While Smith was always an artist who worked in several very different media, it is possible to identify three distinct periods in which one form of art had precedence over the others.
Poetry: until 1925
Smith published most of his volumes of poetry in this period, including the aforementioned
The Star-Treader and Other Poems, as well as
Odes and Sonnets (1918),
Ebony and Crystal (1922) and Sandalwood (1925). His long poem
The Hashish-Eater; Or, the Apocalypse of Evil was written in 1920.
Weird fiction: 1926–1935
"The Hunters from Beyond", one of Clark Ashton Smith's best-known stories, was first published in the October 1932 issue of Strange Tales
Smith wrote most of his weird fiction and Cthulhu Mythos stories, partially inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Creatures of his invention include Aforgomon, Rlim-Shaikorth, Mordiggian, Tsathoggua, the wizard Eibon, and various others. In an homage to his friend, Lovecraft referred in "The Whisperer in Darkness" and "The Battle That Ended the Century" (written in collaboration with R. H. Barlow) to an Atlantean high-priest, "Klarkash-Ton".
Smith's weird stories form several cycles, called after the lands in which they are set: Averoigne, Hyperborea, Mars, Poseidonis, Zothique. To some extent Smith was influenced in his vision of such lost worlds by the teachings of Theosophy and the writings of Helena Blavatsky. Stories set in Zothique belong to the Dying Earth subgenre. Amongst Smith's science fiction tales are stories set on Mars and the invented planet of Xiccarph.
His short stories originally appeared in the magazines Weird Tales, Strange Tales, Astounding Stories, Stirring Science Stories and Wonder Stories.
Clark Ashton Smith was the third member of the great triumvirate of Weird Tales, with Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.
Many of Smith's stories were published in six hardcover volumes by August Derleth under his Arkham House imprint. For a full bibliography to 1978, see Sidney-Fryer, Emperor of Dreams (cited below). S.T. Joshi is working with other scholars to produce an updated bibliography of Smith's work.
A selection of Smith's best-known tales includes:
- "The Last Incantation" — Weird Tales, June 1930 LW2
- "A Voyage to Sfanomoe" — Weird Tales, August 1931 LW2
- "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" — Weird Tales November 1931 LW2
- "The Door to Saturn" — Strange Tales, January 1932 LW2
- "The Planet of the Dead" — Weird Tales, March 1932 LW2
- "The Gorgon" — Weird Tales, April 1932 LW2
- "The Letter from Mohaun Los" (under the title of "Flight into Super-Time") — Wonder Stories, August 1932 LW1
- "The Empire of the Necromancers" — Weird Tales, September 1932 LW1
- "The Hunters from Beyond" — Strange Tales, October 1932 LW1
- "The Isle of the Torturers" — Weird Tales, March 1933 LW1
- "The Light from Beyond" — Wonder Stories, April 1933 LW1
- "The Beast of Averoigne" — Weird Tales, May 1933 LW1
- "The Holiness of Azedarac" — Weird Tales, November 1933 LW1
- "The Demon of the Flower" — Astounding Stories, December 1933 LW2
- "The Death of Malygris" — Weird Tales, April 1934 LW2
- "The Plutonium Drug" — Amazing Stories, September 1934 LW2
- "The Seven Geases" — Weird Tales, October 1934 LW2
- "Xeethra" — Weird Tales, December 1934 LW1
- "The Flower-Women" — Weird Tales, May 1935 LW2
- "The Treader of the Dust" — Weird Tales, August 1935 LW1
- "Necromancy in Naat" — Weird Tales, July 1936 LW1
- "The Maze of Maal Dweb" — Weird Tales, October 1938 LW2
- "The Coming of the White Worm" — Stirring Science Stories, April 1941 LW2
Visual art: 1935–1961
By this time his interest in writing fiction began to lessen and he turned to creating sculptures from soft rock such as soapstone. Smith also made hundreds of fantastic paintings and drawings.