Letter to H. P. Lovecraft

From Clark Ashton Smith

[26] [c. March 1932]

The demon-haunted house of
Avyctes, on the
northernmost promontory of
Poseidonis, at the
epiphany of the double
shadow.1

Dear E'ch-Pi-El:

[. . .] 2

Yes, "Innsmouth" has an atmosphere that one can't shake off in a hurry. I can still smell and taste it! I think that you will find that Melmoth's opinion is no less favorable than mine. I am indeed rejoiced to hear that you have written another tale, which begins to sound like old times. I shall certainly look forward to it with great and shuddersome expectations when you get around to typing it. I hope it will be followed very shortly by others -- you couldn't write enough to suit me.

I guess I wrote you that "Uther Magbane" had been definitely accepted by the Clayton Co. 3 "The Seed from the Sepulcher" pleased Bates, too, but he wanted me to make some slight alterations before showing it to Clayton. He seemed to think there was an inconsistency in the development of the devil-plant; but, as I pointed out to him, the plant merely propagated itself through spores, after death, but had the power of extending its individual life-term through an extension of the root-system from one victim to another. However, I made several minor changes, adding some horrific details, and mentioning a second skull in the lattice-work of bones, roots, etc., in the burial-pit. Derleth's suggestions were very good, but I rather like the thing as it stands. It might have been worked out more gradually, at greater length, as Wandrei suggests; but the present development, as far as I am concerned, has, through its very acceleration, a strong connotation of the unnatural, the diabolic, the supernatural.

You will have seen "Ubbo-Sathla" by now. Wright4 returned it, to my disgust, seeming to think that it would be over the heads of his clientele. Wright, it seems to me, is more than likely to fire back anything that is genuinely original, or so unusual that he can't align it with something he has previously published and found satisfactory from a reader standpoint.

[. . .] My rejected tales, on examination, seem to fall mainly into two classes -- the highly odd, unusual and novel, and the definitely mediocre and hackneyed. There is a third class, mainly scientifiction, consisting of several items that could be greatly improved by revision. However, out of 62 finished yarns, I have succeeded in working off 44 or so, and will probably be able to dispose of several others that are hanging fire at present. If there were only one or two more editors in the market for that sort of thing, I believe I could sell nearly all my weirds: individual taste differs more in regard to horror and fantasy, as Dorothy Sayers observes, than in regard to anything else. Bates, Wright and Swanson all seem to differ markedly in their perceptions.

[. . . S]piritualism is about on a par with fetishism -- "human, all too human . . ." But there is a magnificent chance for tales dealing with a future state or life -- tales that would break utterly with the mere extension of mundane emotions and morals beyond the grave. Sometime I'm going to write a yarn dealing with some moribund who promises a friend, wife or sweetheart that he will return after death . . . but, when he does return, it is in the form of a typhoid bacillus, with no other consciousness or proclivities than would be proper to a bug of that species.

Yours, in eager anticipation of
"The Dreams of Walter Gilman",
Klarkash-Ton

P.S.: Your "In the Vault" certainly stands out in the current W.T. 5 [. . .] Hamilton, consarn him, has ruined an idea somewhat similar to one that I had in mind, 6 for a tale to be called "The Lunar Brain", based on the notion that there is a vast living brain in the center of the Moon.

Footnotes

  1. Three references to "The Double Shadow" (written 14 March 1932). This letter, therefore, is c. March 1932.
  2. This portion of the letter either is not extant or was omitted by Behrends. See note 3.
  3. Publishers of Strange Tales. See note 7.
  4. Farnsworth Wright. See note 11.
  5. Weird Tales, 19, No. 4 (April 1932) 459-65.
  6. "The Earth Brain" by Edmond Hamilton (1904-1977) also appeared in the April 1932 issue. The tale was about the vast creature upon whose body we live.

Transcription and footnotes by Derrick Hussey.

Printed from: www.eldritchdark.com/writings/correspondence/38
Printed on: November 19, 2017