Read The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies by Clark Ashton Smith S.T. Joshi Online

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A much-awaited collection of prose and poetry from one of the great cosmic masters of the supernatural Not just any fantasy, horror, and science fiction author could impress H. P. Lovecraft into calling him "perhaps unexcelled by any other writer, dead or living” or compel Fritz Lieber to employ the worthy term sui generis. Clark Ashton Smith—autodidact, prolific poet, amaA much-awaited collection of prose and poetry from one of the great cosmic masters of the supernatural Not just any fantasy, horror, and science fiction author could impress H. P. Lovecraft into calling him "perhaps unexcelled by any other writer, dead or living” or compel Fritz Lieber to employ the worthy term sui generis. Clark Ashton Smith—autodidact, prolific poet, amateur philosopher, bizarre sculptor, and unmatched storyteller—simply wrote like no one else, before or since. This new collection of his very best tales and poems is selected and introduced by supernatural literature scholar S. T. Joshi and allows readers to encounter Smith’s visionary brand of fantastical, phantasmagorical worlds, each one filled with invention, terror, and a superlative sense of metaphysical wonder....

Title : The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies
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ISBN : 9780143107385
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 370 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies Reviews

  • BillKerwin
    2018-10-12 04:02

    Confession: I once underestimated Clark Ashton Smith. I dismissed him as a second-rate poet, and a first-rate prose stylist who marred his work with an eccentric indulgence in obscure, latinate diction, even more bizarre than his friend Lovecraft's. I also find his fascination with evil—particularly in his poetry—rather second-rate too, redolent with faux nostalgia for the fin de siecle in decline.The funny thing is, I still believe all this to be true, but, recently, reading this J.T. Joshi anthology, I find this is only a small part of the story. First of all, although most of the poetry is second rate, some of it isn't, particularly the blank verse dramatic monologues (“Nero,” “Satan Unrepentant,” “The Hashish Eater") which rely on close reasoning or gorgeous enumerations, and the occasional isolated mood piece (“Memnon at Midnight,” “The Old Water Wheel”) which does not allow its central idea to become buried in baroque detail and mellifluous phrases. Second, the stories—at least the ones included here—all succeed as stories, and whatever they lose from Smith's showy, occasionally bizarre diction they regain by the sonority and measured movement of his prose. Like Algernon Blackwood, the objective of this prose is to hypnotize, creating the proper state of mind so that the disquieting visions may begin. Even the worst of his stories—which can seem like overly long mood pieces—create memorable sensations, and the best (“The Vaults of Yo-Vombis,” “The Dark Eidolon,” “The Weaver in the Vault, “Xeethra,” “The Mother of Toads”) are terrifying.In addition, Joshi introduced me to an aspect of Smith of which I had not been aware: the prose poems. They are more disciplined and closely crafted than either the poems or the stories, and may well be Smith's best work.I conclude with one of those prose poems, to give you a taste of the delights which await:THE MIRROR IN THE HALL OF EBONYFrom the nethermost profound of slumber, from a gulf beyond the sun and stars that illume the Lethean shoals and the vague lands of somnolent visions, I floated on a black unrippling tide to the dark threshold of a dream. And in this dream I stood at the end of a long hall that was ceiled and floored and walled with black ebony, and was lit with a light that fell not from the sun or moon nor from any lamp. The hall was without doors or windows, and at the further extreme an oval mirror was framed in the wall. And standing there, I remembered nothing of all that had been; and the other dreams of sleep, and the dream of birth and of everything thereafter, were alike forgotten. And forgotten too was the name I had found among men, and the other names whereby the daughters of dream had known me; and memory was no older than my coming to that hall. But I wondered not, nor was I troubled thereby, and naught was strange to me: for the tide that had borne me to this threshold was the tide of Lethe.Anon, though I knew not why, my feet were drawn adown the hall, and I approached the oval mirror. And in the mirror I beheld the haggard face that was mine, and the red mark on the cheek where one I loved had struck me in her anger, and the mark on the throat where her lips had kissed me in amorous devotion. And, seeing this, I remembered all that had been; and the other dreams of sleep, and the dream of birth and of everything thereafter, alike returned to me. And thus I recalled the name I had assumed beneath the terrene sun, and the names I had borne beneath the suns of sleep and of reverie. And I marvelled much, and was enormously troubled, and all things were most strange to me, and all things were as of yore.

