Tag Archive: Lord Dunsany

Clark Ashton Smith, The Crawling Chaos, Artistry


Bow down, I am the emperor of dreams. - Clark Ashton Smith
my pre-ramble… :-)

Letter From Clark Ashton Smith About Crawling Chaos And Art - April 14th, 1937

Letter From Clark Ashton Smith About Crawling Chaos And Art

While doing some link rot checking using the Broken Link Checker plugin I came across this old post which is about an old edited letter from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) to August Derluth.

A screenshot is at left – click to enlarge or see the original here.  CAS tells about the creation of The Crawling Chaos by the two authors, showing a natural deference for his friend, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (HPL).

Some people may know that CAS also sculpted, from soapstone if my memory is correct.  The letter mentions some of this, but mainly describes a gripe that all artists have – now, quoting directly from CAS, emphasised & paragraphed for web clarity by me…

I am pleased to hear that the sculptures continue to attract so much favorable attention. I am writing to Sloane, and offering him a copy of The Double Shadow if he hasn’t seen it. . . . On second thought, I’ll mail him an inscribed one anyway.

As to a volume of my stuff, I suppose there is no harm in trying, It makes me pretty sick to remember that at least five publishers asked HPL to submit story-material for a possible book and then turned it down.

It is curious how ready people are to admit the worth of a writer after he is dead, and how goddamned cautious they are about it while he remains alive. Death seems to bring about a sort of crystallization, so to speak. . . .

As for me. I am pretty tough, and come of a hardy and long-lived ancestry. I’ll survive my present difficulties. What the future holds, I am not sure. But I have made up my mind to quit California at the earliest possible date.

Plugging Away

So CAS just kept plugging away.  He never had any money, yet mysteriously, I’ve read nearly all his stuff!!  The bulk of this was some time ago when Panther published stacks of compilations by HPL, CAS and many others.  But, just as CAS mused, he was dead by the time I read them…

The original issues had wonderfully mystical, sometimes horrible, artwork by Bruce Pennington….

Crawling Chaos

When the band (The Crawling Chaos) was formed, it was just Jeff Crowe, Keith Wear & myself.  We all read and devoured everything to do with The Cthulu Mythos – and more! [e.g for myself it led me to Lord Dunsany, Robert Heinlein, Frederik Pohl, Philip K Dick, Daniel Keyes & the rest of SF]

Genius Loci cover

Genius Loci cover

In particular, since there’s only a few folks that now know this, Keith took it upon himself to copy the whole Bruce Pennington cover for the 1st Panther book version of CAS’s Genius Loci.

I scanned my book some time ago and cleaned away the title etc just leaving the work. That’s it, left.

Bedroom Wall

So…….Keith copied the key guts of the thing onto his bedroom wall in Ashington!  The whole wall…

You can see his copy as part of the cover for our first recorded output, Magnum Innoninandum (sic) here:

Crawling Chaos - Magnum Innoninandum (cassette cover)

Crawling Chaos – Magnum Innoninandum (cassette cover)

The original (nicked at Tynemouth) drumkit is there as well as the really noisy HH amp, Jeff’s record player, speakers & discs on the floorof his mum’s living room. Keith did the cover.

The Black Abbott of Puthuum

Genius Loci also includes one of my favourite CAS passages in the description of the Black Abbott.  (I think my favourite story has to be “The Coming of the White Worm“, but that’s for another time).  Anyway, here’s the bit about the black abbott blokey…

To add to their distress, the terrain grew rougher and steeper, and they climbed acclivitous hillsides and went down endlessly into drear valleys. Anon they came to a flat, open, pebbly space. There, all at once, it seemed that the pandemonium of evil noises drew back on every hand, receding and fading into faint, dubious whispers that died at a vast remove. Simultaneously, the circling night thinned out, and a few stars shone in the welkin, and the sharp-spined hills of the desert loomed starkly against a vermilion afterglow. The travelers paused and peered wonderingly at one another in a gloom that was no more than that of natural twilight.

