Letter to Astounding Stories

From Clark Ashton Smith

"The Reader's Corner", pp 131-32. (copied for Nyctalops by Gordon Briscoe)

Dear Editor:

I have purchased many of the issues of your magazine, and have read everything in Them, including the letter columns with great interest. I have particularly enjoyed certain stories, such as "The Forgotten Planet", "The Jovian Jest", and "The Planet of Dread", in which genuine imaginative quality was combined with good writing. Many other tales, not so well written, I have enjoyed for their fantasy, their suggestive ideas.

In following "The Reader's Corner" I have noted the objection to so-called "impossible" stories, voiced by some of your readers. Stories thus classified, one would infer, are tales dealing with the marvellous and the mysterious in which the author has not attempted to give a naturalistic or scientific explanation of his wonders and mysteries. In other words, he has not rendered them in terms of the test-tube. He has admitted the inexplicable, the "supernatural".

Personally, I enjoy stories of this type, as well as those that are written with the purely scientific approach. I suspect that those who condemn them are suffering from a rather amusing - and also pathetic - sort of unconscious hypocrisy. I think that people who read your magazine, as well as Science Fiction magazines in general, are people with the ingrained human love of wonder and mystery; but some of them are afraid to accept and enjoy anything - even a fairy tale - that is not couched in the diction of modern materialistic science, with a show of concern for verified credibilities. Probably, in most cases, they would like and praise the very stories that they condemn if the writer had used a different terminology, and had offered explanations that were even superficially logical according to known laws.

Please do not think that I am decrying, or even criticising, Science Fiction . I consider it a highly important and significant branch of present-day writing, and have hopes of contributing to it myself. I am merely advocating an attitude of mind and imagination. For those who think that the "impossible" requires justification - I would suggest that the only impossible thing is to define and de-limit the impossible. In an infinite, eternal universe, there is nothing imaginable - or unimaginable - which might not happen, might not be true, somewhere or sometime, Science has discovered, and will continue to discover, an enormous amount of relative data; but there will always remain an illimitable residue of the undiscovered and the unknown. And the field for imaginative fiction, both scientific and non-scientific is, it seems to me, wholly inexhaustible.

Clark Ashton Smith, Auburn, Cal

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