Radium Age 100 (85)

By: Joshua Glenn
February 25, 2016

One in a series of 100 posts about the best science fiction novels published from 1904–33. HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn has named that era science fiction’s Radium Age; more info here. The complete Radium Age 100 list can be found here.


Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique (1932-1953).

In sixteen stories, not to mention a verse play (!), all written in gorgeous, ornate prose, and all published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, Smith depicts the dark goings-on of Zothique, a continent where the elites live in perfumed decadence, and lost kingdoms litter the deserts. Most of the story’s main characters are necromancers: indeed, the first-published Zothique story is titled “Empire of the Necromancers” (September 1932). Other memorable titles include “The Isle of the Torturers” (March 1933), “The Dark Eidolon” (January 1935), “The Tomb Spawn” (May 1934), and the Robert E. Howard-esque “The Black Abbot of Puthuum” (March 1936). So is this fantasy, as opposed to science fiction? It’s both. The Zothique stories are set in the far future, when Earth’s sun glows a dim red; Zothique — comprising what once were Asia Minor, Arabia, Persia, India, and parts of northern and eastern Africa — is the only continent extant. In fact, Smith is credited with having pioneered the Dying Earth genre of science fiction, well before Jack Vance’s midcentury efforts.

Fun fact: Along with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith made the years 1933-37 a Golden Age for the pulp magazine Weird Tales. Smith’s idiosyncratic take on the Lovecraft mythos has been dubbed the Clark Ashton Smythos.


MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? |Radium Age 100: 100 Best Science Fiction Novels from 1904–33 | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | Radium Age: Context series | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Hugo Gernsback | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin