Letter to H. P. Lovecraft

From Clark Ashton Smith

[19] [c. early January 1931]

From the dark companion
of Algol, at the
perihelion of innermost
and uttermost occultation.

Dear E'ch-Pi-El:

Salutations to a companion in misery! Measles and chicken-pox (I managed to have those at the proper age, along with scarlet fever) are surely an off-set to the whooping-cough. [. . .]

My greetings are genuflections to It for the New Year (Azathoth alone knows what year it is in the reckoning of the elder cycles) and may the fumes of appropriate sacrifice and the murmurs of prescribed prayer be still acceptable to the Dark One of the doubtful, unspoken name; and may it continue to withhold the ultimate horror and direness of It's oracular utterance. . .

[. . .]

I have finished the time-travelling yarn, "An Adventure in Futurity" (47 p.!) and have sent it off. [. . .] Just now the time-story strikes me as an awful piece of junk. The Venusian slaves and their Martian abettors are left to divide the earth at the end, while the remainder of humanity (which has been driven to the polar regions) takes flight for the farther asteroids. I agree with you that inter-cosmic immigration will never do! [. . .]

For relief, I am doing one of the horror tales that I outlined some time ago — the one about the piecemeal resurrection of a dismembered corpse. [1] I have thought up a lot of improvements for this, and hope to achieve the limit in sheer gruesomeness. Thanks for your suggestion about magical affiliations on the part of the deceased — I am making both the murderer and the victim practitioners in the Black Arts, and am also taking the liberty of introducing the Necronomicon — in its original Arabic text.

Revising a story with inherent merit must be a vastly different job from trying to put life and literary form into something essentially formless and lifeless. [. . .] I have just had some poems submitted to me for criticism, One of them begins: "My soul has the arms of an octopus" . . . Luckily for me, the poems are all brief.

[. . .]

I have given the whole of a cloudy Sabbath to finish my dismembered corpse story — "The Return of Helman Carnby". [. . .] It goes to Ghost Stories, then to W.T. — both of which will doubtless reject it. But I think that the tale is a pretty fair literary beginning for the New Year. I like to picture it in the sunny and lightsome pages of the Ladies' Home Journal.

[. . .]

Well, I must put a scientific — or at least a pseudo-scientific-curb on my fancy, if I am to sell anything. There is a tentative tale of this kind which I might call "Prisoners of the Black Dimension", dealing with some people who disappear while in full view on the street, through the machinations of beings in another sort of space than ours. This might have possibilities.

[. . .]

As ever, with all best New Yr. wishes,


[. . .]

The array of "specialized" magazines would give Argus the blind staggers! I note a rival for Oriental Stories, in the form of Far East Adventure Stories. Super-heroic beach-combers on the cover, with revolvers drawn. A whole junk-load of junk.

[. . .]


  1. Eventually titled "The Return of the Sorcerer" (Out of Space and Time (1942)), the interim title used by Smith in his correspondence with Lovecraft was "The Return of Helman Carnby".

From: Clark Ashton Smith: LETTERS TO H. P. LOVECRAFT, edited by and footnotes by Steve Behrends (July 1987) Necronomicon Press.

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