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HP Lovecraft and His Work

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  • Honestly, I think I have no affinity for horror fiction. It's probably as simple as that. I have read Poe and MR James a little but have never read King or any modern horror writer. My interest in fantastica came from reading ERB, REH, C.L.Moore, Brackett, Poul Anderson's fantasy and Sprague de Camp's humorous fantasies. Equally, I haven't read a lot of SF. I tend to select by author, I think, rather than genre. About the only mysteries I read are by Walter Mosely, Margery Allingham or Simenon -- and I guess Hammett, Chandler and Cain, though I tend to think of them as California urban. I liked the SF Galaxy used to run by Dick, Bester, Pohl, Sheckley. I couldn't get into Dune. I think genre fiction tends to interest me mostly for what techniques it offers. I like American fiction that is laconic, sardonic and unsentimental. Genre fiction tends to be currently awash with conventional sentimentality. At one time it offered the opposite. At least in the forms I read. My impression is that much modern fantasy is the equivalent of the old bodice rippers which were big when I was younger. This included a line in biblical bouncers reflected in the movies of the day, like Solomon and Sheba or Samson and Delilah.

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    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
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    • I haven't read all the rest of the complete collection on the kindle so I can't completely attest to this, but I think saying he was beleaguered with nightmares and neurosis/psychosis 24/7 is rubbish.
      I think the guy had a wicked sense of humor that got him in over his head; I think that we say he is racist, sexist, etc. because his writing brings that out it us!

      From the few alphabetical shorts I've read so far, I was particularly struck by the awesome beauty of Beyond the Wall of Sleep; tragic and redemptive (just like I like my tragedy).
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      • ERB,REH and HPL wrote in the pulp tradition of pre WWII.

        The first two did Blood and Thunder, HPL(who considered himself a sci-fi author) did Cosmic Dread.

        Howard put a lot of black magic into Conan's world. ERB's Martian Science might as well be sorcery(sixth Barsoomian Ray indeed!). There are bits of magic and the unexplained scattered around the pulp universe.

        As for myself, having read all the Barsoom books and all of HPL(I'm a pulpista), and more besides, I find them whacking good fun. I've even forgiven Mickey Spillaine's many trespasses-in Mike Hammer stories-and read those too.

        This is fiction as stylized as your beloved Commedia del'Arte, stock characters interact in predicatible ways. There are Faces, there are Heels, all goes according to plan.

        The art is in the execution, just as in ballet or opera. No surprises wanted.

        Try 'The Thing on the Doorstep', it's quite accessible to the Cthulhu impaired.

        (a confession, most of Poe gives me gas. I think his best work was 'The Assignation' but that's me.)

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        • Originally posted by SeeDoubleYou View Post
          I haven't read all the rest of the complete collection on the kindle so I can't completely attest to this, but I think saying he was beleaguered with nightmares and neurosis/psychosis 24/7 is rubbish.
          I think the guy had a wicked sense of humor that got him in over his head; I think that we say he is racist, sexist, etc. because his writing brings that out it us!

          From the few alphabetical shorts I've read so far, I was particularly struck by the awesome beauty of Beyond the Wall of Sleep; tragic and redemptive (just like I like my tragedy).
          I agree the man's sense of humour is too often overlooked, but I think your point about the racism is quite wrong.

          This is a guy who would rather walk down the middle of a street than share the sidewalk with people whose skin was darker than his own. And he put the sentiments that gave rise to that behaviour into his stories. Not all, but enough. Sometimes it's fairly subtle, but sometimes it's terribly overt.

          Now before krakenten comes back with another case of special pleading, this is not some futile attempt to castigate a dead man. It's because I think it's one of his major themes and an important aspect of his work. Therefore worth considering when discussing his work.

          Ultimately, though I think his views on race were seriously wrong, I think it's good that he made race an acceptable spice to add to the stew. That's why race is a major theme in stories such as "Shoggoths in Bloom", "The Litany of the Earth" and many others. It's one of the conversations he started that others are still responding to.
          Last edited by Heresiologist; 05-14-2015, 08:16 PM.

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          • You're missing the humor then, H-$; he's bringing out that feeling in you about people who feel that way.
            You're saying you would rather walk on the other side of the street of someone who doesn't believe what you believe regardless of whether that's racism/sexism or merely philosophical and spiritual. This just begets the problem; it's just another side of bigotry.
            Doesn't mean you should believe what they believe, or even try to understand it, but realize they're just human beings and their monstrosities are a manifestation of your mind rather than a bearing of their appearance. A psychological difference that has the bearing of an handicap rather like a weapon, but a handicap nonetheless. It's up to those of us who can to repair the damaged limb rather than sever it.
            I'm sorry, but I think you're really missing the point.
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            • Just finished the short story Celephais. Another gorgeous-crippler like Beyond the Wall of Sleep and/but of the Dream-Quest mythos.
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              • Originally posted by SeeDoubleYou View Post
                You're missing the humor then, H-$; he's bringing out that feeling in you about people who feel that way.
                You're saying you would rather walk on the other side of the street of someone who doesn't believe what you believe regardless of whether that's racism/sexism or merely philosophical and spiritual. This just begets the problem; it's just another side of bigotry.
                Doesn't mean you should believe what they believe, or even try to understand it, but realize they're just human beings and their monstrosities are a manifestation of your mind rather than a bearing of their appearance. A psychological difference that has the bearing of an handicap rather like a weapon, but a handicap nonetheless. It's up to those of us who can to repair the damaged limb rather than sever it.
                I'm sorry, but I think you're really missing the point.
                Right. It's all a cosmic joke on me, myself and I.