  • Glenn Russell
    2018-10-09 02:09

    Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) is surely one of America’s most intriguing and unique authors, a poet and writer of tales of horror, fantasy and science fiction. Born in a small town in Northern California and living nearly all his life in the log cabin build by his parents, Smith didn’t attend school beyond the eighth grade due to psychological problems; rather, all of his learning occurred at home – he read voraciously and committed much to memory, including an encyclopedia and a dictionary cover to cover; he taught himself French and Spanish; he devoured book after book, such classics as Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. As an adult, along with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Smith was a prime contributor to the pulp fiction magazine, Weird Tales, and, like Lovecraft, whom he befriended and carried on a live-long correspondence, Smith used his own nightmares as raw material for his fiction. This fine Penguin edition is a treasure, including many short stories, prose poems and poems along with an informative Introduction by literary scholar, S. T. Joshi. As a way of sharing a taste of what a reader will discover in these pages, I have focused on one short story from the collection, Ubbo-Sathla, noting a number of themes from the tale, themes that recur in much of the author’s work. Also included is my write-up (copied from one of my other reviews) on yet another tale from this Penguin collection: Mother of Toads.UBBO-SATHLAMetaphysical Investigations and Esoteric Language - The tale begins: “For Ubbo-Sathla is the source and the end. Before the coming of Zhothaqquah or Yok-Zothoth or Kthulhut from the stars, Ubbo-Sathla dwelt in the steaming fens of the newmade Earth.” For Clark Ashton Smith, fiction was as a way to explore big philosophical questions: Where do we come from? What is the foundation of life in the universe? And these questions are asked in the most arcane, inscrutable language. As the author himself stated: "My own conscious ideal has been to delude the reader into accepting an impossibility, or series of impossibilities, by means of a sort of verbal black magic, in the achievement of which I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.”Magical Object and Occult Literature - Similar to the young man entering an antique shop filled with curios from around the globe, as in Honoré de Balzac’s The Magic Skin or Théophile Gautier The Mummy’s Foot, Paul Tregardis walks in an antique shop and finds “the milky crystal in a litter of oddments from many lands and eras.” And, oh, how that magically enchanted, arcane object quickly becomes the nucleus of occult unfolding. Added to this: "Tregardis thinks of his own explorations in hidden lore: he recalled The Book of Eibon, that strangest and rarest of occult forgotten volumes, which is said to have come down through a series of manifold translations from a prehistoric original written in the lost language of Hyperborea." Little does Tregardis know, walking out of the shop with his new crystal will bring the book of his memory to life. Wizards and Sorcery -As per vintage Clark Ashton Smith, that remote, secret book, The Book of Eibon was purported to have been the handiwork of a great wizard, a great wizard in touch with the heart of the heart of all power within the universe. We read: "This wizard, who was mighty among sorcerers, had found a cloudy stone, orb-like and somewhat flattened at the ends, in which he could behold many visions of the terrene past, even to the Earth's beginning, when Ubbo-Sathla, the unbegotten source, lay vast and swollen and yeasty amid the vaporing slime. . . But of that which he beheld, Zon Mezzamalech left little record; and people say that he vanished presently, in a way that is not known; and after him the cloudy crystal was lost." With a wizard and sorcery added to the equation, our narrator is in for unexpected twists to his adventures. Weird Bending of Time and Space -The more our young narrator peers into his newly purchased crystal, the more all of the normal boundaries of time and space expand and take on strange forms. “As if he looked upon an actual world, cities, forests, mountains, seas and meadows flowed beneath him, lightening and darkening as with the passage of days and nights in some weirdly accelerated stream of time.” Is he in twentieth century London or some other past and future time? Or, as unfathomable as it might seem, two or even all three together? It is hard for poor Paul Tregardis to tell. In this and in many other Clark Ashton Smith tales, it is left to us as readers to fathom our own conclusions, as nebulous as they might be.Dreams, Nightmares, Hallucinations -Paul feels something very strange, as if he is under the influence of hashish. The walls begin to wobble as if they are made of smoke; all the men and women in the streets begin to appear as so many ghosts and shades; the whole scene takes on the cast of a vast phantasm. Is Paul dreaming or hallucinating? Could be. But many the time in a Clark Ashton Smith tale, a dream or vision quickly slides into an unending nightmare. Recall the author mined his own nightmares during protracted illnesses to fuel his fantasies and tales of horror. Transformation and Shifting Identity - In such a nightmare, what other evil or unforeseen event can happen? Answer: for Clark Ashton Smith, a character’s very identity can shift and change not only once but multiple times. “He seemed to live unnumbered lives, to die myriad deaths, forgetting each time the death and life that had gone before. He fought as a warrior in half-legendary battles; he was a child playing in the ruins of some olden city of Mhu Thulan; he was the king who had reigned when the city was in its prime, the prophet who had foretold its building and its doom. He became a barbarian of some troglodytic tribe, fleeing from the slow, turreted ice of a former glacial age into lands illumed by the ruddy flare of perpetual volcanoes. Then, after incomputable years, he was no longer man, but a man-like beast, roving in forests of giant fern and calamite, or building an uncouth nest in the boughs of mighty cycads." And not only can a man or woman, plant or beast change. The entire nature of the universe can compress itself into a grey, formless mass of slime with the name Ubbo-Sathla. Ah, Clark Ashton Smith, such an imagination, such an ability to communicate your psychedelic, phantasmagorical visions. MOTHER OF TOADSThis tale begins with Pierre, young apprentice of the village apothecary, making one of his journeys to the secluded hut of Mère Antoinette, a big ugly witch, for the purpose of returning with a mysterious brew for his master’s secret concoction. After giving Pierre what he came for, the witch beckons the lad to stay. We read his response: “Pierre tossed his head with the disdain of a young Adonis. The witch was more than twice his age, and her charms were too uncouth and unsavory to tempt him for an instant. She was repellently fat and lumpish, and her skin possessed an unwholesome pallor.”Let’s pause here and ask why do witches appear in so many Western fairy-tales? Robert Bly speaks of the tyranny of patriarchal monotheistic culture, where what is good and pure and divine is male and what comes from nature is negative, chaotic and destructive. And since women are so closely aligned with nature and fertility, their female nature is denied a place in the spiritual realm or godhead, however their energy and power does not go away; rather, it goes underground and later emerges as the witch.Since village rumors abound regarding the witch’s wickedness and her many toad-servants doing her evil bidding, we can also ask why the master sends young Pierre alone and unprotected to the witch’s hut in the first place. We read: “The old apothecary, whose humor was rough and ribald, had sometimes rallied Pierre concerning Mère Antoinette's preference for him. Remembering certain admonitory gibes, more witty than decent, the boy flushed angrily as he turned to go.” Does the older man have the best interests of the young man at heart? Robert Bly alludes to how the older generation of men in being too naïve themselves have betrayed younger men, causing those younger men to be, in turn, too naïve and gullible.So, after Pierre refuses her offer to stay, the witch proposes he drink a cup of her fine red wine. Pierre smells the odors of hot, delicious spices and tells the witch he will drink if the wine contains none of her concoctions. Of course, the witch assures him its sound, good wine that will warm his stomach. Did I mentioned naïve and gullible? Pierre drinks the wine. Big mistake. All of Pierre’s sense are radically transformed and distorted – the big, fat witch starts looking pretty good, after all. Do I hear echoes of how drinking can alter and dull our perceptions? Anyway, the deed is done – the witch gets to have a handsome, young lover for the night.Pierre wakes up sober, sees what has happened and runs away. But the evil witch possesses strange powers. Thousands of her toad-servants block his path and force him to return to the hut. The witch again proposes Pierre stay with her and drink of the wine. At this point, here is the exchange:"I will not drink your wine," he said firmly. "You are a foul witch, and I loathe you. Let me go.""Why do you loathe me?" croaked Mère Antoinette. "I can give you all that other women give ... and more.""You are not a woman," said Pierre. "You are a big toad. I saw you in your true shape this morning. I'd rather drown in the marsh-waters than stay with you again."Sorry, Pierre, it doesn’t sound like you are using your wits – when confronting powerful evil, you don’t win any points by being honest. Even as children Hansel and Gretel knew what is needed in dealing with a wicked witch is not honesty but cleverness. How does this tale end? You will have to pick up this outstanding collection and read for yourself.Here are a number of cover illustrations of tales from this Clark Ashton Smith collection:

