Clark Ashton Smith
(1893-1961) was an American writer of horror
and Science Fiction
. He is most notable for being one of the founders of the Cthulhu Mythos
along with HP Lovecraft
, Robert E. Howard
Compared to Lovecraft's, Smith's stories tend to focus less on the Cosmic Horror Story
and more on the pure exoticism of the setting. Some Mythos entities recur between them, such as the god Tsathoggua, but these entities tend to be less malevolent in Smith's portrayal than in Lovecraft's.
Also unlike Lovecraft, sexuality plays a strong role in many of Smith's works and female characters are a lot stronger and more prominent than in Lovecraft (most likely to Smith having a much more... active
love life than Lovecraft). Unlike Howard, sorcerers in Smith tend to have the upper hand against swordsmen
and Smith has many sorcerer protagonists, both good and evil. Unlike both Lovecraft and Howard, Smith was not a racist or a xenophobe, which can be seen best in stories like The Great God Awto
and A Star-Change
Smith was fond of playing with tropes and his stories occasionally feature Black Comedy
Tropes found in Clark Ashton Smith's works:
- Action Girl: Vixeela in The Theft of Thirty-Nine Girdles.
- Action Hero: Subverted.
- After the End: The setting of the Zothique stories.
- Alien Invasion: In The Metamorphasis of Earth.
- Alien Sky: Suns of unusual color and non-standard numbers appear repeatedly.
- Ancient Tomb
- Animate Dead
- Another Dimension
- Anyone Can Die
- Apothecary Alligator: In "The Return of the Sorcerer":
There were tables strewn with archaic instruments of doubtful use, with astrological charts, with skulls and alembics and crystals, with censers such as are used in the Catholic Church, and volumes bound in worm-eaten leather with verdigris-mottled clasps. In one corner stood the skeleton of a large ape; in another, a human skeleton; and overhead a stuffed crocodile was suspended.
- Atlantis: One of Smith's main cycles of stories is set in Poseidonis, the last isle of foundering Atlantis.
- The Bad Guy Wins
- Baleful Polymorph: In The Maze of Maal Dweb.
- Barbarian Hero: Subverted.
- Beneath the Earth
- Best Served Cold
- Better Living Through Evil: The Evil Sorcerer Namirrha's backstory in The Dark Eidolon
- Big Screwed-Up Family: One of Smith's more notable contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos is the idea that the various Eldritch Abomination are all related to each other in some way or another like a classical pantheon, rather than a bunch of random, unrelated extradimensional aliens. For instance, Hastur is supposedly Cthulhu's half-brother. And he's married to Shub Niggurath and therefore, presumably the father of at least some of her enigmatic Thousand Young.
- Black Comedy
- Body Horror
- Body of Bodies: "The Colossus of Ylourgne".
- Buried Alive: In The Second Internment.
- Burn the Witch!: In The Necromantic Tale.
- Celibate Hero
- Charm Person: Part of the repertory of every self-respecting evil female caster.
- Chased by Angry Natives
- Cold-Blooded Torture
- Comet of Doom
- Cosmic Horror Story: Used straight and subverted.
- Cruel and Unusual Death
- Curse: In The Witchcraft of Ulua.
- Darkest Africa
- Dead All Along
- Dead Man Writing
- Deadly Decadent Court: All of them.
- Deal with the Devil: In Xeethra.
- Death by Materialism: In The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan.
- Disposing of a Body
- Disproportionate Retribution: The Dark Eidolon is all about this.
- Doomed Protagonist
- Downer Ending: Toyed with a lot. Sometimes we get a simple The Bad Guy Wins downer; sometimes a Kill 'em All ending, where the villains go down as well; and sometimes a straight happy ending.
- Dragged Off to Hell: Inverted in The Devotee of Evil. Averted in Xeethra to the surprise of the main character. It's still a Downer Ending though.
- Drop Dead Gorgeous
- Due to the Dead
- Dying Alone
- Egomaniac Hunter: The main character in The Seven Geases.
- Elaborate Underground Base: Vulthoom's.
- Eldritch Abomination
- Empty Piles of Clothing: In The Weaver in the Vault.
- The End of the World as We Know It
- Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry
- Even Evil Has Standards: In The Dark Eidolon, the archdemon Thasaidon, Lord of the Seven Hells, refuses to help the sorcerer Namirrha in his plan for vengeance. This may be because all the people who would be killed by the plan are evil, and therefore unwitting servants of Thasaidon.
