Clark Ashton Smith Biography

Allan Gullette

Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-colored sun
Of secret worlds incredible, and take
Their trailing skies for vestment when I soar . . .
-- "The Hashish Eater The Hashish-Eater; Or, The Apocalypse of Evil"

Ebony and Crystal, 1922

One of "the Lovecraft Circle" and a regular contributor to Weird Tales in the early 1930s, Smith's early poetry made front-page news and garnered praise from Ambrose Bierce and George Sterling well before his poetic prose, fertile imagination and powerful sense of wonder influenced the field of science fiction.

Clark Ashton Smith was born on January 13, 1893 in Long Valley, six miles south of Auburn, California in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the heart of the old Gold Country. Clark's father, Timeus Smith, was born in England and traveled the world a bit before coming to the region; Clark's mother, Mary Frances ("Fanny") Gaylord, was born in the Mid-west and moved with her family to a farm in Long Valley. For some fifteen years after their marriage in 1891, the Timeus and Fanny lived on the Gaylord farm. An only child, Clark was seriously stricken with scarlet fever at the age of four, after which his vitality was impaired for years. Timeus worked as a night clerk at Auburn's Hotel Truckee and had saved enough by 1902 to purchase a 44-acre piece of woodland atop Boulder Ridge (also called Stony Lonesome Ridge and Indian Ridge) in 1902. There, on the lava flow above the American River, he dug a well and built a modest four-room house, with at least some help from young Ashton. This took some four or five years, and the family of three finally moved in around 1907.

Clark began writing fiction at age eleven, mainly "fairy tales" and "long adventure novels" in the manner of The Arabian Nights. Other early influences that have been cited include Thomas Lovell Beddoes' play Death's Jest Book and William Beckford's Gothic romance The History of the Caliph Vathek (whose syntax and colorful prose will be readily recognized by Smith aficionados) — and, of course, Poe, whose poems Smith discovered at age thirteen. But Smith's fantasy stories would have to wait several years to develop; for at thirteen he began to write poetry, and poetry would be the first focus of his attention and lead to his first recognition. At fourteen or fifteen Smith discovered George Sterling, whose fantastic poems in The Testimony of the Suns (1903) and A Wine of Wizardry (1908) introduced a "cosmic-astronomic" perspective into California Romantic poetry.

Smith's formal education was limited to a few years at the district school and several at Auburn's grammar school, which he did not finish. He applied early to Auburn High School and was accepted, but changed his mind. Instead, with his parent's permission, Smith chose to educate himself — by reading the Encyclopedia Britannica, not once but at least twice through. He also read the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary (some say it was Webster's) word by word, concentrating on etymology. Later, again self-taught, he would acquire a reading and writing knowledge of French and Spanish, and he was also a self-taught artist who worked in several media.

Smith's first publication came in 1910, at the age of seventeen, when the Overland Monthly published two of his short stories, adventure tales or contes cruel set in the Orient. (In previous years this publication — founded in San Francisco in 1868 by the "Golden Gate Trinity" of Ina Coolbrith, Bret Harte and Charles W. Stoddard — debuted the work of Ambrose Bierce and Jack London, among other aspiring California writers.) Two similar stories by Smith appeared in the Boston short story magazine The Black Cat in 1911 and 1912.

During the period 1911 to 1926, however, Smith focused on poetry. A few poems were published in local periodicals, including the Auburn Journal, and resulted in invitations to read at ladies' clubs. Emily J. Hamilton, an English teacher at Auburn's high school, knew that Smith idolized George Sterling and suggested that he send Sterling a few of his poems. Hamilton had known Sterling when he lived in Piedmont, near Oakland, and wrote a letter of introduction. By this time Sterling was a well-established literary figure whose circle included such luminaries as Ambrose Bierce, Bret Harte, Joaquin Miller, Edwin Markham, Jack London, and Gertrude Atherton. Sterling was struck by the maturity of Smith's work -- what he called "performance" — and said it showed "true genius" to have been written by one so young (he had just turned eighteen). He suggested some changes, recommended "daily reading of Browning and the Old Testament to counteract the 'overmuch honeycomb' that is the young poet's first portion," and asked for copies he could keep. By April, Sterling took the liberty of quoting Smith's sonnet "Last Night" in an interview with Town-Talk. He also showed Smith's poem "Ode to the Abyss" to his own mentor, Bierce, who called it "admirable" with "many striking passages" and "a large theme treated with dignity and power." Sterling hoped to introduce Smith to Bierce, but the meeting never took place.

