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Author Topic: Pseudopod 331: The Ninth Skeleton  (Read 6071 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: April 27, 2013, 01:39:15 AM »

Pseudopod 331: The Ninth Skeleton

by Clark Ashton Smith


“The Ninth Skeleton” was first published in a 1928 issue of the Weird Tales. Most recently, the story was republished in THE END OF THE STORY: VOLUME ONE OF THE COLLECTED FANTASIES OF CLARK ASHTON SMITH - the first of six definitive volumes of Smith’s collected work published by Night Shade Books of San Francisco, from which this episode’s approved text was taken (and thanks to both Night Shade and the Smith Estate). To purchase this or other volumes of Smith, please visit them at the link: Night Shade Books - and tell them Pseudopod sent ya!

The iconic horror and fantasy fiction pulp magazine, Weird Tales, in its time published many if not all of the top writers in these genres, but according to critics, three stand out and have clearly endured: H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and CLARK ASHTON SMITH (1893-1961). Put simply, Smith is a master of fantasy prose. Noted author and editor, Richard Lupoff, says of Smith, “Every glittering image demands our time and attention.” Listening to the story, one might do well to keep in mind that Smith primarily considered himself a poet, which perhaps explains his ability to mesmerize his audiences with language, not just plot. Smith was a self-educated American poet, sculptor, painter and author of fantasy, horror and science fiction short stories and was born January 13, 1893 in Long Valley, California, of English and Yankee parentage. He spent most of his life in the small town of Auburn, California, living in a small cabin built by his parents. His formal education was limited: he suffered from psychological disorders including a fear of crowds and was home schooled. But he was an insatiable reader and his education began with the reading of ROBINSON CRUSOE, GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson and Madame d’Aulnoy, THE ARABIAN NIGHTS and (at the age of 13) the poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Smith professed to hate the provinciality of the small town of Auburn but rarely left it until he married late in life. In his later youth, Smith made the acquaintance of the San Francisco poet George Sterling through a member of the local Auburn Monday Night Club, where he read several of his poems with considerable success. He became Sterling’s protégé and Sterling helped him to publish his first volume of poems, THE STAR-TREADER AND OTHER POEMS (1912). Smith received international acclaim for the collection and was received very favorably by American critics, one of whom named Smith “the Keats of the Pacific”. Smith briefly moved among the circle that included Ambrose Bierce and Jack London, but his early fame soon faded away. In 1920 Smith composed a celebrated long poem in blank verse, “The Hashish Eater, or The Apocalypse of Evil” which was published in EBONY AND CRYSTAL (1922). This was followed by a fan letter from H. P. Lovecraft, which was the beginning of 15 years of friendship and correspondence. Smith was poor for most of his life and often did hard manual jobs such as fruit picking and woodcutting in order to support himself and his parents. He was an able cook and made many kinds of wine. He also did well digging, typing and journalism, as well as contributing a column to The Auburn Journal and sometimes worked as its night editor. At the beginning of the Depression in 1929, with his aged parents’ health weakening, Smith resumed fiction writing and turned out more than a hundred short stories, nearly all of which can be classed as weird horror or science fiction. Like Lovecraft, he drew upon the nightmares that had plagued him during youthful spells of sickness. At age 61, he married Carol Jones Dorman. In August 1961 he quietly died in his sleep, aged 68.

Clark Ashton-Smith’s work is comprehensively discussed on the informative podcast The Double Shadows and the lovingly detailed website The Eldritch Dark. Please check them both out - you wont regret it.

Your reader this week - Corson Bremer - is an American living in France. He began acting professionally, as well as working as an on-air presenter in radio, while still in college in the States studying theater and technical communication. In his varied career he has been an actor, Technical Director and Set Designer for the theater; a commercial copywriter, Program Director, and producer for radio; a grant writer for non-profit organizations; and a technical writer writing user documentation for hardware and software for companies like Bull, Alcatel-Lucent, HP, and Thomson Reuters. After moving to France in 1990, and with the multimedia boom on the Internet, he combined his acting and narration skills with his technical writing experience to create voice-overs for e-learning and web videos. His big break in voice-over came when he was cast to perform characters in 2 video games for Ubisoft Paris. He set up his professional home studio and has worked internationally as a professional voice artist in commercials, video games, machinima, technical narration, audio guides, and corporate web videos since 2002. Other than “The Ninth Skeleton”, Corson’s most recent major project was voicing 5 different characters for Spiders Games’ new video game for XBox Live, PSN and PC, MARS: WAR LOGS scheduled for release in Spring 2013. Corson’s website can be found here.



“It was beneath the immaculate blue of a morning in April that I set out to keep my appointment with Guenevere. We had agreed to meet on Boulder Ridge, at a spot well known to both of us, a small and circular field surrounded with pines and full of large stones, midway between her parents’ home at Newcastle and my cabin on the north-eastern extremity of the Ridge, near Auburn.”



PLEASE HELP PSEUDOPOD AND ANSWER A VERY SHORT DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY AT THIS LINK. IT WILL HELP US IMMEASURABLY! and thank you!

SURVEY



The Flash Fiction Contest needs tiebreaker votes for groups 1, 2, and 4!  Go break those ties like the backs of many small demonic minions!




Link Dump

The Double Shadow podcast
Cthulhuchick's cleaned and updated electronic complete collection of Lovecraft's works
The Eldritch Dark
Night Shade Books
Night Shade Book collections of updated and corrected versions of Clark Ashton Smith's texts
Corson Bremer's website



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2013, 06:30:42 PM »

I do not know if it was intentional, but Mars War Logs was released this week on Steam. So Corson's work on the game coincided with his narration of the pseudopod episode nicely.