- Evil Is Deathly Cold: In The Coming of the White Worm and The Ice Demon.
- Evil Is Sexy
- Evil Overlord: Maal Dweb, Malygris...
- Evil Sorcerer: See above.
- Evil Versus Evil: Every single character in The Dark Eidolon is evil.
- Eye of Newt
- Faux Death: Played for horror in The Charnel God and The Second Internment.
- Functional Magic
- The Future
- Garden of Evil: Repeatedly.
- Genius Loci: In Genius Loci.
- Glamour Failure: Caused by the application of holy water in The End of the Story.
- God of Evil: Thasaidon.
- Going Native
- Gone Horribly Right
- Grim Up North: In The Ice Demon, and more extradimensionally also The Coming of the White Worm and The Light from the Pole.
- Heroic Sacrifice
- Hologram: Used by the villains in Vulthoom and The Immortals of Mercury.
- How Do You Like Them Apples?: In Xeethra.
- Humanoid Aliens
- Human Sacrifice
- I Love the Dead
- I'm a Humanitarian
- Kill 'em All: Repeatedly, to various degrees of scale and completeness.
- Kiss of Death: Most notably the non-vampiric one in The Kiss of Zoraida.
- Kiss of the Vampire
- Lady Land: A surprisingly proto-feminist version in The Root of Ampoi.
- The Legions of Hell
- Libation for the Dead: A non-symbolic version in The Death of Ilalotha.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards
- Living Shadow: Prominently in The Double Shadow and in a minor role in The Abominations of Yondo.
- Loveable Rogue: Satampra Zeiros.
- Love Potion: In The Mandrakes and The Mother of Toads.
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Subverted in The Dark Age.
- Magic Mirror: Present with different powers in Necromancy In Naat and The Enchantress of Sylaire.
- Magic Wand: Used by Maal Dweb in The Flower Women.
- Magnificent Bastard: Maal Dweb.
- Malevolent Masked Men: In The Charnel God.
- Man-Eating Plant
- The Middle Ages: Where the Averoigne stories take place.
- Muck Monster: Abhoth, appearing in "The Seven Geases".
- Mummies at the Dinner Table: In Necromancy in Naat.
- Necromantic: Malygris in The Last Incantation.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Played straight and subverted in The Root Of Ampoi.
- No Sell: In The Double Shadow, the Cosmic Horror that Avyctes summons passes straight through magical barriers and can't even be perceived by his familiars.
- Ominous Fog
- Our Demons Are Different
- Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Lovecraft-style ghouls are used.
- Our Vampires Are Different
- Our Werewolves Are Different
- Our Zombies Are Different
- Phlebotinum du Jour: Rays can do anything.
- Pirate Booty: In The Master of the Crabs.
- Planetary Romance
- Plant Aliens
- Pride Before a Fall
- Purple Prose: Makes Lovecraft look like Ernest Hemingway...
- Pyrrhic Villainy
- Qurac: The Arabian Nights version.
- Ray Gun
- The Red Planet
- Ring of Power
- Satan: In Schizoid Creator.
- Scenery Porn: Quite a bit.
- Science Marches On
- Shaggy Dog Story: The Seven Geases.
- Sim Sim Salabim
- Sinister Minister: The titular character in The Holiness of Azédarac.
- Solar CPR: Phoenix.
- Space Madness: In The Master of the Asteroid.
- Starfish Aliens
- Subverted Trope
- Summoning Ritual: Shown onscreen in The Double Shadow.
- Summon Magic
- Taken for Granite: In The Maze of Maal Dweb.
- Taking You with Me
- Theory Before Phenomenon: In The Devotee of Evil and The Tomb-Spawn.
- The Time of Myths: Where the Hyperborea and Poseidonis stories take place.
- Time Travel
- Together in Death
- Torture Technician: A whole island of them in The Isle of the Torturers.
- The Undead
- Unholy Matrimony
- Unwanted Revival: The Empire of the Necromancers gives us the viewpoint of a corpse raised by the necromancers as their slave. It turns out that the dead preferred oblivion.
- Vain Sorceress
- The Vamp
- Victory Is Boring: Affects Maal Dweb.
- Villain Protagonist: Repeatedly.
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: The Narrative Poem The Hashish-Eater, or the Apocalypse of Evil plays with/subverts/does something to this trope. Its narrator travels through various fantastic visions, but apart from the title, it contains no mention of drugs.
- Wicked Witch: In The Mother of Toads.
- Woman Scorned: Ilalotha in The Death of Ilalotha.