Category Archives: Northwest Smith

Blogging Jirel of Joiry: Black God’s Kiss

Black God's KissBlack God’s Kiss
C. L. Moore
Paizo
trade paperback $12.99

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

Blogging Northwest Smith: The Cold Gray God

150px-Weird_Tales_October_1935“The Cold Gray God” adds a slight Lovecraftian element to the Northwest Smith saga.  First published in the October 1935 issue of Weird Tales, the story opens with Smith being accosted on the street of Righa, a city in the polar regions of Mars, by a fur clad woman.  Smith thinks she’s a Venusian, but she behaves in a way a Venusian woman wouldn’t.  Fro one thing, she touches him.  I couldn’t help but think of women in Islamic countries from the way she is describes.

Although he’s somewhat repulsed by her, there’s something familiar about her, too.  At her request, Smith accompanies her back to her house.  There he discovers she’s a famous singer who simply vanished a few years earlier.  She asks him to help her retrieve a box from a man who is frequently a notorious bar.  She tells Smith he can name his own price, hinting that he can have her it that’s what he wants.  Leery, Smith still accepts her offer, asking for ten thousand dollars. Continue reading

Catherine Lucille Moore: Fantasy and Science Fiction Pioneer

C. L. MooreNot 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

Blogging Northwest Smith: Nymph of Darkness

Gosh Wow“Nymph of Darkkness”
C. L. Moore

For years, “Nymph of Darkness” was one of the rarest Northwest Smith stories. The reason was because C. L. Moore refused to give permission for the story, first published in 1935, to be reprinted. It wasn’t until the 1981 Worldcon that she relented. The first book reprinting occurred the following year in Gosh! Wow! Sense of Wonder, edited by Forrest J. Ackerman.

Ackerman, it turns out co-wrote the story with Moore, although she retained 75% of the rights, meaning it wouldn’t be reprinted without her permission. A technicality in the copyright for the story actually allowed it to be reprinted once against her wishes.

“Nymph of Darkness” first appeared in Fantasy Magazine in April 1935 and was later reprinted in Weird Tales in the December 1939 issue. It wasn’t included when most of the other stories were published in the 1950s by Gnome Press.

I’m not sure why Moore didn’t allow for its reprinting. The story, in my mind at least, is a good story. It’s not as long as most of the others, but still, it’s solid. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, C. L. Moore

C L Moore chin on handWhile it’s not quite January 24 where I am just yet, it is a few times zones east of here, and that’s good enough for me.  Especially since tomorrow is going to be a pretty full day.

Fantasy and science fiction author C. L. Moore was born this day in 1911.  After her marriage, her writing was overshadowed by that of her husband Henry Kuttner.  This was in part because Kuttner’s byline got a higher word rate that hers.

Even so, Moore had a major impact on the field.  Her Jirel of Joiry was one of the first women fighters in the field of sword and sorcery, a direct forerunner of Red Sonja.  And Northwest Smith was clearly one of the models for Han Solo.

I started a series of posts last year taking an in-depth look at the Northwest Smith stories.  I stopped when I got to “Nymph of Darkness”.  This was co-written with Forrest J. Ackerman.  I have a book in which Ackerman discusses the story.  Unfortunately, it was not on  the shelf.  I finally found the book in a box that hadn’t been unpacked from when we moved in 2012.  Look for more Northwest Smith posts soon.

Decades Years ago, when I was in college, I saw an autograph book that contained pictures of science fiction and fantasy writers, one per page.  The page for C. L. Moore had a picture of her sitting on what appeared to be the back steps of a house.  I’ve not seen that picture since.  It doesn’t appear to be online anywhere.  If anyone has a copy of that picture, I would appreciate your sending it to me.

For those who are interested, as well as the morbidly curious, here are the Northwest Smith posts I’ve done so far:

“Shambleau”
“Black Thirst”
“Scarlet Dream”
“Dust of Gods”
“Juhli”

 

Blogging Northwest Smith: Juhli

With “Juhli”, C. L. Moore returned to the formula that had been successful in her first few Northwest Smith stories.  The previous installment, “Dust of Gods“, was most a straight-forward adventure tale, with little of the weird science fantasy elements in prior stories, and certainly none of the erotic imagery.

