Cthulhu fhtagn: In Defense of H.P. Lovecraft, George R.R. Martin, and Other Bad Writers

August 20th was the birthday of the beloved “weird fiction” author H.P. Lovecraft. Like many writers, I confess that I failed to honor the occasion. But Peter Damien did notice that Lovecraft would have turned 123 this year. He wonders why anyone cares:

Because the fact is…he was a godawful writer. He was so bad. I really cannot stress this enough. I’m aware that the quality of a writer’s fiction is very much a matter of personal taste and not objective (and those people who mistakenly believe it is objective and matches up to their own tastes are always wrong). Still, I think we can safely agree that he was really awful as a writer, given that even people who are fans of Lovecraft don’t seem to defend his writing very much.

Damien’s aesthetic judgment is irreproachable. There’s not much to be said in defense of passages like this one from “The Call of Cthulhu“:

Cthulhu still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone which has shielded him since the sun was young. His accursed city is sunken once more, for the Vigilant sailed over the spot after the April storm; but his ministers on earth still bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places. He must have been trapped by the sinking whilst within his black abyss, or else the world would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy. Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come – but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.

Yet Damien’s definition of good writing is too narrow. He argues that Lovecraft’s “ideas were themselves amazing things. It’s just that Lovecraft lacked the capability to do anything useful with them himself.” If that were simply true, however, no one would read Lovecraft–or remember anything that he wrote. Lovecraft was a terrible crafter of sentences and had a rather distinctly brute-force approach to exposition. Despite these shortcomings, the fictional universe he created is unforgettable, right down to the ludicrous pseudo-languages he invented for his various creations.

Lovecraft’s profound influence as a creator of worlds suggests that he was a better writer, in the crucial sense of articulating and communicating his ideas, than his more technically accomplished competitors. To criticize his stilted dialogue or Gothic affectations is to miss the point. Clumsy as he is, Lovecraft is remarkably good not only at transporting his readers to places that don’t exist, but at bringing them back with mementos from the journey. What more can we ask of a writer in the overlapping group of genres that includes SF, horror, and fantasy?

Lovecraft has a recent counterpart in George R.R. Martin, the author of the Game of Thrones series. Like Lovecraft, although in a rather different style, …read more

Via: American Conservative


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Strikes against Syria long overdue

Two years and 100,000 deaths later, it finally appears that Team Obama will get off the sidelines and into the game in Syria. It’s long overdue.

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Via: Fox Opines


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The truth about Obama's plan to attack Syria

Having failed to lead, President Obama finds himself backed into a Jimmy Carter-esque corner, apparently ready to give in to calls to jump into Syria.

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Via: Fox Opines


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5 Reasons Why Words Matter

Ali Eteraz, author of Children of Dust, wrote in Medium last Tuesday that words are losing their potency and power. He believes the mighty Instagram, with its frozen pixelated memories, is our future. Though perhaps unconsciously, he said, “Instagram and its cousins represent an undeclared war on writing. On words.”

Eteraz believes that in the beginning, the Internet encouraged words. Text statuses reigned supreme in the first days of Facebook. But then, a change slowly began to develop:

First, by progressively smaller bursts of text (websites became blogs, became status updates, became 144 character tweets), and then through the enthronement of the image. Whether it is moving pictures (Youtube, Vimeo, Liveleak), or photo-sharing sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat, it goes without saying that we are well on our way to communicating with each other by way of pictures.

There is one important and distinctive difference, however, between the sorts of “words” projected on the Internet, and those words utilized by storytellers throughout time. In the print era, the newspapers and books told stories of the other: of the powerful in Washington or on Wall Street, of a neighbor’s child who won a spelling bee, of Bobby Jones the golf player or General Robert E. Lee. Besides the private introspection of the diary or public thoughtfulness of the memoir, stories of self were at least somewhat limited.

But in the world of Internet and social media, another narrative has begun to reign supreme: namely, the self-narration. Facebook and Twitter statuses create constant self-publication. This public diary has wooed us away from the storybooks; after all, between General Lee and myself, whom will my ego find more fascinating?

With the initiation of Instagram, self-describing words became self-describing pictures. Instead of striving to help the user know and understand “who I am and how I feel” via statuses, the Instagram image asks you to merely see who I am, and to know “me” on that front. Eteraz does not view this as an alarming trend – except perhaps selfishly, he surmises, as a writer who wants to save his income. For most of society, he supposes, such a trend is normal:

After all, we are descendants of cavemen that told their stories upon stone walls by way of images. And we are descended of societies where the primary language was the hieroglyph, which is nothing more than words represented in imagistic forms. From this perspective we shouldn’t show much concern if our societies transition away from words and move to communicating by way of the image.

But here again, Eteraz does not seem to notice that the very nature of what is communicated has changed. Hieroglyphics and caveman images did not contain self-musing diary entries. Many contained histories and chronicles of kingdoms and clans, as well as ceremonial and religious messages. The “hieroglyphics” of Instagram rarely contain any of these things. As the image grows omnipotent online, the stories we tell are changing. News has increasingly subsided from such typographic-focused sites as the New York Times to …read more

Via: American Conservative


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Will Boehner Stop Our Rogue President?

The next 72 hours will be decisive in the career of the speaker of the House. The alternatives he faces are these:

John Boehner can, after “consultation,” give his blessing to Barack Obama’s decision to launch a war on Syria, a nation that has neither attacked nor threatened us.

Or Boehner can instruct Obama that, under our Constitution, in the absence of an attack on the United States, Congress alone has the authority to decide whether the United States goes to war.

As speaker, he can call the House back on Monday to debate, and decide, whether to authorize the war Obama is about to start. In the absence of a Congressional vote for war, Boehner should remind the president that U.S. cruise missile strikes on Syria, killing soldiers and civilians alike, would be the unconstitutional and impeachable acts of a rogue president.

Moreover, an attack on Syria would be an act of stupidity.

Why this rush to war? Why the hysteria? Why the panic?

Syria and Assad will still be there two weeks from now or a month from now, and we will know far more then about what happened last week.

Understandably, Obama wants to get the egg off his face from having foolishly drawn his “red line” against chemical weapons, and then watching Syria, allegedly, defy His Majesty. But saving Obama’s face does not justify plunging his country into another Mideast war.

Does Obama realize what a fool history will make of him if he is stampeded into a new war by propaganda that turns out to be yet another stew of ideological zealotry and mendacity?

As of today, we do not know exactly what gas was used around Damascus, how it was delivered, who authorized it and whether President Bashar Assad ever issued such an order.

Yet, one Wall Street Journal columnist is already calling on Obama to assassinate Assad along with his family.

Do we really want back into that game? When John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy explored the assassination option with Fidel Castro, blowback came awfully swift in Dallas.

Again, what is the urgency of war now if we are certain we are right? What do we lose by waiting for more solid evidence, and then presenting our case to the Security Council?

Kennedy did that in the Cuban missile crisis. U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson made the case. And the world saw we were right.

If, in the face of incontrovertible proof, Russia and China veto sanctions, the world will see that. Then let John Kerry make his case to Congress and convince that body to authorize war, if he can.

But if Obama cannot convince Congress, we cannot — and ought not — go to war. The last thing America needs is an unnecessary, unconstitutional war in that God-forsaken region that both Congress and the country oppose.

Indeed, the reports about this gas attack on Syrian civilians have already begun to give off the distinct aroma of a false-flag operation.

Assad has offered U.N. inspectors secure access to where gas was allegedly used. It is the rebels who …read more

Via: American Conservative


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