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Rare and Beautiful Fantasy Gems

by C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner

More interesting selections from the pulp SF era. Most are pretty rare and haven't been reprinted much otherwise.

Writing Together: When Two Talented Writers Become Husband and Wife

Henry Kuttner's marriage to C. L. Moore produced a unique and extremely effective writing collaboration, where it was often not possible to tell which stories were the result of them working together... Perhaps all of the stories benefited in one way or the other from the union of these brightest stars in classic science fiction. Certainly a unique arrangement, never repeated with such passion and success.

Here are some reviews of their stories that I've read recently, starting with these credited to C. L. Moore:

(Art by Josephine Wall "Spirit of Flight")

C. L. Moore's fiction is magical in a very intense sort of way. It is a very passionate, adventurous, lively affair - with more colors and sounds than you'd usually encounter in a full-size modern fantasy novel. It is a gorgeous tapestry, just like the picture above - and yet, very subdued with hints of much better things to come. Unfortunately she retired from writing with the death of her husband and collaborator Henry Kuttner. She was once in a lifetime event in the history of literature, never to be imitated.


C. L. Moore
"Black God's Kiss"
(Jirel Of Joiry series)
© Weird Tales, October 1934
Jirel Of Joiry, 1977
--/ third place fantasy story
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award
--/ style award
--/ emotion award
--/ shock value

Subtitled as the "Weirdest Story Ever Told", this story would easily bring the entire Industrial Light and Magic to their knees. I'd like to see computers grow up to render even 10 frames of the climactic scenes of that story.

The visionary world is mind-numbingly intense here, almost psychedelic, the landscapes and magic wonders quickly speed up to sweep a reader along - and the reader is only all too happy to follow such an engaging red-haired heroine as Jirel of Joiry. These were the times when writers weren't afraid to be too sentimental or passionate, too "purple" in their prose or blood-red in their intentions. This is fantasy fiction ALIVE... as opposed to some bleary-eyed lobsters, which sluggishly crawl inside a tank in the supermarket, ready to be consumed - oh boy, you can tell I hate diluted prose...

C. L. Moore's writing had spunk, gusto, you name it. "Black God's Kiss" is a hugely entertaining piece of amazon sorcery adventure (with time / space warps thrown in for the good measure), which launched the Jirel of Joiry series and C. L. Moore's popularity with readers.


"An Autobiographical Sketch of C. L. Moore"
© Fantasy Magazine, June 1936
--/ humour award
--/ style award

I rarely mention non-fiction here, but this little gem of autobiography is so hilarious and "to the point" that it ranks the best of C. L. Moore's writings! Pure entertainment, as she describes her normal and at the same time weird life as a writer - including her tongue-in-cheek guide on how NOT to write pulp fantasy. This little sketch was only reprinted once in "Echoes of Valor" fabulous anthology.


C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner
"Quest of the Starstone"

(Jirel of Joiry series;
Northwest Smith series)
© Weird Tales, Nov 1937
--/ fourth place f novelette
--/ wonder award
--/ rare find

A rare story, one of the four "orphaned" Jirel of Joiry and NorthWest Smith stories that were never reprinted before the unique "Echoes of Valor" anthology came around in the 1980s. This is even more remarkable, given that this novelette features Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith together for the first and only time!

A plucky redhead, with more passion and bravery in her than in perhaps any sword-and-sorcery heroine out there, Jirel gets a chemistry flowing and sparks flying with that filibustier of the spaceways - a hardened Harrison-Ford-like cowboy Smith. Some groovy jumping around in time machine with weird magicians in tow ensues, and so much more: this is a solid "Weird Tales" hit, and it's beyond me why it wasn't reprinted properly. Tons of special effects and entertaining character play.


