Beauty As Keen As The Flash of Blades -By Christopher M. Chupik

Beauty As Keen As The Flash of Blades -By Christopher M. Chupik

(This one was a real challenge to write. It would have all been in vain if not for the help of Deuce Richardson, Keith West and Morgan Holmes. A shout-out is also due to Jennifer Jodell, for her thesis Mediating Moore: Uncertain Origins and Indeterminate Identities in the Work of C. L. Moore. While her analysis takes a more feminist approach to the subject than I would, I still recommend it as as well-researched piece about an author often shrouded mystery and misinformation.

This article was brought to my attention a while back:

100 Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels By Female Authors

They managed to get Kameron Hurley, Ann Leckie and N. K. Jemisin on the list, yet somehow they failed to mention Leigh Brackett, Andre Norton, or, the subject of today’s column, C. L. Moore. Sadly, this isn’t the first or only example, only the latest. The grand old dames of SF are being pushed aside, and that’s not only wrong, it’s rude. So let’s take a look at another one of those women that other women don’t see (to borrow Keith West’s paraphrase).

Catherine Lucille Moore (1911-1987) was frequently ill as a child and spent a great deal of her time reading. She later said she was: “reared on a diet of Greek mythology, Oz books and Edgar Rice Burroughs.” Another author who she admired was Abraham Merritt, writer of such works as The Ship of Ishtar and Dwellers in the Mirage.

Moore sold her first story “Shambleau” to Weird Tales in 1933 for $100. It was published under her initials and it frequently claimed that C. L. Moore did this to disguise her sex. However, I have learned recently that this is not true. In an interview in Chacol 1 in 1976, Moore states that she used her initials because she didn’t want to be fired from her job as a secretary for having a second source of income. She later wrote a letter to Weird Tales using her full name. Not that her gender was known to everybody. Henry Kuttner, her future husband, met her by sending her a fan letter addressed to “Mr. C. L. Moore”. Moore replied with a letter signed with her full name.

In an interview for Contemporary Authors in 1980, Moore, speaking about her writing process, said: “Nothing I have ever written was given the slightest deliberation. It was there in the typewriter and it came out, a total bypassing of the brain.”

Much of her fame rests on a pair of series characters, Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry. Northwest Smith is one of the prototypical space adventurers, a hard-boiled hero transplanted to outer space. Take this description from the opening of the story “Yvala”:

“Northwest Smith leaned against a pile of hemp-wrapped bales from the Martian drylands and stared with expressionless eyes, paler than pale steel, over the confusion of the Lakkdarol spaceport before him. In the clear Martian day, the tatters of his leather spaceman’s garb were pitilessly plain, the ray-burns and rents of a hundred casual brawls. It was evident at a glance that Smith had fallen on evil days. One might have guessed by the shabbiness of his clothing that his pockets were empty, the charge in his ray-gun low.”

“Shambleau”, first of Smith’s adventures, is a take on the legends of the Gorgon and the Siren. When Smith rescues a mysterious and alluring young woman from a murderous mob, he nearly becomes the victim of her inhuman hungers.

“There was no hair upon her face — neither brows nor lashes, and he would have sworn that the tight scarlet turban bound around her head covered baldness. She had three fingers and a thumb, and her feet had four digits apiece too, and all sixteen of them were tipped with round claws that sheathed back into the flesh like a cat’s. She ran her tongue over her lips — a thin, pink, flat tongue as feline as her eyes — and spoke with difficulty. He felt that throat and tongue had never been shaped for human speech.”

While her Northwest Smith stories may have taken place on other planets, they were far more Fantasy than SF. In the pre-Tolkien field, Fantasy as we currently understand it was rare. Full-fledged Secondary Worlds were even rarer. When we had Fantasy it tended to be set in historical times (Clark Ashton Smith’s Averoigne, or James Branch Cabell’s Poictesme), imaginary prehistoric realms (Atlantis, the Hyborian Age) or other planets, as Brackett did. Thus, you had interplanetary tales appearing in Weird Tales alongside Horror by H. P. Lovecraft and early Sword and Sorcery by Robert E. Howard.