                Lovecraft was not only a founding father of horror, sci-fi and fantasy but horror comedy, jocular sci-fi and comic fantasy.

                Excuse me while I go attempt to correlate the contents of my apparently defective funny bone.
                Last edited by Heresiologist; 05-14-2015, 08:33 PM.

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                • Well-said; not funny, just poignant...what I find funny is that everyone seems to extol HPL's unconscionable-bigotry without realizing how much it says about themselves.
                  Who's to say he wasn't in on yet over his head with this cosmic-joke?
                  Last edited by SeeDoubleYou; 05-14-2015, 09:39 PM.
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                  • Since you insist, I'll say that the racism in HPL does add to the work.

                    I come from York Co. PA, a very racist place indeed, and have lived in Baltimore(where I worked in the law enforcement business in many capacities along the way) I think I know racism pretty well.

                    Racism makes one group more, and others less. It makes for isolated communities in the population at large.

                    It makes for distrust and hatred to the point that even talking to a member of the disfavored group is considered an evil act. It also spawns legends and libels, whereby the bad acts of one person can be used to condemn the whole group.

                    In the industrial world, that had a lot to do with jobs and social status. Fact is, the ethnic groups were used to suppress wages-there was always a hungry group to hire cheap, if the workers wanted too much.

                    (How often I have heard the refrain, "They've got too much already!)

                    Lovecraft used this isolation to produce a sense of mystery and isolation in his stories. It came naturally, and it was pretty common. There is also the 'magical negro' trope, reversed. Remember the professor who died shortly after being jostled by a 'vaguely nautical negro'?

                    (It might be mentioned that people of mixed race were considered the lowest of the low in Lovecraft's day, and it was a widespread notion. He did not invent it.)

                    Urban legends are a part of this mix-including the horrible baked baby story, which I have been hearing for decades.

                    Lovecraft had been de-classed, reduced from comfort to hardscrabble. This often engenders a deep racism-look what WWI did to Hitler, his personality was almost totally reversed by the Great War. HPL had a certain bitterness hidden away.

                    Those were racist times-bad, yes, but there was a lot of it around. From what I saw as a child, it lingered, and lingers still. The years dilute the poison, but don't drink the Kool-Aid just yet. No wonder racism has been classified as a mental illness.

                    As the old working class fades away, some of the racism will fall away each year, but I doubt it will ever vanish.

                    We are about to enter a time of crisis-a Great Dying-as the Baby Boomers shuffle off the mortal coil and populations decrease(it's evident already).

                    I won't be around to see what follows on, and somehow, I'm glad of that.

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                    • Racism victimizes the racist as much as the subject of their racism. We just tend to ascribe material success with a kind of overall success that is just as lacking in the racist and their fellows-by-omission.
                      I think we can all point to the poverty amongst the racists, even the waspy-folks.
                      No one is safe from the victimization that comes from doing-dirty.
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                      • Lovecraft could be very funny and wasn't afraid to satire his own style. Good Examples being Herbert West - Reanimator, and The Hound. Sadly he is most remembered and judged for his earlier works and ideas. It is hard to ignore The Horror At Red Hook in its outright racism and nastiness but there are still gems to be collected among his works and some charm if you look hard enough. His xenophobia to me seems to be a product of an incredibly sheltered life in every sense of the word. People like Kipling bother me a bit more because the tone of colonialism and racism is more genuine and feels less like the ramblings of a terrified, pale shut-in raised by overprotective aunts after his parents went insane. We all pick and choose what offends us though, whether we realize it or not and who's to say which offense is more justified than the other is up to the individual. One thing's for sure, the dead can't argue or get a chance to grow, especially those who die young like HPL did.

                        Above post rings very true. Consider this, Lovecraft was born into a prominent family that lost everything, his mother led him to believe he was an aristocrat when he was in fact a pauper, his parents stood on the shoulders of a successful uncle entrepreneur who lost everything, his promised inheritance led to nothing but poverty and insanity. His father probably died of syphilis from illicit affairs in his door to door sales job, his mother too ended up in a sanitarium where she died. He spent his sheltered, prodigious youth reading a shelf of his grandfathers old books and writing stories. An overprotective mother wouldn't let him outside or interact with anyone, she also raised him as a girl for the first few years of his life. He could have ended up like Ed Gein with a background like that. His racist, xenophonbic aunts took over scarring him when his parents checked out and there are letters of them shaming him for marrying a Jewish hat seller. The guy never really had much of chance in life.