The opening paragraph discusses Smith’s myriad scars, focusing on one particular scar over his heart.  The next paragraph finds Smith waking up in a dark room with no idea where he is or how he got there.  He manages to find a wall and put his back to it.  This is a good thing because there’s something else there with him.  Whatever is there touches him, delivering a strong electric shock.  When he wakes up, the thing is still there somewhere, but there’s a young girl as well.


The girl, who is named Apri, is the servant of Juhli.  Juhli is a fearsome member of an alien race that lives in the city of Vonng.  Vonng exists in two planes.  In Smith’s the city is in ruins, but in Juhli’s plane the city is still quite inhabited.  Smith learns that he’s been captured, but his capture is an error.  He’s been captured to feed Juhli.  The error comes from Smith’s notoriety.  Normally those taken are folks who won’t be missed.

Juhli makes her appearance and takes Smith and Apri to a structure that loops back on itself.  What I mean by that is when Smith walks in a straight line between the columns supporting the roof, he eventually returns to his starting point.

Juhli isn’t human, although there are some superficial resemblances to humanity.  For starters, she’s basically humanoid from the waist up.  Moore doesn’t give a clear description of her from the waist down but implies she has the body of a snake.  Her facial features are definitely not human.  Her mouth is circular and doesn’t close, and she only has one eye in the middle of her forehead.  Above that is some type of organ that resembles a feather.  In spite of this inhuman appearance, Juhli is described as being beautiful.

Juhli wants to feed on Smith’s life force, and takes him in her arms.  She places her mouth on his chest, which is the source of the scar mentioned in the opening paragraph.  During the process, Smith experiences emotional extremes:  exhilaration, terror, any strong emotion Juhli forces him to experience.  In the process Smith sees the universe and Juhli’s world through her eyes.

I’ll not spoil the ending by saying how Smith manages to escape.  I will say the ending is particularly bleak.

In “Juhli” Moore returns to the themes she used early in the series.  There’s a beautiful, inhuman woman (or at least female) who tries to kill Smith through some type of psychic means.  There’s some sexual imagery, although it’s not to the level of “Shambleau” and certainly not to the level of “Scarlet Dream“.

Yet the whole thing seems tired, like Moore is just going through the motions.  We’ve seen this before.  It’s not really new.  Instead the story has an air of familiarity about it.

In spite of this, I liked the story.  This is, after all, C. L. Moore we’re talking about.  Her prose is superior to most of what you’ll find, even when it’s not necessarily her best.  The woman could make long descriptive passages interesting, something that’s not easy to do.  So, while not as strong a tale as some of the earlier entries in the series, “Juhli” is still a decent story.

 

Blogging Northwest Smith: Dust of Gods

“Dust of Gods”  was the fourth Northwest Smith story, and it was the last of the series published in 1934.  The picture on the left accompanied the story in its original publication in Weird Tales.  I scanned it from the only reproduction I’m aware of, the anthology Weird Tales:  32 Unearthed Terrors (Dziemianowicz, Weinberg, and Greenberg, ed., Bonanza Books, 1988).  The book was printed on paper not much higher grade than the original pulp, and it’s yellowed with lines of text bleeding through from the other side of the page.  But at least you can get a feel for what it would have been like to read the story in its original appearance.  (What, you didn’t think I could actually afford copies of Weird Tales from the 30s, did you?)

Anyway, this installment in the series is a departure from the earlier tales.  For one thing, Smith is not off by himself getting into trouble.  His partner Yarol the Venusian is with him.  In other words, Smith has company when he gets into trouble.

Secondly, there isn’t any exotic feminine menace in this one, and there certainly isn’t any of the sexual imagery that we saw in “Shambleau“, “Black Thirst“, or “Scarlet Dream“. While there isn’t any sexual content or theme, there is still an exotic menace. But compared to the earlier ones, it’s not that great of a menace.

The menace this time is more of a science fictional nature.  The previous stories were science fantasy.  “Dust of Gods” is essentially science fiction, although not of the hard science, nuts and bolts variety.

