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The Maker of Gargoyles and Other Stories (edition 2005)

by Clark Ashton Smith

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Clark Ashton Smith was a prodigy, who wrote Arabian Nights novels in his mid-teens and was heralded as a major voice in American poetry by the time he was nineteen. In one frantic burst in the middle 1930s, he wrote nearly a hundred strange, wondrous, and grotesque stories, most of which were published in Weird Tales, Strange Tales, Wonder Stories, and other pulps, but he was by no means a conventional pulp writer. A direct heir to Edgar Allan Poe and to the late Romantics and Decadents, a translator of Baudelaire, Smith wrote in baroque, jeweled prose of distant times and remote planets, of baleful magics and reanimated corpses, lost lovers, eldritch gods, and inexorable fate. He is also a writer whose works refuse to die, even after nearly a century. Think of him as the sorcerer-poet, alone in his eyrie in the dry California hills, dreaming his strange dreams and creating his unique worlds-of Zothique, the Earth's haunted last conti- nent at the end of time, Hyperborea, a prehistoric land, Posei- donis, the last foundering isle of Atlantis, and Averoigne, an unhistoried province of medieval France, thick with vampires. Think of the visions his stories conjure up as sendings, written in strange runes, transported from the sorcerer's lair by in- describable genii or winged spirits. His stories are altogether unlike anyone else's and quite wonderful, among the treasures of fantastic literature. This fine collection of Clark Ashton Smith's work reprints eight of his classic fantasies, including two set in Hyperborea.… (more)
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Title:The Maker of Gargoyles and Other Stories
Authors:Clark Ashton Smith
Info:Wildside Press (2005), Paperback
Collections:Your library
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Tags:fantasy, short stories, weirdfiction, horror

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The Maker of Gargoyles and Other Stories by Clark Ashton Smith

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This collection of seven by American author Clark Ashton Smith (1893– 1961) includes the title piece, a harrowing tale about a stone-carver who chisels gargoyles that mirror his own dark lusts. You undoubtedly have heard the expression of how a work of art can take on a life of its own. Well, the stone-carver’s medieval home town finds out the hard way there can be an element of literal truth in this simple statement, a truth that can tear you to shreds in ways most gruesome and ghastly.

THE MAKER OF GARGOYLES
This tale of the stone-carver and his handiwork begins thusly: “Among the many gargoyles that frowned or leered from the roof of the new-built cathedral of Vyones, two were pre-eminent above the rest by virtue of their fine workmanship and their supreme grotesquery. These two had been wrought by the stone-carver Blaise Reynard, a native of Vyones, who had lately returned from a long sojourn in the cities of Provence.”

The beauty and vividness of the author’s language is something to behold, descriptions glimmering with vibrant detail, scintillating imagery and similes and metaphors that sparkle, dazzle and glow as if a row of torches in a vast underground cavern, as for example: “The two gargoyles were perched on opposite corners of a high tower of the cathedral. One was a snarling, murderous, cat-headed monster, with retracted lips revealing formidable fangs, and eyes that glared intolerable hatred from beneath ferine brows. This creature had the claws and wings of a griffin, and seemed as if it were poised in readiness to swoop down on the city of Vyones, like a harpy on its prey. Its companion was a horned satyr, with the vans of some great bat such as might roam the nether caverns, with sharp, clenching talons, and a look of Satanically brooding lust, as if it were gloating above the helpless object of its unclean desire. Both figures were complete, even to the hindquarters, and were not mere conventional adjuncts of the roof. One would have expected them to start at any moment from the stone in which they were mortised.”

As we learn, the archbishop, who is a lover of art, appreciates Blaise Reynard’s supreme mastery of technique thus he commissions Reynard to carve two gargoyles to ornament the town’s newly constructed cathedral, but others within the church as well as the townspeople of Vyones do not share the archbishop’s enthusiasm; quite to the contrary, they loathe the taciturn, gloomy stone-carver and think his infernal creations so realistic, so hair-raising, so incredibly monstrous, that he must be in secret league with the devil.

The narrator tells us how this 12th century medieval town has always been prosperous, a truly pious town that is home to two nunneries and a monastery and “now, with the completion of the long-planned cathedral, it was thought that Vyones would have henceforward the additional protection of a more august holiness; that demon and stryge and incubus would keep their distance from its heaven-favored purlieus with a more meticulous caution than before.” There is a bit of irony here since it isn’t long before one November evening a huge shadowy flying creature attacks two prominent townspeople, mauling one to death while the other runs for his life. And this is only the beginning: the townspeople, including the town’s priests, become bloody victims in a series of brutal, murderous, horrifying attacks. The entire population lives and breathes in an atmosphere of intense, unending terror. How will it all end? To find out, you can read via the link below.

THIRTEEN PHANTOMS
Back in merry old medieval England, one John Alvington lies on his deathbed dearly wishing he could have a meeting, just once before he dies, with Elspeth, the true love of his life, the lost passion of his youth. His wish is granted and then some - not only does Elspeth walk through the door but an entire string of Elspeths enter, enough Elspeths to fill his room. Yikes!

