Poet, author and artist Clark Ashton Smith was born on the 13th of January 1893, in a place called Long Valley Caldera, California.
An appreciated poet with a strong surreal and arabesque vein, he started writing and publishing weird fiction on H.P. Lovecraft’s suggestion, because he wasn’t making a living as a poet. His fiction is generally much more colorfuil and a lot sexier than HPL’s, and his macabre stories often feature a wry sense of humor.
You can find a good selection of CAS’ works in a site devoted to the author, The Eldritch Dark.
I first discovered Smith through a collection of his Zothique stories, the Italian translation of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition edited by Lin Carter.
It was 1983 or 1984, I think.
These are still the stories to which I am more attached – and if you want a good edition of the series, seek out the Necronomicon Press volume, with its garish pink cover.
Another fine selection of Smith’s work was collected by Gollancz in the Fantasy Masterworks series – the volume is called The Emperor of Dreams.
More recently, Smith’s opera omnia was reprinted in beautiful, pretty expensive hardback books.
It has been pointed out that Smith’s narratives weren’t always watertight – but the sheer power of his imagination and his images carried the story to its conclusion with ample satisfaction for the readers.
Most of them, anyway.
Curiously enough, Smith stopped writing upon the death of H.P. Lovecraft, and spent the rest of his life doing visual arts.
He died in 1961, closing a life “full of contradictions and of ironies”, in the words of Lyon Sprague de Camp.