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Old 04-22-2012, 04:15 PM   #51
Abe Sargent
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The next story on our list will be the eight page story The Thing on the Roof. Find it here:


http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0608011.txt


It’s another easy read, and one you can blow through in a few minutes.

It’s one of many stories that shows the severe impact The Dunwich Horror had, not only on Howard, but on the Mythos generally. There are several elements of the Horror in this story, and you’ll see its impact in many other places. Look for it as you read it.
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Old 04-23-2012, 02:14 AM   #52
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Synopsis of The Thing on the Roof


This story opens with a narrator telling us about being contacted by a gentleman named Tussmann. Both were in the same field of search and a bit of arcanology, and they had batted heads professionally. Tussmann needed an original version of Nameless Cults for his researches. He had read an edited version and saw hints that he needed to fully explore.

The narrator agrees to get Tussmann the original work if possible, although few copies remain after the mysterious death of Von Junzt. Eventually a colleague in Virginia with a copy sends it to the narrator. Tussmann arrives and searches, finding a passage about Honduras jungle where a strange god is worshipped in an ancient temple. It speaks about a mummy from old times with a jewel around its neck, which was a key.

At this, Tussmann mentions that was in Honduras and saw the temple. The native Indians say that the temple was built long before them. He didn’t have the time or the tool to break into the temple and he left. Now, after confirming what is there in Von Junzt’s book, he intends to return, penetrate the temple/pyramid, and find that key and whatever treasure it unlocks.

Tussmann leaves the next day, and the narrator reads Nameless Cults more. It is referred to as the Temple of the Toad. He finds additional things that are disquieting, but he is unable to get in touch with Tussmann to let him know.

A few months pass and Tussmann has returned. His place is unkempt as our narrator arrives. Tussmann claimed that the treasure was a hoax, but the key jewel was true. He pulls it out to show the narrator. It’s a red crystal in the shape of a toad-like thing with characters on it no one can decipher. They resemble ones on a Black Stone in Hungary.

He describes the temple in detail, it’s rock, columns and more. The mummy was exactly as stated in the book, with the chain about it. He gathered the gem and touched it to an altar and a panel opened. His mercenaries refused to follow him down into the temple. He was annoyed by the sound and movements of a strange toad that hopped ahead of him, outside the light of his flashlight. In there were no gold or gems. When he returned, the mummy and his men were gone. He suspected they took it and fled.

Then a noise is heard from upstairs on the roof. The narrator wonders what it is and Tussmann is obviously disturbed. He refuses to give up the Key and in a few moments he pushes the narrator out of the room, as the noise grows. They realize that the treasure of the Temple of the Toad was the god itself. Loud crashing noises are heard, and a few minutes later, the narrator returns, and the room has been cracked into, the Key is gone, Tussmann is smashed in but not by tinder or the roof, and marks of a creature are seen.
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Old 04-23-2012, 02:15 AM   #53
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Review of The Thing on the Roof



I personally wish this story would’ve followed the journey to Central America. I think it would have been interesting to read what happened, rather than to read about afterwards. Putting you in the moment would have increased the pace and danger of it.

Again, getting out of the past and New England is welcome.

While REH thought this was his best horror story, August Derleth told Lovecraft that it was weak. Lovecraft responds to the criticism by saying that.

Quote:
I know it’s trite, but something in it gave me a kick for all that.

So there you have it, a trite kicky story!

Here’ s Howard on the story:

Quote:
…is not only my best story by far that I ever wrote, but…is, in my honest opinion a really first-class weird story judged by any standards.

It’s it as high as Howard thinks? No not really. It is as low as August Derleth thought? No, not really. I agree with Lovecraft, in that it feels too short, too simple and too obvious, but there is something in it that sticks with you. I went back and reread my Howard anthology of Horror stories a month ago, and I only remembered the bajilion ones on the dark race vaguely, the others we’ll read, and this. It has something to it. I think it’s the weakest of the four Howard stories we’ll be reading about now, and I put it at three out of five stars. It’s worth reading and exploring, but no one would call it a major story.
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Old 04-23-2012, 02:15 AM   #54
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The next story is my favorite Mythos story by Howard, and one of the most anthologized. There are two versions of it. We will be reading the one with the Mythos elements.

Say hello to The Fire of Asshurbanipal

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0601741.txt



It appears to be influenced by The Haunter in the Dark. It was also published posthumously six months after Howard killed himself. You can find Mythos references to several creatures. When telling the story of the past, you will be introduced to Xuthltan, which is also the ancient name of the village in The Black Stone.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:34 AM   #55
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Synopsis of The Fire of Asshurbanipal




Our story opens as Yar Ali and Steve Clarney fight off a group of Arabian raiders that are attacking them as they plunge deeper into the desert. They have few bullets left, and little supplies.

Then we wind things back and learn who our players are. Yar Ali and Steve are mercenaries and friends. Yar is an Afghan Muslim and Steve an American Christian. They heard tales of a Black City in the Persian desert north of Shiraz, and in it, the Fire of Asshurbanipal. An ancient valuable jewel that is still held in the hand of the ancient king that once ruled the city in the sands. A Persian trader heard of it and saw the city that only the Bedouins have seen in centuries.

Following the legend, Yar Ali and Steve Clarney prepared as best they could, and moved into the desert of Turkistan in central Asia. They have been in the desert for weeks, having lost or used their supplies. They plunge on, because the oases they have left are too far away, so all they have is what may lay ahead.

After resting for the night, they awaken and notice an oddly shaped ridge on the horizon. They move towards it and discover the city of stone in the midst of sand. Yar Ali hesitates a bit, because he I uncomfortable with this City of the Djinn, as he calls it. They move in to investigate and find that it is Assyrian in design and architecture. They see the creatures of Assyrian places. It appears this was built under the control of Ninevah.

The find a temple which Steve says might be a Temple of Baal, and it’s one of the few free standing structures. Wanting water, he moves in ,but again, Yar Ali hesitates. They believe that the Arabs would never come here with their superstitions, and lower their guard to explore.

They explore and look around. Steve makes much speculation about what happened. They find the altar to Baal in the temple, and Steve has them plunge past it, through a doorway, and then up stairs. Ali advises against going up them, for only Djinn would be there, but Steve wants to go, and Yar Ali won’t leave his friend to face them alone, so he grabs his knife and they move up.

The stairs are massive, and at the top is a royal chamber. There was a dais with several steps up to a throne-like seat. Sitting on it was the skeleton of an old king, and in his hand is the Fire of Asshurbanipal. Steve moves in to grab it, but Yar Ali runs in and knocks his hand away. They argue for a bit, but Yar Ali tells Steve that he sense great danger around it and reminds him of the previous times his sense of danger kept them alive. Steve relinquishes his attempt to grab it.

Then they realize that many Arabs are mounting the stairs and moving to them. They grab guns and shoot and kill a few, and then engage in hand to hand combat. They kill a few of the Arabs, but then are overwhelmed. A voice tells the Arabs not to kill them not yet. They are tied up, and the lord of the Arabs is revealed as an old acquaintance of the mercenaries named Nureddin El Mekru, a former Yemeni slave trader they injured and scarred.

Nureddin became the leader of this group of Arabs, and the ones that Steve and Yar drove off returned and he followed them. He was after The Fire of Asshurbanipal as well, and now it’s his. At this, the Arabs protest, and an argument ensues. They tell the history of the city to Nureddin. They say that the ancient sorcerer and king cursed the stone and no man should take it. Eventually, Nureddin fights off the Arab arguments and grabs the Fire.

A great wailing noise goes up, and the Fire slips from his hand and rolls down to the back wall, where he Nureddin chases it. The Arabs run screaming from the area and down the stairs. The wall by Nureddin begins to slide open, and Steve can sense that witnessing what is about to occur will drive him mad. Both Yar Ali and himself turn away and squeeze their eyes tight. They hear something emerge from the passage and grab Nureddin and pull him back. Then the spell passes, and the creature leaves, but before he does, Steve steals a glance of it as it’s leaving, and is haunted by that memory. The Fire of Asshurbanipal was back in the hand of the King.


They free themselves from their bonds and run away, where they find the horses and provisions of those they had slain. In their haste to leave quickly, the Arabs had left them. They take the horses and flee. As they do, Steve confesses that he saw the risen Xuthltan himself replace the gem on the hands.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:35 AM   #56
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Review of The Fire of Asshurbanipal




At first, this appears to be a story wherein many typical elements occur. In fact, it bears some similarities to The Thing on the Roof. However, I appreciate how some details make sense, rather than appearing to be dues ex machinas. For example,
Spoiler


Having a story with some traditional elements such as a city in ruins in a desert and Arabs being fought by and around it (not really spoilers since its first page stuff) is okay when surrounded by a writer who gives you obvious reasons to believe the story. I appreciate little details like that. This is a very traditional Howard story in a lot of ways. Despite the presence of Arabs and guns, you can just feel that this is a Conan story or a Kull story. It has a lot of similarities between them. The next story will have even more similarities.


I like the location and the story. Again, it’s a story light on Mythos elements, and it just pushes you into the story and the world. A lot of later stories by authors that come by will push the Mythos too much in their story, and every single person has a copy of the Necronomicon and knows of Cthulhu and names are dropped all over. Consider how light some of the stories we’ve read, such as The Colour out of Space, this, and a few others have been. This is a masterful understanding of showing the world, but not getting wrapped up in the details.


Anyway, I give it a 4 stars out of 5. It’s not Howard at his best, but he’s on his game.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:36 AM   #57
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The next story is the final Howard one for a while. In fact, I’m not sure if we will ever come back to Howard. It’s the longest story we’ve had in a while, clocking in at 24 pages. That’s short for the first stories, but long for the ones we’ve been reading. The story is called Worms of the Earth. It can be found here:


http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0607861.txt


It’s published in 1932, and the only story told from Bran Mak Morn;s point of view. This is a character Howard created and has in several stories. It was adapted as a two issue Conan story in Savage Sword of Conan #16 and 17. It’s a very good story on its own. There are mentions of places such as R’lyeh. He edited a reference to Cthulhu to just the Nameless Gods. Anyway, let’s read Words of the Earth!
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:53 AM   #58
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Synopsis of Worms of the Earth



The story opens with a Roman crucifixion of one of the Picts under the power of the King of the Picts, Bran Mak Morn. Bran has disguised himself as an ambassador to spy on the Romans, and they are a decadent people. Bran spends a lot of time being disgusted by Roman justice, Roman military, Roman luxury and Roman ethics.

