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Zothique. Zothique was created by Clark Ashton Smith (City of the Singing Flame, Maal Dweb, Malygris, Satampra Zeiros) and appeared in twenty-one stories and poems from 1932 to 1953, beginning with “The Empire of the Necromancers” (Weird Tales, Sept. 1932).

In Smith’s words:

Zothique, vaguely suggested by Theosophic theories about past and future continents, is the last inhabited continent of earth. The continents of our present cycle have sunken, perhaps several times. Some have remained submerged; others have re-risen, partially, and re-arranged themselves. Zothique...comprises Asia Minor, Arabia, Persia, India, parts of northern and eastern Africa, and much of the Indonesian archipelago. A new Australia exists somewhere to the south. To the west, there are only a few known islands, such as Naat, in which the black cannibals survive. To the north, are immense unexplored deserts; to the east, an immense unvoyaged sea. The peoples are mainly of Aryan or Semitic descent; but there is a black kingdom (Ilcar) in the northwest; and scattered blacks are found throughout the other countries, mainly in palace-harems. In the southern islands survive vestiges of Indonesian or Malayan races. The science and machinery of our present civilization have long been forgotten, together with our present religions. But many gods are worshipped; and sorcery and demonism prevail again as in ancient days. Oars and sails alone are used by mariners. There are no fire-arms—only the bows, arrows, swords, javelins, etc. of antiquity. The chief language spoken...is based on Indo-European roots and is highly inflected, like Sanskrit, Greek and Latin.

* I'm including the Zothique stories and poems in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because they are very well-written--Clark Ashton Smith was a quite talented wordsmith and poet, and wonderfully indulged his taste for the grotesque and decadent in the Zothique stories--and because they just aren't like anything else out there. Smith wrote fantasy stories, but not like Robert E. Howard (see: Conan), not like H. Rider Haggard (see: Allan Quatermain), and emphatically not like J.R.R. Tolkien and all the fantasy writers of the future. Smith's fantasy stories are sardonic, purple (in the best way), imaginative, and, yes, grotesque and decadent. He was not just ahead of his time, he was ahead of our time, and there aren't any apposite comparisons for him because there's not been anyone who's written like him. It might be that there might not ever be someone who can write like him. 

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