At The Mountains Of Madness

  1. Marky Lazer

    Marky Lazer Well-Known Member

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    Is it just me, or is that story dull? I'm half in the story and it reads like a scientific story. On the book's cover it says Stories of Terror, but I so far it's dull as snow...

    Any hardcore HPL fans got put off by this story?
     
    Nov 22, 2006
    #1
  2. Paige Turner

    Paige Turner Just another busted robot

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    I know the meaning of life, but I can't tell you
    I'm relatively new to Lovecraft, but I think this story is longer than it needs to be. I actually read this story years ago, but I recently reread it.

    ***SPOILER***

    When they come upon the camp that has been devastated, it seems like the story might start to get revved up, but all that mapping and description of the ancient city was way overlong. AND I had a hard time discerning how he could ascertain such a complex understanding of their history through pictorgraphs.

    I think the story was all right, but it could easily have been half the length. Like a lot of Lovecraft, it's more about setting a mood than about shocking thriller action. Or any action, for that matter. I have enjoyed the shorter stories more, though I find that he really projects his surprise endings.
     
    Nov 22, 2006
    #2
  3. Urien

    Urien Well-Known Member

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    At the Mountains of Madness, in the Den of Dementia, lives a shrew called Albert. Often he paddles in the Sea of Psychosis, and runs through the Fields of Fear. He's a happy shrew.
     
    Nov 22, 2006
    #3
  4. HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood Cannot find a single piece of me, game over

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    Um...sure you haven't been skipping along with this shrew, AVS? :D
     
    Nov 22, 2006
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  5. Marky Lazer

    Marky Lazer Well-Known Member

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    I also have to add that this is my first ever go at HPL (due to our friendly neighbor Mr Moddigton), and I have to say, I might never have a go at any of his other work...

    Maybe the other stories in the collection will change my mind, though.
     
    Nov 23, 2006
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  6. Paige Turner

    Paige Turner Just another busted robot

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    I know the meaning of life, but I can't tell you
    If I might, I'll recommend The Color out of Space and The Dunwich Horror. Snappier pace and great mood pieces.
     
    Nov 23, 2006
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  7. Nesacat

    Nesacat The Cat

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    The Mountains Of Madness is very much like the rest of the Old Gent's work. It's atmospheric and it's almost like building a whole landscape and describing all the details. His work is not blatantly shocking. The horror tends to creep under your skin very slowly but very effectively.

    I'd give his shorter pieces a try Marky. The first one of his I read was The Cats Of Ulthar and that is still one of my favourites.
    :p
     
    Nov 24, 2006
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  8. ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    I personally love this story. It's really not be read so much as an adventure or horror story as some wild fantasy historical about the Old Ones. The bulk of the story consists of the protagonists wandering about the antarctic landscaoe discovering the friezes and sculptures that tell the story of the Old Ones and their coming and their civilization etc. I found it very ambitious and atmospheric.
     
    Nov 24, 2006
    #8
  9. Karsa Orlong

    Karsa Orlong Unchained

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    It was my first Lovecraft and I adored it, but it's probably a taste thing - my dad, with whom I normally agree on just about everything, isn't a fan of Lovecraft's style at all based on AtMoM and TCoCDW. Personally, reading it made me long for a time when there were more places in the world that were so unexplored and mysterious that the imagination could go wild. He really sucked me in to that landscape and the mentalities of the characters, I was with them all the way through the end part in particular.

    Lovecraft, rather than using the more obvious techniques of less gifted authors, tends to allow a malicious presence to gradually seep into the mood of the piece, allowing tension to build and build until it's usually resolved with a frantic climax.
     
