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Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 29 June, 2013 07:54PM
I have not read much CAS-criticism, so I'm not sure if this has been dealt with before: CAS as a Californian.

I've never been out there myself, but I am fascinated by California. There's a peculiar atmosphere there. I collect films and books on the subject. Anything to do with California and/or Los Angeles: Chinatown, LA Confidential, Mullholland Falls, Mulholland Drive, The Two Jakes, No Man's Land, An End to Violence, The Black Dahlia, Dragnet, trashy 1980's teen pics with LA backgrounds and settings. Books on true crime, books by James Ellroy, Mank's books on Universal monsters. Still have yet to see Hollywoodland. In all this welter, there are several recurring themes that stand out:

1)True crime.
2)Mysticism and the occult.
3)The vampiric gothic.
4)Pretty girls (the Beach Boys aesthetic.)
5)The movie industry.
6)The desert/wilderness.
7)The freeways/roads.
8)Pornography, pornography, pornography.
9)General weirdness.

All these themes all overlap and blend together in various ways. Pretty girls are often the victims of true crime, and often star in films. Criminals, in turn, often utilize occult symbolism (Zodiac, The Night Stalker[s]). The movie industry blends with true crime via exploitation pictures, as well as Dragnet. A murderer once buried the bodies of his victims beneath the newly-built LA freeway system (true crime plus freeways.) Occultists like Anton Zandor LaVey starred in films, and used pretty girls in their rituals. Hollywood Vampiric Gothic and Hollywood films go hand in hand. The Manson Family included many pretty girls, who believed in mysticism, and who lurked in the desert and committed true crime, etc., etc., etc.

CAS it is true lurked on the periphery of all this, yet one can see some overlaps: at least with the occultism, wilderness, and gothic aspects. Strange he never made any contacts in the movie industry....What was my point?



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 29 Jun 13 | 07:57PM by Gavin Callaghan.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Noivilbo (IP Logged)
Date: 30 June, 2013 01:26AM
And all the great surfing. You might like The Golden State Phantasticks by Donald Sidney-Fryer.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Ken K. (IP Logged)
Date: 30 June, 2013 08:25PM
The Pacific Ocean is a big part of the California experience.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Gill Avila (IP Logged)
Date: 30 June, 2013 11:33PM
If only CAS had learned how to surf...

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: phillipAellis (IP Logged)
Date: 1 July, 2013 03:35AM
If only CAs was the lyricist for the Beach Boys... :)

I've actually started drafting a piece on CAS as a regional poet, looking at elements in his work that refer to Auburn & other localities of California.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 1 July, 2013 05:24PM
Noivilbo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And all the great surfing. You might like The
> Golden State Phantasticks by Donald Sidney-Fryer.


Yes! Just what the doctor ordered....

[www.amazon.com]

And don't forget, the Pacific has the Monteray Canyon, where all sorts of weird things are said to lurk...

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Frederick (IP Logged)
Date: 1 July, 2013 06:31PM
Interesting this topic comes up now...I am a "Invited Guest Writer" at this year's Westercon 66 which is the longest running and one of the largest SF/Fantasy conventions going (it is a Western Untied States regional gathering that includes states such as California, Arizona, Nevada etc.). This year it is being held in Sacramento, Smith's old backyard. So I thought it fitting that this con have something,such as a panel concerning him/his work/art, but surprisingly no. After constant lobbying by me, there was a sort of compromise (don't get me wrong the people running the con are quite nice folk)...I am on a panel somewhat entitled Using California As A Setting For Stories and I was told that maybe I could "sneak" something about CAS into the discussion. Of course, as somewhat noted above, I will be able to do that and I will :-) After all, it was while Smith was wandering about the Sierra foothills that he had an "experience" which inspired him to write "The City of the Singing Flame."

