Clark Ashton Smith (1893–1961) was a self-educated American poet, sculptor, painter, and author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction short stories. He achieved early local recognition, largely through the enthusiasm of George Sterling, for traditional verse in the vein of Swinburne. As a poet, Smith is grouped with the West Coast Romantics (alongside Ambrose Bierce, Joaquin Miller, Sterling, Nora May French, and others) and remembered as 'The Last of the Great Romantics' and 'The Bard of Auburn.' As a member of the Lovecraft circle, (Smith’s literary friendship with H. P. Lovecraft lasted from 1922 until Lovecraft's death in 1937), Smith remains second only to Lovecraft in general esteem and importance amongst contributors to the pulp magazine Weird Tales, where some readers objected to his morbidness and violation of pulp traditions. (It has been said of him that “Nobody since Poe has so loved a well-rotted corpse.”) His work is marked chiefly by an extraordinarily wide and ornate vocabulary, a cosmic perspective and a vein of sardonic and sometimes ribald humour.
“The Death of Ilalotha” is one of Smith's classic weird fantasies, originally published in Weird Tales magazine (September, 1937).