The story opens with Smith and Yarol in a bar on Mars, drinking and commiserating about their lack of funds.  They notice some men acting strangely at a nearby table.  Smith and Yarol are contemplating approaching the men when another man at an adjacent table stops them.  He tells the duo that the men worked for him but failed to complete a task, recovering something very ancient in a lost Martian city.  He convinces Smith and Yarol to try and succeed where the others have failed.

What he tells them is that at one time, before man arose on Earth, there was a fifth planet from the Sun where now there are only asteroids.  This planet was ruled by three gods, all long gone, and two of them forgotten by most members of the races currently inhabiting the solar system.  The third is still remember, and goes by the name Pharol.  In fact Yarol had used his name as an oath minutes before the man approach him and Smith.

These gods came from another realm, and ruled until catastrophe befell the fifth planet.  All that’s left of Pharol is dust, and it’s this dust the man wants Smith and Yarol to retrieve for him.  In need of cash, they sign on.

The two end up in an ancient Martian city near the North Pole of the planet.  Deep beneath the city, after avoiding a trap, they find a chamber filled with a strange glowing light that flows like water.  In the center of the chamber is a huge throne built for three occupants.  And in one of the seats there is a pile of dust.  Yarol climbs up to gather the dust while Smith waits below, thinking while he watches the light pour out of the chamber.  He concludes the guy who has hired them is up to no good, and if he gets his hands on the dust, there’s no telling what kind of damage he could do or if there would be any way to stop him.  They decide to leave the dust.  Just to be safe, they destroy it with their blasters.

And that’s pretty much all that happens in the story.  It’s very much a departure from the earlier tales.  The setting is a pretty standard science fiction setting for the time in which “Dust of Gods” was written.  The concept of gathering literal dust of a god is an original idea, and not one I’ve seen much done with outside of this story.

But this story lacks the power and impact of the earlier ones.  Maybe it’s the lack of suggestive or outright sexual imagery.  Maybe Moore was having an off day when she wrote the story.  (Okay, a series of off days since she almost certainly didn’t write this one in one day.  Or maybe she did.  That would explain a lot.)  It almost reads as though Moore had tired of the character, but with another 10 installments to come in the series, that’s hardly likely.  Moore’s prose is still as rich and evocative as ever, but it seems like there’s less she wants to evoke.  The menace isn’t particularly threatening, and all Smith and Yarol really have to do is think for a bit.  While they do encounter some danger, it’s not really of the soul-shattering kind in the previous stories.

Whatever the reason, I found “Dust of Gods” to be the weakest story in the series to date, even though it’s not a bad story.  That sounds harsh, but it’s really not saying much.  Moore on a bad day was better than almost every writer of her time on a good day, with a few exceptions such as Howard.  She’s certainly better than many of the writers working today, even the acclaimed ones.

There are 10 more stories to go, and I’ll look at another one soon.

Blogging Northwest Smith: Scarlet Dream

“Scarlet Dream”
C. L. Moore

This post contains content of an adult nature and is not suitable for younger readers.  You have been warned.

“Scarlet Dream” is the third Northwest Smith story.  In terms of sexually charged imagery, it’s the most explicit of the ones so far, hence the warning above.  (My discussions of “Shambleau” and “Black Thirst” can be found here andhere.)  There will be spoilers, as well.  You’ve been doubly warned.

When the story opens, Smith is wandering through the Lakkmanda Market on Mars.  The name has a decidedly Leigh Brackett feel to it.  “Scarlet Dream” was published in 1934, predating Brackett’s Mars by a few years, but still I can’t help wondering if Brackett was influenced a bit by the name.

Smith spies a shawl with an intricate pattern consisting of a scarlet thread woven in a blue and green background.  The Martian vendor displaying tells Smith the thing gives him a headache, and he sells it to Smith for a good price.

After he returns to his quarters, Smith tries to trace the pattern on the shawl, gives up, covers himself with it, and goes to sleep.  Sometime in the night he begins dreaming that he’s walking up a mist enshrouded stair.  He soon loses sight of the bottom.

Eventually he is nearly run over by a young girl with long orange hair, wearing a short shift, and covered in blood.  She babbles something about some type of monster killing her sister.  Smith manages to calm her enough to carry her to the top of the stairs.  Once there he takes her into a side room, sets her on a stone bench, and gets a little more explanation from her.

