Escape Artists

News:

News

ATTENTION: NEW FORUM THEME Please see here for details: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=13188.0

Author Topic: THE STRANGE CASE OF HORROR AUTHORS WHO DON'T READ  (Read 7100 times)

Sgarre1

  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 1211
  • "Let There Be Fright!"
on: July 22, 2011, 10:29:40 PM
Interesting blog post:

http://networkedblogs.com/kBi05



NomadicScribe

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 53
Reply #1 on: July 24, 2011, 04:11:53 PM
Good article. I see this as happening widely across culture, but in some genres of fiction it is more pronounced than others. It is a growing trend in science fiction especially.



childoftyranny

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 175
Reply #2 on: August 07, 2011, 11:37:04 AM
Perhaps I'm speaking words best left unspoken, yet I still say them, but might this growing indication mean that the graphic novel   art   might not be the way to push people. It would certainly be a hard sell as "comics", as it were, are still generally held to be a fairly inferior art form but they are almost perfect for an age of writers who are trying to use words to invoke images over feelings. This of course requires artists, but plenty of them are starving and looking for work, or so I'm told. This perhaps does not solve the issue at hand as much as funnel it into a style that it might actually grow within. Although I think often enough the worthwhile graphic novels have fantastic writing behind them to involve the correct story to get an artist to draw it correctly, but we just don't get to see it.

Aside: I wonder how it would be to read the original script side by side with the art version?



Fenrix

  • Curmudgeonly Co-Editor of PseudoPod
  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 3899
  • I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
Reply #3 on: August 09, 2011, 03:31:24 PM
I think this talks about another piece of the same puzzle:

http://www.soundonsight.org/the-%E2%80%9Cgray-ones%E2%80%9D-fade-to-black/

Lack of exposure to art due to instant availability of what you are looking for (if you know to look for it).

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


MCWagner

  • Wins
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1526
Reply #4 on: August 05, 2012, 10:47:14 PM
(I hope I will be forgiven for unearthing this topic.)

I think the reason that the issue (writers of horror who only write from their experience with horror film) is so pronounced in horror fiction is because I've always found horror to be uniquely suited for translation to film.  While Nicole Cushing is commenting upon the essential un-filmability of the very best horror stories, it should be noted that horror in general has one big advantage.  All the greatest horror writers of history (with the arguable exception of King) were at their best in the short story form.  True horror is remarkably difficult to maintain for the length of a novel.  As such, the scope of the material fits nicely into the length of the average film, with a good deal of room left for additional character development and the artistic touches of the actors, directors, etc.  Moving backwards, from film to writing, brings about all the awfulness we know to associate with "book of the film."

There is a similar problem arising in current Anime production:  it has been pointed out that the really great manga and anime artists of the past were known for the enormous breadth of their experience and knowledge.  (With the death of Satoshi Kohn, we lost one of the few living examples.)  They wrote through inspiration drawn from film, novels, televison, plays, philosophy and all the great classics they could get a hold of.  The current anime writers only seem to... watch anime.  This recursive, incestuous nature of the ideas that result give us the reductivist dreck of moe' and related material. 



Umbrageofsnow

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 752
  • Commenting by the seat of my pants.
Reply #5 on: August 12, 2012, 05:49:36 AM
Agreed on the Anime front.  And that most horror writers are better at short lengths, although I'd argue that Lovecraft was best in the modern Novelette range, and his Novellas/short novels Charles Dexter Ward and Mountains of Madness are classics, but the point stands.

Still, these don't make up for the unfilmability of horror, for me at least.  It's hard not to show a monster in a movie without it coming off as cheesy, but almost anything you show cannot live up to a reader's imagination.  It's even harder to show the unexplainable weirdness in a story like The Music of Erich Zann or The Willows.  I just don't think you could make movies of those stories without it coming across as cheap effects or unexplainable weirdness.  Worse, written/spoken fiction is inherently better at showing the state of mind and inner dialogue of characters, while film must rely more on actions and spoken dialogue.  I think that makes it hard to really show a person going mad in more subtle ways.  For that matter, ambiguity is usually reduced and it seems hard to do slightly unreliable narrators.  Either nearly everything is a hallucination of the narrator, or it is all accurate, you seldom see the little shiftings of truth in film.  And some things are much much better left ambiguous in a way that images are not.  I can't really imagine The Repairer of Reputations in film, for example.

