Clark Ashton Smith (January 13, 1893-August 14, 1961) was a poet, sculptor, painter and author of fantasy, horror and science fiction short stories. It is for these stories, and his literary friendship with H. P. Lovecraft from 1922 until Lovecraft's death in 1937, that he is mainly remembered today. With Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, also a friend and correspondent, Smith remains one of the most famous contributors to the pulp magazine Weird Tales.
Visit The Eldritch Dark, a website dedicated to Clark Ashton Smith and his work. Early life and education
Smith spent most of his life in the small town of Auburn, California, living in a small cabin with his parents, Fanny and Timeus Smith. His formal education was limited: he attended only eight years of grammar school and never went to high school. However, he continued to teach himself after he left school, learning French and Spanish, and his near-photographic memory allowed him to retain prodigious amounts from his very wide reading, including several entire dictionaries and encyclopedias.
Early writing and influences
Smith began writing stories at the age of eleven and two of them, The Sword of Zagan and The Black Diamonds, have recently been published by Hippocampus Press. Both stories use a medieval, Arabian Nights-like setting, and the Arabian Nights, like the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, are known to have strongly influenced Smith's early writing.
In his later youth Smith became the protégé of the San Francisco poet George Sterling, who helped him to publish his first volume of poems, The Star-Treader and Other Poems, at the age of nineteen. The Star-Treader was received very favorably by American critics, one of whom named Smith "the Keats of the Pacific." Smith made the acquaintance of Sterling through a member of the local Auburn Monday Night Club, where he read several of his poems with considerable success. The publication of Ebony and Crystal in 1922 was followed by a fan letter from H. P. Lovecraft, which was the beginning of fifteen years of friendship and correspondence.
Work and marriage
Smith was poor for most of his life and was often forced to take menial jobs such as fruitpicking and woodcutting in order to support himself and his parents. Following the death of his parents, he married Carol Jones Dorman on 10 November 1954 and moved to Pacific Grove, California, where he set up a household with their children.
Health and death
Smith suffered from eye problems throughout his life. He died in his sleep on August 14th 1961.