Unpublished Revisions to 'The Dimension of Chance'

Clark Ashton Smith

In late July or early August 1932, Wonder Stories editor David Lasser suggested to Clark Ashton Smith that he compose a story involving the notion of "random atoms"; Smith complied by writing "The Dimension of Chance". The story was published in the November 1932 issue of the magazine and was later reprinted in Smith's collection Other Dimensions (1970). Prior to its magazine publication, however, Smith tried to insert two revised pages into the text. These revisions arrived too late for inclusion in the Wonder Stories appearence. and have never before been utilized. Smith felt that these "few revised pages" would have "improve[d] this yarn materially" (Smith to Derleth, 1 September 1932).

Smith's modifications consisted mainly of the revision of two paragraphs or paragraph-groups. We list below, side-by-side for comparison, both the original and revised texts for these two sections; page numbering refers to the Other Dimensions text. I cannot resist calling attention to the new emphasis on the emotion of loss/bewilderment/alienage - state of mind that represented almost a fixation for Smith.

In addition to these changes, Smith intended two further modifications: (1) he cut short paragraph 2 on p. 148, removing the explanatory sentences following (but not including) "Nothing, apparently was duplicated...", and (2) he deleted the flippant "Lead on MacDuff" from p. 149 paragraph 3. it should also be mentioned that, like all of Smith's work published in Wonder Stories, the editors tampered with Smith's paragraphing, frequently dividing a Smith paragraph into two. And lastly, Smith's division of the story into chapters was ignored. The following chapter divisions had been intended by Smith:

CHAPTER I: The Blur in the Stratosphere (top of p. 141 )
CHAPTES II: The Valley of Mirages (before p. 144 para. 2)
CHAPTER III: The People of Chance (before p. 150 para. 3)
CHAPTER IV: The Pit of Dissolution (before p. 154 para. 3)
CHAPTER V: The Masters of Chance (before p. 156 para. 3)

[Original reading, p. 148 paragraphs 6 & 7]
"The late Professor Einstein would have been interested in this," remarked Morris. 'Even the light must be moving at random, and sight images are traveling in zigzags and circles. Nothing is where it ought to be. We've gotten into a labyrinth of mirages.

"We'll be lucky if we ever find our way back to the old boat," snorted Markley. "Want look any further for our Japanese friends?"

[Revised reading]
Markley and Morris felt an indescribable confusion, a terrible and growing dubiety that involved the veraciousness of their own senses. Their very sanity was challenged by the labyrinth of impossible and illusory images into which they had wandered. For perhaps the first time in their lives, they knew the sensation of being utterly lost, in a bournless world of incertitude. Their habitual buoyancy and jauntiness began to evaporate, giving place to a furtive, unacknowledged terror."We'll be lucky if we ever find our way back to the plane," said Markley. "Want to look any further for the Japs?"
[Original reading, p. 149 paragraphs 5 & 6]
"I guess we'll play tag with some more mirages," opined Markley in a disgusted tone. "Even if guns will shoot in this crazy world, there's small likelihood that we could hit anyone, or that any one could hit us." More deeply bewildered and bemused than ever, they pressed forward, trying to relocate the enemy vessel. The changing zones of gravity made their progress erratic and uncertain; and the landscape melted and shifted around them like the imagery of a kaleidoscope.
[Revised reading]
"I guess we'll play tag with some more mirages," opined Markley in a tone whose ironic disgust was mingled with profound bewilderment and perturbation. A nightmare confusion, a doubtfulness that implicated all things, even their own identity, returned and deepened upon them as they pressed forward, trying to relocate the enemy vessel. The changing zones of gravity made their progress erratic and uncertain; and the landscape melted and shifted around them like the imagery of a kaleidoscope. Like lost phantoms, they seemed to pursue a phantom foe through all the jumble and disorder of some incredible cosmic dimentia.

Printed from: www.eldritchdark.com/writings/nonfiction/50
Printed on: November 24, 2017