“Shambleau” opens with an introduction that sets the Science-Fantasy mood:

“Man has conquered Space before. You may be sure of that. Somewhere beyond the Egyptians, in that dimness out of which come echoes of half-mythical names — Atlantis, Mu — somewhere back of history’s first beginnings when mankind, like us today, built cities of steel to house its star-roving ships and knew the names of the planets in their own native tongues — heard Venus’s people call their wet world “Sha-ardol” in that soft, sweet slurring speech and mimicked Mars’s guttural “Lakkdiz” from the harsh tongue of Mars’s dryland dwellers. You may be sure of that.”

  1. P. Lovecraft said of “Shambleau”: “[Shambleau] begins magnificently, on just the right note of terror and with black intimations of the unknown … it has real atmosphere and tension — rare things among the pulp tradition of brisk, cheerful, staccato prose and lifeless stock characters and images.”

Here is a recording of Moore herself, reading “Shambleau”:

Her other famous series character is Jirel of Joiry, a French warrior-woman of the Dark Ages. Jirel is introduced thus:

“Guillaume scarce heard her. He was still staring, as most men stared when they first set eyes on Jirel of Joiry. She was tall as most men, and savage as the wildest of them, and the fall of Joiry bitter enough to break her heart as she stood snarling curses up at her tall conqueror. The face above the mail might not have been fair in a woman’s head-dress, but in the steel setting of her armor it had a biting, sword-edge beauty as keen as the flash of blades. The red hair was short upon her high, defiant head, and the yellow blaze of her eyes held fury as a crucible holds fire.”

There were other swordswomen of the Pulps: Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino (who later become Marvel’s Red Sonja of the Chainmail Bikini) and Valeria from the Conan story “Red Nails” being prominent examples. Over in the Hero Pulps, we have Patricia Savage, cousin of Doc Savage, and Nita Van Sloan, the Spider’s gun-wielding partner in love and crime-fighting. A. Merritt’s Lur the Wolf-Witch, from his novel Dwellers in the Mirage, is a likely literary predecessor.

Jirel is no invincible Amazon, though. In fact, when we first meet her, she’s been defeated and is seeking revenge. Her search takes her into an otherworldly realm where she seeks supernatural power to wreak her revenge, a power that comes at a great cost.

Her stories were fan-favorites, and three — “Shambleau”, “Scarlet Dream” and “Black Thirst — were chosen as the best stories of their issues. She even wrote the crossover story “Quest of the Starstone” in which Jirel and Smith would meet.

After their marriage in 1940, Kuttner and Moore became a writing team, much as Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton did only to an even greater degree, writing under shared pseudonyms like “Lewis Padgett”, “C. H. Liddell” and “Lawrence O’Donnell”. They were a positive influence on each other, both writers growing immensely from their partnership with one another. Together they wrote a large number of stories, novellas and novels and their work regularly appeared in the pages of Astounding.

From that period comes her best novel: Judgment Night. We once again have Science-Fantasy, with an empire where they have spaceships and fight with ray-guns, but also ride horses, wield “fire swords” and avoid forbidden forests where living gods dwell.

Juille, her protagonist, is another one of Moore’s fierce female characters, a beautiful-yet-morally-conflicted Space Princess, the scion of a galactic dynasty fighting to suppress the rebellion that threatens to topple her family from power. The scope of the novel manages to be both sweeping and intimate all at once. Here, Juille destroys the man-made environments of an artificial pleasure world:

“There was something truly godlike about such destruction as she was wreaking. This was more than human havoc. As she went striding and destroying from room to room she left ruin in her wake that could not have been paralleled since God first created the galaxy out of similar chaos. All the ingredients of creation were here, tossed together in utter confusion. And if her race was doomed, if it never ruled the stars again, then she was creating here in miniature all the havoc her race would leave behind it when it fell. World by tiny world she returned them to the original anarchy from which God had assembled them, but there would be no gods to come after her and build them up again.”

