Born on January 24, 1911, C. L. Moore is one of the favorite writers around these here parts. As I stated a couple of days ago on Robert E. Howard’s birthday, I’m going to be focusing on a work by writers I’ve done multiple birthday posts on rather than trying to come up with something original in a tribute essay. Today’s story is “Jirel Meets Magic”.
Originally published in the July 1935 issue of Weird Tales, “Jirel Meets Magic” is the third story of the Lady of Joiry. It opens with Jirel leading a charge over the drawbridge of a castle, breaking the ranks of the defenders trying to stand against her, and calling for her soldiers to bring her a wizard named Giraud.
Why is Jirel attacking the castle? Who is Giraud? What is Jirel’s reason for wanting to kill him? Who cares? Moore’s writing pulls the reader in, sweeping him along at a breakneck pace. These questions will be answered, but for now all that matters is the heady rush of battle.
“Black God’s Shadow”
C. L. Moore
First published in Weird Tales, December 1934
“Black God’s Shadow” is the second Jirel of Joiry tale, a direct sequel to “Black God’s Kiss“. The story opens while Jirel waking from a dream in which Guillaume is calling her named. She’d sent Guillaume to his death with a kiss from the Black God she had encountered in a strange world she’d entered through a tunnel beneath her castle.
Now she realizes that she’s doomed him to an eternity of torment. Overwhelmed by guilt, Jirel returns to that strange otherworld to seek some way of freeing Guillaume’s soul so he can go to his eternal rest. Continue reading →
Shortly after she began chronicling the adventures of Northwest Smith, C. L. Moore created a second series character, one that would have an even greater impact on the genre. I’m talking, of course, about Jirel of Joiry.
Instead of setting these stories in space like she did with Northwest Smith, or in some age before the dawn of recorded history, like Howard did with Conan, Moore chose to place Jirel in the fictional French kingdom of Joiry, square in the Middle Ages.
There were only five Jirel stories, plus the Jirel and Northwest Smith team-up “Quest of the Starstone” that she wrote with her husband Henry Kuttner. But for the first time in the history of the field, here was a female character who was worthy of her own series. Note: the rest of this post will contain spoilers. Continue reading →
Not to mention one of the most important writers of the past century.
Catherine Lucille Moore, better known as C. L. Moore, was born on this day in 1911. She sold her first story, “Shambleau”, in 1933. (review here)
In certain circles among science fiction and fantasy authors and fans, one can find a popular belief that women authors have been suppressed and had their voices silenced by The Patriarchy. And That Has to Change. While it is true that until recently more authors have been men than women, one has to wonder what parallel universe some of these people have fallen out of. Either that or if what they’ve been smoking is home grown or Columbian imported. Many of them act like they’ve never heard of Ursula K. Le Guin, Leigh Brackett, Kate Wilhelm, or Andre Norton, among others. Continue reading →
Today marks the 101st anniversary of the birth of C. L. Moore. Moore was an innovative writer who got her start in Weird Tales with the classic story “Shambleau”, which introduced the Han Solo prototype Northwest Smith. She also created Jirel of Joiry, one of the pioneering heroines of sword and sorcery. After her marriage to Henry Kuttner, most of her output was collaborative and mainly science fiction.
I wrote a more extensive tribute last year, albeit a day late. I’ll not repeat myself this year, except to say, go read her. Right now. Turn off the computer, put down the tablet, and go read her. Okay, you can leave the tablet on if you download one of her stories. She’s too important a figure in the field to be forgotten. While I’m sure others have written tributes today, I haven’t seen any. Of course the best tribute you can pay authors is to read their works.
Christopher Heath has written a great post over at Home of Heroics about heroic fantasy grand masters and who they’ve influenced him. His assessment is insightful and informative. Check it out. The only one I’d add (at least off the top of my head) would be C. L. Moore. Her Jirel of Joiry series, while barely enough to fill a book, are powerful and eerie. Jirel was one of the first warrior women, and created in a time when science fiction and fantasy was a male dominated field. Moore’s stories brought an emotional depth to the field that had been lacking in the bulk of the work published up to that point. Heath credits Lovecraft for atmosphere. While Moore’s writing was certainly atmospheric, I would have to say one of the techniques at which Moore excelled was imagery. I’ve been wanting to take a detailed look at her Northwest Smith series, which is really fantasy in a science fictional setting, for a while now. Imagery will be one of the things that series will focus on. Hopefully those will start appearing by the end of the summer.