A Vintage From Atlantis

By Clark Ashton Smith

283 ratings - 4.4* vote

Published in chronological order, with extensive story and bibliographic notes, this series not only provides access to stories that have been out of print for years, but gives them a historical and social context. Series editors Scott Conners and Ronald S. Hilger excavated the still-existing manuscripts, letters and various published versions of the stories, creating a de Published in chronological order, with extensive story and bibliographic notes, this series not only provides access to

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Book details

Hardcover, 300 pages
December 11th 2007 by Night Shade Books

(first published November 1st 2007)

Original Title
A Vintage from Atlantis
1597800309 (ISBN13: 9781597800303)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

mark monday

I liked this one rather more than the preceding collection and rather less than the first volume. here are the mid-career stories in which the weird master's idiosyncratic style has reached its peak. two more collections to go, so hopefully this peak will be a plateau. the occasional amateurishness that marred some prior stories is nowhere to be found in this book. same goes, mainly, for the love stories; he's just not that into them at this point. this is CAS at his most polished, although "polished" does little to describe his marvelous combination of disdainful irony and bleak humor, hysteria and grotesquerie, bizarre flights of fancy, dense walls of prose delivered in an extravagantly purple style, and of course the fulsome harvest of obscure words in each and every story. nobody does it better.

I had a bunch of favorites. the frequently anthologized Seed from the Sepulcher was wonderfully grim and disgusting and did body horror decades before anyone else. Plutonium Drug puts forth a nifty twist on seeing the future and also details a range of interesting new drugs and poisons imported from various planets. Empire of the Necromancers is the first in the Zothique story cycle - stories which feel like they were written by a death-mad Jack Vance from another dimension. Double Shadow is about the doom that befell two sorcerers and their pet mummy due to some poorly thought-out trips to the very distant past - to crib the spells of a long-vanished serpent race, of all things. also featuring astral trips to archaic times, Ubbo-Sathla is a mindbending take on reincarnation. mindbending to this reader and unfortunately for the protagonist(s) as well. always remember: you can't go home again, especially if that first home is an oozing primordial mother-mass that is probably from outer space. The Holiness of Azédarac, set in that always interesting (and made-up) French province of Averoigne, starts off the collection on a fun note and spryly pivots from being about the murderous mage of the title to a tale of a well-meaning monk and an equally well-meaning enchantress falling quickly in lust and love. And The Demon of the Flower is as gorgeous, strange, and vicious as its titular monster; that CAS purple prose is at its most opulent.

my favorite of faves was Colossus of Ylourgne. this fabulous adventure is CAS at his most ripe, full of ghoulishness and aiming to please with an exciting narrative. basically it is about a sorcerer who has constructed a giant out of corpses; he'll inhabit that giant and use it to lay bloody waste on the various villages, churches, and judgmental monks of unlucky Averoigne. nice. maybe clerical types should stop finger-pointing so much. fortunately for them, there is a helpful young novice wizard who'll try and save the day. this story was super fun from beginning to end.

and now for some ridiculous synopses:

"Holiness of Azédarac" forget that wizard - a witch loves you!
"The Maker of Gargoyles" resentment & desire come alive!
"The Colossus of Ylourgne" attack on undead titan!

"A Vintage from Atlantis" pirates shouldn't drink so much!
"Double Shadow" some serpent-spells shouldn't be cast!

"The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqqquan" don't be a greedy pig!
"Ubbo-Sathla" AKA Shub-Niggurath? maybe!

"Empire of the Necromancers" the dead make poor servants!

science fantasy
"The Demon of the Flower" don't assassinate a plant-god!

science fiction
sequel: "Beyond the Singing Flame" alas for the end of things!
"Seedling of Mars" Martian vegetable wants to help you evolve!
"The Eternal World" don't mess with the Gods of the Galaxy!
"The Invisible City" don't go looking for things you can't see!
"Immortals of Mercury" human protoplasm is required!
"The Plutonian Drug" future is now - unless you're dead!
"The God of the Asteroid" Mars is hell but asteroids are worse!

science fiction horror
"The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" that black turban ain't no turban!

"The Nameless Offspring" nobody loves a step-ghoul!
"Seed from the Sepulcher" that head's a flower-pot!
"The Second Interment" uh oh, premature burial!
"The Supernumerary Corpse" two bodies for the price of one!


Short stories by an early proponent of fantasy and science fiction/horror. Clarke Ashton Smith earned a living by selling stories to periodicals such as Weird Tales or Astounding Stories.

