Algernon Blackwood and Clark Ashton Smith

GOLLUM

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Kelpie said:
I haven't been able to decide what I think of "The Touch of Pan." It's an odd story, and in spite of its fantastic trappings it seems to be more of a social commentary on the sexual morals (or lack thereof) of his times.

It certainly doesn't go on my list of favorites.
Well I'll be sure to post my thoughts here once I've finished it...
 

j d worthington

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Stumbled across this thread in looking up some other things. I have a question: Have any of you read S. T. Joshi's chapter on Blackwood in his The Weird Tale? It's quite informative, and gives a great deal of insight into his work, and how he developed certain themes throughout his career, so that his "horror" tales were merely an aspect of his religious/mystical views. Very interesting, and can add an entirely new appreciation of a very special writer.

As for CAS; I've seldom had trouble feeling "overloaded" with his stories -- though some of his "science fiction" is, frankly, atrocious even when one considers that he meant most of this parodically, savaging the very magazines he was selling to (Smith had more than a bit of the misanthropist in him). Perhaps it's just that I encountered his work so young; or perhaps, when I re-encountered it at a later age, I was already so interested in the language and texture of writing, that I easily found his work to be highly poetical in approach -- he began as a poet, save for a few very early stories written under the obvious influence of Rudyard Kipling; so in most of his fantasy work, even in some in contemporary settings, he used that lapidary prose that's so influenced by that early bent. If you haven't read much of his poetry, Hippocampus Press is going to be putting out a 3-volume set of his complete poems over the next year or two; they already have a volume of his best fantastic poetry available; it's well worth reading.

On the subject of Blackwood -- have any of you ever read Jimbo or The Centaur? I got them a few months ago but haven't yet read them. I understand that The Centaur is almost like a "spiritual autobiography" of a novel, while Jimbo has a very ethereal touch in dealing with the mysticism of childhood. I'd be interested in anything you folks have to say about either of these.
 

GOLLUM

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No I haven't read Jimbo or The Centaur, at least I don't recall doing so. Teresa may have. When you get time to peruse them I'd be interested in reading your observations on these two.

No definitely not read Joshi's chapter on Blackwood. I don't have that book by him on Weird Tales for someone as keen as myself on Weird Tales writers! I should really look at obtaining what I'm sure would be an excellent reference though. Time and money, the bane of my life *SIGH*

Yes I was well aware that Ashton Smith was a poet and a damned talented one at that. My understanding was that he was considered by several contemporaries of the time to be America's greatest living poet. Perhaps a slightly exagerrated claim, maybe you can confirm that for us Sir...:D
 

j d worthington

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From my understanding, he certainly received high accolades from many of the literary lions of the time, including Ambrose Bierce, Vincent Starrett, George Sterling, etc. But, unfortunately for Smith, he was very much a traditionalist at the very time when vers libre and its congeners were becoming all the rage, and soon his work fell by the wayside in literary circles. He may not have been the best living American poet of the time, but his work certainly deserves to be high up there. He had his less successful poems, but the vast majority of his work is really exceptionally powerful and rich -- it is definitely the sort of poetry one compares to a truly fine wine; heady stuff, and well worth reading. I posted his poem "Medusa" on the thread dealing with Alphabetical SFF, under Gorgons, following a discussion of Medusa and Megaera with Chris. Give it a whirl and see what you think. There's also a site called Eldritch Dark, devoted to CAS, and some of his poetry -- as well as a great deal of his artwork and some of his prose -- is posted there.

As to Joshi's book, it's recently been reprinted by Wildside Press, I believe, and is pretty reasonably priced. In it, he has rather substantial examinations of Machen, Dunsany, Blackwood, Bierce, and Lovecraft, plus a shorter chapter on M. R. James, whom he had the courage to rather take to task for leading the ghost story into a very small alley. Then there's his The Evolution of the Weird Tale, which covers W. C. Morrow, Robert W. Chambers, F. Marion Crawford, Edward Lucas White (he has apparently put together a book of E. L. White's best weird work, which hasn't seen print for a very long time, except for "Lukundoo"), Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Rudyard Kipling, E. F. Benson, L. P. Hartley, HPL (different from the chapter in The Weird Tale), Frank Belknap Long, Rod Serling, L. P. Davies, Les Daniels, Dennis Etchison, David J. Schow and Poppy Z. Brite (the last two he sees as somewhat interesting and talented, but tending to be too hackneyed at times). And The Modern Weird Tale, covering William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, T. E. D. Klein, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Bloch, Thomas Harris, Bret Easton Ellis, Thomas Tryon (if you've not read his The Other or Harvest Home, read them before reading this chapter), Peter Straub, Robert Aickman, Anne Rice and Thomas Ligotti. Each has bibliographies of the authors' works, as well (often extensive). As always, very valuable reference guides, and thoughtful (and thought-provoking) criticism here. One may not always agree with S. T., but the man certainly commands respect.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I've never read The Centaur. I've come very close to printing it up several times (it's available online) and having a go, but I was so disappointed in The Human Chord that each time I decided against it.

