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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
"Werewoman"

(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



COMMENTS:

3 Comments:

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".

GW

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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