Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown

  1. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

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    I wonder if Gaiman is still labouring under a certain anxiety of influence w.r.t. Lovecraft?

    At the China Mieville reading that I attended, the very first name out of Mieville's mouth when he was asked about influences was H.P. Lovecraft.
     
    Mar 6, 2010
    #21
  2. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    I can easily see that being the case, as it is a portrayal I wouldn't have expected. It seems to have left something of a sour taste in several people's mouths (so to speak)... yet its accuracy is something I am not in a position to question. Long is an interesting figure, though, and while some of his fiction is... shaky, to say the least, there are always brilliant passages. And, when he was at his best, he soared very high indeed. I am very glad that the Hippocampus Press Tindalos Cycle will be reprinting "The Horror from the Hills", for instance... a very uneven tale, but a very intriguing one, and some parts of which I don't think even HPL could have surpassed... even if he did provide the central portion with his Roman dream....

    The Hounds of Tindalos (the Arkham House edition) is a wondrous thing, really. I used to have a copy of this, though it is one of those things I had to let go during a particular nasty period in my life. I hope to pick up another copy at some point, preferably with the Hannes Bok cover, which is really quite perfect for that tale. Congratulations on receiving a copy of it -- I look forward to your thoughts on that one.

    Yes, I'd wondered about whether he was doing any writing these days, as I hadn't seen anything from him in quite a while. Let's hope you (and others) can coax him back to it, as he really is quite talented. As you say, he is one of the very few who can manage to write humorous Lovecraftian material and have it work....

    I envy you that experience. As I mentioned earlier, I hope to make it to Providence some day, and to spend a fair amount of time there just soaking up the impressions of the town and of the places HPL himself knew. As for his opinion on "The Call of Cthulhu"... I'll have to see if I can't find the particular quote on that. Yes, he seemed to almost never see the worth of his work, with the possible exceptions of "The Colour Out of Space", "The Music of Erich Zann" and, just possibly, At the Mountains of Madness. Campbell's comments in the film are right on the nose, I think: that any writer who is hard on his own work should hear what HPL had to say about his work. It is painful to see him so denigrate tales which are so very well-crafted, and so powerful decades after they were written.

    I can't quite say whether or not it will be my very favorite, but I can already tell it is going to be high on the list. I, too, read several of these pieces in their original form, and the revisions here often make them almost new pieces, really. Waugh is one of the most intelligent and fascinating among a bunch which is amazingly talented to begin with. The work of so many of the Lovecraftian scholars is, to my thinking, itself literature of a high order. It is as if they imbibed something of Grandpa Theobald's ability with the language, so that their own writings when dealing with his work reflects that care and love of good, even beautiful prose.

    I will admit to an especial fondness for the work of Barton L. St. Armand and Donald Burleson in this regard (yes, even the deconstructionist essays of the latter, which took some getting used to, but which I now reread with the greatest of pleasure). I still experience a genuine frisson with the closing line of Burleson's "On Lovecraft's Themes: Touching the Glass" (in An Epicure in the Terrible, for those who aren't familiar with these things): "Lovecraft's career-long text itself is a sprawling hall of mirrors, mirrors mirroring mirrors, a labyrinth of iterated thematic reflections through which wanders the Outsider who forever reaches forth, in hope against hope, to touch the glass"; while St. Armand's The Roots of Horror in the Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft remains as challenging and enriching today as when I first read it nearly twenty years ago, as does his "Facts in the Case of H. P. Lovecraft" in Joshi's Four Decades of Criticism.

    In fact, I owe Joshi an enormous debt for introducing me to Lovecraftian criticism back in the early 1980s; a field which has give me a great deal of pleasure and expanded my horizons intellectually to a tremendous degree.