The girl, who is never named, tells Smith that he’s dreaming but that he’s entered a dream world that can only be exited by death or by a fate worse than dying.  Most of Smith’s questions are answered along the lines of “We find it best not to think/ask/do that.”  This includes trying to leave or learn new things.  Indeed, it’s only when Smith eventually decides to leave that the monster shows up and attacks him.  But that comes later.

One of the things she tells him is that no one has ever gone down the stairs he came up.  She only went down the stairs in a panic.  Why Smith doesn’t at some point try to retrace his steps is never explained.  But if he did, then there would be no story.

Smith and the girl are in giant temple, and she leads him outside to a lake and a small shrine containing two cots, two blankets, and a few clothes.  It’s completely open to the air, but since the temperature never changes, that’s not a problem.

The trees seem to bend towards them, and the grass certainly does.  Smith eventually learns that if a person stands barefoot in the grass for long, it will begin sucking blood through the feet.  The trees are implied to be flesh eating.

Smith sits with the girl beside the lake, drifts off, and comes to as night is falling.  Moore implies that at this point Smith engages the girl in sex.  Regular sex between them is implied, with the word “kiss” and its variations being a euphemism for more than a kiss.  In spite of the raciness of the covers Farnsworth Wright selected for Weird Tales, the contents tended to be squeaky clean.  One of Robert E. Howard’s early Conan stories was rejected because Wright felt Conan took too many liberties with a young lady.  (My opinion of that can be found here.)

Where Moore engages in some serious sexual imagery is when the girl shows Smith the only source of food.  She takes him to a hall in the temple in which there are people “eating”.  That there are other people present is mentioned more than once, but this is the only time we see them.  Smith has no interaction with them.  In fact, they’re only mentioned in a few sentences, basically as backdrop.

The way people eat is they kneel before spigots in the wall, spigots that curve upwards.  What they drink from the spigots is blood, with the hint that it contains some addictive substance.  Once Smith realizes what he’s drinking, he’s repulsed but finds himself returning the next day.  Moore goes into details describing how pleasant and yet repulsive feeding is, dwelling on the taste.

Now I don’t know what mental picture you get, but what comes to my mind now is the same thing that came to mind when I was 15.  Fellatio, although I had not encountered that word at the time.  It’s hard to escape that image.  The posture of kneeling, along with Moore deliberately stating that the spigots curve upward from the wall, leave little room for any other conclusion.  What I have to wonder is what Wright thought about this imagery, or if he even noticed it.  I doubt we’ll ever know.  Smith comes to enjoy the feeding more than the girl, although he never completely overcomes his revulsion of it.

Smith eventually spies mountains through the surrounding mist, attempts to leave, is attacked by the monster, and drives it off with his blaster.  It’s at this point that the girl tells Smith she would rather lose him to the fate worse than death than through death at the hand of the monster.  She helps him get home, although he doesn’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late.

Smith awakens to find his partner Yarol and a doctor leaning over him.  Smith has been in a coma for a week.  Seems Smith can’t be left alone to wander about on Mars without getting into trouble.  Yarol gave the shawl away while Smith was out.  The pattern was giving him a headache.

This is the third Northwest Smith story, and other than “Shambleau”, it’s the one that has stuck out the most in my mind since I first read the series nearly 30 years ago.  Again, I’m struck by how graphic the sexual imagery is in these stories.  If my parents had known what I was reading….

Moore seems to have a theme of vampirism going as well.  In the first story, the vampire fed on life essence, in the second beauty, and now the grass actually drinks blood.

I’m going to continue this series.  The post on “Black Thirst” is in the top 10 most viewed posts I’ve done.  Stay tuned.  There’s more to come.  Or should that be Moore to come?

Blogging Northwest Smith: Black Thirst

“Black Thirst”
C. L. Moore

SPOILER ALERT – You’ve been warned.

“Black Thirst” is the second Northwest Smith story, published  in the April 1934 issue of Weird Tales shortly after “Shambleau”.  Upon rereading, I found this story lacked the power of its predecessor.  It may have been that I wasn’t able to get to the story until late at night, and therefore was fighting fatigue.

The story begins with Smith casing a warehouse along the waterfront of the Venusian city of Ednes one night when a woman walks by and asks him if he’d like to make a gold coin.  This isn’t any ordinary woman, but a Minga woman.