{Although, I'm just reminded of a very good example of this I saw the other day, the Adventure Time episode "BMO Noir".}

On the topic of writers who don't read, I have no trouble believing it, it's depressing, but I'd also think it is the kind of thing you could discern from someone else's work.  Maybe I'm just being a snob, but I assume that any writer who hasn't read much of anything is not one who will impress me.  Then again, I'm in the minority that loves Ramsey Campbell and hates Stephen King, so I probably have no bearing on commercial success even if I'm not full of shit about being able to tell.



MCWagner

  • Wins
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1526
Reply #6 on: August 12, 2012, 04:12:10 PM
I think you'd be surprised how many people love Campbell and hate King....



Sgarre1

  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 1211
  • "Let There Be Fright!"
Reply #7 on: August 12, 2012, 04:48:13 PM
Or even how many respect both of them as consummate writers of short horror fiction working in two different modes!



Umbrageofsnow

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 752
  • Commenting by the seat of my pants.
Reply #8 on: August 12, 2012, 08:01:57 PM
I think you'd be surprised how many people love Campbell and hate King....

Financially speaking, though, one of the two had to take a crappy retail job to make ends meet, and one is worth $400,000,000. I'll be the first to argue against financial success as a measure of artistic merit, but clearly the majority have spoken on this one.

And yes, both authors are quite successful in different ways, and they certainly aren't aiming for the same thing, but I much prefer what Campbell is aiming to do, as does MCWagner I take it. And I like to think Campbell will gain in popularity when people look back on him. It's all so subjective, but I think King will end up more like Robert Chambers, a few acknowledged major successes, but the bulk of his work forgotten despite being immensely popular in his day.  Who knows, but the fact that we're having this discussion means none of the three of us are the problem here.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2012, 08:05:07 PM by Umbrageofsnow »



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Reply #9 on: August 13, 2012, 02:53:51 AM
Well on the basis of this discussion, I've reserved a Ramsey Campbell (The Grin of the Dark) from the library. Never read the gent so I'll give him a try.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2012, 02:55:48 AM by kibitzer »



Sgarre1

  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 1211
  • "Let There Be Fright!"
Reply #10 on: August 14, 2012, 03:54:35 AM
I might also suggest a collection of his short fiction - because the only novel of his I've read so far is THE DOLL WHO ATE HIS MOTHER, which was his first, and he seems to get varied reactions to his novels, although THE NAMELESS seems to be very well liked - so trying out his short stories first might give you a better grip on his approach (insular, psychological character sketches in the milieu of urban decay, vague and unresolved plot construction, mostly - generally speaking).

But then he's got a lot of story collections out as well (the man is prolific) although it would be best to skip his early early stuff which are mostly Lovecraft pastiches (although "Cold Print" is excellent), in order to get a better grip on what his style eventually grew into.

He is excellent - not for everyone, though.  Mining mostly different territory than King, and not just because he's British and King's American, they share a few early inspirational models (Lovecraft, natch) but King has mostly operated in "Richard Matheson straight plot storytelling mode" with dashes of William Gaines TALES FROM THE CRYPT, while Campbell, understandably, is more influenced by the M.R. James classic ghost tradition approach  transmitted through the eerie psychological vagaries of Robert Aickman (although I've always though Fritz Leiber's "Smoke Ghost" was a precursor of Campbell's urban mode as well).



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Reply #11 on: August 15, 2012, 02:57:39 AM
He is excellent - not for everyone, though.  Mining mostly different territory than King, and not just because he's British and King's American, they share a few early inspirational models (Lovecraft, natch) but King has mostly operated in "Richard Matheson straight plot storytelling mode" with dashes of William Gaines TALES FROM THE CRYPT, while Campbell, understandably, is more influenced by the M.R. James classic ghost tradition approach  transmitted through the eerie psychological vagaries of Robert Aickman (although I've always though Fritz Leiber's "Smoke Ghost" was a precursor of Campbell's urban mode as well).

