Tales of the Pacific [with Biographical Introduction]

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Sterling saw a shaft under construction during a visit in and was inspired to write a short story about mining. At some point, five acres of property were sold, probably for needed funds. Smith even turned to Sterling for a loan to help Timeus's chicken business, but Sterling couldn't deliver.

However, Sterling found at least four anonymous admirers of Smith's poetry who agreed to send monthly or quarterly stipends, which continued from the middle to late s. Despite the effusive praise that followed Odes and Sonnets, Smith had to self-publish his next two volumes, Ebony and Crystal and Sandlewood Printed at the offices of the Auburn Journal, they were full of typographic errors which Smith painstakingly corrected by pencil in each copy.

Distribution was another problem, and Smith ended up giving away more copies than he sold. Five hundred signed and numbered copies of the first volume were printed; but only of the second. Ebony and Crystal, for which George Sterling again wrote an introduction reproduced below , consisted of 29 prose poems and 85 poems, including Smith's most celebrated poem, " The Hashish-Eater; Or, The Apocalypse of Evil ," written in Lovecraft praised the latter poem as "the greatest imaginative orgy in English literature" after receiving a gratis copy from Smith early in From to , Smith contributed a column to the Auburn Journal that consisted largely of his short poems and epigrams.

The best of the poetry appeared in Sandlewood in He also served from time to time as night editor for the Journal. Around this time a combination of factors spurred Smith to return to fantasy prose as a mode of expression — and as a means of income. In the early s, Smith tried his hand at romance fiction also termed "sophisticated irony" or "ironic-romantic" fiction , writing pieces with such titles as "The Expert Lover" and "The Flirt.

Two such pieces were sold and published in Snappy Stories and 10 Story Book ; fortunately for his future fans, Smith opted for the fantastic as his field of choice. Smith's first weird story, " The Abominations of Yondo ," dates to and was published in the Overland Monthly in April Lovecraft, one of Smith's primary correspondents after and a major influence on his writing, is often credited for suggesting that Smith write fiction and submit it to the new pulp magazine Weird Tales. He sent them three prose poems which were published in August and a short story " The Ninth Skeleton " published that September.

Genevieve Sully, a friend of Smith in Auburn, is also credited with recommending in fiction as more economically viable than poetry resulting in the story " The Last Incantation ," finished September 23, A third factor should also be considered, since it must have had a profound effect on Smith's life and may have strengthened his resolve to turn his focus from poetry to short fiction. In mid-November, Smith's mentor and idol George Sterling committed suicide. Interestingly, Smith always expressed doubt whether Sterling took his life on purpose, citing Sterling's eagerness to meet his friend and correspondent H.

In Smith's theory, Sterling was befuddled and instead of a sleeping aid took a vial of poison which he was known to have carried for several years. Smith wrote of his "great bereavement" in a tribute to Sterling that appeared in the Overland Monthly in March, Despite Smith's private theory on Sterling's death, the article ends with a kind of apologia for suicide and cites Bierce on the subject. A final factor — implicit all along — was economic: Smith had to earn a living somehow but despised working for others.

The general economy was in decline, and the stock market collapse of late October must have instilled in Smith an urgency to produce; in a creative flurry in December of that year he produced twelve distinct works mainly prose poems. The years to were Smith's most productive period for fiction; he wrote around stories and novellas, averaging over one a month.

Weird Tales became a steady market and published over half of these: between and his stories appeared in most issues, establishing him alongside Lovecraft and another correspondent, Conan creator Robert E. Howard, as a legendary triumvirate.

In , Smith self-published a pamphlet of six stories entitled The Double Shadow and Other Fantasies again with typos corrected in pencil! When this publisher formed the Science Fiction League in , Smith was named one of the Executive Directors and remained such for several years. The s also brought a string of tragedies. One correspondent, the poet Vachel Lindsay, died in Smith's parents were increasingly ill, forcing a break in his fiction writing in Fanny died in September of Another correspondent, Smith's fellow fantasist Robert E. Howard, committed suicide in following the death of his mother.

And Smith's premier correspondent — and perhaps his single greatest inspiration in fiction — H. Lovecraft died in March of Late that same year, Timeus died. Following his father's death, Smith was despondent and did not write fiction for almost three years. In fact, in the 25 years that remained of his life , he only wrote an additional dozen or so stories — a marked contrast to his earlier productivity. But Smith did not remain idle during the last third of his life.

