Favorite fantasy/sci-fi literature other than Tolkien
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Post Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:20 pm 
 

FormCritic wrote:
MetamorphosisSigma wrote:
Yeah, but dead on this time, for the most part :).

Aslan doesn't get a pass from me, though. Even when I was 11 and reading these, I got to the part where he surrenders himself as a sacrifice to save Edmund, and face met palm. I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before that point, and it only goes downhill from there. Lewis was a hamfisted hack, IMO.

And except for Dune. There's a whole lot more going on there than commentary on Islam and oil. The book may be allegorical on some level, but it's more complex than that, and there's certainly no one-to-one correspondence between people/organizations/events in the book(s) and real life. Those Fremen (free men) dudes are American-style revolutionaries of some sort, for starters...


Lewis is a dork, unless the reader is sympathetic to his Christian viewpoint...on which he is both subtle and profound.  On a deeper level, in the Narnia novels Lewis isn't just blathering about Jesus.  He has a lot to say about moral dilemmas, human nature, the cycles of history, the cynicism of the modern world versus the wonder of childhood and the nature of God.

One thing to remember about the Narnia novels:  They are not evangelism.  They are a Christian thinker talking to other Christians about God.  Everyone else is just invited along as guests.

One of my favorite moments is in The Silver Chair, when a girl who is new to Narnia tries to reassure herself that Aslan wouldn't harm a young girl.  Aslan responds that not only would he harm little girls, he has swallowed entire nations.  God, speaking through Aslan, does not offer excuses, justifications or explanations.  That isn't kid stuff.  It is Lewis saying something about the nature of God that is worth discussing between adults.


Which is why I have avoided it like the bubonic plague. I have never been into Christian apologists, or any type of apologists, for that matter.


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Post Posted: Mon May 14, 2012 1:18 am 
 


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The final Silver John novel.  This is an ex library copy at a very reachable price.


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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 9:10 am 
 

Some very good short works from Vance for those who prefer The Dying Earth to The Demon Princes but which get little mention are: The Dragon Masters, The Last Castle and the excellent The Miracle Workers from Fantasms and Magics.

Im reading The Island of Doctor Moreau again at the moment. I want to plant the guy on a lone mountain in my campaign.



  

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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 9:46 am 
 

Bloom wrote:Some very good short works from Vance for those who prefer The Dying Earth to The Demon Princes but which get little mention are: The Dragon Masters, The Last Castle and the excellent The Miracle Workers from Fantasms and Magics.

Im reading The Island of Doctor Moreau again at the moment. I want to plant the guy on a lone mountain in my campaign.


Those are all good Vance novellas. I haven't read the first two in a while, but I'm burnt out on JV at the moment (just re-read all five Demon Princes recently, plus a double handful of his older short stories in Dream Castles). To my shame, I've yet to read anything by Wells other than The Time Machine, which I need to rectify soon.

Currently reading Jorge Luis Borges, making my way in meandering fashion through the stories in Ficciones and The Aleph. It's a nice change of pace from my usual vintage SF fare. He's sort of a cross between Philip K. Dick in one of his rare rational moments and a brainier Peter S. Beagle.


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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 10:38 am 
 

I am quite a big fan of Terry Goodkind, liked all his Sword of Truth novels although I thought Law of Nines was a little weak.  Looking forward to his new one coming out in a few months.  I also like George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series and some D&D novels (early Dragonlance and R.A. Salvatore) too.  I also read some early 1st and 2nd century Judeo-Christian stuff and some history and archaeology stuff.

  


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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 11:37 am 
 

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:
Currently reading Jorge Luis Borges, making my way in meandering fashion through the stories in Ficciones ...


My fave Borges short story is ~ The Lottery in Babylon.  :D


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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 12:57 pm 
 

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:(just re-read all five Demon Princes recently

Do you prefer Demon Princes to Cugel? Im fairly surprised anyone does - I feel his language, thought and imagination are at their peak in the Dying Earth books (not to mention his PG Wodehouse influence.)

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:To my shame, I've yet to read anything by Wells other than The Time Machine, which I need to rectify soon.

The Island of Doctor Moreau is his best work I believe. There is an excellent film version with Charles Laughton as the doctor from 1932 (old !!).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024188/

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:Currently reading Jorge Luis Borges

I only read literature in translation if there is evidence that a translation exists to do justice to the original, which is often the case. Borges is one of literary figures I haven't been lucky enough to find a translation which gives me confidence enough to read him. My test is simple - 'Is this a fucking briliiant read?' If the answer is, 'no', then I blame the translator. Maybe you could recommend one.