Sterling did invite the young Smith for a month-long visit his bungalow in Carmel-by-the-Sea, south of Monterey. Owing to insufficient means, Smith was not able to accept the established poet's repeated invitations until late June of 1912, when Sterling surmised the reason and sent him $10 for the train trip from Auburn to Monterey. A photograph from this year shows a handsome but very tense Smith wearing a dapper suit in the company of Sterling, John Hilliard, Redfern Mason, and others enjoying wine "alfresco" in Carmel. In another portrait from this period Smith is again seen wearing the suit — purchased for the poor young poet by Sterling.

The retired diplomat Boutwell Dunlap brought Smith to San Francisco, where he was interviewed by the press. Some lines of Smith's poem "Nero" had been cited in the papers and were compared to William Cullen Bryant's celebrated poem "Thanatopsis." Now front page stories hailed Smith as "the Boy Genius of the Sierras" and "the Keats of the Pacific Coast." Dunlap also introduced Smith to Sterling's publisher, A. M. Robertson, who expressed interest in publishing a collection of his poems. Sterling advised Smith on the poems and their selection and also helped correct the galley proofs. In November, 1912 Smith's first book, The Star-Treader and Other Poems, appeared in San Francisco under the imprint of Philopolis Press; the epigram consisted of lines by Sterling.

In a minor version of the debacle that followed the publication of Sterling's "A Wine of Wizardry," Smith's first book met with both excessive praise and deprecation. Some compared Smith to Shelly and Keats; others called him "sinister" and even "ghoulish." Bierce said "I am sorry to see him thrown to the lions of reaction" and, with Sterling, rallied to Smith's defense. With all the free publicity, over a thousand copies of Star-Treader sold, but Smith only got about $50 in royalties.

In fact, Smith did prove too fragile for such sudden fame and did not breathe easily in the rarefied atmosphere of the Bohemian Club or the parlors of San Francisco's literati. When Jack London invited him to visit Beauty Ranch near Glen Ellen, Smith declined, claiming (quite credibly) that he lacked the railway fare; but it could just as well have been due to timidity. He also declined Sterling's invitation for a return visit to Carmel in 1913. According to Smith's friend Hal Rubin, "The bay area experience had drained him psychologically"; moreover, "he feared he had contracted tuberculosis" in the cool coastal fog of Carmel. Apparently Smith's illness was more than hypochondria, for tuberculosis would plague him for years to come. Other evidence of malady during this period included sore joints, digestive troubles, and symptoms suggestive of malaria. But a psychological factor was clearly involved, for there were depression and nervous disorders. Sterling even offered to place Smith in a sanitarium, but he refused. "Since childhood he had been subject to nightmares," wrote Rubin; "now he became obsessed with death."

A few poems were published in Current Literature and Current Opinion in 1912-13. In midsummer of 1914, Smith participated in the chorus of the play Nec-Natama [Comradeship] by J. Wilson Shiels at one of the Bohemian Club "high jinx" on the Russian River north of San Francisco. But Smith was "so emptied of creative energy" (according to Rubin) that it took him six years to write the fifteen poems in Odes and Sonnets (1918), published by the prestigious Book Club of California with an introduction by Sterling.

