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.
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.
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.
Smith suffered from eye problems throughout his life. He died in his sleep on August 14th 1961.
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.
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):
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).
Spearman(reprinted from Arkham House)
Panther (reprinted from Arkham House)
HIH Art Studios
I've written one fan letter in my life. Just one. And it was only a few years back that I penned my rambling epistle to my musical hero.
Apr 29, 2012; I've written one fan letter in my life. Just one. And it was only a few years back that I penned my rambling epistle to my...