C. L. Moore

(Northwest Smith series)
© Leaves #2, 1938
Horrors Unknown, ed. Sam Moskowitz, 1971
--/ cool f novella
--/ wonder award
--/ rare find

There are similarities to Jack Williamson's "Wolves of Darkness" (most notably) and H. P. Lovecraft's "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" - all written in a purple prose of A. Merritt, though with more action and clarity... extremely rare adventure, published in the obscurest fanzine of them all (not even one proper mention on the web!). I have a thing for obscure quality fanzines... Sometimes they publish absolute gems, and this is one of them. Delicate and yet savage fantasy, with bizarre race of female werewolves, enormous ghost beings (like in "Final Fantasy") haunting Zothique-esque desolate landscapes. So much atmosphere that you can drown in it. Pure indulgence.


Henry Kuttner was a true master of short fantastic fiction, in his best examples approaching the quality of O'Henry stories. Too bad, a penny-per-word pulp magazines demanded a quick and voluminous output. However, even at his most "hackish" style Kuttner managed to be immensely entertaining. His humorous Hogben mutant family series is top-notch, as well as most short stories published in the 1940s. With his wife C. L. Moore he wrote under multitude of pen names and in variety of fantastic sub-genres (see reviews below). He is definitely one of my favorite writers, and I wish he'd be more appreciated and recognized today.


Henry Kuttner
"Wet Magic"

© Unknown Worlds, Feb 1943
--/ third place fantasy novella
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award
--/ style award
--/ humour award
--/ emotion award
--/ rare find

This novella proves once more that Henry Kuttner could write top-notch fantasy better than most acclaimed writers in the past, present and foreseeable future. Most of you know about his magnum fantasy opus "The Dark World", but here the narrative tone is lighter, humor is ever-present, and the suitably convoluted, inventive plot is crowned with an epic ending - which may arguably show this whimsical, playful piece to be the best Arthurian fantasy ever written.

I could add here "dear reader, read it and judge for yourself" - but unless someone puts this novella online, there is little chance you'll get your hands on it. Other than its original publication in a rare pulp, it's only been reprinted once, in an obscure anthology (so perhaps it's all a conspiracy to hide the embarrassing fact of how well a "high fantasy" adventure can be written? - so that massive brain-dead volumes of modern "epic" fantasy could continue to flood bookstores, to be bought by readers who simply don't know any better)

Truly, misadventures of a WWII pilot who stumbles into a Magical Kingdom (hidden inside a humble English country lake), then proceeds to mess up with Morgan Le Fay and gets his hands on the Excalibur, are amusing enough - but as the ending approaches, a reader would want this hilarious romp to continue and not turn the last page; as is often the case with Henry Kuttner's all-too-short short fiction.


Henry Kuttner
"The Dark World" (nv)
(Dark World # 1)
© Startling Stories, Sum 1946
Fantastic Story Magazine, Win 1954

novel: Ace Books, 1965
--/ third place f novel
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award

Marion Zimmer Bradley once said: "I consider the works of Henry Kuttner the finest fantasy ever written"; Roger Zelazny cited "The Dark World" as a seminal influence on his Amber series; now - both these writers have contributed to many 300-pages-plus reworkings of the same ideas that Kuttner put in 100 pages here. When reading the novella (for that is what it is, really) today you will be struck how often you may have read same stuff in modern "door-stopper" trilogies. However, here is the genuine article, the novel that started it all. It has color, adventure and the sense of wonder needed (required!) for publication in "Startling Stories" and the accompanying brevity. Here you have "strong liquor" fantasy, compared to the diet coke slosh tanks of usual epic fantasy fare. Cheers!


See more ratings and reviews of C. L. Moore's fiction

See more ratings and reviews of Henry Kuttner's fiction

READ THE PART 2 of "Hidden Gems of Pulp SF" HERE

Click to go to "Dark Roasted Blend" site



Blogger Dark Worlds Club said...