Once again his attention was turned to poetry -- and to a third love, art. Smith's painting and drawing has been described as naive owing to the fact that he was entirely self-taught. He began painting in watercolor in By , Smith considered himself "skilled" in drawing. Media included crayon, ink, watercolor, and poster paint. Subjects included single figures abstracted from any background usually characters in his stories or entities in the Lovecraft mythos , complete illustrations of imaginative scenes, and alien landscapes featuring other-worldly architecture and vegetation.

Because of the garish use of color the paintings have been compared to those of the French symbolist Odilon Redon. In , Smith began creating sculptures "by accident" — while visiting his uncle's copper mine, he picked up a piece of talc and realized it was soft enough to carve with a pocket-knife. Smith experimented with other unusual materials, including soapstone, serpentine, sandstone, lava, and porphyry. Some, after being carved, were baked in a wood stove to be hardened.

The small, fist-sized figurines, statuettes, and heads have been compared to pre-Columbian art and the famous heads at Easter Island; other figures were based on classical mythology and, again, on the Lovecraft mythos.

Gerald (Edward) McDermott (1941-) Biography

August Derleth was one of several collectors. Smith also carved pipes, vases, candlesticks, and other "non-grotesque" objects. Smith's published artwork included an illustration for a Lovecraft story in the amateur publication Home Brew and four drawings for Smith's own stories in Weird Tales. In , his sculpture appeared on the cover of his collection Lost Worlds and in Lovecraft's Marginalia. At an exhibit in May , of paintings and sculptures at the Cherry Foundation in Monterey, Smith gave a rare reading of his poetry.

Smith also sold many of his paintings, drawings, and sculptures for a few dollars each. Albert Bender, a wealthy patron of the arts in San Francisco who had helped Sterling, bought a number of paintings. Others were simply given away and mailed to correspondents — including Lovecraft, who was strongly influenced by the sculptures in particular. While Smith may have virtually stopped writing fiction, his work continued to be published and to attract attention.

Stories continued to appear in Weird Tales and other magazines from Smith's backlog of fiction. Beginning in , Smith saw his work published once again in hardcover. Arkham House — the small publishing firm formed in by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to preserve the work of H. Lovecraft — brought out the first of seven volumes of Smith's stories, Out of Space and Time in Its title echoed both Poe and Lovecraft, and the book was dedicated to Genevieve Sully, the friend who had encouraged Smith's return to fiction in In physical appearance Smith was described as tall nearly six feet , slender, with brown or grey hair, a mustache and, in later years, a goatee , and a large head, and usually wearing a suit jacket and a red or black beret.

The latter must have seemed eccentric to the rural Auburnites, who nevertheless seemed friendly, despite Smith's habit of philandering with married women. As for other personal habits, Smith smoked a lot of tobacco cigarettes or pipes , drank moderately to heavily mainly wine, often home-made ; and despite the title of his most famous poem, is not known to have ever experimented with drugs. As for the romantic life of this "Last of the Great Romantics," Smith is said to have had many mistresses, including many married women between the years and at least It is also said that there was a special relationship that lasted many years but ended badly in the early s.

Smith did not marry until the age of On November 14, he married Carolyn Emily Jones Dorman in Monterey and moved to her house in nearby Pacific Grove, with three children from her previous marriage.

By this time Smith had sold off all but a few acres of the family property. An Auburn land developer wanted to buy the remainder and pressured Smith in various ways to sell, but he refused. In late , while Smith was in Pacific Grove, the cabin was looted and vandalized, his parents' urns upset and their ashes scattered. Smith was devastated and began moving more of his belongings to a safer place. Finally the cabin was burned down in , partially burning some manuscripts, typescripts and other papers and totally destroying others — possibly including the only copies of some of Smith's unpublished work.

After the fire Smith gave in and sold the remaining lot. After his marriage Smith wrote little. He did some work as a professional gardener, working for other residents in Pacific Grove. A friend from Auburn, journalist and science fiction author Robert Elder, recorded Smith reading a "random" selection of poems chosen by Elder around While the "Elder Tapes" have been released by Necronomicon Press, other recordings -- probably of a better selection of poems — remain in private hands.

In the s, Smith's health began to decline. Even in the late s he had serious eye trouble. In , he suffered a heart attack. In he suffered a number of strokes, which slowed his speech. Clark Ashton Smith died in his sleep on August 14, A few years later his ashes were taken to Auburn and buried beside a boulder and beneath the blue oaks that stood to the west of the site of the family cabin.

Years later still, the street that ran nearest the cabin was named Poet Smith Drive; another street nearby was named Smith Court. Smith's fiction is a special blend of fantasy and science fiction perhaps best labeled "science fantasy. His idea for Zothique was apparently derived from such Theosophical works as H.

Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine. Smith also contributed a number of stories and entities particularly Tsathoggua to Lovecraft's so-called Cthulhu Mythos. In style, Smith's fantasies are woven with a superbly rich language which is often described as "lapidary" and "euphusistic.

On the other hand, much of his straight science fiction classified as "space opera" is rather flat and clinical, lacking the poetic polish of the fantasies, and shows that it was written for money. Everywhere there is a tone of irony, even satire, while a common theme is loss; the "cosmic" outlook tends to emphasize Doom and Oblivion, and becomes derisive of human ignorance and hubris.

Still, there is a redeeming sense of beauty and wonder amidst the cosmic vastness. In method, Smith typically wrote four or five drafts of each story. He often worked on a table under the trees near his cabin, or elsewhere on the property, carrying the typescripts to read aloud and revise repeatedly until they were as well-polished as his verse. His Black Book covers the period from to , but consists of unnumbered loose-leaf pages; it lists several hundred titles just for the period , mostly unused. Influences which Smith himself admitted included Poe, Bierce from whom he derived his sardonic humor , and Robert W.

Others have pointed to the influence of Baudelaire, Gautier, Beckford, Machen for his "pure horror" stories , and, of course, Smith's contemporary Lovecraft. His poetry shows the influence of Sterling, Swinburne, the Romantics, and the Symbolists. His prose poems, considered by some to be his finest work, show the influence of Baudelaire and Huysmans. Aside from his fantastic fiction and verse, Smith also wrote over thirty essays, some in the form of letters to editors, including appraisals of Poe, Bierce, Hodgson, M.

Early life

James, Lovecraft and others, and expositions on his own aesthetic e. Most of these were published in various amateur and professional periodicals; they were gathered by Smith scholars Donald Sidney-Freyer and Charles K. Wolfe and published as Planets and Dimensions with notes by Wolfe in Howard, Fritz Leiber, H. Lovecraft, and Theodore Sturgeon. In fact, Bradbury and Ellison cited Smith's " The City of the Singing Flame " as their primary impetus in becoming writers; Bradbury's own distinctively poetic style of fiction should be mentioned.

With her, he became more social. Perhaps his writing suffered as a result; some claim that even East of Eden , his most ambitious post- Grapes novel, cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with his searing social novels of the s. In he published his last work of fiction, the ambitious The Winter of Our Discontent , a novel about contemporary America set in a fictionalized Sag Harbor where he and Elaine had a summer home.

Increasingly disillusioned with American greed, waste, and spongy morality—his own sons seemed textbook cases—he wrote his jeremiad, a lament for an ailing populace. Wounded by the blindside attack, unwell, frustrated, and disillusioned, John Steinbeck wrote no more fiction. But the writer John Steinbeck was not silenced. As always, he wrote reams of letters to his many friends and associates.

In a camper truck designed to his specification, he toured America in His disenchantment with American waste, greed, and immorality ran deep. His last published book, America and Americans , reconsiders the American character, the land, the racial crisis, and the crumbling will. In these late years, in fact after his final move to New York in , many accused him of increasing conservatism. But the author who wrote The Grapes of Wrath never really retreated into conservatism.

He lived in modest houses all his life, caring little for lavish displays of power or wealth. He preferred talking to ordinary citizens wherever he traveled, sympathizing always with the disenfranchised. He was a Stevenson Democrat in the s; he was never a communist in the s, and after three trips to Russia , , and he hated Soviet repression. In fact, neither during his life nor after has the paradoxical Steinbeck been an easy author to pigeonhole personally, politically, or artistically.

As a man, he was an introvert and at the same time had a romantic streak, was impulsive, garrulous, a lover of jests and word play and practical jokes. He loved humor and warmth, but some said he slopped over into sentimentalism. He was, and is now recognized as, an environmental writer.

He was an intellectual, interested in inventions, jazz, politics, philosophies, history, and myth, quite a range for an author sometimes labeled simplistic by academe and the eastern critical establishment. Steinbeck died in New York City. His popularity spans the world, his range is impressive, and his output was prodigious: sixteen novels; a collection of short stories; four screenplays The Forgotten Village , The Red Pony , The Pearl , and Viva Zapata!

Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. Essential biographical sources are also Steinbeck: A Life in Letters , ed. Florian J. Shasky and Susan F. Riggs The most complete bibliography of primary works is Adrian H. Goldstone and John R. Joseph R. McElrath, Jesse S. Crisler, and Susan Shillinglaw Susan Beegel, Shillinglaw, and Wes Tiffney See Joseph R. Millichap, Steinbeck and Film , for a solid introduction to the subject.

An excellent collection of essays is Jackson J. Benson, ed. Printed from American National Biography. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. American National Biography. Advanced search.


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