  • Wilum Pugmire
    2018-09-25 08:21

    I'm reading it very slowly, and it is freaking FABULOUS. I love the Introduction, which is of great length because the Penguin editors felt that this would be a book that is the first-time experience with CAS for many readers. I love the Notes at the back of the book, with passages from letters by CAS and H. P. Lovecraft. I have been influenced as an author by this fiction, but I haven't really concentrated on it as I do with Lovecraft's excellent stories. I am doing very slow and careful readings with this book, reading some pages two or three times just to drink in the feel and flow of language. A common complaint about Clark Ashton Smith is his use of rare and difficult words, but so far I have encountered very few that are so incomprehensible that they stop my flow of reading and leave me baffled. S. T. was over last night and we did a YouTube vlog about the book. It was incredible, because during the recording S. T. read aloud Smith's poem in memory of H. P. Lovecraft, and Joshi got so moved by the poem that he began to softly weep! I felt the tears brimming in my eyes as well. But then -- woe o woe -- just as we were finishing the video, we LOST OUR INTERNET CONNECTION! Bah!! I could not figure out how to retrieve what we had recorded and the video was utterly lost! Oy oy oy! I was so upset I slept badly, kept waking up and cursing fate. S. T. will be over again this week-end, Saturday or Sunday (March 29th or 30th), not certain which, and we will try again to record a promotional video for the book on YouTube. He will again read ye poem--and this time I shall be certain to wear my strongest waterproof mascara!

  • Tristan
    2018-10-23 07:08

    "Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;I crown me with the million-colored sunOf secret worlds incredible, and takeTheir trailing skies for vestment when I soar,Throned on the mounting zenith, and illumeThe spaceward-flown horizons infinite."- Clark Ashton Smith, The Hashish Eater; or the Apocalypse of EvilFar too long neglected among American writers of the weird, Clark Ashton Smith has finally been granted a compilation of his best work by Penguin. The result is nothing short of revelatory. As can be deducted from my 'started' and 'finished' dates I took considerable time devouring this volume. This was intentional. Admittedly, Smith's prose style does tend to veer to the flowery side. It's rather dense in terms of the -sometimes obscure and archaic- vocabulary and references. He makes you work for it. In Smith's case however, I find it fits the subject matter perfectly well (Actually, for me it works better than Lovecraft's prose style, whose literary indulgences didn't always quite mesh with every tale of his). It lends to Smith's tales - a strange mix of old fantasy and cosmic horror- even more of an otherworldly, trance-inducing aspect. In short, reading it straight through can get mighty laborious, so I recommend tackling it at a measured pace. Primary attention has been given to the short stories, and with good reason. The City of the Singing Flame, The Vaults of Yo-Vombis, Genius Loci, The Dark Eidolon, The Weaver in the Vault, Xeethra, and the darkly comedic The Mother of Toads are simply sublime, pairing pure fantasy with pure terror to great effect. They're like nothing else in the field. Thankfully, Smith's prose poems and poetry are also given a generous treatment (although poetry doesn't sell, Penguin momentarily ignored financial considerations and allowed Joshi to include it). Personally, I prefer the former over the latter. Of all literary forms he practised, the prose poem might be the one he actually mastered. His talents are best represented there, I feel. S.T. Joshi's elucidating notes at the end are just the icing on the cake, making this particular edition indispensable to the library of the weird fiction aficionado.

