If You Were to Meet Lovecraft, Howard and Ashton Smith Would You Get Along with Them ?

Discussion in 'H P Lovecraft' started by BAYLOR, Jul 19, 2015.

  1. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    What kinds of conversations would you like to have with theses writers ? What subjects? What would you tell them about how they are remembered in the present? What would they think of their legacy and impact on the fantasy, science fiction and horror genres ? What would they likely think of our present world ? What would they think you as a person ?
     
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  2. J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    They might be very surprised by their continuing success and importance, and they may be equally amazed at how little things have actually changed?
     
  3. Curt Chiarelli

    Curt Chiarelli Yog-Sothothery on the Fly

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    I believe I'd get along like a house on fire with this trio. Essentially, what we would have here is a total nerdfest of epic proportions! Although I've been told I'm no mean conversationalist in an age of decline for the conversational arts, I suspect my fascination (and intimidation!) would prompt me to do far more listening than chin wagging. Although a good brandy is always a welcome conversational lubricant after sunset (and it goes without saying that our meeting must be at night), I'd happily forego such to guzzle coffee by the tureen to have the honour of being in Lovecraft's tee-totaling presence!

    What would they think of our modern world? No doubt all three would express wonder at the technological progress since their demise, and here I think Lovecraft's curiosity about scientific advances (and advances in the quality and varieties of coffee and ice cream too!) would drive him to heights of ecstasy. However . . . . socially speaking - and especially regarding the areas where racial and sexual mores are concerned - I think all three would be horrified at what goes on nowadays. They are sophisticated enough to know that there's really nothing new under the sun, but the resulting culture shock would probably gall them, resulting in Lovecraft launching into one of his more impassioned jeremiads about the decadence of America, drawing parallels to Rome's decline.

    On the subject of our consumer culture, Lovecraft would unquestionably charge to the fore of the battle lines, squarely denouncing it for what it is: a metastasizing cancer on the body politic. He had a hard enough time dealing with consumerism in its nascent form during the early 20th century, but now, it's extreme sordidness, aggressive nature and permeation into the deepest fabric of our society would make him fume. Scratch that: his fulminations would be apocalyptic, giving Mt. Aetna a run for its money.

    Robert E. Howard would be fascinated and perplexed by the controversy over firearms in America, no doubt strongly coming down on the side of pro ownership. I suspect his attitude would be almost libertarian in its modern sense of the word. I would duly remind him that, had he not had such easy access to guns, he would not have committed suicide and American culture would have been greatly enriched by his continued presence on the literary scene. Perhaps this would be my one glaring breech of diplomacy in an otherwise charming and animated evening.

    Clark Aston Smith, with his rich, fecund vocabulary and deeply romantic sensibilities, would be extremely disappointed with the sterility of much of what literature has produced since his leave-taking. Here Lovecraft would concur, with Howard taking certain exceptions to this comment. He loved Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead. And Lovecraft retorts that he "wouldn't give a plug nickel for the lot"! Which leads us to the topic of cinema . . . .

    All three are in complete awe of the technological advances in film - and the possibilities that it opens up for any creator - but find the emphasis on the superficial and the sensational trying on their nerves. Lovecraft especially dislikes the lack of atmosphere in modern fantasy films. There's agreement: this aspect hasn't changed much since the 1930s. As a remedy, I treat the boys to a screening of Pan's Labyrinth and then, later in the week, a multi-night showing of Lord of the Rings. Lovecraft and Smith wax rhapsodic over Pan's Labyrinth, while Howard finds the L.O.T.R. a glorious narcotic. Like a teenager who just drank an 82 oz. vat of high-fructose corn syrup from Seven-Eleven, he proceeds to act out epic battle scenes in the parking lot, complete with visceral sound effects and a verbatim regurgitation of whole pages of script performed in a phonetically perfect mimesis of each character. Perhaps Howard's response perfectly encapsulates why our bond has been forged so quickly and so strongly: we are all a bunch of overgrown teenagers at heart. A group of resistance fighters who held out and refused a materialistic world's forced attempt to make us conform.