Eventually, Bran needs to find a way to kill the Roman Governor of the area. He decides on using a method that his ancestors knew of. A dream of a mentor attempts to dissuade him, but he ignores it. He sends his aide to the local towns, to begin to Raid and Pillage to Roman controlled countryside. He knows the Romans well enough to know that the Governor will be at a large fortress while one of his generals takes much of the army out to the field. Bran Mak Morn slips into the jail and slays the commander who killed the Pict on the cross, and then escapes from the Roman compound.

He flees into the Welsh wilderness and plunges into a swamp. He runs across the abode of a witch woman who is half human and half something else. Something serpentine. He tries to negotiate her aid, and she knows he intends to summon the Worms of the Earth. Ultimately, the only thing that she will take in barter for her assistance is sex. He sleeps with her, and she aids him.

Afterwards, Bran Mak Morn penetrates a place called Dagon’s Barrow. Inside in a place of darkness down which he explores, until he finds an altar in the darkness with a black stone on it. He takes the stone and emerges as he hears things behind him. He moves to a place nearby, Dagon’s Mere, and casts the stone into it and then returns to the witch woman.

We find out that she had gone to give his instructions to the Worms, and they will meet with him. His people subdued the Worms long ago, and banished them to their caves. They arrive in hundreds, and they want their holy relic, the stone, back. He refuses and angers himself, and they back off. He trades the stone back to them for a service. He wants them to penetrate the walls of the great fortress that the Governor is in to bring him back to Bran. The Worms are an old humanoid race with bestial reptile features that have apparently gone more barbaric and degenerate since his people conquered them and spread the centuries ago.

They go to get him, and he goes to get back the stone. He dives into the Mere and discovers a deep creature here guarding it he barely manages to escape with the stone. He rides to the large fortress to watch the Worms get the Governor, and when he arrives, the entire structure has been destroyed. One of the Romans is still alive and confide in him that it fell down after big tremors hit it, and then they took the Governor. He follows their path and finds them at the agreed up meeting place he takes their stone and returns it to them, and they give him the Governor, but he’s gone mad with what he saw, so Bran kills him in mercy, not vengeance. At the end, the woman tells him that the Worms are not done with him, and the story ends.
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:53 AM   #59
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Review of Worms of the Earth

I waited until the end of the Howard stories to have this, since in timeline, it resembles a bit the Clark Ashton Smith ones. We’ll head back to modern time again, and the Mythos won’t normally head back to the ancient sword and sorcery past for most of its stories.

Lovecraft refers to Bran Mak Morn in one of his own Mythos stories, further bringing this story into the Mythos., Not only does Howard refer to R’lyeh, but Lovecraft brings in it. Theirs is no question about its canonicity. Lovecraft wrote that:


Few readers will ever forget the hideous and compelling power of that macabre masterpiece “Worms of the Earth.

Howard’s writing style suits these sorts of stories much more than stories like The Thing on the Roof. This is where he is made immortal via Conan and others. This is why Fire is so good, because it has that sort of feel and character. Bran Mak Morn is another Howard hero in the typical mold – the noble savage against the decadent civilizations of his day – in this case, the Roman Empire. Howard loved rooting for the underdog, so he creates one.

Race is again at the forefront of this tale – you can’t get away from it in Howard’s works.
Spoiler


We see race in the Worms, and in the history of Bran’s Picts. We witness it with the Romans as well. It’s not just culture, or heritage, but blood that distinguishes people.




I give it 4 stars outta 5

(I reserve 5 for true masterpieces and 4.5 for near ones.)
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:54 AM   #60
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This may be the last Howard story we ever do, and it certainly will be the last one for a good, long while. Therefore, I want to give you some reading advice if you really like Howard’s horror works and want to read more. Here are the ones I would recommend and in their order.


The House in the Oaks – If we come back for any story, this will be the one. It’s modern day, and quite good. It was a fragment of Howards which was finished by August Derleth.

Dig Me No Grave – It’s a bit obvious what happened, but it is a nicely written and short story.

The Little People/People of the Dark/The Children of the Night – I’d recommend holding off on these until after we hit Machen on Gen 0. They follow his stories. I’m not a super fan, but this is where the rest of the Mythos lies.

The Black Bear Bites – A bit of a yellow peril story (yuck) and pretty good, but with virtually no elements at all.


Skull-Face – A blatant yellow peril story with a Fu Manchu rip off. Among those who like reading the yellow peril stories of the era for historical purposes, this is considered one of the best. It also features characters that are, after being written, edited into Cthulhu.


Anyway, I like Howard enough to read him, but I also recognize his limitations. No one will ever call A Princess of Mars a great piece of literature, but everyone knows Edgar Rice Burroughs. No one will ever call a story by Howard a great piece of art, but everyone will know Conan and Robert E Howard.
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:54 AM   #61
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For our next story, we are leaving behind the Big Three of Weird Tales, and moving on to other writers using and adding elements to the Mythos at its beginning. There is just one place to start after you leave behind the three. You start with The Hounds of Tindalos.


The Hounds of Tindalos


Frank Belknap Long was one of the many young writers whom Lovecraft tutored. They began writing each other in 1920 before Long had even published fiction, and Lovecraft assisted Long throughout his career. They were good friends, and unlike many of Lovecraft’s associates, they actually were friends in real life. During his three years in New York City, they ran in the same circle.

The Hounds was published in 1929. It is by some accounts the very first story written in the Mythos by anyone other than Lovecraft himself. (This is true only if you don’t consider some of the stories we read set in the past by Smith as a true Mythos story. I do, so I don’t buy it. CAS is the first one to my mind)

Twelve pages await, so let’s go!
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:55 AM   #62
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About Long –

You may not recognize Long’s name but don’t let the patina of time dim you to his contributions. Among other things, he wrote comics during the heyday of the 1940s and wrote Superman, Captain Marvel, and Green Lantern. He passed away in 94 and had written hundreds of short stories during the pulp era, and then dozens of novels after it died. He moved as the currents took him, and he was a chameleon. He wrote sci fi when it was popular, spy stories in the 60s, comics in the 40s, and so forth. To this day, he is still best remembered for his Mythos stories, and his greatest contribution to the Mythos is this story. You must read it first when you move outside of the big names, and you’ll see why.

Long mentions that Lovecraft and him exchanged more than 1000 letters some of which are more than 80 handwritten pages long. He was one of Lovecraft’s greatest correspondences, but not his only one. As a reminder, Lovecraft developed relationships with tons of new writers during his era. He ghost-wrote, edited, revised them, wrote to them, and tutored them. This was often voluntary on his part, but some contend that he got more money from his revisions of other authors than he did from his own work.

Frank Belknap Long was a distinguished enough author in the mid-30s to be invited onto The Challenge from Beyond project. This was a project by a pulp magazine to write a story in five chapters, with an author writing each chapter. The five authors writing the story were C.L. Moore, A Merritt, HP Lovecraft, Robert Howard, and Frank Belknap Long. A Merritt is a huge name as well. (We’ll read a very popular story of his in Gen 0).

Anyway, Long is not some random name I am pulling out a hat ,but one with a very strong connection to the Mythos.
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Old 03-30-2014, 12:49 AM   #63
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Synopsis of The Hounds of Tindalos


The story opens with Halpin Chalmers contacting his friend ,the narrator, named Frank . Chalmers wants Frank’s assistance with a project he has been working on. He intends to combine this esoteric Chinese drug with his modern understanding of science and math (the parts that work) and use them to break the veil of time and space. He believes that time is in space, so the past is in a space we are not in, as is the future. By changing his perception to see another space, he should be able to see time. The drugs and math should help him do that.

He takes the drugs ,and Frank is to write down everything Halpin says. The drugs begin to work, and Halpin begins to see the past. He sees every person that ever lived, and pushes through them to before life began. He notices that we live in curved time, but there is also angled time in which others live, and they cannot pass into curved time. His journeys back find dark creatures and a dark deed at the beginning of time. These creatures, the Hounds of Tindalos, chase him back through time to his apartment and begin to hunt him. They can materialize unto curved space by using an angle of severity.

In order to protect himself, Chalmers and Frank use plaster to round the corners of his apartment and to smooth edges. The idea is to protect himself long enough to discourage the Hounds, who will retreat back to their haunt. However, a while later, an Earthquake happens. The plaster in the apartment cracks and breaks, and the Hounds get through. His body is found decapitated with no blood but a blue ichor all over.
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Old 03-30-2014, 12:53 AM   #64
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Review of The Hounds of Tindalos


The very first Cthulhu Anthology of various writers was published in the late 60s by August Derleth. It was called Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. It was highly influential, because many would follow down through the years. It would become the major way of finding and reading Mythos fiction. Derleth wanted to include the best stories he could find, and among those, was The Hounds of Tindalos.

This was a story that heavily influence the Mythos, because the Hounds are used again and again in later stories. The idea that something could
Spoiler
was both unnerving and new. It’s not an idea you can put your finger on. There will come a time when the Mythos will become more about pastiche than new and refreshing, but is not that time. It’s fresh, and exciting, and it inspires writers big and small. Long gets to be at heart of that.

Due to the cleverness of the concept, this is a major Mythos piece because so many that follow will use them. While many call it the first non-Lovecraft Mythos story, it does not include a single Mythos element. The books on the shelves are normal ones from real life, and no mention is made in the past seeing scene of anything Mythos-ish. That’s one reason why it’s interesting.

While Hounds is a fine story, it is a bit derivative. One of the Gen 0 stories we will read later has a similar plot element. (“The Great God Pan” by Arthur Machen). We also see Lovecraft’s influence all over the techno-talk at the beginning. Anyway, this is a classic of the Mythos, in part because of the ideas. The writing is sufficient, but never superlative. You can also see how this story inspires, in part, Smith’s Ubbo-Sathla. In both cases a
Spoiler


I give it 3 out of 5 stars, in part because I feel the end meanders a bit and should have stuck with just the main story. Which would have improved it to 3.5.
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Old 03-30-2014, 01:09 AM   #65
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There are so many places to go next. I wish some of the stories that I like were available online. I wish some of the stories that I want to read but were not anthologized were available online. For example, Donald Wandrei, another of the Lovecraft Circle, published two works in the early 30s in the Mythos, The Fire Vampires and The Tree-Men of M'Bwa. Neither has ever been printed in a Mythos anthology. You can only find them in a book of all of Wandrei’s horror and fantasy writings that costs roughly 60 dollars on Amazon.

Where to go, hmm? At first, I thought we would read stories that are not online, but now that we’ve read so many stories online in a row, I’m not sure anymore. So I found a story for next that is online. It’s right around this era – 1935, and I’ve actually mentioned in earlier in the dynasty. However, before we read it, we need to read a certain Lovecraft story. We are heading back to Lovecraft for one story, before we move to some more of this era. I mentioned we would weave back in and out of Lovecraft’s Mythos stories.
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Old 03-30-2014, 02:50 AM   #66
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Next up is the Shadow out of Time.


