Saturday, 26 December 2009
Having previously read the Clark Ashton Smith volume in the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks series, Emperor Of Dreams, I've finally started collecting the 5-volume edition of his complete fantasy tales from Night Shade. Volume One, The End Of The Story, arrived the day before Christmas, in a rather rare display of brilliant timing by postal and courier services of various nations.
What a treat this book is. From the gorgeous, wonderfully appropriate cover art, which incorporates a portrait of the author in a weird setting to the story notes, which include pertinent excerpts from Smith's letters, at least one memorable fan letter and Lovecraft's always sympathetic and sometimes downright gushing letters regarding many of these tales to the stories themselves - presented apparently in painstakingly restored texts that undo the various excisions made in earlier publications, this is a remarkable tribute to the man who, word for word, was the finest stylist in his field, matched only by Jack Vance and (at times) Fritz Leiber, in my opinion. Even the introduction by Ramsey Campbell is perceptive and even useful in picking out the high points in the development of Smith's craft, rather than being a mere encomium as sometimes happens in such cases.
It's interesting seeing the progression of his works from pure dream-visions and nightmare-fables to attempts at more conventional fare (such as 'The Phantoms Of The Fire', which reminded me of Bierce) and the gradual maturing of his vision into a mode that could deliver a more sustained narrative while keeping imagery and language at the delirium-inducing fever pitch that defines Smith's prose at its finest. It's also interesting to see certain recurring themes emerge, as happens in any single-author short story collection. In this case, a theme of lost love seems to find its way into more than one story, complementing the subtle but effective dark eroticism that Smith was perhaps unique for among the Weird Tales writers.
I am already more than halfway through this volume and my book-buying priority for the next few months is going to be the acquisition of the remaining volumes in this set.
Posted by JP at 18:39