    Dawn is approaching quickly now and the boys say they must depart. A mingled sense of deep gratitude and sadness overwhelms me. We promise to meet again soon, but I know that it's not in the cards. But it is enough, and probably more than I deserve to have shared this time together. I now have memories enough for a lifetime, an embarrassment of riches that will sustain me to the end of my days, high tide or low ebb, thin or flush, no matter what Fate has in store for me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2015
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  4. hardsciencefanagain

    hardsciencefanagain Well-Known Member

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    I like your screening of Pan's Labyrinth,Curt.
    And the time you took for this.
    and this phrase:
    it's extreme sordidness, aggressive nature and permeation into the deepest fabric of our society
    My view exactly
     
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  5. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I doubt very much that I would have gotten on with any of them. But if they were all three in the same place at the same time, perhaps having a discussion about writing over dinner, I would love to be a mostly silent auditor at the dinner table, since I am sure the conversation would be fascinating.

    In fact, if the dinner party was just Lovecraft and Smith (and me, asking the occasional question), I can't think of any other two authors who would be as spellbinding to listen to.
     
  6. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Well said .(y)
     
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  7. Curt Chiarelli

    Curt Chiarelli Yog-Sothothery on the Fly

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    Many thanks, Ben! You may also note that I very diplomatically avoided showing "Two-Gun Bob" Howard some videos of Arnold Schwarzenegger's cinematic "interpretation" of the iconic role of Conan. It would have been tragic to spoil an otherwise wonderful evening by heavily sedating him.
     
  8. Curt Chiarelli

    Curt Chiarelli Yog-Sothothery on the Fly

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    Thank you!
     
  9. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Oh I don't know , I think Howard would have gotten a kick out of Arnold's interpretation of Conan. He would been aghast that they used Thulsa Doom in instead of Thoth Amon , I think Howard would liked James Earl Jones as Doom. :)
     
  10. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    I wonder what Lovecrat would have made of films like Quatermass and The Pit , Alien or In the Mouth of Madness ?
     
  11. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't know, Teresa. Both Lovecraft and Smith could be quite courtly, and both certainly had their share of women as friends and admirers that they, in turn, regarded highly. And Lovecraft's more notorious views underwent quite a lot of change in his last decade as he became more and more open to the more liberal end of the spectrum in social matters. (Smith, apparently, always leaned quite a bit to the left.) He also had a surprising sense of humor and outright fun (to the point of occasional deliberate silliness) that you might enjoy.* And, from what I've read by people who have known either, yes, both were amazing conversationalists, and both enjoyed controversy and challenges in their conversations. So you might well find yourself having a wonderful time challenging (and sometimes agreeing) with their views, as well as the warm camaraderie each was well known for among those who met them.

    Howard... it's difficult to say. His emotional instability caused severe swings from joviality to harsh moroseness and depression, with fits of intense paranoia, from my understanding. When he was at his best, he was apparently a fascinating and stimulating companion, but one never new when the other side of the coin would turn up. Which is a pity, as he, too, could be a wonderful conversationalist and certainly had a staggering poetic imagination.

    At the very least, an evening with any of the three is something which would not easily be forgotten.

    Myself... I'd love the chance to talk to any of them, but (obviously to anyone who knows me) particularly HPL. Just about any topic would do, given his wide range of interests and information, and I think we might even weather the times when I'd feel like smacking him upside the head with a brick -- after all, he and various friends had some heated disagreements at times, yet never suffered this to diminish their friendship.

    What would each think of me? That's more problematic, and I can't honestly say what I think the outcome would be there. I think Lovecraft and I would get along well, given the wide range of types he got along with in life. Smith and I would probably do fairly well, though I think he might find me a bit of a bore now and again. Howard? In the main, fairly well, save for some of his more extreme libertarian views and his at times quite vociferous racism. There, I'm afraid, we would have to agree to drop the issue to avoid getting quite nasty.