Judgment Night also features a “romance” so tense and dangerous that love scenes are as suspenseful as battles.

And here we reach one of the intriguing elements of her work. Moore’s stories are replete with sexual overtones. The titular Black God of Jirel’s first story is described: “It was a semi-human figure, crouching forward with outthrust head, sexless and strange. Its’ one central eye was closed as if in rapture, and its mouth was pursed for a kiss.” The same story makes clear that Jirel herself is no blushing virgin. “Oh, God knows I’m not innocent of the ways of light loving,” she admits to a priest. The Northwest Smith story “Scarlet Dream” contains some of the most disturbingly sexual imagery you could get away with in 1934, with people suckling obscene fluids from spigots. I don’t think I need to draw you a picture.

No, seriously, I’m not drawing you a picture.

She spoke of writing from her unconscious, and that is perhaps the element that gives her work such lasting power.

If her series stories have a flaw, it is that they tend towards formula. Northwest Smith encounters some supernatural temptation (usually in the form of a woman) which he must overcome. Jirel is taken to some otherworldly setting where she faces supernatural temptations which she must overcome, etc. It is a testament to her power as a writer that, like L’Amour and Burroughs, that she transcends the limitations of formula and creates something that still has the power to thrill, even after all these decades.

There’s a wealth of wonder for the modern reader to discover in Moore’s work. Most of her work is now available in e-book format. For those looking for dead-tree editions for Jirel and Northwest Smith stories, I highly recommend tracking down the Black God’s Kiss and Northwest of Earth collections published by the sadly-defunct Planet Stories line from Paizo.

Those who say they want to honor the contributions of women to the genre should remember that they are not the first to walk upon those distant worlds. Man has conquered Space before. And so has Woman.

You may be sure of that.

167 responses to “Beauty As Keen As The Flash of Blades -By Christopher M. Chupik

  1. > failed to mention

    That’s a very… eclectic list.

    Other no-shows are: Sydney van Scyoc, Evelyn (not E.E.) Smith, Diane Duane, Janet Morris, Jean Lorrah, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Lee Killough, Juanita Coulson, Sharon Lee, Nancy Kress, CJ Cherryh, Eluki bes Shahar/Rosemary Edghill, Joan Aiken, Jean Auel, Elizabeth Boyer, Rosel George Brown, Carol Emshwiller… that’s as far as I care to browse my collection for names.

    • Rosemary Edgehill is a writer that gets not enough love, IMHO. The Twelve Treasures series is great, recently she’s been doing some fun stuff with Mercy Lackey.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      But, other than those few minor omissions . . .

    • They must cease to exist to justify the Sojis’ pretensions to significance.

    • scott2harrison

      I hate to defend “those people”, but were any of the excluded women eligible? I thought at least most of the categories were for the previous year only.

      • The list wasn’t presented as a current authors list, but as a “must-read” list of women authors.

        • Is that “must-read” in order to understand the important contributions made to the field by authors of feminitude, or is it “must-read” in order to express solidarity with (and contribute funds to) female authors whose works would otherwise be justly ignored (with a few good writers thrown in so as to disguise the true purpose of the list?)

        • scott2harrison

          Thanks. I had mixed it up with the Dragons. (Never mix with dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.)

          • Where I come from Dragons prefer salsa to ketchup.

          • I have a shirt that say’s “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.” showing two knights carrying a chest and a dragon all to happy to put the ketchup in action.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Of course, those knights could have been stealing the dragon’s gold or the dragon may have decided that it was his gold. [Very Big Dragon Grin]

    • Well, I have read 8 of the 100 authoresses, only considered 5 any good. With the passing of Terry Prachett, C J Cherryh’s Foreigner series is the only publications I will buy in hardcover.