  

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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 1:42 pm 
 

Bloom wrote:
MetamorphosisSigma wrote:(just re-read all five Demon Princes recently

Do you prefer Demon Princes to Cugel? Im fairly surprised anyone does - I feel his language, thought and imagination are at their peak in the Dying Earth books (not to mention his PG Wodehouse influence.)


Actually I do prefer Vance's "Gaean Reach" (basically all of his SF) stuff to the Cugel/Dying Earth stories. I don't dislike them, and you're certainly right in seeing more Wodehouse influence (which I appreciate) in the Cugel books, but Cugel is such an a-hole and the episodes in Cugel's Saga are so mind-numbingly repetitive that I lose interest after a while. I've only read the Dying Earth cycle once, and will probably do so again at some point, but it's not definitely not my "go to" JV. All Vance is good Vance, in any case, except The Five Gold Bands, which is atrocious, and a handful of merely mediocre shorts.

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:Currently reading Jorge Luis Borges

I only read literature in translation if there is evidence that a translation exists to do justice to the original, which is often the case. Borges is one of literary figures I haven't been lucky enough to find a translation which gives me confidence enough to read him. My test is simple - 'Is this a fucking briliiant read?' If the answer is, 'no', then I blame the translator. Maybe you could recommend one.


I just started reading Borges last week, so I'm hardly an authority, but from what I could gather from reviews of various translations, you want to avoid the Hurley versions (the Viking Press Collected Fictions and the excerpts from that volume in the various Penguin paperbacks). However, Borges was born to Anglophone parents, his grandmother was an Englishwoman, and he spoke fluent English and was an English professor (in Argentina), so while I'm usually skeptical of how much gets lost in translation, I think Borges might pleasantly surprise you. Also, he worked closely with one of his translators (Giovanni, I think the name is) on many of the English translation in the '70s, so considering all of that I'd say most of the worst pitfalls were probably avoided. I'll put it this way.. If someone had handed me Ficciones and the title had been Fictions and the author listed as "George Louis Borgeson", I'd never have known it wasn't originally written in English. I might have been a little puzzled over his obsession with South America, though :).


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Post Posted: Thu May 17, 2012 1:03 am 
 

I just got a reading copy of Lonely Vigils, by Manley Wade Wellman.

This is the 1981 Carcosa publishing collection of all of Wellman's Judge Pursuviant and John Thunstone stories.  It is dedicated to Karl Edward Wagner, with whom Wellman was apparently associated.

My copy is basically new, but without the dust jacket.  I got it for just over $20.

Reading about Thunstone, a theory is growing in my head about Thunstone and Silver John.


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Post Posted: Sun May 27, 2012 9:08 am 
 

A couple months back I picked up an anthology The Best of HP Lovecraft... primarily because several guys here gave Lovecraft 5 stars... I managed to read about 10 or so stories got about 1/2 way thru it before setting it aside.  Some of the stories were The Call of Cthulhu, The Hunter of Dark the Colour of Space, the Dunwich Horror... etc...  I found most to be okay and I can respect Lovecraft's ability to write... None of the stories really grabbed me and said you have to read this now!  Maybe its just too "old school" and I know this post will be sacreligious but the stories were kinda bland.

Probably my favorite was the Dunwich Horror which should have been a longer novel...

Also, there was one technique he seemed to use over and over again, where he would have the main character read the notes of a departed soul who was being driven crazy by some horror that was sooooo horrific, as to be >>>>>> "unspeakable" >>>>>> I really wish he would have described the "unspeakable" horror.... but then it would not have been "unspeakable"

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Post Posted: Sun May 27, 2012 11:07 am 
 

DiscoDadda wrote:A couple months back I picked up an anthology The Best of HP Lovecraft... primarily because several guys here gave Lovecraft 5 stars... I managed to read about 10 or so stories got about 1/2 way thru it before setting it aside.  Some of the stories were The Call of Cthulhu, The Hunter of Dark the Colour of Space, the Dunwich Horror... etc...  I found most to be okay and I can respect Lovecraft's ability to write... None of the stories really grabbed me and said you have to read this now!  Maybe its just too "old school" and I know this post will be sacreligious but the stories were kinda bland.

Probably my favorite was the Dunwich Horror which should have been a longer novel...

Also, there was one technique he seemed to use over and over again, where he would have the main character read the notes of a departed soul who was being driven crazy by some horror that was sooooo horrific, as to be >>>>>> "unspeakable" >>>>>> I really wish he would have described the "unspeakable" horror.... but then it would not have been "unspeakable"

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Lovecraft is definitely a product of his times.....along with Robert Howard and Clark Ashton Smith he was one of the "Three Horsemen" of Weird Tales.  You have to take Lovecraft's stories as they are, perfect examples of 30's pulp fiction, rather than any sort of great literature.  Lovecraft was much more about setting and atmosphere, not a lot of action, but building a sense of dread and horror....definitely of the "old school" of not showing the gore onscreen, so to speak.  If you read some of his predecessors in the genre (Robert Chambers, Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany and of course Edgar Allen Poe) you can see the progression in Lovecraft's works, even as he took the themes in a slightly different direction.