    At the same time, I think my patent admiration for each would probably help smooth the way, as I really do think each was a remarkable individual (and writer) in their own right.

    *Even as early as 1921, he has a passage in one of his letters where he remarks on a visit to an amateur colleague and her family where they got him to dress up in drag, parasol over his shoulder and all, which he carried off to everyone's great amusement, including his own.
     
  12. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    The first, I think, based on the sorts of science fiction he tended to admire, would have appealed to him immensely. The second -- certain aspects he would have liked, I think; others he would have abominated. He would likely have found the final version of the creature too anthropocentric, for instance. The last... again, some things he would have liked conceptually, at least, but the execution... not so much. And other things would have evoked extremely pungent criticism.
     
  13. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Im fairly well read on a number of topics and I do have a degree in History, but Im not sure I could successfully hold a lengthy conversation with any of them. I definitely would take issue with their prejudices. But overall, I think I would genuinely like them .

    Other things I would say to them ?

    Robert E Howard , knowing what I know about him , I would tell him what his fate will be and that it would really be a mistake for him to end his life and a very promising career . I would also tell him that his stories and those of his two fellow writers have touched a lot of lives, Including my own.

    Lovecraft , You write truly magnificent horror, please take better care of yourself, eat a proper diet and you might live to ripe old age and get to your enjoy fame , otherwise your dead by 1939 .

    Clark Ashton Smith , You stopped writing around 1941, Don't do that, keep on writing , keep on turning out those wonderful tales.

    As to what they would think of me ? They'd likely find me to be very shallow and probably not worth their time. I have the feeling that I would not make a great impression on them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2015
  14. Curt Chiarelli

    Curt Chiarelli Yog-Sothothery on the Fly

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    Although the casting of Ahhhhnold may have tickled that part of Howard's neural centers dedicated to irony and high camp humour, I totally agree with you about the swap of Doom for Amon. Yes, no matter what role, James Earl Jones elevates every film he stars in. And Conan the Barbarian needed a lot of elevating. With the noted exception of Ron Cobb's art direction and Basil Poledouris' score, Jones was the best thing in the film!
     
  15. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    The problem is, it was Howard's complex personality, including those character "flaws" which led to his suicide, which gave him the perspective and emotional intensity that are at the core of his stories. He couldn't have been otherwise without losing something that is in what we have.

    HPL... he really couldn't take that much better care of himself; financially he was on such a steady downhill toboggan ride that it left him little choice. Had he lived much longer, he would have simply not had any money at all.*

    Smith didn't actually stop writing at that point, though he largely stopped writing prose; he continued producing superb poetry until the end of his life, and he also continued to produce those odd bits of art which many (including, in some respects, myself) find so compelling. In fact, it was this which became his main creative interest in later life. Essentially, Smith wrote the prose to produce money to take care of his elderly parents; once they died, he no longer felt bound to attempt meeting a market increasingly hostile to the sort of prose he preferred to write... which, at its best, really was an aspect of his being a poet, certainly one of the most powerful I've encountered when it comes to fantastic and cosmic verse.

    *By the way, on the subject of Lovecraft experiencing such fame, you might be interested in looking up Peter H. Cannon's The Lovecraft Chronicles; a rather entertaining bit of fiction using HPL and some of his friends as characters written by a Lovecraftian scholar of no mean achievements.
     
  16. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Howard had a myriad issues , he wrote a poem "Lines Written in the Realization That I Must Die " That is a good indicator of how things were likely to play out for him . Could he have been saved? Given all the things going on in his life , probably not.

    Lovecraft, well educated but, probably would have been unable to hack it in the job market. I don't see him fitting in with 9 to 5 routine.

