of many of the original anthologies edited over the past few years by the Rodens of Ash-Tree Press, Danel Olson, Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker, Ellen Datlow, Marvin Kaye, and a number of others reveals a wealth of excellent stories in a variety of shapes, sizes and approaches. Scott's list could be doubled several times over.

Unfortunately, much of this appears in small press publications, or from presses with little circulation beyond its native shores; hence some of the authors already listed by Scott and me have had a considerably smaller audience than they deserve, and even an entertaining mass-market publication like the witty and chilling fusion of fact and fiction in Brian Showers' THE BLEEDING HORSE is barely known outside Ireland.

People on this list have mentioned Arthur Machen, but how many here have encountered the work of a contemporary writer whose work most closely follows Machen's aesthetic - Mark Valentine? And note that I use the word aesthetic, not themes or characters or style or any of the other more obvious features copied by the pasticheur. Valentine's work has a spiritual depth and sensitivity to language that is rarely seen in supernatural fiction outside the work of Machen at his peak.

Scott and I both mentioned Reggie Oliver, but how many here have had a chance to read even one of his excellent collections?

Sturgeon's Law still holds true (I would even say he was an optimist); but in case anyone had not noticed, there is a lot of horror fiction being published today, and if most of it is crap, the dunghead is vast enough to hide quite a few diamonds.

Jim

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2009 09:58PM
Jim wrote:

Quote:
[H]ow many here have had a chance to read even one of his excellent collections? [...] Unfortunately, much of this appears in small press publications, or from presses with little circulation beyond its native shores.

You just answered your own question. So long as these writers publish in editions of 300 or so at a price of $40-$50 apiece, very few, indeed, will read them. I sometimes wonder whether that is perhaps the intention?

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 28 July, 2009 09:58PM
Regarding Campbell: De gustibus. For me, what is "pallid" is Campbell's sad and flabby body of work. I know you're working hard to join the club and become part of the "in crowd", wilum, so I don't expect you to do other than praise the other club members, publicly.

I should add that I really could not care what the "Oxford Dictionary of Anything" thinks. Such "argumentation" by appeal to authority is on the level of "So-and-so celebrity likes such -and-such after shave, so it must be good!". I don't bow reflexively when I hear a brand name--and that includes the likes of Campbell.

As for Campbell's much-praised style, what others call a tantalizing, ambiguous evocation of the numinous (Aside: How annoying it is to read Rudolf Otto's term bandied around here so carelessly), I call a cheap evocation of mystery by deliberate lack of clarity, and the Emperor's New Clothes. Ligotti's work suffers from this, as well, I think.

That said, I actually hate to "pile on", as Campbell seems to be a very nice fellow, and he deserves enormous credit alone for having made The Hole of the Pit--an infinitely superior work to anything Campbell has written--available, once more. But Campbell's print leaves me cold, and--to return to the subject of the original remark--Joshi's blind idolatry of Campbell not only makes him suspect as a critic, but actually ridiculous, on occasion.

P.S. Re. Peter Straub as a "gentleman": It's too bad that Richard Laymon is dead, as he could offer the basis for a rather different opinion.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 28 Jul 09 | 11:02PM by Kyberean.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 12:14AM
Several points here:

Quote:
Kyberean
Stephen King?... Dean Koontz?... Peter Straub?... Clive Barker?...
I am not familiar with these writer's work, except for King's. Out of curiousity, why are these names so seldom mentioned on this site, when presenting one's taste? Highbrowism? Embarrassment? Pride? I understand they write mainstream litterature, with all its crowd-pleasing inflated fillings. But how is the quality of their handling of weird and supernatural elements

For my part: I find King (generally speaking) considerably more flaccid than Campbell has ever been; there is quite often an enormous amount of fat to his writing, which could stand some trimming. Excess verbiage abounds. I am not referring to the use of extra space which serves some purpose, but rather to his tendency toward mundanity, a sort of extremely dull reportage rather than verisimilitude which, on analysis, doesn't truly add anything to character, in no way increases the atmosphere of a piece, and in general is simply flat, uninspired blabbing. At his best, King can be quite good; the problem is that his best is, in my experience, far too little. A pity, as I rather like King himself, from what I know of him, and there are things to like about his work, as well; but I find that he isn't someone I can read much of without wanting to throw the book against the wall, in most cases, and I can very seldom revisit one of his pieces without finding myself chipping tooth enamel forcing myself to finish.

Barker is uneven: about half of what he has written is quite good to brilliant; the other half needs some serious rethinking before it gets published, as it shows signs of not being thought through very well at all, not to mention (again) being overly verbose. I haven't kept up with his work, but from what little I've dipped into it lately, this seems to have become a recurring problem.

Straub -- I'll be honest and admit I've read very little, but what I read, again, was rather variable. Again, at his best, very good; but otherwise competent, but little more.

Koontz bores me to tears; I can't finish any of his work, as it simply strikes me as the horror version of Harold Robbins. I find it atrociously written, and have no patience for it.

As was said above, I begrudge these writers none of their success; writing is a poorly paid profession at best in most cases; for those who can make a success of it, more power to them. But that doesn't mean I have any regard for their work if I find it lacking.

On this bit:

Quote:
You just answered your own question So long as these writers publish in editions of 300 or so at a price of $40-$50 apiece, very few, indeed, will read them. I sometimes wonder whether that is perhaps the intention?

Most likely, in many cases, it is the reluctance of mainstream publishers to take a chance on such unconventional material in a field which has had wildly fluctuating fortunes concerning sales. And, of course, this isn't helped by the lack of publicity when one of them does pick up such a writer for a reissue (as happened with Ligotti on occasion), making it even less likely they'll take a chance in the future without some pretty solid evidence they'll not lose their money.

Quote:
As for Campbell's much-praised style, what others call a tantalizing, ambiguous evocation of the numinous (Aside: How annoying it is to read Rudolf Otto's term bandied around here so carelessly), I call a cheap evocation of mystery by deliberate lack of clarity, and the Emperor's New Clothes. Ligotti's work suffers from this, as well, I think.

There is a certain tendency to overdo it on occasion, yes. I'll agree with that. But I also think this is in the minority of cases, rather than the majority. As for the use of Otto's term... I had in mind more much earlier writers on the subject, such as Burke, Aiken, and the like. And, as I said, Campbell seems to be developing, in modern terms, many of the same ideas and approaches used by writers of that period (and those fairly close to it). I would argue that he is actually quite precise, in most cases, in giving just the right amount to direct the reader toward a very particular image, idea, or interpretation, while nonetheless retaining a thin veil allowing a disquieting uncertainty on whether that vision is really the truth or not. That takes considerable skill and care, and is anything but a mere "lack of clarity".

Incidentally, I am not particularly given to following anyone's authority myself, though if I have read enough of their work and come to respect their opinion, then a favorable comment from them is likely to make me somewhat more prone to investigate a writer or work than I might otherwise be. However, I also have no problem in taking issue with them if I feel their judgment is in error in such a case, either.

I also can't agree with the classification of Joshi's comments as "blind idolatry" of Campbell. That he admires the man's work enormously, yes. But that is a far cry from idolatry. He has, on more than one occasion, taken Campbell to task for some of the very points you raise, for instance.

But perhaps we have different ideas of the meaning of the term....



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 29 Jul 09 | 12:17AM by jdworth.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 03:16AM
Scott Connors Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I like a lot of Barker,... but his work for the last ten years or so
> strikes me as self-indulgent, and anyway I am
> really not a fan of gore for its own sake,..


I read the first volume of Barker's Books of Blood long ago, and I would probably call it brilliant, or at least very promising. Gruesomely creepy, and imaginative. (One of the stories was very similar to The Colossos of Ylourgne.)
It was also explicitly sexual (perhaps a premonition of the later "self-indulgence")... there was something of egotism over it all, lack of humbleness, that made for a harsh atmosphere I did not wish to return to.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 07:08AM
No use of the word numinous I have seen used lately violates Otto's intent.

From Wikipedia (as a handy reference): "According to Otto the numinous experience has two aspects: mysterium tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke fear and trembling; and mysterium fascinas, the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel. The numinous experience also has a personal quality to it, in that the person feels to be in communion with a wholly other."

Secondly, the citation from Oxford was not the basis for my entire argument.

Fat in Campbell? Probably in the novels - decidedly not in the short stories, which have always been characterized by their leanness of language. So far, Kyberean's pronunciations on this topic have been characterized more by the solemnity with which he presents his opinions than by the quality of evidence he has used to bolster it.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 07:09AM
> You just answered your own question. So long as
> these writers publish in editions of 300 or so at
> a price of $40-$50 apiece, very few, indeed, will
> read them. I sometimes wonder whether that is
> perhaps the intention?

I doubt it. Have you noticed what has been happening in publishing over the past decade?

Jim

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 09:24AM
Quote:
Have you noticed what has been happening in publishing over the past decade?

As a matter of fact, I have, but on all levels. For instance, not long ago, there was a T.E.D. Klein collection limited to a few hundred copies! Are we really supposed to believe that demand would be that low for the work of someone who published an acclaimed novel with a major publisher not so long ago?

Most small press horror publishing boutiques are a racket, so far as I am concerned, one that is designed to take advantage of and perpetuate artificial scarcity. One translator of a critically acclaimed, but unduly obscure, author of weird fiction told me privately that he no longer intends to work with such small press publishers, and their fifty-dollar price tags. I doubt that he would have decided to do this if he felt that there was no other options available to him. Other outlets do exist, if one takes the trouble and patience to find them--or make them.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 29 Jul 09 | 12:11PM by Kyberean.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 09:36AM
Jim Rockhill:

Quote:
From Wikipedia (as a handy reference): "According to Otto the numinous experience has two aspects: mysterium tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke fear and trembling; and mysterium fascinas, the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel. The numinous experience also has a personal quality to it, in that the person feels to be in communion with a wholly other."