I don't know if you got to these, but my favorite Lovecraft tales are "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", "Dreams in the Witch-House", "The Temple" and "The Festival".

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Post Posted: Mon May 28, 2012 12:55 am 
 

DiscoDadda wrote:A couple months back I picked up an anthology The Best of HP Lovecraft... primarily because several guys here gave Lovecraft 5 stars... I managed to read about 10 or so stories got about 1/2 way thru it before setting it aside.  Some of the stories were The Call of Cthulhu, The Hunter of Dark the Colour of Space, the Dunwich Horror... etc...  I found most to be okay and I can respect Lovecraft's ability to write... None of the stories really grabbed me and said you have to read this now!  Maybe its just too "old school" and I know this post will be sacreligious but the stories were kinda bland.

Probably my favorite was the Dunwich Horror which should have been a longer novel...

Also, there was one technique he seemed to use over and over again, where he would have the main character read the notes of a departed soul who was being driven crazy by some horror that was sooooo horrific, as to be >>>>>> "unspeakable" >>>>>> I really wish he would have described the "unspeakable" horror.... but then it would not have been "unspeakable"

Disco


Disco - You've hit your head square on the nail with Lovecraft.  He is an acquired taste.  When you read Lovecraft, you have to think in terms of the overall feel of the piece as well as the whole fun of the Lovecraft Game.


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Post Posted: Thu May 31, 2012 10:23 am 
 

In many ways Lovecraft's work was ground breaking and set the direction for many other horror writers in the 20th century.


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Post Posted: Thu May 31, 2012 10:48 am 
 

jasonw1239 wrote:In many ways Lovecraft's work was ground breaking and set the direction for many other horror writers in the 20th century.


What surprised me when I started reading some of the author's that Lovecraft talked about were the number of creepy old bastards there were out there writing fiction. Blackwood and Machen stand out. One of Lovecraft's greatests crimes is that all these no talent hacks like Lin Carter couldn't understand what anyone else saw in Lovecraft and were jealous as hell.

I was reading somewhere the other day that the guys at Marvel Comics feel that they are the ones that made Conan popular and that if they had gotten to do Thongar like they wanted (Carter turned down the $125 an issue fee they were willing to pay for the rights) then no one would know who Conan was but everyone would want the latest Thongar book.

Lin Carter hated Lovecraft (and helped to butcher the Conan stories) though he wrote several forgetable and forgotten Cthulhu Mythos tales of his own.

I know Disco here didn't get into Lovecraft, which is a damn shame because he is missing out on many hours of enjoyment if the stories clicked for him, and Formcritic likes to make fun of Lovecraft, but we all know he wears that Cthulhu for president underwear at convetions (and nothing else) while going around asking women if they want to see his three-lobed eye (I don't want to know what that means).

One of the greatest things that Lovecraft did was to encourage other writers like Clark Ashton Smith and Robert Bloch. He not only let other writers use the Cthulhu Mythos, he encouraged it, and used their contributions in his stories. If Lovecraft used some named book, monster or elder god from outer space then that was the seal of approval for its general use by all the other writers writing in the Mythos.


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Post Posted: Thu May 31, 2012 12:36 pm 
 

I enjoy Lovecraft, yet, also recognize he is a genre writer with a now problematic cultural stance.   He was sickly, sad, lonely, racist and an utter failure academically, financially and personally; his work derives from and is fed by these challenges.  Nonetheless, I am neither a target of his melancholy, nor his racism, so I am able to find the work atmospheric and enjoy it.  However, I discovered that I enjoyed it a bit more after living in CT/MA for a while.  (ie. Pips + Ipswich = Pipswich).  

Granted, Lovecraft occasionally suffered from madness and that madness suffuses his writing.  I expect that for some people the more of the madness, cultural, geographic, academic and other attributes one shares with Lovecraft, the easier it is to look past his failures (as a person and a writer) to his success as a storyteller.  His work is atmospheric, although he is somewhat overly fond of his vocabulary.  No Poe; rather blunter.  It is definitely worth delving into the work of Machen, Derleth, et. al. if you enjoy the genre.  And, what's not to enjoy?  I rather doubt Lovecraft is an acquired taste for adults.  One either enjoys Lovecraft, or not.  Perhaps, younger folk find the genre through him (or as a Stephen King referent) and learn to read the genre through Lovecraft and co.  

