Cycles of Clark Ashton Smith

Boyd Pearson

Clark Ashton Smith's work can be divided in to a number of cycles: Averoigne, Hyperborea, Ironic-Romantic Fiction, Mars, Poseidonis, Xiccarph, Zothique Each of which represent a shared world or theme Creating for Smith the desired backdrop in to which to explore his fantasies Below is a list of works contained within each cycle and some brief notes on the cycle

As well as theses Smith classified cycles, one can break his work in to a number of other categories such as those works that can be considered part of the Cthulhu Mythos


The Averoigne stories are based in a relatively mundane (for Smith) province in medieval France This backdrop provides a platform for Smith to explore several 'non-fantastic' areas that the rest of his work does not Many all to human junxpositions are exploded uniquely in this cycle, such as: Animal and man; religion and science; the divine and the mortal

Description-Location: 'region in France, heavily forested — located somewhere between Tours and Moulins; a "main highway" between those two cities goes through it (The End of the Story, Clark Ashton Smith)

Several maps of Averoigne

Reference: Into the woods: The Human Geography of Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne By Stefan Dziemianowicz In The Dark Eidolon 3

Internal Chronology of Averoigne

The Oracle of SodogguaUnknownUnwritten but an outline exists in the Black Book, set during the Roman occupation of Averunnia
The Maker of Gargoyles1138Date given in text
The Holiness of Azédarc1175Given in text; and the year 475 and 1230, as this is a tale of time travel
The Doom of Azédarc1198Apparently not written but an outline exists
The Colossus of Ylourgne1281Year given at start of Chap 2
The Beast of Averoigne1369Date given in text
The Mandrakes15th centuryPara 3, year not stated
The Disinterment of Venus1550Year given in first sentence
A Rendezvous in AveroigneCa 1550
The Satyr1575
The End of the Story1798Given in the first sentence
The Soceress of Averoigne / The Tower of IstarelleUnknownSynopses only in Strange Shadows
Queen of the SabbatUnknownSynopses only in Strange Shadows
The Werewolf of AveroigneUnknownSynopses only in Strange Shadows
The Enchantress of SylaireUnknown
Mother of ToadsUnknown

Adapted and updated from Some Bibliographic notes on CAS, T G L Cockcroft In Nycatalops #7
See item #60 in the Black Book for Smiths Averoigne list


The Hyperborean tales represent Smith's greatest contribution to the Cthulhu Mythos but with a harder edge than Lovecraft's work They span a chaotic world where non-anthropomorphic Tsathoggua still dwells and large flesh eating worms bring icy oblivion

Description-Location: "supposed to have corresponded roughly with modern Greenland, which had formerly been joined as a peninsula to the main continent" — in Miocene times ("Ubbo-Sathla", Clark Ashton Smith)

Map of Hyperborea from the Ballantine Book collection circa 1970 (30k)

Reference: Introduction to The Book of Hyperborea from Necronomicon Press
A Hyperborean Glossary, By Laurence J Cornford

Ironic-Romantic Fiction

These light romantic fictions are based, at least in part, upon Smith's experiences at the time Dubbed 'Adult Fiction' by DSidney-Feyer they are experiments in love, death, loss and irony not that theses themes are completely absent in Smith's other work Theses works where written with the hope of being able to sell them to a certain popular genre of magazine at the time such as Snappy Stories or 10 Story Book, Smith was quite desperate for finances most of his life.

Reference: O Amor Atque Realitas!, Clark Ashton Smith's First Adult Fiction By D Sidney-Fryer In The Dark Eidolon 3

All except 'Something New' Can be found in the book Strange Shadows


Clark Ashton smith wrote five (four by himself one of which was a fragment and one with a plot provided by E M Johnson) stories that are based on Mars Unlike his contemporaries, Mars is not a place of Green Bug-eyed Martians set to invade the earth (see below), rather, a backdrop similar to Zothique Mars is described in all but Vulthoom (Vulthoom is set in the commercial metropolis of Mars - Igarth, with its 'old quarter' being much like Lovecraft's Dunwich) as a hash arid world possibly near its end It is used as a stage in which to 'drop' unwitting earthlings Once with in the alien situation our lead characters show typical human emotions of exploitative zeal usually followed by fear and loathing

While The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis and The Dweller in the Gulf would of been equally effective stories had they been set on earth Seedling of Mars and Vulthoom utilised the 'alien invasion' motif popular in the pulps at the time However, theses did not contain your typical alien invasion scenarios Vulthoom was an alien 'god' (plant like) who came to mars when humans "were still the blood-brothers of the ape," and now wishes to move to Earth Vulthoom's plot is only temporarily foiled by being put back to sleep for a thousand years The plant thing in Seedling of Mars has better luck in that it does get to take over the earth


It was Plato that Greek philosopher who first dreamed Atlantis but I'm sure his dreams where not as weird as Smith's Poseidonis is "the last isle of foundering Atlantis" One common theme can found is this short cycle that is, every thing comes to an end, and the end usually is not a pleasant one

Description-Location: "a large isle", "the last isle of foundering Atlantis" — "with its opulent seaports, its eon-surviving monuments of art and architecture, its fertile inland valleys, and mountains lifting their spires of snow above semi-tropic jungles" — "mountains of the interior" — people thought of themselves as Atlanteans — "members of an aboriginal race of Atlantis" survived on Poseidonis as slaves ("A Voyage to Sfanomoe", Clark Ashton Smith)


One of the smallest cycles but an interesting one In both stories the all powerful sorcerer Maal Dweb tries to stem his boredom by playing with lesser beings However, in the end he returns to his sullen ennui

Description-Location: "planet — has "four diminutive moons" [because of their size or because each is "decrescent"?] — "the juice of a jungle plant [is] repugnant to all the fauna of Xiccarph" — chimera-skin used as leather — has reptiles, dragons, pterodactyls, chimeras, poisonous "winged vipers", ape-like creatures — three suns, all dawn in the east, set in west: the earliest sun is "gamboge-yellow", second is emerald, third is carmine" ("The Maze of Maal Dweb", Clark Ashton Smith)


The Largest of Smith's cycle and lying in the far future as opposed to Hyperboreas distance past It consumed most of his writing time during the 30's although he continued to add to his Hyperborea and Averoigne cycles The Last Hieroglyph was not only his last Zothique tale it was also his last story for a considerable amount of time

Description-Location: "inhabited isles far to the east — continent — many think "madness is a sacred thing" and give hospitality to crazed wanderers — probably in the southern hemisphere" ("Xeethra", Clark Ashton Smith)

Map of Zothtique Drawn by Lin Carter (60k)

Reference: Tales of Zothique, Introduction by Will Murray from Necronomicon Press

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