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CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 13 January, 2013 10:11PM
Today, on this 120th anniversary of the nativity of Clark Ashton SMith, I spoke with S. T. Joshi about CAS' forthcoming induction into the Penguin Modern Classics (tenativel scheduled for early 2014): THE DARK EIDOLON AND OTHER FANTASIES. A mixture of prose poems, fiction, and poetry, the collection include the following sample of Smith's fiction:
Sadastor
The Tale of Satampra Zeiros
The City of the Singing Flame
The Holiness of Az├ędarac
The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis
The Demon of the Flower
The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan
Ubbo-Sathla
The Double Shadow
The Disinterment of Venus
The Beast of Averoigne
The Maze of the Enchanter
Genius Loci
The Dark Eidolon
The Weaver in the Vault
The Death of Malygris
The Seven Geases
Xeethra
The Last Hieroglyph
The Treader of the Dust
Phoenix

Along with most of the prose poems and a hefty sampling of poetry from all periods of his career (but not, alas, including "The Hashish-Eater," whose length would have meant eliminating too many other fine pieces), this book should ensure CAS' place in the canon.

What do you all think of the choice of stories? If you feel we left out one of your favorites, please share why it should be included. Some popular stories were omitted. For instance, both "The Return of the Sorcerer" and "The Seed from the Sepulchre" are often anthologised. However, in the former CAS is trying to out-Lovecraft Lovecraft and his style is less poetic and more hysterical (in both senses of the word), while the former is a near-copy of "Yoh-Vombis" in all but setting (and besides, we have "The Demon of the Flower" covering Smith's fascination with vegetables that will eat you if you don't eat them first.:) ) Come on, share your thoughts!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 13 Jan 13 | 10:12PM by Scott Connors.

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 14 January, 2013 03:30AM
Although I realize they are very popular, I would take out "The City of the Singing Flame" and "Genius Loci," neither of which I feel is anything special, and put in "The Charnel God" and "The Dweller in the Gulf" instead. You deserve praise for leaving out "The Return of the Sorcerer."

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 14 January, 2013 04:00AM
Congratulations, Scott and S. T.!

I would have loved to have seen "The Chain of Aforgomon" and "Necromancy in Naat" included too, though I understand their omission due to space considerations. However, the one deep regret I have is the omission of "The Last Incantation", not only because it is a wonderful story that demonstrates Smith's ability to evoke deep emotion without having to resort to grue, but because I feel that "The Death of Malygris" and this story each gain from being read in tandem. That is the one omission I would urge you to rectify; otherwise, I can live with this selection.

Once we start considering the more overtly science fictional stories, I believe we start getting into trouble, which is why I believe "Yoh Vombis" is your best bet - otherwise, if you include "The Dweller in the Gulf", why not also include "The Master of the Asteroid", etc. Tough choices.

The problem with "The City of the Singing Flame" is that, as evocative as the original novella is, and despite the somewhat awkward transition between the original and the continuation, the most memorable portion of the whole remains, for me, the second part of the continuation, "The Striding Doom". Yes, the continuation somewhat dilutes the mystery and poetry of the original, but Smith's depiction of that striding, malevolent city is impressive enough to offset that for me, with the result that we are faced with no easy solution when it comes to that particular work.

I second Jojo is celebrating your deletion of "The Return of the Sorcerer", which may once have been among Smith's most celebrated stories, but now seems to me to rank among his worst as far as execution goes. Unfortunately, the Lovecraft it seems to attempt to emulate is the Lovecraft of "From Beyond" and other earlier experiments in which interesting concepts were tied to the most melodramatic popular fiction tropes imaginable.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 14 Jan 13 | 04:50AM by jimrockhill2001.

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 January, 2013 06:47AM
I think it's a excellent selection. I'd have like to have seen the Zothique tales mentioned above by Jojo and JimR, but obviously it can't include everything. I'd have quite liked to have seen 'Master of the Asteroid' included and 'Double Cosmos' in there too, although I think concentrating on his fantasies is a sensible choice. I can see why a Penguin collection would want to concentrate on CAS' best writing and this regard it's hard to fault the selection here. I'm also very glad 'Singing Flame' and 'Genius Loci' were included. Actually the more I look at the list, the more I like it. I look forward to reading it - roll on 2014!

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 14 January, 2013 01:05PM
The selection is excellent. Perhaps -- perhaps the book will be a huge success and they will follow with a second volume. I am overjoy'd that the book is to appear, as it was beginning to seem unlikely. Our profound thanx, Scott, for your assistance to S. T. on this title.

