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Clark Ashton Smith

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  • Clark Ashton Smith

    I discovered this guy a little while ago - while re-reading some of Lovecraft and Robert E Howards mythos stories. Anyone read any of Clark Ashton Smiths stuff?

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/...566943-3704649

    I can certainly reccommend this anthology!
    Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

    Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

  • #2
    Re: Clark Ashton Smith

    Originally posted by devilchicken
    I discovered this guy a little while ago - while re-reading some of Lovecraft and Robert E Howards mythos stories. Anyone read any of Clark Ashton Smiths stuff?

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/...566943-3704649

    I can certainly reccommend this anthology!
    An interesting writer, but perhaps an acquired taste.

    I like some of the stories, particularly "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros," but he doesn't
    always hit the mark as a writer of fiction. He has a lot of imagination, and a nice
    vocabulary, and a certain sardonic wit, but when he strays into science fiction, I cringe
    slightly. The s-f genre wasn't, perhaps, his mأ©tier. There's not much rational
    underpinning to the stories, which is one of the strengths of s-f.

    When he sticks to stories near his pet themes of death, eros, and exotic metamorphosis,
    he's capable of pulling them off. His prose style, despite (because of?) being
    encrusted with recondite bits of verbiage, is elegant, and far superior to that of
    his friend H.P. Lovecraft, even at the latter writer's best.

    The books I have from the old Ballantine Books Adult Fantasy series called
    Hyperborea and Zothique contain a lot of his better fantasy.

    He primarily considered himself a poet, and I think I agree. If you like verse, take
    a look at his poem in blank verse, "The Hashish Eater."

    If you look in the "Books you've recently enjoyed" thread, you'll see I wrote a mini-review
    of a book of selected verse by Smith called The Last Oblivion.

    Here's the URL:

    [broken link]


    LSN
    Last edited by Rothgo; 04-09-2010, 08:58 AM.

    Comment


    • #3
      I would agree with that CAS can be an acquired taste.

      My personal preferences (in no particular order) are:

      The Double Shadow
      The Seed from the Sepulcher
      The Isle of the Torturers
      The Charnel God
      The Coming of the White Worm
      Necromancy in Naat
      The Abominations of Yondo.

      Some of the other stories I found a little contrived, but he does seem to do a good job on conveying the antiquity of the things he's describing.

      A shame that he only stuck to short fiction - and never really was able to develop and create any truly memorable characters.
      Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

      Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

      Comment


      • #4
        A word of caution about "The Coming of the White Worm." It exists in
        2 versions. The most widely available version is the brutally cut version
        that appeared in magazine form. Smith's original is longer and
        (I think) better.

        LSN

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm a great fan of CAS. Unfashionably perhaps, I enjoy short stories. Fantasy is almost exclusively marketed in great epic doorsteps these days. Some of Smith's stuff is really prose poetry. Very French decadent...a la Baudelaire. An excellent website with poems, stories (not currently in print) and biographical info, is: http://www.eldritchdark.com/. Enjoy! :D
          \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

          Comment


          • #6
            Yes devilchicken (are you any relation to slightly-evil_rooster?) CAS was one of my faves too when I was most into fantasy in my late teens and early twenties. He has the kind of vocabulary (like our own LSN :) ) that keeps you on your toes, and all my old paperbacks are still marked where I used to underline those (to me) outre words like terebinth, penumbrous and horripilation which to me at the time were like old gems. The Charnel God is probably one of my favourite of his tales and the Weaver in the Vault and Vaults of Yoh Vombis are up there too with the wierd and spooky.

            This link was posted by a guest in the Conan thread. They have a lot of CAS there along with a lot of other cool stuff:

            http://www.wildsidepress.com/

            I've not read much of CAS poetry so thanks for the link Mikey_C. I'm off now to take a look. :)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Mikey_C
              I'm a great fan of CAS. Unfashionably perhaps, I enjoy short stories. Fantasy is almost exclusively marketed in great epic doorsteps these days.
              The fantasy short story (effectively executed) is a real joy. Dunsany could do it.
              Occasionally, so could Cabell ("The Way of Ecban" and "The Music from Behind the Moon").
              There's a science fantasy piece by the late Keith Roberts, "Coranda," that shows
              it can be done today. ("Coranda" is based against Moorcock's The Ice Schooner
              background, so it can be read as either s-f or epic fantasy.) Leiber is the obvious
              example of how to keep a series running through short stories and novellas. I like
              Gary Myers occasionally.

              Lovecraft sort of did it in his Dunsanian dream-fantasy stories, too. But CAS
              did it several times, very successfully. You gentlemen have mentioned several
              pieces by CAS that are worthy. I'm surprised no one has mentioned, "The City
              of the Singing Flame." (I think that's the title; I don't have my library close at
              hand right now.) I've already mentioned "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros," and
              of course there's the pre-quel to that story, "The Theft of the Thirty-nine Girdles"
              (which, if the title is misread, conjures up images of a lingerie thief :lol:).

              Smith took up writing short stories as an idea to make some much-needed
              money to support his ailing parents. His poetry paid little. After his parents
              died, he wrote few stories.