  • Tara
    2018-09-24 09:26

    “I, throneless, hear the discords of the dark,And roar of ruin uncreate…” 4.5 stars. This collection of short stories, prose poems, and poetry was hauntingly majestic. I thoroughly enjoyed Clark Ashton Smith’s writing style and his elegant use of language (though I must admit that at times it was a bit too flowery for me). Smith’s imagination was incredible, and the works included in this collection are generally dark, eerie, sinister, and very fucking weird. In short: they are great fun! Some of my favorites include: The Devotee of Evil, The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis, Ubbo-Sathla, The Double Shadow, and The Treader of the Dust.I’d recommend that you read this exclusively at night, so as to obtain the proper atmosphere for these ghastly tales. Then you too might observe that “the walls quiver like a thin veil in the black breath of remote abysses.”Oh, and I’d like to add that Smith also provides the best current theory as to how life began on our planet (just kidding…or am I?!?): “There, in the grey beginning of Earth, the formless mass that was Ubbo-Sathla reposed amid the slime and the vapors. Headless, without organs or members, it sloughed from its oozy sides, in a slow, ceaseless wave, the amoebic forms that were the archetypes of earthly life. Horrible it was, if there had been aught to apprehend the horror…” Sounds about right.

  • Edward
    2018-10-22 03:27

    IntroductionSuggestions for Further ReadingA Note on the TextsShort Stories--The Tale of Satampra Zeiros--The Last Incantation--The Devotee of Evil--The Uncharted Isle--The Face by the River--The City of the Singing Flame--The Holiness of Azédarac--The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis--Ubbo-Sathla--The Double Shadow--The Maze of the Enchanter--Genius Loci--The Dark Eidolon--The Weaver in the Vault--Xeethra--The Treader of the Dust--Mother of Toads--PhoenixProse Poems--The Image of Bronze and the Image of Iron--The Memnons of the Night--The Demon, the Angel, and Beauty--The Corpse and the Skeleton--A Dream of Lethe--From the Crypts of Memory--Ennui--The Litany of the Seven Kisses--In Cocaigne--The Flower-Devil--The Shadows--The Passing of Aphrodite--To the Daemon--The Abomination of Desolation--The Mirror in the Hall of Ebony--The Touch-Stone--The Muse of HyperboreaPoetry--The Last Night--Ode to the Abyss--A Dream of Beauty--The Star-Treader--Retrospect and Forecast--Nero--To the Daemon Sublimity--Averted Malefice--The Eldritch Dark--Shadow of Nightmare--Satan Unrepentant--The Ghoul--Desire of Vastness--The Medusa of Despair--The Refuge of Beauty--The Harlot of the World--Memnon at Midnight--Love Malevolent--The Crucifixion of Eros--The Tears of Lilith--Requiescat in Pace--The Motes--The Hashish-Eater; or, The Apocalypse of Evil--A Psalm to the Best Beloved--The Witch with Eyes of Amber--We Shall Meet--On Re-reading Baudelaire--To George Sterling: A Valediction--Anterior Life--Hymn to Beauty--The Remorse of the Dead--Exorcism--Nyctalops--Outlanders--Song of the Necromancer--To Howard Phillips Lovecraft--Madrigal of Memory--The Old Water-Wheel--The Hill of Dionysus--If Winter Remain--Amithaine--CyclesExplanatory Notes

  • David
    2018-10-06 03:15

    I like CAS a lot, but this is perhaps too much of a good thing. Certainly by the time I reached the prose poems I was ready for a new author. I suspect this book will be most effective when dipped in and out of rather than read all at once.

  • Mattia Ravasi
    2018-10-23 06:00

    Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZeaF...Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2017A true master of horror, fantasy, science fiction - all the good things of life. ST Joshi does an excellent job with this edition, which includes the genesis story of each tale included, all good stuff if you are interested in tracing the Smith-Lovecraft bromance, which I totally am.

  • Ronald
    2018-10-23 05:21

    Clark Ashton Smith was one of the great triumvirate of Weird Tales, the other two being his friends H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.It seems that of the three, Clark Ashton Smith is the least well known. I'm been hoping for a Clark Ashton Smith revival, and this recently published book by Penguin might ignite it.The Introduction of this book is by S.T. Joshi, who made the editorial decision on the stories, poems, and "prose-poems" to reprint.The stories I've read before. The stories selected, it appears, is a sample of the different types of fiction that Clark Ashton Smith wrote--science fiction, adventure-fantasy, and supernatural horror. Most of the stories take place in the distant past, or even the far future, and take place in imaginary realms such as Hyperborea. This approach differed from that of his friend H.P. Lovecraft, and perhaps differs from most writers of the weird tale since.One the one hand, I would have liked to see more stories included, but I can understand that the editor might have had space constraints.What is new to me: the poetry, the "prose poems", and that Clark Ashton Smith painted. The cover of this book is one of Clark Ashton Smith's paintings. Joshi says that there was even an exhibit of Smith's paintings. I would have liked to see more of Smith's painting reproduced.The 1-2 page "prose poems" are not plot driven stories, but more like vignettes, mood pieces, parables. These prose poems have striking imagery--I still can recall them days after I've read these prose poems.A good amount of the poems are rhyming verse. Some poems are about an individual, such as his mentor, the poet George Sterling. Many poems have fantastical subject matter. The poem "The Hashish-Eater; Or, The Apocalypse of Evil" begins: Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;I crown me with the million-colored sunOf secret worlds incredible, and takeTheir trailing skies for vestment when I soar,Throned on the mounting zenith, and illumeThe spaceward-flown horizon infinite. I bow down before the emperor of dreams, Clark Ashton Smith.