“What new devilry is this?” asked Cushara, hardly daring to believe that the hellish leaguers had vanished.

“I know not,” said the archer, who was staring into the dusk.” “But here, mayhap, is one of the devils.”

The others now saw that a muffled figure was approaching them, bearing a lit lantern made of some kind of translucent horn. At some distance behind the figure, lights appeared suddenly in a square dark mass which none of the party had discerned before. This mass was evidently a large building with many windows.

The figure, drawing near, was revealed by the dim yellowish lantern as a black man of immense girth and tallness, garbed in a voluminous robe of saffron such as was worn by certain monkish orders, and crowned with the two-horned purple hat of an abbot. He was indeed a singular and unlooked-for apparition: for if any monasteries existed amid the barren reaches of Izdrel, they were hidden and unknown to the world. Zobal, however, searching his memory, recalled a vague tradition he had once heard concerning a chapter of negro monks that had flourished in Yoros many centuries ago. The chapter had long been extinct, and the very site of its monastery was forgotten. Nowadays there were few blacks anywhere in the kingdom, other than those who did duty as eunuchs guarding the seraglios of nobles and rich merchants

The animals began to display a certain uneasiness at the stranger’s approach.

“Who art thou?” challenged Cushara, his fingers tightening on the haft of his weapon.

The black man grinned capaciously, showing rows of discolored teeth whose incisors were like those of a wild dog. His enormous unctuous jowls were creased by the grin into folds of amazing number and volume; and his eyes, deeply slanted and close together, seemed to wink perpetually in pouches that shook like ebon jellies. His nostrils flared prodigiously; his purple, rubbery lips drooled and quivered, and he licked them with a fat, red, salacious tongue before replying to Cushara’s question. [isn’t this bit amazing? – SP]

“I am Ujuk, abbot of the monastery of Puthuum,” he said, in a thick voice of such extraordinary volume that it appeared almost to issue from the earth under his feet. “Methinks the night has overtaken you far from the route of travelers. I bid you welcome to our hospitality.”

So, buy the book, or read the whole story here.

Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams?

(clue – “The Hashish Eater”)
Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-colored sun
Of secret worlds incredible, and take
Their trailing skies for vestment when I soar….

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The Bureau d’Exchange de Maux and Crawling Chaos

A Case of One Man’s Cake is Another Man’s Poison

I first read the short story, “The Bureau d’Exchange de Maux” by Lord Dunsany, in the late seventies in a compilation, probably a Panther Books one.  It’s staggering simplicity is matched by the masterful telling.

Later, in (a sort of) homage, Crawling Chaos used the acronym  B.U.E.M.  as a pseudonym for certain releases –  probably because it sounds like ‘bum’, such was our level of humour at the time …   Bureau Universel d’Exchanges de Maux was written on the sign above the doorway. ( Actually, we pronounced it ‘berm’ which is something totally different.  The biggest berm I know of is the Morrocan Wall which you can see on Google Maps. It’s construction was a unique Arab-Israeli collaboration, bizarrely).

The Curse of the Wise WomanBut I digress.

As well as this tale I can heartily recommend “The King of Elfland’s Daughter”, and my favourite Dunsany story,  the Irish-placed tale, yearning for a simple romantic past of continuity, “The Curse of the Wise Woman”, which warns about treating the Earth right – or else.

The Bureau d’Exchange de Maux:  by Lord Dunsany

I often think of the Bureau d’Exchange de Maux and the wondrously evil old man that sate therein. It stood in a little street that there is in Paris, its doorway made of three brown beams of wood, the top one overlapping the others like the Greek letter pi, all the rest painted green, a house far lower and narrower than its neighbours and infinitely stranger, a thing to take one’s fancy. And over the doorway on the old brown beam in faded yellow letters this legend ran, Bureau Universel d’Exchanges de Maux …..  The story is copyright until 2027.  Buy it if you can find it!!

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The Maldives and Tuvalu will be Alright Without People

A recent article on coral growth has confirmed my opinions that I’ve had for years that the assumptions about the environmental degradation and collapse of coral reefs have nothing to do with global warming, sea level rises or ice ages.