And an incorrect reference, as well. Read The Idea of the Holy, rather than quickly cribbed notes from the Internet, if you really want to understand the concept as Otto intends it. For one thing, the entire idea of the numinous cannot be decoupled from the idea of the sacred or the holy. Where exactly in Campbell's "numinous" fiction do you find this coupling?

Also, if you bother to read Otto, you'll notice that the fascinans aspect is a later addendum by commentators.

Re. Oxford: I never stated that your entire argument rests upon your reverent citation of the Oxford volume, but if the purpose was not to bolster your view, then why did you refer to it ? Since this appeal to authority obviously was to bolster your view, it is open to the criticism I have laid.

Quote:
Kyberean's pronunciations on this topic have been characterized more by the solemnity with which he presents his opinions than by the quality of evidence he has used to bolster it.

Here, we have the pot calling the kettle black. In addition, Jim seems to have misunderstood the entire nature of the discussion. I have from the outset made clear that I am merely presenting my opinions. I am not trying to "prove" anything, especially something that cannot be proven objectively, such as literary quality or merit. Surely, there's no need to translate de gustibus, with which I headed yesterday's post, is there?



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 29 Jul 09 | 02:56PM by Kyberean.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 09:47AM
jdworth:

I did not write the quotation you ascribe to me about King, Koontz, et al. That was someone else.

Joshi's occasional criticism of Campbell does not outweigh his otherwise mindless veneration, so far as I am concerned. I mean, good grief, scholars make critical remarks about Shakespeare and Keats, but that fact hardly affects their evaluation of such writers' work as a whole. In the same vein, Joshi's occasional critiques of Campbell do not negate his fan-boyish enthusiasm and his regrettable tendency to over-rate Campbell's work, from my perspective.

By the way, just to set alight the straw-man that I can see beginning to form, let's be clear that I am not asserting that every word that Campbell has ever written is garbage. I am asserting that, in my opinion, his work as a whole is relatively poor, and certainly over-rated--and, especially, it is over-rated by Joshi. Compared to Robert Aickman, for instance, Joshi gives Campbell a free pass. Myself, I have little-to-no interest in the tastes and opinions of anyone who seems to think that Campbell is superior to Aickman, or that the latter deserves more criticism than the former. It is especially galling, to me, to read Joshi rake Aickman over the coals for precisely the faults that stand out like carbuncles, by comparison, in Campbell's own work.

With regard to the numinous: See my reply to Jim Rockhill.

With regard to Campbell's style and content, there are at least two ways to interpret Campbell's technique:


1. As tantalizing and skillfully deployed ambiguity, which creates an effective atmosphere of mystery; or,

2. As a lazy attempt to make the reader do all the work, and then to deflect criticism by invoking the beauty of the Emperor's New Clothes.


You know where I stand on the matter, so I am not going to repeat myself.

In conclusion, I will simply add that all that members of the pro-Campbell faction here have done is express their own subjective opinions on the matter. That's fair enough, but the double standard they evoke is not. Apparently, it's OK when they assert their naked opinions, but it's not OK when I do so. Here, it seems, only unpopular opinions are subject to demands for proof and adherence to rules of evidence.

Oh, well, at least no one has tried to defend Shirley Jackson! :-P



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 29 Jul 09 | 12:09PM by Kyberean.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 04:35PM
Kyberean Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Jim Rockhill:
>
> From Wikipedia (as a handy reference): "According
> to Otto the numinous experience has two aspects:
> mysterium tremendum, which is the tendency to
> invoke fear and trembling; and mysterium fascinas,
> the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel. The
> numinous experience also has a personal quality to
> it, in that the person feels to be in communion
> with a wholly other."
>
> And an incorrect reference, as well. Read The Idea
> of the Holy, rather than quickly cribbed notes
> from the Internet, if you really want to
> understand the concept as Otto intends it. For one
> thing, the entire idea of the numinous cannot be
> decoupled from the idea of the sacred or the holy.
> Where exactly in Campbell's "numinous" fiction do
> you find this coupling?

My fault for relying on a ready reference, given 5 minutes to respond before heading out the door this morning. My use of the numinous re: Campbell and several of the other authors I mention is indeed based upon AN idea of the holy and the sacred. I believe that much of the best post-WWI supernatural fiction is based on a nontraditional concept of the holy or an unwitting transgression against what modern man can no longer identify as the holy - traditional concepts of holiness (and perhaps the capacity of many to retain much more than a superstitious fear of it) having been severely weakened for many by Darwin and other scientists, before being blown apart completely at the Somme). The clearest link to this idea I can call to mind at present is this passage from Arthur Machen's "The Red Hand": "There are sacraments of evil as well as of good about us, and we live and move to my belief in an unknown world, a place where there are caves and shadows and dwellers in twilight." In other words, human beings continue to dwell in a numinous landscape without recognizing it for what it is, until some terrifying manifestation threatens or overwhelms.

This statement does not strike me as completely accurate: "especially something that cannot be proven objectively, such as literary quality or merit." Yes, there are plenty of works of art that are technically accomplished but incapable of sustaining anyone's interest longer than a single season. I would argue that literary quality can be measured to a certain extent, but agree with you that merit can not.

Funny you should mention Aickman and Campbell in the same sentence, then dismiss Campbell as follows:

"With regard to Campbell's style and content, there are at least two ways to interpret Campbell's technique:


"1. As tantalizing and skillfully deployed ambiguity, which creates an effective atmosphere of mystery; or,

"2. As a lazy attempt to make the reader do all the work, and then to deflect criticism by invoking the beauty of the Emperor's New Clothes."

I love Aickman's work, but find him much more of a challenge to comprehension than
Campbell. I simply happen to believe that the work of both authors is worth the effort. I think the rewards are greater, because the greater concentration required not only reveals the surface plot, but also a number of deeper, darker implications that I may not have appreciated otherwise.

This relates, to me at any rate, to the old, many-times-revisited argument of implication vs. direct visualization in horror films. The events in Wise's THE HAUNTING, Clayton's THE INNOCENTS, and the Val Lewton films stimulate my imagination in ways that many other films fail to do. Many films can shock or terrify, but few can produce awe; even fewer, in my experience, are capable of producing this emotion upon repeated viewings.

Finding fiction capable of producing awe is also rare, but, for me, Campbell is among those few who has succeeded, though it is as rare an achievement for him as it is for any writer. Additionally, which novels and stories work best for me are not those that Scott cited. Differing experiences and attitudes are going to make some readers more susceptible to certain triggers than others.

Awe could be interpreted as a secular form of reverence - you do not have to believe or understand what you are experiencing to feel awe - and this brings us back, rather circuitously it must be admitted, to the concept of holiness.

Jim

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 04:59PM
jimrockhill2001 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I love Aickman's work, but find him much more of a
> challenge to comprehension than
> Campbell.

With a few exceptions, Aickman's work is clearly not intended to be "comprehended"---in the sense of understood as narratives with some logic that can be figured out, or as "meaning" something---but rather simply to be experienced.

One difference between Aickman and Campbell is this: Every Aickman story is unique with regard to subject-matter and presentation, but nevertheless the reader is left with the feeling that there is some overarching approach that they all have in common. Campbell, an admirer of Aickman, has apparently mistakenly decided that elements of what we think of as the Aickman style can be distilled into a set of simple, repeatable narrative techniques, which can then be applied to anything one likes.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2009 06:29PM
To put the Campbell business to rest, on my end, at least:

I return to my original point, which is that Joshi handles Campbell with kid gloves, in comparison to his treatment of other--in my opinion, far better--writers, such as Aickman and Ligotti. So, I repeat: If Joshi really merits his "meanest critic" status, or whatever the original post stated, then let him apply the same critical rigor to Campbell's work as he does to others'. I have yet to read any evidence of his having done so, to date.

If, however, I've missed any of Joshi's work on Campbell in which Joshi does more than merely nitpick at a point or two, and instead unreels negativity after negativity, as he did in his infamous Aickman piece in Studies in Weird Fiction, then someone please give me a reference to it, and I'll gladly retract my statements.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 29 Jul 09 | 06:37PM by Kyberean.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 30 July, 2009 12:22AM
Jim, you have said many of the things I'd intended to say when I next posted, so I'll try not to recover the same ground. (Interesting, though, that several of the same examples came to mind with both.)

I will add that, as noted earlier, my approach to the sublime or the numinous (no, not the same thing, but closely related) stems much more from my reading of earlier writers, such as Edmund Burke, Ann Radcliffe, or Anna Laetitia Barbauld and was, in fact, almost certainly influenced by my reading of Poe at a very early age. While I would agree that there is a secular element to the sort of thing Campbell does (the origin and, oftentimes, the actual incident or detail), I would argue that the effect is anything but, and once again restores, by its evocation of the disjuncture between our reality and that experienced at that moment (whether brief or prolonged) by the characters, the essence of the holy or sacred in much the sense indicated by the quote from Machen above. To me, such an effect, and its intention, are inextricably linked to such things, even if the holy or sacred evoked have little or nothing to do with pre-existing traditions of what is "holy". And, for me, Campbell manages to do this quite a respectable amount of the time. Nor do I agree that he has, in Jojo's phrase, distilled certain aspects of Aickman's style into "simple, repeatable narrative techniques" -- though I would agree that he does sometimes use such an approach to excess.

On the idea of the "popular" opinions versus the "unpopular" opinions... Sorry to hear that, as I see this more as a discussion or debate (in the main), where offering one's honest opinions and judgments would be welcome. We are none of us likely to alter the others' opinions greatly -- especially where so strongly held -- but such a discussion can provide food for thought and a different perspective, and that seems a worthy enough reason to bring such thoughts to the table.