  • Kip
    2018-10-06 05:10

    Not really a "review," as such, just a general impression about a book of which its very existence has tickled me silly since first reading of its conception on the CAS forums many moons ago. CAS in Penguin Classics! Who'd have thunk it?! Anyway, I'll give no intro to CAS... in this era of Wikipedia et al I see no point. Instead, I'm just going to say what's included, what works, what doesn't, and what my impressions are of the collection as a whole. Anyway, the book! It's surpassed my hopes. From the cover art to the introduction to the tales (best thing ST has penned on CAS imo), the prose-poems, and the poetry, all the way to the explanatory notes - the book is excellent. It's not perfect, of course, as I suspect that my tastes and agenda are somewhat different that ST Joshi's (the editor), but considering that I would have put ten or so tales ahead of some of the tales included in this collection - indeed, I think many will argue that The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies seems to be missing many of CAS' greatest tales - it is amazing how well these tales read again for a second (or so's) time. This collection has brought reanimated some tales that I had almost forgotten, having been initially outshone by other tales on first reading; here stories I merely considered "good" at the time are now alive and well within my imagination as they deserve to be. So, while my selected tales would have differed, I can only say that despite those disagreements this selection seems to work admirably. Okay, one or two of the stories selected slightly baffles me, especially things like 'The Face by the River,' which I can only assume was selected in an attempt to show off CAS' range and because it probably falls into the realm of a psychological ghost story (therefore satisfying the lit. crowd?), and 'Phoenix,' which I assume was only included for its overt cosmicism. As CAS readers will know, CAS' cosmicism is rarely found in any overt sense in his tales (in comparison to HP Lovecraft, at least), so I'm guessing this explains ST's inclusion of this satisfying, but, ultimately, mediocre piece. However, this is just a matter of taste, and some will no doubt make arguments for its inclusion. Obviously allowances have to be made, as Joshi's choice was further constrained by space, due to squeezing in a taster of CAS' poetic output too, and I feel this is where this collection really stands out over other collections... Much of CAS' prose reads like prose-poetry, so the inclusion of his poetry and prose-poems really makes sense, and the combined effect shows CAS at his best. Actually, my only criticism is I'd have liked to have seen the poetry and prose-poems included before the prose, but I can understand why the inverse order was decided upon. Kudos to Penguin for insisting upon the inclusion of CAS' longer poetry too. So, if you're a CAS fanatic then you've already got this, I assume. If you're a mere dabbler, then I guess it's the selection of stories and poetry that will make this selected works appeal or not. A lot of the tales, in their bastardized forms, can be found in other collections, so I suspect it will be the poetry that will appeal to those who have a CAS collection or two on their shelves. For the newbie, despite a slightly arguable selection of tales, I think this represents the best place to start, unless you have absolutely zero interest in CAS' poetry. If you simply just want a collection of CAS' best tales, then I might not recommend this, except I'm not sure there is an ideal (corrected texts) one volume starting place for CAS' stories in print at the moment. So, if in doubt, buy this or buy whichever volumes of the Collected Fantasies that are still in print while you can.

  • Andrew
    2018-10-16 05:14

    Clark Ashton Smith had the fortune to be writing his stories in an earlier time. Some of them are masterworks of Gothic creepiness, just weird, eerie things that dance around your mind for a while. Others make Lovecraft sound like Hemingway, have evil alien lord characters named Zogdor or some damn thing, and have plots that nowadays would come to the public as a movie called "Mummies on Mars 3-D." Maybe that was revolutionary 100 years ago, but now it's laughable. And a lot of Smith's verse-poetry has aged even more horribly, and lands firmly in the "definitely shops at Hot Topic" camp.

  • Philipp
    2018-09-29 06:01

    A good friend of H.P. Lovecraft, and it shows - both "universes" overlap a bit (the Necromonicon and Yog-Sothoth make an appearance here, for example), but Smith also came up with his own books. There are two differences: Smith vocabulary [1] is humongous compared to Lovecraft. Where everything "moves blasphemously" for Lovecraft, Smith does this:All the hideous things that had swarmed upon me beneath the cacophonous beating of those accursed gongs, drew near again for a moment; and I looked with fearful vertigo into hells of perversity and corruption. I saw an inverted soul, despairing of good, which longed for the baleful ecstasies of perdition. No longer did I think him merely mad: for I knew the thing which he sought and could attain; and I remembered, with a new significance, that line of Baudelaire's poem - "L'enfer dont mon coeur se plait."(which, by the way, is a misquote as the footnotes explain). Smith has a much better rhythm and feels much more natural to read, compared to Lovecraft who often feels clunky or forced. But, Smith just isn't as original in "worldbuilding" as Lovecraft - contrary to Lovecraft Smith's stories are often set in a relatively generic fantasy world in which some evil wizard does something evil (for added strangeness everybody's name starts with an X or a Z), stories that could have worked in One Thousand and One Nights, but feel weird and not very original coming from a relatively recent American author. I felt similar about the prose poems and the poems, but Smith's language makes it worth.However, Smith's overflow of adjectives and adverbs doesn't always work out:Xeethra plunged incontinently into the dark cave.Recommended for: Fans of Lovecraft, or those who love overflowing language[1] As a side: The German word "Wordschatz" is so much better than your "vocabulary". "Wordschatz" literally means "treasure of words", a much more apt description.