Nevertheless, Markham (author of the celebrated poem "The Man with the Hoe") wrote to Smith that he saw "glints of true genius" in the small book. Markham later went so far as to call Smith "the greatest American poet." In his introduction, Sterling wrote "Clark Ashton Smith is undoubtedly our finest living poet. . . in the great tradition of Shakespeare, Keats, and Shelley, and yet to our everlasting shame, he is entirely neglected and almost completely unknown." Sterling also wrote, "Compared to Smith, Chatterton was a babbling babe."

The Smith family was always poor. When Smith was able to work, he did chores around the farm and worked for other farmers, picking and packing such fruit as cherries and plums, cutting wood, mixing cement, well-digging, mucking, and windlassing. The hard work actually improved his health, along with his physique. Fanny helped support the family by picking and selling wild blackberries in the summer, and by selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door in Auburn — for which she became known locally as "the magazine lady." Timeus farmed his land but with minimal success, and also mined vainly for gold. (Sterling saw a shaft under construction during a visit in 1914 and was inspired to write a short story about mining.) At some point, five acres of property were sold, probably for needed funds. Smith even turned to Sterling for a loan to help Timeus's chicken business, but Sterling couldn't deliver. However, Sterling found at least four anonymous admirers of Smith's poetry who agreed to send monthly or quarterly stipends, which continued from the middle to late 1910s.

Despite the effusive praise that followed Odes and Sonnets, Smith had to self-publish his next two volumes, Ebony and Crystal (1922) and Sandlewood (1925). Printed at the offices of the Auburn Journal, they were full of typographic errors which Smith painstakingly corrected by pencil in each copy. Distribution was another problem, and Smith ended up giving away more copies than he sold. Five hundred signed and numbered copies of the first volume were printed; but only 250 of the second. Ebony and Crystal, for which George Sterling again wrote an introduction (reproduced below), consisted of 29 prose poems and 85 poems, including Smith's most celebrated poem, "The Hashish-Eater; Or, The Apocalypse of Evil," written in 1920. H. P. Lovecraft praised the latter poem as "the greatest imaginative orgy in English literature" after receiving a gratis copy from Smith early in 1923.

From 1923 to 1926, Smith contributed a column to the Auburn Journal that consisted largely of his short poems and epigrams. The best of the poetry appeared in Sandlewood in 1925. He also served from time to time as night editor for the Journal.

Around this time a combination of factors spurred Smith to return to fantasy prose as a mode of expression — and as a means of income. In the early 1920s, Smith tried his hand at romance fiction (also termed "sophisticated irony" or "ironic-romantic" fiction), writing pieces with such titles as "The Expert Lover" and "The Flirt." A half-dozen of these negligible pieces were written — for some reason, always during Winter or Spring — from 1921-25, and three more in 1930. Two such pieces were sold and published (in Snappy Stories and 10 Story Book); fortunately for his future fans, Smith opted for the fantastic as his field of choice.

Smith's first weird story, "The Abominations of Yondo," dates to 1925 and was published in the Overland Monthly in April 1926. Lovecraft, one of Smith's primary correspondents after 1922 and a major influence on his writing, is often credited for suggesting that Smith write fiction and submit it to the new pulp magazine Weird Tales. He sent them three prose poems which were published in August 1926 and a short story ("The Ninth Skeleton") published that September. Genevieve Sully, a friend of Smith in Auburn, is also credited with recommending (in 1929) fiction as more economically viable than poetry (resulting in the story "The Last Incantation," finished September 23, 1929).

A third factor should also be considered, since it must have had a profound effect on Smith's life and may have strengthened his resolve to turn his focus from poetry to short fiction. In mid-November, 1926 Smith's mentor and idol George Sterling committed suicide. Interestingly, Smith always expressed doubt whether Sterling took his life on purpose, citing Sterling's eagerness to meet his friend and correspondent H. L. Mencken. In Smith's theory, Sterling was befuddled and instead of a sleeping aid took a vial of poison which he was known to have carried for several years. Smith wrote of his "great bereavement" in a tribute to Sterling that appeared in the Overland Monthly in March, 1927. Despite Smith's private theory on Sterling's death, the article ends with a kind of apologia for suicide and cites Bierce on the subject.