Meanwhile, I have been delving into steampunk literature and find corollaries.  The pace and dissemination of publication is faster now, so it is unclear to me that there is a dominant writer, or one I am "supposed" to read.  Please remedy my ignorance where you can!  Yet, the genre is generally atmospheric and awash with writers in love with their own wordsmithery.  One English academic philosopher chap (name escapes me)  who is proclaimed a genius on the book flaps is particularly guilty of such.  Occasionally, a writer might let the reader decide he is a genius by the quality of his writing and thought... rather than leaving him wondering if the writer suffers self esteem issues and writes with a thesaurus at side.

Conveniently, one sets aside Lovecraft's writing with the abiding sense that he is sharing what he knows and feels to be true.  His gift to us is the immediacy of the places he sets us down; the application of this gift to the horror genre is his greatest legacy.


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Post Posted: Thu May 31, 2012 1:12 pm 
 

Pipswich wrote:Granted, Lovecraft occasionally suffered from madness and that madness suffuses his writing.  I expect that for some people the more of the madness, cultural, geographic, academic and other attributes one shares with Lovecraft, the easier it is to look past his failures (as a person and a writer) to his success as a storyteller.


It sounds as if someone has been taking de Camp's biography too seriously... To my knowledge, there is no evidence for "madness" of any kind. I suppose it's arguable that people who share some of a writer's demographic and personality traits might find him more appealing, but I suspect HPL's popularity in some circles and the disdain heaped on him by others has more to do with the underlying worldview and philosophy expressed in his work (cosmic indifferentism is a hard pill to swallow). For every WASP New Englander who failed out of high school and works at McDonald's that adores Lovecraft, there're probably ten Asian-American PhD engineers... Might as well say that the typical Robert E. Howard (whom I don't particularly like) fan is a gun-toting, beer swilling, socially retarded latent homosexual with delusions of Nietzschean superheroism. Some undoubtedly are, but most just aren't.

JasonZavoda wrote:I know Disco here didn't get into Lovecraft, which is a damn shame because he is missing out on many hours of enjoyment if the stories clicked for him, and Formcritic likes to make fun of Lovecraft, but we all know he wears that Cthulhu for president underwear at convetions (and nothing else) while going around asking women if they want to see his three-lobed eye (I don't want to know what that means).


It isn't easy to get past HPL's turgid prose at first, and I think he loses a lot of modern readers that way. I suppose he isn't for everybody, but my advice to Disco is that a little concerted effort to "get into" the stories will be repaid.


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Post Posted: Thu May 31, 2012 1:23 pm 
 

JasonZavoda wrote:One of the greatest things that Lovecraft did was to encourage other writers like Clark Ashton Smith and Robert Bloch. He not only let other writers use the Cthulhu Mythos, he encouraged it, and used their contributions in his stories. If Lovecraft used some named book, monster or elder god from outer space then that was the seal of approval for its general use by all the other writers writing in the Mythos.


Absolutely. Even if Lovecraft's work was completely worthless, there are about six other authors (CAS, Leiber, Bloch, etc.) I couldn't do without who simply wouldn't have written what they did the way they did if it hadn't been for HPL's encouragement.


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Post Posted: Thu May 31, 2012 1:34 pm 
 

Don't mistake my lack of reverence for Lovecraft the writer for a dismissal of Lovecraft the literary figure.

It is important to separate Lovecraft's writing from Lovecraft's literary achievement.

Lovecraft was such a turgid and eye-rollingly melodramatic writer that it has been fun for generations of writers since the 1930's to parody his style.  From a writer's perspective, he can be a maddening author who often uses hyperbole and meaningless adjectives when what he really needs to do is just describe.  His characters are either wooden versions of himself or sneaky, lowlife, halfbreed racial scum.  It isn't hard for biographers to jump to the conclusion that Lovecraft himself had mental problems because of both his strange private life and his frequent use of madness as a theme or plot device.  (If I had a dime for every time a Lovecraft narrator cannot explain what he saw because it might drive him mad.....)

BUT (and it's a very big but)

Lovecraft also succeeded in creating almost an entire genre of sci fi/horror that is still rolling today.   The Cthulhu Mythos, and the idea of utterly inhuman alien presences looming out there, has become a theme running through fiction, movies and games.  Lovecraft's influence is found everywhere.  Every author
in the fantasy/horror field takes a try at a Lovecraftian story or two....some with great success.  People who don't know Lovecraft's name know his themes from movies and television (Robert Bloch's Star Trek episodes, for instance).  Lovecraft looms far above the lesbian/wicca/eco-freak writers of today.  His stories will still be in print and widely read when all of the talking animals, female warriors, impossibly noble eco-elves and girl mages are out of style and consigned to used bookstores.


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