Friday, September 14, 2007

Author profile: C.L. Moore

Note: In the Readerville forum, I've written a few profiles of science fiction authors, some of which might also be of interest to others. Once in a while I'll post one of them here.

Catherine Lucille Moore (1911-1987)

They found me under a cabbage plant in Indianapolis on the 24th of January, 1911, and was reared on a diet of Greek mythology, Oz books and Edgar Rice Burroughs, so you can see I never had a chance"

Thus starts C.L. Moore her "An Autobiographical Sketch of C.L. Moore" (Fantasy Magazine, June 1936), she then goes on to tell how she left college without a degree during the depression, and then starts talking about her characters, a subject she appears more at ease writing about. The interesting part of reading that short autobiography, is that nowhere does she mention that she is a woman - something quite common back in those days, as female science fiction writers couldn't sell.

Her first sale was "Shambleau" to Weird Tales (November, 1933), which was the first of 13 stories about the outlaw Northwest Smith roaming the spaceways. In the October 1933 issue of Weird Tales, the story "The Black God's Kiss", with the character Jirel of Joiry, appeared. Many acknowledges Jirel of Joiry as the first female role model of the sword and sorcery sub-genre, perhaps of all fantasy, and Marion Zimmer Bradley appropriately dedicated the first Sword and Sorceress anthology to her and her creator.

In 1940 C.L. Moore married Henry Kuttner (April 7, 1915 - February 3, 1958), and much of their work after that were collaborations. Their marriage ended all to shortly, when Kuttner died of a heart attack in 1958.
This marked the end of Moore's writing career. After that she more or less left the science fiction field, only making a few appearances at conventions.

None of Moore's works I've read, be it solo or in collaboration with Kuttner, are what I'd call spectacular writing, but like so much other stuff from back then, they are entertaining light reads, and the Jirel of Joiry stories are interesting from a historical perspective.

C.L. Moore was one of the few female pioneers in science fiction and fantasy, and like her contemporaries Leigh Brackett and to a lesser degree Andre Norton, she is too often forgotten when the pioneers are discussed, or she is just mentioned as an appendix to her husband's name. This is unjust, and I hope that in time she'll be given the respect she deserves.

The Encyclopedia of Fantasy by John Clute & John Grant
Echoes of Valor II edited by Karl Edward Wagner (contains among other items "An Autobiographical Sketch of C.L. Moore")

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