Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back in Black (Gate) and reading Clark Ashton Smith

Well, I made it back more or less intact from vacation. All that's changed is I'm a little bit tanner and my beer gut has grown a little more expansive. Nothing that a little office life and salad consumption won't fix.

Oh yeah, and I'm now going to be contributing bi-weekly posts to Black Gate blog, the online home of Black Gate magazine. It's a fine outfit that publishes fantasy fiction, reviews, role-playing game articles, and more. I welcome the chance to write for Black Gate, which is quite simliar to the now closed The Cimmerian website. It's got a great group of writers and while the main focus of the blog is fantasy literature, it branches out to include movies, horror, RPGs, and more. In other words, right up my alley.

You can read my first post up now. It's about my first experience reading a Clark Ashton Smith anthology, the recently-released The Return of the Sorcerer. Yeah, I'm not too proud of the fact that I've gone this long without reading a dedicated Smith collection, but now that I've delved into its dark waters, you can bet I'll be seeking out Smith again and again. I hope you like it.


Confession: I am a fan of pulp fantasy who has, until recently, read very little Clark Ashton Smith. Yes, the man who comprises one of the equilateral sides of the immortal Weird Tales triangle has largely eluded me, save for a few scattered tales and poems I’ve encountered in sundry anthologies and websites.

This past week that all I changed when I cracked the cover of The Return of the Sorcerer: The Best of Clark Ashton Smith (2009, Prime Books). As I read the introduction by legendary fantasy author Gene Wolfe I knew I was in for something special: Not only was Wolfe singing Clarke’s praises (“No one imitates Smith: There could be only one writer of Clark Ashton Smith stories, and we have had him”), but he ended with this declaration:

“Earlier I wrote that Smith had come—and gone. That he had been ours only briefly, and now was ours no longer. That is so for me and for many others. If you have yet to read him, it is not so for you. For you solely he is about to live again, whispering of the road between the atoms and the path into far stars.”

The stories that followed did just that. Smith came alive for me, and I find myself a changed man. I have trekked on distant planets, seen alien beings beyond my conception, and peered wide-eyed over the shoulders of reckless sorcerers reading from musty tomes of lore that should not be opened. I have witnessed wonders and horrors beyond the knowledge of mankind. It was a wonderful experience. Though they comprise only a small part of his body of work, the stories of The Return of the Sorcerer reveal Smith as a man of staggering imagination, considerable poetic skill, and surprising literary depth.

To read the rest of this post, visit the Black Gate website:


Lagomorph Rex said...

I was extremely glad when that Book came out.. it was nice to be able to walk into any borders or B&N and get a CAS book. I've not really read a whole lot of his stuff.. I've only got two of the four volumes of his stuff from the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series and then this book.

I would have loved to have gotten the "Complete works" that I think it was Nightshade had put out.. but I just couldn't swing it.

Glad you have found a home for your columns. Hopefully you will take us on another adventure like Silimarillion Re-Read..

Alex Schroeder said...

I just got this book in the mail yesterday. Looking forward even more, now!

Trey said...

I'm a big Smith fan. Glad to hear his work was able to win you over.

Brian Murphy said...

Lagomorph: Yes, I should have mentioned that... part of the reason I never read CAS was his lack of accessibility. The Return of the Sorcerer is nice because it puts a great collection out for the wider public, and it only cost me $14.95 in trade paperback. I know that there is a great hardcover collection of his entire body of work available too, but I believe it's small-press and the volumes are a bit expensive.

Alex: It's good stuff. Some of the stories have a definite Lovecraft influence, but every one is uniquely Smith's.

Trey: Yes, I'm just ashamed that it took me this long!

Lagomorph Rex said...

It was a 4 or 5 volume set that Nightshade put out.. I want to say that the books were about 40$ each brand new..

Which is pretty extravagant for me.. but the real thing that kept me from doing it anyway was that they didn't release them all at one time.. so by the time I found out about it Volume 1 was sold out and going for double or triple price and I wasn't going to buy any of the others if I didn't have #1

Small presses are both good and bad, they get stuff back into print and in a high quality package.. but they often do so with the understanding that "Collectible-ness" is an important factor.. rather than reaching the larger numbers of readers. For instance had Del Rey not opted to publish the Wandering Star REH stories in paperback, i never would have read any of his stuff as he originally wrote it.. I'd have been left with nothing but old Ace paperbacks from goodwill.

David J. West said...

I'll have to look for this since all I have of CAS at present is a dogeared copy of City of the Singing Flame, has some good tales though.

Eric D. Lehman said...

Yet another book for my reading list. Slow down, Brian! :)

Eric D. Lehman said...
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