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                        • ; isn't this more excuses for the alienation and fear that his work brings out? so what he was raised like that, aren't there plenty of people in the world who have had worse situations and turned out saintly, likewise people who had perfectly healthy upbringings that turned out deranged and monstrous?
                          Sounds like more excuses to avoid a pretty apparent fact, his work brings out the racist/sexist/bigot/etc. in us all by making us jerk away from the mirror of our consciousness like a hand from a flame. Maybe we tease around the flame and marvel at our cunning or invulnerability, or maybe we curse the flame for its element, but however you look at it you're the one who passed judgment on someone giving an artful release to his trauma/life.
                          And how do we know he isn't off somewhere growing as a person/entity? who's to say, as we read his works and pass judgment on exactly who he was, he doesn't fuck with us through written-conduit? When you were very young and fell in love with someone your own age, does that make you a pedophile?
                          I think we need to get beyond the macabre fascination of horror and start getting on with the overwhelming-wonder of horror.
                          I think any attempt to have an HPL renaissance is flaccid without realizing that his horror comes from being overwhelmed by the world, not disgusted but fascinated.
                          Dangerously infatuated so as to leave the ostensible safety of oppression, while never being able to fully escape it; now that's horror!
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                          • And that about sums it up!

                            As for myself, I concentrate on the stories I loved when I was young, oh, they all had faults(ERB's tales were downright crazy, but I love them still.) Doyle's creations are masterful, but quite unlikely. Verne's 'science' was shaky at best(a cannonball to the Moon, a MANNED cannonball?) and H.G. Welles was often over the top. Still, dreams are made of these.

                            Like comparing a Western film to the actual business of running a ranch, much of the romance is lost.

                            Today, some authors(and very good ones)still produce 'space opera' set in the raygun gothic universe. For me, it's spoiled, because I know it will never be.

                            With the recent developments in physics, HPL looks less absurd. What science there is is quite dated, now, whole thing needs a makeover, really.

                            HPL still has the power to make us uneasy!

                            (and you are quite right about the hidden humor-the film version of Herbert West is very funny indeed-("Is he dead?"......."Not any more!")

                            And on a happy note, airship fanciers can envy me the sight of an enormous aerostat, nearly 250 ft. long that I can see every day. Of late, blimps are plentiful here in Baltimore during the summer and fall, but this aerostat harks to the days of the great Zeppelins. Quite a sight!

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                            • Originally posted by SeeDoubleYou View Post
                              ; isn't this more excuses for the alienation and fear that his work brings out? !
                              I don't think they're excuses, just actual facts of his life. Interpret from them what you will. I feel HPL was terrified of change of any kind and this was due to the loss of his parents to insanity and eventually death. This is why the core theme of his work is fear of the unknown and fear of the inconceivable not to mention madness being a recurring theme in many of his works. He clung to the idea of being a British gentlemen and the 'old ways' as a desperate attempt to cling to the emotional stability, financial promise and familiarity of his early youth, before his family lost everything. There is no excuse or justification for racism but there is always psychology and it is interesting to try and glean why people think the way they do, especially when they hold unwarranted prejudices. Being a shut-in with little life experiwence, HPL had overly romantic ideas about his race, he read too much and lived too little in a time of great social and political change.

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                              • Octo, you hit the nail on the head!

                                I wish we could get past deploring HPL's racism, and examine the poetry a nd prose he produced. Some of the technique and finesse he used raises his body of work above the level of the ordinary pulp fiction hack.

                                That Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith(among others) took inspiration from HPL-which favor he returned- should speak of the quality of his vision.

                                These guys plundered Poe, Machen, Bierce, Hodgeson and many others to set up a sort of shared universe, a concept that added much to the fiction(and made it seem real, too!).

                                The ol' boy bein' tetched was an asset, as well.

                                In an earlier post, when I stated that HPL invented the weird of today, I was gravely in error, as Donelly's ''Atlantis'' and Churchward's "Mu" certainly set that ball rolling. Churchward was very fond of making bald(and innacurate) statements, such as, "I have a knife which I believe to be the oldest knife in the world....". There's an illustration, and one can plainly see that the specimen is a rather common Tibetan utility knife-but such were uncommon in the West at the time.

                                To write such works, three things are needed, a few facts, some arrant speculation and some 'ball-face lies''. Any inconvenient facts are omitted, or distorted. Outright humbugs are treated as fact.

                                Ever hear of 'the restless coffins of Barbados? There's a photo of the now disused vault on line-looks to me that the tomb would fill with water in the rains, which would float the very thin lead coffins and allow them to become displaced. This possibility is never mentioned, and the local newspaper never mentioned the incident.

                                Seems that an awful lot of weirdness happens far from the publications that report same.

                                It also tends to be reported a decade or more afterwards. Just imagine!

                                News stories with an odd slant can be doctored into very spooky stuff.

                                And so we have HPL, a sad and bitter man, turning out scary stories at a few cents per word.

                                Pray, have some pity?

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