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Moore, C L

Entry updated 14 August 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1911-1987) US author, collaborator with Henry Kuttner whom she married in 1940, and with whom she had collaborated since 1937 (see below). Before her intimate working association with Kuttner, she had, however, already achieved fame with her first story, "Shambleau" for Weird Tales in November 1933, a femme fatale tale of a psychic Vampire set on a Planetary Romance version of Mars. She continued during the 1930s to chronicle the exploits of its hero Northwest Smith, whose character and actions closely follow Western models; much of the series was first assembled in Shambleau and Others (coll 1953; rev with three stories cut, vt Shambleau 1958; rev with one story cut, 1961) and five in Northwest of Earth (coll 1954). The Northwest Smith tales assembled in these two volumes were eventually included in Scarlet Dream (coll of linked stories 1981; vt Northwest Smith 1982); long-uncollected stories about Smith, including "Nymph of Darkness" (April 1935 Fantasy Magazine) with Forrest J Ackerman, "Quest of the Starstone" (November 1937 Weird Tales) with Henry Kuttner and "Werewoman" (Winter 1938 Leaves), were eventually assembled in Northwest of Earth: The Complete Northwest Smith (2007). The remaining stories in Moore's two 1950s collections – comprising the first Sword-and-Sorcery series to feature a female Hero, Jirel of Joiry – were eventually assembled as Jirel of Joiry (coll of linked stories 1969; vt Black God's Shadow 1977). Jirel also appears in the Northwest Smith story "Quest of the Starstone" (November 1937 Weird Tales), Moore's first collaboration with Kuttner.

Most of Moore's and Kuttner's works between 1940 and his death in 1958 were to some extent collaborations; each writer reportedly being able to pick up any story where the other had left off, and it has proved futile to attempt to determine who may have been the sole or senior author of many tales published under their own or their several shared names (see also Henry Kuttner). It has seemed safe to assume that many titles signed as by Kuttner alone are collaborations, though somewhat less safe to assume that the reverse applies, for much of her work has a texture and emotional intensity that seems hard to think of as collaborative; and a gradual consensus has been established that Moore was in fact the stronger writer of the two. In any case, Kuttner's wit, deftly audacious deployment of ideas and neat exposition well complemented Moore's greater lyrical fluency and the power to evoke a Sense of Wonder in the past-haunted interstellar venues that were her specialty.

When Kuttner and Moore became part of the stable of writers working for John W Campbell Jr's Astounding Science-Fiction during World War Two they devised their two most famous pseudonyms, Lewis Padgett and Laurence O'Donnell, under which they did much of their best work. Kuttner may have been the primary user of the Padgett name (for details of which, see his entry) but the O'Donnell stories were more often Moore's. These include the remarkable Keeps sequence – comprising Clash by Night (March 1943 Astounding; 1952 chap) and Fury (May-July 1947 Astounding as Lawrence O'Donnell; 1950; vt Destination Infinity 1956) – which was collaborative (though it has been reprinted as by Kuttner alone, Moore signed copies of the book); the stories are set in City-sized Keeps located Under the Seas of Venus after nuclear war has destroyed life on Earth. Clash by Night has been reprinted with an alternative Sequel by Another Hand by David A Drake in The Jungle (1991).

Some titles seem mainly by Moore, for instance Judgment Night: A Selection of Science Fiction (coll 1952; title novel only, vt Judgment Night 1965), in which four O'Donnell stories are combined with the remarkable titular novel, originally published as "Judgment Night" (August-September 1943 Astounding). The tale is set during the death throes of a Galactic Empire that occupies its capital planet by the grace and favour of resident godlike "ancients", possible survivors of a Forerunner race whose origins lie inconceivably deep in time (see Time Abyss); the martial fervour of the story seems at first simply to evoke Space Opera conventions, though with an injection of Sex as a war-trained wilful princess and the leader of a vast rebellion – while engaging in passionate but deeply conflicted sexual intercourse, suitably euphemized for the 1940s sf market – vie recklessly with each other over various ancient Weapons. It gradually becomes clear that their sex-charged, impetuous, savagely dysfunctional quarrel – which causes the death of a pleasure planetoid, for starters – is so far beyond their capacity to control or analyse that their behaviour is enough to convince the ancients that human civilization has lost the right to survive: not because of sex itself, which Moore treats with (muffled) respect, but because Homo sapiens is ungovernably blind to its own nature. The novel ends with a new, non-human species being selected for Uplift by the forerunners. The darkness of the tale, its use of the conventions of Genre SF to expose the tragic failure of the human species to understand itself, and its weighting towards a deep, engendering past against which present actors seem shallow puppets dancing on a darkening stage, marks it as a significant predecessor to (and probable direct influence upon) a wide range of writers, including Leigh Brackett, Margaret St Clair, Jack Vance, Gene Wolfe, and later figures like Michael Moorcock.