I watched "What You Need" on my Twilight Zone (1st Season) collection and was surprised to see it was based on a Lewis Padgett story. (Christmas 1959)Steve Cochran as Fred Renard was quite nasty just as Ernest Truax as Pedott was quite lovable. Despite having written the story together it was Rod Serling who turned into a teleplay. TZ would do another Lewis Pagett story "the Twonky".


1:03 PM  
Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Hm... I did not know this story was made into show. Thanks.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Roberta X said...

Surprised you didn't mention "Vintage Season," or "Mimsey Were The Borogroves," exceptional Padgett yarns.

5:26 PM  

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Enchanting Victorian Fairy Tale Art

"Then world behind and home ahead..."

Exceptional British Scifi Artwork from the 1950s

Space Pulp Art by Ron Turner and other British artists

Pulp Pleasures: Eando Binder

Great space adventure fiction from the 1930s
"Where Eternity Ends" and other rare gems

Epic Fantasy: the Start of the Journey

Part 2 of our "Best Classic Fantasy" series
incl. works by Henry Kuttner, Tolkien, etc.

Strange Shadows: Best Classic Fantasy

Fantasy "glitches in the matrix",
...lovely baroque magical lands, and more

Classic Cyberpunk SF Novels: Reviews

Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, K. W. Jeter, et al
(awesome must-reads)

10 Possible Sources of "Avatar" in Classic Science Fiction

Going beyond the obvious "Dances with Smurfs"...
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"Steampunk" Anthology: Full Review

some truly crazed stories in there...
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"Dune", Plus Often-Neglected
Other Novels by Frank Herbert

"Dune", plus some overlooked gems:
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Universe at Play:
Two Must-Read Novels of the Fantastic

"The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon...
and David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas"

Two of the Most Entertaining SF Novels from the 1980s

"Vacuum Flowers" by Michael Swanwick...
and Tim Power's "The Anubis Gates", of course!

"The Body Snatchers" and Other Alien Pods

Fiction by Jack Finney, Vance, Simak and Bloch
mind impostors and emotion imitators

Exploring the Noir and the Grotesque

Jack O'Connell "The Resurrectionist"
and other newest examples of the bizarre

Overpopulation, Sex and Sensibility

Robert Silverberg's "The World Inside"
and other classic sf blasts

H. P. Lovecraft "At the Mountains of Madness"

and other masterpieces of terror
including original illustrations

"Constellations", edited by Peter Crowther

original anthology, 2005
full review: mind-bending stories

The Ultimate Guide to New Writers of SF&F

more than 2,000 writers, 1990-2009
Ratings, awards, web links

The Surreal Office

"The Situation", "The Cookie Monster"
Weird fiction by Jeff VanderMeer and Vernor Vinge

Mind-shattering Novels of Philip K. Dick

"UBIK", "Now Wait for Last Year", etc.

Theodore Sturgeon's "More Than Human"

There’s a problem with this new gestalt being: needs a conscience.

Jack Williamson's "Legion of Space" Series

Classic Space Opera
The ultimate weapon, controlled by a gorgeous woman

Astounding Stories, August 1934

Jack Williamson, Nat Schachner, "Doc" Smith
Epic space opera gems and horror surprises

Rare Pulp SF&F, Issue 3

Leigh Brackett, Fritz Leiber, Vic Phillips
Rediscovered gems of wonder & adventure

William Gibson's Novels

"Pattern Recognition", "Neuromancer"
A Fractured Delight...

Alfred Bester "The Computer Connection"

"Bester was the mountain, all the rest of us..."
Pyrokinetic writing in one neat package

Two Novels by Samuel R. Delany

"Nova" and "Babel-17"
New Wave Milestones, and then some.

Theodore Sturgeon's "The Cosmic Rape"

(and more reviews of his fiction)
Classic SF at its best and most humane

Travel Distant Worlds!

Vintage Space Travel Posters, and more.
Part 3 of Pulp Sf art series...

Alastair Reynolds' Epic Novels

"Chasm City" and "Revelation Space"
And it's only the beginning...

