Letter to H. P. Lovecraft

From Clark Ashton Smith

[12] [c. mid-September 1930]

En route to Aldebaran —
At the dawn of the grey

Dear E'ch-Pi-El:

Thanks for the tales, both of which are like old friends. "Polaris" is indeed a haunting fantasy; and there are stupendous and supremely original imaginative implications in "Beyond the Wall of Sleep". Yes, the latter was the first of your tales that I read: it was loaned to me by Loveman back in 1919 or 1920. It doesn't say much for editorial acumen that neither of these tales has had professional publication.

Your hints about "The Whisperer in Darkness" are most alluring; and I hope you will have it in its definite form before long, That idea of the brains transported in metal containers is excellent! [. . .] My own conception of a brain in an artificial physique dates back almost to my childhood!

[. . .] I hope that the Gernsback gang [1] will make it worthwhile for me to do the series, [2] since there are undeniable possibilities in such stories — even though I would rather drop the stale paraphernalia of ether-ships, gas-masks, etc., and the personell of terrestrial explorers, and plunge into something wholly ultra-terrene and belonging to the Beyond.

[. . .]

I find many of the yarns in Wonder Stories and Amazing Stories interesting for their ideas. One can't even find ideas in the other classes of magazines — all of them, from the Atlantic Monthly to the wild-west thrillers, are hide-bound and hog-tied with traditions of unutterable dullness. The other day, when I got out the W.T. containing your "Dunwich Horror", to loan to a friend, I noticed that it also included a reprint of "The Diamond Lens" by Fitz-James O'Brien, which first appeared in the Atlantic back in 1858 I couldn't help musing on what would be the fate of this fine story if it were submitted to the Atlantic now for the first time.

Our weather here now is the golden, azure, Indian-summery kind, with a mellow warmth that pervades one's being like an elixer. I, too, still work out of doors as much as possible. Probably the mountain scenery was a stimulant to my writing — but it was so tremendous that it temporarily altered and confused my sense of values. Mere words didn't seem to stand up in the presence of those peaks and cliffs. But now, amid the perspectives of familiar surroundings, "The Red World" doesn't seem so bad. The last chapter could afford themes for Dore or Martin, in regard to cataclysmic scope at any rate.

[. . .]

[. . .] Have begun a new novelette, "The Eggs from Saturn", with a realistic local setting for its ultraplanetary mysteries and horrors. Have also worked out a synopsis for another of the Captain Volmar series, to be called "The Ocean-World of Alioth". [3]

Before long you will receive the primordial stone statuette of an unknown deity which I found while in the mountains, on what is known as Crater Ridge, a long, barren, rock-strewn hill with a little lake of unfathomable depth lying almost in its crest. Geologists say that the lake is not an extinct volcano, nor the ridge of volcanic origin; but the whole locality is so scoriac in its appearance that I don't believe them. Many of the smaller stones are extremely fantastic in form. Mrs. Sully found one that was reminiscent of a small Aztec idol! She calls it Tsathoggua, and refuses to give it up!

[. . .]


  1. Hugo Gernsback, Editor-in-Chief of Wonder Stories.
  2. The "Volmar" series.
  3. Neither "The Eggs from Saturn" nor "The Ocean-World of Alioth" was ever worked to completion. Strange Shadows: The Uncollected Fiction of Clark Ashton Smith (1989) includes partial drafts of both tales, and a synopsis of the latter.

From: Clark Ashton Smith: LETTERS TO H. P. LOVECRAFT, edited by and footnotes by Steve Behrends (July 1987) Necronomicon Press.

Printed from: www.eldritchdark.com/writings/correspondence/22
Printed on: November 14, 2018