The Validity of Weird Stories

Clark Ashton Smith

A letter from Clark Ashton Smith contains an interesting thumbnail essay on the validity of weird stories, which we are passing on to you. Mr. Smith's comments are valuable, as he is one of the great masters of the weird tale—a classification which includes H. P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, and one or two others.

Mr. Smith writes: "It seems to me that the real validity and value of weird, imaginative literature has never been sufficiently affirmed. In these days, when the burden of critical so-called authority is cast almost wholly on the side of the so-called 'realism,' it might be especially pertinent to point out one or two considerations. Weird, fantastic writing, by its emphasis of the environing cosmic wonder and mystery of things, may actually be truer to the spirit of life than the work which merely concerns itself with literalities, as most modern fiction does. Only a dullard, it seems to me, would despise and decry fantasy on the oft-alleged score of superficiality or remoteness. If anything is superficial, it is the grossly external and factitious realism of the modernists, who, abnegating the one gill, that raises man above the other animals, can see nothing but the bare physical facts of existence. Whether or not one believes in the 'super-natural,' it seems to me that the infinite eery mystery that presses upon us is an ineluctable thing that can not be dissipated by test-tubes or Freudian analysis. Also, in spite of those who would limit literature to psychographs and genre studies, it will always afford a fascinating and inexhaustible field for the human imagination."

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