This collection is patchy and some of the stories have not aged well. Particularly jarring was "The Plutonian Drug" featuring an amazing substance called Plutonium, made from a lichen from Pluto. Of course a few years after the story was written the real Plutonium was discovered.

For me the gothic horror stories set in medieval Averoigne work best and have stood the test of time. I also love the way CAS has with arcane and obscure words such as lich, mephitic and hierophant.

A generous 3/5, with a nostalgic nod back to a simpler time when a teenage me devoured pulp fiction such as this


This volume is so far the strongest of the first three in the five that collect all of Clark Ashton Smith's work. The editors collected the stories in the order that Smith wrote them, and in the period represented by this volume Smith was writing some of his best work. In stories such as "The Empire of the Necromancers," Smith is able to create worlds with scale and texture that rival that found in some of the doorstop, multi-volume fantasy tales I have read. His prose is descriptive and evocative and his plots are adventurous and epic. To read a Clark Ashton Smith story is to enjoy a course of literary sustenance that is so filling that I forced myself to space my readings out, so as to maximize my enjoyment of every one.

Thank you Nightshade for publishing these works in full, and giving them the shelf space they deserve.


This is the third volume in the series of C.A.S’ work that I’ve read. I liked it a bit more than the two previous volumes.

I am far more interested in the weird/horror stories than the sci-fi stories. They are pretty mixed together, so you get a so-so science-adventure story like “The Eternal World” or “Seedling of Mars,” but then something great like “The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis” or “The Nameless Offspring.”

The thing is, the best stories are in the second half of the book. Once you get through “The Immortals of Mercury,” it’s pretty smooth sailing.

There are some non-Weird Tales stories that were fairly impressive, like “The Demon of the Flower” published in “Astounding Stories” for example. A few of the other sci-fi/horror stories are quite good too. “The God of the Asteroid” is an haunting and sad sci-fi tale. “The Plutonian Drug” is a very imaginative, but predictable story.

However many of the sci-fi stories were “rent-payers” as Smith himself often admitted in letters noted in the back of the book. And too often these stories run together on a similar theme: an explorer is captured by a superior alien race and will probably be sacrificed or killed, so he makes a desperate escape. “The Invisible City,” “The Immortals of Mercury” follow this theme pretty close, “The Eternal World” isn’t far behind, although it’s an improvement over those two and shows some great imagination.

My favorites were “The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis,” “The Colossus of Ylourgne” and “The Seed from the Sepulcher.” I would say “The Empire of the Necromancers,” “The Double Shadow,” “The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan” and “The Nameless Offspring” rank just below these.

Everything else is good at least worth a read...except for the “science-adventure” stories: “Beyond the Singing Flame,” “Seedling of Mars,” “The Invisible City” and “The Immortals of Mercury.” One can skip these and still live a fulfilled life.

Out of 21 stories here, 11 appeared in Weird Tales (marked (WT)). Most others appeared in science fiction magazines like Wonder Stories and Astounding Stories. Two of the stories “The Second Interment” and “The Nameless Offspring” appeared in the short-lived Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, and they are much in the vein of the Weird Tales stories.


The Holiness of Azédarac (WT) - I’d read this one previously and skipped it here. When I read it a couple years ago I thought: This is another story I can't say is bad, but not exactly my favorite type. It's a rather milder story, a sort of time travel romance. A man sent on a mission by the archbishop has acquired proof that the priest Azedarac is engaged in the black arts, but is sent back in time where he discovers hitherto unknown pleasures.

The Maker of Gargoyles (WT) - This is a pretty good story, an example of Smith’s earth-bound horror stories more than wild fantasy. A stonemason feared and hated by the townsfolk as a dabbler in the black arts seems to be the cause of a massacre when beasts much like the gargoyles he has carved start murdering people at night.

Beyond the Singing Flame - I read “The City of the Singing Flame” some years ago, and this story seems to be the same story from what I recall. It's imaginative stuff but not my favorite type of Smith’s work, and the end didn’t really go anywhere. A writer decides to track down his friend who entered the city of the Singing Flame, and finds himself drawn into a similar adventure.

Seedling of Mars - A quite political, and in some ways utopian science fiction tale. This was one of the least interesting stories, although it does have some great moments of cosmic strangeness. Scientists investigating a spaceship that lands on earth become enclosed inside of it and whisked away to Mars where a giant organism wants to offer humanity a bargain that divides the liberal and conservative-minded.