It was written in late 34 and early 35, and published in Astounding Stories in June 1936.

While it was published a year after the story I want to read after this, it really seems like it was written first, and one clearly follows the other.

You can find it here:

http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary...woutoftime.htm


In my anthology, this is a 54 page short story, so we’ll give you a bit longer to read it. This is a real love it or hate it sort of story. It’s my least favorite Lovecraft Mythos story, and yet, for many it’s their favorite Lovecraft tale. People such as Lin Carter called it Lovecraft at his finest. I think it’s Lovecraft at his most bizarre, and that’s not necessarily the same thing. It’s vitally important to the Mythos, so we are reading it here before we move to stories based off it, like we read stories such as Dunwich Horror and Call before we moved to stories based on them.



Let’s get our read on!
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Old 04-02-2014, 12:37 AM   #67
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Synopsis of The Shadow Out of Time


This story begins with Nathaniel Peaslee, an academic in New England. He has found something terrible and is writing this to his son, a Professor of Psychology at Miskatonic University. We begin to head back and look at Peaslee’s past.

For five years from 1908-1913, Peaslee was stuck with a powerful psychological change. He gained amnesia about the details of his life, but also gained many skills such as multiple languages and odd knowledge about the past. It appeared that Peaslee has developed a second personality. He tells us about this time from newspaper articles and research he did, because he can’t recall it. He pursued occult research and explored many areas.

Once Peaslee came out of it in 1913, he could not remember that five year period. Soon, he began to have dreams. He dreamed he was in a faraway place in some distant room. He was in a room with odd furniture, tools, and more. Eventually, his dreams became more detailed, and he dreamed he was moving about and interacting with people and learning the language. He dreamed he was in the form of a Conical Alien.

He began doing research into what he had been investigating during his blank five years. He realizes that he had been looking at some secret tomes ,such as the Necronomicon and Pnakotic Manuscript. He looks up the same places he did previously, and finds legends of an ancient race on Earth that travelled b switching minds into their new host and their old body. The details of this ancient race are found in many places

Peaslee studies psychology and believes that his powerful dreams are as a result of sub-conscious memories from the research he did back in 1908-1913. He discovers a small number of cases in the histories where people have had identical symptoms ,and publishes in psychology journals. He believes that these legends of an ancient race have created dreams in a small number of people over the centuries.

A few years later he gets a letter from a foreman in Australia. They have found these giant bricks that appear to be older than any known construction in the desert. He had a psychologist friend who remembered Peaslee’s articles and these bricks and their markings appear identical to what he wrote about and dreamed.

Peaslee gets Miskatonic U to fund an expedition to Australia. They arrive and explore the ruins. They begin charting them, and Peaslee encounters some bricks at night that aren’t of this race, but represent another race they were fighting against. Eventually, he discovers a hill and moves into a tunnel.

The tunnel follows along an ancient corridor in the old city,it exactly matches the dreams he has. He heads towards the library and moves around a lot of obstacles and keeps exploring. Eventually he finds the old library. As he moves in, he notices that the old guard doors which kept out this race’s enemies are open and unguarded. He wonders if what slew the race is still here.

He moves to a place and finds an unusual book, which proves that his dreams were not dreams, and that everything was real. He begins to move back, but he makes too much noise falling, and suddenly something begin to emerge from behind him.

He rushes back out of the tunnels/city/ruins but more of the creatures are chasing him. He barely manages t make it out, but the book is lost. The tunnels have moved back to a hill formation and the sands swallow it up. He remembers that the book had English writing ,and that he had written the language for them when he was back in time.
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Old 04-02-2014, 12:37 AM   #68
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Oh, here is a picture of the race that he swapped with:


Spoiler




And here is the race they fought against. It's known as the flying polyps, for lack of a better word:


Spoiler
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Old 04-02-2014, 12:43 AM   #69
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Review of The Shadow Out of Time


This was the second to last story Lovecraft wrote fully. Some other stories from his last years were The Haunter of the Dark and some stories with other people. There are a lot of people who feel this is a classic of Lovecraft and horror/sci-fi writing. Many critics love it. I’m not sold, and let me tell you why.

First of all, it’s very redundant. The story spends pages going over the dreams, then spends pages going over the legends, which are very similar, then pages going over reality. How many times do I need to read this stuff? This very long story could have easily been cut down to half the length, at least.

Anyway, this is clearly the next step in Lovecraft’s world after Mountains of Madness. He is continuing to reintroduce his mythos in scientific terms. It’s not about monsters, deities and magic, but science. This is a note to the mythos that many writers don’t pick up on. Compare Howard’s The Black Stone, wherein people are summoning a dark creature by a classic cultish rite straight out of the 1800’s gothic literature. Lovecraft has advanced to the next level. It’s impact on later Mythos works cannot be overstated.

We are about to read a story where this one is used heavily but was actually published earlier. Again, due to the length of the writing process, editing process, reviewing, and publishing, a story can be published one, two or three years after writing.


Anyway, I think this is important to read, in case you are one of the many people who love this story.

I personally give it 2 stars out of 5.
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Old 04-02-2014, 12:45 AM   #70
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The next story is The Challenge from Beyond


This story was written in the mid-30s as part of a anniversary issue for Fantasy magazine in late 1935. The five writers they lined up were pretty special, and I talked about this before. Each writer writes a section of the story and then passes it to the next.



The first writer is CL Moore, one of the first female writers in the Pulp Era for sci fi, horror and fantasy. Her impact in the genre is significant, both as a pioneer and in her writing. You’ll find her bit, which begins it, to be one of the clearest writing styles of the group. She was married to writer Henry Kuttner for years, and the two wrote together a lot. They met as people corresponding with Lovcraft’s circle

The next writer is A Merritt. Abraham wrote many major pulps and stories, and was one of the bigger names of the era. His Gen 0 story, The Moon Pool, will be one of the first we’ll read when we hit that Gen. His most famous work is likely The Ship of Ishtar. Here is a quote by Gygax from a DM’s Guide:

The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, R. E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, H. P. Lovecraft, and A. Merritt

Merrit is a major player, no question.

The third section is Lovecraft’s. This dynasty needs no introduction to his work.

The fourth chapter is Robert E Howard, and he needs no introduction either.

And finally, chapter 5 is Frank Belknap Long’s, who we’ve already looked at


This story is a project that attempts to do something different. Here’s the story!



"The Challenge from Beyond" by H. P. Lovecraft
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Old 04-04-2014, 11:45 PM   #71
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Synopsis of The Challenge from Beyond


Geologist George Campbell is spending time investigating in isolation in Canada. One night, while out there, he reaches to grab a rock to throw at something, but he notices that the rock has a singular appearance. He bends down to study the rock.

It appears to be quartz but in an unusual shape. Inside is something…odd. How did that get in there? Campbell notices that light from his flashlight energizes the thing in the crystal, and he begins to look over it. It grows, and he feels himself being pulled in. The scene develops and it appears to be a world. Campbell is sucked in and his tent and surroundings disappear

He begins to remember where he had seen a reference to that object before – in the Eltdown Shards. It’s supposedly an artifact sent by a civilization far away to communicate and explore. They switch bodies and become spies with other worlds. An ancient race on Earth discovered this because they used a similar method, and that knowledge was passed down in eldritch texts.

It appears that this race is a race of giant centipede like beings that sometimes just infiltrate a race but sometimes dominate it if their world has the valuable minerals they need. Campbell has realized that he is in a centipede body, and faints!

Campbell awakens and realizes that his body is just a body, but his soul, that’s something different. He decides to take advantage of the situation. He grabs a medical instrument and slays one of the centipedes. Campbell then moves through the complex and tries to grab the stone which is worshipped by the centipedes. He reasons that if he can get the stone, they will crown him king.

Due to a failure of ethics, the creature in Campbell’s body dies, and Campbell remains in his body. He has grabbed the stone, and becomes the emperor of these beings.
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Old 04-04-2014, 11:51 PM   #72
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Review of The Challenge From Beyond


Unlike normal reviews, this one is spoiler heavy. It has to be.


This is definitely an odd piece. I love how we have a normal story and then Lovecraft just can’t help it. He has to Lovecraft the story all up! Not only does he take a lot more pages than the other writers, but he adds Mythos elements to it and makes it completely different.

I also adore how Howard changes Lovecraft. Lovecraft wrote his section in horror! Look what’s happened! Then hoard turns the hero into a very Howard hero. Grab a weapon, and start using it! Move and act! Come up with a plan later.

Eventually, this is not a horror story, although Lovecraft’s section certainly is.

I do not like Long or Merritt here much. All each does is spin the wheels they already have. Merritt spends all of his time on the crystal, and leaves us with Campbell going into it. That’s his entire contribution to the story – Campbell goes into it. Ho hum. Long also takes Howard’s spin on a traditional Lovecraft story and does little with it. Lovecraft wrote heavily about Campbell not having the same feelings and hang-ups as a human. So Long ties into that at the end, and wraps everything up neatly. It’s a bit meh with a last few lines that almost read like a fairy tale ending. Howard and Lovecraft stories don’t end like that.

Moore certainly started well. I hope you saw her craft in the story. She built the character and setting in a nice way. Then she introduced the object and bowed out. All of this took little verbiage, and ye you got a real sense of Campbell and the object from the little she wrote. I respect that a lot.

Because the story changes in tone and some writers sort of take the story in wild directions from the previous ones, it’s not a finely wrought yarn. It’s nice to read as the project that it is though. I’d like to see some stories that don’t involve ancient hand held items of unspeakable power – The Haunter of the Dark, Ubbo-Sathla, this, etcetera.




2 out of 5 stars compared to other tales.
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Old 04-04-2014, 11:52 PM   #73
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Alright, now that we have done a lot of exploring of the Gen 1 stories, let’s look at some Gen 1 stories that modify Lovecraft’s initial vision.


Our first story in the Gen 1 mods is The Space-Eaters, by Frank Belknap Long.

I searched long and hard for an online copy and eventually found it!


The Space-Eaters
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Old 04-05-2014, 02:57 AM   #74
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I have mapped out the stories for the next bit. I've actually gone ahead and read or re-read many of them and went ahead and wrote up synopses and reviews and other important notes on people.

In my opinion, the most important stuff in this dynasty is the notes on the authors, like Henry Kuttner, A Merritt, Fritz Lieber and many more. Check out some of these folks, and enjoy reading again.