    Nov 24, 2006
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  10. Randolph

    Randolph Active Member

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    I've always thought that this was one Lovecraft's best stories, though even his best stories do have their flaws. It is somewhat slow paced, but I never thought that was really a bad thing, just a conscious choice on Ech Pi's part to build up the tension. While reading it, I always knew that something bad was on the verge of happening, but the question was "when?"
    Hitchock would probably back me up here. Anyway, I do think that Lovecraft fell victim to his usual repetitive descriptions of nameless, formless, and indescribable horrors. And it always bothered me that the scientists learned so much about the Old Ones history and way of life from a bunch of carvings. Overall though, I think the eeriness of the deserted city, the scope of the story of the Old Ones, and the great build-up and climax make this one a winner.
    Speaking of AtMoM, there was some recently announced news about the film that is pretty exciting. I can't yet posts links, but it shouldn't take much googling to find the story. Basically, Guillermo Del Toro is still pushing for it big time.
     
    Jan 7, 2007
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  11. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    I'd like to address a couple of points here -- Danforth and Dyer's being able to decipher so much from the murals. I think the key lies in two things: A) the extreme skill of the Old Ones themselves (and their manual dexterity with all those finer and finer tentacles) and B) the relation of their art to that of the Futurists. One of the tenets of futurist art was dynamism... there was no single image, but (as with stroboscopic photographs, or those series of high-speed photographs on a single plate) a series of sequential images presented simultaneously. Hence, enormous amounts of information would be held within each image, giving it almost the impact of movement covering considerable time. However, as noted, the Old Ones were so much more advanced and their techniques so much more assured and analytic, that it is by no means unreasonable that they could convey enormous amounts of information with this art. Add to that the fact that Dyer's account is written after having had considerable time (months or possibly years) to go over the photographs and drawings of these murals and decipher them. Given all that, the amount of information given really isn't so far a stretch as it might at first seem.

    Also keep in mind the fact that a lot of those "repetitions" were a slow adding of detail as Dyer gradually overcame his own psychological defenses of evading the truth... as if setting it down made it finally real for him in a way where it could no longer be dodged; something quite common with people when they are having to come to grips with an experience that threatens their psychological well-being... they handle the information bit by bit, until the entire picture emerges. And let's not forget: men of Dyer's generation simply would not have given quick credence to extraterrestrials in the first place, and everything about the city of the Old Ones violated reality as understood, even the architecture using non-Euclidean geometry for concrete, practical purposes rather than abstract mathematics -- something which shouldn't work in our three-dimensional space, but did. This story was extremely carefully thought out, as one can tell if you've ever seen the any of the notes or manuscript reproductions from when he was working on it ... to the point of changing things before its publication to accommodate the evidence supporting the idea that the Antarctic was a single land mass rather than two (as was long thought to be the case, and which HPL himself believed it to be), and inclusion of the continental drift theory, which was not accepted by geology itself for quite some time.
     
    Jan 8, 2007
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  12. ghyle

    ghyle Subspace Dowson

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    One of Lovecraft's aim with the level of detail in this story was to create a form of realism, both physical and psychological, that was missing in his contemporaries' science fiction. So much so that I myself have felt a sensation akin to phyical coldness, as if I were in the Antarctic environs.

    He also demonstrates a rhetorical complexity and skill in the finely polished cadences of his sentence structures. He paces himself quite skillfully, and it reads to me as if such could be a coherent utterence by a scientist trying to fathom the unspeakable.

    S. T. Joshi himself remarks that Lovecraft is not often given credit for the control he displays of his prose, and this control is evident in this novel.
     
    Apr 20, 2007
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  13. Sibeling

    Sibeling Born to rune

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    It was my first Lovecraft's story, and I liked it because before that I read lots of Poe's stories and those were a bit boring. Lovecraft's novel was more exciting, I'm sure that if Poe wrote a story about these things it would have been longer and boring.

    I particularly liked the fact that the characters are not complete idiots - usually in similar texts when something terrible happens, the characters are unable to put 2 and 2 together and figure out who is responsible for the events. In this novel people understood that

    **spoilers**

    those barrel shaped leathery things are alive and they killed everyone. And I liked the way these actions were interpreted - in similar texts people probably would get guns and go kill the bastards, but in this people were more understanding about the situation.

    And it was interesting that there were technical things used by the characters- planes and radios, and the descriptions were as if of scientific research. It made the evets seem real.