As to Kyberean's response regarding the list of authors: Yes, I know. But I quoted your use of it as a shortcut, as it were, in order to address the question you posed (the reason why they are so seldom mentioned when stating our own tastes, etc.). If doing so led to any confusion, my sincere apologies.

And, obviously, I tend toward the first of the options mentioned when it comes to Campbell -- though not invariably. For my part, I certainly do not feel Campbell is superior to Aickman -- that would be an incredible feat for just about anyone -- but I do strongly feel he is, at his best (which is by no means confined to his earlier years), worthy of considerable respect as a craftsman in the field, worthy to stand with no few of the brighter lights of earlier eras. Again, this is my opinion, but I think it is a considered one, not undertaken lightly.

As to Joshi's approach to Campbell... I will agree that it is not as objective as that applied to several others; but I still feel it is far from "handling him with kid gloves". (Incidentally, if you are referring to his "Robert Aickman: 'So Little is Definite'" in issue #18, I can't say that I found it all that negative in approach. Instead, I found it quite interesting and an intriguing look at Aickman. It certainly is more in Joshi's usual line, which does focus a good deal more on faults than strengths with many writers, but most often (especially in the essay under discussion) with the approach that these are blemishes which should be addressed and disposed of in otherwise exemplary work. The feeling I came away with was one of an enormous respect and admiration for Aickman, though not unseasoned with a desire that the perceived faults did not exist. (Even when this perception would seem to be in error, as I would argue is the case on occasion.)

At any rate, I generally find Joshi's comments worthy of notice, but I also have points where I strongly disagree with him. To me, this makes for a stimulating experience; so I look forward to having the time to actually get into the book in the near future....

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 30 July, 2009 07:46AM
In spite of my earlier post with criticism towards Campbell, I cherish the things I have read by him. His distinctively palpable surroundings, and instinctive handling and understanding and taste for the weird, are delicious. Deliscious. And even if he may perhaps be more engulfed and right in the middle of it all, than Lovecraft the outside observer with full understanding (within the limits of Man's ability) of Nature's workings and symbolic frameworks, he probably has a whole lot more wisdom than the bunch of us criticizing him here on this forum. There is nothing pretentious about Campbell, he is passionate, and totally obsessive about his chosen subject. And all time he has spent with the weird, has certainly paid off. He has an incredible understanding of the things he do well. I just reread one of his early stories, The Render of the Veils, and he paints it well, with many descriptive details, and even gives the full sensation of being touched by the demon.

Besides, from a moral perspective, and gentleman's viewpoint, I think it is better to say something nice about another, than throw shit at him. If one can't say anything nice, or at the very least, give supportive constructive criticism, one does better to stay quiet and redirect one's focus elsewhere towards something one likes. I feel tainted and ugly after saying negative things about someone. Finding faults... I victimize and abuse him, and he never asked me for it. It's simply wrong. And it says more about me, than about him, it reveals my inablility to create something good of my own.

We live in a strange time. Back in the old days, the writers and artists were the real stars. Today, TV-show hosts, journalists, critics, editors, have become the "stars" people look up to. Or at least, occupying half of the focus (on book-covers for example). The experts. Who recycle, and churn over the old, over and over. Today it's more important for people to try to achieve respect by having a "worthwhile" opinion, and make an "important" mark (an illusion made possible by the internet) by proving and showing all that one understands, than to try to create a thing of beauty. The masses gather to forums, blogs, Amazon, like flies to a dunghill, and try to be experts; the misdirected "ultimate stardom" of today. I think it is a sign of a sick, unhealthy society.

My wish is that people to a higher degree would focus on the beauteous (instead of trying to reach higher up the hill by trampling down others), and thereby be inspired to create beauty of their own. We ought to stimulate the divine, the artists and writers, the creators, in our souls instead.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 30 Jul 09 | 07:53AM by Knygatin.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 30 July, 2009 01:33PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Besides, from a moral perspective, and gentleman's
> viewpoint, I think it is better to say something
> nice about another, than throw shit at him. If one
> can't say anything nice, or at the very least,
> give supportive constructive criticism, one does
> better to stay quiet and redirect one's focus
> elsewhere towards something one likes.

I try not to laugh at children's drawings, etc. But when something is sold for money it is, of course, fair game. Apart from alerting people to what is good, criticism also has the valid and crucial function of warning people away from what is not so good.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 30 July, 2009 03:52PM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
>
> I try not to laugh at children's drawings, etc.
> But when something is sold for money it is, of
> course, fair game. Apart from alerting people to
> what is good, criticism also has the valid and
> crucial function of warning people away from what
> is not so good.

I would take it a step further, and say that, even when something is good, a valid function of criticism is to note flaws, mistakes, and unevennesses in the writing, structure, or development of any work. Such an approach serves as a way to improve critical appreciation of not only individual works or writers, but literature and writing in general; to aid any writer who reads the criticism to avoid such mistakes in their work in future; and -- when done well -- to sharpen the critical faculties in other spheres, as well as open areas of intelligent discussion and debate.

Were we to invariably avoid a sharper tone, much of the world's greatest criticism would simply not exist, and we would lack a great deal of the work of earlier critics, from Pope to Johnson to Poe to Smith to Lovecraft... as well as numerous contemorary critics who are worthy of attention.

Noting the better qualities is a fine thing; but to keep silent -- or even mute one's comments to avoid injuring feelings -- when one sees glaring (or even minor) errors or infelicities in something is a dishonest approach to criticism, and robs it of its salubrious effect.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 30 July, 2009 04:09PM
Amen to JoJo's last post. I would add that it is unfair and inaccurate to assert that all criticism is mere unproductive negativity. As Hegel wrote, "the hand that inflicts the wound is also the hand that heals it".

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 31 July, 2009 05:45PM
I can criticize those who don't perform their profession correctly. Like a doctor who gives a wrong diagnosis and treatment, a mailman who has mislaid my package, or a watchmaker who has repaired my watch and made it go backwards.

But when it comes to criticizing an artist, I believe one should be careful in choosing one's words. Because there is no definite measurement in art for what is right and wrong, good or bad. It's much a matter of preference in the viewer/reader. And if it is a serious artist, by criticizing his work, you criticize his soul and personality. Many artists carry emotional and existential anguish, and choose a precarious life path as artists to search for some kind of order for their inner turmoil. They take the risk of exposing their most inner selfs, they are often more emotionally steered than rational in their handling of reality, and their sense of selfworth can be quite fragile and easily hurt by others. Artists have no measure stick to go by, as in other professions, they largely fumble by instinct (to reach beyond mere craft), and they should be encouraged for their daring. A few are lucky to be paid back economically for the efforts they expose to the World, but that doesn't change the facts.
If it was pure commercial entertainment, then I would place the performer among the other professions above, and wouldn't hesitate giving hard criticizm. But not for a serious artist. Where weird literature fits on this scale I don't know, perhaps in between, but it depends on the writer's own intentions.

If it is an artist who is dead, then it's a different matter, because the critic will not hurt another by his degrading, except maybe his own inner well-being.
Ramsey Campbell may visit and read this forum, although I strongly doubt it.

I think it might be a good idea to strive for the principle of not saying more on the Internet than one could say shamelessly if one was to meet eye to eye with the artist.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2009 12:21AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I can criticize those who don't perform their
> profession correctly. Like a doctor who gives a
> wrong diagnosis and treatment, a mailman who has
> mislaid my package, or a watchmaker who has
> repaired my watch and made it go backwards.
>
> But when it comes to criticizing an artist, I
> believe one should be careful in choosing one's
> words. Because there is no definite measurement in
> art for what is right and wrong, good or bad. It's
> much a matter of preference in the viewer/reader.
> And if it is a serious artist, by criticizing his
> work, you criticize his soul and personality. Many
> artists carry emotional and existential anguish,
> and choose a precarious life path as artists to
> search for some kind of order for their inner
> turmoil. They take the risk of exposing their most
> inner selfs, they are often more emotionally
> steered than rational in their handling of
> reality, and their sense of selfworth can be quite
> fragile and easily hurt by others. Artists have no
> measure stick to go by, as in other professions,
> they largely fumble by instinct (to reach beyond
> mere craft), and they should be encouraged for
> their daring. A few are lucky to be paid back
> economically for the efforts they expose to the
> World, but that doesn't change the facts.

There really is no distinction to be had here. I'd agree that the artists among us are often dreamers who enrich our lives with what they do... but there is no reason to not criticize when they do it badly... or even when they do it well overall, but fumble. This is actually very helpful to any writer who wishes to be good at what they do. Holding back on honest critical commentary is detrimental to the growth of a writer, as well as stultifying to the reader or -- to draw a distinction -- critical reader.

And I'm sorry, but there really are good, largely objective, guidelines when it comes to judging "what is right and wrong, good or bad" in art, as well: justness of proportion; ability to handle the materials well; degree of structure; richness or paucity of language; originality (or lack thereof) in theme, use of metaphor (or figurative language in general); ability to convey one's intent (whether that be plot, message, or subtle gradations of emotional resonance) to a fairly literate reader; and so on. And, of course, a writer deserves more praise the higher they score on each (or all) of these; whereas failure in any (or all) area(s) equally deserves censure -- the degree of severity largely depending on the individual critic and the writer's manifest intent (not always, but quite often, easily discernible by their tone and manner).

One cannot, of course, say with 100% assurance whether something a writer commits to paper is the result of an honest attempt to convey some pressing need (image, idea, emotion, what-have-you) or whether, to the writer him/herself they were successful in doing so... but one can certainly say whether or not they were successful in communicating it to another (oneself) and, the more widely (and deeply) read such a reader is, the more likely they are to be able to judge whether or not this success (or lack of) is general, sheerly by dint of their experience with what has worked for a representative number of people over a reasonable amount of time.

