Clark Ashton Smith

5-1-2010 10;00;37 AM

Unless you are diehard fan of horror or dark fantasy stories of the early 20th century, the name Clark Ashton Smith probably means little or nothing to you. But for those of us who are such fans, his name conjures up worlds of exotic darkness, of the purplest prose describing the strangest entities of eons past. Along with Lovecraftand Conan creator Robert E. Howard, Smith ruled those long-ago days of the 1930s and Weird Tales magazine. But unlike the other two, whose works have long been readily available, Smith sank, along with most of their Weird Tales brethren, into obscurity. Despite vocal champions like Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, and Lovecraft himself, Smith is a household name only to those folks, like myself, whose homes suffer under a surfeit of paperback horror fiction. And not even always then. Too Much Horror Fiction

Just outside the city of Auburn, California, near what is today the Eldorado National Forest, is Boulder Ridge. Smith lived most of his life here, in the house he helped his father build in 1902. Today, not far from Auburn, lives Scott Connors, Smith’s biographer and the man considered by many to be the foremost expert on Smith’s life and career. “There are still a number of people who knew Clark living around this area, although they’re starting to pass away,” Connors says. “Generally speaking, they regarded him as a good friend; as somebody who was a little bit otherworldly at times; somebody who lived life on his own terms without making a lot of compromises.” The Fanzine

At the age of fourteen, Clark Ashton Smith wrote an Arabian Nights adventure novel called The Black Diamonds. At nearly 90,000 words, it is the longest work of fiction he would ever write in his long career. The thrilling and fast-paced story of seventeenth-century Bagdad deals with two mysterious black diamonds and the conflict they engender between an Arab family and the powerful thief who seeks to regain them. Kidnapping, piracy, and even a possibly supernatural “Lake of Fire” are all involved in this vibrant and well-crafted narrative.Although a work of Smith’s youth, The Black Diamondscan withstand comparison with any of his later tales of Zothique, Hyperborea, and Atlantis for compelling readability.Vintage Library


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