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 January, 2013 10:18PM
I would not place "Sadastor" first in the collection. The serious aim for this book, I would think, is to, for the first time in publishing history, reach a wide mass-audience for Clark Ashton Smith. "Sadastor" is too dense and pompous, old-fashioned sounding prose poem, and likely to intimidate a large part of inexperienced new readers who open the book to check its first pages. The book ought to have a flying start with some of CAS's best prose. Such as "The Dark Eidolon", or some other.

Glad to hear someone (Jim Rockhill) finally, along with me, express appreciation for the continuation of "The City of the Singing Flame". Perhaps because Joshi said it isn't very much, people don't dare to oppose. Clark himself said of "Beyond the Singing Flame" that it, "Strikes me as the best thing I have done recently." And he was often pretty harsh with self-criticism for his own stories.
I remember it as similar in power to the overwhelming ending of "The Dark Eidolon".

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 15 January, 2013 06:41AM
Actually, I'm kind of surprised that Abominations of Yondo isn't included. I've not read it in a little while, but I thought that it was such an evocative piece.

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 15 January, 2013 05:49PM
I think Joshi and Scott have made a good selection. While I don't clearly remember all these stories, there are many great ones included. It's impossible to make a perfect selection, the taste is a thing of subjectivity.

There are perhaps a few minor ones chosen, like "The Disinterment of Venus" and "Phoenix". But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It gives some breathing space. "The Disinterment of Venus" was still a deliscious trifle, as I recall.

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 15 January, 2013 06:07PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think Joshi and Scott have made a good
> selection. While I don't clearly remember all
> these stories, there are many great ones included.
> It's impossible to make a perfect selection, the
> taste is a thing of subjectivity.
>
> There are perhaps a few minor ones chosen, like
> "The Disinterment of Venus" and "Phoenix". But
> that's not necessarily a bad thing. It gives some
> breathing space. "The Disinterment of Venus" was
> still a deliscious trifle, as I recall.

I had a few doubts about these too, though I can see how opening the book with "Sadastor" and closing it with "Phoenix" presents a nice framing effect. The potential issue with "The Disinterment of Venus" is that, as much as I enjoy the story, I think it is too close to Prosper Merimee's "The Venus of Ille" (1837) to count as one of Smith's best stories, when space is such an important consideration. One of the others mentioned previously or something as evocative, if not particularly strong on plot, as "A Night in Malneant" might be a better choice.

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 15 January, 2013 08:03PM
jimrockhill2001 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I can
> see how opening the book with "Sadastor" and
> closing it with "Phoenix" presents a nice framing
> effect. . . .

Just don't make a too solid border frame around the insides, or new readers won't get through it.

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 15 January, 2013 10:24PM
Thank you all for your comments and suggestions.
Jim: "The Disinterment of Venus" was included because it forms a lively counterpoint to the depiction of the clergy in "The Beast of Averoigne," and it is a good representation of Smith's bawdy mood. Besides, I grew rather fond of it when restoring the original version. "The Chain of Aforgomon" gets a bit too mechanical and clunky in spots" IMO. "Necromancy in Naat" was just too long.
Jojo Lapin X: "The Charnel God" almost made the cut. "The Dweller in the Gulf" is too close to "The Vault of Yoh-Vombis."
Knygatin: "Sadastor" serves the same purpose as "To the Daemon" did in THE END OF THE STORY. It also serves as a bridge between the prose poetry and the fiction.
The English Assassin: "The Abominations of Yondo" and "God of the Asteroid" both also almost made the cut. but including everything just wasn't feasible.
As for the sequel to "The City of the Singing Flame," Fritz Leiber also liked it. But it was just too pulpish to include when there were other, better stories to include.

Scott

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 16 January, 2013 02:03AM
That makes sense, Scott. And what of "The Last Enchantment"?

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 16 January, 2013 06:17AM
"Sadastor" first is like putting a stopper block at the beginning of the book. If it serves as a bridge, it could be placed after the prose. I find it nearly unreadable, you need almost be a poet to take it in. The book should start in a lighter, more popular way, I think.

I we look at Edgar Allan Poe collections. As good as "Silence" and "Shadow" are, they don't start off collections, and rightly so. Dessert is served after the main meal.

Well, that is my opinion, any way.

Does anyone understand what I am saying?

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 16 January, 2013 07:31AM
I've just had to re-read Sadastor to remind myself of it... I know what you mean, but it's a short piece so I don't feel that it's going to be too off-putting and it does set a nice CASian mood to the collection. I can go either way. Of course you could just include Yondo, which should serve the purpose, but maybe be a little less obscure for the newbies... :)

Re: CAS in Penguin Modern CLassics
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 16 January, 2013 09:01AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Does anyone understand what I am saying?

Something about the proper order in which to eat a meal?

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