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 2 July, 2013 11:33AM
The following must be said about CAS as a Californian - the California of today bears little resemblance to the California of his time. Sacramento, while a town of only 50,000 in the 50's was not Clark's "back yard" - his back yard was the canyon of the American River, and the hundreds of really old Gold miner's who, with mule, pan,and pick still lurked about the walls of the canyon. His backyard was the setting for "Genius Loci" - and also gold mine towns like Coloma where Edwin Markham taught school (his house is a landmark there) - such social contact as he had was in "old town" Auburn, his favorite watering hole, and small grocery store. His trips uptown were exclusively to the Auburn Journal offices (reluctantly) and the two legendary hotels - the Auburn and the Freeman - both of which had notable restaurants in my day.
The river is a thousand feet down from his cabin, though easily reached by road and path, so he may indeed have done some swimming (read "skinny dipping") there in his childhood - though his health in his youth was somewhat frail, he was a very active child and as naughty as any little boy can be, peeking through knotholes into the girl's outhouse. Once his voracious reading appetite started, he became reclusive - During his time in Pacific Grove, the walk to the ocean was only a block, and beachside lounging with a bottle and black bread was a regular practice - he never went into the water, though Carole swam a little (she was a true devotee of "no-tan line" sun-bathing). To get the flavor of Clark -avoid the coast, and go to places like Bear Valley, and the small villages East of Auburn - Clark always kept his view to the hills, where mystery dwelt - in caves, and hidden glens - the valley plain was, for him, a place of desolation -

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Frederick (IP Logged)
Date: 2 July, 2013 04:47PM
I am sorry my saying "backyard" was taken so literal...I am quite aware what CAS' actual backyard was at the time. I know the area quite well, while I didn't know Smith personally people like Hal Rubin, Bill Dorman, Donald Sydney-Fryer and other people who also knew Smith have given me extensive walk about of the area. I was just refering to it as a backyard concerning the convention being held in Sacramento, after all Smith did visit Sacramento once in awhile like when he had an art exhibit or when he was on KCRA television (I was even able to meet a person who was on the film crew concerning CAS' appearance then...ironically, I met him because he was then the producer of their spot concerning my radio drama series Arkham Theatre and when they filmed us we were preparing a radio adaptation of a Smith tale :-) ).

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 2 July, 2013 05:20PM
calonlan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The following must be said about CAS as a
> Californian - the California of today bears little
> resemblance to the California of his time.
> Sacramento, while a town of only 50,000 in the

That is what is so interesting about the film Chinatown, in that it's set in L.A. when it was still a dusty desert town, before it became the sprawling L.A. of today. Yet they managed to film the movie during the 1970s, by cleverly using still-existing locations from that era. In film school, I was told it was one of the most perfect examples of period production design ever filmed. You can see a lot of old L.A. locations, too, in the backgrounds of the old Buster Keaton, Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle, and other silent Hollywood comedies.

I have a book on Old Shipwrecks and Sea Monsters, which has photographs of some HUGE fish and sea serpents which were caught off of the Monterey and Carmel coasts.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 2 July, 2013 06:36PM
Frederick Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I am sorry my saying "backyard" was taken so
> literal...I am quite aware what CAS' actual
> backyard was at the time. I know the area quite
> well, while I didn't know Smith personally people
> like Hal Rubin, Bill Dorman, Donald Sydney-Fryer
> and other people who also knew Smith have given me
> extensive walk about of the area. I was just
> refering to it as a backyard concerning the
> convention being held in Sacramento, after all
> Smith did visit Sacramento once in awhile like
> when he had an art exhibit or when he was on KCRA
> television (I was even able to meet a person who
> was on the film crew concerning CAS' appearance
> then...ironically, I met him because he was then
> the producer of their spot concerning my radio
> drama series Arkham Theatre and when they filmed
> us we were preparing a radio adaptation of a Smith
> tale :-) ).

I am happy you got to visit the area - however, Rubin did not know him except by sight, Bill Dorman was 16 when Clark became his Step-Dad- but was gone almost all the time, and spent practically no time with him personally, Don met him twice quite briefly - I am the only one remaining who both new him intimately and lived with Clark and Carol a week at a time often - as well as being their chauffeur in my '29 Model A whenever they came to Auburn (until Carole bought the ghastly old Hudson or whatever that thing was - The old friend who donated the picture in my book of Clark as a 10 year old, if he is still alive, was a good friend of Clark's as well (and a hell of good baritone) - if I ever return to California, though I can't imagine why I would, I will take you (if it's still there) to the place that was the inspiration for Genius Loci - the mine entrance down the hill from his cabin that gave him the idea for Xeethra is long since bull-dozed in - too bad - it was a really cool cavern -