A final factor — implicit all along — was economic: Smith had to earn a living somehow but despised working for others. The general economy was in decline, and the stock market collapse of late October 1929 must have instilled in Smith an urgency to produce; in a creative flurry in December of that year he produced twelve distinct works (mainly prose poems).

The years 1929 to 1937 were Smith's most productive period for fiction; he wrote around 100 stories and novellas, averaging over one a month. Weird Tales became a steady market and published over half of these: between 1930 and 1934 his stories appeared in most issues, establishing him alongside Lovecraft and another correspondent, Conan creator Robert E. Howard, as a legendary triumvirate. He was also a primary contributor to Hugo Gernsback's family of magazines, Wonder Stories, Amazing Stories, etc., with 16 stories during 1930-33. In 1933, Smith self-published a pamphlet of six stories entitled The Double Shadow and Other Fantasies (again with typos corrected in pencil!) and for three years advertised it in the pages of Wonder Stories and others (along with unsold copies of Ebony and Crystal). When this publisher formed the Science Fiction League in 1934, Smith was named one of the Executive Directors and remained such for several years.

The 1930s also brought a string of tragedies. One correspondent, the poet Vachel Lindsay, died in 1931. Smith's parents were increasingly ill, forcing a break in his fiction writing in 1933. Fanny died in September of 1935. Another correspondent, Smith's fellow fantasist Robert E. Howard, committed suicide in 1936 (following the death of his mother). And Smith's premier correspondent — and perhaps his single greatest inspiration in fiction — H. P. Lovecraft died in March of 1937. Late that same year, Timeus died.

Following his father's death, Smith was despondent and did not write fiction for almost three years. In fact, in the 25 years that remained of his life (1937-1961), he only wrote an additional dozen or so stories — a marked contrast to his earlier productivity.

But Smith did not remain idle during the last third of his life. Once again his attention was turned to poetry -- and to a third love, art. Smith's painting and drawing has been described as naive owing to the fact that he was entirely self-taught. He began painting in watercolor in 1916. By 1920, Smith considered himself "skilled" in drawing. Media included crayon, ink, watercolor, and poster paint. Subjects included single figures abstracted from any background (usually characters in his stories or entities in the Lovecraft mythos), complete illustrations of imaginative scenes, and alien landscapes featuring other-worldly architecture and vegetation. Because of the garish use of color the paintings have been compared to those of the French symbolist Odilon Redon. In 1935, Smith began creating sculptures "by accident" — while visiting his uncle's copper mine, he picked up a piece of talc and realized it was soft enough to carve with a pocket-knife. Smith experimented with other unusual materials, including soapstone, serpentine, sandstone, lava, and porphyry. Some, after being carved, were baked in a wood stove to be hardened. The small, fist-sized figurines, statuettes, and heads have been compared to pre-Columbian art and the famous heads at Easter Island; other figures were based on classical mythology and, again, on the Lovecraft mythos. August Derleth was one of several collectors. Smith also carved pipes, vases, candlesticks, and other "non-grotesque" objects.

Smith's published artwork included an illustration for a Lovecraft story in the amateur publication Home Brew and four drawings for Smith's own stories in Weird Tales. In 1944, his sculpture appeared on the cover of his collection Lost Worlds and in Lovecraft's Marginalia. Smith's paintings, drawings, and stone sculptures were exhibited in nearby Auburn, San Francisco (at Gumps), Sacramento (at Crocker Gallery), and in the Monterey area; in Los Angeles and New York (at Salon des Independents). At an exhibit in May 1956, of paintings and sculptures at the Cherry Foundation in Monterey, Smith gave a rare reading of his poetry.

Smith also sold many of his paintings, drawings, and sculptures for a few dollars each. Albert Bender, a wealthy patron of the arts in San Francisco who had helped Sterling, bought a number of paintings. Others were simply given away and mailed to correspondents — including Lovecraft, who was strongly influenced by the sculptures in particular. In 1973, Dennis Rickard published a collection of Smith's art entitled The Fantastic Art of Clark Ashton Smith.

