The Double Shadow: A Clark Ashton Smith Podcast

Episode #2: “The End of the Story”

A transcription of this episode is available.

 “The End of the Story” was first published in Weird Tales in May of 1930.

(picture from Dark in the Dark)

If you’re looking for more lamia, “Lamia” by John Keats.

The novel Phil mentioned was The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers. This is a novel that concerns lamia and vampires and amounts to in-depth re-working of the lamia/vampire myth using Keats and historical accounts and all kinds of stuff. The title was taken from a CAS poem. (Ruth’s note–looks fascinating!)

Listener @GenusUnknown also pointed out to us when reading for this week that the “the almost vanished and evilly famous ruins of Château Faussesflammes” are mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft’s collaboration with Hazel Heald, “Out of the Aeons.”

Join us in 2 weeks (May 16th) for “A Rendezvous in Averoigne.”

Music by: Kevin MacLeod

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  1. springaldjack says:

    Some of my thoughts on “End of the Story” not as briefly as i originally thought they would be…

    The unfinished nature of both the story within the story as well as the main narrative strikes me as the literary equivalent to ending a musical piece with an unresolved chord. The sense of non-completion it produces is sort of innately unsettling. This is one of the reasons that I am perhaps more hesitant than you three to say that Nycea does not intend to harm Cristophe. From a more “Watsonian” perspective of course the end of Christophe’s story is hidden because there is no one who returns to tell of it.

    On that note, the story within the story may look even more suspicious. While as you said “this is a long note to leave on the pillow” there is an identifiable character who writes the main narrative, and can (and has reason to) leave an account of his story. Who is telling the story of the knight? Who saw these things? Beyond that there’s the clash between the fact that it happened in a single day and the actual contents of the knight’s change in character. I feel like the book is something made by Nycea or something else in the underground world as a lure. This sort of explains Hillaire. Like Prince Albert and Sir Rober’s Father in the Doctor Who episode “Tooth and Claw” his goal is to take the trap which has been made by the inhuman and turn it into a trap for the inhuman. So he is in fact, just like the Watchers from Buffy, except that the exorcism’s of Hillaire are, unlike the Koh-i-Noor Lunar Laser, or the Slayer, are inadequate weapons against the menace.

    When comparing this story to Lovecraft the obvious parallel is to “The Shadow Over Insmouth.” Both feature the story of narrators who are ultimately drawn by a mental compulsion to abandon the world of humans. In the Lovecraft story, though, the compulsion enters the narrative at the end and signals a shift for the protagonist who has up til then reacted to everything about the Deep Ones with horror and even as he realized his own hybrid nature originally planned to destroy himself rather than yield to it. Smith’s Cristophe never really fights the compulsion. He fitst becomes aware of it with the book (though it may be why he ended up at the monastery to begin with, and it never occurs to him that he really should avoid the book, or the ruin, or that he might be imperiled by returning to Nycea. I think this tells a stronger story, both from the fact that we cannot trust that Christophe’s instincts are good at any point (making him a very subtly unreliable narrator) and because the turn at the end of Insmouth was never convincing for me, and if he’s changed why did he write the story and so on.

    I might have more thoughts later, but this is plenty for the moment.

  2. TheRubb1e says:

    For the origins of the name Nycea I would point you towards the Town of Nicaea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea), where the first council of Nicaea codified the precepts of Christianity.

    This led to the eventual conversion of the pagan Roman Empire to the boring, repressive and definitely not Romantic modernity. This certainly complicates the conflict between the Abbot and the Lamia.

    • Ruth says:

      TheRubb1e, I was wondering that about Nicea, since I’m familiar with the council and creed, but hadn’t put that together with the pagan/Christian tension in the story. That’s a great observation.

  3. The Count says:

    A bit late but finally I found some time to read that story and listen to your say. A rather simple tale it seems, but promising. Makes me look foreward to the rest of the Averoigne cycle. I like the ambiguitys in there. Your idea that Hilaire might be using Morand as bait is quite intriguing. A nice interpretation of what otherwise seems just like a silly plot device.

    Someone should write a version where those monks turn out to be cultists of that Lamia thing.

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