              Originally posted by Mikey_C
              Some of Smith's stuff is really prose poetry. Very French decadent...a la Baudelaire. An excellent website with poems, stories (not currently in print) and biographical info, is: http://www.eldritchdark.com/. Enjoy! :D
              The comments about the "French decadent" are, of course, on target. For those
              not conversant with the literature of that sort of writing, it does indeed come
              from Baudelaire (Les Fleurs du Mal and Le Spleen de Paris) which in
              turn comes out of Edgar Poe. What we think of as "decadent" concerns one
              development from Baudelaire, best represented by people such as Joris-Karl
              Huysmans -- see his novels أ€ rebours and Lأ -bas especially -- and
              one of my personal favorites, Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (author of Contes Cruels
              and the symboliste drama Axأ«l).

              CAS followed these people in time by a number of years, so he's a belated descendant
              of the decadents. He taught himself French and translated Baudelaire and Arthur
              Rimbaud and his fiction and verse picked up a whiff of their approach to image
              and symbol. All this while living in the American outback of Auburn, CA. (I've been
              there. It's still a bit "off the beaten path.") The whole "French influence" thing
              seems curiously provincial. What's odder is that at times, Smith makes us like
              it.

              LSN

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Grey Mouser
                . . .

                CAS was one of my faves too when I was most into fantasy in my late teens and early twenties.
                Same here. I was a teen during the late '60s through mid-'70s. I encountered Smith in
                the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series books edited by Lin Carter. Carter himself was a
                bit of a strange bird, and some of the opinions he provided in the intros to those
                books strike me as, shall we say, "eccentric," but he had genuine enthusiasm for the
                fantasy genre, and helped bring back into print a number of worthy writers.

                The books I have from that series by Smith: are Hyperborea, and Zothique. The cover art
                attracted me to the books. If you guys have never seen these editions, you
                might want to check out the covers. (They're mostly on-line.)

                As I got older, I started to notice CAS's weaknesses more, but what he does
                well more than compensates for his deficiencies -- at least for one reader.

                Originally posted by Grey Mouser
                He has the kind of vocabulary (like our own LSN :) ) that keeps you on your toes,
                8O

                Originally posted by Grey Mouser
                and all my old paperbacks are still marked where I used to underline those (to me) outre words like terebinth, penumbrous and horripilation which to me at the time were like old gems. The Charnel God is probably one of my favourite of his tales and the Weaver in the Vault and Vaults of Yoh Vombis are up there too with the wierd and spooky.
                Interesting choices. I don't object, but I detect a different area of emphasis for
                each of us.

                Originally posted by Grey Mouser
                This link was posted by a guest in the Conan thread. They have a lot of CAS there along with a lot of other cool stuff:

                http://www.wildsidepress.com/
                I cannot comment on how well Wildside Press treats their authors, but they've
                got a very nice selection of books, especially if one is searching for "obscure"
                writers. I used their catalogue to fill the lacunae in my collections of Ernest Bramah,
                Dunsany, Cabell, and R. A. Lafferty. I even picked up a few books by people
                such as Turgenev (a personal favorite, but not fantasy, although he wrote a
                few supernatural stories).

                Originally posted by Grey Mouser

                I've not read much of CAS poetry so thanks for the link Mikey_C. I'm off now to take a look. :)
                I'm actually fairly partial to "The Hashish Eater" and a few other of his poems.
                Are they "good"? Maybe. He's a minor poet, but he had some skill to compensate,
                and imagination and vocabulary to carry the load.

                LSN

                Comment


                • #9
                  Cheers for the link - I'll be sure to check it out.

                  I don't have the City of Singing Flame, but its included in one of the books they are selling.

                  I am lucky enough to have one of the 2000 Arkham copies of the Clark Ashton Smiths 'Black Book'. Contains a lot of his developmental ideas - interesting to compare them to the finished works.

                  I do have 2 different versions of the Coming of the White Worm. One is on that anthology. The other on the Book of Eibon - an ok book, but only has 2 or 3 of CAS works. The rest is all crap.

                  Also quite partial to some of REH's earlier Conan Stories - Tower of the Elephant (although some of the later stuff was pretty abysmal) being the one that springs most clearly to mind, and also the Worms of the Earth.
                  Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

                  Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Clark Ashton Smith

                    Originally posted by devilchicken
                    I discovered this guy a little while ago - while re-reading some of Lovecraft and Robert E Howards mythos stories. Anyone read any of Clark Ashton Smiths stuff?

                    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/...566943-3704649

                    I can certainly reccommend this anthology!
                    M. Poulet-diabolique,

                    If I may be so bold, could you post a review of this collection of CAS's work in
                    the thread "Books you've recently enjoyed" under "Recommended Reading" ?

                    I examined the information about the book on the U.K. Amazon site, and it looks
                    to be a decent selection of his work. Many readers, especially younger ones,
                    are unlikely to have heard of this writer. Your review would constitute a public
                    service, as it were.

                    LSN

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      No worries - I'll try to put something together for you.

                      Comment

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