    It was prety scary, especially the bits where they exlore that ancient city, and some parts were rather disgusting, like those about the giant blind penguins. But sometimes the descriptions got too long.

    For me it was difficult to understand the descriptions because all the numbers were given in miles and feet and other strange things, so I had to use a calculator to make them into comprehensible measurements. :D

    The ending was a bit disappointing - I expected something more terrible and disgusting than a giant slug.
     
    Jun 9, 2007
    #13
  14. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    You know, I don't think I've ever quite heard a shoggoth described like that....:rolleyes:

    Of course, the thing about the shoggoths is that they aren't any form of life we'd recognize ... they're simply plastic masses of protoplasm which can form organs anywhere, dependent on need. And it's a part of Lovecraft's theme of the pit of reverse evolution (so to speak) always yawning... that it takes very little for the highly-developed forms to lose out to the most basic; the decline and fall is inevitable; the primal, the past, will always sweep it all away eventually.

    There is also the thing that Danforth saw as they flew back through the pass, though that is very vague and nebulous; but Lovecraft was indicating that there was something even more primal beyond the other mountains -- I'll get to the specifics in a moment. My reaction to this when I read it for the first time, was a feeling of something really eerie, but too vague to be entirely satisfying. On repeated readings, I began to pick up on more things, so that -- while not getting out of it everything Lovecraft had intended -- I got much more of a climax out of that final moment than from the confrontation with the shoggoth.

    Now, as for Lovecraft's own thoughts on this:

    ***************SPOILER ALERT!*******************

    This is from a letter he wrote to August Derleth on the subject:

     
    Jun 9, 2007
    #14
  15. ravenus

    ravenus Heretic

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    Thanks for that letter bit. It was certainly interesting to know his thought process behind that.
     
    Jun 9, 2007
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  16. Sibeling

    Sibeling Born to rune

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    That was pretty much the impression I got - vaguely tube-shaped, slimy thing, crawls around underground... A giant slug.:D

    I have noticed that some of his texts deal with "genetics" - the worst qualities of previous generations appear in their descendants, and usally lead to death of them.

    But in "The Mountains of Madness" I didn't really see why the shoggoths are so bad - they look ugly, but those starfish aliens were not pretty, as well. Danforth and the other guy did not know anything about shoggoths' culture, but the fact that they didn't create any objects of art does not mean they had no culture - after all, the shoggoths performed rather complicated tasks when they were slaves, so they must be quite intelligent.

    For me this moment was not more frightening than the shoggoth, but it was more interesting. As I said, the shoggoth was a rather disappointing thing - I expected something more of a monster, with teeth and tentacles and horrible eyes. But a shoggoth was not so frightening, it was just disgusting. So when the author did not give any descriptions about what Danforth saw, it was more interesting because it left place for my imagination, and this was obviously the author's idea to let the readers imagine horrible things.

    Thanks for the letter quote. It sort of confirms the ideas Lovecraft expresses in the essay Supernatural Horror in Literature - that the things which are unclear and vague are more frightening because the fear of the unknown is the strongest fear of the mankind.

    BTW, is it only my impression or was Lovecraft really sort of modest about his writings and considered his texts and his writing abilities not too good? The letter quote sounds like this...
     
    Jun 11, 2007
    #16
  17. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Indeed he was; and he became even more so in later life (especially after the rejection of At the Mountains of Madness by Farnsworth Wright of Weird Tales). It has been speculated that this may be a large part of why he produced so little following that major spurt of material in 1926-early 1927.

    As for the shoggoths... well, he did define them as nearly mindless at first, but developing "a rudimentary intelligence" later on. I think, too, that Lovecraft was using the shoggoths as an example of a nearer approach to the amoeba, as he would have put it. They didn't create a culture, but -- like barbarians -- defaced the culture which already existed; they were primitive, largely instinctual and undeveloped; a symbol (much like that used by Machen in "The Great God Pan" and "The Novel of the White Powder") of the primal slime at the base of all life, and to which all life can revert, given the proper circumstances.