While Smith may have virtually stopped writing fiction, his work continued to be published and to attract attention. Stories continued to appear in Weird Tales and other magazines from Smith's backlog of fiction. Beginning in 1942, Smith saw his work published once again in hardcover. Arkham House — the small publishing firm formed in 1939 by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to preserve the work of H. P. Lovecraft — brought out the first of seven volumes of Smith's stories, Out of Space and Time in 1942. Its title echoed both Poe and Lovecraft, and the book was dedicated to Genevieve Sully, the friend who had encouraged Smith's return to fiction in 1929. Two other collections were issued by Arkham -- Lost Worlds (1944) and Genius Loci and Other Tales (1948) -- followed by two collections of verse — The Dark Chateau (1951) and Spells and Philtres (1958).

In physical appearance Smith was described as tall (nearly six feet), slender, with brown or grey hair, a mustache (and, in later years, a goatee), and a large head, and usually wearing a suit jacket and a red or black beret. The latter must have seemed eccentric to the rural Auburnites, who nevertheless seemed friendly, despite Smith's habit of philandering with married women. As for other personal habits, Smith smoked a lot of tobacco (cigarettes or pipes), drank moderately to heavily (mainly wine, often home-made); and despite the title of his most famous poem, is not known to have ever experimented with drugs.

As for the romantic life of this "Last of the Great Romantics," Smith is said to have had many mistresses, including many married women between the years 1909 and at least 1930. It is also said that there was a special relationship that lasted many years but ended badly in the early 1950s. Smith did not marry until the age of 61. On November 14, 1954 he married Carolyn Emily Jones Dorman in Monterey and moved to her house in nearby Pacific Grove, with three children from her previous marriage.

By this time Smith had sold off all but a few acres of the family property. An Auburn land developer wanted to buy the remainder and pressured Smith in various ways to sell, but he refused. In late 1955, while Smith was in Pacific Grove, the cabin was looted and vandalized, his parents' urns upset and their ashes scattered. Smith was devastated and began moving more of his belongings to a safer place. Finally the cabin was burned down in 1957, partially burning some manuscripts, typescripts and other papers and totally destroying others — possibly including the only copies of some of Smith's unpublished work. After the fire Smith gave in and sold the remaining lot.

After his marriage Smith wrote little. He did some work as a professional gardener, working for other residents in Pacific Grove. A friend from Auburn, journalist and science fiction author Robert Elder, recorded Smith reading a "random" selection of poems (chosen by Elder) around 1958. While the "Elder Tapes" have been released by Necronomicon Press, other recordings -- probably of a better selection of poems — remain in private hands.

In the 1950s, Smith's health began to decline. Even in the late 1940s he had serious eye trouble. In 1953, he suffered a heart attack. In 1961 he suffered a number of strokes, which slowed his speech. Clark Ashton Smith died in his sleep on August 14, 1961. A few years later his ashes were taken to Auburn and buried beside a boulder and beneath the blue oaks that stood to the west of the site of the family cabin. Years later still, the street that ran nearest the cabin was named Poet Smith Drive; another street nearby was named Smith Court. To mark the centenary of Smith's birth, Auburn's City Council voted to name January 10-16, 1993 Clark Ashton Smith Week.

* * *

Smith's fiction is a special blend of fantasy and science fiction perhaps best labeled "science fantasy." As many as two thirds, including his best stories, are set in the remote past or distant future, in such imaginary lands as Poseidonis, "the last island of sunken Atlantis;" in Atlantis itself; in the realm of Hyperborea with its Commoriom Myth Cycle; in the mediaeval European dominions of Averoigne and Malnéant; on the distant planet Xiccarph; and on "the last continent under a dying sun," Zothique. His idea for Zothique was apparently derived from such Theosophical works as H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine. Smith also contributed a number of stories and entities (particularly Tsathoggua) to Lovecraft's so-called Cthulhu Mythos.

