Thursday, January 24, 2013

C. L. Moore Turns 102

Catherine Lucille Moore was born on this day in 1911.  She was one of the greatest fantasy and science fiction authors to work in the field.  That's the oldest picture of her I could find.  I saw a photo of her when I was in college that was (I think) taken shortly before her death.  She was sitting on the steps of a back porch, and the photo was shot from what I would consider an intermediate distance.  If anyone is familiar with the picture and knows where I can get a copy, I would appreciate your letting me know.

I wrote a tribute last year and a belated tribute the  year before, so I wanted to do something different this year.  So after giving some basic facts, I'll tell you what I have in mind.

First, the facts.  Moore was working in an Indiana bank when she published her first story.  The legend is that she wrote on a company typewriter after hours while working late.  Legend also has it that Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright was so impressed by it that he closed the offices for the rest of the day.  I don't  know for sure if either event actually happened that way, but if they didn't, they should have.  Moore went on to write some quite successful science fiction on her own before marrying fellow science fiction writer Henry Kuttner, probably my all time favorite author for at least three days of every week.  After Kuttner died in 1958, Moore left the field.  She remarried, and again legend has it, her new husband didn't want her writing science fiction.  Also again, I don't know if that's true.  By this time she was writing for television, which paid considerably better.

She left quite a legacy, both on her own and with her husband.  I'm going to take a closer look at that legacy this year.  Again both her individual legacy and the one she shares with Kuttner.  I've got a lot on my plate, and I can see I'll need something to act as a sanity check.

For quite some time now I've been intending to take a closer look at her two signature series, Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith.  Jirel was one of the first, if not the very first, sword and sorcery heroine who could swing a blade as well as any man.  Northwest Smith was been called the prototype for Han Solo.  I'll deal with that in an upcoming post.

I've decided to start with the Northwest Smith stories (although I will cover the Jirel tales as well).  They're set in outer space, but they have strong fantasy elements, so I'm going to post the essays about them here rather than on Futures Past and Present.  I intend to post the first one in the next day or so.  Stick around.  It's been nearly 30 years since I read most of them, but images from some of the stories are still clear in my mind.  They left quite a mark on a very impressionable young teenager.  We'll see how well they hold up to middle aged scrutiny.


  1. I've read all the Northwest Smith stories. I guess (from the Wikipedia list) I have also read all the Jirel stories - though not from one source.

    If I didn't have so much unread stuff lying around, I would probably give them a reread. I'm sure I will in future.

  2. I didn't realize her birthday was so close to Robert E. Howard's. Interesting. What a great writer she was.

  3. Excellent idea, Keith! Looking forward to your adventures!