Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Clark Ashton Smith!

My pal Al Harron's blog reminded me that today would have been the 118th birthday of the third member of the three musketeers of Weird Tales, Clark Ashton Smith. Smith is often overshadowed by his two contemporaries, H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, or more likely by the creations of the other two writers. I mean, it's difficult to find more recognizable figures in fantasy circles that Conan the Cimmerian and great Cthulhu.
CAS never created a signature character like Howard and Lovecraft, possibly because he rarely used characters more than once. Though he did occasionally revisit a character, such as Satampra Zeiros who appears in two stories in Smith's Hyperborea series, Smith seemed more interested in creating fully fleshed out secondary worlds than series characters. (I suppose it could be argued that Lovecraft didn't really have a series character either, but Cthulhu and his fellow elder gods appear or are mentioned in many tales and thus take on a kind of identity.) But in his tales of Hyperborea and Zothique, and in his stories about his fantastical French town Averoigne, Smith built worlds. With his elaborate prose-poems, Smith wove these worlds into being and took his readers on many strange, wondrous and sometimes frightening adventures.
Some personal favorites:

From Zothique

The Charnel God
The Master of Crabs
The Witchcraft of Ulua

From Hyperborea

The White Sybil
The Ice-Demon
The Tale of Satampra Zeiros

From Averoigne

The Maker of Gargoyles
A Rendezvous in Averoigne
The Colossus of Ylourgne

Anyway, I've raved about Clark Ashton Smith many times at this blog. Check out my review of The Charnel God

And The White Sybil

And general Blathering about the most recent CAS Collections

Then get over to the Eldritch Dark, like I keep telling you, and learn all about the prose, poetry, and life of Clark Ashton Smith.


Taranaich said...

I'd say Randolph Carter's the closest Lovecraft came to a series character, but I don't think Smith had one at all. It's part of his charm. Lovely choice of stories (Master of Crabs!), I should amend my post to add my favourite tales.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

You should! And Master of Crabs may be the story that finally gets me to admit CAS wrote some sword & sorcery. Two guys armed with swords fight an evil sorcerer. Granted their blades are magic, but in the end it's the point that does the trick.