An Autobiography of Clark Ashton Smith

Clark Ashton Smith

I was born on January 13th, 1893, in Long Valley, California, of English and Yankee parentage. Most of my formal education was received at the little red schoolhouse of the precinct. As a schoolboy, I believe that I was distinguished more for devilment than scholarship. Much of my childhood was spent in the neighborhood of an alleged gold mine; which may be reason why the romance of California gold mining failed to get under my skin.

My first literary efforts, at the age of 11, took the form of fairy tales and imitations of the Arabian Nights. Later, I wrote long adventure novels dealing with Oriental life, and much mediocre verse. At 17, I sold several tales to The Black Cat, a magazine which specialized in yarns of the unusual. Then, for some reason, I lost interest in fiction-writing and confined my efforts to poetry for more than a decade. A volume of verse, The Star-Treader and Other Poems, appeared at the end of my 19th year. A little later, my health broke down, and for ten years my literary production was more or less limited and intermittent. My best poetry, however, was written during this period. A small volume, Odes and Sonnets, was brought out by the Book Club of California in 1918. In 1922 I published Ebony and Crystal; in 1925, Sandalwood.

At the beginning of the Depression in 1929, I resumed fiction- writing and have since turned out more than a hundred short stories and novelettes, nearly all of which can be classed as weird or science fiction. Most of these tales have somehow gotten themselves into print. Six tales, The Double Shadow and Other Fantasies, which I printed at my own expense, are among the best. Of the tales published in science fiction magazines, The Eternal World and The City of the Singing Flame, are in my opinion, the most outstanding.

Apart from writing, I have made hundreds of fantastic paintings and drawings; also, more than a hundred small sculptures and carvings of imaginative type. I find the making of these far easier and more pleasurable than writing.

My poems have appeared in 30 or more magazines, in 10 or 12 anthologies; and some have even been used in school readers. I have done a number of transIations from French poetry, amid have dabbled, rather ineptly no doubt, in the writing of French verse. Aside from the aforementioned arts and avocations, I have done, at times, much hard manual labor, such as wood- cutting and fruit picking. I have learned to cook, after a fashion, and have made many kinds of wine.

Bibliographic Citation

Top of Page