These guidelines may not be invariably accurate, but they have worked quite well for a very, very long time.

As for the writer's angst -- that really isn't the reader's problem. It is that of the writer; and anyone who chooses to take the risk to put themselves out there for a reading public to judge may be brave, but that by no means makes them a good writer. They may be complete crap at the job, or they may be one of the great visionary voices of all time. And it is here that the valid use of criticism enters in in such a case: even the harshest criticism carries within it lessons to be learned on how to improve; and, if the writer is serious about what they do, then they would do well to take heed of such criticism and see what it does have to offer. No writer can stand the gaffe if they let their fragile ego get in the way -- that is just a plain fact; and to mollycoddle them is to do them (and oneself) a disservice. It is hypocritical and, furthermore, damages the very art one claims to be attempting to support by allowing inferior material to be put on the same plane as that of a superior nature. It is relativism taken to absurd extremes. And, as any professional writer will tell you, they have learned a damn' sight more from the "negative" criticism than they ever did from that which was strictly positive.

As for Ramsey Campbell -- he has been a professional writer for over four decades now; I don't think anything said here is likely to even begin to compare to what he has encountered over that period; nor do I think he is weak enough (either as a writer or person) to need such coddling. To defer to any writer to that degree is to treat them with a lack of respect rather than the reverse. Honest praise -- yes, by all means. But also honest disagreements or criticisms in general -- that shows a writer you respect him and his work enough to believe they can take it, and may in fact be able to improve (or even prove you wrong by their efforts).

I'd suggest you look into what various writers over the years have had to say about what they have learned from their critics. I think you'll find that the vast majority (and certainly of professional writers) feel more grateful for honest, even if severe, criticism than for that which simply strokes their ego, as it is the former which helps them to increase their abilities in their craft and art.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2009 03:00AM
Well, the line between criticizing the craft and the art, becomes blurred in many criticims. It becomes a matter of personal taste. You argue as if critics were objective observers, whereas I believe very few of them have any such abilities in a total sense. (This is what I mean by journalists and critics having become the real "stars" that people look up to in our time. The masses are herded by the crap "expertize" that fills the papers, TV, and bookstore shelves.) I appreciate reading a good, well thought out, criticism... but I also realize at the same time, that it is likely to a large degree personal reflections on the critic's part, his particular perspective. And I agree with you that exchange of such reflections may increase and widen our perspectives (although too much critical intellectual self-consciousness may also hamper free creativity). The best critcics are those that themselves are accomplished artists, because they often have the ability of undertstanding on deeper levels, and comprehend what is relevant, and don't go stepping on other's toes needlessly (unless at the same time plagued by boisterous unbalanced egos). And I am not refering to criticism of the purely technical side of the craft, in which flaws may be obvious to the less observant among us, (besides, sometimes the artist may intentionally steer away from given rules of the craft, for their own intentions.)



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 1 Aug 09 | 03:20AM by Knygatin.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2009 05:13AM
I think you overestimate the role of critics, in shaping the work of artists and writers.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2009 06:20AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think you overestimate the role of critics, in
> shaping the work of artists and writers.


The role of professional critics, I should say.

Artists have their own inbuilt criticizm, through their teachers, through observing the work of other artists they like, and through revelations in the long working process.

The professional critics, those who stand outside of the creative process, look in and choose to comment, live in a parallel world. They inflate their own importance. And there is little if any pivotal connection between the two worlds. The talentented artist with creative drive, finds his way totally disregardless and free from what the critics have to say. The artist who chooses to read the critics, may get temporary ego encouragement from positive criticizm, or if emotionally insecure be hampered from further attempts at evolving if the criticism is massively degrading.

I generally despise critics who are not creators themselves. They are part of the herd. And write for the herd.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 1 Aug 09 | 06:25AM by Knygatin.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2009 10:26AM
Knygatin wrote:

Quote:
I think it might be a good idea to strive for the principle of not saying more on the Internet than one could say shamelessly if one was to meet eye to eye with the artist.

I am not sure what you are implying here, but, for my part, I post nothing that I would not say to anyone face to face. Anyone who wants to test that statement when visiting the New York area is welcome to let me know beforehand. That includes you, Ramsey, if you happen to be reading this. ;-)


jdworth:

Quote:
And I'm sorry, but there really are good, largely objective, guidelines when it comes to judging "what is right and wrong, good or bad" in art, as well

I am sorry, but... well, I can't even think of a polite way to encapsulate my level of utter disagreement. Even if such guidelines as you postulate exist, not everyone will agree about what the guidelines are, or what they should be. Nor will everyone agree how to apply the guidelines, or about whether a given artist fulfills them in his work. For instance, you and Jim certainly have not convinced me of the objective merit of Campbell's writing. But then, I suppose that that is because I am merely obstinate, and because you are objectively right and I am objectively wrong. *chortles*

A better answer would be that art appreciation is subjective, and artistic survival, estimates of greatness, and the like often have little to do with merit, however determined, and much to do with chance and consensus. I mean, look where you are posting: In a Clark Ashton Smith forum. Clark Ashton Smith: An author whom most of us esteem very highly, and yet one whom critics and academics do not even consider to be a worthwhile "minor poet" of the 20th Century; an author whose literary works have been banished to the fantasy small press ghetto, and whose reputation survives mostly because he was a friend and correspondent of Lovecraft's. Few who consider the matter carefully would consider Lovecraft to be a superior prose stylist to CAS, but Lovecraft is published in the prestigious Penguin collection and the Library of America, whereas CAS is published by... Night Shade Books and Hippocampus. Why have the editors at Penguin failed to notice CAS's objectively superior qualities?

So, in addition to the likes of Penguin, has critical and popular consensus simply "missed" CAS's objectively superior qualities, whereas we have not? Or did CAS simply have the misfortune to live and write in an era that was subjectively antithetical to his personal aesthetics and values?

As you can see, as in the case of Campbell, we shall never agree on this matter, but I could not resist offering a counterpoint. I thought that the naive idea of "objective art" died during the 18th Century!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 1 Aug 09 | 10:35AM by Kyberean.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2009 12:09PM
deleted post



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 1 Aug 09 | 12:52PM by Knygatin.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2009 05:06PM
Quote:
I am sorry, but this is barefaced nonsense.

Well, no; it's not, really.

Quote:
Even if such guidelines exist, not everyone will agree about what the guidelines are, or what they should be. Nor will everyone agree how to apply the guidelines, or about whether a given artist fulfills them in his work. For instance, you and Jim certainly have not convinced me of the objective merit of Campbell's writing. But then, I suppose that that is because I am merely obstinate, and because you are objectively right and I am objectively wrong. *chortles*

Not at all. It is a truism that no writer, no matter how great or poor, will appeal to or repel every reader. (Or even every intelligent or perceptive reader.) A particular reader may simply be blind to the merit of that writer, or that writer may simply write in such a way or on such subjects or from such a perspective as to leave a particular reader unmoved. That is the subjective part of reading, and is perfectly valid for that reader and their judgment of that writer's work for them. But... once you enter into a different frame of reference, that of appeal to a broader, more representative audience, then you can indeed rely on said guidelines, as they have been formulated over a very, very long period and have been found to work quite well in allowing one to form a judgment on what is good or bad in art.

Nor does this require that the critic like the writer or work in question; merely that they have the ability to recognize whether said writer or work fulfills these guidelines well or ill. Again, these guidelines are founded on rather general principles of what has worked and continues to work for a representative number of readers, for a reasonable length of time; which is why it can transcend technique and focus on the ability of the writer to artistically convey to such an audience that with which the work is concerned.

And I never said anything about an "objective art"; what I said was

Quote:
there really are good, largely objective, guidelines when it comes to judging "what is right and wrong, good or bad" in art

which is a different thing, based on the experience of generations, even millennia, mentioned above. That these things rely on consensus is quite true; but then, when it comes to anything except the physical sciences, what other form of "objectivity" is there? The final criterion of objective versus subjective in criticism is whether or not the critic is influenced more by his (or her) knowledge of the things mentioned above, or by personal bias, prejudice, or emotional responses. This sort of thing, as I mentioned, can allow a critic to appreciate and write intelligently about both the strengths and the weaknesses of a writer or work, whether they strike a responsive chord with that particular critic or not.

Which goes to something that Kyngatin said, as well:

Quote:
the line between criticizing the craft and the art becomes blurred in many criticims. It becomes a matter of personal taste. You argue as if critics are objective observers, whereas I believe very few of them have any such abilities.

This may well be the case (though I think I'd draw a distinction between those who are genuinely thoughtful critics and the mass of "reviewers"), but it hardly calls into question the critical method itself, any more than abuses by individual scientists disproves the validity of the scientific method. The practice has withstood the test of time rather well, because it is based on methods which have gradually evolved, rather than being a set of arbitrary assumptions of an individual or select group. I doubt that anyone could support an argument that there is no way of telling what is good or bad in art, as we all make distinctions irrespective of our personal biases. (I, for instance, am extremely fond of the old Doc Savage stories, but there is absolutely no way I can claim the title of art for them, save the telling one of "pop" art -- which has, to me, always been a particularly apt phrase, as it not only denotes "popular art", but art the period of whose relevance and resonance quickly bursts, like a bubble being popped. That they may continue to appeal to a limited audience is quite true, but their relevance in general is quite another thing.)