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 2 July, 2013 06:38PM
calonlan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Frederick Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I am sorry my saying "backyard" was taken so
> > literal...I am quite aware what CAS' actual
> > backyard was at the time. I know the area quite
> > well, while I didn't know Smith personally
> people
> > like Hal Rubin, Bill Dorman, Donald
> Sydney-Fryer
> > and other people who also knew Smith have given
> me
> > extensive walk about of the area. I was just
> > refering to it as a backyard concerning the
> > convention being held in Sacramento, after all
> > Smith did visit Sacramento once in awhile like
> > when he had an art exhibit or when he was on
> KCRA
> > television (I was even able to meet a person
> who
> > was on the film crew concerning CAS' appearance
> > then...ironically, I met him because he was
> then
> > the producer of their spot concerning my radio
> > drama series Arkham Theatre and when they
> filmed
> > us we were preparing a radio adaptation of a
> Smith
> > tale :-) ).
>
> I am happy you got to visit the area - however,
> Rubin did not know him except by sight, Bill
> Dorman was 16 when Clark became his Step-Dad- but
> was gone almost all the time, and spent
> practically no time with him personally, Don met
> him twice quite briefly - I am the only one
> remaining who both new him intimately and lived
> with Clark and Carol a week at a time often - as
> well as being their chauffeur in my '29 Model A
> whenever they came to Auburn (until Carole bought
> the ghastly old Hudson or whatever that thing was
> - The old friend who donated the picture in my
> book of Clark as a 10 year old, if he is still
> alive, was a good friend of Clark's as well (and a
> hell of good baritone) - if I ever return to
> California, though I can't imagine why I would, I
> will take you (if it's still there) to the place
> that was the inspiration for Genius Loci - the
> mine entrance down the hill from his cabin that
> gave him the idea for Xeethra is long since
> bull-dozed in - too bad - it was a really cool
> cavern -

I meant to add, to have really known Clark you would have to have been with him at the Happy Hour bar in old-town -
that is, to get a rounded view of his world -

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Draugen (IP Logged)
Date: 8 July, 2013 04:55PM
Frederick, I just noticed your post which mentions an appearance by CAS on KCRA television.. how tantalising to think footage may be out there, I would love to see it if such a thing surfaced. Going off topic, I believe there are audio recordings of Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen out there. In fact, I'm sure there is film of Blackwood. Sadly no recordings of HPL, as far as I know.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 8 July, 2013 05:13PM
Draugen Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sadly no recordings of HPL, as far as I
> know.

HPL did make some recordings of himself singing popular tunes. He later destroyed the cylinders, however. But maybe one is still out there, somewhere? I'd love to hear his high-pitched "piping" voice singing "You're the Cream in my Coffee" or something similar....

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 9 July, 2013 05:45AM
Actually HPL's singing voice was a pleasant baritone, I read somewhere.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 9 July, 2013 01:58PM
re singing poets - when Don Fryer and I were recording the poetry (sorry I don't have it available yet) - I attempted to re-create the music for the ghoul - Clark used a sort of medieval sounding tune for the ghoul responses - never thought about putting it on a reel-reel at the time - but I think I came pretty close - if someone would show me how, I would extract that one piece from the master and post it on here - in spite of all, I am at heart a 3x5 alphabetized card scholar and much of this stuff eludes me - I have never posted a photo for example - just don't know how, and all explanations have made assumptions about my computer knowledge that are incorrect - ah,well - maybe I'll find a guru who has the patience to sit down with me and show me how to do it. I would love for you all the hear that piece.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Draugen (IP Logged)
Date: 9 July, 2013 04:07PM
Calonlan, that sounds fascinating. In the absence of a guru, there are probably companies which would do the transfer for you, but they are likely not cheap, unfortunately.

I didn't realise it, but there are actually some pieces read by CAS up on this very site:

[www.eldritchdark.com]

Scrolling down, several of the pieces are read by him, wonderful to hear.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 9 July, 2013 05:33PM
Martinus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Actually HPL's singing voice was a pleasant
> baritone, I read somewhere.

Move over, Louis Armstrong...H. P. "Satchmo" Lovecraft!

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: walrus (IP Logged)
Date: 9 July, 2013 08:13PM
Gavin Callaghan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Draugen Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> > Sadly no recordings of HPL, as far as I know.
>
> HPL did make some recordings of himself singing popular tunes. He later destroyed the cylinders, however.