In style, Smith's fantasies are woven with a superbly rich language which is often described as "lapidary" and "euphusistic." It is studded with exotic words culled from his Unabridged and crafted with the ear of the poet — words such as susurrous, empusae, athcinors and catafalque that show his preference for Latin-based as opposed to Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. On the other hand, much of his straight science fiction (classified as "space opera") is rather flat and clinical, lacking the poetic polish of the fantasies, and shows that it was written for money. Everywhere there is a tone of irony, even satire, while a common theme is loss; the "cosmic" outlook tends to emphasize Doom and Oblivion, and becomes derisive of human ignorance and hubris. Still, there is a redeeming sense of beauty and wonder amidst the cosmic vastness.

In method, Smith typically wrote four or five drafts of each story. He often worked on a table under the trees near his cabin, or elsewhere on the property, carrying the typescripts to read aloud and revise repeatedly until they were as well-polished as his verse. Fortunately for scholars, Smith kept a log between 9/25/29 and 1947 listing 112 short stories; unfortunately, the list, while chronological, is undated. His Black Book covers the period from 1929 to 1961, but consists of unnumbered loose-leaf pages; it lists several hundred titles just for the period 1929-1930, mostly unused.

Influences which Smith himself admitted included Poe, Bierce (from whom he derived his sardonic humor), and Robert W. Chambers. He listed Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "Masque of the Red Death" among his favorite stories. Others have pointed to the influence of Baudelaire, Gautier, Beckford, Machen (for his "pure horror" stories), and, of course, Smith's contemporary Lovecraft. His poetry shows the influence of Sterling, Swinburne, the Romantics, and the Symbolists. His prose poems, considered by some to be his finest work, show the influence of Baudelaire and Huysmans.

Aside from his fantastic fiction and verse, Smith also wrote over thirty essays, some in the form of letters to editors, including appraisals of Poe, Bierce, Hodgson, M. R. James, Lovecraft and others, and expositions on his own aesthetic (e.g., his rejection of realism). Most of these were published in various amateur and professional periodicals; they were gathered by Smith scholars Donald Sidney-Freyer and Charles K. Wolfe and published as Planets and Dimensions with notes by Wolfe in 1979.

Smith taught himself enough French and Spanish to write a few poems in those languages, and also published his translations of poems by Baudelaire, Verlaine, José-Maria de Herédia, Christophe des Laurières, and other French poets, and by the Spaniards José Calcaño and Clérigo Herrero. He also translated William Beckford's "Zulkaïs and Kalilah" (the third episode of Vathek) from the French and published it in Robert Barlow's fan magazine Leaves (Summer, 1937).

Science fiction and fantasy writers who have sung the praises of Clark Ashton Smith include: Ray Bradbury, Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Harlan Ellison, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, H. P. Lovecraft, and Theodore Sturgeon. In fact, Bradbury and Ellison cited Smith's "The City of the Singing Flame" as their primary impetus in becoming writers; Bradbury's own distinctively poetic style of fiction should be mentioned. Smith's influence on Jack Vance, Michael Moorcock, and Robert Silverberg has also been noted. Science fiction historians John Chute and Peter Nicholls record the "loosening effect" of Smith's style on the science fiction of his time and note his contribution to "sense of wonder" in the genre. Fantasy connoisseur Lin Carter has ranked Smith "not far behind Eddison and Dunsany" as one of "the greatest fantasy geniuses of all literature." (Carter also completed and published five Smith fragments from 1976-81.)

Dissidents have included E. F. Bleiler, who was "puzzled" by what he considered Lovecraft's over-assessment of Smith. Smith has been faulted for his lack of character development, weakness of plot, and general lack of development over his career as a writer of fiction. Of course, Smith's great strengths were his ability to create exotic atmospheres and his powerful imagination -- what Lovecraft termed his "sheer daemonic strangeness and fertility of conception" — at the expense of plot and character; and the fact characters most often fall prey to spells, monsters, or other embodiments of Doom is an expression of Smith's rather Biercean cynicism. One might also say, in Smith's defense, that his original approach — combining poetry and prose styles, and crossing the lines between horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres — calls for original criteria for evaluation.