As for the CAS versus HPL point:

Quote:
I mean, look where you are posting: In a Clark Ashton Smith forum. Clark Ashton Smith: An author whom most of us esteem very highly, and yet one whom critics and academics do not even consider to be a worthwhile "minor poet" of the 20th Century; an author whose literary works have been banished to the fantasy small press ghetto, and whose reputation survives mostly because he was a friend and correspondent of Lovecraft's. Few who consider the matter carefully would consider Lovecraft to be a superior prose styst to CAS, but Lovecraft is published in the prestigious Penguin collection, and CAS is published by... Night Shade Books. Why have the editors at Penguin failed to notice CAS's objectively superior qualities?
So, in addition to the likes of Penguin, has critical and popular consensus simply "missed" CAS's objectively superior qualities, whereas we have not? Or did CAS simply have the misfortune to live and write in an era that was subjectively antithetical to his personal aesthetics and values?

Several things come into play here, I think. Recall that even writers such as Shakespeare have had their periods of eclipse and rediscovery. As I recall, Smith's better works were rather popular in their day, falling out of fashion with the rise of science fiction over fantasy and, more importantly, of modern styles over more retrospective, formal, or precisely nuanced styles. It took a long time for Lovecraft to begin to garner the recognition he has today, and I think we're seeing something of the sort gradually happening with Smith, as well. Part of this is due to Smith's use of recondite phraseology -- even more than that of Lovecraft -- as well as his tendency to use an often lapidary style even when it did not necessarily quite fit the chosen narrator on the level of psychological verisimilitude. This is a flaw (albeit a somewhat minor one) in some of Smith's work, but I would argue that it is more than compensated for by other factors. However, such a style -- with its attendant aesthetics, values, and philosophical background -- has been out of favor for the majority of the twentieth century, and is only now once again being recognized by a growing number as not inherently incompatible with either a modern sensibility or the presentation of concerns in modern terms -- a part of great art being a reflection, in some fashion or other, of the times from which it emerges.

So far, we've only had a few decades of Smith being in decline. This is hardly unusual in literary history and, as I said, I think we are seeing a rediscovery of Smith, with a consequent reexamination of his work and an emerging recognition of his talent and abilities, as well as an understanding of how he, too, has relevance to his (and our) time.

Kyngatin says:

Quote:
I think you overestimate the role of critics, in shaping the work of artists and writers.
The role of professional critics, I should say.

Perhaps. But I have dealt with a fair number of writers over the years, either through correspondence, personal conversations, or -- at furthest remove -- by reading what they have had to say on the subject, and the majority of them have repeatedly stated that intelligent criticism -- even if negative -- has had a notable and salutary effect on their writing. This is true whether it be from professional critics, or from thoughtful, critical readers.

Yes, artists do have a certain amount of what you describe, but it is often faulty, clouded by their own egos -- especially when they are either starting out, or when they achieve a notable degree of financial and popular success. It is in these periods, especially, when unvarnished, honest critical appraisals of their work can be (and most often are) helpful when it comes to avoiding the pitfalls any artist is prone to. The two points above rather argue against your position here:

Quote:
The talentented artist with creative drive, finds his way totally disregardless and free from what the critics have to say. The artist who chooses to read the critics, may get temporary ego encouragement from positive criticizm, or if emotionally insecure be hampered from further attempts at evolving if the criticism is massively degrading.
I generally despise critics who are not creators themselves. They are part of the herd. And write for the herd.

(And how, precisely, does one tell "the talented artist with creative drive" from the hack, without some more objective form of criteria?) It is not necessary that a person be able to do something himself in order to be able to understand and make perceptive comment (or useful suggestions) on it. The question thus again becomes how much the critic is motivated by personal bias and how much by a genuine love of and concern for (as well as knowledge about) the art itself.

Quote:
(That's what I mean by journalists and critics having become the real "stars" that people look up to in our time. The masses are herded by the crap "expertize" that fills the papers, TV, and books.)

This, too, has always been -- and is always likely to be -- the case, as the majority of people simply do not stop to examine deliberately when it comes to such matters. They respond emotionally to what tickles their fancy or repulses them, without looking into the matter any further. It is only the more thoughtful who do so, and thus can make a worthwhile contribution to a discussion of such.

Quote:
I appreciate reading a good, well thought out, criticism... but I also realize at the same time, that it is to a large degree personal reflections on the critic's part, his particular perspective. The best critcics are those that themselves are accomplished artists, because they often have the ability of undertstanding on deeper levels, and comprehend what is relevant, and don't go stepping on other's toes needlessly (unless at the same time plagued by boisterous unbalanced egos). And I am not refering to criticism of the purely technical side of the craft, in which flaws may be obvious to the less observant among us, (besides, sometimes the artist may intentionally steer away from given rules of the craft, for their own intentions.)

The first point I believe I have addressed -- perhaps at tedious length -- above. The second... not necessarily. There have been many excellent critics who were not artists themselves (at least, in the usual sense), or whose efforts in those realms were less than successful either artistically or professionally. Again, one need not be able to do in order to understand. And I think you'll find that the majority of accomplished artists who have turned their hands to criticism have been among the harshest critics in existence, rather than the opposite. (Again, Poe comes strongly to mind, as does Pope; among others.)

As for "steering away from"... again, this doesn't mean a darned thing, when it comes to whether a given work is good or bad artistically in the larger sense; it simply means the artist is being more or less self-indulgent unless they can use such "steering away" to improve their abilities to better convey to a representative audience the core -- and perhaps even the nuances -- of what they wish to convey... in which case, upon closer examination this tends to be more a reformulation or modification rather than a renunciation of such guidelines (not rules; rules being by nature more constricting, guidelines allow for a great deal of freedom of play). Thus you have such examples as Joyce's Ulysses, or the best of what came out of the New Wave in sf in the 1960s-1970s, while many other experiments along those lines simply failed.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 1 Aug 09 | 05:13PM by jdworth.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 1 August, 2009 05:25PM
jdworth Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> That these things rely on
> consensus is quite true; but then, when it comes
> to anything except the physical sciences, what
> other form of "objectivity" is there?

There is no need to make an exception for the physical sciences. There is no other workable definition of "objective"---period. What we mean when we say that a claim is objectively true is that reasonable men, when presented with the evidence, would agree that it was true.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2009 12:47AM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> jdworth Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > That these things rely on
> > consensus is quite true; but then, when it
> comes
> > to anything except the physical sciences, what
> > other form of "objectivity" is there?
>
> There is no need to make an exception for the
> physical sciences. There is no other workable
> definition of "objective"---period. What we mean
> when we say that a claim is objectively true is
> that reasonable men, when presented with the
> evidence, would agree that it was true.


Well, to be frank, I made the distinction with the physical sciences because they are based on objectively existing physical phenomena (or objects), and (a bit impishly, I admit) because it is rather difficult, when clonked on the head with something like a rock, for even an unreasonable person to deny that they have come into contact with something relatively substantial... providing they are still conscious, that is....

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2009 04:34AM
I would guess that distinguished artists like CAS, Lovecraft, Machen, Poe, etc., were very little affected to writing differently by what critics wrote about their work. They learned from each other, from experience, and from studying Life itself, like any artists do. The only influence from outside of the creative sphere, would have been being hampered by editors. Of course if there was some exceptional outside critic, with interesting philosophical thoughts, this may have affected their perspective... but I don't think this is the case. I have never heard of it. Critics outside of the creative process, are not really in touch with it, and are therefore presumptuous. I believe artists learn and grow more from direct communication with others... because in the communication there is an intimacy in the exchange of thoughts, that has an inbuilt function of genuine practical criticism for the artist.

I would agree that the main worthwhile function of critics, is to lead the masses towards "good" litterature, as most don't have the energy to search it out for themselves (provided they choose the right critic, and select from his scope what suits their individual needs). I found several of my favorite authors from critical works, but it took some digging.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 2 Aug 09 | 04:41AM by Knygatin.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2009 04:53AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I believe artists learn and grow
> more from direct communication with others...
> because in the communication there is an intimacy
> in the exchange of thoughts, that has an inbuilt
> function of genuine practical criticism for the
> artist.

On second thought, I don't think even that is completely so. It may influence superficial thoughts, and some ideas on structure, but it will never affect the individual style and voice of the soul, which is set from birth.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2009 10:36AM
jdworth:

First, my apologies for the intemperate "barefaced nonsense" phrasing. As you can see, I subsequently edited my post. In fact, having almost immediately regretted those words, I edited my post within minutes of posting the original, but this forum, for some reason, seems very slow to update.

For the rest:

Your Shakespeare analogy is inapt, because there was never a significant period of time in English literary history following his death when Shakespeare was not considered a major author. He was a lion in the path, to be adored or attacked, but no one could merely ignore him, not even his Augustan-era detractors.

CAS, by contrast, has never been such a lion in the path, even at the height of his "popularity" (see below). In the literary history of the 20th-Century, CAS rates barely a footnote.


Quote:
I never said anything about an "objective art"; what I said was: there really are good, largely objective, guidelines when it comes to judging "what is right and wrong, good or bad" in art.

Which implies objective criteria for judging art, and that is what I meant by "objective art". Your formulation harks back to 18th-Century neoclassical models of composition, where readers determined the merits of a work by how well it followed "the rules".

As for the rest, you cannot have it both ways: That there exist objective criteria for determining better and worse art, on the one hand, and that such a determination rests upon mere consensus, on the other.

Quote:
[CAS] been out of favor for the majority of the twentieth century, and is only now once again being recognized by a growing number as not inherently incompatible with either a modern sensibility or the presentation of concerns in modern terms.

Where is your evidence for this assertion? I see none whatsoever, myself. On the other hand, as I indicated, I see quite clearly that the majority of those who are interested in CAS came to him via Lovecraft, and that only fantasy-specialist publishers tend to touch CAS's work.

Aside: I think that CAS himself would cringe at the thought that "modernity" was about to assimilate him.

