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Pilgrimage to Auburn
Posted by: Pharpetron (IP Logged)
Date: 14 December, 2018 12:23PM
Greetings, fellow CAS fans! Cool website here.

I didn’t discover Smith until about five years ago. Since then, I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with his writings. It’s a bit disappointing that it took so long to make this fantastic discovery, and that Smith is not better well known. Though I’m a fan of horror, and speculative fiction in general, I’ve arrived here mostly through lifelong love of fantasy. The first adult book I ever picked up to read was Lord of the Rings, and it has shaped my love of literature ever since.

I’ve been working on my own fiction writing for years now, and am just about to work on a batch of ‘weird tales’ style short stories. Having just watched the Emperor of Dreams documentary (several times!), and living in Sacramento, CA, I thought I would get a little inspiration by visiting Auburn, and seeing some of the Smith plaques, memorials, and the old property.

First up was the Placer-Auburn Library. I was a little dismayed, but not at all surprised, that the person behind the help-desk had never heard the name Clark Ashton Smith before. But, after checking in with someone else that works there, three of us were standing in front of the ‘Sorcerer Departs’ plaque that is up in one of the little courtyards. If I accomplished nothing else, at least there is one more librarian in the world (in Auburn, of all places) that now knows the name.

I next went to the little park where one of Smith’s favorite stones to sit on had been moved to (with a memorial marking the spot). I sat on the stone, and read some of The Chain of Aforgomon, then scrawled a few lines of poetry (nothing all that great or anything) that could almost be an addendum to The Sorcerer Departs.

Lastly, I went to where the old property was (I think), where Poet Smith Drive is now located. At the end of the road is the back of a school, so I parked in the lot there and did some day-dreaming (and finished reading ‘Chain’). I came up with the basis for a pretty weird, Smith-inspired tale. Hopefully, when I get around to writing it, it turns out pretty well.

Overall, it was a fun and unique experience. I could see making the trip two or three times a year, especially when I’m trying to dream up some story ideas.

Has anyone else here done something like this? If so, how did it go? Did I miss anything? Is there another destination I could go to next time?

Re: Pilgrimage to Auburn
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 December, 2018 12:48PM
Thanks for the very interesting comment on Smith and your trip to Auburn.

I've read a lot of Lovecraft (I prefer Smith's best to Lovecraft's best--although I believe that Lovecraft was by far the more consistent in producing a reasonably good product). I live on the west coast of the US, and so had never been able to actually experience the NE atmosphere that Lovecraft described.

Well, I *still* haven't, technically, but recently drove to NY to see my daughter's last varsity VB game (Senior Night) and going home we drove up the Hudson Valley and thru rural NW NY, on small roads. It can be *very eerie* what with rotted collapsed buildings, old, old cemeteries right next to the road, and a certain darkness/dankness I had not experienced even in the Pacific NW.

If rural Mass is anything like this, I can see it as an atmospheric influence on Lovecraft's settings.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Pilgrimage to Auburn
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 14 December, 2018 01:53PM
Pharpetron, I'm not a great CAS fan, but I enjoyed your account and thank you for posting it. Sawfish, I enjoyed too your brief remarks about driving through somewhat Lovecraftian locales. Here in the Midwest where I live, the weird author who comes to mind most often might be Ray Bradbury. There's a house a few minutes' walk from where I lived that reminds me of Joe Mugnaini's drawings a little. What helps is that the house is not all spiffed up, as it likely would be if it were in some places where I've lived that are favored by retirees & so on who have plenty of money to lavish on their residences.

Re: Pilgrimage to Auburn
Posted by: Pharpetron (IP Logged)
Date: 14 December, 2018 07:11PM
Hey, thanks Sawfish and Dale. I’m glad you both approve of the post.