The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis (WT) - This was a re-read for me, four years ago when I read this I thought it was one of the creepiest stories I’d ever read. This is as perfect a weird tale as I’ve ever read, and it’s one of the best things C.A.S. ever wrote. It actually made me feel like something was crawling on me at times. An exploring party on Mars goes to inspect an ancient, ruined city, at first they find nothing, but that changes once they enter a huge catacomb.

The Eternal World - A pretty impressive science-fantasy story, with a very wild ending. This one has some great ideas in it, but soon turns into more of an adventure story. A man builds a machine that projects him into a world of suspended time, but he and some other timeless beings are taken from this world by a large vessel.

The Demon of the Flower - I liked this one a lot, one of the pleasant surprises in this collection. It’s a dark fantasy tale, with rich color and description, full of imagination and has a powerful ending. A king seeks to destroy a tyrannical plant that demands a yearly sacrifice from his people.

The Nameless Offspring (ST) - This earth-based horror story offers a nice break from the sci-fi stories. Smith paints what is a not-overly original tale, but in the moody, ghoulish pastels only he can. The notes on this story are interesting, speculating that it might not have been written at all had the magazine Strange Tales not existed, because it was likely too nasty for the editor of Weird Tales. A man finding himself lost on the foggy English moors seeks refuge at the home of an old friend of his fathers’ who has a family secret involving a crypt-dwelling spawn that’s so horrific it cannot be put into words!

A Vintage from Atlantis (WT) - A very short story, it reminded me a little of the early stories of Lovecraft. Interesting, but not overly memorable. A crewman on a pirate ship recalls what happened after his crew drank a wine cask from a long dead civilization.

The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan (WT) - I really liked this one, it’s a brief, not unpredictable revenge tale, but the ending leaves an impression. A rich usurer refuses to give alms to a beggar, and later is led into a trap by his own greed.

The Invisible City - This story starts off well, but I didn’t care for where it ultimately goes. It’s a decent read though and reminded me a little of Lovecraft’s “In the Walls of the Eryx.” Two archaeologists stranded in a desert find an invisible city with very strange inhabitants.

The Immortals of Mercury - This story is another sci-fi adventure story about a man captured by an alien race with some effective moments of weirdness. It’s just too long and made worse because we can feel potential in it. Lovecraft himself noted “it furnishes more than one authentic shudder” and “the later parts give a very real thrill of subterrene horror,” but agreed with Smith that it was written for a common audience who demanded action-based stories. A explorer of Mercury is taken captive by a strange native race who seek to make him a sacrifice.

The Empire of the Necromancers (WT) - This is a brief story I’d read previously, and it is one of the best stories in this volume. It’s a decadent, grotesque tale, over-the-top in it’s descriptions of crumbling, decaying corpses. Two necromancers summon up the dead of a long-dead city in the desert to do their bidding, but the spark of rebellion starts to fester in some of them.

The Seed from the Sepulcher (WT) - This is an excellent story, one of the top three in this volume. It’s an earth-based weird-horror tale, displaying some very dark imagination. Two men are exploring the jungles of Venezuela for rare orchids and one of them checks out a long-abandoned ruin, only to become infected by a horrific malady.

The Second Interment (ST) - A grim tale of live burial, it reminded me a bit of Poe’s story on the subject. A man who was buried alive fears a repeat of the affair, and fears his avaricious brother will allow it to happen.

Ubbo-Sathla (WT) - This one took a little time to get going, but it turns into a fairly impressive story. It becomes very effective as it goes and in terms of overall theme it's like something out of a Ligotti tribute. A man finds a strange crystal in a curio shop and staring into it is transported to primordial time.

The Double Shadow (WT) - I didn’t realize I’d read this one previously until I got a ways into it, but I think I liked it better this time around, based on my old review. An apprentice to a sorcerer finds an ancient mirror washed up on the beach, after discovering how to perform the incantation connected with it nothing happens -- it's only later they find themselves plagued by horrors.

The Plutonian Drug - This reminds me of something from The Twilight Zone. It’s a sci-fi tale that's pretty predictable plot-wise, but it’s also very imaginative. A sculptor tries a rare drug that allows him to see into the past and future.

The Supernumerary Corpse (WT) - This is a brief story with a pretty original idea at it’s base that I liked, but unfortunately Smith didn’t seem to know what to do with it. A chemist, cheated out of his discoveries decides to kill the man with a poison he has developed, that has a very strange result.

