Lichen, mistletoe, aloft
In the dying croft,
Leaf the winter trees.
Clark Ashton Smith
Clark Ashton Smith was a poet (see above),
Speaking about Clark Ashton Smith the writer, he was one of the three major contributors to Weird Tales
magazine; the other two being H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. For those completely unfamiliar with his works they can be compared to horror and bizarre offerings from the latter two.
This is a full
collection of his prose; to be really hardcore I even included his unfinished fragments and synopses - yes I read all of them; my ebook has 2000+ pages. I need to be fair and mention that I read two books of the author before so I skipped about 45 of the short stories.
To try to give some outline of the stories, or even the most general idea for a book of such length would be an exercise in futility. The short stories belong to multitude of genres: horror - first and foremost, science fiction, fantasy, historical (leaning more to alternative history), romance, mystery, and any combination of these. Heck, I even found a story which can be loosely qualified as a spanking erotica.
All of his work took quite a lot of imagination to create and this is probably the only thing in common they all have. Imagination is something Smith had in spades - just read his descriptions of weird and bizarre alien worlds or ancient wonders of forgotten civilizations; he never repeats himself. Something else really stands up because of this - the sense of wonder. I forgot the last time I had it reading a book. It can be horrific and strange, but it is still wonder nonetheless. Modern literature does not aim for wonder substituting it by shock value.
His writing style might be described as that of Lovecraft, but I found Smith to be easier read as he does not use as many archaic or exotic words as his better known colleague and friend.
At this point the most obvious and natural question comes up: if Smith is such a good writer how comes he is not as popular as his contemporaries and peers I mentioned above: Lovecraft and Howard? I pondered on this for a really long time. My only - and most probably not completely true - explanation would be in creating interesting recurring characters. Howard had Conan the Barbarian who practically became a household name. Lovecraft had Cthulhu and all the related mythology that once again practically became a household name. Smith had none.
This is not to say his characters are completely flat and lacking any depth. He created some good ones that get development - as much as it can be done in a short story and that feel 3-dimensional. They still feel like throwaways because none of them appear twice in different stories - I can only recall one exception and in this case the same three guys appeared in only two connected stories. I would really like to see what other reasons for lesser fame of Smith people can think of.
The rating for such a diverse and huge set of stories is equally hard to do. There are some really great ones as well as some forgettable ones. I think that on the average it is fair to give 4 stars to his complete prose writings. Sufficient to say I did not get bored reading this mammoth of a book - I read it with only minor interruptions too. I strongly recommend any of his tales to all the fans of H.P. Lovecraft: run, do not walk to get a sample of them.
All of his works - poetry, prose, paintings, sculptures, etc. - are available from his official page http://www.eldritchdark.com/. Give his a try if you have not done so before.