    Clark Aston Smith, I preferred his prose stories. Im just not a big poetry reader, never was. If given a choice between the two, I tend to pick prose stories. I know that In the 1940's fantasy and horror were pretty much out of favor with readers . The Pulp magazines like Weird tales were either gone or going under . With what was going in the publishing industry at that time , Smith would have had a very hard time selling stories, any stories . Editors like John W. Campbell wouldn't have accepted any science fiction he might have been able to write unless they met his particular criteria .
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2015
  17. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    It isn't so much that fantasy and horror were out of favor with readers -- quite the opposite, in fact; they'd had a harder time in the 1920s and '30s. But Smith's prose style was completely opposed to the leaner styles largely influenced by such writers as Hemingway, in part for the same reason as Smith's poetry was out of favor because it followed older models and tended to eschew vers libre, imagism, and the like. His prose was, most often, very much of that same model, linguistically rich and textually dense, a very lush style which simply was out of step with the time, and yet it was the only approach in which Smith was truly himself.

    On a side note... yes, I know. Sadly (and, to my mind, shamefully), poetry has been so badly taught for several generations -- to some degree due to the rise of the modern schools of poetry mentioned above, and their congeners -- that very few people these days can read it with pleasure or even comprehension. This is both a disgrace and a shame (in the sense of it being a reason for sadness and regret) as poetry can do things prose simply cannot. At its best, it is more concentrated and pure an essence of language than prose can ever hope to be. Its use of language requires it to pack more into a line than is the case with prose in 99 cases out of 100, and it is also, therefore, more concentrated both emotionally and imaginatively. It can, at its best, quite literally take one's breath away. Not all of Smith's verse (he wrote more than 1000 poems) is of that quality, but a surprisingly large amount is, and I would strongly urge anyone who appreciates Smith's prose works to cultivate an ability to read his verse and prose poetry with the same appreciation, for it was there that Smith himself (as was the case with Poe) felt he belonged. He was, first and foremost, a poet, and frankly he was among the best this country has produced since the days of Poe.

    Here is one of my favorites among Smith's early poems, just to give you a taste of what I'm talking about:

    http://www.eldritchdark.com/writings/poetry/325/function.date

    And here's one of his odes:

    http://www.eldritchdark.com/writings/poetry/399/ode-to-the-abyss
     
  18. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    I don't think he would have liked the Kull film which basically used or Misused Conan Hour of the Dragon or Kevin Sorbo as Kull. I think he would have found the 2011 remake unwatchable. :)
     
  19. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Powerful imagery, epic and beautifully written and very grim. Definitely worth reading . I think Ill check out his other poems. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2015
  20. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Even his "nature poetry" is often breathtaking in its beauty and fantastic imagery. He had the true poet's approach to the world, which means he was very rich in metaphor and layers of meaning and emotional resonance. The one aspect of his verse I have to take in smaller doses is his amatory verse, as too much of it tends (to my mind) to be slightly repetitive. But even there I can take a fair amount without having that problem, and the best of his amatory verse is extremely powerful and simply exquisite.

    By the way... how much of Howard's poetry have you read? I would also suggest checking out some of his collections, if you can find them, such as Always Comes Evening, Echoes from an Iron Harp, or Singers in the Shadows. The first was originally published by Arkham House, but has had at least two editions since then, while the other two were put out by Donald M. Grant back in the 1970s (if memory serves). I don't know if there were ever any reprints of these, but if not, it's a pity, as there are some fine pieces in each. (The latter two also contain some of his comic poetry, which is also sometimes quite good, and not infrequently rather bawdy.)

    Lovecraft's poetry is another matter and, sadly, the bulk of it is quite adequate as verse, but is seriously lacking as poetry. HPL himself was quite aware of this fact, at times referring to himself as "a metrical mechanic". However, this is not true across the board, as some of his poetry really is quite good, such as the Fungi from Yuggoth sequence, "The Outpost", "Providence", and some of his other fantastic verse, as well as a fair portion of his satirical verse, which is often scintillating in its wit and pungency. Even a small portion of his nature poetry is worth reading, as it has a distinct charm and wistful poignancy, such as the second piece he did entitled "October", which begins:

    Not great poetry, but it most definitely has its charm....
     
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