News Article: Coral springs back from tsunami – BBC News

Background from WCS.org:  Conservation Opportunity

Instead, the coral reef collapse is purely from direct human actions.

How can this be?  A: Simply, by observation and the principle of cause and effect.

Charles Darwin proposed many years ago a mechanism for the evolution of coral atolls and the large numbers of submerged seamounts.  My observations are that Darwin’s theory has been almost completely accepted in it’s entirety and that there is copious geological and other evidence for many variances in sea level over time.

The theory goes that the corals grow until they’re right at wave height.  Then the tops get chopped off in storms and piled up to make beaches.  That’s the steady-state.

If the land rises, the exposed corals die but new ones grow in the sea.  If the land falls, the corals grow towards the sunlight again.

But corals can only grow so fast.

If the land falls too fast, the corals are trapped in darkness and die.  There are hundreds of submerged tropical seamounts, topped with dead coral at depths of around 1000m, that prove this.  The same goes for steady-state.  If coral is left to grow, it naturally makes harbours, beaches and islands under the influence of staorms and tides.

What this means is that corals are actually very robust creatures.  They’ve existed this way for millions of years.

During these times the sea has gone up and down as well as the land.  There have been several ice ages.  There have been countless tsunamis as well.  The coral recovers, well, by definition;  it’s still there!!!

And this is what has been observed to happen in Indonesia.

The tsunami came in 2004, killed a lot of coral, but crucially, it killed a lot of fishermen as well and the whole tourist industry! And it’s really people that kill coral.  These last few years have a been a welcome breather for the coral as an escape from people.

They overfish, chip away at it, use it to build houses, concrete and ports.  Sell it as trinkets.  Build airports on it.  This is what’s happened in the Maldives. This BBC Country profile: The Maldives, makes it clear that following the 2004 tsunami, there has been a massive rebuilding!    It’s a red-herring that the hot water is responsible for coral’s demise.   Or starfish.  The world has been hotter in the coral’s past – and they’ve always had predators like the starfish.  Coral seeds itself in the water.  If it’s too hot for a certain species of coral, another will take it’s place.

Left alone, the Maldives and Tuvalu will still be there.  As the sea rises, and without human intervention, the coral should grow and be smashed to bits by storms, cast up to make new beaches.  But people, with their feet and their animals, their cars and houses, their aeroairplanes and boats, their work and their play, whittle slowly away at the coral when it should be growing!   When the big storm comes, the coral and thus the islands are more vulnerable.

In that respect, it’s a shame that the tsunami didn’t wash right over The Maldives.  Thousands more people would have died and the tourist industry would have completely collapsed.  As it was, a complete physical disaster for the islands was thwarted (i.e. it could have been much worse).

But the coral could have re-grown.  The Maldives wouldn’t dissappear like they are now assumed to do so…

As an allegorical story, the tsunami wiping away the fishermen and tourists of Banda Aceh etc to save the coral reefs would make a fantastic script.  But many years ago I read a real story much like this.

Buy on Amazon: The Curse of The Wise Woman, by Lord DunsanyIt’s set in the bogs of Ireland and was written by Lord Dunsany.  It is called “The Curse of the Wise Woman“, and is well worth a read as a Gaia-like warning to look after the world by letting the world look after us.  To work with nature, not against it.  That’s surely a good goal.

In this respect, the destructive fishermen of Indonesia are in no way different to those that wiped out the North Sea and Grand Banks fisheries of the last century.  High latitudes don’t grow coral though.  What we have done however, is made huge increases in atmospheric CO2.  We mine the crust on an industrial scale.  We have the ice sheets.  We have the warming. We have huge industries and complex civilisations.   What will Gaia do?

Read the Curse of the Wise Woman.

Daisaku Ikeda has said; “Life is a chain. All things are related. When any link is harmed, the other links are affected. We should think of the environment as our mother. There is no crime worse than harming one’s mother.”

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