Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Greater Than Gods

This story of C. L. Moore’s provides a solid indication of why she fell out of style when fantasy and science-fiction was co-opted To Serve Man – in the Twilight Zone sense.  The naked admission that men and women are fundamentally different, desire different things, and follow different paths is anathema to those who both deny the differences between the two sexes while doing everything possible to drive a wedge between the two sexes.  This sort of fiction cannot stand.

It would be a mistake to analyze every C. L. Moore through the lens of, “What does her writing say about those who tried to throw her down the Memory Hole”.  Her writing has a timeless beauty that stands on its own, and indeed, most of the analysis here at the Book Club does just that.  But it would also be a mistake not to point out the rampaging elephant in the room: C. L. Moore’s writing – and specifically stories like Greater Than Gods, had to be downplayed by the Futurists if they had any hope of reshaping the genre one concerned with engineering and its effects on humanity.  Her brazen insistence on writing men of the unashamedly masculine sort and women of the deliciously feminine sort was, and remains, a constant thumb in the eye of those who favor the “men with screwdrivers” style of science fiction.
Blonde versus brunette and he chose brown?
He still chose the wrong woman.
In Greater Than Gods, Moore takes things one step further.  She doesn’t just write about men and women, she writes about the love between men and women, and more importantly about the paternal love of a father for his children.  This is a Sophie’s Choice style story presented with science-fiction trappings.  Note well that though the doctor laments the end result of both of his potential marriages, in each case he spends just as much time agonizing over the direct result his choice will have on one of his all-too-real children.  (Children by proxy, but his love for even these many generation removed descendants strikes him as forcefully as if each was a babe he rocked on his knee.) The fate of the world and humanity is present is important, but he’d burn either future to the ground to save his child – as would any father.

In these modern times when fathers are presented as dundering buffoons – when not presented as an un-necessary afterthought – a story like this shines like a beacon of what we’ve lost.  Clearly C. L. Moore has a greater understanding of fatherhood and true strength of a father’s devotion to his children than anyone working successfully in Hollywood today.

That the Doctor finds a third way, a solution to the conundrum that snuffs out both children on his desk, does not strike one as a cop-out.  In fact, it’s merely the Doctor faced with two doors containing tigers and finding a third door which conceals a woman.  He is a brilliant scientist, so that sort of problem solving is completely within character.  It also allows him a potential future filled with hope and possibly, just possibly, one in which he can spend time with both his daughter and his son.
And really, that may be a sign that Moore understands one of a father’s best weapons against the darkness of the world and the pressure of a future he knows will assault his children all too soon.


  1. Blazen? I don't know that word! Do you use it to mean brilliant? Now whenever I see the word blazen, I'll think of C. L. Moore.

    I think this post is a great read on Moore's talent and viewpoint as a writer. The fact that she and other great authors wound up in a memory hole is just infuriating.

  2. That should read "brazen". I'll fix it.

  3. Hey, I'm no Lewis Carroll. I'll leave the wordsmithery up to him.