Quote:
So far, we've only had a few decades of Smith being in decline.

No. Smith's reputation was never in decline, because it has never been in the ascendant. I am not talking about the opinions of a handful of California-based critics whom George Sterling encouraged to write about CAS's early poetry volumes (and all this during an approximately five-year window of time). I am certainly not talking about pulp fiction popularity, which is ephemeral by its very nature. I am talking about being critically acclaimed and read on a national level by general readers, about being studied by academics, and about being taught in college classes. If you have actual evidence that there is such a movement afoot, then please provide it.

Quote:
Well, to be frank, I made the distinction with the physical sciences because they are based on objectively existing physical phenomena.

Have a look at T.S Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It will certainly disabuse you of the idea that science and its findings are absolute, or even more than relatively objective.

As for consensus, it tends to rely far more upon subjective feelings of "rightness" than it does upon objective evaluation. As our friend Hegel wisely observed, "the owl of Minerva takes wing at dusk". Further, the so-called "absolute", when examined closely enough, always relies upon context, which is a fluid thing. Nothing is "absolute" when context is necessary in order to interpret or understand it.

You also seem to confuse the terms empirical and objective. Not everyone who is bashed over the head with a rock will experience the results in identical "objective" fashion. In other words, not every empirical experience is "objectively" identical. Even the law, obtuse as it so often is, recognizes this fact, which is encapsulated in the so-called "eggshell skull" rule of tort law.

I do not, however, wish to sidetrack the discussion into a debate over truth, science, scientism, objectivity, and the like. I merely wish to indicate that you are being a little loose, even sloppy, in your use of such concepts as "objectivity". Empirical experience requires interpretation if it is to be communicable. At that point, it ceases to be "objective", except insofar as it is understood and communicated communally via a consensus of interpretation. Scientific interpretations of empirical phenomena are no exception.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 2 Aug 09 | 12:34PM by Kyberean.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 3 August, 2009 12:25AM
To both Kyngatin and Kyberian: My thanks for a stimulating conversation. I hope to respond to your posts more fully tomorrow (today has been one of those "meat-grinder" days and I am completely knackered), but briefly:

Kyngatin: You say that

[quote]I believe artists learn and grow more from direct communication with others... because in the communication there is an intimacy in the exchange of thoughts that has an inbuilt function of genuine criticism.[/quote]

than add

[quote]On second thought, I don't think even that is completely so. It may influence superficial thoughts, and some ideas on structure, but it will never affect the individual style and voice of the soul, which is set from birth.

I'm afraid that comparisons of correspondence between writers and their works (including various versions of manuscripts) would not support the claim that it is only the superficial thoughts or structure, but indeed these sorts of things often affect the very core of various works, the nature of them, and the direction in which they develop. This is something of which numberous examples exist, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (as well as several of her other novels) and Flaubert's The Temptation of Saint Anthony on.

However, on the individual style and voice (I leave alone the concept of the soul, which is, I think, dubious at best), I would tend to agree with you on the whole; though again there have been instances of an artist's entire approach and "voice" altering in life, due either to a debilitating illness, some injury, or a traumatic life-experience. As the personality changes, so changes the voice, and many things in life can cause such alterations.

Kyberean:

A) Apologies accepted (and appreciated), but not really needed. And I've had the experience, not only here, but elsewhere. Quite frustrating.

B) I have heard mention of but not read Kuhn's book, so I will have to look into that before I can respond at all intelligently. Thank you for the recommendation.

As for the rock/skull reference: No, but few would argue that the object they encountered did not exist as a physical entity, whereas even reasonable people may disagree about evidence on less obvious matters; hence my distinction.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2012 03:53PM
The English Assassin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Where Campbell can use descriptions for purely
> striking
> > visual effect, there is deeper meaning behind
> > Lovecraft's every word.
>
> Agreed. I've only read one novel and one
> collection of RC and I have to say I think his
> descriptions of the mundane are uniquely odd and
> at times beautiful, but otherwise found his
> stories strangely lacking. They seem to promise
> much but only deliver the mildly disconcerting.
> Still I have another couple of his books on my
> straining shelves I mean to try before I totally
> make up my mind.


Did you try his The Hungry Moon? I have not read any of his novels, only the early short-stories, but this one has caught my interest. I like the story outline, about Christian fanatics going to Scotland to wipe out pagans, but meeting with unexpected resistance from below the ground. It supposedly has a very long build-up though.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2012 02:09PM
Knygatin Wrote:

> Did you try his The Hungry Moon? I have not read
> any of his novels, only the early short-stories,
> but this one has caught my interest. I like the
> story outline, about Christian fanatics going to
> Scotland to wipe out pagans, but meeting with
> unexpected resistance from below the ground. It
> supposedly has a very long build-up though.

I've not read it. Indeed, I don't think I've read more than a couple of RC's short stories since I wrote that post. I tried the novel Incarnate, but grew weary of it after a while and picked up something else. The novel I read was The Nameless, which I did enjoy... it was building up nicely to what looked like it was going to be an incredibly harsh ending until RC bottled it and bolted on some redemptive schlock at the end. Pity!

A friend of mine is a big RC fan and he recommended Hungry Moon to me. I agree, the premise does sound good.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 2 November, 2012 06:32PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Did you try his The Hungry Moon? I have not read
> any of his novels, only the early short-stories,
> but this one has caught my interest. I like the
> story outline, about Christian fanatics going to
> Scotland to wipe out pagans, but meeting with
> unexpected resistance from below the ground. It
> supposedly has a very long build-up though.

Strangely I spotted this novel a few days before Halloween in a charity shop, so being in the market for some holiday horror I bought it.... Hmmmm... not so good tbh! In fact after 120 pages I'm giving up on it (I can't be bothered to read another 300 pages of this crap). It's the same problem I had with Incarnate and the same problem I have with most contemporary horror novels: a dull conspiracy by a prosaic religious cult taking over a local community... a multi-character narative told through too many characters, all of which are earnest and down to earth and basically interchangeable (one has a dead kid, another has a hint that they might be a little psychic, blah!!!)... and the classic RC trick at the end of every other plot-heavy chapter: he thought he saw something white on the moors - must have been a trick of the light... I kind of liked it with Demons in Daylight and The Nameless, but its getting tiered rather quickly now. This is the second novel of his I'm dumping before the end and while I might give a short story collection or any anthology he edits another go, this is the last RC novel I'm going to waste my time on. I can't recommend it.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 3 November, 2012 05:09AM
The English Assassin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Strangely I spotted this novel a few days before
> Halloween in a charity shop, so being in the
> market for some holiday horror I bought it....
> Hmmmm... not so good tbh! In fact after 120 pages
> I'm giving up on it (I can't be bothered to read
> another 300 pages of this crap). It's the same
> problem I had with Incarnate and the same problem
> I have with most contemporary horror novels: a
> dull conspiracy by a prosaic religious cult taking
> over a local community... a multi-character
> narative told through too many characters, all of
> which are earnest and down to earth and basically
> interchangeable (one has a dead kid, another has a
> hint that they might be a little psychic,
> blah!!!)... and the classic RC trick at the end of
> every other plot-heavy chapter: he thought he saw
> something white on the moors - must have been a
> trick of the light... I kind of liked it with
> Demons in Daylight and The Nameless, but its
> getting tiered rather quickly now. This is the
> second novel of his I'm dumping before the end and
> while I might give a short story collection or any
> anthology he edits another go, this is the last RC
> novel I'm going to waste my time on. I can't
> recommend it.


Ok. Well, several reviewers for that book have said that the juicy horror stuff comes by the end.

I have not read much contemporary horror, but what I have read, I find to be too much of social commentary. The horror format is used as a symbolic tool to make some important statement, political or otherwise. The author is trying to be useful. A horrific or supernatural event is not interesting enough in itself, like it was for the oldtimers. I think one reason for this may be that writers, like the rest of us, are now bombarded through the television by the pile of all society's prosaic sorrows and problems, both for their local community and for the rest of the world. A heavy burden. It's difficult to resist it, to turn away from it, and to instead explore deeper and spiritual dimensions, like for example preoccupied Algernon Blackwood in his time. Blackwood did complain of all the garbage of problems thrown onto him through newspapers, but I think the situation is much worse today.

Anyway, you mentioned A Voyage to Arcturus in the "Less Familiar . . ." thread. I don't think you will be disappointed. I am reading it right now. The prose is a little rough, and doesn't really flow in a pleasant way, but is still essential. Wonderful weird imagery. Strange situations with disparate elements mixed in genuine dreamlike fashion, being fascinating as you read, but somehow difficult to remember afterwards. Making this a re-readable book. It has also a very refreshing nihilistic perspective. The characters say things you don't expect.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 3 Nov 12 | 05:24AM by Knygatin.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 3 November, 2012 05:19AM
Neither CAS nor Lovecraft did discover David Lindsay (he was too little known, and hidden away up in Scotland), but I'm sure they would have found him interesting.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 4 November, 2012 06:24AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Ok. Well, several reviewers for that book have
> said that the juicy horror stuff comes by the
> end.
>
> I have not read much contemporary horror, but what
> I have read, I find to be too much of social
> commentary. The horror format is used as a
> symbolic tool to make some important statement,
> political or otherwise. The author is trying to be
> useful. A horrific or supernatural event is not
> interesting enough in itself, like it was for the
> oldtimers. I think one reason for this may be that
> writers, like the rest of us, are now bombarded
> through the television by the pile of all
> society's prosaic sorrows and problems, both for
> their local community and for the rest of the
> world. A heavy burden. It's difficult to resist
> it, to turn away from it, and to instead explore
> deeper and spiritual dimensions, like for example
> preoccupied Algernon Blackwood in his time.
> Blackwood did complain of all the garbage of
> problems thrown onto him through newspapers, but I
> think the situation is much worse today.
>
> Anyway, you mentioned A Voyage to Arcturus in the
> "Less Familiar . . ." thread. I don't think you
> will be disappointed. I am reading it right now.
> The prose is a little rough, and doesn't really
> flow in a pleasant way, but is still essential.
> Wonderful weird imagery. Strange situations with
> disparate elements mixed in genuine dreamlike
> fashion, being fascinating as you read, but
> somehow difficult to remember afterwards. Making
> this a re-readable book. It has also a very
> refreshing nihilistic perspective. The characters
> say things you don't expect.


