Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Eldritch Dark

When I picked up 'The End of the Story: The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith' on Wednesday night, I originally intended to read the short stories over a long period of time. Most authors short works don't hold up when too many are read back to back. However, after reading one story I found that it led to another and another, and now I've read a dozen or so and I'm not inclined to stop. They are that compelling.
Smith has long been the member of the trio of Weird Tales authors that I've neglected. Obviously Robert E. Howard is at the top of my list and I have always enjoyed the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Smith's work is harder to classify than that of the other two men. Most of Lovecraft's more popular work is horror and Howard, of course, is the father of sword and sorcery.
Smith's work borders on both, but is neither. Oh there are horrors. The first story in the book, The Abominations of Yondo, drops you feet first right into a nightmare landscape and the fog shrouded terrors of the city of Malneant linger long after the book is closed. And stories such as The Tale of Satampra Zeiros, with its abandoned, jungle choked, marble city may even have inspired some of Howard's Conan yarns such as the Devil in Iron of the uncompleted Halls of the Dead.
But Smith's writing is more along the lines of Lord Dunsany, though with much more bite. It is possibly the most dreamlike writing I've encountered, and I don't mean that in a good way. Not dreamy, but disturbing as only dreams can be. Smith's prose is lush and his imagery dark. Highly recommended.

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