I saw something that bothered me the other day. A professional writer whom I admire said something to the effect that Clark Ashton Smith was a bad writer, but he had a great imagination. If writing is defined by the post-Hemingway mainstream, then yes, Clark Ashton Smith was wordy, obtuse and fruit-cake rich. But if you get past the over-poetic language (in some but not all stories), Smith has more going on than most Pulp writers and any mainstream writer when it comes to creating an aura of cosmic horror and weird beauty. In this sense, he is a good writer. H. P. Lovecraft selected him alone of new writers for his essay, “The Supernatural Horror in Literature,” saying, “Of younger Americans, none strikes the note of cosmic horror so well as the California poet, artist and fictionist Clark Ashton Smith, whose bizarre writing, drawings, paintings, and stories are the delight of a sensitive few.” Writers who have acknowledged a debt to Smith include Harlan Ellison and Jack Vance, both accomplished stylists.
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