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H P Lovecraft Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos, and writers who continued the tradition.

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Old 22nd February 2010, 07:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
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"Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

Well, prompted by the revival of the thread on "The Hound", I've decided to throw out the possibility of discussions of some of HPL's individual tales; something I've been pondering for some time but was simply unsure there was enough interest to make it viable. Some of his stories, of course, have already seen some level of discussion, but these have chiefly been among the best known, and I'd like to see opinions, thoughts, and impressions of all types of tales from the man, greater and lesser, horrific and humorous.

I don't have in mind any particular approach to the tales; just a free-wheeling discussion of various people's thoughts. I've chosen this title to start it off because it is the most recent piece I've (re-)read, and I'm in the midst of a rather detailed analysis of it, so naturally am especially interested in hearing other people's thoughts as well; it is one of his tales which receives little comment generally, which I feel is a bit unjust; though certainly an early tale, and one of the lesser ones, I nonetheless think it offers quite a bit of food for thought, and that there are numerous approaches to analysis and discussion. For the time being, I will hold off on my own take(s) here (which are really quite lengthy), and will attempt to minimize my own responses to others, save to note things I find especially interesting or that are ideas which had never occurred to me before.

So... anyone interested....?
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Old 22nd February 2010, 11:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

This story is , sadly , the only thing that remains (last time I checked) of the extensive colection of story narrations from MindWebs . I can sort of understand some copyright problems but with most of these stories , they served more as an introduction into the genre . Michael Hansen is realy a wonderfull narrator and it is to bad that one can't find a place to hear MindWebs online as of yet . And no , the recordings aren't sold anywhere either .

I realy loved what the man did with Great Slow Kings , and I just loved to hear him modulate his voice to all diferent forms - from the gruff to the intelectual to the elderly . I think you would have liked his work on that H.G.Wells story about sea people - what was it , "The Abyss" ?

I did find a separate recording of his reading of Frederic(k?) Brown's "The Weapon" though .


Sorry for sidetracking :O
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Old 22nd February 2010, 11:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

'Salright by me, as I was unaware of this version. It would be interesting to hear....
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Old 22nd February 2010, 11:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

Knock yourself out

Internet Archive: Free Download: MindWebs - Beyond the Wall of Sleep
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Old 23rd February 2010, 01:14 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

I listened to ye podcast (is that whut it's call'd?) & follow'd along in me Penguin Classics edition of The Thing in the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories. The reader made some changes of his own, reading "supernatural" for "supernal." The only transcriptional error that I caught was "green" when it should have been "great." I like this tale a lot and I think it very well done. S. T. has written critically of this story but once to my knowledge, in H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, where he writes:

"There are some powerful conceptions in this story; but on the whole it is marred by stilted prose, confusion in some critical points of plot and conception, and a vicious class-consciousness."

This seems rather harsh; and S. T. does not touch upon the tale at all in his introduction to the Penguin edition. As I listened to the tale and followed the text, I found that it flowed quite well and that it kept my interest. The opening lines are ones that I love to speak and contemplate and mimic in my own weird fiction. The idea of an alien mind or presence inside the brain of an uncouth rustic works for me in this tale -- the idea that the ignorant man cannot understand the things of which he raved, this stuff of "dreams" which in fact is rooted to cosmic reality. It's an engaging idea, and Lovecraft handles it very well. As a weird tale, this works superbly. I always feel a chill when the mouth of Slater speaks, "Joe Slater is dead." The revelation that this cosmic being is ruled by all-too-human passion -- hatred, vengeance, a need for justice -- seems the tale's one staggering weakness.
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Old 23rd February 2010, 04:03 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

I personally have never seen that as a weakness, but I may have to think about that view. To me, though, it has always fit with the idea that the mythological gods and beings of the classical writers were also ruled by such passions.

Incidentally, given your love of Shakespeare, Wilum, here's something you may enjoy thinking about: As the motto for the tale ("I have an exposition of sleep come upon me") is from A Midsummer Night's Dream, what do you think of a possible imaginative connection between Bottom's speech concerning his dream and certain portions of the tale? I ask this because, a while back, in reading "The Tomb", I realized that HPL not only used the Aeneid for his motto for that tale, but was playing on aspects of it as a way of foreshadowing the events as well, through association. He seems to have loved taking such classical themes and tropes and playing on them in more modern terms; perhaps another example of the past reaching forth into the present to engulf certain hapless individuals, or perhaps as an example of how "modern people under lawless conditions tend uncannily to repeat the darkest instinctive patterns of primitive half-ape savagery in their daily life and ritual observances".

At any rate, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the idea of any such connection between Bottom's Dream and those of Joe Slater.
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Old 23rd February 2010, 05:19 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

The one connection I see is that in both cases the "dreams" are not dreams at all but visions of reality. It is the narrator of "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" who is obsessed with dreams and what they may in fact portend. His obsession with dreams dictates his language. "At this point the thought-waves abruptly ceased, and the pale eyes of the dreamer--or can I say dead man?--commenced to glaze fishily." It is the narrator's assumption that Slater's visions are founded on dream-vision. Here we see that too much knowledge about the true nature of Time and Space is a dangerous thing, as we are warned at the beginning of "The Call of Cthulhu." Interestingly, though, this creature speaks of perhaps meeting the narrator "in unremembered dreams tonight," and perhaps this intelligent creature is not the inhuman cosmic thing that I imagined it to be, divorced from human emotions, but a creature linked to humankind -- "I am an entity like that which you yourself become in the freedom of dreamless sleep." Dreamless sleep -- how interesting. I'd like to know what S. T. sees as "...confusion in critical points of plot and conception...," although the obvious problem is how, why, such a cosmic phantom became trapped within its "diurnal prison" of Slater's mind as well as body. I am curious about the plural of "brains" -- "...the coarse brains are ceasing to vibrate as I wish." It is there in Derleth's text, and S. T.'s text is based on HPL's typescript. Upon further reflection I think this entity is not removed from humanity but that we are linked, in some relationship beyond mundane Time and Space -- and therefore its human-like emotional state is perhaps something that we learned from it. I want to see cosmic entities as distinctly removed from human traits, as Lovecraft seemed so avowed to shew; yet here he has linked this creature from an alien dimension absolutely to mundane humanity.

