Clark Ashton Smith was born on January 13, 1893, in Long Valley, California, but lived most of his life in Auburn. Ill health as a child prevented him from attending all but five years of school, but he set upon an extensive campaign of self-education.
He began to write at an early age, and sold several short stories to magazines such as Overland Monthly and Black Cat at the age of seventeen. Smith’s first book, The Star-Treader and Other Poems, was a sensation when published in 1912. He was hailed by the San Francisco press as a new Keats and as the boy-poet of the Sierras. Ambrose Bierce read some of Smith’s poems in manuscript and praised them highly.
The necessity to care for his aging parents led Smith to take up the writing of imaginative short stories for pulp magazines such as Wonder Stories and Weird Tales in the late 1920s. During the space of five years he turned out approximately one hundred polished and imaginative tales of “inconceivable fear and unimaginable love.” These were later collected together, and have been translated into several languages.
The deaths of his parents, combined with a growing disgust at the low standards of pulp editors and readers, led to his resumption of poetry writing. Smith married late in life, to Carol Dorman, and moved to Pacific Grove in 1954. He died in 1961, having seen his fourth collection of short stories, The Abominations of Yondo, achieve print.