      • Any list that omits her is decidedly suspect. She may not have made the biggest impact on science fiction of any female author ( Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton are probably vying for that honor) but she is definitely in the top five. It doesn’t, matter if you like her stories or not, it is hard to argue that she hasn’t profoundly impacted the genre, and burst open doors for other women to follow in her wake.

        This seems to be a list of female authors they find politically acceptable, not a list based on the talent of said authors.

  2. Thanks for bringing this author to my attention. I’d never heard of her before. Sharing this elsewhere as well as reblogging.

  3. Reblogged this on Tamara Lowery's Scribblings and commented:
    Wow! I’d never heard of this author before, and that is a damn shame. I’ll have to make a point to add her to my TBR pile.

  4. > tend towards forumula

    I don’t see it as a flaw. Not only did it obviously work for her editors and readers, but that was typical of the entire genre.

    It worked for Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard too.

    Pulp fiction was light entertainment, not Deep Meaning or Change Your Life message fiction. It was stuff you read on the subway or at odd moments, that you could stop and pick up again without wondering what was going on. The pulps were *hugely* popular from the 1920s until the mid-1940s, when consolidation, rising costs and competition from new media made them unprofitable.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      True enough. Lester Dent’s master pulp formula worked very well for him. The only drawback is when you read a whole bunch of these in a row, they start to run together. But Moore at her most formulaic is better than many people’s “original”.

      • This is very true but again reflects the environment in which they were written. You got a new story about a character once a month if you were lucky. The collections we read now are not their world.

        They still work well for me because I love collections where I’ll read one story no the train going to and from work then switch to a different collection tomorrow.

    • Indeed — I strongly suspect that formulaic writing was what the audience wanted.

      I know, I know: “Mustn’t give the audience what it wants.”

      • I know, I know: “Mustn’t give the audience what it wants.”

        A fellow who was offered a buyout had a line that might fit for that: “I can look like an idiot or I can take the money. I’m taking the money.”

  5. She is one of my favorite authors. I read her stuff in my early teens and dreamed about being Northwest Smith when I grew up.

    Now I have to find the stories written under her pen names.


  6. I love how she is able to bring about such vivid imagery, without having to torture the English language. Which is more than a lot of the ‘vaunted’ of the CHORF brigade are able to do…

  7. Lol. c4c don’t work iffn you don’t check the lil box.


  8. ticky box

  9. Kris Rusch just released (as in, got my preordered copy from Baen yesterday!) “Women of Futures Past”, an anthology and essay on how many women used to be in the field, and how many of them are still remembered by the fans who grew up reading them – but due to estate issues and going out of print, aren’t well known by the younger fans coming into the field, especially if they mostly wrote short fiction.

    And yes, Moore’s Shambleau is in there. Along with Leigh Brackett, James Tiptree, Pat Cadigan, CJ Cherryh, Lois Bujold, and more.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      It’s good to know that *someone* remembers them.

    • Dorthy, is that the anthology where Toni Weisskopf wrote the forward? If so I’ve been meaning to pick it up.

    • I saw it at the regional B&N recently. It will probably follow me home on my next visit, if its still there.

    • I went by my local B&N on my way home last night specifically to pick up a print copy of this anthology. Its release date has been on my calendar for several months, and I am glad my local store had copies in stock (three of them when I was in there)

    • Never cared for Tiptree. Read CLM and Andre Norton in my youth. Also liked Esther Friesner and Elizabeth Scarboro. Bujold is a favorite! Read some MZB in magazines.

    • As it turns out, Women of Future Past isn’t the “awesome cool discovery of women writers back in our roots” anthology that Rusch is still planning. It’s the “here are your basic awesome Big Names of sf whom you have to know about, and they are also women” anthology. Most of the stories are also the “of course you have to know this story!” stories, written by said Big Names. Sort of a Golden Anthology of Awesome.

      I’m in favor of either kind of anthology, but it’s good to know what you’re getting. And we obviously need more of the basics getting reprinted, because the younger/newer folks have been missing out on the goodies.

      • I wonder if she decided to get this one launched, see how it does, and then go for the “harder to get rights for” and “less well known” after appetites have been whetted.

