Lost Worldsby Clark Ashton Smith, Jeff VanderMeer
An artist, poet, and prolific contributor to Weird Tales, Clark Ashton Smith (1893–1967) is an influential figure in the history of pulp fiction. A close correspondent and collaborator with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Smith was widely celebrated as a master by his contemporaries. Back in print for the first time since 1971, Lost Worlds/i>
An artist, poet, and prolific contributor to Weird Tales, Clark Ashton Smith (1893–1967) is an influential figure in the history of pulp fiction. A close correspondent and collaborator with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Smith was widely celebrated as a master by his contemporaries. Back in print for the first time since 1971, Lost Worlds brings together twenty-three of Smith's classic stories, all of which were originally published in Weird Tales. Rather than center his works on heroes, Smith created fantastical worlds around which he built cycles of stories. Included here are tales from the realms of Averoigne, Zothique, Hyperborea, and others. Told in lush poetic prose, these haunting stories bring to life dark, dreamlike realms full of gothic monsters and mortals. Jeff VanderMeer provides an introduction for this Bison Books edition.
Read an Excerpt
By Clark Ashton Smith
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright © 2006
University of Nebraska Press
All right reserved.
I've had a love-hate relationship with Clark Ashton Smith's
work for as long as I can remember. His beautiful visions of other
worlds and other places linger in my memory but so do the hyper-elevated
prose style, the grimly formal dialog, and the sometimes
stiff, ritualistic scenes. In rereading Lost Worlds, however, I'm
struck by how little these latter tendencies interfere with my
enjoyment of many of the stories. Smith's fiction does not always
succeed-nor am I convinced that Smith's aesthetic is the result
of conscious intent-but the attempt makes for interesting
writing. Some of these tales have only historical significance now,
but many others still hold great imagistic power.
Lost Worlds gathers Clark Ashton Smith's "lost world" stories,
set in places as diverse as Hyperborea, Atlantis, Zothique, and
Averoigne. The collection immerses the reader with a sensibility
that is foreign but also familiar. Readers will recognize these
settings from the works of other pulp writers and Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle, as well as countless movies, although Smith has a
somewhat different take on the subject matter. Unlike most other
approaches to lost worlds, Smith's fiction eschews the framing
structure in whichmodern-day people discover a "lost" place.
Instead, there is no outside world at all, and for this reason these
tales might be classified as "secondary world" in nature.
Smith treats his settings as vibrant, living locales populated
by picturesque, oddly ritualistic characters. The descriptions in
these stories are more useful than those in the tales Smith sets
in the real world-their intensity does not seem as out of place,
and their length seems appropriate to describe milieus whose
existence depends so much on the stuff of myth and rumor.
"The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" exemplifies this approach.
Like many of the Lost Worlds stories, it is told almost entirely
in summary with a few attempts at half-scene. As the narrator
embarks on his quest, the layering of description seems
excessive. The reader waits for the story to begin ... then starts
to understand that the description is the story. This method is not
necessarily a bad thing, but it is unusual. It works for Smith due
to his pseudo-poetic stylings:
There were no birds nor animals, such as one would think to find
in any wholesome forest; but at rare intervals a stealthy viper with
pale and heavy coils glided away from our feet among the rank
leaves of the roadside, or some enormous moth with baroque
and evil-colored mottlings flew before us and disappeared into
the dimness of the jungle. Abroad already in the half-light, huge
purpureal bats with eyes like tiny rubies arose at our approach
from the poisonous-looking fruits on which they feasted, and
watched us with malign intention as they hovered noiselessly in
the air above.
Some may note the carelessness of the vague "evil-colored,"
among other examples, but on the whole the intensity of such
prose serves Smith well. The reader has little choice but to
believe in the world described, even if the reader may not always
believe in the story being told. Less lush prose would cause
the descriptions to crumble, leaving the reader with the banal
rendered in turgid summary.
Excerpted from Lost Worlds
by Clark Ashton Smith
Copyright © 2006 by University of Nebraska Press .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Jeff VanderMeer is a two-time World Fantasy Award winner whose books of fiction and edited anthologies have been finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award and the International Horror Guild Award.
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