  • Benjamin
    2018-10-22 06:03

    It was near impossible to read Clark Ashton Smith without drawing parallels to H.P. Lovecraft. The two are nearly the same. But, with that said, I prefer the short stories of Clark Ashton much more. He, in many cases, has a much darker imagination. I found myself mind blown with stories such as Xeethra, The Face by the River, City of the Singing Flame, or The Double Shadow. These stories, while not entirely unlike your typical weird fiction, had more of a psychological edge to them, and as a result the horror I felt was much more compelling. Other stories were less hallucination inducing, but no less frightening. Themes in this collection are a odd mix of sci-fi and fantasy, all with a taste of dark suspense and horror. The Poetry was nothing too inspiring or altogether impressive, but I did particularly enjoy The Hashish Eater, The Tears of Lilith, and The Motes.Favorite short story? The Dark Eidolon, hands down.

  • Andrew Owen
    2018-10-01 02:09

    Within these pages lie unspeakable beasts of anthroprophagic inclinations, ancient vine chocked edifices of Hyperborean civilization lost in the sea of time, and the twisted abominations of cosmic maleficence all conspiring to remind humanity of its minuscule place in the universe. Containing some of Smith's best short stories, poetry, and prose, each showcasing his extraordinary language craft. What a discovery!

  • Dxarmbar06
    2018-10-07 04:12

    The literary caliber of this volume is off the charts! This guy taught me new words! Here is a master whose command of the English language is worthy of song. NOT FOR PLEBS!

  • Charlie
    2018-10-04 08:19

    This is a book I read rather slowly. I enjoyed each story and poem and if I was tired or something I would stop and come back to it later. I really enjoyed it and wanted to 'savor" it. Clark Ashton Smith is an amazing writer. His imagery is profound. I loved that this book also had a selection of his poetry as it is on par and equal to his fiction. Although I am not as big on the more "fantasy" themed stories as I would have been in my teenage years, they still are well written enough and have enough menace about them to hold my interest. Highly Recommended.

  • Norman Felchle
    2018-10-22 05:05

    Good dark imaginative stuff. Incredibly visual descriptions.The downside is a little racial subject matter that doesn't fit with a more enlightened time.But, there's not much of that...and it's just minor stuff in passing.

  • Bob Rust
    2018-10-02 03:23

    Introduction (The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies) • (2014) • essay by S. T. JoshiThe Tale of Satampra Zeiros • [Satampra Zeiros] • (1931) • shortstory The Last Incantation • [Malygris] • (1930) • shortstoryThe Devotee of Evil • (1933) • shortstory The Uncharted Isle • (1930) • shortstory The Face by the River • (2004) • shortstoryThe City of the Singing Flame • (1940) • novelette The Holiness of Azedarac • [Averoigne] • (1933) • novelette The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis • [Mars] • (1932) • novelette Ubbo-Sathla • [Hyperborea] • (1933) • shortstory The Double Shadow • [Poseidonis] • (1933) • shortstory The Maze of the Enchanter • [Maal Dweb] • (1933) • shortstory Genius Loci • (1933) • shortstory The Dark Eidolon • [Zothique] • (1935) • novelette The Weaver in the Vault • [Zothique] • (1934) • shortstory Xeethra • [Zothique] • (1934) • novelette The Treader of the Dust • (1935) • shortstoryMother of Toads • [Averoigne] • (1938) • shortstory Phoenix • (1954) • shortstory The Image of Bronze and the Image of Iron • (1965) • poem The Memnons of the Night • (1917) • poemThe Demon, the Angel, and Beauty • (1922) • poemThe Corpse and the Skeleton • (1965) • poem A Dream of Lethe • (1922) • poem Ennui • (1918) • poem The Litany of the Seven Kisses • (1922) • poem In Cocaigne • (1922) • poem The Flower Devil • (1922) • poemThe Shadows • (1922) • poem The Passing of Aphrodite • [Prose Pastels] • (1934) • poem To the Daemon • [Prose Pastels] • (1943) • poem The Abomination of Desolation • (1938) • poemThe Mirror in the Hall of Ebony • [Prose Pastels] • (1934) • poemThe Touch-Stone • (1929) • poem The Muse of Hyperborea • [Prose Pastels] • (1934) • poemThe Last Night • (1912) • poem Ode to the Abyss • (1912) • poemA Dream of Beauty • (1911) • poem The Star-Treader • (1912) • poem Retrospect and Forecast • (1912) • poem Nero • (1912) • poem hTo the Daemon Sublimity • (1961) • poem Averted Malefice • (1912) • poem The Eldritch Dark • (1912) • poem Shadow of a Nightmare • (1912) • poem Satan Unrepentant • (1918) • poem The Ghoul • poem Desire of Vastness • (1922) • poem The Medusa of Despair • (1913) • poemThe Refuge of Beauty • (1918) • poem The Harlot of the World • (1915) • poem Memnon at Midnight • (1918) • poem Love Malevolent • (1922) • poem The Crucifixion of Eros • (1918) • poem The Tears of Lilith • (1922) • poem Requiescat in Pace • (1920) • poemThe Motes • (1922) • poem The Hashish-Eater: or, The Apocalypse of Evil • (1922) • poem A Psalm to the Best Beloved • (1922) • poem The Witch with Eyes of Amber • (1923) • poem We Shall Meet • (1923) • poem On Re-reading Baudelaire • (1971) • poem To George Sterling: A Validation • poem Anterior Life • poem Hymn to Beauty • poem The Remorse of the Dead • poem Exorcism • (1971) • poem Nyctalops • (1929) • poem Outlanders • (1937) • poem Song of the Necromancer • (1937) • poem To Howard Philips Lovecraft • poem Madrigal of Memory • (1942) • poem The Old Wheel-Whell • poem The Hill of Dionysus • (1961) • poemIf Winter Remain • (1971) • poem Amithaine • (1951) • poem Cycles • (1963) • poemExplanatory Notes (The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies) • essay by S. T. Joshi

