Friday, April 29, 2016

Guest Post: Greg James on the inlfluence of Clark Ashton Smith

The Emperor of Dreams

You've probably not heard of Clark Ashton Smith. You might be more familiar with his contemporaries; H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Cthulhu and Conan are near enough to being household names these days, so who was Clark Ashton Smith – a man who was easily the literary equal of Lovecraft and Howard, if not their better?

He was a self-educated poet, sculptor, painter, author and has been referred to as 'The Last of the Great Romantics' and 'the Keats of the Pacific'. His art was often morbid in the tradition of Poe and, when he turned his pen to writing fantasy, science-fiction and horror, the stories he produced were unique as they vied against pulp traditions by channelling his poetic sensibility for creating an implicit atmosphere and mood rather than explicit action and pace.

He turned out more than a hundred stories between 1929 and 1934. These imaginatively rich stories still led him to complain that writing prose was "a hateful task, for a poet, and [one which] wouldn't be necessary in any true civilisation".

So how does Clark Ashton Smith inform the world of Khale the Wanderer?
His Dying Earth stories set on the continent of Zothique were an early model for my unnamed world and there are hints, mostly in Lost is the Night and the forthcoming Hordes of Chaos, towards  some of his themes where egotism leads to one's downfall and loss is a thing ever-present in our lives. The melancholy atmosphere and striking visuals that permeate his stories were something I also tried to capture as much as I could. I may not have succeeded but at least I tried my best in paying tribute to one of the most original minds ever to write in the fantasy genre.

Robert E. Howard's Conan may have given Khale his initial shape and Karl Edward Wagner's Kane helped define him but it was Clark Ashton Smith who planted the seeds that grew into the shadowy and unclear nightmare-world that the Wanderer treks through.
Thank you for reading!

James' work, Under a Colder Sun, is currently available as part of a fantasy storybundle HERE.

Greg James

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