    As for the Old Ones... that's an interesting thing; most of the novel we've seen them as horrors, but they've been gradually "re-formed" into sympathetic characters... the key turning-point is the subtle use of "unhuman" rather than "inhuman" in describing them at one point: it removes the moral overtones while continuing to recognize them as alien and still a menace; whereas the shoggoths are more sly than intelligent, and entirely destructive. It's a combination of his respect for intellect and culture over the primal, and the creative over the destructive. It also, as has been argued, has some of his racist overtones, as the shoggoths sound very much like his description of the immigrants he saw on a trip through New York's East Side -- one of the prime examples of verbal overkill in his correspondence, what Maurice Lévy described as how Lovecraft "dreamed his repugnances". They're a complex symbol, as are the Old Ones. MM is a very rich and complex book, I think, which grows with each reading....
     
    Jun 12, 2007
    #17
  18. Sibeling

    Sibeling Born to rune

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    Now that you have written it, it seems obvious that shoggoths represent primitive parts of nature, sort of show an opposition of chaos (them) and order (the culture they destroyed), but these symbolic qualities of the text did not occur to me because I've read this text only once, and it was the first Lovecraft's text I've ever read.:eek:

    I'm probably not qualified to make judgements about such matters - he must have had lots of stories that deal with these questions, and they explain the symbolic qualities of all these creatures.

    Lovecraft - a racist? :eek: I wouldn't have thought that, nothing of his stories I've read gave me that idea. But then again, lots of writers are called racists without any particular reason.
     
    Jun 12, 2007
    #18
  19. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    No, no... I tend to run on about this sort of thing because I've been reading HPL for something like 36 years now, and studying his work a fair amount of that time ... and not too often there's someone even interested in these points (though there are getting to be more of 'em these days). So I just enjoy "talking" this sort of thing over quite a bit....

    Alas, with HPL, it is well-earned, as is obvious from his correspondence and, if one reads carefully, it shows up in his stories too, especially places like "The Horror at Red Hook", "Herbert West -- Reanimator" (think of the "Harlem Smoke"), etc... not to mention cropping up in his essays and poetry. However, I'd caution people to look at it in historical perspective, as most writers of that time -- even those who were quite liberal -- had such views (including H. G. Wells and P. Schuyler-Miller), sometimes more, sometimes less, virulent. And it must be said that -- with the possible exception of some sort of incident in school (which, if it happened at all, we really have no detail on) -- Lovecraft's views here were largely kept to his private correspondence, and were modified somewhat (though seldom radically) in later life. (I stress "largely" because they did show up now and again in mild form in some of his essays, a bit more strongly in some of his poetry -- in two cases of early poems, very strongly -- and, as noted, as an underlying theme in his stories, though usually transmuted, as in "The Shadow over Innsmouth", for instance.) (In fact, in one of his speeches at the "Beyond Belief" conference -- a speech in which he talks about the "shifting moral zeitgeist" -- Richard Dawkins reads a passage from Wells which, by today's standards, is absolutely appalling... yet was considered in its day a quite unremarkable thing to say; and, as he points out, Wells was almost an extreme liberal for the time....)

    YouTube - Beyond Belief '06 - Richard Dawkins

    So while we may view it as appalling (and, I think, rightly so), it was anything but unusual for his day ... though the intelligentsia were indeed shifting away from it, bit by bit....
     
    Jun 12, 2007
    #19
  20. Sibeling

    Sibeling Born to rune

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    Thanks for the link! It was quite interesting, and it showed that in those earlier times it was probably an acepted attitude that the white race is superior to all other races, so Lovecraft was just repeating the sentiments of the people around him.

    It is only nowadays that a person can be called a racist if s/he has such beliefs, but at those times it was normal. At those times eugenics was considered a proper science, so no wonder people did not regard all races as equal. Such things are unacceptable only nowadays, and Lovecrafts beliefs absolutely do not make him a worse writer.
     
    Jun 12, 2007
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