Off the Shelf
The Last Incantation
By Marcus Pan
Clark Ashton Smith has built
for himself a very well-deserved reputation in the science fiction, horror and
fantasy genres. From his work with Arkham House that vaguely touches upon
Necronomicon ideas(1), his sagas about Atlantis or his work with hard sci-fi
and trips to Pluto and Mars, he helped define the genre that was to grow huge
fifty years after he began his writing. From the beginning of the Great
Depression in American history, Smith has written a huge quantity of short
stories between the years of 1929 and 1938, most of which were run in the very
famous Weird Tales periodical.
He wrote often about lost worlds and cultures
Atlantis, Hyperborea, Averoigne, the Orient to name a few and wrote
about characters from these realms. Fans of Clark Ashton Smith might recognize
such characters as Malygris, Pharpetron, the Martian Seed, Ubbo-Sathla, all of
which appeared in Weird Tales at one time or another.
The Last Incantation contains fourteen of
Clarks works that originally appeared in Weird Tales and other
magazines in years spanning from 1932 to 1941. Youll find some here from
his Atlantis realm, Mars, Hyperborea and Averoigne. Favorites here include
Seedling of Mars which has one of the most refreshing (even in this new
millennium) ideas of Martian life Ive discovered. The Vaults of
Yoh-Vombis is an excellent tale of the diseases or creatures one may find
in ancient worlds on newly discovered planets.
All of the stories in The Last Incantation are short
and well written. The vocabulary Smith uses borders on high-brow and your
standard fantasy or pulp fiction reader of todays work may easily find
themselves lost in the verbiage. Hell regularly pepper his work with
words from even Old English style literature and if you had trouble reading
Shakespeare or Chaucer youll probably get lost here as well.
For fans of more modern horror, check out the California
section of this book. The Devotee of Evil is a fabulous mad scientist
style piece that Cthulhu lovers are sure to enjoy. This one details a man who,
using various sound chimes and shaped thingamajigs (shades of
Hellraiser?) feels he can channel physical and pure evil. And The
Genius Loci takes us into the mind of an artist who discovers the painting
scene that is to become his lifes work and lifes end.
Clark Ashton Smtih was a definer of the modern fantasy
horror and sci-fi genres, and in all of his works found here in The Last
Incantation youll find absolutely no degradation due to the march of
time. These stories are as good, as refreshing and as enjoyable as they were
when they came out during the Depression and, maybe, helped at least a few
people get out of the slump they were in with tales of far off worlds and
stories of people who had it at least a little worse off than they did.
(1) For more on this see my
review of The Disciples of Cthulhu in
The Last Incantation by Clark Ashton
Introduction and Editing by Donald Sidney-Fryer
1930 1949 by The Popular Fiction Publishing Company, Gernsback
Publications Inc., Teck Publications, Inc., Clark Ashton Smith, August Darleth
A Timescape Book First Printing 1982
Published by Pocket Books, a Simon
& Schuster Co.
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