The juicy horror might come at the end, but I have no intention of wading through the mire to get there... :) Actually The Nameless, the only RC novel I have finished, did press on the gas as the novel progressed, although it also chickened out for the redemptive climax, so I just don't have enough faith in RC that he's worth the time and I have too many more interesting books that need reading from my bookpile of death.

I feel very similar as you do re the prevalence of socio-political subtexts in fiction, which was another reason why I aborted Hungry Moon and why I would be very surprised if you'd like it very much either. Throughout the hundred odd pages RC felt the need to make socio-political jibes and points, re education, the free press, religious dogma, etc... which is fine and I doubt I'd seriously waste effort disagreeing with him on any of them, but I'm not sure that the horror novel is best suited as a form to champion these pretty safe liberal-progressive perspectives. To my mind horror is the genre of the outsider, it is best when its values step outside those of the coffee shops. I'm not totally opposed to any socio-political commentary, but I want the execution to be subtle and satirical and not heavy handed and preachy. Certainly Robert Aickman isn't above making the occasional barbed comment about the way Britain is (was) going, but I feel he does so with a fatalistic irony rather than an idealistic zeal... Also, while I don't agree with Aickman on everything, his targets interest me more... Campbell's fiction is just safe and secular. I can't say for sure where Campbell was going with the born again Christian cult that descends upon the village in Hungry Moon (it could be one of several ways), but I'm sure he'll want to make some point about it and demystify them from a humanistic perspective (even if his final point might be religion = bad). I'm just glad that Lovecraft didn't feel it necessary to do the same with the Cthulhu cult!

Anyway, from what you say, I'd be very surprised if you'd tolerate this book. Even with my reservations about it, I'd have forgiven it and gone with the flow had it been very well written... but while I enjoy the occasional turn of phrase by RC, I find much of his prose clunky.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 19 November, 2012 05:58PM
English Assassin, know that you last post here is absolutely stellar in lucidly describing this contemporary problem. Especially the part about "horror is the genre of the outsider" is inspiring. Your post is food for thought, and one could hope that it has caused some serious reflection, consideration, and revaluation. But I am afraid it won't. It is very hard to change the way people think, especially when politics and widespread contemporary perspectives are involved. That is my experience.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 19 Nov 12 | 06:05PM by Knygatin.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 19 November, 2012 06:28PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> English Assassin, know that you last post here is
> absolutely stellar in lucidly describing this
> contemporary problem. Especially the part about
> "horror is the genre of the outsider" is
> inspiring. Your post is food for thought, and one
> could hope that it has caused some serious
> reflection, consideration, and revaluation. But I
> am afraid it won't. It is very hard to change the
> way people think, especially when politics and
> widespread contemporary perspectives are involved.
> That is my experience.

You're far too kind. Strangely I met Ramsey Campbell over the weekend and I have to say that he was a real gent and a true scholar of horror fiction - just more the pity that I struggle to get on with his novels. Still, I think his short work still has its good points.

I recently read Quentin S Crisp's Morbid Tales which while not 100% successful, certainly had at least three inspiring supernatural tales. My favourite being the most OTT tale in the collection, 'The Mermaid.'

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: gesturestear (IP Logged)
Date: 21 December, 2012 12:20PM
I believe the The Modern Weird Tales, starts chronologically where Weird Tales ends. It hasRamsey Campbell and S/King And I believe Bloch. I really don't like Joshua's and others
using HP and or the Ctuhlu mythos to sell unknown words. Bloch is so great example of A Cthuhlu style writer and then broke away to craft his own style.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 22 December, 2012 01:30AM
gesturestear Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I believe the The Modern Weird Tales, starts
> chronologically where Weird Tales ends. It
> hasRamsey Campbell and S/King And I believe Bloch.
> I really don't like Joshua's and others
> using HP and or the Ctuhlu mythos to sell unknown
> words. Bloch is so great example of A Cthuhlu
> style writer and then broke away to craft his own
> style.

I'm afraid you lost me a bit there, in the sense that I'm not entirely sure what you're saying. Are you offering your thoughts based on having read the book? Or simply your understanding from other sources? And "unknown words"? Do you mean "unknown works"? If so, I'm afraid you're rather badly misinformed, as none of the writers or works dealt with there are "unknown". Nor is Joshi (not Joshua) "selling" most of these. In fact, he is frequently strongly critical of quite a lot of them. Nor is he using HPL or the Mythos (which is something he has spent a great deal of his career criticizing heavily) in order to do such "selling". Joshi has, quite simply, been interested in the weird genre since he was young, and has read tremendous amounts of it, and written about much of what he has read. Though he does have a tendency to be somewhat "HPL-centric", generally this is his recognition of Lovecraft as one of the more influential scholars of the field, rather than any connection to Lovecraft's fiction itself. (You might want to look up his three-volume Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia, to give you an idea of how far his interest ranges. Not that he wrote the entire thing; but the sheer scope indicates how wide that range is.

At any rate... no, The Modern Weird Tale does not take up "chronologically" where his earlier The Weird Tale ends; in all cases (save for Bloch, who is only one of the writers dealt with in a particular chapter, rather than having a chapter devoted to him alone) there is a gap of some decades between the two. It is very much a book dealing with the modern[u][/u] weird tale (at the time of its writing). There is a book by Joshi which, to some degree, acts as a transition between the two, The Evolution of the Weird Tale; though this is not entirely the case, as it also deals with such writers as W. C. Morrow, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Edward Lucas White, E. F. Benson, etc., many of whom HPL read. Nonetheless, it does deal in some part with that transition from the older writers of the "Golden Age" of the weird tale (quite distinct from the "Golden Age" of science fiction, for instance), to the pulp writers of HPL's generation and after, to modern writers such as Les Daniels, L. P. Davies, Rod Serling, and so on.

As for Bloch as "a Cthulhu style writer"... he was never that, really. He wrote a small number of tales which partake of that fantasy realm, but even while he was penning those, he was writing a very wide variety of stories which went from sheer grue ("The Feast in the Abbey") to the comic to fantasies of other types... and crafting his style throughout it all. (Look at Lovecraft's letters to him in conjunction with the extant works of that period, and you can see a tremendous advsncement in Bloch's writing even at such a young age.)

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 22 December, 2012 07:47AM
Just to confuse matters...

[www.pspublishing.co.uk]

I must admit that I'm quite tempted by this, although I'd like to know how much space is devoted to supernatural fiction between Gilgamesh and the 19th C before I seriously considered buying it. Is it quite encompassing or is it going to be Gilgamesh > Homer > Arabian Nights > hop > skip > jump > the 19th C... ta da!

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 22 December, 2012 01:05PM
There was a ToC in the EOD a while back - like, last year - which looked most promising. I have ordered both volumes, but there will be a US hc eventually, from Scarecrow Press.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: gesturestear (IP Logged)
Date: 22 December, 2012 01:49PM
You know what your so full of yourself, I just joined the site and was trying to fit in somewhere, when I went back and looked at the collaborater of contemporary mythos I was wrong, it's Price not Joshi. I guess I'll just shut up. I thought this was Smith website, plenty of HP.
For instance, in the story "The Black Abbot of Puthuum", why goes the fair maiden Rubalsa choose one over the other? Cushara and Zobal, warriors for the King of Faraad, Hoaraph.

Where Do I ask a question like that?
Sorry I ruined your scholary lecture, my intent was not as deep as you make it out your be

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: gesturestear (IP Logged)
Date: 22 December, 2012 03:31PM
Twentieth century weird tales do contain a lot of pressing socio- econmical and political issues like the atomic age, space and so forth. Authors like Clark, Machen, and Lovecraft seem to trascend these boundaries and take the reader into a another dimension that is not restricted to these elements and that is what makes them so timeless, almost like our dreams, are they so different than dreamers living 200 years ago or more.
A great example of social economic and political writing that also trascends time is Nikolai Gogol's' "The Cloak" is a story of a common mans fight to fit in to a Socialist class, but must wade through buearucratic mockery. It is not until his death that he is able to break down the walls of silence that stifeled and suffocated the Russian people.
Yet even though written over 100 years ago and rife with political overtones that as an American living in the 21 century could not possibly understand, the horror is still stripped down to it's bare bones and uses political and social norms as a backdrop to his story, which makes it timeless. The struggles of everyone trying to fit in or survive.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 22 December, 2012 04:46PM
gesturestear Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You know what your so full of yourself, I just
> joined the site and was trying to fit in
> somewhere, when I went back and looked at the
> collaborater of contemporary mythos I was wrong,
> it's Price not Joshi. I guess I'll just shut up.
> I thought this was Smith website, plenty of HP.
> For instance, in the story "The Black Abbot of
> Puthuum", why goes the fair maiden Rubalsa choose
> one over the other? Cushara and Zobal, warriors
> for the King of Faraad, Hoaraph.
>
> Where Do I ask a question like that?
> Sorry I ruined your scholary lecture, my intent
> was not as deep as you make it out your be

Whoa! No need to be so tetchy. Debates of this nature tend to attract all sorts of responses, scholarly (which mine certainly wasn't; I was simply correcting what I perceived to be misperceptions and/or misinformation in your post) and otherwise.