        • Oh, I wouldn’t doubt it. Weisskopf and Rusch are both wily in the ways of marketing.

          This is a “can’t miss” standard anthology, the kind that has plenty of stuff that everybody will enjoy. And that probably will create more market for other anthologies to come, which can therefore be a little more adventurous. It’s a trust-creator, so that when people see “Baen anthology” and “Rusch anthology,” they will buy.

          And if it ends up being the only one, it’s still an anthology to be proud of.

    • Andre Norton wrote over a hundred science fiction novels.

      • yeah, but did she ever write a single novel over three books, the way Mercedes Lackey and Ann Leckie have? Well, did she, huh, did she?

        (Hmmmm … persual of her Bibliography at Wiki says she wrote several trilogies and a number of longer series, such as the Beast master books, the Cycle of Oak, Yew, Ash, and Rowan, at least four different Witch World series, the Time Traders and Trillium series … A-HA!) She wrote a pair of westerns starring a former Confederate soldier (Ride Proud, Rebel!, 1961 and Rebel Spurs, 1962 – botha available via Project Gutenberg)

        She must have been a racist and a sympathizer with slavers!

  10. Any Top 100 female SF writers list (or indeed any Top 100 SF writers list of all comers, be they male, female or Two Spirited Spider Monkeys) which does not include Andre Norton, is piffle.

    • Especially if it includes the trust fund baby that needs Patreon to make a living….

        • maybe trust fund baby is the wrong term, but i was referring to Jemisin.

          • Does that girl really have a trust fund? That would be too perfect, wouldn’t it?

            • I dunno. from stuff i have read, she is a rich kid.

              • Well, so was/is Larry Niven, but he never tried to make people feel sorry for him.

                So the moral of the story is not that we all have to start as poor as Clyde Tombaugh. It’s “Don’t Be a Jerk.”

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Larry Niven is/was a rich white male. 👿

                  But yes, Larry Niven never played the jerk.

                  Mind you, he is on record that “being a rich kid” only allowed him to learn to become a good writer without having to worry about holding down a job at the same time.

                  • Yup. Nobody handed him writing on a platter; it was butt-in-seat time for him, just like anybody else. You could fully fund the butt-in-seat time for a lot of people, and you would only get writers out of the ones who used it for the seating of the butt.

                    • Free Range Oyster

                      I’ve a friend who is a marvelous painter. He told me once or twice that the worst thing that ever happened to his craft was when he got a rich patron. His productivity went through the floor, and he’s one of those who normally can’t help but create stuff. I still have the urge to become a patron some day, but I’ve realized I would have to be very, very careful about it for everyone’s sakes.

                • Can we tattoo that on Tony Stark’s forehead? He is definitely a hero, but sometimes…

      • I read that as “needs Patron to make a living” and thought, “who makes a living with tequila, besides bartenders?”

  11. Andre Norton? Wilmar Shiras? Zenna Henderson? Barbara Hambly?

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Pfft! Literary dwarfs compared to the majesty of Jemisin and Leckie!*

      *Note: sarcasm

      • I don’t like to rip on Ann Leckie, but I have to say that starting in on the Ancillary Noun, I really felt like the whole culture being portrayed needed to be hit by an asteroid. Major ick-factor, and that is not what I’m looking for in my reading.

        That’s my complaint with Jemisin as well. She’s writing a story about people who need a serious kicking, and I really don’t want to know what hi-jinks they get up to. Like, I profoundly and massively don’t want to know.

        Andre Norton by contrast tells stories about noble characters stuck in crappy circumstances. -That- I want to read about. Those characters I’m invested in, and I want to see what happens.

        • Most of my characters, including heroes, need a serious kicking. My job is to administer it.

          • They seem to get their revenge on you often enough though. Namely by running with a story at inopportune time.

            • They do kick you back. Or maybe, first, to get your attention.