The Colossus of Ylourgne (WT) - This might be my favorite story here, certainly this is one of the better long stories (coming in around 14,000 words). In some ways it’s a weird-adventure tale, but it has plenty of atmosphere too. An evil sorcerer who feels bitterly wronged by his fellow men esconds to an abandoned castle where he starts to build something to take revenge.

The God of the Asteroid - This is a sad story, horrific too. It makes a lasting impression of grief and melancholy and was among favorites of the sci-fi stories in this volume. A crashed spaceship is discovered on an asteroid, it’s dead inhabitant records his final days in a diary.


A Vintage from Atlantis is volume 3 of the series. Smith is really hitting his stride by 1931 - 1932. Unlike the earlier two volumes there is hardly a clinker in the entire book. The stories are truly interesting and the plots novel while the endings are not as formulaic as in the past. If you are going to read or purchase only one volume from this series, this should be it.

Most of Smith's most popular stories are reprinted here. Like the earlier volumes the texts have been corrected and the most faithful sources either used or interpolated from the best evidence for what Smith wanted.

For those who really want the full range of Smith's best fiction in one book, I would recommend Rendezvous in Averoign by Arkham House although I do have a few reservations about some of the story choices.


I wrote in my review of The Door to Saturn that my biggest problem with Smith's stories was the endings, and that's still true after reading A Vintage from Atlantis. In the appendices to the book, there's even a letter from Smith to August Derleth that reads in part:
Funny--I seem to have more trouble with the endings of stories than anything else. God knows how many I have had to re-write.
Perhaps he should have spent more time rewriting them, though I'm getting ahead of myself. I did rate this four stars, after all, so it's not quite as terrible as me beginning with a complaint about it sounds.

Before I begin, one quirk I noticed in several of the stories that I didn't notice before is the repetition of the language that runs throughout many of the stories. I already commented on Smith's tendency to use Latinate words instead of Anglo-Saxon ones to add an antique air to his stories, but in this book there's a lot of the kind of poetic redoubling that's common in Biblical poetry--lines like "his mighty laughter, his stormy bellowing."

First off, the titular A Vintage from Atlantis. I'm honestly not sure why this was given top billing like that, because I found it to be pretty pedestrian. Sure, the image of a bunch of wild and crazy pirates all staring morosely off into the distance and then marching into the sea is a good one, but there's no conflict and the horror of the protagonist didn't come through to me even though "a terror came on me" is written right into the story. It's another one of the "dum dum DUM!" stories that doesn't have much else to recommend it in my mind. There is some good imagery when the crew first drinks the wine, but that's about it.

On the other hand, the book also contains The Empire of the Necromancers, which has a great title, is fantastically evocative, and is the first appearance of the Last Continent, Zothique. I'll admit that not all that much really happens in the story--the plot is basically "some necromancers show up, raise up a nation to serve them, and then get what's coming to them--but the language used is incredible:
Dead laborers made their palace-gardens to bloom with long-perished flowers; liches and skeletons toiled for them in the mines, or reared superb, fantastic towers to the dying sun. Chamberlains and princes of old time were their cupbearers, and stringed instruments were plucked for their delight by the slim hands of empresses with golden hair that had come forth untarnished from the night of the tomb. Those that were fairest, whom the plague and the worm had not ravaged overmuch, they took for their lemans and made to serve their necrophilic lust.
No wonder no one likes necromancers. Especially the corpses they've raised up from their slumber and compelled into unholy servitude, who then rebel against their sorcerous bondage with damnable consequences.

The Eternal World doesn't have the same kind of language as the previously mentioned stories, but I do give it props for featuring the danger of eldritch knowledge front and center. The main character is only an observer for most of the story, but he sees the actions of a small group in a single city end up dooming an entire planet to destruction. That idea--that existence is incredibly fragile, and could be snuffed out at any moment through the actions of people who barely know what they're doing--is both incredibly Lovecraftian and the life experience of basically anyone who was born during the Cold War, so it's perhaps no surprise that I like it so much. That mood was enough to make me like "The Eternal World" even though the protagonist spends the entire story doing nothing.

