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Clark Ashton Smith

Clark Ashton Smith (January 13, 1893-August 14, 1961) was a poet, sculptor, painter and author of fantasy, horror and science fiction short stories. It is for these stories, and his literary friendship with H. P. Lovecraft from 1922 until Lovecraft's death in 1937, that he is mainly remembered today. With Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, also a friend and correspondent, Smith remains one of the most famous contributors to the pulp magazine Weird Tales.

Biography

Early life and education

Smith spent most of his life in the small town of Auburn, California, living in a small cabin with his parents, Fanny and Timeus Smith. His formal education was limited: he suffered from psychological disorders and for this reason attended only eight years of grammar school and never went to high school. However, he continued to teach himself after he left school, learning French and Spanish, and his near-photographic memory allowed him to retain prodigious amounts from his very wide reading, including several entire dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Early writing and influences

Smith began writing stories at the age of eleven and two of them, The Sword of Zagan and The Black Diamonds, have recently been published by Hippocampus Press. Both stories use a medieval, Arabian Nights-like setting, and the Arabian Nights, like the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, are known to have strongly influenced Smith's early writing.

In his later youth Smith became the protégé of the San Francisco poet George Sterling, who helped him to publish his first volume of poems, The Star-Treader and Other Poems, at the age of nineteen. The Star-Treader was received very favorably by American critics, one of whom named Smith "the Keats of the Pacific." Smith made the acquaintance of Sterling through a member of the local Auburn Monday Night Club, where he read several of his poems with considerable success. The publication of Ebony and Crystal in 1922 was followed by a fan letter from H. P. Lovecraft, which was the beginning of fifteen years of friendship and correspondence.

Work and marriage

Smith was poor for most of his life and was often forced to take menial jobs such as fruitpicking and woodcutting in order to support himself and his parents. Following the death of his parents, he married Carol Jones Dorman on 10 November 1954 and moved to Pacific Grove, California, where he set up a household with their children.

Health and death

Smith suffered from eye problems throughout his life. He died in his sleep on August 14th 1961.

Artistic periods

While Smith was always an artist who worked in several very different media, it is possible to identify three distinct periods in which one form of art had precedence over the others.

Poetry: Until 1925

Smith published most of his volumes of poetry in this period, including the aforementioned The Star-Treader and Other Poems, as well as Odes and Sonnets (1918), Ebony and Crystal (1922) and Sandalwood (1925). His long poem The Hashish-Eater; Or, the Apocalypse of Evil was written in 1920.

Weird Fiction: 1926–1935

Smith wrote most of his weird fiction and Cthulhu Mythos stories, possibly inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Creatures of his invention include Aforgomon, Rlim-Shaikorth, Mordiggian, Tsathoggua, the wizard Eibon, and various others. In an homage to his friend, Lovecraft referred in some of his stories to a great dark wizard, "Klarkash-Ton."

Smith's stories form several cycles, called after the lands in which they are set: Averoigne, Hyperborea, Mars, Poseidonis, Xiccarph, Zothique. Stories set in Zothique belong to the Dying Earth subgenre.

His short stories originally appeared in the magazines Weird Tales, Strange Tales, Astounding Stories, Stirring Science Stories and Wonder Stories. Many of the stories were published in six hardcover volumes by August Derleth under his Arkham House imprint.

Some were also collected as Lost Worlds Vols 1 and 2 (LW1 and LW2):

  • "The Last Incantation" — Weird Tales, June 1930 LW2
  • "A Voyage to Sfanomoe" — Weird Tales, August 1931 LW2
  • "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" — Weird Tales November 1931 LW2
  • "The Door to Saturn" — Strange Tales, January 1932 LW2
  • "The Planet of the Dead" — Weird Tales, March 1932 LW2
  • "The Gorgon" — Weird Tales, April 1932 LW2
  • "The Letter from Mohaun Los" (under the title of "Flight into Super-Time") — Wonder Stories, August 1932 LW1
  • "The Empire of the Necromancers" — Weird Tales, September 1932 LW1
  • "The Hunters from Beyond" — Strange Tales, October 1932 LW1
  • "The Isle of the Torturers" — Weird Tales, March 1933 LW1
  • "The Light from Beyond" — Wonder Stories, April 1933 LW1
  • "The Beast of Averoigne" — Weird Tales, May 1933 LW1
  • "The Holiness of Azedarac" — Weird Tales, November 1933 LW1
  • "The Demon of the Flower" — Astounding Stories, December 1933 LW2
  • "The Death of Malygris" — Weird Tales, April 1934 LW2
  • "The Plutonium Drug" — Amazing Stories, September 1934 LW2
  • "The Seven Geases" — Weird Tales, October 1934 LW2
  • "Xeethra" — Weird Tales, December 1934 LW1
  • "The Flower-Women" — Weird Tales, May 1935 LW2
  • "The Treader of the Dust" — Weird Tales, August 1935 LW1
  • "Necromancy in Naat" — Weird Tales, July 1936 LW1
  • "The Maze of Maal Dweb" — Weird Tales, October 1938 LW2
  • "The Coming of the White Worm" — Stirring Science Stories, April 1941 LW2

Sculpture: 1935–1961

By this time his interest in writing fiction began to lessen and he turned to creating sculptures from soft rock such as soapstone. Many examples are repoduced in Greg Rickard, The Fantastic Art of Clark Ashton Smith (Baltimore, MD: The Mirage Press, 1973).

Books

Night Shade Books

  • The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith 5-volume work
  • Tales of India and Irony (collection of non fantasy/science fiction/horror tales, available only to subscribers of above collection)
  • Red World of Polaris (complete tales of Captain Volmar)

Hippocampus Press

  • The Complete Poetry and Translations of Clark Ashton Smith
  • The Black Diamonds
  • The Last Oblivion: Best Fantastic Poems of Clark Ashton Smith
  • The Sword of Zagan and Other Writings
  • The Shadow of the Unattained: Letters of George Sterling and Clark Ashton Smith
  • The Freedom of Fantastic Things: Selected Criticism on Clark Ashton Smith

Arkham House

Ballantine Adult Fantasy series

Wildside Press

  • The Double Shadow
  • The Maker of Gargoyles and Other Stories
  • The White Sybil and Other Stories

Spearman(reprinted from Arkham House)

  • Lost Worlds hardcover 1971 ISBN 0-85435-111-6
  • Out of Space and Time 1971 ISBN 0-85435-101-9
  • Genius Loci hardcover 1971 ISBN 0-85435-381-X
  • Abominations of Yondo 1972 ISBN 0-85435-371-2

Panther (reprinted from Arkham House)

  • Lost Worlds (published in 2 volumes, o.o.p.)
  • Genius Loci (o.o.p.)
  • The Abominations of Yondo (o.o.p.)
  • Other Dimensions (published in 2 volumes, o.o.p.)
  • Out of Space and Time (published in 2 volumes, o.o.p.)
  • Tales of Science and Sorcery (o.o.p.)

Timescape Books

  • The City of the Singing Flame 1981 ISBN 0-671-83415-0 (o.o.p.)
  • The Last Incantation 1982 ISBN 0-671-83543-2 (o.o.p.)
  • The Monster of the Prophecy 1983 ISBN 0-671-83544-0 (o.o.p.)

HIH Art Studios

  • Shadows Seen and Unseen: Poetry from the Shadows 2007

Journals of Smith Studies

Necronomicon Press

Seele Brennt Publications

Cryptic Publications

  • Klarkash-Ton: The Journal of Smith Studies

See also

External links

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