Friday, January 13, 2012

The Emperor of Dreams

Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams:
I crown me with the million-colored sun
Of secret worlds incredible, and take
Their trailing skies for vestment, when I soar,
Throned on the mounting zenith, and illume
The spaceward-flown horizons infinite.
Today is the birthday of one of my favorite fantasists and writers, Clark Ashton Smith, born in 1893 in Long Valley, California. In lieu of of my usual Open Friday question, I'm instead making this post to remind everyone of the occasion and to encourage you to read something by the Bard of Auburn to celebrate it. I'll be re-reading "The Empire of the Necromancers," as has become my tradition over these last few years.


  1. For anyone having trouble finding actual books of his, University of Nebraska Press has two compilations of his work. Your local bookseller should be able to order them, or you can do so yourself at the following links:,673105.aspx,673106.aspx

  2. I actually rather prefer CAS to Lovecraft when it comes to weird fantasy/horror. I have always liked his writing style more. I am particularly fond of the Zothique cycle.

  3. Amazon has a Kindle book for $1.00 called "Short Stories of Clark Ashton Smith".

    * The Ghost of Mohammed Din (1910)
    * The Mahout (1911)
    * Prince Alcouz and the Magician (1910-12)
    * The Raja and the Tiger (1912)
    * The Flirt (1921)
    * Something New (1924),
    * The Maker of Gargoyles (1932)
    * The Empire of the Necromancers (1932)
    * The Planet of the Dead (1932)
    * The Demon of the Flower (1933) December 1933
    * The Double Shadow (1933)
    * The Isle of the Torturers (1933)
    * The Chain of Aforgomon (1935)
    * The Garden of Adompha (1938)

    Can't beat that for $1.00! BTW, I read "The Empire of the Necromancers". Meh.

  4. Most of his stories are free online here:

  5. Hear, hear! I'll have to crack open one of my Nightshade "Collected Fantasies" volumes and read a story at random. "Empire of the Necromancers" is a favorite of mine as well. Thanks for keeping CAS relevant here at Grognardia!

  6. What a great idea for a post and an amazing photo!

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  8. I just started reading CAS and I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience. The compilations mentioned in the first comment are also available from Amazon (haven't done a price comparison, but they are eligible for Super-saver Shipping.)

    There's also Return of the Necromancer - The Best of Clark Ashton Smith.

  9. CAS is among my favorite authors. His tales have influenced my D&D adventures more than any other, including Howard. "The Black Abbot of Puthuum" is my #1, but it's a closely contested field. Now I need to figure out a suitably dismal way to celebrate.

  10. Great writer, great stories. Zothique and Hyberborea played a huge influence on my gaming.

  11. Someone mentioned The Eldritch Dark. That is a great site.

    Quick link to complete, free, legal online text of The Empire of the Necromancers HERE.

    Odd story: CAS is known as "The Bard of Auburn" because he wrote in Auburn, California for most (all?) of his life. I spent most of my adolescence about 45 minutes drive from Auburn, yet I just discovered Clark Ashton Smith with the OSR less than a year ago! And this from someone whose favorite specialist wizard and sorcerous archetype has always been the necromancer.

  12. CAS is one of my favs after HPL. God bless, Arkham Press. The classic _Colossus of Ylourgne_ is, well, classic and bears repeated readings. As does _The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan_.

    Really, pick up an anthology and go to town. You'll learn all sorts of new words INVENTED BY THE AUTHOR. :-)

  13. Hey guys,

    This is really a great blog. I discovered Robert Howard, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Edgar Rice Burroughs through it. I'm reading through compilations of each one's work that I got from Amazon on my Kindle for less than two bucks apiece.

  14. Always a favorite of mine, perhaps especially because i lived in Auburn myself one summer. There's a small collection in the local library but there was a special synchronicity to discovering a collection of his work (probably The City of the Singing Flame) in a local used bookstore back then. The imagination that conjured such worlds out of the dry Sierra Nevada foothills defies belief.

  15. I prefer Smith to Howard or even Lovecraft, partly I think because (like Dunsany before him and Vance after) he had a sense of humour - of the heavily ironic, gallows variety - that leavens much of his weird fiction. My favourites are "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" and "The Seven Geases" but a friend recently alerted me to the existence of Smith's short Zothique-set play "The Dead Will Cuckold You". Titles simply don't get better than that. In its own odd and disturbing way, it's charming. Find it here:

  16. The Charnel God was one of the first stories of CAS's I encountered. It's still disturbing each time I reread it.

  17. I've been reading a lot of CAS over the past six months, and have enjoyed his tales immensely. I think that I've read all his Hyperborea, Poseidonis, Averoigne, and Zothique stories.

    As ClawCarver notes, CAS has a sense of humour and whimsey that many of his peers lacked, or did not possess in equal measure. CAS's influence on Vance is clear to me now.

    Thanks to Gronardia for keeping the eldritch flame of CAS's fiction effulgent!

  18. Ha! Just read Empire of the Necromancers for the first time last week! Smith is quickly becoming my favorite author of all time!
    ; )

  19. dude you always find the best photos of these guys.

  20. What's interesting too about CAS is that he was very much part of the Bohemian culture of turn of the century San Francisco and knew guys ranging from Ambrose Bierce to Anton LaVery. From reading his poem " The Hashish Eater," it seems he might of spent a "bit of time" in the opium dens of Chinatown.

  21. Smith never met Ambrose Bierce, although Bierce had read and complimented Smith's poem "Ode to the Abyss." Smith also denied ever using hashish, but he did frequent Auburn's own Chinese district (which was quite close to Old Auburn).
    FYI, all five volumes of Night Shade Books' Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith are available as eBooks from Baen. The Eldritch Dark texts were all transcribed by volunteers, so the resulting accuracy is somewhat hit or miss.

  22. @Scott

    Thanks for the note about the Baen ebooks. I did not know that those had been released that way (the paper copies are very hard to find and expensive).

  23. @ Scott

    You sure about that? He hung out with George Sterling, who knew Bierce and was quite found of the pipe. I'm not saying CAS was an addict but i would be shocked if he didn't indulge at least once.