Tonight, powerful winds sweep across ancient alien wastelands. Fantastic worlds glimmer in all manner of cosmic luminescence. And something in the shadows drips slime then spiders or slithers into the dark recesses of caverns as we revive the horror, science fiction, and fantasy sorcerer, Clark Ashton Smith.
Smith was a self-educated American poet, sculptor, painter and author of fantasy, horror and science fiction short stories. Clark Ashton Smith achieved early local recognition, largely through the enthusiasm of George Sterling, for traditional verse in the vein of Swinburne. As a poet, Smith is grouped with the West Coast Romantics alongside Joaquin Miller, Sterling, and Nora May French and remembered as “The Last of the Great Romantics” and “The Bard of Auburn”.
Smith’s science fiction and cosmic horror work was praised by his contemporaries. H. P. Lovecraft stated that “in sheer daemonic strangeness and fertility of conception, Clark Ashton Smith is perhaps unexcelled”, and Ray Bradbury said that Smith “filled my mind with incredible worlds, impossibly beautiful cities, and still more fantastic creatures”.
Clark Ashton Smith, along with Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft was one of the big three of Weird Tales. However, some of Weird Tales readers objected to his morbidness and violation of pulp traditions. For example, we enjoyed the fantasy critic L. Sprague de Camp remarks about Clark Ashton Smith which stated,” nobody since Poe has so loved a well-rotted corpse.”
Like Robert Bloch and Frank Belknap Long, Smith was a member of the Lovecraft circle and his literary friendship with Lovecraft lasted from 1922 until Lovecraft’s death in 1937. This is evident in numerous letters between these horror masters. Clark Ashton’s works as well as his colleagues Lovecraft and Bloch, are marked by an extraordinarily rich and ornate vocabulary, a cosmic perspective and a vein of sardonic and sometimes ribald humor.
Of his writing style, Smith stated: “My own conscious ideal has been to delude the reader into accepting an impossibility, or series of impossibilities, by means of a sort of verbal black magic, in the achievement of which I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.”
The Dweller in the Gulf is a short story by Clark Ashton Smith, first published in Wonder Stories (1933). The story focuses on three explorers on the planet Mars who investigate an ancient underground cavern finding a strange troglodyte cult and something terrifying.
Who is the Dweller in the Gulf? Will our intrepid explorers blindly go to their doom after their encounter beneath the surface of Mars?