Blackwood seems to have been at his best when writing novelettes and novellas rather than short stories or novels.

Jimbo I've never even heard of, which gives me hope there might be other Blackwood titles yet to discover.
 

Lobolover

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Hmm.Have read many of CAS's stories and have been fascinated by them. Only one of the versions of "The monster of the prophesy",seemed a tad predictable, though a certain image of something coming from the comet was realy worth it."The treader of the dust" is my favourite.Haven't read Ubbo-Sathla yet,-then its "The city of the singing flame"
,"The abominations of Yondo", "The chain of aforgomon","The charnel god", "The collossus of Ylourgne","The Empire of Necromancers","The dark age", "the dark eidolon".

Am planing to read "The dweller in the gulf" at a near time.

Now,I had some beef with "The comming of the white worm"-its a wonderfully writen story and surly far bter handeled then Stoker's tale of a similar name, however,the reason behind the disapearances was again a tad bit predictable.

Of Blackwood I have read not as much.But I have to say "A psychical invasion", though its lengthy in the coming of the tru weirdness,has a superb ending and Silence's description of the spiritual "gulf" or whichever term he used,left a lasting impersion,it was too bad not more was writen around it in the story.

The other story of his I read was "Secret Worship",which was a very briliant story indeed-nearly flawless.

"The willows" and "Ancinet sorceries" are on my to-read list,but anyone know of any good short fiction of his aside from the most noted?I tried something random and,to be honest,"A haunted isle" kinda got ruined by the ending and not building up on some points.
 

j d worthington

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"The willows" and "Ancinet sorceries" are on my to-read list,but anyone know of any good short fiction of his aside from the most noted?I tried something random and,to be honest,"A haunted isle" kinda got ruined by the ending and not building up on some points.

One could do worse than getting the collection edited by S. T. Joshi or the one E. F. Bleiler did some years ago. A great deal of Blackwood is worth reading, though, and I'd suggest first checking into Joshi's The Weird Tale, which has a very good chapter on Blackwood's writing. This should help you find those which you're more interested in. Current books well worth getting, though, would include the Hippocampus Press reprint of Incredible Adventures and the Wildside Press edition of The Centaur....
 

Lobolover

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Planing to get incredible adventures.

Are there any say not over 20 pages (on the computer) stories from Blackwood,that are good,he seems to be rather lengthly.
 

j d worthington

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Hmmm... most of his best work is of novelette length. Some of the tales in Ten Minute Stories would fit, but I don't believe they're available on the 'net....
 

Lobolover

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Okay.Oh,ive heard about "Sand" being good,and since its not in IA,you think its online somewhere (I realy HATE it when a good stor yhas a generic name-even worse when the authors name is generic-"The tree" by De La Mare,I swear ive looked EVERYWHERE)
 

j d worthington

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"Sand" can be found, as I recall, in his Tales of the Mysterious and Macabre. I'll dig out my Blackwood later and see exactly where to find it....
 

Teresa Edgerton

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"Sand" is amazing, and contains some of his best writing. He makes the desert into a living force. I read the story a number of years ago, and it still haunts me.
 

j d worthington

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All right, I stand corrected (blasted fading memory!:p) "Sand" can be found in Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories, ed. by S. T. Joshi. And yes, it is in that category: in this edition, it is 75 pages in length....
 

Lobolover

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Lord,I think Blackwood never wrote more then three good short stories which WERE short :)
 

Fried Egg

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I'm just working my way through the Penguin Classic collection of Blackwood's tales called "Ancient Sorceries and other weird stories" and I must say that so far I am extremely impressed. Every story is excellent. I find his writing deeply evokative and pleasant to read. He expertly builds up tension and atmosphere. I don't know if this collection is representative of the overall quality of his work but he seems to be amazingly consistant. I am definitely keen to track down some of his other work.
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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I've read several collections of his short stories - my father was a bit of an aficionado of the better sort of classic horror, before the 80s when became a total King fan - and they are generally pretty good.
 

j d worthington

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Yes; there was a certain unevenness toward his later years, resulting in some rather unimpressive things; but the percentage of high-quality work Blackwood produced is really quite astounding. I think you'll find that just about any of the collections of his work available these days will continue to impress....
 

Teresa Edgerton

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The more I read of Blackwood, the more I reread his best work, the more I think that he may be my favorite writer. He could create the most extraordinary effects using comparatively simple language. He seemed to know the exact right word to express a thought.

I agree that some of his later work is lacking. Some of his novels can be quite repetitious in getting a point across. I would say that he was at his best writing at novella length.
 
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