              • “He was going to hit me, so I hit him back first.” — Billy Martin

                I notice that TFA’s list seemed strongly slanted toward the past 15 years, which I deduce because a bunch of the names I don’t know, and about 15 years ago was when I pretty much stopped looking for and at new authors. Before that… yeah, that list leaves off probably 80% of happens-is-female SFF authors, including a whole lot of better’n-them-kids.

            • I never want to meet any of my characters in a dark alley. They might have…issues with me. (Shudders, looks over shoulder)

              • My mantra is ‘My characters must never know…’ as in, know that I am the one responsible for all their misery and suffering.

          • I get what you’re saying but it isn’t the same. None of them are people I consider reprehensible. I want to invite them over even if they need a kicking. I also enjoy seeing them get the kicking and become more of what they can become.

            Tony Soprano never had that.

              • Andre Norton’s heroes (and Hoyt heroes) are the kind of people that after you meet them, you hide from the Space Patrol.

                Jemisin’s heroes are the kind that after you meet them, you call the Space Patrol to pick up the body. Before it starts to smell.

                Well written perhaps, but I do not want to keep reading after I decide the main character needs to be eradicated like smallpox.

        • This is what is what is “popular” these days (meaning the critics love it). Not just in books either.

          Look at the celebrated TV of the past 20 years: The Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy, and Burning Bad are all asking you to invite nasty people you’d never want to invite to a party into your den on a regular basis. From what I’ve seen Mad Men wasn’t quite as bad but still seemed to feature mostly people I wouldn’t want to associate with.

          Noble is the last things our betters want us to see or read. We might hold them up and compare only to find them very, very lacking.

          • (Nods) I’ve never understood why the alternative to “impossibly perfect heroes” is “completely reprehensible trash.”

            • Outside of Kimball Kinnison and Richard Seaton I can’t recall all that many “impossibly perfect heroes” in SF/F … maybe Conan, or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser? Johnny Rico or Oscar Gordon? Horton “Horty” Bluett? Galloway Gallegher? Paul Atreides?

              As most classic SF wasn’t interested in ethics except as engineering problem, the “perfection” of the characters was not particularly relevant to the tale being told, and thus left unaddressed.

              • the same Johnny Rico that took several lashes in basic training?

              • Dominic Flandry, Slippery Jim diGriz…

              • The old pulps were full of them: John Carter, Lord Greystoke, Captain Future, …

                I admit Kennison is an extreme case, but he is supposed to be the penultimate step in human evolution.

              • If there were two less perfect heroes than Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Ryan Reynolds would have to play them both.

              • I get all the characters pointed out and comparing them to modern TV I would call them all by one (maybe two) name: Michael Weston.

                Plenty of people have wondered how I can love Burn Notice with a main character who has killed innocents to achieve his goals before the series (although we learn his signature was the minimal deaths possible for the operation) but not the series I mentioned.

                It is simple, for all his “failings” Weston had a moral center which informed his choices and thus the stories he was in. That is true of everyone mentioned above. I can’t see one who was absolutely amoral.

                Too many characters in critic darlings, both screen and page, would make Westlake’s Parker cringe and his only moral center was, “If I do my part I get exactly what I was promised, no more and no less.”

          • Yeah, too often in recent years I’ve found myself muttering, “I don’t like any of these people”, and in one case “I hope this protag dies horribly”.

        • I’ve come to hate characters that lie, cheat, steal, and kill and have no moral issue with any of it. And the writers that write them who clearly also have no moral standards. (Including a number in my critique group.) Though I also roll my eyes at the “violence never solved anything” crowd whose idea of character angst is to whine about killing the bad guy who was about to murder a bunch of of people.

          It’s like we have no cultural agreement on morality anymore, so the only things left are child abuse and murder. Oh, and all the racism-sexism “discrimination” crap. It really limits the stories you can tell. You hardly ever see a character struggling with human nature to be a better person. I guess it’s too “religious” or something.

          • Interestingly enough my favorite TV series of the past 10 years featured a character who had done horrific things in the name of good in the past. He spends much of the series trying to draw lines about what is and isn’t acceptable and how he is different from some (including a mentor) who did similar things.

