is the best Clark Ashton Smith site on the web.
There’s a very interesting period from about 1910 to 1936 in weird fiction. Smith was writing stories of ghosts and clairvoyance in 1910, and then suddenly by 1934 he has (apparently single-handedly) invented 20th century pulp fantasy.
But of course, he wasn’t really alone. H. P. Lovecraft was publishing stories in that period, and Lovecraft gets a huge amount of shallow lionization, but very few fans care to remember C. A. Smith.
Of course, a big part of what happened to the pulp market happened on November 4, 1911, when an editor paid money for an Edgar Rice Burroughs story!
In 1923, Weird Tales launched, and many pulp fans might consider that date to mark the real beginning of pulp fiction.
C. A. Smith published two pieces in the first volume:
Clark Ashton Smith
The hills, a-throng with swarthy pine,
Press up the pale and hollow sky,
And the squat cypresses on high
Reach from the lit horizon-line
They reach, they reach, with gnarlèd hands—
Malignant hags, obscene and dark—
While the red moon, a demons’ ark,
Is borne along the mystic lands.
Clark Ashton Smith
Thy soul is like a secret garden-close,
Where roots of cleft rnandragoras enwreathe;
Where bergamot and fumitory breathe,
And ivy winds its tower with the rose.
The lolling weeds of Lethe, green or wan,
Exhale their fatal languors on the light;
From out infernal grails of aconite
Poisons and dews are proffered to the dawn.
Here, when the moon’s phantasmal fingers grope
To find the marbles of a hidden tomb,
There sings the cypress-perchèd nightingale;
And all the silver-bellied serpents pale
Their ruby eyes amid the blossoms ope,
To lift and listen in the ghostly gloom.
Even though those poems appeared in 1923, they call to mind the Decadents of 1890!
C. A. Smith was a link between Machen and the 20th century pulps. I will devote as much brain power as I can spare to this issue over the next week.