Next to "Empire of the Necromancers," The Maker of Gargoyles is one of the strongest stories in the collection. It's got the evocative imagery that Smith brings at his best while also having a deeper theme that's more than just, "Here's this horrible thing that happened" or "look at all these weird places." At first, Reynard looks like your stereotypical Internet Nice Guy, who's super annoyed that hanging around the fringes of the social circle and staring creepily at the girl he's in lust with doesn't result in her declaring her undying love for him, but on the other hand there are some hints that he has other reasons to be so angry:
Whether rightly or unjustly, his very physiognomy had always marked him out for public disfavor: he was inordinately dark, with hair and beard of a preternatural bluish-black, and slanting, ill-matched eyes that gave him a sinister and cunning air.
So, the people of Vyones hated him for no reason because of how he looked, which is enough to make the gentlest soul angry. No wonder those gargoyles murder their way through the populace. Based on Reynard's actions at the end, he almost comes off as sympathetic, even though he seems like a repugnant troll earlier on. This one is a good savory addition to the sweetness of the stories based primarily on mood, though it also has mood in spades.

I could go on. I haven't even talked about The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis or The Colossus of Ylourgne, both of which are well worth reading, or the almost cute ending of The Holiness of Azédarac, or the sublime creepiness of The Double Shadow. Oh, and there are some other stories in here too, if you like that sort of thing.

I gave this one four stars, but it's more like 4.5. A Vintage from Atlantis is definitely the best of Smith's story collections I've read so far, and the few stories that fell flat weren't enough to drag the book down overall. If you read one of these books, read this one.

And maybe for my next review I'll break out a thesaurus and stop writing "evocative" and "imagery" so much.

Previous Review: The Door to Saturn.
Next Review: The Maze of the Enchanter.

Gustavo Vazquez

Clark Ashton Smith, junto com Lovecraft e Robert E. Howard, foi um dos criadores do que hoje se chama de "Mitos de Cthulhu". Seus contos podem ser resumidos em: alguém descobre que algo terrível pode acontecer, e o algo terrível acontece.
Apesar de seu caráter pessimista (ainda mais do que Lovecraft), suas histórias possuem duas qualidades que as colocam como excelentes exemplares deste tipo de literatura: primeiro são muito variadas, indo da idade média ao futuro em planetas longínquos sem jamais perder a naturalidade ou originalidade. Segundo, tendo começado sua carreira como poeta, é um escritor que explora bastante o léxico inglês, usando as palavras mais exóticas para descrever seus cenários. Por exemplo: "About it, prone or tilted in the mire, there lay the mighty tablets of star-quarried stone that were writ with the inconceivable wisdom of the pre-mundane gods".
Passando um preliminar estranhamento linguístico, as histórias encontradas são muito boas e algumas de fato excelentes, engajando o leitor em uma fantasmagoria alucinante.

Simcha York

A Vintage from Atlantis is the third of five books that collect the fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith. Of the first three books in the series, it is certainly the strongest.

Written between 1931 and 1932, these stories cover a range of his styles. There is the 30-page dark sci-fi "Seedling of Mars" (which like most of his longer sci-fi pieces, is one of his weaker works), a collection of Averoignian tales, including the time-traveling adventure "The Holiness of Azédarac," "The Maker of Gargoyles," and the necromantic tale "The Colossus of Ylourgne." As usual, of course, it is Smith's shorter mood-pieces that truly pull the book together - tales such as the haunting "A Vintage from Atlantis," the Lovecraftian "Ubbo-Sathla," and quirkily dark "The Plutonian Drug" and "The Supernumerary Corpse."

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the works of Clark Ashton Smith, or anyone interested in dark fantasy or pulp-era weird tales.

Jess M

This review is for volumes 1 to 5 of the set. I have a weakness for collecting, a weakness I was more than willing to indulge for a set such as this. I found however that not all of CAS’s stories measure up to ones I had previously read (typically in pulp). And I am NOT AT ALL a fan of his poetry.

The publisher has also added an impressive appendix to each vol. Sadly the margins and typeface used are substandard, not to mention the questionable cover art that seems to mock rather then venerate this amazing writers work. This collection is gift for the true CAS devotes among us, but probably not the best place to start your encounters with the author.

New CAS readers may be happier with a half dozen pulps and old paperbacks.

Dave H

The strongest volume in the collected fantasies I've read so far. There is an enchanting mix of horror, adventure and sci-fi. There are a couple of duffers, but some excellent tales (including: The Maker of Gargoyles, Vaults of Yoh-Vombis, The Nameless Offspring and particularly the 'Seed of the Sepulchre).