Article of Possible Interest: Will California Follow Atlantis?

My follow-up article to “Will Europe Follow Atlantis?” appears at The People of Shambhala website under the title “Will California Follow Atlantis?  How Likely? How Soon?”

It is accessible here: http://peopleofshambhala.com/will-california-follow-atlantis-how-likely-how-soon/

I offer an excerpt:

Poet, story-writer, painter, sculptor, farmer, handyman, correspondent of H. P. Lovecraft, and lifelong resident of Auburn, California, Clark Ashton Smith (1893 – 1961) was perhaps destined to participate in the tradition of Atlantean and Lemurian lore by the fact that his father’s given name was Timeus, no less. Where [Lewis] Spence treats the topics of Atlantis and Lemuria as tragic myth and [W. S.] Cervé as Utopian narrative, Smith treats it as a combination of Swiftian satire… and Baudelairean poetic apocalypse. Smith indeed began his authorial career as the writer of exquisite lyric poetry consciously and studiously modeled after the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, a Catholic reactionary who refused to participate in the euphoria of Progress. Smith gained a wider audience, however, when, to eke out his living during the Great Depression, he began to submit stories to Weird Tales, a “pulp” monthly specializing in lurid exploitations of horrific and supernatural themes. A great many of Smith’s stories have their setting in one or another disintegrating continent, all of which are home to a variety of baroquely corrupt civilizations. Hyperborea and Poseidonis belong in the remote past, but Smith places Zothique in the far future. All three are tropes, not only of Atlantis and Lemuria, but also of modernity, reflecting many of its aspects, and are intended by their author to show the direction in which the vaunted Progress tends.

In Smith’s versions of Atlantis and Lemuria, which reflect the autodidact small-town-dweller’s experience of Metropolitan California in San Francisco and Los Angeles, those New Babylons built atop a major earthquake fault, everyone is a lore-versed hyper-aesthete – and everyone implacably resents and hates everyone else. Smith attuned himself to see modernity as the triumph of resentment over generosity through his immersion in Baudelaire, who preceded Friedrich Nietzsche in that type of acuity. Inspecting the future, Smith, like Baudelaire, saw no “sweet loveliness,” but rather pervasive Cainite invidiousness expressing itself in magical-technical expertise, inveterate status-seeking, and cults of refined (that is to say, debased) sadomasochism. When Smith invoked the past, he did so to hold up a mirror to the present, as Spence had done in Will Europe Follow Atlantis. Just about any of Smith’s stories is therefore implicitly an answer to the question whether California will follow Atlantis, and for Smith the question is unavoidably prejudicial and self-answering. “The Empire of the Necromancers” (Weird Tales September 1932) offers itself as a case in point. In it, the “Golden State” appears allegorically in its true guise, not as the gateway to a radiant future, but as the Abendland in the moment of its Untergang.

2 thoughts on “Article of Possible Interest: Will California Follow Atlantis?

  1. Pingback: Article of Possible Interest | Neoreactive

  2. Pingback: Article of Possible Interest | Reaction Times

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