Thursday, January 12, 2017

Black God's Kiss and Tryst In Time

Four stories in, and I've got to admit that C. L. Moore just doesn't turn my crank.


And it's a big one.  The more of her work I read, the more I realize that she truly is a forgotten treasure whose face should be carved far higher on the sci-fi totem pole than it currently rests.  Writers like Heinlein, Le Guin, and Campbell stand on her shoulders.  They were treading old ground that she blazed like a pioneer.  Her works in this collection so far have read more like romances seamlessly braided together with weird fiction and either sci-fi or fantasy.  She takes those disparate elements and weaves them together to make a whole that was unlike anything that came before, and that remain unlike anything I've ever read.

And I've read a few "Supernatural Romances".  They are dishwater compared to what Moore writes.  The supernatural romances are little more than teen-age bodice rippers with a light veneer of paranormal slathered on, and they generally feature broken people trading idiot balls and lamenting their love that could never be, and that's when they have coherent characters behaving like real people.

One of the all time greats.
C. L. Moore in just four stories has shown a deeper understanding of people, what motivates them, and how their emotions lead them to make tragic mistakes that fit who they are rather than mistakes shoe-horned into the story to make the plot work.  Jirel's mistaking her passion for Guillame for hatred rather than love and Paul's relentless pursuit of adventure as a cover for his search for a soul-mate are just two examples.  Even her creation and use of the character of Father Gervase shows more understanding of the many shades of love - in this case a priestly love for a member of his flock rather than a romantic love - than you'll find in most modern works.

Which is not to say that I'm a fan of her works.  The heavy, heavy handed use of love and weird, roiling descriptions of psychological fights and struggles are not the sorts of stories that appeal to me.  But just as I can appreciate the power and finesse of a well timed slam dunk even as the sport of basketball holds no interest, or understand my brother's love of the digits and stratagems that go into the game of baseball, so too can I understand the towering achievements of a woman like C. L. Moore in taking the weird fiction and fantasy and scientifiction of her day and crafting an entirely new kind of story by making romance and affection the critical factor in her stories.

It's a shame more people don't read her works, I think they'd be surprised at how well crafted and how original they are even compared to the decades of pale imitations they've spawned.


  1. From the title, I wondered if you were about to cover the Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith crossover that C. L. Moore wrote. (Quest of the Starstone)

    I get some of the same feel and richness of character as C. L. Moore from Lois McMaster Bujold and L. Jagi Lamplighter.

    1. Not too many people even know about that crossover. I'd like to hear what you guys think of it.

      I have never read Lamplighter, but of the women writing SF/F today that I know of, only L.M. Bujold or P.C. Hodgell can come close to touching C.L. Moore.

  2. Thanks for posting this, even if C.L. Moore doesn't turn your crank. Too few even know of her, let alone the extent of her influence.

    Thanks for putting the spotlight on a great author.

    1. Hey, that's part of the fun of this blog. Getting exposed to things that are good that you wouldn't necessarily pick up on your own. I'm not a Moore fan, but she's a writer it's good to have read given her place in the canon.