Other stories that seem essentially Moore's include the excellent "The Children's Hour" (March 1944 Astounding) as by Lawrence O'Donnell, and of course all the stories astutely assembled in The Best of C L Moore (coll 1975) edited by Lester del Rey, which includes the classic Vintage Season (September 1946 Astounding; 1990 chap dos with a sequel, In Another Country by Robert Silverberg), about time-travelling tourists (see Time Travel) who delectate the Disaster of a meteor strike whose impact will cause a deadly plague; the passionate sexual emotions aroused in its protagonist by one of the visitors are an early representation in sf of the human dream that Exogamy and Paradise are somehow linked. Vintage Season was intelligently filmed for cable television in the USA as Disaster in Time (1991; vt Grand Tour: Disaster in Time; vt Timescape), director David N Twohy, later released on videotape. Also in The Best of C L Moore is "No Woman Born" (December 1944 Astounding) as Moore, about a badly burned dancer who is given a Robot body and becomes a Cyborg. In these stories Moore's sometimes extravagant style is carefully controlled and combined with an earnest emotionality which was underappreciated at the time.

Other collections in which her work appears include: A Gnome There Was (coll 1950) as by Padgett; Robots Have No Tails (stories January 1943-April 1948 Astounding; coll of linked stories 1952 as by Padgett; 1973 as by Kuttner; vt The Proud Robot: The Complete Gallegher Stories 1983); Line to Tomorrow (coll 1954) as by Padgett; No Boundaries (coll 1955) with Kuttner; Clash by Night and Other Stories (coll 1980) with Kuttner, not to be confused with Clash by Night (1952 chap) as by Lawrence O'Donnell; and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, and The Fairy Chessmen (coll 1951), as by Padgett, containing two full-length tales, the second of which was also published as Chessboard Planet (1956; vt The Far Reality 1963), also as by Padgett. Another collaborative text was Mutant (stories February 1945-September 1953 Astounding as by Padgett; fixup 1953 as by Padgett; 1954 UK as by Kuttner). Many collections signed Kuttner or Padgett (for which see Kuttner) include work on which Moore collaborated with Kuttner.

More routinely, Moore and Kuttner wrote a series of novels for Startling Stories in the late 1940s which, continuing the colourful tradition of the Northwest Smith stories, became archetypes of the hybrid genre of Science Fantasy, neatly fusing the strengths of Moore's romanticism and Kuttner's vigorous plotting. The Dark World (Summer 1946 Startling as by Kuttner; 1965 as by Kuttner) is a pastiche of A Merritt's Dwellers in the Mirage (1932) and was itself pastiched in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Falcons of Narabedla (May 1957 Other Worlds; 1964); other novels in the same vein are Valley of the Flame (March 1946 Startling as by Keith Hammond; 1964 as by Kuttner), "Lands of the Earthquake" (May 1947 Startling as by Kuttner), The Mask of Circe (May 1948 Startling as by Kuttner; 1971), The Time Axis (January 1949 Startling as by Kuttner; 1965 as by Kuttner), Beyond Earth's Gates (September 1949 Startling as "The Portal in the Picture" by Kuttner; 1954 dos as by Padgett) and Well of the Worlds (March 1952 Startling as by Kuttner; 1953 as by Padgett; vt The Well of the Worlds 1965 as by Kuttner). The first, second and fifth of these were combined in The Startling Worlds of Henry Kuttner (omni 1987). Earth's Last Citadel (April-July 1943 Argosy; 1964), with Kuttner, also belongs to this pattern, although one other Startling Stories novel, "Lord of the Storm" (September 1947 Startling as by Hammond) does not. The usual attribution of these science-fantasy novels to Kuttner alone is of course in error.

