Smith was considered one of the premiere fantasy writers of the early twentieth century. In the period of a decade, 1928-1937, Smith wrote virtually all of his stories. He was one of three writers, including H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, whose stories dominated the pages of Weird Tales in the 1930’s. Although he has been praised by numerous critics and fantasy writers, Smith’s work has fallen from favor with the reading public and has not achieved the kind of lasting recognition given to the fiction of Lovecraft and Howard. Smith’s stories deserve more attention as some of the best work in the fantasy genre.
One of the strongest aspects of Smith’s writing style is his ability to engulf the reader in the sensations and wonders of the worlds he creates. Every detail of his tales is carefully crafted to transport readers into strange and mysterious realms. Many of his stories create immense vistas that capture the reader’s imagination. In “The Seven Geases,” Smith captures his readers’ interest by describing the vast world that lies under Hyperborea. Another method he employed in the creation of unique, fantastic worlds is use of a distinct narrative voice. In “The Uncharted Isle,” Smith crafted the narrator’s words so that readers can believe the story is being told by a sailor.
Smith’s style enhances the sense of loss that pervades his short stories. His stories are filled with lost continents, abandoned cities, and long-vanished empires that all make readers wonder what they were like at the height of their power. The sense of loss is especially poignant in tales such as “A Voyage to Sfanomoë,” in which the last two survivors of Atlantis look back from space and see that Poseidonis has sunk into the ocean for the last time. A similar effect is conveyed by the desperate inhabitants of “The Uncharted Isle” who search fruitlessly for their lost home.