R. H. Barlow had an idea of recording HPL when the latter was in Florida, but like many of his projects it didn't go very far, unfortunately -- I think this may be mentioned in the Selected Letters of CAS. Then again, perhaps we are better off this way. Martin mentions "baritone", but this is what Sonia said (and she should have known):

"Howard's voice was clear and resonant when he read. It became this and high-pitched in conversation, somewhat falsetto. His singing voice, though not strong, was very sweet." (Lovecraft Remembered, p. 255)

On the other hand, Wilfred B. Talman has commented on Lovecraft's "lackluster voice" (LR 219-20): "His voice had that flat and slightly nasal quality that is sometimes stereotyped as a New England characteristic."

I would guess, however, that for readings HPL would have modified his voice somewhat, as people do. More than one memoir has pointed out how he read out his own stories, although the exact references elude me (Eddy and Long would be good starting points).

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 12 July, 2013 05:13PM
The recordings by Clark are interesting, but don't catch the real flavor of sitting about with a glass of Loomis Burgundy and water, and reciting back and forth - Clark's terror regarding machines and electronic stuff is well-known, and I hear that in the recordings (am I too close, am I loud enough, should I speak slower, Heeeelp! would be the experience in a recording session).

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: OConnor,CD (IP Logged)
Date: 21 July, 2013 10:35AM
calonlan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The recordings by Clark are interesting, but don't
> catch the real flavor of sitting about with a
> glass of Loomis Burgundy and water, and reciting
> back and forth - Clark's terror regarding machines
> and electronic stuff is well-known, and I hear
> that in the recordings (am I too close, am I loud
> enough, should I speak slower, Heeeelp! would be
> the experience in a recording sessions

Wow!! That sounds sorrowful and hilarious. Guess it goes to show you our literary heroes are as human as us despite the pedestal we unconsciously place them on. Too bad audio and visual equipment were not as enhanced as they are today. It would be a treat to see Clark seated on a stone-adorned in Roman or Greek attire- in a hidden grove reciting poetry or beautifully crafted cosmic stories to young ears. And maybe his fright of technology could be added as bonus material-bloopers or behind the scenes.

Was Clark philosophical when drunk? Or funny? How did he act? Under the influence of jack and coke-my signature drink- I become more philosophical than I usual am in my day to day life. By the way Dr. Farmer, what was Clark's favorite drink? I know he had many.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: OConnor,CD (IP Logged)
Date: 21 July, 2013 10:41AM
walrus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Gavin Callaghan Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Draugen Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > > Sadly no recordings of HPL, as far as I know.
> >
> > HPL did make some recordings of himself singing
> popular tunes. He later destroyed the cylinders,
> however.
>
> R. H. Barlow had an idea of recording HPL when the
> latter was in Florida, but like many of his
> projects it didn't go very far, unfortunately -- I
> think this may be mentioned in the Selected
> Letters of CAS. Then again, perhaps we are better
> off this way. Martin mentions "baritone", but this
> is what Sonia said (and she should have known):
>
> "Howard's voice was clear and resonant when he
> read. It became this and high-pitched in
> conversation, somewhat falsetto. His singing
> voice, though not strong, was very sweet."
> (Lovecraft Remembered, p. 255)
>
> On the other hand, Wilfred B. Talman has commented
> on Lovecraft's "lackluster voice" (LR 219-20):
> "His voice had that flat and slightly nasal
> quality that is sometimes stereotyped as a New
> England characteristic."
>
> I would guess, however, that for readings HPL
> would have modified his voice somewhat, as people
> do. More than one memoir has pointed out how he
> read out his own stories, although the exact
> references elude me (Eddy and Long would be good
> starting points).

Barlow did have the opportunity to record Lovecraft's voice indeed. I have a photocopied letter from the University of Berkly where he informs Clark about this, asking if he wants in. Perhaps neither Lovecraft-fearing machines as much as he did- or Clark would have agreed to Barlow's plans anyway. So possibly Barlow's knack for never following through on things might not have been the reason. I wonder if Clark ever replied to Barlow's request.

Re: Clark Ashton Smith as a Californian
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 21 July, 2013 05:19PM
The word "drunk" does not apply to Clark at any point in my contact with him - "rosy glow" would be better - Clark was an intense "listener", and when he spoke, his thoughts were always germane, and insightful, propelling the conversation forward, or returning it to a more useful track - all conversations about poetry and literature are (or should be) by definition "philosophical" - the meaning of life, or in the Greek "to love wisdom" (philosphia) , or the more pointed German, "way of looking at the world" (weltanschauung) are the essence of the topic - but with poetry, the issue is not only what a Poem means, but as significantly, "how" does it mean it?



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