As a poet, Smith is grouped with the West Coast Romantics (alongside Bierce, Joaquin Miller, Sterling, Nora May French, and others) and remembered as The Last of the Great Romantics and The Bard of Auburn. Sidney-Fryer emphasizes Smith's "cosmic-astronomic-mindedness" which he shared with Sterling; in this connection, critic Witter Bynner dubbed Sterling and Smith "the Star-Dust Twins." Smith's work is also classified as "pure poetry" in the tradition of Bierce and Sterling, incorporating an attitude of art-for-art's-sake, rejecting the demands of realism and social responsibility, and retaining an archaic prosody despite contemporary trends toward free verse. The poet Benjamin De Casseres ranked Smith with the Romantics, Poe, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud; many similarly favorable comparisons have been made, some already noted above. Smith claimed (in a 1941 letter to August Derleth) to have declined a Guggenheim fellowship (presumably for his poetry) on the grounds that he wished to remain outside of "the Establishment," though the offer itself has not been substantiated.

In terms of self-assessment, Smith made various references during his life to what he considered his best work. These included the six stories in Double Shadow and the individual stories "The Eternal World" and "The City of the Singing Flame." He named "The Uncharted Isle" as the best "or at least favorite" of his "straight science fiction" stories. Toward the end of his life, Smith considered "The Dead Will Cuckold You" (1951, 1956) a play in blank verse set in Zothique and one of his last completed works, to be his "masterpiece." Of his Zothique story cycle taken as a whole, Smith said it was "in no wise inferior to Dunsany and Cabell." Regarding his poetry, which he took the most seriously of all his creative work, Smith felt (writing in 1936) he had produced his best work in the years 1913-23.

The last volume issued during Smith's lifetime appropriately bore the title of his first weird tale: The Abominations of Yondo (Arkham, 1960). Four posthumous prose collections were issued by Arkham: Tales of Science and Sorcery (1964); Poems in prose (1964) with illustrations by Arkham's favorite artist, Frank Utpatel; Other Dimensions (1970); and a volume of selected stories, A Rendezvous in Averoigne (1988). Smith's Selected Poems appeared in 1971 and his Black Book, containing his story titles, ideas, and plots, was published in 1979. While Arkham's eleven volumes of poetry and prose contain nearly all of Smith's finished work, they are also (with the exception of Rendezvous), all out of print. Two volumes published in England by Neville Spearman also passed out of the catalogs. A number of paperbacks reprinting Smith's short stories were issued in the early 1970s by Ballantine and Panther, and in the early 1980s by Pocket/Timescape; but these are also out of print. Fortunately, Necronomicon Press has continued where Arkham House left off, reissuing new collections of tales — now corrected and restored to their original condition to undo the editing and expurgation required by Smith's pulp editors. Two recent volumes have been issued: Tales of Zothique (1995) and The Book of Hyperborea (1996) — a promising trend. Other publishers of secondary sources, Smith's essays, and miscellany have included Mirage Press, Starmont Press (now Borgo Press), and Greenwood Press. A collection of selected letters is in preparation by S. T. Joshi and David Schultz for publication by Necronomicon Press.

Due to the efforts of these devotees and a small cult of readers, the work of the Emperor of Dreams has not passed into the Oblivion of which he sang. Caught in his spell, a select few witness the truth of his incantation:

I pass . . . but in this lone and crumbling tower,
Builded against the burrowing seas of chaos,
My volumes and my philtres shall abide. . .
-- "The Sorcerer Departs" (fragment, c.1944)


Carter, Lin. "When the World Grows Old." Introduction to Clark Ashton Smith, Zothique. Ed. Lin Carter. New York: Ballantine Books, 1970.