Anyway, here's the list of the next set of stories, in case you want to get ahead (although because I've bumped this dynasty many times, I suspect that anybody still reading would be playing catch up - feel free to make comments any time)


The Space Eaters, Frank Belknap Long
The Lair of the Star-Spawn, by August Derleth and Mark Schorer
The Walker on the Wind, by August Derleth
The Sealed Casket, by Richard F. Searight


Then we'll move to Gen 0

An Inhabitant of Carcosa, by Ambrose Bierce
Haita the Shepherd, by Ambrose Bierce
The Yellow Sign, Robert W Chambers
A Shop in Go-By-Street, by Lord Dunsany
Of Skarl the Drummer, by Lord Dunsany
The Kraken, by Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Moon Pool, by A. Merritt

Back to Gen 1

The Shambler from the Stars, Robert Bloch
The Shadow from the Steeple, Robert Bloch
Fane of the Black Pharaoh, Robert Bloch
Winged Death, by HP Lovecraft and Hazel Heald
The Tree-Men of M'Bwa, by Donald Wandrei
The Outpost, by HP Lovecraft
Fire Vampires, by Donald Wandrei
Ithaqua, by August Derleth
The Whisperer in Darkness, by HP Lovecraft


And then we'll move to some Henry Knutter.

That's where I am right now. I've read and written up all of those. Some are just quick references posted in the thread, like Kraken and Skarl the Drummer and The Outpost. Others we do full reviews for.
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Old 04-05-2014, 07:00 PM   #75
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Would you like to know which anthologies I own?

Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos
Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos

Both have lots of Gen 1 stories we are reading.


Cthulhu 2000
Shadows over Innsmouth
The Cthulhu Cycle
Miskatonic University
The New Lovecraft Circle



Shadows over Baker Street - stories that combine Sherlock Holmes with the Mythos.


And I have on order:

The Book of Iod, collections of works about that book, including many Henry Kuttner stories
The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich a novella by Fritz Leiber
Don't Dream, a collection by Donald Wandrei




I also have some single-author collections:

Cold Print by Ramsey Campbell
Several low quality out of print Chlark Ashton Smith stuff
The King in Yellow by Chambers
Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood
Nameless Cults, the Mythos fiction of Howard
The Three Imposters, by Arthur Machen
Ghost and Horror Stories of Ambrose Bierce


And I have six Lovecraft collections that have all of his work
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Old 04-05-2014, 07:33 PM   #76
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Synopsis of The Space-Eaters


This story opens as Frank and his friend, a horror writer named Howard who clearly resembles a certain Lovecraft are discussing the relative value of horror stories. They are discussing the nature of horror, and Howard speculates on what creatures from beyond would be like, and the true horror that would naturally descend from them.

Then a neighbor named Wells arrives and tells a horrific tale of the evening. He was riding in a nearby wood when he discovered something soft and warm hit his face, which he thought was a liver. He looked up and saw nothing at first , and then describes an encounter with an unknown otherly thing. It appeared to be looking for something, a hand perhaps? Then he feels shrieking powerful painful icy grip in his head. There is now a hole in his head which reveals his brain, but does not bleed or slay him.

Howard is at first upset that Wells has so expertly summed up the horror he was trying to write, but upon realizing the seriousness of the situation, Frank and Howard begin thinking, and wells leaves. Eventually they hear cries from the woods and head out, suspecting something of attacking Wells.

They arrive and Wells is badly beaten, spiritually. They sense a massive grinding sound from beyond and manage to get Wells back to the farm but he has changed into a beast and attacks Howard before he knocks Wells out. Howard knows that the creatures must be from beyond and pieces things together. They call for a doctor to help Wells.

The doctor arrives, and tries surgery on Wells after putting Howard to sleep upon hearing his ravings. However, he sees the mark of them in Wells brain and gets frightful. He just sews Wells back up and lets him die naturally. He tells Frank that Wells is marked and they will come for him and leaves.

Frank and Howard manage to leave in a boat, and the get away for a bit. However, they pass by that wood and notice it’s on fire and a giant something that can just be sensed is about. Suddenly Frank hits upon an answer seeing somehow just how old they are. Frank suggests they light brands, and they make the sign of the cross, which drives off the creatures.

A few weeks later, they are in Manhattan, and discussing events. No more appearances have been seen by the creatures. They suspect that the sign has kept them away. Instead, Howard has written a powerful story that exactly reenacts the horror of the creatures, and Frank leaves after reading it. He gets a call a few hours later and hears the buzzing sound again in the background. Howard claims that they’ve arrived again, and that the sign isn’t working for him. It’s as if he’s become their priest, and now they can claim him.

Frank speeds over, but only to find Howard dead in his room, and sees the creature above him, but he sign drives him off.
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Old 04-05-2014, 08:00 PM   #77
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Review of The Space-Eaters

This story is another of the first by another person in the Mythos. One of the things FBL got right about the Mythos was this sense of wrongness with creatures such as the Space-Eaters and the Hounds of Tindalos. He gets that to you, and what else is the job of a horror writer, but to convey horror?

A lot of people celebrate this story as nice, and yet others as too trite. One of the traditional attacks against the story is that by including a character similar to Lovecraft, it’s too hard to keep your sense of the real world. For all of that, Lovecraft himself did it several times. Klarkash-Ton is his name for Clark Ashton Smith and the main character in The Haunter in the Dark is designed and named after Robert Bloch.

Now I do have a lot of issues with this story, so don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the
Spoiler


In addition to that, I find the incident with the
Spoiler


Finally, a common complaint is the Christianization of the Mythos, which I agree with completely. In fact, I find the whole thing a bit hypocritical. In one paragraph, a character is
Spoiler



Anyway, Long has a great potential about him, but he’s young and misses some stuff too. The story’s fine and a bit energetic. It’s not a bad read, but it’s not exactly a major classic, you know?


2.5 stars out of 5
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Old 04-05-2014, 09:39 PM   #78
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Alright, now a bad thing is about to happen. We have to move to stories that I can’t find on the Internet. Well, not for free. Some stories are not on the ‘Net because no one bothered to put them there, and others have active and hard fought copyrights against them. Derleth was very pro-copyright when he was alive, and I have no doubt that his estate has been scouring the net for any copies that may have slipped through the cracks of his major stories.

I’ve avoided having stories that you can’t read for free as long as possible. I wanted to read a late 20’s tale directly inspired by Call but it wasn;t anywhere to be found. Several other stories reared their collective heads and could not be found, so I skipped over them. These cannot be skipped.

I would recommend

1). Hitting up a library - In fact, I just researched the DPL and found out that Donald Wandrei’s collection is there, so I may pick it up and read his three mythos stories, finally.

2). Buy some of the anthologies. The next two stories are both in an Anthology called Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos.

3). Borrow it from a friend! (I am not your friend… )

Anyway, the next story is….

The Lair of the Star-Spawn, by August Derleth and Mark Schorer

Here comes the Derleth-mobile.
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Old 04-06-2014, 02:56 PM   #79
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What I'd kind of like to see is finish up the Gen 1 stuff on the list, hit a few Hunry Kuttner tales, maybe head back to Lovecraft for one story (The Curse of Yig probably), and then flash forward to the many high quality stories in Gens 2 and 3.

Frankly, the later stuff has some of the worst Mythos fiction of all time - spewed all over fanzines and such.m It also has some of the best Mythos fiction, and the best of Gen 2 and 3 is better than the best non-Lovecraft stuff from Gen 1.

So let's hit up great writers like Neil Gaiman and Roger Zelazny and Kim Newman and Ramsey Campbell. And some lesser known names with great stories to tell. It will be a lot of fun!
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Old 04-09-2014, 01:47 AM   #80
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Synopsis of The Lair of the Star-Spawn

We begin with the narrator, Eric Marsh, telling us about the disastrous Hawks Expedition to upper Burma, of which he was the only surviving member. He was disconnected from the group by chance when a group of small humanoids named Tcho-Tcho attacked and slew all of the people in the expedition and left.

Eric gathers their belongings and moves forward into the Plateau of Sung they were exploring. Civilization is on the other side of the hills, and it should be closer than going back. He notices a far off ancient city called Alaozar on the Plateau, in the Lake of Dread. He encamps for the night nearby. As he does, he notices a line that fires up from the city into space, and then falls asleep. He awakens to noises by his horse and he is clubbed unconscious

He wakes up in Alaozar, imprisoned by the Tcho-Tcho. One Dr. Lo-Fan accompanies them, and the Chinese doctor has bandaged his wounds and explains what is happening. This place is called The Isle of the Stars in China, because they believe that a long time ago, people from stars like Rigel and Betelgeuse arrived. These were the Elder Ones that included people like Cthulhu, Hastur, Lloigor and Zhar. The Old Ones were here as well, and they fought a powerful war for Earth. At the end, the Old Ones won, and they imprisoned Cthulhu in R’lyeh, while Lloigor and Zhar were imprisoned here, underneath the Plateau of Sung. The Tcho-Tcho people are the servants of Lloigor and Zhar and are trying to release them so that they can conquer Earth once more.

Both Dr. Lo-Fan and Eric are expected to help in this endeavor. Eric doesn’t believe Lo’Fan., so he takes Eric down below the city and they see hundreds of Tcho-Tcho worshipping a great tentacled thing that is Lloigor. The Dr. has a plan. He has been trying to send his consciousness via telepathy to Rigel to appeal to the Old Ones there to assist in taking out the Tcho-Tcho and their twin masters. Eric’s task is to guard his body while he is gone.

Dr. Lo-Fan leaves to beseech the Old Ones, and Eric begins watch. Nothing happens for hours and Lo-Fan returns. They must leave the City and open the gates for the Old Ones’ Star-Warriors to ascend. They meet with the leader of the Tcho-Tcho, and Dr. Lo-Fan convinces him that Zhar has contacted him telepathically and wants to be released this day. The gates are opened, and they are escorted out of the city by four of the people, so they can prepare. Instead, they slay the four accompanying them and win their freedom.

They witness the Star-Warriors riding down to Earth and destroying the Tcho-Tcho, before moving down into the depths. Then one light snakes out and teleports Eric and Dr. Lo-Fan miles away for safety. Later, a pilot flies over the area and spies giant rotting corpses in the plateau that were decaying, and newspapers reports lights that evening from the Plateau of Sung.
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Old 04-09-2014, 01:47 AM   #81
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Review of The Lair of the Star-Spawn



This review will consider only this story. Check out more on Derleth next.

