Rediscovered: McNaughton v. Vance

What was I thinking?

In the post a month plus back where I kind of talked myself into rereading Brian McNaughton’s The Throne of Bones for Halloween, I realized that somehow I managed to put forth this opinion:

McNaughton bears the distinction of later writing the finest set of stories ever in the CAS mold, inspired by the Klarkash-Ton cycles set in such fantastic realms as Hyperborea and Zothique.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. I must have been in a hurry, not doing the Deep Thinking needed for such a judgment.

Yes, I think McNaughton is one of the best imitators of Clark Ashton Smith. I got about halfway through the Bones yarns before other things pulled me away. Had a PW to do, now have a PW proof at over 600 pages winging my way (it looks as if I managed to do around ten reviews this year, despite triple bypass surgery and subsequent droopdom — usually I might do six, or seven).

So. Allow me to correct myself.

The story cycle The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, riffing off Klarkash-Ton’s saga of the doomed last continent of Zothique, is the best with a commanding influence from the writings of CAS.

If I did any Deep Thinking on the subject, it was all subconscious. Suddenly the thought hit me: Come on! What were you thinking?!

I think I know what I was thinking. I was ranking McNaughton in with a less talented group, from Lin Carter on down, who would try a Smith imitation from time to time — and of that group, he was the high point.

Whereas Jack Vance I consider a Real Writer. The Dying Earth was his first book, but he did lots more, and far surpassed any idea that he was only a CAS clone.

McNaughton just didn’t do enough writing to get into that league. (Lin Carter perhaps wrote almost as much as Vance, but the deal is, the writings have to be good.)

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