Well that sounds right up my alley!


MCWagner

  • Wins
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1526
Reply #12 on: August 15, 2012, 12:20:57 PM
I think you'd be surprised how many people love Campbell and hate King....

Financially speaking, though, one of the two had to take a crappy retail job to make ends meet, and one is worth $400,000,000. I'll be the first to argue against financial success as a measure of artistic merit, but clearly the majority have spoken on this one.

Actually, I  think the difference has more to do with brand building.  King's relative uniformity in approach across most of his work and the way he's kept his name  at the forefront of popular fiction (as well as his somewhat excessive prolific-ness) makes him an easy author to follow and identify.  Campbell's name isn't really widely recognized... a person might read two of his books or a handfull of the short stories in different collections and not realize that they're by the same author.

... It's all so subjective, but I think King will end up more like Robert Chambers, a few acknowledged major successes, but the bulk of his work forgotten despite being immensely popular in his day. 

I don't think Chambers is a terribly good comparison, at least within the genre.  His four truly weird tales are among the best ever, especially among the pre-Lovecraft crowd, but the rest of his work was apparently downright dreadful.  His parodies of "the weird" were mostly boring (I had to drag myself to the end of that collection), and the material that actually made him money were shallow adventure-romances.  King, at least, stays mostly within the genre, and no one could accuse him of under-producing in that respect.  His seems the sin of over-mining a rich vein, while Chambers produced a few gems and then wandered off to a completely different field.  I do agree that much of his work is likely to fall out of public awareness as history progresses... likely with his earlier works holding up his reputation and the rest representing a slow decline in originality and popularity.



Umbrageofsnow

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 752
  • Commenting by the seat of my pants.
Reply #13 on: August 16, 2012, 11:49:27 AM
Sgarrel1: Leiber was very definitely an influence on Campbell. To quote from one of the autobiographical bits in "Alone with the Horrors"
Quote from: RamseyCampbell
The Chicago and San Francisco tales of Fritz Leiber were now my models in various ways. I wanted to achieve that sense of supernatural terror which derives from the everyday urban landscape rather than invading it, and I greatly admired--still do--how Fritz wrote...

Regarding Campbell, "Alone with the Horrors" is a best-of collection that gives a pretty good overview of his style.  You notice little trends in certain periods, like shadows doing all kinds of verbs every other page in the stories from the early 80s, but many of the real gems are in that collection.  My favorite original collection of his has got to be "Scared Stiff", which is really not to everyone's tastes.  It is a collection of sexual horror.  NOT EROTIC, sexual.  Some stories come off as trying to push the envelope a bit, but many of them are good, most haven't been reprinted elsewhere, and it's a nice change of pace.  "Dark Companions" is probably my second favorite original collection of his, although the best third of it also appears in "Alone with the Horrors" mentioned above.

As to novels, yeah they are definitely more love-'em-or-hate-'em it seems, although I'm not sure what it is that bothers people so much. I like "Grin of the Dark" quite a bit, it is probably a good test-read.  My personal favorite is "Needing Ghosts" and "The Face That Must Die" is what really first made his good critical reputation for good reason. (along with the "Demons by Daylight" collection, which I like okay).

  I do agree that much of his work is likely to fall out of public awareness as history progresses... likely with his earlier works holding up his reputation and the rest representing a slow decline in originality and popularity.

That is more what I was aiming for. By the way, Chambers did have some other SF stuff after the King in Yellow collection, and it was okay.  Not great but not as awful as some of his other stuff.  But yeah, I pretty much agree about how History will remember King.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2012, 11:51:10 AM by Umbrageofsnow »



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Reply #14 on: August 29, 2012, 11:54:08 AM
Finished "The Grin Of The Dark". Not sure I know what the f**k happened in the end but very, very odd and disturbing in a way that's hard to define. The progression was certainly like an escalating nightmare, unsure of the boundary between dream and reality.

I shall read another.