    Could be... though, to be honest, most of Neil's comments about Lovecraft both in this film and in The Eldritch Influence are generally positive. He certainly sees Lovecraft as the major influence on modern horror, and has more than once noted that one of the reasons Lovecraft receives so much parody is because he is so important; we don't parody (at least not to any great degree) that which is negligible, but only that which is truly unique and groundbreaking. We may make fun of it, but we don't go to the effort to write genuine parodies unless there is something substantial there....
     
    Mar 6, 2010
    #22
  3. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    Miéville is a very nice guy. I gave him a copy of my personal, proofread-three-times e-library of the complete extant stories of Lovecraft at Eastercon two years ago, and he was very pleased. He's also the best writer of autographs I've ever met -- he really made an effort to personalise every autograph. When I mentioned how awful his puns in Un Lun Dun were (and I meant that as a compliment -- a pun is supposed to be awful), he signed the book "To Martin, who appreciates the awfulness of puns".

    I'm looking forward to his next novel, Kraken, a lot -- it seems to have lots of tentacled horror. :)
     
    Mar 7, 2010
    #23
  4. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Quick note: This movie is now available on iTunes. I rented it just now. It gives some perspective on the author and people who are involved in the industry.
     
    Mar 3, 2011
    #24
  5. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Quick Review (might as well, after having just watched the documentary).

    First of all, it is a documentary film. Does the title "Fear of the Unknown" have to do with what is written on his personal grave stone? It is I guess what had inspired his being able to write or was it what he wanted to conquer with writing horror.

    Alright, I believe that there was quite a bit of substance to the documentary. I had to pause it a few times and walk around before I could take in more information. I watched it twice over before stopping. I was interested to know more about the author. As the biography moved along chronologically, it paused in places to focus on some aspect of the author. It was a serious look with a bit of humor (including the joke about the sea food being unfavorable, but obviously there really is a Dagon myth answer).

    It covered a large scope of information (just not for JD). Provided were a few representative examples of his short stories. The interviewers gave personal explanations and reaction. The documentary really organized all of the parts of the whole Lovecraft experience.

    So did I gain an advantage from watching it? I would say that I feel like it serves as an overview with the sense that there is very much content. It does not venture to far outside of giving a sturdy or sober look.
     
    Mar 4, 2011
    #25
  6. Radix

    Radix Well-Known Member

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    Watched it the other day on YouTube (of all places)

    I'm one month new to H.P. Lovecraft & really enjoyed the documentary-

    On a side note, I really dug the art by Tom Sullivan that (I guess)
    is from some kind of role playing game~
     
    Mar 4, 2011
    #26
  7. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    I've just begun Richard Overy's The Morbid Age: Britain and the Crisis of Civilization, 1919-1939 (Penguin 2009 -- interesting that this British publisher uses the American spelling of "civilisation"). I'm in an early chapter called "A Sickness in the Racial Body." Lovecraft wasn't British and, so far as I know, had no contact with current British journalism and books published only in Britain. But I think much that the book deals with would relate not only to the British Isles, but to countries where English was the majority language and institutions were largely British-derived ("Anglosphere") -- and indeed other European countries and European colonies.

    I'm not heading towards "excusing" anything in Lovecraft. But it is worthwhile to consider that, in some important respects, such as his ethnophobia, Lovecraft may have been pretty ordinary, for all his well-known eccentricities and exceptional imagination. And so "pretty ordinary" ideas work themselves out in horrible apocalypses. The whirligig of time brings in his revenges.
     
    Mar 5, 2011
    #27
  8. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    I didn't know that Lord Dunsany was a Bible reader. In "Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown" it says something about how the King James was not far from his own writings, it had an apparent influence.

    The documentary showed how Lovecraft worked on his writing by editing it repeatedly. That was quite interesting because I like to do that myself sometimes. Too bad I have yet to write anything. Some other people around here do apparently, with authority, with authority.
     