This story was published in 1932. In it, Derleth’s contributions to the Mythos cannot be over-empathized. However, the story itself is no Call of Cthulhu. It has the same basic premise. Zhar and Lloigor are imprisoned, and there are people seeking to free them. But compare. Cthulhu was so powerful, that despite being imprisoned, could still impact the dreams of an entire world when his island rose. He was able to influence people across the world, and had cults everywhere. Zhar and Lloigor only have the Tcho-Tcho and that’s it. There’s no sense of scale – it’s just a local tribe of small denigrate folk that are directly descended from the seeds of evil planted by the twin entities themselves. Derleth misses the scales of horror as a result.

This is another story to suffer from “way too many unexplained/crazy things happened” syndrome. A few examples include
Spoiler



With this lack of scale, some questionable decisions regarding details, and more, I can’t give this story to many props. It’s not Derleth’s best, and lacks the skill of Lovecraft. Therefore, on the merits of the story alone, I give it 2.5 outta 5 stars.
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Old 04-09-2014, 01:49 AM   #82
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Now, let’s talk heavily about August Derleth. No writer in the Mythos is as controversial, and we will be discussing these at length. They involve spoilers of the Mythos in general and the preceding story in detail.

Derleth modifies the Mythos in two major ways, and we just read the first. Derleth turned the Mythos into a battle of Good vs. Evil. A ton of later Lovecraft enthusiasts really disliked this Derlethization of the Mythos, and a lot of bad things were spoken of him.

In the early Lovecraft stories, the concept of evil doesn’t apply to these beings. They are beyond such concepts. Even Frank Belknap Long recognizes this. In The Hounds of Tindalos, when describing the entities in the earliest time, they are before the creation of good and evil. This aspect of g v e just wasn’t running around.

Or was it? I had you read The Dunwich Horror 3rd for very important reasons. In some ways, it is the single most influential Mythos story of all time. Why? Because in it, Lovecraft does not shy away from casting the conflict as one of good versus evil, and good wins.

Lovecraft also writes of battles between eldritch forces. In both At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Out of Time, there are battles in the past between various forces. Derleth’s battles between the Old Ones and Elder Ones is not that dissimilar between the Great Race of Yith and their foes in The Shadow Out of Time. Additionally, people who accuse Derleth of going too far off the course of Lovecraft fail to point out that Lovecraft re-incorporated Derleth’s stories into his own, verifying their canonicity.

How to detractors of Derleth respond to these counter points? They say Lovecraft was just being nice to Derleth and that Dunwich Horror was satire and not intentional. You’ve read The Dunwish Horror. Do you recall it being Satire? (I don’t).

Personally, I don’t like it that much. But I can’t make a cogent argument that it is out of place. I can’t even argue that the Old Ones are just good from our perspective, but really are a-moral because they intentionally save our two heroes at he end of the story! There is no room for interpretation.

Now, there are two more things Derleth does, and the second is, by far, the worst.

I mentioned long ago that he is an adequate magician who gets his living by showing how magicians do their tricks. He exposes all of the secrets of the Mythos. A good story stands on its own, and incorporates little. Compare stories like The Colour out of Space or The Haunter of the Dark to this. A good horror story leaves things hidden, and out of view. Even if Lovecraft and Derleth and others knew all along that the Elder Ones and Old Ones were in battle and one was good and the other evil, you don’t show your hand. You keep things hidden, and by doing so, you keep the mystery of the world fresh which makes your horror better. If any time a hero is oppressed by some otherworldly being he can just concentrate and summon the Old Ones, where is the horror? When you know that good will win out in the end, how am I terrified? There is a reason that most horror stories end ambiguously or poorly. The Call of Cthulhu still has that nasty creature out there. The Shadow Over Innsmouth proves that evil survived the torpedoing by the US government. Etc, etc. The nasties win or survive, while the goodies die, go crazy, or convert to evil.

At some point, this story stops being a horror story, and instead just becomes a sci-fi story. We don’t want that. Derleth, you are a bad writer, because you pull off the covers and expose the inner workings.

There is a third change that Derleth makes, but he doesn’t make it in this story. For now, we will skip it as a result. We’ll be looking at change #3 very soon, I promise.




Our next story is “The Walker on the Wind” published in 1933 by August Derleth. It’s just a dozen pages in my anthology. It introduces a major player to the Mythos, and it’s based on a Gen 0 story which is based on a myth. Here we go!
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Old 04-09-2014, 06:46 PM   #83
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Review of The Walker on the Wind


In this story, virtually no action happens at all. Therefore, the plot can be summed up in a few sentences.

1). Constable Robert Norris is found dead months after his strange disappearance
2). We read his documentation, Stillwater,a town a year prior had all of the people go missing
3). One night, while looking up in the sky, three are witnessed by Norris falling to the Earth from that town, one dead, two alive
4). One whispers and cries strange stories before dying, and the other dies without awakening
5). A local Doctor confirms much of the story that he overhears from the one that wakes
6). Constable Norris disappears after believing that he was being chased by this being that swept up the people of Stillwater
7). By his dead body are the footprints of something huge, which were also by the disappearance of the three people found just outside of Stillwater more than a year prior; with a few tokens of antiquity on his body

And that’s it. Most of the story is dedicated to what the one person, Wentworth, told Constable Norris and Dr. Jamison, and it’s framed by the minor plot points.

Wentworth and Dr. Jamison claim that Stillwater worshipped an air elemental named The Wind-Walker. There were supposedly large altars in the nearby woods from which they would make human sacrifices. Wentworth and his friend arrives in Stillwater on the night of such a sacrifices, and Irene was to be it. She asks them to flee with her, and they do. The Wind-Walker comes and collects them, and also takes all of the people of Stillwater – either because they failed to sacrifice Irene or because lately they had been lax in their worship. They have been caught in the Wind-Walker’s wake for a year before dropped to Earth again.

They have been to strange places, like the Plateau of Leng, with the Tcho-Tcho people, and others. They were fed water and food from them and have driven made by these strange sights. Irene was slain as the sacrifice, but him and his companion were changed by their long-term exposure to the Wind-Walker. They are hurt by the warm, as if it were extreme cold. Indeed, both of them will die from being warmed up and cared for.

Because he saw the Wind-Walker in the sky before he dropped the three into town, Constable Norris believes he is being hunted. He finds one of the footprints on either side of Jamison’s house. Then he disappears a few days later and reappears months later with strange items in his pockets, dead, in a snow pile.
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Old 04-09-2014, 06:51 PM   #84
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Synopsis of The Walker on the Wind


This is the first story of several to incorporate Mythos fiction into the world. Many others will play this trick. Just like Robert Howard will refer to Machen’s writings in his Mythos fiction, in this case, the writings of Algernon Blackwood are referred to. But we go a step further, and Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu is referenced
Spoiler



Introducing the Wind-Walker as an entity that is an air elemental is a bit blatant. I have no qualms with a creature having an elemental overtone, and being called Wind-Walker certainly suggests it. But, perhaps you can dial back the rational objective conversation of it. Keep the descriptions and nature a bit more hidden. Derleth strikes again!

As a matter of fact, I think this whole story is made better by removing one paragraph where he babbles on about everywhere he’s visited, and the short research by Norris into Blackwood and Lovecraft. Pull that out, and your story is much better. Still, I like that this doesn’t reveal nearly as much of the world as the previous story, and the creature introduced here is a major one, used fairly regularly by writers later (and named in a later story we’ll read).

Derleth’s approach is better here than in the previous story, and it’s a bit stronger writing because he doesn’t make some of the same consistency errors in the previous one. Even the one coincidence, (not a spoiler, since it’s on the second page) where he looks up and spies the creature above just as it is depositing the bodies is explained because a bitter cold wind had suddenly struck and he naturally looked up to see what it was from. You’re learning August, you’re learning.

As a story, it’s better than the previous one, and I give it 3 outta 5 stars.
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Old 04-09-2014, 06:54 PM   #85
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The next story is a real treat, because I don’t have it in any of my anthologies! Therefore, I will be reading it alongside you. It’s by another young writer in Lovecraft’s circle – Richard F Searight. The name of the story is The Sealed Casket


It can be found here

Sealed Casket

In it, the Eltdown Shards are introduced, which was referred to later by Lovecraft in The Challenge from Beyond, which we’ve already read.


Richard Searight first published in 1924 at the age of 21 with the story, The Brain in the Jar. It won first place in a survey of the readers of the magazine Weird Tales. It wasn’t until 1933 that Seawright began to pick up the writing pen again. He wrote to Lovecraft at the suggestion of the editor of Weird Tales, who warmly embraced him, remembering the great story he had written in the mid 20’s.

He sold a few stories, but he was regularly rejected by magazines, because he wasn’t a big name. He was still trying to find a regular magazine to publish through, and he was the sort of writer frequently discouraged by rejections. As someone who has poured a lot into a story and gotten rejections myself, I sympathize. While Lovecraft was still alive encouraging him, he kept it up, and published poems and stories. After his mentor passed, however, he would file away a story after one rejection, and gave up writing altogether a few years later.

Due to his collaboration with Lovecraft, and some stories in the Mythos, some of his works have been anthologized, and many unpublished works saw print. I have an anthology with five of his short stories and his poetry in it, and four of them were never published.



So let’s read The Sealed Casket and see if we can discover whether it’s an unknown awesome, or a typical story.
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Old 04-10-2014, 03:40 PM   #86
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I just finished it, and it took 11 minutes and 36 seconds to read, according to my stopwatch. Here we go


Synopsis of The Sealed Casket



The story opens with a quote from The Eltdown Shards telling the story of a demon captured by a wizard. Then we move to our main character, Wesson Clark. He is studying an ancient casket on his desk. The small casket is described, with a large lead seal with ancient writing on it.

We learn that Clark seduced the wife of an antiquarian named Martucci. It is implied that Clark may have had something to do with Martucci’s death. Martucci left the item to him and bid him to not open the seal, but to keep it safe as he had done for 30 years. Clark thinks this is rather silly, since there could be something valuable in there.

After some difficulty, he manages to get the seal off intact. He suspects that the writing could have some value as well. The casket is older than locks and has no such device, so Clark opens it up but sees nothing inside. While he’s trying to digest this info, there is a breeze in his locked office, and the beginning of a powerful odor. He moves to leave, but hears a sound as something moves between him and the door. He realizes that this must have been a trap set by Martucci. The invisible snake thing moves up and wrestles with him, constraining hum and he feels himself being pulled into out.

His house has burned down and Clark is dead. Neighbors say they heard a whistling and something breaking out of the house before the fire began, but are dismissed. Clarks body is found, with all bones crushed and drained of all blood.
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Old 04-10-2014, 03:40 PM   #87
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Review of The Sealed Casket

Huh. That felt very underwhelming. I was hoping this Mythos tale would feel a little more, Mythos-ish, you know? The Shards are only mentioned in the preface, and nothing suggests the Mythos or its feel in the short story. The fact that
Spoiler
was broadcast from the very beginning, and not that surprising.