            All while blowing things up at least once a week.

            He was a good guy who was outside the law before it began and really outside it during the series but you never, ever thought he wasn’t trying to fight the good fight.

            Interestingly as it wore down the network tried to replace it with a similar show about a career criminal. It was okay but I lost interest in it when it became clear the main character would never stop being a criminal.

            • Free Range Oyster

              What show was that? I really enjoyed the similar character development for Elliot in Leverage. All of them, really, but Elliot’s most closely parallels what you described.

              • I’m going to guess that the one you liked was the aforementioned ” Burn Notice” and the one about the career criminal was “White Collar”…except they weren’t on the same network.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  My thought was the first series was “The Highlander” with the followup series was “Highlander – Raven”.

                  The “Hero” of Raven was a female Immortal Thief who was introduced in “The Highlander”.

                  She wasn’t somebody you could really trust when she was introduced and really hadn’t changed in her series.

                • Uhm, yes, Burn Notice and White Collar were both USA.

                  And yes, that’s what I was refering to.

              • Burn Notice and White Collar respectively.

                I think the former is the most unappreciated TV in 20 years both in overall show and the ability to manage a ton of little details. Easiest example of the latter, all but one of the characters speaks their iconic line used in the opening credits and uses them in reverse order of their appearance in the series. The last line of the series is also an iconic line but spoken to the character who is known for it (and that makes perfect sense and even sets up the entire series).

                I also loved they got away with a second person voice-over.

                • Yeah. And the way they could put across heartbreak in a flat voice-over laconically giving you (the wannabe spy) advice on how to manage your assets…

            • Wow, glad to know I’m not the only person who still remembers Ricky Ricardo’s dark back-story.

          • > child abuse

            Spanking them is a crime, but statutory rape is a “lifestyle choice” and only Hatey McHaters would object to it.

            Sometimes I feel like I wandered into a squicky alternate universe.

          • An exchange between my MC and his occasional associate:

            OA: “Was that really necessary?”
            MC: “What?”
            OA: “Killing those two Scarlets!”
            MC: “I’d have killed more if I’d had time. They slaughtered fourteen of our people on the way in, and that’s just the ones I saw. And I wasn’t going to let them just take you like that!”
            OA: “Still, violence is no answer to violence.”
            MC: “Sometimes it _is_.”

            • Reminds me of an exchange with Colonel Jeff Cooper, who developed the “Modern Pistol Technique”. He was asked by a reporter, “Doesn’t violence beget violence?” His response was essentially “It’s my responsibility to ensure that violence does beget violence. When someone uses violence to threaten innocent life, I’m going to return more violence than that person can handle.”

        • Leckie’s novels read like fleshed-out outlines. One can almost see the skeleton amidst the grey-goop of prose. It’s like bland hospital food or one of the less desirable MREs without the Tabasco. I wonder if IBM could train Watson to replicate or surpass her “style”.

          • This is one of the things that maddens me about her books. Every now and then she just lets herself tell the story and you get a glimpse of the romp it could have been, then she goes back to the mush.

        • This. I tried to like Breaking Bad, and there were aspects to it that were wonderful … but after the main character sat there and let the girl die, just to make his life a little easier … that’s when I realized he was never going to struggle and strive to get out of the horror that he had slipped his way into in a moment of madness … so done with that. Not to mention the stupidity of the plot device of a public school teacher not having medical insurance … sheesh.

      • Best thing about Leckie is that review of Ancillary Justice on where they complain she mentioned gender too much. Assuming they didn’t remove it after she was railroaded into a Hugo, anyway.

    • Kris Rusch pointed out in the intro that a lot of women writers got “disappeared” over time because their stories tended not to get into anthologies. Props to Baen for this volume and may they do many more..