In 1950 Kuttner and Moore went to study at the University of Southern California; although they wrote a number of mystery novels, there were few more sf stories. Moore did one solo sf novel in this period, Doomsday Morning (1957), a futuristic thriller which did not exploit her greatest strengths as a writer. Having graduated in 1956, Moore moved after Kuttner's death into writing for television, doing scripts for such series as Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip until she remarried in 1963 and abandoned writing for good. Moore wrote no fiction after Kuttner's death, though she did write some Television scripts as by Catharine Kuttner. In 1981 she received the World Fantasy Award for life achievement, and posthumously in 2004, with Kuttner, the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. She was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1998. [BS/JC/MJE]

see also: Arts; Automation; Chess; Crime and Punishment; Dimensions; Economics; Fantasy; Far Future; Games and Sports; Gandalf Award; Golden Age of SF; Monsters; Mutants; Parallel Worlds; Recursive SF; Supernatural Creatures; Women SF Writers; Writers of the Future Contest.

Catherine Lucille Moore

born Indianapolis, Indiana: 24 January 1911

died Hollywood, California: 4 April 1987


The Moore/Kuttner bibliography remains tangled, with various names attached variously to various titles; no attempt is made here definitively to designate authorship in all cases; but see the body of the entry for discussion. Confusion also attends any attempt to separate novel and collection listings. We have chosen to sort titles and their vts/revs according to their first book manifestation: for example, Judgment Night: A Selection of Science Fiction and its vts/revs are therefore listed under collections.

Some collections as by Henry Kuttner, where Moore's collaboration is not well established, are listed under Henry Kuttner, with no claim being made that a definitive distinction is suggested.



  • Clash by Night (Sydney, New South Wales: The Malian Press, 1952) as by Lawrence O'Donnell [chap: first appeared March 1943 Astounding as by O'Donnell: in the American Science Fiction series: Keeps: pb/Stanley Pitt]
  • Fury: A Science Fiction-Classic (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1950) as by Henry Kuttner [first appeared May-June 1947 Astounding as by Lawrence O'Donnell: Keeps: hb/uncredited]

Northwest Smith

  • Shambleau and Others (New York: Gnome Press, 1953) [coll of linked stories: Northwest Smith: hb/Ric Binkley]
    • Shambleau (New York: Galaxy Publishing Corp, 1958) [coll of linked stories: cut vt of the above with three stories cut: in the Galaxy Science Fiction Novel series: Northwest Smith: pb/Wally Wood]
    • Shambleau (London: Consul Books, 1961) [coll of linked stories: rev vt of the above with one story cut: Northwest Smith: pb/]
  • Northwest of Earth (New York: Gnome Press, 1954) [coll of linked stories: Northwest Smith: hb/Ric Binkley]
  • Scarlet Dream (West Kingston, Rhode Island: Donald M Grant, 1981) [coll of linked stories: Northwest Smith: hb/Alicia Austin]
    • Northwest Smith (New York: Ace Books, 1982) [coll of linked stories: vt of the above: Northwest Smith: pb/Jim Burns]
  • Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams (West Kingston, Rhode Island: Donald M Grant, 2002) [coll of linked stories: assembling eleven Northwest Smith stories plus six Jirel of Joiry stories: hb/Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio]
  • Northwest of Earth: The Complete Northwest Smith (Redmond, Washington: Paizo Publishing/Planet Stories, 2007) [coll of linked stories: pb/Andrew Hou]
    • Northwest of Earth (London: Gollancz, 2019) [rev vt of the above: omits the original introduction: pb/Tithi Luadthong]

individual titles

collections and stories

about the author


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