As for Dr. Price... I'm not quite sure what you're referring to there, either, unless it is his editing numerous anthologies dealing with the Mythos; in which case yes, he certainly has included a number of "unknown" works, both old and new. Generally speaking, I do not, myself, see this as a problem; it all depends on the quality of the material itself; which has admittedly been mixed -- some very fine stories and poems, others simply not up to par. So we might be closer to agreement there than you think. However, as I say, it all depends on the quality of the particular piece; and some of these anthologies have introduced me to writers I'd not read before, often quite good writers with their own take on what HPL began. In fact, it is via this sort of introduction that I have begun to feel much more hopeful about the weird field in recent years than I had in a very long time.

And by all means, please don't "shut up". My apologies if I got your dander up. I simply enjoy the give-and-take on discussions about these matters, but my responses can sometimes hit someone the wrong way. Continue to share your thoughts and views, but don't be surprised when you run up against those who have quite contrary ones, and who argue them vociferously. That's the nature of the beastie. It is also, oftentimes, how we learn; by having our views strongly challenged.

As for the CAS-specific question you've just posed: It has been at least three decades since I last read that story, so I'm afraid my own memory is too patchy to respond until I revisit it, but I am sure someone here will be able to enter into such a discussion with you.

On Joshi's history of the weird tale... I know he has studied works from throughout the tradition, and has edited anthologies containing a number of lesser-known tales (as well as several which have contained seminal works in the genre), so I would expect it to be quite informative. Alas, I'm not sure whether or not I'll be able to afford the darned thing, given my current state... but I certainly hope I can.....

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 22 December, 2012 05:33PM
The English Assassin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Just to confuse matters...
>
> [www.pspublishing.co.uk]
> -history-of-supernatural-fiction---vol-1--st-joshi
> -1592-p.asp
>
> I must admit that I'm quite tempted by this,
> although I'd like to know how much space is
> devoted to supernatural fiction between Gilgamesh
> and the 19th C before I seriously considered
> buying it. Is it quite encompassing or is it going
> to be Gilgamesh > Homer > Arabian Nights > hop >
> skip > jump > the 19th C... ta da!

I'll be buying the set from S. T., once he gets his copies, and will be shewing them on my YouTube channel and discussing Contents and such. I am quite excited about this history of supernatural fiction! I am especially eager to see what he says about those of us who are writing weird fiction to-day, for it is my belief that we have entered a wonderful new era of good writing in the horror genre.

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

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2012 07:07AM
We are living in an era of materialism and much confusion. Any good writers today would have to seperate themselves from society.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2012 07:22AM
wilum pugmire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> I'll be buying the set from S. T., once he gets
> his copies, and will be shewing them on my YouTube
> channel and discussing Contents and such. I am
> quite excited about this history of supernatural
> fiction! I am especially eager to see what he
> says about those of us who are writing weird
> fiction to-day, for it is my belief that we have
> entered a wonderful new era of good writing in the
> horror genre.

Oh, that'd be great! For books like these it's nice to see them in the virtual flesh to see what I'm getting for my money. If you could post a reminder here when you've broadcast it that would be sweet as I don't know how to subscribe to a YouTube channel and I don't know if I want to find out... mainly because I'm trying to wean myself from as much of the web as possible, except for a few exceptions (such as this forum).

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2012 10:42AM
The English Assassin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> the web . . .

The most insidious drug mankind has ever got caught in so far.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2012 12:42PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The English Assassin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > the web . . .
>
> The most insidious drug mankind has ever got
> caught in so far.

As someone who long held that attitude himself (and still holds it in certain respects), I won't go too much into that argument, save to say that it has made it possible for me to find a number of people who share my interests in literature and the arts, many of whom I have become quite close to -- people I'd never possibly have known otherwise, as they are scattered all over the globe. Add to this the various resources for reading long out-of-print books which are difficult to get even via interlibrary loan, and it becomes a very useful resource indeed.

As for good new writers... we have quite a crop, actually. Many of them, too, would not have made it were it not for such a resource, as they certainly don't fit the mainstream, even with the weird field. (Some do, but a fair number are outside that "charmed circle".) Writers such as Caitlin R. Kiernan, Ann K. Schwader, Michael Cisco, Thomas Ligotti, W. H. Pugmire, Joe Pulver, Sr., Laird Barron, Cody Goodfellow, Jonathan Thomas, etc., etc., etc. A variety of talents, but I think it is the internet which has allowed them to find their audience so readily in many cases, rather than having their opportunities wither because of mainstream marketing not knowing what to do with them.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: gesturestear (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2012 02:52PM
Writers today have so many oppurtunities availble to themwith the advent of the internet. Anyone can create an online blog, outsource their matrtial to numerous webzines, from critical film, sport,book and travel online sources and investment (The Motely fool). Social websites like Youtube,Facebook,blogs, I could go on and on, all a writer needs is some attention from one of these numerous online sources to give them their, "15 minutes".

The invention of the steam-powered printing press in the 1850's? allowed writers to publish material on a Industrial scale. This was the beginning of the information age, a mere drop in the bucket compared to current technology. Writers could now dream of reaping the benifets of their gift, instead of waiting to immortalized after death, like so many unknown authors before. Now the power of WORD was out of the Churches grasp, who controlled all printing before, with monks, block lettering and expensive binding, ink and parchment. This lead to severe censorship and writers were now looked down upon as threats to political and social dogma. Writers had to appease only their publisher who were forced to look to the writer as a number,or dollar sign, units sold and political, social,and religous pressures who held the money and owned the factories. Writers like Poe lived from one story to the next and msny became paranoid and nuerotic. The circumstances surronding Poe's death are still unknown. A great fictional auto biography of Poe is writer, Matthrw Pearl's "The Poe Shadow".

I will end with one example, I used before Nikolia Gogol, a Russian writer in the early mid
18th century. Very few writers have been documented to go through so much madness and illness just to finish his sequel to the Russian satire novel "Dead
Souls". His previous work wrote about vengeance of the common man against society norms. Wanting to make his work an art of protection he traveled to Italy and France. He finally drove himself mad and sick from fatigue. Confessing to Russian preist about his p
unfinished manuscript and confessing his homosexualality, he was ordered to burn the manuscript and starve himself for 5 days. This destroyed any will to live and he died a
painfull death.

He was buried in a church cemetary and his grave was ordered to be. moved, his corpse was found lying face down, another source of indignity. A statue was built upon his gravesite and then destroyed and replaced with a statue of the Czar.
So yes I think writers today have it so much easier than those before them. These horrors and tribulations of history's forgotten writers.must be ressurected and not forgotten, which is a reason I joined this site.

I wrote this on my smart phone and the cursor jumps around and erases previous material but I have tried to correct myself. I do not propose to be a historical accurate event of all the above material, the reader can take what he wants.
Thank you.



ternet writers had to appease publishers, Weird Fiction, Readers
Digest.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2012 03:28PM
Jdworth, those are of course wonderful opportunities the Internet contributes. Many marvellous writers I would not have known today, and not had their books, if it wasn't for the Internet (and informed fellows like yourself spinning the net).

In controlled doses the Internet is excellent. And will enrich life.

Some people can enjoy a fine wine in a civilized manner, but many others eventually become slaves under the alcohol. The problem with Internet is that it's an endless source of second-hand information. Available at the klick of a button. It's easy for the soul to drown in this virtual reality. Where exactly do you draw the line between what is important, significant information for you, and what is not? Why, there may be "something else" around the next corner, and something around the next, and the next, and the next, . . . I admit I am not very good at handling it myself, and spend much too much time before the screen, eager to see "what's going on" and to "stay tuned". In fact, I consider it a very serious personal problem, if not outright catastrophic.

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2012 05:28PM
gesturestear: To add to your comment about Poe... it wasn't only living from story to story; he had to write enormous amounts of reviews and articles in which he had little or no interest, simply to stay alive. When Virginia was ill, of course, things got considerably worse. It is no wonder Poe suffered a breakdown shortly following her death (his writings, including his letters of the period, make both heartbreaking and horrifying reading). This sort of thing is largely why he virtually stopped writing poetry, which was his true passion. (I wish, however, to make a distinction between this sort of review work and his more substantial critical works, such as "The Philosophy of Composition", which he did seem to enjoy writing, and which often contributed a great deal to the discussion of the nature of art. I am speaking here of the interminable run of reviews of now-long-forgotten works of his day.)

Kyngatin: Yes, I agree that there is certainly that risk, and that for some it proves too great. I have occasions when I fall into that trap but, fortunately, they are few and far between. Mostly it is a case of simply not having time to even do those things I wish to do online, such as discussions like this. I always seem to have more going on than I can fit into a single day, week, month, or year... a good thing, in some ways, but at times a distinct pain in the neck. It does, however, keep me from frittering away my time on aspects of the web which benefit me little or not at all.... All that aside, however, your point is quite valid; it is a matter of finding that balance; not an easy thing, especially for a generation which seems to not have had any training in such skills whatsoever....

Re: Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction - S.T. Joshi
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 24 December, 2012 07:54AM
I totally agree, balance is the key to the internet. I too find it a useful resource (if I didn't I wouldn't be here) and I think there is a lot of excellent creativity to be found on it, but it is also an insidious time waster and I increasingly believe it is altering the way we think and what we think. I'm certainly not about to ditch the internet, but I want to make sure I maintain control of what information I allow to feed into my brain these days, so that means not subscribing to news feeds, podcasts and YouTube channels - even if they're good. Of course that'll mean I will miss stuff that I might enjoy, but it'll also mean that I'm the one who is choosing what I access (and when I do).



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