THE ABOMINATIONS OF YONDO
This tale features a first-person narrator who is finally released from the rack by his torturers and set free in an unknown forest; he is even given some rank water and coarse bread to fortify him on his journey. He wanders aimlessly until his arrives at what he recognizes as the desert of Yondo. However, Yondo is no Sahara . . . no, no, no – not even close – this is planet earth in a far distant future and the desert of Yondo is a Hieronymus Bosch hell landscape, a land inhabited by such things as cacti whose shapes are of indescribable abomination, monstrous, poisonous fungi, huge, aggressive corpse-colored insects. The narrator encounters one horror after the other, including this one: “At last I caught a whitish glimmer in the darkness; then, with all the rapidity of nightmare, a monstrous Thing emerged. It had a pale, hairless, egg-shaped body, large as that of a gravid she-goat; and this body was mounted on nine long wavering legs with many flanges, like the legs of some enormous spider.” Will he finally escape? You will have to read for yourself.

Short stories of Clark Ashton Smith available: http://www.eldritchdark.com/writings/short-stories/
( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |

This collection of seven by American author Clark Ashton Smith (1893– 1961) includes the title piece, a harrowing tale about a stone-carver who chisels gargoyles that mirror his own dark lusts. You undoubtedly have heard the expression of how a work of art can take on a life of its own. Well, the stone-carver’s medieval home town finds out the hard way there can be an element of literal truth in this simple statement, a truth that can tear you to shreds in ways most gruesome and ghastly.

This tale of the stone-carver and his handiwork begins thusly: “Among the many gargoyles that frowned or leered from the roof of the new-built cathedral of Vyones, two were pre-eminent above the rest by virtue of their fine workmanship and their supreme grotesquery. These two had been wrought by the stone-carver Blaise Reynard, a native of Vyones, who had lately returned from a long sojourn in the cities of Provence.”

The beauty and vividness of the author’s language is something to behold, descriptions glimmering with vibrant detail, scintillating imagery and similes and metaphors that sparkle, dazzle and glow as if a row of torches in a vast underground cavern, as for example: “The two gargoyles were perched on opposite corners of a high tower of the cathedral. One was a snarling, murderous, cat-headed monster, with retracted lips revealing formidable fangs, and eyes that glared intolerable hatred from beneath ferine brows. This creature had the claws and wings of a griffin, and seemed as if it were poised in readiness to swoop down on the city of Vyones, like a harpy on its prey. Its companion was a horned satyr, with the vans of some great bat such as might roam the nether caverns, with sharp, clenching talons, and a look of Satanically brooding lust, as if it were gloating above the helpless object of its unclean desire. Both figures were complete, even to the hindquarters, and were not mere conventional adjuncts of the roof. One would have expected them to start at any moment from the stone in which they were mortised.”

As we learn, the archbishop, who is a lover of art, appreciates Blaise Reynard’s supreme mastery of technique thus he commissions Reynard to carve two gargoyles to ornament the town’s newly constructed cathedral, but others within the church as well as the townspeople of Vyones do not share the archbishop’s enthusiasm; quite to the contrary, they loathe the taciturn, gloomy stone-carver and think his infernal creations so realistic, so hair-raising, so incredibly monstrous, that he must be in secret league with the devil.

The narrator tells us how this 12th century medieval town has always been prosperous, a truly pious town that is home to two nunneries and a monastery and “now, with the completion of the long-planned cathedral, it was thought that Vyones would have henceforward the additional protection of a more august holiness; that demon and stryge and incubus would keep their distance from its heaven-favored purlieus with a more meticulous caution than before.” There is a bit of irony here since it isn’t long before one November evening a huge shadowy flying creature attacks two prominent townspeople, mauling one to death while the other runs for his life. And this is only the beginning: the townspeople, including the town’s priests, become bloody victims in a series of brutal, murderous, horrifying attacks. The entire population lives and breathes in an atmosphere of intense, unending terror. How will it all end? To find out, you can read via the link below.

In ‘Thirteen Phantoms” back in merry old medieval England, one John Alvington lies on his deathbed dearly wishing he could have a meeting, just once before he dies, with Elspeth, the true love of his life, the lost passion of his youth. His wish is granted and then some - not only does Elspeth walk through the door but an entire string of Elspeths enter, enough Elspeths to fill his room. Yikes!

“The Abominations of Yondo” features a first-person narrator who is finally released from the rack by his torturers and set free in an unknown forest; he is even given some rank water and coarse bread to fortify him on his journey. He wanders aimlessly until his arrives at what he recognizes as the desert of Yondo. However, Yondo is no Sahara . . . no, no, no – not even close – this is planet earth in a far distant future and the desert of Yondo is a Hieronymus Bosch hell landscape, a land inhabited by such things as cacti whose shapes are of indescribable abomination, monstrous, poisonous fungi, huge, aggressive corpse-colored insects. The narrator encounters one horror after the other, including this one: “At last I caught a whitish glimmer in the darkness; then, with all the rapidity of nightmare, a monstrous Thing emerged. It had a pale, hairless, egg-shaped body, large as that of a gravid she-goat; and this body was mounted on nine long wavering legs with many flanges, like the legs of some enormous spider.” Will he finally escape? You will have to read for yourself.
Short stories of Clark Ashton Smith available: http://www.eldritchdark.com/writings/short-stories/


( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
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