When the first settlers landed on the shore, they found a giant castle ruled by a being, apparently a man, called the Alendar.  He had a small entourage of the most beautiful women, which he began selling to the traders and settlers.

Over time, the Minga women, renowned for their exquisite beauty and chaste bodies, have been the prizes of kings, sultans, and chieftains throughout the solar system.  They are never allowed to walk the streets at night alone and unescorted.  But this one is.

She recognizes Smith, although they’ve never met, and raises her offer to one hundred gold coins.  To receive it, all he has to do is come to a particular gate at the Minga castle in one hour, give her name, and enter.

Other men have died for lesser offenses against the Alendar.

Smith decides to take her up on the offer.

This part of the story was as clear in my mind as the day I first read it.  What had faded were the events that followed.  I had a vague memory of what happened but could recall no details.

Upon entering the Minga castle, Smith enters a dark world where beauty is the most prized and carefully nurtured commodity.  And by nurtured, I mean bred.  Although the woman Vaudir, who entices him into the castle, is one of the most beautiful women Smith has ever seen, she pales in comparison to the others he sees.  Next to them she is plain and homely.

Smith also meets the Alendar, who isn’t a man even though he wears a man’s form.  The Alendar can control people with his thoughts, and he takes Smith captive.  He shows Smith women of such great beauty that it nearly drives Smith insane.

The Alendar is a type of psychic vampire that feeds on beauty, and he’s centuries old.  The women in his stable have been bred for one purpose, and one purpose only.  Food.  The Alendar drains them of their beauty and their life essence.  Only the least beautiful are sold as concubines and queens.

For most of those centuries, especially the most recent, the Alendar had fed on female beauty.  But now he wants a taste of something a little different, male beauty.  And Smith is intended to be the main course.  It’s only with the assistance of Vaudir, and the sacrifice of her life, that Smith manages to escape.

While to my mind not as powerful as “Shambleau”, there are still some dark and disturbing implications in “Black Thirst”.  First there’s the there’s the whole aspect of selling women.  While Moore downplays it and makes it seem like an accepted practice, it’s really nothing more than slavery, and sexual slavery at that.  At least that’s what’s implied when powerful men buy the most beautiful women in the solar system.  Now I’m not saying Moore condones the practice.  She never goes that far.  Instead she states it for what it is, the selling of women by men for their beauty.  Such things have been done for centuries, and in an exotic setting such as this, it’s really more of window dressing than anything else.

Where Moore appears be placing her emphasis is on the destruction of beauty.  The Alendar, and by extension the men who buy women from him, are using women for the purpose of consuming and destroying their beauty.  The women are used to feed, the Alendar’s life force and the men’s egos.

Is Moore saying that men destroy women for their beauty, that beauty is another commodity bought, sold, and consumed in a man’s world?  I don’t know for sure, and like I said in the previous installment of this series, I don’t want to read too much amateur psycho-babble into the fiction.  It’s an interesting thought, though.  She certainly seems to be.

In her introduction to the Lancer edition of Fury, a novel she wrote with her husband Henry Kuttner, she talks about the themes that appear in an author’s work that the author isn’t consciously aware of at the time of writing.  Hers, she writes, is “The most treacherous thing in life is love.”  That’s another interesting thought.

In the two stories we’ve examined so far, love (or something associated with the sexual and/or romantic aspect of it) is presented as destructive and dark, twisted rather nurturing, and incredibly trecherous.  Keep in mind, at this time Moore was unmarried.  I know nothing about her personal life during this period, but I have to wonder.  Had this attractive young woman been burned in a relationship?  Had she witnessed friends or family members have their beauty consumed by a relationship?  I don’t expect to ever find out. Such a thing would seem to be consistent with the Northwest Smith stories so far.  But whether this interpretation is a sound one is a question I’ll leave to the professional literary scholars.

Blogging Northwest Smith: Shambleau

“Shambleau” is the first of the Northwest Smith adventures, and the first published story by C. L. Moore.  According to Lester del Rey, in his introduction to The Best of C. L. Moore (1975), she had been writing for 15 years before she submitted anything for publication.  I’d like to know where he got that information, but I’m not questioning it.  Since he’d known Moore personally for decades, I’m inclined to believe him.  Of course, what I’d like even more is to get my hands on some of those unpublished stories.  I suspect they’ve long since ceased to exist.