It’s salvation is that it’s a short work. Just for fun, I cut and pasted it into a Word doc. It’s just 2600 words. My average weekly Magic article is longer! Even in the era of hand writing and typewriting, it would take roughly a day to write and edit it. I’m not surprised it has been anthologized about…seven or eight times. Editors often look for these stories to bulk up the number of stories in their book.

Anyway, the plot is pencil thin, due to length, and virtually nothing happens. It’s interesting as a bit of flash fiction and of historical note as the first Eltdown Shards story. It’s nothing more than that, however. I do like the more interesting evil main character and would have loved to have seen a story maybe double this length fully fleshed out from the beginning with him at the helm.

2 out of 5 stars
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Old 04-10-2014, 03:45 PM   #88
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Alright, It’s time to move. I had initially planned this Dynasty to begin with Gen 1, move to Gen 2 and back and forth a few times to get a good sense of things, drop back to Gen 0 as appropriate, and then move forward to 3 and 4.

However, the ability of most of these stories to actually be read has been a big help, so for now, I am going to change the direction. Let’s move backwards and start reading the foundational stories of Lovecraft and his fellow writers. These are some of the most critically acclaimed horror stories of their era, from the mid1800’s all the way through the 1910’s. We’ll read these, and now that we have a sense of the Mythos, you can see their massive impact.


This has been my favorite place to read stories over the last five years or so. I have collections by many of the greats and have been reading them with fervor. There’s a lot of untapped majesty in these stories. It’s also to see the influences on Lovecraft. Mike many, he took bits and pieces of works and styles he liked, and combined them to craft his own writings and world. We are about to read a bunch of great stories, and I can’t wait.

Generation Zero, here we come!
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Old 04-10-2014, 04:16 PM   #89
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Our first two stories are both lightning short, by Ambrose Bierce. The first is regularly anthologized, and in some literature texts. The second is much less well known. Both are extremely important, not because of themselves, but because of what we will be reading next. Because they are short, we’ll read and review them both at once.


An Inhabitant of Carcosa - http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/l_carcos.htm - read by me in 7 minutes and 33 seconds (although I’ve read it like 5 times before)

Haita the Shepherd - Haita The Shepherd by Ambrose Bierce @ Classic Reader - 7 minutes 50 seconds


Ambrose Bierce is a name you probably know. Many of his best short stories have been updated through the years, in movies, episodes of the Twilight Zone, and other places. For example, an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is in many literature texts.

He got his living mostly from scathing criticisms of other’s writings, but he was an amazing pensmith and I stand in awe at some of his passages. Every story of his has at least one or two moments of sheer brilliance. Let’s read some Bierce!
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Old 04-10-2014, 04:23 PM   #90
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Actually, I'll just go ahead and post them in thread to help out:


An Inhabitant of Carcosa, by Ambrose Bierce

For there be divers sorts of death -- some wherein the body remaineth; and in some it vanisheth quite away with the spirit. This commonly occurreth only in solitude (such is God's will) and, none seeing the end, we say the man is lost, or gone on a long journey -- which indeed he hath; but sometimes it hath happened in sight of many, as abundant testimony showeth. In one kind of death the spirit also dieth, and this it hath been known to do while yet the body was in vigor for many years. Sometimes, as is veritably attested, it dieth with the body, but after a season is raised up again in that place where the body did decay.



Pondering these words of Hali (whom God rest) and questioning their full meaning, as one who, having an intimation, yet doubts if there be not something behind, other than that which he has discerned, I noted not whither I had strayed until a sudden chill wind striking my face revived in me a sense of my surroundings. I observed with astonishment that everything seemed unfamiliar. On every side of me stretched a bleak and desolate expanse of plain, covered with a tall overgrowth of sere grass, which rustled and whistled in the autumn wind with heaven knows what mysterious and disquieting suggestion. Protruded at long intervals above it, stood strangely shaped and somber- colored rocks, which seemed to have an understanding with one another and to exchange looks of uncomfortable significance, as if they had reared their heads to watch the issue of some foreseen event. A few blasted trees here and there appeared as leaders in this malevolent conspiracy of silent expectation.

The day, I thought, must be far advanced, though the sun was invisible; and although sensible that the air was raw and chill my consciousness of that fact was rather mental than physical -- I had no feeling of discomfort. Over all the dismal landscape a canopy of low, lead-colored clouds hung like a visible curse. In all this there were a menace and a portent -- a hint of evil, an intimation of doom. Bird, beast, or insect there was none. The wind sighed in the bare branches of the dead trees and the gray grass bent to whisper its dread secret to the earth; but no other sound nor motion broke the awful repose of that dismal place.

I observed in the herbage a number of weather-worn stones, evidently shaped with tools. They were broken, covered with moss and half-sunken in the earth. Some lay prostrate, some leaned at various angles, none was vertical. They were obviously headstones of graves, though the graves themselves no longer existed as either mounds or depressions; the years had leveled all. Scattered here and there, more massive blocks showed where some pompous or ambitious monument had once flung its feeble defiance at oblivion. So old seemed these relics, these vestiges of vanity and memorials of affection and piety, so battered and worn and stained -- so neglected, deserted, forgotten the place, that I could not help thinking myself the discoverer of the burial-ground of a prehistoric race of men whose very name was long extinct.

Filled with these reflections, I was for some time heedless of the sequence of my own experiences, but soon I thought, "How came I hither?" A moment's reflection seemed to make this all clear and explain at the same time, though in a disquieting way, the singular character with which my fancy had invested all that I saw or heard. I was ill. I remembered now that I had been prostrated by a sudden fever, and that my family had told me that in my periods of delirium I had constantly cried out for liberty and air, and had been held in bed to prevent my escape out-of-doors. Now I had eluded the vigilance of my attendants and had wandered hither to -- to where? I could not conjecture. Clearly I was at a considerable distance from the city where I dwelt -- the ancient and famous city of Carcosa.

No signs of human life were anywhere visible or audible; no rising smoke, no watchdog's bark, no lowing cattle, no shouts of children at play -- nothing but that dismal burial-place with its air of mystery and dread, due to my own disordered brain. Was I not becoming again delirious, there beyond human aid? Was it not indeed all an illusion of my madness? I called aloud the names of my wives and sons, reaching out my hands in search of theirs, even as I walked among the crumbling stones and in the withered grass.

A noise behind me caused me to turn about. A wild animal -- a lynx -- was approaching. The thought came to me: If I break down here in the desert -- if the fever return and I fail, this beast will be at my throat. I sprang toward it, shouting. It trotted tranquilly within a hand's breadth of me and disappeared behind a rock.

A moment later a man's head appeared to rise out of the the ground a short distance away. He was ascending the farther slope of a low hill whose crest was hardly to be distinguished from the general level. His whole figure soon came into view against the background of gray cloud. He was half naked, half clad in skins. His hair was unkempt, his beard long and ragged. In one hand he carried a bow and arrow; the other held a blazing torch with a long trail of black smoke. He walked slowly and with caution, as if he feared falling into some open grave concealed by the tall grass. This strange apparition surprised but did not alarm, and taking course to intercept him I met him almost face to face, accosting him with the familiar salutation, "God keep you."

He gave no heed, nor did he arrest his pace.

"Good stranger," I continued, "I am ill and lost. Direct me, I beseech you, to Carcosa."

The man broke into a barbarous chant in an unknown tongue, passing on and away.

An owl on the branch of a decayed tree hooted dismally and was answered by another in the distance. Looking upward, I saw through a sudden rift in the clouds Aldebaran and the Hyades! In all this there was a hint of night -- the lynx, the man with the torch, the owl. Yet I saw -- I saw even the stars in absence of darkness. I saw, but was apparently not seen nor heard. Under what awful spell did I exist?

I seated myself at the root of a great tree, seriously to consider what it were best to do. That I was mad I could no longer doubt, yet recognized a ground of doubt in the conviction. Of fever I had no trace. I had, withal, a sense of exhilaration and vigor altogether unknown to me -- a feeling of mental and physical exaltation. My senses seemed all alert; I could feel the air as a ponderous substance; I could hear the silence.

A great root of the giant tree against whose trunk I leaned as I sat held inclosed in its grasp a slab of stone, a part of which protruded into a recess formed by another root. The stone was thus partly protected from the weather, though greatly decomposed. Its edges were worn round, its corners eaten away, its surface deeply furrowed and scaled. Glittering particles of mica were visible in the earth about it -- vestiges of its decomposition. This stone had apparently marked the grave out of which the tree had sprung ages ago. The tree's exacting roots had robbed the grave and made the stone a prisoner.

A sudden wind pushed some dry leaves and twigs from the uppermost face of the stone; I saw the low-relief letters of an inscription and bent to read it. God in Heaven! my name in full! -- the date of my birth! -- the date of my death!

A level shaft of light illuminated the whole side of the tree as I sprang to my feet in terror. The sun was rising in the rosy east. I stood between the tree and his broad red disk -- no shadow darkened the trunk!

A chorus of howling wolves saluted the dawn. I saw them sitting on their haunches, singly and in groups, on the summits of irregular mounds and tumuli filling a half of my desert prospect and extending to the horizon. And then I knew that these were ruins of the ancient and famous city of Carcosa.
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Old 04-10-2014, 04:24 PM   #91
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Haita the Shepherd, by Ambrose Bierce


In the heart of Haita the illusions of youth had not been supplanted by those of age and experience. His thoughts were pure and pleasant, for his life was simple and his soul devoid of ambition. He rose with the sun and went forth to pray at the shrine of Hastur, the god of shepherds, who heard and was pleased. After performance of this pious rite Haita unbarred the gate of the fold and with a cheerful mind drove his flock afield, eating his morning meal of curds and oat cake as he went, occasionally pausing to add a few berries, cold with dew, or to drink of the waters that came away from the hills to join the stream in the middle of the valley and be borne along with it, he knew not whither.

During the long summer day, as his sheep cropped the good grass which the gods had made to grow for them, or lay with their forelegs doubled under their breasts and chewed the cud, Haita, reclining in the shadow of a tree, or sitting upon a rock, played so sweet music upon his reed pipe that sometimes from the corner of his eye he got accidental glimpses of the minor sylvan deities, leaning forward out of the copse to hear; but if he looked at them directly they vanished. From this -- for he must be thinking if he would not turn into one of his own sheep -- he drew the solemn inference that happiness may come if not sought, but if looked for will never be seen; for next to the favour of Hastur, who never disclosed himself, Haita most valued the friendly interest of his neighbours, the shy immortals of the wood and stream. At nightfall he drove his flock back to the fold, saw that the gate was secure and retired to his cave for refreshment and for dreams.

