Klarkash-Ton as Described by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei

[from "Clark Ashton Smith: Master of Fantasy," by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, a foreword to the original 1941 Arkham House edition of Out of Space and Time]

Clark Ashton Smith was born on January 13th, 1893, in Long Valley, California. He began to write at the comparatively early age of eleven. Apart from five years in the grammar grades, Smith is wholly self-educated; that he did not neglect his education is amply attested by the superb quality of his work in verse, prose, painting and sculpture.

At seventeen, Smith was selling stories to The Black Cat, The Overland Monthly, and other magazines. His first collection of verse was published only two years later, and was hailed as the work of a prodigy and classed with work of Chatterton, Rossetti and Bryant. He resumed the writing of short stories as a profession when he was past thirty-five, and it was then, with publication in Weird Tales of "The End of the Story," that he came into his own in prose. The success of that story inspired others, all weird, macabre, fantastic or pseudo-scientific, all equally popular with readers. Since that time he has contributed poetry and fiction to over fifty magazines, including The Yale Review, The London Mercury, Munsey's, Asia, Wings, Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, The Philippine Magazine and the Mencken Smart Set. His poetry has been included in more than a dozen anthologies, and some of his translations from Baudelaire have been used in an anthology of The Flowers of Evil published by the Limited Editions Club.

His book-length publications were all printed in limited editions, with the result that all are collectors' items today. Four of his five volumes are of verseThe Star-Treader, Odes and Sonnets, Ebony and Crystal, SandalWood; the fifth is a pamphlet of tales: The Double Shadow and Other Fantasies, most of which are included in the present volume. Out of Space and Time is the first volume of prose to present to his readers here and abroad the cream of Clark Ashton Smith, who himself selected the stories to appear between these covers. He has three new volumes of verse in preparation, and the publishers hope that the success of Out of Space and Time will assure publication of a second collection of the tales of Clark Ashton Smith.

Apart from his prose and poetry, Smith is a painter and sculptor, and has exhibited many of his outré and exotic pictures and carvings in Western cities. His sculptures, which are especially powerful and fascinating, are cut largely from strange and unusual minerals and have been compared to pre-Columbian art. While not widely circulated—they are never cast, but each one is original and has no copy—Smith's sculptures have found numerous purchasers, not limited to the coterie of fellow writers with whom Smith is in constant touch. Nor have his paintings been without acclaim; most common is the ranking with or above those of Odilon Redon, the famed French symbolist.

In his forty-eight years Smith has been a variety of things—a journalist, a fruit picker and packer, a wood chopper, a typist, a cement-mixer, a gardener, a hard-rock miner, mucker and windlasser. Though his verse may occasionally sound as if Smith lived in an ivory tower, this is far indeed from the facts.

Moreover, Smith's lineage is almost as long in this country as was the late great H. P. Lovecraft's. He is the descendant of Norman-French counts and barons, of Lancashire baronets and Crusaders. One of his Ashton forebears was beheaded for his part in the famed Gunpowder Plot. His mother's family, the Gaylords, came to New England in 1630—Huguenot Gaillards who fled persecution in France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Smith's father, Timeus Smith, was a world-traveler in his early years, but settled at last in Auburn, where he died less than a decade ago.

Of the stories in this collection, there is much to be said and yet perhaps they speak best for themselves. Just as in poetry Smith was undoubtedly influenced not only by the French symbolists but also by his great and good friend, the late George Sterling, so in prose he was constantly encouraged and influenced in large part by another friend, the late great H. P. Lovecraft. Readers of weird lore in our time are familiar with the famed Cthulhu mythology of H. P. Lovecraft, the mythology to which other writers added bits and portions; of those writers, none added so much as Clark Ashton Smith—and this despite the fact that Smith had created a fantastic setting all his own: the fabled land of Averoigne, which had taken hold of many readers and fired their imagination. His hyperborean settings have achieved a popularity equaled only by the lore of legend-haunted Arkham that was Lovecraft's. Indeed, so completely did Smith identify many of his settings with those of Lovecraft's, with the aid and at the behest of Lovecraft himself, that today many of his remarkable sculptures bear such recognizable names as Cthulhu, The Outsider, Tsathoggua, Yuggoth, Hastur, etc. With consummate skill, Smith has added characters, enlarged on settings, spun his stories to embrace a far wider area in time for the Ancient Ones and the Elder Gods; he has himself invented the Book of Eibon, Tsathoggua, and many other place-names and characters in the mythos, used by Lovecraft as well as himself.

The stories in Out of Space and Time represent a variety and reveal most of the facets of Smith's unique abilities in prose, abilities which make it possible to say of him that he is the greatest living American writer of macabre and fantastic tales, and certainly the greatest living stylist in the genre. There are tales of Averoigne, tales belonging to the Cthulhu Mythos, stories of sheer horror and one or two of sardonic comedy, such as "The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan" (in this volume). Such a popular science-fiction novelette as "The City of the Singing Flame" (in Volume I), together with its sequel under a single title, is here; and so are such classics of the weird as "The End of the Story," "A Night in Malnéant," "The Double Shadow" (all in Volume I), "The Return of the Sorcerer" (in this volume), and "The Dark Eidolon" (in Volume I.)

Smith lives today in Auburn, California, in the heart of an old and rich placer-mining region, only six miles from the place of his birth. Still young at forty-eight, he feels that his best work is yet to be done.*

*Clark Ashton Smith died in California in August, 1961, at the age of 68, twenty years after this foreword was published.

Copyright © August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, 1941