This is what I love about Lovecraft and why I find him a never-ending source of fascinating and inspiration -- he has depths!!!
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Old 23rd February 2010, 05:35 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

Well, the cosmic entity itself states that "We are all roamers of vast spaces and travellers in many ages" (D, p. 34); this, with the inclusion of the narrator as himself having such a "cosmic twin", and the opening statements, leads me to wonder if HPL wasn't indicating that we all have such, and that, as the text has it, "this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itswelf the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon".

What I was referring to with Bottom's speech is how it reflects elements of the tale, to wit:

Quote:
the elusiveness yet powerful hold of the dream (on Slater); the inarticulateness to convey his dream (cf. "Hypnos", D, p. 166) and "halting tongue" of the dreamer; the use of an amanuensis to express the titanic visions (or at least hint at their nature); and the fact that this "song" is sung at a death, in the final act in the drama (or tale).
The "song" is that mentioned by Bottom:

Quote:
I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream: it shall be called Bottom's Dream, because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the latter end of a play, before the duke: peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall sing it at her death.
If one takes such a reading, then it seems that Bottom's Dream may indeed have been "past the wit of man" and he, too may have been a "brother of light" to Joe Slater.

As you say, this is one of the things which keeps drawing me back to HPL -- the layers in the man's work. And the more I read of his letters, the more evident it becomes that his mind really did tend to work on such levels, often simultaneously....
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Old 23rd February 2010, 08:20 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

To the story : one often overlooked aspect of the story is "the cruel empire of Tsan Chan which is to come three thousand years hence" . I often wondered if Lovecraft ever had any definite idea of what he meant by this and maybe planed to hint at it in later tales . Did he imagine some version of a barbaric tribal federation , akin to the empire of Genghis Khan , after it had taken over and temporarily subdued the "arian" people , perhaps ?
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Old 23rd February 2010, 09:38 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

Weellll... he did mention "Tsan-Chan" again several years later, in "The Shadow Out of Time". However, I think he was referring to some views of his own, which he had expressed in letters and, to some degree, in his articles aimed at deflating the astrologer J. F. Hartmann. I'll dig out the bits I wrote on this and bring them in, if you're interested.

But as far as details about this particular empire... as far as I know, he had nothing beyond that mentioned above in mind....
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Old 23rd February 2010, 09:57 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

The name , at least mentaly , sugests to me one of those nomadic cultures that ruled on the boarderland of China .
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Old 25th February 2010, 08:29 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

This story, "Beyond the Wall of Sleep", is a mixed bag because it presents itself as a sci-fi type, but it is actually something different, or a cross between sci-fi and horror.

Now, some of the concepts that it deals with are dreams, alien contact, and weird science. I think that the main focus is on alien contact with the brother of light, whatever that is. Now the only way to look at that is through personal reflection. I remember what when I myself became ambi dexterous, I had a surge of energy that lasted for over a year and I lost 60+ lbs. The thing is that I was able to rest and let one of the sides of my body control my body movement, and it appeared to be directed by something in the sky because it moved me to positions that allowed me to remain hidden from the sight of other people. Basically what I'm saying is that this notion of being controlled by an entity only occurs through one side of the body and not both sides. This is not dealt with in this story. That is fine, and what I think in the end is that Lovecraft was simply trying to describe some phenomenon related to the human body, and he used a very interesting technique that is different than psycho analysis or other theories. In the end it is just a weird tale, and this idea is reused in other stories like the Dunwich Horror. There is something to the concept but it is just better left as a story element. If God or Gods hide themselves in the fabric of space-time, or stand outside of even that, what we can see as human beings is just this sort of nonsense talk about aliens, so might as well throw it in there if that is the best that God can give us to work with it is His problem, not ours...if it makes for dumb stories.
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Old 25th February 2010, 09:58 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"

....adding another comment.... I don't see an edit post button, so I'll make a new post.

Yes, I have recently read "The Island of Dr Moreau" by H.G. Wells. Apparently H.G. Wells is possibly the first sci-fi writer. It seems to be that he founded that type of writing but I don't know for sure. Well the point is that if I can read more H.G. Wells than I might be able to understand exactly what the difference is between sci-fi and horror. Now an important point of interest is that Lovecraft used to talk to Robert Howard apparently. If this is incorrect, than let me know. I guess that Howard wrote fiction that is classified as Sword and Sorcery. If I am not mistaken, I think that Lovecraft might have tried to write this way, but that is a speculative thought. Now, this current story "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" if it is sci-fi, the idea was made into a full scale horror in the Dunwich Horror as I mentioned. Well that is what I prefer because there are more characters involved and less contemplation. If this is sci-fi it is sci-fi due to the isolation of the narrator. Having to deal with that, Lovecraft did well here. There is a better way to write however. Well I would start to group his stories putting "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" and "The Dunwich Horror" together and "The Lurking Fear" and "Rats in the Walls" together. He missed out on being able to combine them because certainly they could be adapted to each other. That would be a worthy task.

...done for sure now....honestly there was no edit button to append this to my other post.
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