So passed his life, one day like another, save when the storms uttered the wrath of an offended god. Then Haita cowered in his cave, his face hidden in his hands, and prayed that he alone might be punished for his sins and the world saved from destruction. Sometimes when there was a great rain, and the stream came out of its banks, compelling him to urge his terrified flock to the uplands, he interceded for the people in the cities which he had been told lay in the plain beyond the two blue hills forming the gateway of his valley.

'It is kind of thee, O Hastur,' so he prayed, 'to give me mountains so near to my dwelling and my fold that I and my sheep can escape the angry torrents; but the rest of the world thou must thyself deliver in some way that I know not of, or I will no longer worship thee.'

And Hastur, knowing that Haita was a youth who kept his word, spared the cities and turned the waters into the sea.

So he had lived since he could remember. He could not rightly conceive any other mode of existence. The holy hermit who dwelt at the head of the valley, a full hour's journey away, from whom he had heard the tale of the great cities where dwelt people -- poor souls! -- who had no sheep, gave him no knowledge of that early time, when, so he reasoned, he must have been small and helpless like a lamb.

It was through thinking on these mysteries and marvels, and on that horrible change to silence and decay which he felt sure must sometime come to him, as he had seen it come to so many of his flock -- as it came to all living things except the birds -- that Haita first became conscious how miserable and hopeless was his lot.

'It is necessary,' he said, 'that I know whence and how I came; for how can one perform his duties unless able to judge what they are by the way in which he was entrusted with them? And what contentment can I have when I know not how long it is going to last? Perhaps before another sun I may be changed, and then what will become of the sheep? What, indeed, will have become of me?'

Pondering these things Haita became melancholy and morose. He no longer spoke cheerfully to his flock, nor ran with alacrity to the shrine of Hastur. In every breeze he heard whispers of malign deities whose existence he now first observed. Every cloud was a portent signifying disaster, and the darkness was full of terrors. His reed pipe when applied to his lips gave out no melody, but a dismal wail; the sylvan and riparian intelligences no longer thronged the thicket-side to listen, but fled from the sound, as he knew by the stirred leaves and bent flowers. He relaxed his vigilance and many of his sheep strayed away into the hills and were lost. Those that remained became lean and ill for lack of good pasturage, for he would not seek it for them, but conducted them day after day to the same spot, through mere abstraction, while puzzling about life and death -- of immortality he knew not.

One day while indulging in the gloomiest reflections he suddenly sprang from the rock upon which he sat, and with a determined gesture of the right hand exclaimed: 'I will no longer be a suppliant for knowledge which the gods withhold. Let them look to it that they do me no wrong. I will do my duty as best I can and if I err upon their own heads be it!'

Suddenly, as he spoke, a great brightness fell about him, causing him to look upward, thinking the sun had burst through a rift in the clouds; but there were no clouds. No more than an arm's length away stood a beautiful maiden. So beautiful she was that the flowers about her feet folded their petals in despair and bent their heads in token of submission; so sweet her look that the humming-birds thronged her eyes, thrusting their thirsty bills almost into them, and the wild bees were about her lips. And such was her brightness that the shadows of all objects lay divergent from her feet, turning as she moved.

Haita was entranced. Rising, he knelt before her in adoration, and she laid her hand upon his head.

'Come,' she said in a voice that had the music of all the bells of his flock -- 'come, thou art not to worship me, who am no goddess, but if thou art truthful and dutiful I will abide with thee.'

Haita seized her hand, and stammering his joy and gratitude arose, and hand in hand they stood and smiled into each other's eyes. He gazed on her with reverence and rapture. He said: 'I pray thee, lovely maid, tell me thy name and whence and why thou comest.'

At this she laid a warning finger on her lip and began to withdraw. Her beauty underwent a visible alteration that made him shudder, he knew not why, for still she was beautiful. The landscape was darkened by a giant shadow sweeping across the valley with the speed of a vulture. In the obscurity the maiden's figure grew dim and indistinct and her voice seemed to come from a distance, as she said, in a tone of sorrowful reproach: 'Presumptuous and ungrateful youth! must I then so soon leave thee? Would nothing do but thou must at once break the eternal compact?'

Inexpressibly grieved, Haita fell upon his knees and implored her to remain -- rose and sought her in the deepening darkness -- ran in circles, calling to her aloud, but all in vain. She was no longer visible, but out of the gloom he heard her voice saying: 'Nay, thou shalt not have me by seeking. Go to thy duty, faithless shepherd, or we shall never meet again.'

Night had fallen; the wolves were howling in the hills and the terrified sheep crowding about Haita's feet. In the demands of the hour he forgot his disappointment, drove his sheep to the fold and repairing to the place of worship poured out his heart in gratitude to Hastur for permitting him to save his flock, then retired to his cave and slept.

When Haita awoke the sun was high and shone in at the cave, illuminating it with a great glory. And there, beside him, sat the maiden. She smiled upon him with a smile that seemed the visible music of his pipe of reeds. He dared not speak, fearing to offend her as before, for he knew not what he could venture to say.

'Because,' she said, 'thou didst thy duty by the flock, and didst not forget to thank Hastur for staying the wolves of the night, I am come to thee again. Wilt thou have me for a companion?'

'Who would not have thee for ever?' replied Haita. 'Oh! never again leave me until -- until I-change and become silent and motionless.'

Haita had no word for death.

'I wish, indeed,' he continued, 'that thou wert of my own sex, that we might wrestle and run races and so never tire of being together.'

At these words the maiden arose and passed out of the cave, and Haita, springing from his couch of fragrant boughs to overtake and detain her, observed to his astonishment that the rain was falling and the stream in the middle of the valley had come out of its banks. The sheep were bleating in terror, for the rising waters had invaded their fold. And there was danger for the unknown cities of the distant plain.

It was many days before Haita saw the maiden again. One day he was returning from the head of the valley, where he had gone with ewe's milk and oat cake and berries for the holy hermit, who was too old and feeble to provide himself with food.

'Poor old man!' he said aloud, as he trudged along homeward. 'I will return to-morrow and bear him on my back to my own dwelling, where I can care for him. Doubtless it is for this that Hastur has reared me all these many years, and gives me health and strength.'

As he spoke, the maiden, clad in glittering garments, met him in the path with a smile that took away his breath.

'I am come again,' she said, 'to dwell with thee if thou wilt now have me, for none else will. Thou mayest have learned wisdom, and art willing to take me as I am, nor care to know.'

Haita threw himself at her feet. 'Beautiful being,' he cried, 'if thou wilt but deign to accept all the devotion of my heart and soul -- after Hastur be served -- it is thine for ever. But, alas! thou art capricious and wayward. Before to-morrow's sun I may lose thee again. Promise, I beseech thee, that however in my ignorance I may offend, thou wilt forgive and remain always with me.'

Scarcely had he finished speaking when a troop of bears came out of the hills, racing toward him with crimson mouths and fiery eyes. The maiden again vanished, and he turned and fled for his life. Nor did he stop until he was in the cot of the holy hermit, whence he had set out. Hastily barring the door against the bears he cast himself upon the ground and wept.

'My son,' said the hermit from his couch of straw, freshly gathered that morning by Haita's hands, 'it is not like thee to weep for bears -- tell me what sorrow hath befallen thee, that age may minister to the hurts of youth with such balms as it hath of its wisdom.'

Haita told him all: how thrice he had met the radiant maid and thrice she had left him forlorn. He related minutely all that had passed between them, omitting no word of what had been said.

When he had ended, the holy hermit was a moment silent, then said: 'My son, I have attended to thy story, and I know the maiden. I have myself seen her, as have many. Know, then, that her name, which she would not even permit thee to inquire, is Happiness. Thou saidst the truth to her, that she is capricious, for she imposeth conditions that man cannot fulfil, and delinquency is punished by desertion. She cometh only when unsought, and will not be questioned. One manifestation of curiosity, one sign of doubt, one expression of misgiving, and she is away! How long didst thou have her at any time before she fled?'

'Only a single instant,' answered Haita, blushing with shame at the confession. 'Each time I drove her away in one moment.'

'Unfortunate youth!' said the holy hermit, 'but for thine indiscretion thou mightst have had her for two.'
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Old 04-10-2014, 09:31 PM   #92
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Synopsis of An Inhabitant of Carcosa and Haita the Shepherd


Carcosa:

This story has a preface attributed to Hali. Our main character is pondering Hali’s words when he feels a cold breeze on his face and looks around him. Where is he? He is by an ancient graveyard whose stones are so old that most are beyond recognition.

He is a resident of Carcosa, that great and ancient city. He now remembers. He was ill and wanted to go outside for fresh air, but he family wouldn’t let him. He must’ve gotten out and away. But where? There’s no smoke on the horizon nor major signs of civilization.

He notices a lynx and tries to scare it away but it doesn’t notice him. Then he spies a half clad man with a hairy face and carrying a torch that came by. He tries to speak to him, but all that happens is the man spouts some unintelligible language and keeps moving. He wonders what is going on, and sits down under a tree. He notices a gravestone in the tree that has been protected by the weather. On it is his name, birth day, and death date. He stands up, and notices that the sun is peering over the horizon and casts no shadow of his body.


Haita:

Haita is a shepherd who lives and works in the valley beyond some cities. His entire life seems to be in this grove. He worships Hastur, the god of shepherds, and communicates with an old hermit on a hill. During the day, he plays music, and the beings of the forest listen. During a flood, he prays to Hastur to save the people of the city beyond, and knowing Haita is a youth who keeps his promises, Hastur turns the water into a sea.

Eventually, Haita ages and begins to question his place in the world. His sheep are less well tended and he wonders what is beyond. After a period of self-questioning, he finally decides to just be the best shepherd he can be, and he is truly content. Then a beautiful woman appears and asks to stay with Haita a while, but he begins to question her. She disappears.

That night he brings in the wolves and thanks Hastur for keeping the wolves away. She appears in the morning as he begins a new day. He agrees to keep her, but then, after a moment, he says that he wishes she were a man, so he could wrestle with her and run races. Then she leaves again.

Another storm has arrived, and he decides to go get the old man and bring him back to Haita’s home so he can care for him. As he decides this, the woman appears a third time. She says that everyone else has rejected her and once more wants to stay with him. He begs for her to stay, promising his ,love and devotion, if only she won’t run each time he says something inappropriate. At this she again leaves.

He arrives at the hermit’s house and relates this story of the thrice appeared woman. The hermit knows her, and names her. She is Happiness.



Lines I am enamored with include:

Scattered here and there, more massive blocks showed where some pompous or ambitious monument had once flung its feeble defiance at oblivion.


