Clark Ashton Smith (1893–1961)
From American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps
Clark Ashton Smith had two publishing careers. In 1912, when he was only nineteen, his debut collection of poetry appeared to wide acclaim, with references in the press to “The Boy Genius of the Sierras,” “The Keats of the Pacific Coast,” and “The Last of the Great Romantics.” He published two more volumes of poetry during the next decade.
For most of the 1920s, Smith published little, but then became an immensely popular writer for pulp magazines during the first half of the Depression, when he wrote over one hundred horror and science fiction stories. And then, after six years of writing fiction, he turned to sculpture.
“Genius Loci” is a bit of an outlier among Smith’s tales. Although it has a pronounced supernatural element, and it’s certainly creepy, its subdued terror isn’t what usually appeared in the pulps, and he thought (wrongly) that no magazine would take it. We present it in full as this week’s Story of the Week selection for Halloween.
Image, above: “Dreamland,” undated pen and ink drawing by Clark Ashton Smith inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Dream-Land.” Photographed by Henry J. Vester, image courtesy of the Eldritch Dark website.