Chute, John and Nicholls, Peter. "Smith, Clark Ashton". In John Chute and Peter Nicholls, eds., The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993, pp. 1120-1.

De Camp, L. Sprague. "Sierran Shaman: Clark Ashton Smith." In Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1976, pp. 195-214.

Derleth, August and Donald Wandrei. "Clark Ashton Smith: Master of Fantasy." Foreword to Clark Ashton Smith, Out of Space and Time. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1941. Reproduced at A Tribute to Clark Ashton Smith.

Elder, Robert. [Audio Preface.] Clark Ashton Smith, Live from Auburn: The Elder Tapes. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1995.

Fait, Eleanor. "Auburn Artist-Poet Utilizes Native Rock in Sculptures." Sacramento Union, 21 December 1941. Reprinted in The Dark Eidolon: The Journal of Smith Studies, Number Two (July, 1989).

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence and Nancy J. Peters. Literary San Francisco: A Pictorial History from its Beginnings to the Present Day. San Francisco: City Lights Books and Harper & Row Publishers, 1980, p. 116. Ferlinghetti is the famous Beat poet; Peters is current Editor at City Lights Books.

Herron, Don. "Smith, Clark Ashton." Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. Ed. Jack Sullivan. New York: Viking, 1986, pp. 392-4.

Lovecraft, H. P. Supernatural Horror in Literature. New York: Dover Publications, 1973. Introduction by E. F. Bleiler.

Murray, Will. Introduction. Clark Ashton Smith, The Book of Hyperborea. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1996. Reproduced at Necronomicon Press

Murray, Will. Introduction. Clark Ashton Smith, Tales of Zothique. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1995. Reproduced at Necronomicon Press

Price, E. Hoffman. "Clark Ashton Smith Natal Horoscope." In CAS-Nyctalops [Nyctalops #7: A Special Clark Ashton Smith Memorial Issue.] Albuquerque: Silver Scarab Press, 1972, pp. 28-30.

ibid. "Clark Ashton Smith: A Memoir." Introduction, Clark Ashton Smith, Tales of Science and Sorcery. London: Panther Books, 1976. Reproduced at A Tribute to Clark Ashton Smith.

Roubillard, Doug. "Clark Ashton Smith." Supernatural Fiction Writers. Ed. E. F. Bleiler, pp. 875-881.

Rubin, Hal. "Auburn's 'Hermit Poet' — Young Readers Discover Old Horror Tales." The Sacramento Bee, Sunday, August 31, 1975, pp. E1-2.

Sidney-Fryer, Donald. "The Last Enchaunter." Introduction to Clark Ashton Smith, The Last Incantation, ed. Donald Sidney-Fryer New York: Pocket/Timescape, 1982.

ibid. "O Amor Atque Realitas! Clark Ashton Smith's First Adult Fiction." The Dark Eidolon: The Journal of Smith Studies. No. 3 (Winter 1993). West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1993, pp. 22-25.

ibid. "Poet of the Singing Flame." Introduction to Clark Ashton Smith, The City of the Singing Flame. Ed. Donald Sidney-Fryer. New York: Pocket/Timescape, 1981.

Smith, Clark Ashton. "An Autobiography of Clark Ashton Smith," "George Sterling: An Appreciation," "George Sterling: Poet and Friend," et al. In Planets and Dimensions: Collected Essays of Clark Ashton Smith, ed. Charles K. Wolfe Baltimore: Mirage Press, 1973.

Smith, Clark Ashton and George Sterling. Correspondence, 1911-1926. (Unpublished; courtesy S. T. Joshi and David Schultz.)

Sterling, George and Ambrose Bierce. Correspondence, 1897-1912. (Unpublished; courtesy S. T. Joshi and David Schultz.)

[Unsigned.] "Boy is Poetic Genius; Lonely Sierras Inspire Muse." The San Francisco Call 112, No. 63 (August 2, 1912): 1-2.

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