As for the story, The Ninth Skeleton, it was a good choice. it was not a story I had read by Smith before, but I have read quite a bit of his work. I think Smith is often forgotten when compared to Howard and Lovecraft. However, he kind of saddled the middle ground between the two. He was more accessible than Lovecraft and perhaps less cliché than Howard (hell he invented the barbarian cliché). However, I have gone through times of extreme fandom with Lovecraft and Howard at different times in my life, but I never really latched on to Smith. I am not sure why.



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eytanz
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2013, 09:51:40 AM »

I'm not sure I can say I loved this one, but I was very intrigued by it. There's a lot of interesting imagery here, and whether this story is taken as presented (a man has a bizzare multidimensional adventure), or as a delusion (anxiety related hallucination?) there's a lot to question about it. The theme of female skeletons holding infants, coupled with the illicit tryst and the comment on her parents having lifted their opposition to the marriage makes me wonder if there was a pregnancy involved.
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DKT
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2013, 10:05:12 AM »

Just wanted to say - congrats on getting this - I know Alex and Shawn worked hard to do so, and I enjoyed listening to it.

The theme of female skeletons holding infants, coupled with the illicit tryst and the comment on her parents having lifted their opposition to the marriage makes me wonder if there was a pregnancy involved.

That's where my mind wandered to as well. That there were multiple female skeletons holding multiple children...a meditation on mortality or the mundane? I'm not sure, but I was intrigued, and I was happy to listen to it.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2013, 11:25:59 PM »

Thanks Dave - it's actually a nice little moment where we find ourselves, Pseudopod and Podcastle, standing on almost the same spot in the genre and waving at each other... it's only the skeletons of children in the way...

Without planning it, we seem to have a recent resurgence of "Dark Fantasy" of various types coursing through the Pseudopod bloodstream this Spring, with more to come - including a very Bradburyesque tale.  Interested to see what you might do with Smith.

And Escape Pod seems to have been taking up our slack in the anguish department, recently (while our next Russian Classic coming is a very brutal tale indeed) 
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« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2013, 09:36:28 AM »

This had some very interesting imagery.  I was digging it until it seemed to all turn out to be a hallucination at the end, and then I just felt like I'd misunderstood something vital, that I hadn't gotten the story at all.  I didn't dislike it, but I feel like I didn't really get what Clark Ashton Smith was going for here.
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Millenium_King
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« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2013, 09:26:11 PM »

I always loved this story.  Clark Ashton Smith has been a massive influence upon me (anyone who has listened to Ankor Sabat can see it plain as day).  This is one of my favorite stories of his.  It's such skillful use of language.  Such a powerfully disquieting story.
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lowky
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« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2013, 07:20:37 PM »

I never seem to seek out Smith, but I am always pleasantly surprised when I stumble across his works.  I still prefer Lovecraft, but Smith is a nice little change of pace, and doesn't get the credit he deserves for his contributions to spec fiction.
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Scumpup
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2013, 08:45:24 AM »

I didn't get it, if Smith had something he was trying to say other than "hallucinations of skeletons sure are weird."
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2013, 11:55:30 AM »

I didn't get it, if Smith had something he was trying to say other than "hallucinations of skeletons sure are weird."

Not sure why, but the message I received was that the impending marriage was a bad idea.  Or at least there was a lot of hardship ahead if it went through.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2013, 03:59:43 PM »

This had some very interesting imagery.  I was digging it until it seemed to all turn out to be a hallucination at the end, and then I just felt like I'd misunderstood something vital, that I hadn't gotten the story at all.  I didn't dislike it, but I feel like I didn't really get what Clark Ashton Smith was going for here.

This is how I felt. I loved the imagery, the slow transformation from the mundane to the macabre. It was eerie and beautiful in such a dark way. The skeletons were highly intriguing, and indeed, the whole setup had me chomping at the bit for the final explanation... which never came. When the big reveal was that the whole thing was just an unexplained hallucination, and then the music started, I went, "Uh, what?"

A few people have posited interpretations here, and they may be right, but even those are pretty much just guesses, "Here's what I think..." My thick head prefers a little less subtlety and a little more resolution  in my stories.
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2013, 02:07:46 AM »

Not sure why, but the message I received was that the impending marriage was a bad idea.  Or at least there was a lot of hardship ahead if it went through.
THis was what I thought too. Though maybe that's just my own experience talking.
Good story, well-read even if it didn't shock and surprise much.
ALso, good vocabulary words for anyone wanting to study for their SATs.
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MCWagner
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« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2013, 09:30:13 AM »

I didn't get it, if Smith had something he was trying to say other than "hallucinations of skeletons sure are weird."

Not sure why, but the message I received was that the impending marriage was a bad idea.  Or at least there was a lot of hardship ahead if it went through.
I always thought the story was a little more general than that:  a couple beginning a life together, flush in the fullness of life, is still just mortal meat; stalked even in our happiest, most living moments by the specter of death and disollution.

...but that may be my poetry bone acting up.  I may need to up my prescription...
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Fenrix
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« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2013, 10:23:16 AM »


I always thought the story was a little more general than that:  a couple beginning a life together, flush in the fullness of life, is still just mortal meat; stalked even in our happiest, most living moments by the specter of death and disollution.

...but that may be my poetry bone acting up.  I may need to up my prescription...


If it's your poetry bone being agitated by Clark Ashton Smith, it's probably deliberate. Meds are overrated.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2013, 05:30:23 PM »

The closing quote bears reposting. Nihilism so thick you can stand a spoon in it.

“in the days when the world begins to bleach and shrivel, and the sun is blotched with death. Socialist and Individualist, they'll all be a little dirt lodged deep in the granite wrinkles of the globe's countenance.”
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