I don’t remember if “Shambleau” was the first story I read by C. L. Moore, but it certainly made the strongest impact on me.  Here’s a synopsis of what happens (spoiler alert):

A young woman is being chased by a mob down a street in a spaceport town on Mars.  The mob is closing in on her when she runs into Northwest Smith, a notorious criminal.  He intervenes on her behalf to the bafflement of the crowd.  Smith takes her back to his room, tells her she’s welcome to stay for the few days until he gives up the room and leaves.  This girl isn’t human, and Smith doesn’t recognize her race.  She’s dressed only in a shift and a turban.  Smith assumes she’s bald.  He realizes later she’s not when he sees her tuck what he thinks is a lock of hair under her turban.  He’s sure he saw the lock move on its own.  But he must be mistaken…

While Moore points out that sexual temptations don’t have much hold on Smith, he does find her attractive enough to make advances.  At least until he takes in his arms, at which point he finds her repulsive.  He doesn’t really understand why that is, only that the repulsion he feels is almost primal in nature.

Smith is in town setting up some type of criminal venture.  We’re not ever told what.  Over the next few days, Smith experiences a back and forth attraction and repulsion.  He struggles with it, but ultimately he succumbs.  Only when Smith’s partner Yarol shows up does Smith have a chance of escape, and even then it’s not easy.

Moore is playing with the concept of a gorgon, and goes so far as to state that the ancient Greeks had some knowledge of the Shambleau, which is the name of the race rather than of the girl.  She even takes her resolution from that myth.

One of the things that’s so interesting about this story is that for all its length (~30 pages), not much actually happens.  Other than the initial confrontation, which takes less than 5 pages, and Yarol’s rescue of Smith and the conversation that follows, about half of the story revolves around the Shambleau’s seduction of Smith.  Yet Moore’s prose is so rich that you hardly notice that that many pages have passed.

Caedmon Records recording of “Shambleau”

And it’s the seduction that is the heart and soul of the story.  Moore makes it very clear that Smith’s fall into the Shambelau’s clutches is a very bad thing, but she also makes it clear that it’s also an intensely pleasurable thing.  And it’s described as the Shambleau caressing and touching Smith’s soul more than his body.  It’s how she feeds, essentially a type of psychic vampire.

Moore also stresses Smith’s internal conflict, attracted by the pleasure and repulsed by the unnaturalness of it.  It’s a struggle he ultimately loses, giving in to the temptation while the whole time being repulsed by his actions.  It’s a struggle that on some level most people can probably relate to.  The desire for something that you know is wrong or harmful, the momentary pleasure of something that will ultimately destroy you.

The imagery is definitely sexual in nature.  While tame by today’s standards, I suspect this was pretty potent stuff back then.  It was certainly powerful to the teenage boy I was when I first read it.  Awash as I was in hormones, this story had a major impact on me.  It was almost like Moore was reading my mind at times as I struggled to understand and contain the natural changes I was undergoing and the accompanying urges.  And while the emotional impact when I reread the story the other night wasn’t nearly that intense, echoes were still there.

The reason “Shambleau” had such an impact on me, and why its popularity and acclaim has endured for over 75 years, is simple.  What Moore deals with here, as I mentioned in a previous paragraph, is something that most people can relate to on some level.  She’s dealing with what it means to be human, what it means to struggle with what’s right and what’s convenient.  Unlike many writers obsessed with their own self-importance, she does it by telling a compelling story, and telling it well.right up to the end.

Much has been made of Moore’s introduction of emotion and sexuality into the science fiction and fantasy fields in the 1930s.  I’m not going to rehash that here.  I have neither the time nor the patience for the literature search.  And I’m certainly not going to get into amateur psychoanalysis, a la L. Sprague de Camp with Robert E. Howard, and try to interpret Moore’s emotional and mental state.  I have too much respect for her to ever do that.

One last bit of trivia.  At one point in the story, Smith hums the tune of a song, “The Green Hills of Earth.”  Robert Heinlein has gone on record saying this was the inspiration of his classic story by that name.