As Don Herron noted in his essay "The Double Shadow: The Influence of Clark Ashton Smith", in Underwood and Miller's JACK VANCE (Writers of the 21st Century Series) published in 1980 by Taplinger Publishing Company, CAS is one of Jack Vance's greatest influences, although Vance, as Herron notes, was always more concerned with human experience than Smith.
Much to my chagrin, the Vance Integral Edition project compiled all of Jack Vance's works into a collection of deluxe hardbacks, but (lacking a grand in disposable income at the time) I did not obtain a set. Yes, call me a maundering mooncalf, but those were the hard, sad facts.
Now, I would be remiss to ignore a frustrating tendency in Vance's ouvre- his plots are often simple picaresques (which often read like weird travelogues for many paragraphs), and many of his characters tend to blend together (hypercompetent heroes Adam Reith and Kirth Gersen are virtually indistinguishable, as are a plethora of avaricious innkeepers, merchants, peasants, drovers, tradesmen- need I say more?). In contrast, the societies, landscapes, and cultural artifacts Vance conjures up are drawn in beautiful detail- the background of the tapestry is ornate, the foreground figures are often a tad stereotypical.
Now, enough of my yapping, how about a little Jack Vance? Here's the opening of one of my favorite short stories, the anthropological/xenological mystery The Moon Moth*:
The houseboat had been built to the most exacting standards of Sirenese craftsmanship, which is to say, as close to the absolute as human eye could detect. The planking of waxy dark wood showed no joints, the fastenings were platinum rivets countersunk and polished flat. In style, the boat was massive, broad beamed, steady as the shore itself, without ponderosity or slackness of line. The bow bulged like a swan's breast, the stem rising high, then crooking forward to support an iron lantern. The doors were carved from slabs of a mottled black-green wood; the windows were many sectioned, paned with squares of mica, stained rose, blue, pale green and violet. The bow was given to service facilities and quarters for the slaves; amidships were a pair of sleeping cabins, a dining saloon and a parlor saloon, opening upon an observation deck at the stern.
The Moon Moth also contains one of my favorite Vancian put-downs, as the protagonist interacts with a functionary who is familiar with the society into which the protagonist is thrown:
Thissell asked, "Does this mask signify any degree of prestige?"
"Not a great deal."
"After all, I'm Consular Representative," said Thissell. "I represent the Home Planets, a hundred billion people."
"If the Home Planets want their representative to wear a Sea Dragon Conqueror mask, they'd better send out a Sea Dragon Conqueror type of man."
*Although I am linking the story, I don't know the copyright status, and will certainly take down the link if there is a problem.