  • Raymond
    2018-10-22 08:22

    Three stars in sum. Some stories in here are five stars, others are not, and when it comes to the poetry I'm too illiterate to give it any fair assessment so I'll simply disregard that part. H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard were my gateway drugs to CAS. While I don't think CAS reaches quite their level, it is interesting to see how much of an influence he had on particularly the former. Several of the supernatural elements in CAS's work also appear in Lovecraft's writing, who borrowed them from CAS and not vice versa. Their writing style is also quite similar at times, though CAS is clearly the better writer when it comes to language, pacing and structure. What Lovecraft lacks in those areas he makes up for with zest and vision however, while CAS's work suffers from flat characterizations and predictable plots. The longest work in this collection, Dark Eidolon, is also the most predictable. My personal favourite was The Mother of Toads, where CAS goes into some truly bizarre territory and is better off for it, followed closely by Genus Loci, which is the best example of CAS's strange fascination with magical, alluring pits that make people throw themselves in - a running theme I found amusing.

  • TOM
    2018-10-17 06:11

    Normally it would take me a couple of days to read a book this length, but for various reasons I've been reading this on and off for a couple of weeks. It needs time to absorb the fantastically rich and opulent purpureal prose. Clark Ashton Smith writes wonderfully, his imagination is wild, untamed and he revels in the bizarre and fantastic - the miasma of his diction clusters and saturates the page. He was a champion of unknown and rarely used words, and this enhances the sheer strangeness and esoteric theme of many of the stories. The book abounds in strange and exotic flora and fauna, forgotten tombs, strange worlds, explorations into space, discoveries of time travelling, witches, mummies, black magic and the occult arts. In short, it's FABULOUS, and as a whole an incredibly rich collection of work.The book is split into three sections: short stories, prose poems, poetry and I feel as been carefully selected to represent a real range of his writing and output. Immensely enjoyable, an absolute must for any Lovecraft fans or enthusiasts of weird fiction. Highly highly recommended!*book received as a Christmas gift from my brother.

  • Xandri Fiori
    2018-10-04 04:28

    Clark Ashton Smith focuses on the phenomena of metaphysical evil that horrifies by incoherence. Itismerely an intellectual's "horror" for that reason though. Each story purposefully leads context and background ambiguous, (other then a few anecdotes about sorcery). The style of narration itself always adds an element of the macabre with its cool-headed, verbose narrators slowly beginning to question their fates, worlds, or perceptions until the narrative trickles out in an horrified and inconclusive way.The main reason I read this and my greatest impression regarding it was his style. There's a compelling mixture of elegance and darkness. The most obvious weakness is he never sacrifices his dry, certainly bookish style for the faster pacing necessary for suspense.Anyway, glad this is a Penguin Classic, I don't think I'd have run into him any other way.

  • Timothy
    2018-10-14 03:03

    Clark Ashton Smith is the writer I believe I would have loved at age sixteen, but did not have a chance to even try until a decade later, when I began acquiring books with his stories in them.Too late for love, by then. My sensibility had changed. I only occasionally read fantasy after I turned 26, and never again with the same effect. I had been ruined. Not merely by other genres, but by the corrosive irony of James Branch Cabell. New loves for old.But perhaps I can tread old grounds with a careful step. Or new grounds in an old manner, as if young. Now I am going to give Clark Ashton Smith a try. A complete immersion. A whole collection of tales without wandering off to other writers' works. I begin....

  • allen
    2018-09-23 08:10

    I liked his prose-poetry, the rest wasn't as strong.

