C. L. Moore and Leigh Brackett (pulps – 1950s)

C. L. Moore–or “Catherine the Great,” in the words of superfan Forrest J. Ackerman, who collaborated with Moore on the short story, “Nymph of Darkness” (1935)–influenced  contemporaries at Weird Tales and then Astounding, as well as her friends in the Lovecraft Circle.

Robert E. Howard, author of Conan, was among Moore’s fans. Howard shared unpublished work with Moore and considered it an honor  to have been able to collaborate with her on the short story, “The Challenge from Beyond” (1935).  (See the introductions and essays in Robert E. Wagner’s Echoes of Valor II and Sam Moskowitz’s Horrors Unknown.)

Moore was also greatly admired by writers such as her friend, Robert Bloch (the author of Psycho), who gave an address in her honor at Denvention Two.  Bloch recalled that when he first met her in person in 1937, it was already clear that “[e]ven then, like all your readers, fans and fellow-writers, we were ready to swear that you were going to make it. Your talent and imagination were already beginning to revolutionize the genre…” (Denvention Two program).
CLM-REH -1935-01-29 - 1

Correspondence between C. L. Moore and Robert E. Howard, Jan. 29, 1935

It’s important to point out that, contrary to the myth, Moore never concealed her gender in order to publish in the pulps, although she did attempt to hide her identity as a pulp writer from her employers, hence the initials.  (See Moore’s correspondence in the 30s with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert H. Barlow.  See also Moore’s interviews in the 70s with Dee Doyle, Byron Roark, and Jeffrey Elliot, in which she stated several times that she never sought to conceal her gender.  See also Moore’s Afterword to The Best of C. L. Moore.)

Moore made no attempt to hide her gender from the sf community, and the fact that she was female was well-known as early as 1935, if not earlier.  Moore’s readers knew to refer to “Miss Moore” in their letters to the editor, and correspondence between writers Clark Ashton Smith (who was among Moore’s fans) and Donald Wandrei refer to her as “Miss Moore” as early as February 1935.  Moore herself signed a letter to the editor of Weird Tales as “Miss Catherine Moore” in October 1935.  Except for a brief period of at most a year, Moore’s gender wasn’t a secret to any of the male editors, writers, and fans who celebrated her work throughout the pulp period.

This revelation made no perceptible difference to fans, nor to her fellow writers and competitors at Astounding.   In 1935, E. E. “Doc” Smith, the “Father of Space Opera”, wrote a fan letter to Astounding in response to her first science fiction story, “Bright Illusion” (1934), what might be viewed as pulp science fiction’s first successful “love story.”  Smith praised “Miss Moore’s” story profusely, remarking that “I perceive in her ‘Bright Illusion’ a flame of sublimity” (Astounding January 1935).  (Meanwhile, she continued to win Reader’s Choice awards for her weird fantasy series, Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith, in Weird Tales.)

“Bright Illusion” remained a genre favorite for many years.  In 1966, Laurence M. Janifer asked twenty major authors and editors in the field to pick five stories for inclusion in an honor roll anthology. Moore and Kuttner together ranked as the fourth “most often cited” author, below Heinlein, Sturgeon, and Fritz Leiber, but above twenty-eight other authors, including Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and H. G. Wells. Moore was the only author to have each of her stories nominated more than once. Of the three tiers created by number of votes, “Vintage Season” ranked in the top, “No Woman Born” in the second, and “Bright Illusion” in the third (despite not being reprinted since 1934). (See Laurence M. Janifer, 18 Greatest Science Fiction Stories. Originally entitled: Master’s Choice. New York: Tempo Books, 1966.)

Moore’s influence was felt for decades, including in the much later work of Robert Silverberg, who wrote In Another Country (1990) to serve as a sequel to Moore’s short story, “Vintage Season” (1946).

Poul Anderson also credited Moore as an influence and, like Silverberg, was a fan.  In his introduction to Pulp Voices, he remarks: “My first C. L. Moore story, ‘There Shall Be Darkness,’ was a revelation…It was gorgeously romantic, evocative, emotional, and poetic…I will never forget the awesomeness of ‘Judgment Night’ or the poignancy of ‘No Woman Born’…If I have managed here and there to use language a bit strikingly myself—that is for you, the reader, to decide—then a considerable part of the reason has been that I read her” (Anderson 7).

Moore, of course, also influenced her younger friend, Leigh Brackett, a science fiction writer and the wife of Edmond Hamilton, also a science fiction writer.  Moore’s husband, Henry Kuttner, served as Brackett’s mentor early in her career, and the four writers were fast friends, corresponding regularly and sometimes vacationing together.

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