    Mar 6, 2011
    #28
  9. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Tinsel, I suspect an important influence on Dunsany was Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan," especially if you take into account the prose introduction. As I recall, Coleridge says he'd taken a medication and fallen asleep, and in his dream wrote the poem in full. Having awakened, he was writing out the poem when he was interrupted by someone wanting to talk with him about a business matter, and when he returned to the poem he was writing down, had lost the ability to recall everything. The intro almost certainly oversimplifies or falsifies what happened (since we have more than one draft of the poem), but for the Dunsany connection you have here the dreamer. The poem itself is the main thing. It has an exotic "Oriental" setting, an atmosphere of the supernatural, of prophecy, of the past, of warriors, of ravishingly splendid buildings and natural settings ("that deep romantic chasm," etc.). In short it reeks of elements that Dunsany would use. Probably the likely Coleridge connection has been pointed out multiple times before, but I don't read a lot of crit of fantasy.

    But fans of weird fantasy really owe it to themselves to read "Kubla Khan," and Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and perhaps especially "Christabel," an unfinished poem that, if written in pulp prose, would seem exactly like something out of the Clark Ashton Smith-HPL-Robert E. Howard milieu. Looking for the founding father of weird fiction? Here he is. (Of course he didn't pop onto the scene without precursors of his own, but I don't think they offer the concentrated weirdness that he does in pieces that were widely available to influence the American pulpsters.)
     
    Mar 6, 2011
    #29
  10. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    The documentary shows how Lovecraft came across Dunsany's book. I have read "Kubla Kahn" and if it influenced Dunsany like you said, you can also see it in Lovecraft's "The Doom that Came to Sarnath".
     
    Mar 6, 2011
    #30
  11. Ry-El

    Ry-El Member

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    I thought it was a great doc.

    I really felt for and identified with Lovecraft(minus all the racism and such).

    I very much enjoyed it.
     
    Mar 8, 2011
    #31
  12. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Tinsel: "Fear of the Uknnown" is from the opening line of his groundbreaking essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown". It may well be second in fame only to his opening of "The Call of Cthulhu" (which is cited in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations): "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents." It is also cited in the beginning of the documentary itself.

    This was a major tenet of Lovecraft's aesthetic of the weird tale, as well as his view of the cosmic in fiction, and he goes on to define and defend that position throughout the essay, just as he does in a number of his letters.
     
    Jul 25, 2011
    #32
  13. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    Lovecraft's essay, by the way, and his famous quote were used in an article about mystery fiction of all things in my 1970 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica --- if anyone was interested.
     
    Jul 25, 2011
    #33
  14. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    I'll be darned... I'll have to look that one up and give it a read.....
     
    Jul 25, 2011
    #34
  15. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    I'd like to make a small correction. Lovecraft and his essay are mentioned in the 1970 edition but in my earlier post I was actually referring to the 1957 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica: "In that history the emotion of fear always has bulked large, and the oldest and strongest of man's fears is fear of the unknown." As soon as I read that I literally screamed Lovecraft out loud. And indeed, checking the bibliography for the article I found HPL's essay "The Supernatural In Fiction," from THE OUTSIDER AND OTHERS. Looking over the 1970 article (not too carefully, it is getting rather late for me) I found no such sentence utilizing Lovecraft's quote.
     
    Jul 26, 2011
    #35
  16. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    The essay in the 1957 edition, in which Lovecraft is called "the American fantaisiste", was written by Vincent Starrett, book columnist for the Chicago Sunday Tribune and author of BOOKS ALIVE and THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. The 1970 edition, with minor revisions, reprints the Starrett article and includes additional material about the mystery/detective "boom" by Howard Haycraft, author of MURDER FOR PLEASURE and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE DETECTIVE STORY.

    Just in case anyone was losing sleep over the matter.
     
    Aug 21, 2011
    #36
  17. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Not losing sleep, but very interested. Starrett was one of the earliest respected literary figures to take a strong interest in HPL's work, and I have copies of a couple of his reviews (as well as one or two other things on the subject, and HPL's letters to him). Not knowing about this (or having forgotten:eek:), this is definitely appreciated....
     
    Aug 21, 2011
    #37
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