  • Clark Hays
    2018-10-12 04:11

    “Madness … of a most uncommon and picturesque variety.”Clark Ashton Smith (1893 –1961) was a poet, sculptor, painter and author, writing an impressive array of fantasy, horror and science fiction short stories across about a ten year period. Along with his friend H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Smith was a frequent contributor to Weird Tales, and between the three of them, they spawned the “golden age” of horror and science fiction writing that came to define the genre. Smith seems to have fallen a little farther out of favor than Lovecraft and Howard, and I’m not sure why — he was clearly plugged into some “dark vibration,” bathed in “the radiation of a black sun,” and powered by cosmic currents of horror and dread.The Dark Eidolon is a compendium of his short stories and fantasy poems, and the fiction, especially, is tremendous, and a little unsettling. The stories, trailblazing in their day and still powerful, feature insane wizards in purpureal robes casting fiery spells of eldritch enchantment on clueless interlopers, and ancient, vengeful gods — nacarat eyes blazing — hurtling across the stygian depths of space and time to consume continents, and the ghosts of ancient civilizations crawling up out of the depths of swampy hells to snatch luckless blunderers, and Martian brain-eating parasites that turn teeth and bones mossy and hungry shadows that slowly stalk victims until they are consumed by a faceless madness, and of course, toad-faced barbarian demons hopping through rivers of blood. He is a consummate world builder, with carefully constructed gods and books and rituals and structures: “Wall on beetling wall, and spire on giant spire, it soared to confront the heavens, maintaining everywhere the severe and solemn lines of a wholly rectilinear architecture ... As I viewed this city, I forgot my initial sense of bewildering loss and alienage, in an awe with which something of actual terror was mingled; and, at the same time, I felt an obscure but profound allurement, the cryptic emanation of some enslaving spell.”His writing style and word choices are effortlessly archaic, making them also timeless, lulling readers to stumble along with his characters toward some gathering doom:“I too felt, as before, the captious thralldom and bewitchment, the insidious, gradual perversion of thought and instinct, as if the music were working in my brain like a subtle alkaloid.” And, “The palace was full of unknown perfumes, languorous and somnolent: a subtle reek as of censers in hidden alcoves of love.”I especially enjoyed the western flair in some of the stories. Apparently, he lived in a rural part of California and managed to dredge horrors from a landscape I’m familiar with — creating a haunted and willow-choked slew hungry for souls, basically a marshy vampire, and locating a trans-dimensional portal (actually a siren call for some sort of self-immolating intergalactic funeral pyre) on a desolate hillside not far from Donner’s Pass. Here are a few more of many memorable lines:“Not without revulsion did I drink wine that was poured by cadavers, and eat bread that was purveyed by phantoms.” “His lips were like a pale red seal on a shut parchment of doom.”As I sleepily read the stories late into the night across several weeks, I tried to puzzle out why I — and so many other readers — enjoy and respond so strongly to stories of terror and dissolution and doom. I decided that, at least for me, fear may be the shortest road to enlightenment. Confronting dread on a cosmic scale is a painless reminder that life, even though it can seem mundane, is desperately worth fighting for, especially when phantasms are trying to rend flesh from bone. And, almost as important, the stories remind us that there are currents of dark mystery and uncertainty lurking just below the surface of our apathetic world. And in that cold and endless void of terror, “…another king, more or less, is small matter...”

  • Flavia Deirdre
    2018-10-07 09:14

    The book contains short stories, prose poems, and poetry. It is a volume full of beauty, wonder, and language. Clark Ashton Smith's writings are wine for the imagination. After finishing his stories, I found myself very often daydreaming about the lost, enchanted universes he wrote about. I could hardly return to the daily routine after biting from the forbidden fruit of imagination, which is even more perilous than the fruit of knowledge(I am thinking about the story of Xeethra now, which is my absolute favourite). I also enjoyed the prose poems and some pieces of his poetry. Not all the writings collected in this book are my favourites (which is why I didn't rate this book with 5 stars), but I feel very delighted with the fact that I could read them and discover the visionary writer that Clark Ashton Smith was. The language is simply alluring; his writings aroused my imagination and awakened ideas that are not going to ever fall asleep again.

  • Jeremiah
    2018-10-11 03:23

    This is a wonderful sampling of Clark Ashton Smith. His contribution to weird fiction is one that helps to elevate the wizardry of language. His words are woven with all of the meticulous power of ancient alchemy and draw the reader into worlds that never were and probably will never be, all while making you believe in their possibility.The true value of this edition is the explanatory notes by S.T. Joshi and the inclusion of Prose Poems and Poetry that complement the authors enchanting tales. That being said, this book is enough to whet the appetite of one for Smith's writing but it will not satisfy it. Further reading is required to delve into the many worlds that he filled with more stories than are contained here. That is why I am also reading The Ultimate Weird Tales Collection-133 stories-Clark Ashton Smith.

  • Phinehas
    2018-10-23 08:13

    As entertaining as the short stories are, for me it was the prose poems that were the real revelation. The verse poems included at the end of this volume were okay, but written in a faux archaic idiom that was a little hard to get into. The exception here is the long epic poem “The Hashish Eater; or, The Apocalypse of Evil”, which ruled. Hard.

  • Sam Moss
    2018-10-05 08:17

    The volume and commentary are really nice. The bottom line is that the stories have not aged terribly well. As far as the short stories go Xeethra was the only one that I felt had real impact the prose poems and poetry were well done.

  • Phil
    2018-10-18 05:01

    There are a few interesting stories here, whereas I found most of the poetry to be incomprehensible. I did like the prose poetry. This is worth a read as much to understand the influence CAS had on authors who followed in his wake.

  • Thaddeus Austin
    2018-10-10 05:02

    As a longtime fan of HP Lovecraft, but having been disappointed many times by spin-off fiction in the Cthulhu genre, I picked this up without too high a set of expectations. This book is actually quite wonderful -- the stories are creative, well written, and even scary. Thoroughly enjoyable.