So beautiful she was that the flowers about her feet folded their petals in despair and bent their heads in token of submission
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Old 04-10-2014, 09:37 PM   #93
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Review of An Inhabitant of Carcosa and Haita the Shepherd


Carcosa is a perfect short tale. The first time I read it, I wasn’t sure where it was going. Then it got there, and boom smacked me in the face. I think if it had lasted another two or five pages, I would have had enough time to question everything, but I didn’t because of how short it was – brilliant.

It’s a well-written tale, as the words used perfectly describe the story. You can tell that each word does the work of ten. His precision of language is breathtaking. I wish he had written more and critiqued less. As it is, he is my favorite worker of words. Some authors may be more imaginative, but when it comes to sheer craft, he is at the top. This was published in 1886 in a newspaper and in book form in 1891.


5 outta 5 for Carcosa


Haita is not a horror story, it’s a tale written like a legend. It appears to come right out of a textbook on Greek Mythology or something. It has the didactic story-telling of the great epics, and its peopled with characters and a world which breathes the old style of story. It’s almost like an Aesopian Fable, but without the moral at the bottom.

Haita does have some horror conventions in it, particularly the surprise ending that reshapes what you thought happened in the story. It’s not a horror tale, and it’s not Bierce’s best. I think Bierce is best at stories that surprise you – An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Carcosa, and many others. Published in 1893, this story is another solid entry by Bierce, but nothing outrageous or anything.

4 stars out of 5
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Old 04-10-2014, 09:42 PM   #94
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Now that you’ve read these two Bierce works, we are moving to the work that I feel is the most like Lovecraft’s Mythos. We will be reading Robert W. Chambers’ The Yellow Sign.


http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-st...YellSign.shtml

It has many parallels to Lovecraft’s writings, both in terms of details and looking at the big picture. See if you can find them as you read it!

In my copy of The King in Yellow, this is a 19 page story.




Robert W Chambers was a very popular writer in his day. He published a ton of books that were on the level of a Danielle Steele or Robert Grisham. It wasn’t literature, and it didn’t stand the test of time. He turned to romantic fiction and was a best seller. However, what has stood out was a publication from 1895 called The King in Yellow. It was a group of stories built around a common theme. That publication was massively influential to the horror genre generically, and the Cthulhu mythos specifically.

The King in Yellow has been so influential, you can feel it in lots of places. There are references to it or things in it all over the place – video games, novels, short stories, movies, tv shows, and more. Chambers just brilliantly captures the imagination and some nasty scary things in this book.

Here’s what Lovecraft said of the man in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith:

Chambers is like Rupert Hughes and a few other fallen Titans – equipped with the right brains and education but wholly out of the habit of using them.


So, let’s read the story that, in my opinion, is the closest to reading like a Mythos story, and is one of my favorites of the Gen 0 stories. Ready?
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Old 04-12-2014, 02:29 AM   #95
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Synopsis of The Yellow Sign


The story opens with one main character, Mr. Scott a painter, and his favorite nude model, Tessie Reardon painting. He is relaxing by the window and taking a break when he spies the watchman for the adjacent church, and he is struck by the worm-ish look that the man has. Struck by this singular expression, he finds that he uses too much mustard in the skin of the arm he was painting, and it looks like corpse flesh. He feels the entire work is spoiled, as the corpse look is reading across the paining. In anger, he destroys the canvas.

While talking, Tessie tells Scott of a dream she has had a few times, where she is watching from a window down on a funeral procession. The watchman from the church Is driving the hearse, and inside the coffin she knows that its Scott. Scott tries to reassure her that it’s nothing, and suggests a week in the countryside to feel better

The next day, the bellboy for his property arrives in Scott’s apartment and they begin talking about the church next door , which was sold the owner of the apartment building thy are in. They discuss the watchman there and the bellboy tells a story where the watchman looked at him and his family queerly, and the bellboy confronted him, but the watchman sad nothing. The bellboy hit him, and he was soft. He grabbed the bellboy’s hand, and the bellboy had to pull to get away, and he pulled off the middle finger of one of the hands! Scott can see the nine fingers on his hands and a chill goes down.

Tessie arrives for work and Scott tells her of a similar dream he had the previous night where he was in a coffin and saw her in a window and the driver was the watchman. He tells her in order to demonstrate the power of suggestion, but she is worried more, and she tells him that she has feelings for him. He kisses her and their relationship changes.

The night arrives and Scott heads out for a dinner with a work colleague. Afterwards, while heading back to his apartment, he passes by the watchman, and he is asking, Have you found the yellow sign over and over again.

The following day, Tessie has arrived. She will model clothed now, due to the changes in their relationship. He gives her an outfit and a necklace, and she gives him a pin, with an onyx back and curious yellow letter on it. She says that she found it months ago, and put out an ad in the papers, but no one answered. She pins it to him.

While moving a frame, Scott falls and badly sprains his wrists and he can’t work. Tessie is sewing, and trolling to find something to do, he swings by his bookcases, and spies a tome he has never seen before. He asks Tessie if she put it up there, and she comes over, but she hasn’t; he discovers it’s the Yellow Sign, a play with a sinister reputation. He tells Tessie not to read it or touch it, so playfully, she grabs the book and runs off and hides while she read sit. He yells at her not so, but she doesn’t listen.

He finds her a half hour later having read the play. She is struck with horror, so he takes her to a couch and reads it as well. They have full knowledge of it now. She asks him to take off the Yellow Sign, but he can’t or won’t. In a few moments, the watchman arrives at the door. As he comes for Scott, Tessie faints dead. The doctor and priest are there, and they see three bodies, two dead and one dying. Scott sees the end, and overhears the doctor telling the priest that the dead man, the watchman, has been dead for months.
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Old 04-12-2014, 02:31 AM   #96
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Review of The Yellow Sign

Unlike some other reviews, by its nature , this is spoiler heavy, and uses no spoiler tags.


Ah me. I love this story. Chambers builds a very believable world, with a bit of horror to it for the entire time, and then bends you right into the bizarre for just two pages and ends it. I respect that.


I hope you can see how Lovecraftian this story appears to be. If I were to tell you that it was written in 1945 by a Generation 2 author, you’d buy it. It was so ahead of its time in 1895. What elements do you see from it in the Mythos?

Consider – the mystic tome that has unhallowed information that taints the reader. Compare the King in Yellow to the Necronomicon. Another thing he did was to take things he liked from other writers and put them in his story. You’ll note that The King in Yellow is set in Carcosa, which has two suns and many moons. There is a character named Hastur, which they discuss, and the city is against Lake Hali, which was the name of the sage who was quoted in the Carcosa story.

Sure, Chambers creates a feeling of dark horror in the story, and it has many great horror elements. It also shows a writer borrowing elements from another writer and adding to it. This is very Lovecraft. In fact, he was so impressed that he adds Lake Hali to his stories, and August Derleth adds Hastur. In fact, we’ve already read a story where Hastur was mentioned as one of the ancient ones - The Lair of the Star-Spawn. Therefore, if you want to consider The Yellow Sign as a Gen 0 story that was absorbed into the Mythos, you would not be wrong.


With great writing, a knowledge of the genre belying his lack of experience writing in it, and great story, this is a classic of horror literature.


5 outta 5 stars
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Old 04-12-2014, 02:33 AM   #97
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The next place we are going to go is Lord Dunsany, and along with Arthur Machen and Poe, is the greatest influence on Lovecraft. We’ve discussed him already. Lovecraft wrote many stories in a Dunsany style, and Smith’s Tale ….. Zeiros was very Dunsany in feel. Well, let’s read a Dunsany work.

A Shop in Go-By-Street

Lord Dunsany's Short Story: A Shop In Go-By Street



It’s just 7 pages long, so read up, me hearties!
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Old 04-12-2014, 02:35 AM   #98
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Who and what is Lord Dunsany?

After Poe, Dunsany is by far the biggest influence on Lovecraft. For years, he will write stories in a pseudo-Dunsany style. Lord Dunsany was the 18th lord of Dunsany, and your typical Victorian era dilettante aristocrat. He spent time safari’ing in Africa and n the Boer war. He also penned a large amount of correspondence and writings.

But in 1905, he published The Gods of Pegana, and everything changed. The Gods of Pegana married his writing style to the right subject matter – in this case, he created the myths and mythos for a group of people in far off Pegana. Each myth is in The Gods of Pegana, and the impact of this book cannot be overemphasized. (Some myths are longer than others).

Just to illustrate, allow me to give you the second myth in Gods of Pegana:
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Old 04-12-2014, 02:36 AM   #99
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OF SKARL THE DRUMMER


When MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI had made the gods and Skarl, Skarl made a drum, and began to beat upon it that he might drum for ever. Then because he was weary after the making of the gods, and because of the drumming of Skarl, did MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI grow drowsy and fall asleep.

And there fell a hush upon the gods when they saw that MANA rested, and there was silence on Pegana save for the drumming of Skarl. Skarl sitteth upon the mist before the feet of MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI, above the gods of Pegana, and there he beateth his drum. Some say that the Worlds and the Suns are but the echoes of the drumming of Skarl, and others say that they be dreams that arise in the mind of MANA because of the drumming of Skarl, as one may dream whose rest is troubled by sound of song, but none knoweth, for who hath heard the voice of MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI, or who hath seen his drummer?

Whether the season be winter or whether it be summer, whether it be morning among the worlds or whether it be night, Skarl still beateth his drum, for the purposes of the gods are not yet fulfilled. Sometimes the arm of Skarl grows weary; but still he beateth his drum, that the gods may do the work of the gods, and the worlds go on, for if he cease for an instant then MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI will start awake, and there will be worlds nor gods no more.

But, when at the last the arm of Skarl shall cease to beat his drum, silence shall startle Pegana like thunder in a cave, and MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI shall cease to rest.

Then shall Skarl put his drum upon his back and walk forth into the void beyond the worlds, because it is THE END, and the work of Skarl is over.
There may arise some other god whom Skarl may serve, or it may be that he shall perish; but to Skarl it shall matter not, for he shall have done the work of Skarl.
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Old 04-12-2014, 02:38 AM   #100
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Anyway, I hope you can see just how good Dunsany was at marrying his classic/epic style of writing and these works. Dunsany would go on to pen a lot of fantasy works, including a sequel to Gods. But you can see the strains of the beginning of Lovecraft here. In fact, Mana-Yood-Sushai may be a bit of Azathoth.

We have some anecdotal evidence to suggest that A Shop in Go-By-Street was reread by Lovecraft just before penning Call of Cthulhu. We’ll take a look at just how in the Review.
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