I have not been back east since I was a kid/teenager, and then I was only in the big cities, so I haven’t really experienced the ‘feel’ of the areas HPL wrote about. Indeed, on the day I went out to Auburn, it was a very nice, cloudless day, not at all creepy. On the other hand, it’s not at all hard to picture the area smothered in fog with twisty oak trees only half peeking through.

Sawfish – Comparing CAS and HPL is cracking open a can—nay, a tub—of worms. I largely agree with your assessment, though: CAS at his best is nigh-unbeatable, but HPL is more consistent. Still, there is really only one CAS story that I actually consider bad: The Dart of Rasasfa. Not sure what happened with that one, but it could be the topic of an interesting thread, perhaps.

Regarding the pilgrimage I went on, I think I’ve made a little mistake regarding the library. I assumed the one I visited was the one CAS spent much of his time in, devouring books. But it appears that is not the case. I’ll have to look around and find out where this other library is. I’d maybe like to visit that as well.

Re: Pilgrimage to Auburn
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 December, 2018 12:38AM
Pharpetron Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hey, thanks Sawfish and Dale. I’m glad you both
> approve of the post.
>
> I have not been back east since I was a
> kid/teenager, and then I was only in the big
> cities, so I haven’t really experienced the
> ‘feel’ of the areas HPL wrote about. Indeed,
> on the day I went out to Auburn, it was a very
> nice, cloudless day, not at all creepy. On the
> other hand, it’s not at all hard to picture the
> area smothered in fog with twisty oak trees only
> half peeking through.
>
> Sawfish – Comparing CAS and HPL is cracking open
> a can—nay, a tub—of worms. I largely agree
> with your assessment, though: CAS at his best is
> nigh-unbeatable, but HPL is more consistent.
> Still, there is really only one CAS story that I
> actually consider bad: The Dart of Rasasfa. Not
> sure what happened with that one, but it could be
> the topic of an interesting thread, perhaps.

At some point I would like to engage in a discussion about CAS's stories, and their preceived relative qualities. Me, I've never read the story you mention, so now I'll find it and read it. Too, I am not the sort of person who wants to argue about whether your perceptions or mine are right/wrong. I don't see things like that. I'd merely point to why I think specific stories are good (or not as good), and would be interested in your views, which I'd hold as equally valid.

To give you something to think about until then, I'd put forth all of the Zothique/Hyperborea stories as excellent and written as if CAS was artistically motivated to write them--the muse was upon him. Perhaps my favorite is not associated with those story cycles: it's "The Double Shadow".

On the opposite end of my rankings come the "spaceman" stories, where CAS will have a couple of central characters who engage in labored dialogues that are supposed to sound hard-boiled; they'll then explore Venus, or something like that. To me, these stories he was merely writing to put money in the bank, food on the table.

CS seems aware of eroticism, exoticism, sardonic humor, and basic human motivations, however mundane or even earthy, in ways that Lovercraft seems completely unaware of, or considers unimportant to his narrative goals.

>
> Regarding the pilgrimage I went on, I think I’ve
> made a little mistake regarding the library. I
> assumed the one I visited was the one CAS spent
> much of his time in, devouring books. But it
> appears that is not the case. I’ll have to look
> around and find out where this other library is.
> I’d maybe like to visit that as well.


It may be that it no longer exists.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Pilgrimage to Auburn
Posted by: Pharpetron (IP Logged)
Date: 17 December, 2018 05:57PM
I very much welcome such a discussion, and agree that there is no reason to argue about right or wrong viewpoints or interpretations. Readers all respond differently.

Is this the right thread to get such a discussion underway? Since I'm new here, I don't want to run afoul of any guidelines or customs.

For the nonce, I'll just bring up the library issue again. In The Emperor of Dreams documentary, Donald Sidney-Fryer visits various places in CA, and I think I conflated two different locations by mistake: The Auburn-Placer library, where the 'Sorcerer Departs' plaque is located, and the library that CAS spent most of his time in. I think it still exists because DSF was standing right in front of it in the documentary. That's a spot to try to visit next time...



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