Letter to H. P. Lovecraft

From Clark Ashton Smith

[20] [c. 27 January 1931]

At the apex of the
Singing Flame, in the
Titan city beyond the

Dear E'ch-Pi-El:

[. . .]

I was greatly pleased and gratified by your reaction to "Carnby" -- a tale to which I devoted much thought. The more veiled ending you suggest as possible was my original intention — certainly it would have been the safest and most surely successful method. I think what tempted me to the bolder and more hazardous revelation, was the visualizing of the actual collapse of that hellishly reanimated abnormality. If the tale is rejected as too gruesome, I can try the other ending, and have the secretary unable to enter the room till all is over, and there are merely two heaps of human segments on the floor.

[. . .]

I am enclosing a new trans-dimensional story, "The City of the Singing Flame", in which I have utilized Carter Ridge (the place where I found the innominable Eikon) as a spring-board. Some day I must look for those two boulders "with a vague resemblance to broken-down columns". If you and other correspondents cease to hear from me thereafter, you can surmise what has happened! The description of the Ridge, by the way, has been praised for its realism by people who know the place.

I have idled for a few days, but won't be able to keep it up much longer. As to my appalling prolificality, there are doubtless several reasons and explanations. About eighteen months ago, I was taken to task for idleness by a woman-friend,[1] and pledged myself to industry. Once started, the pledge has not been hard to keep. Other reasons are, that it is necessary for me to make a little money; also, that I need an imaginative escape from the human aquarium — and, moreover, a "safety-valve" to keep from blowing up and disrupting the whole countryside. And, beyond all this, I am finding a pleasure in fiction-writing, and deriving a mental "kick" from it which I seldom got from poetry. Painting I always enjoyed greatly; and I have merely postponed — not relinquished — my ambitions in that regard; but I am more curtain of technical competence in literature. Another, and by no means negligible factor, is my desire to increase the rather limited supply of fiction which suits my own personal taste. There are so many good tales that have never been written.

[. . .]

I shall certainly welcome the consignment of James [2] from Dwyer, [3] and will send him The House of Souls in a few days. This latter I have just been re-reading. Certainly Machen's prose-style is exquisite in its degree of perfection. I think "The White People" is my favorite now; though I was more impressed by "The Great God Pan" at first reading. "Pan", by the way, has suggested to me an idea so hellish that I am almost afraid to work it out in story-form. It involves a cataleptic woman who was placed alive in the family vaults. Days later, a scream was heard within the family vaults, the door was unlocked, and the woman was found sitting up in her open coffin, babbling deliriously of some terrible demoniac face whose vision had awakened her from her death-like sleep. Eight or nine months afterwards, she gives birth to a child and dies. The child is so monstrous that no one is permitted to see it. It is kept in a locked room; but many years later, after the death of the woman's husband, it escapes; and co-incidentally the corpse of the deceased is found in a condition not to be described. Also, there are monstrous footprints leading toward the vaults, but not away from them. [4] If I do this tale I shall head it with a text from the Necronomicon, which certainly did great service in "Carnby". The "atmosphere" wouldn't have been half so good without it . . . But of course, it is not likely that the Arabic version was left undisturbed in that awful mansion after the death of both wizards. There are too many persons and powers that covet its possession. We can only hope that it has fallen into the hands of those who do not design immediate evil toward the world, but whose plans involve a respite of years or cycles. This, I fear, is the best that can be hoped. . .

[. . .]

Yes, that red fog in Belgium had a sinister air. And what of that other fog, "The White Death", which has long been feared by certain tribes of American Indians? Can it be that such things are used to cover up the actions and designs of beings from Yuggoth or beyond?

[. . .]

In the name of the black shoggothrasn,


  1. Probably Genevieve Sully.
  2. M. R. James, author of weird fiction.
  3. Bernard Austin Dwyer, correspondent of Lovecraft.
  4. Smith developed this idea into "The Nameless Offspring" (Abominations of Yondo (1960)).

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

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