Thursday, August 12, 2010

Been on a Clark Ashton Smith Binge

One of my favorite websites is The Eldritch Dark, a website devoted to Clark Ashton Smith, a largely unsung, but brilliant, polymath- author, poet, painter, sculptor. Lately, I've been concentrating on the "Commoriom Myth Cycle" of Atlantean high priest Klarkash-Ton, as H.P. Lovecraft jokingly wrote in The Whisperer in Darkness. The gloriously purple prose of CAS, replete with recondite vocabulary, formed a clear influence on the literary style of my beloved Jack Vance. While his works often bear a morbid tone, CAS (like JV) leavens his works with mordant wit (morbid, yet mordant... aren't I cute?).

One of the funniest (one may even characterize it as silly) stories in Smith's ouvre is The Door to Saturn, in which the wizard Eibon, author of the bizarre Liber Ivonis, is pursued by an inquisition to (need I post a spoiler alert?) Saturn. The journey is a one-way trip, and the tale makes for the most unusual "buddies on a road trip" narrative I've ever encountered. As in most narratives of this sort, having a riotous time and "getting lucky" (as the kids these days back in the pre-glacial Hyperborean period say said) is a major motif, and CAS' sojourners on the ringed planet are no different than the protagonists of a cheesy 80's teen comedy:

But still there were compensations: the fungus-wine of the Ydheems was potent though evil-tasting; and there were females of a sort, if one were not too squeamish.

The Hyperborean tales tend to be CAS' most comical works (the humor being black as the Stygian pits under Mount Voormithadreth, though), The Seven Geases is one extended exercise in gallows-humor (and a clear inspiration of Jack Vance's wonderful The Eyes of the Overworld.

Smith's works were not readily available for many years, but a devoted "cult" following has persisted, and most of his canon is available on the Internet. That being said, pull out the most extensive dictionary you can get your grubby mitts on, and allow the Eldritch Dark to inumbrate you.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Hold on now!


Cthulhu: Boxers or brief?

Smut Clyde said...

Smith's works were not readily available for many years

What do you mean? The Panther paperbacks came out as recently as the 1970s.

Smut Clyde said...

Also, cover art by Bruce Pennington.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

The Panther paperbacks came out as recently as the 1970s.

The Panther paperbacks were just a tease!