Rare Fantasy Gems by C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner

Hidden Gems of Pulp Fiction
When two star writers become husband and wife

Grand Old Times... in the Future

Overview of Pulp Art
A Loudly Lurid Universe of Sci-Fi Illustration

Exclusive: Interview with Nancy Kress

From High Fantasy to Hard Science Fiction
A Spectrum of Wonder

Jack Vance

"To Live Forever"
and other Vance extravaganzas

Alastair Reynolds

"Pushing Ice"
Cosmological "noir" chase across space

Charles Stross

"Missile Gap"
Mind-bending Cold War world-building

Hidden Gems of Pulp SF, Part 2

Rare stories from the "Age of Wonder"
incl. David Keller, Horace Gold etc.

Ultra-Rare Serials from "Fantasy Magazine"

"Cosmos" + "Challenge From Beyond"
incredible line-up of writers

Hidden Gems of Pulp SF, Part 1

Neat & Rare Stories
incl. the mad rally story "The Racer"

Astounding Stories, June 1935

Full Issue Review
incl. Gallun, Schachner, Campbell

Astounding Stories, May 1941

Full Issue Review
incl. Heinlein, Asimov, Eric Frank Russell

Horace Gold; P. Schuyler Miller

"Apocalyptic Blockbusters"
"Inflexure" and "Spawn": guilty pleasure

Interview with John C. Wright

Plus his advice to new writers
Adventures in Space & Magic

Frank Belknap Long

"The Horror from the Hills"
Great Lovecraftian Weird Novella

Interview with Jeff VanderMeer

Plus his Recommended Reading List
A Triumph of the Bizarre

Alastair Reynolds, Part 2

More "Galactic North" Stories
A Mixture of Hard Sf, James Bond & Jaws...

Alastair Reynolds Review

"Galactic North"
staring down infinity...

Most Shocking Article

"Holey Fools" by M. Christian
Warning: Gross Subject Matter

Alfred Bester Review

"The Stars My Destination"
"...nail it to the Retro Hugo voting board..."

Larry Niven Review

"Neutron Star"
"better get GP alien ship hull"

Poul Anderson Review

"Ensign Flandry"
"or how to start a sub-genre..."

Thomas M. Disch Review

"The Squirrel Cage"
"...seriously mind-bending stuff..."

Henry Kuttner Review

"Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (The Last Mimzy)
"...great storyline for a pretty average movie..."

Robert A. Heinlein Review

"The Moon is the Harsh Mistress"
" caused a tooth ache, and put my brain on freeze..."

Frank Herbert Review

"Destination: Void"
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Harlan Ellison Review

"The Abnormals"
"...editors slapped the most outrageous titles on his stories..."

James White Review

"All Judgement Fled"
"...the tension is palpable, soon to grow almost unbearable..."

Grand Adventure Strikes Again

Space Opera Article, by Avi Abrams
Based on Arthur Clarke's "Against the Fall of Night"

William Gibson Review

"Burning Chrome"
"...sheer pyrotechnics and exuberance of style..."

Ace Double: Murray Leinster

"The Pirates of Ersatz /The Mutant Weapon"
"...the characters might as well be cats or hamsters..."

Astounding Stories, May 1935

Pulp SF Magazine Review
with many original illustrations

Also read recent posts:
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Space Adventure Article



"SF&F Reading Experience" is part of "Dark Roasted Blend / Thrilling Wonder" family of sites. We try to highlight the most entertaining and rewarding science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on memorable reader experience, not necessarily general acceptance by the critics. Have fun, and delve into our extensive ratings and reviews!

Most reviews are written by Avi Abrams, unless otherwise noted. Reviews also appear on our unique historical retrospective page Wonder Timeline of Science Fiction. Feel free to submit your own review, if a particular story is not listed here.

All major OFFICIAL AWARDS are highlighted in BLUE
("winner" has a letter "W" by it, otherwise it is a runner-up only)

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