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A Note on the Texts

Clark Ashton Smith considered himself primarily as a poet and artist, but he began his publishing career with a series of Oriental contes cruels that were published in such magazines as the Overland Monthly and the Black Cat. He ceased the writing of short stories for many years, but, under the influence of his correspondent H. P. Lovecraft, he began experimenting with the weird tale when he wrote “The Abominations of Yondo” in 1925. His friend Genevieve K. Sully suggested that writing for the pulps would be a reasonably congenial way for him to earn enough money to support himself and his parents.

Between the years 1930 and 1935, the name of Clark Ashton Smith appeared on the contents page of Weird Tales no fewer than fifty-three times, leaving his closest competitors, Robert E. Howard, Seabury Quinn, and August W. Derleth, in the dust, with forty-six, thirty-three and thirty stories, respectively. This prodigious output did not come at the price of sloppy composition, but was distinguished by its richness of imagination and expression. Smith put the same effort into one of his stories that he did into a bejeweled and gorgeous sonnet. Donald Sidney-Fryer has described Smith’s method of composition in his 1978 bio-bibliography Emperor of Dreams (Donald M. Grant, West Kingston, R.I.) thus:

First he would sketch the plot in longhand on some piece of note-paper, or in his notebook, The Black Book, which Smith used circa 1929-1961. He would then write the first draft, usually in longhand but occasionally directly on the typewriter. He would then rewrite the story 3 or 4 times (Smith’s own estimate); this he usually did directly on the typewriter. Also, he would subject each draft to considerable alteration and correction in longhand, taking the ms. with him on a stroll and reading aloud to himself […](p. 19).

Unlike Lovecraft, who would refuse to allow publication of his stories without assurances that they would be printed without editorial alteration, Clark Ashton Smith would revise a tale if it would ensure acceptance. Smith was not any less devoted to his art than his friend, but unlike HPL he had to consider his responsibilities in caring for his elderly and infirm parents. He tolerated these changes to his carefully crafted short stories with varying degrees of resentment, and vowed that if he ever had the opportunity to collect them between hard covers he would restore the excised text. Unfortunately, he experienced severe eyestrain during the preparation of his first Arkham House collections, so he provided magazine tear sheets to August Derleth for his secretary to use in the preparation of a manuscript.

Lin Carter was the first of Smith’s editors to attempt to provide the reader with pure Smith, but the efforts of Steve Behrends and Mark Michaud have revealed the extent to which Smith’s prose was compromised. Through their series of pamphlets, the Unexpurgated Clark Ashton Smith, the reader and critic could see precisely the severity of these compromises.

In establishing what the editors believe to be what Smith would have preferred, we were fortunate in having access to several repositories of Smith’s manuscripts, most notably the Clark Ashton Smith Papers deposited at the John Hay Library of Brown University, but also including the Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley, Special Collections of Brigham Young University, the California State Library, and several private collections. Priority was given to the latest known typescript except where Smith indicated that he had been forced to make changes to satisfy editorial requirements. In these instances we compared the last version that satisfied Smith with the version sold. Changes made include the restoration of deleted material, except only in those instances where the change of a word or phrase seems consistent with an attempt by Smith to improve the story, as opposed to the change of a word or phrase to a less Latinate, and less graceful, near-equivalent. This represents a hybrid or fusion of two competing versions, but it is the only way that we see that Smith’s intentions as author may be honored.

Three of Smith’s earliest stories (“Sadastor,” “The Ninth Skeleton,” and “The End of the Story”) only exist in first draft holograph manuscripts. In these instances we compared the first appearances in Weird Tales with the texts from copies of Out of Space and Time and Genius Loci and Other Tales that Smith had corrected by hand, consulting the holograph manuscripts to determine the accuracy of a particular word usage.

Smith published six stories himself in a 1933 pamphlet, The Double Shadow and Other Fantasies, but later revised some of these for sale to Esquire (unsuccessfully) and Weird Tales (successfully) in the late 1930s. In these instances we use the version published by Smith himself.

We have also attempted to rationalize Smith’s spellings and hyphenation practices. Smith used British spellings early in his career but gradually switched to American usage. He could also vary spelling of certain words from story to story, e.g., “eerie” and “eery.” We have generally standardized on his later usage, except for certain distinct word choices such as “grey.” In doing so we have deviated from the “style sheet” prepared by the late Jim Turner for his 1988 omnibus collection for Arkham House, A Rendezvous in Averoigne. Turner did not have access to such a wonderful scholarly tool as Boyd Pearson’s website, By combining its extremely useful search engine with consultation of Smith’s actual manuscripts and typescripts, as well as seeing how he spelled a particular word in a poem or letter, the editors believe that they have reflected accurately Smith’s idiosyncracies of expression.

We regret that we cannot present a totally authoritative text for Smith’s stories. Such typescripts do not exist. All that we can do is to apply our knowledge of Smith to the existing manuscripts and attempt to combine them to present what Smith would have preferred to publish were he not beset by varying degrees of editorial malfeasance in varying degrees. In doing so we hope to present Smith’s words in their purest form to date so that the reader might experience what Ray Bradbury described in his foreword to A Rendezvous in Averoigne: “Take one step across the threshold of his stories, and you plunge into color, sound, taste, smell, and texture—into language.”

The editors wish to thank Mike Ashley, Steve Behrends, Geoffrey Best, Joshua Bilmes, April Derleth, William A. Dorman, Don Herron, Margery Hill, Rah Hoffman, S. T. Joshi, Terence McVicker, Marc Michaud, Boyd Pearson, John Pelan, Rob Preston, Dennis Rickard, David E. Schultz, Donald Sidney-Fryer, and Jason Williams for their help, support, and encouragement of this project, as well as Holly Snyder and the staff of the John Hay Library of Brown University, D. S. Black of the Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, and the staffs of the California State Library, Sacramento, California, and the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo Utah, for their assistance in the preparation of this collection. Needless to say, any errors are the sole responsibility of the editors.

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