      • Pace Rusch, I think the main problem is that most young sf fans never have seen or read any sf anthologies, with or without women. Maybe they’ve read one of the sf-course textbooks that double as anthologies (and which vary a lot in quality and coverage). Heck, my dad’s Fifties and early Sixties anthologies reprinted women, and Margaret St. Clair was a redoubtable anthologist (IIRC).

        When I started reading sf, I was exposed to everything in my local and school libraries, everything in my dad’s paperback collection from his college days and before, and everything I could manage to read from my teachers’ old paperbacks in the back of class, the local used bookstores, and all my relatives. My local school libraries also included several of the important books on fannish and sf history (yes, we are geeky people in Beavercreek, Ohio). Today’s kids don’t get this kind of exposure to all-eras, all-ages sf/f, although the history is out there if they know how to dig.

        (And Hathi Trust actually has some really interesting titles that are hard to find. We need to do an sf/f crawl of Hathi, at least for the benefit of US readers.)

        • It is, in part, a consequence of abundance. When I discovered the genre in the late Sixties you had to read just about everything out there and still could run out of material. Kids these days have so much SF/F available to them that they don’t have to linger in libraries nor haunt used book stores in order to fill the weekend’s hours with reading. Thus they can disdain that which they’ve been told not to try … never considering that the reason they’ve been warned off “that stuff” might be it would ruin them for the morality pablum being fed them as Award-Worthy.

        • I don’t think there is a single college textbook of that kind without Ursula LeGuinn, so the belief that women don’t/didn’t write sf is reprehensible intentional foolishness.

          • “But Ursula K. LeGuin doesn’t write sf or fantasy! She writes magical realism and literary fiction!”

            (Okay, so that was a really nice English professor who’d been assigned to teach sf and didn’t know nada about it, but he did say it. I educated him gently but thoroughly. This is why we don’t invite the Banshee to wine and cheese parties with the profs.)

            Just like some people apparently manage to conclude that Catholic Masses don’t include anything from the Bible, including readings, some people manage to think that science fiction and fantasy doesn’t include women, minorities, famous literary people and poets, etc. Unless you keep pointing it out.

            • *Snort* According to the magical realism stuff I’ve read, she doesn’t write that, either, since she’s not from Latin America or (some allow) the Third World. Ah, academics, able to split a hair with a single glance at the author’s name.

              • Wait!

                Magical Realism is a thing?… what have these people been smoking?

                • You’ll have to skim down a few to get to the ones that make sense to someone outside the literary world. Yes, it exists and it is usually associated with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende. Whether or not to include non-Latin American authors as magical realist is (or used to be) a hotly-contested topic, with even the “big tent” supporters saying that no one from Europe or the US could be magical realist because you have to be Third World (and politically Left, but that’s understood, not spoken out loud).

                  • “Garcia Marquez maintains that realism is a kind of premeditated literature that offers too static and exclusive a vision of reality. However good or bad they may be, they are books which finish on the last page.”

                    Ah, they prefer the books that have said everything they have to say (because books are about preaching your beliefs, not a story) in the first chapter and just repeat it ad nauseum the rest of the book.

        • STF anthologies suffered a glut of mediocre anthologies a few decades ago, and their popularity never really recovered. That being said Norton (and Bradley and Cherryh for that matter) was primarily a novelist; an anthologist will find pretty slim pickings and little of it indicative of her best work.

          • Yeah, for them you need a shelf. But Norton did do a fair few Witch World and sf shorts, although “All Cats Are Gray” is probably the one most satisfying to those new to Norton.

    • Mary Norton?

  12. Given she was a direct mentor or co-author to a lot of women she did include the Andre Norton exclusion really doesn’t make sense.

    I also noticed the very “female” nature of the choices. For Bradley it wasn’t a classic Darkover novel or other early work but The Mists of Avalon, a very “feminist” choice. If the only Bradley you read is that work you really have no sense of her works.

    In fact, I tweeted both those to the author…let’s see if I get a reply or a banning.

    • As much as I dislike her as a human being, for MZB I’d recommend the first Darkover novel rather than MoA to show her place in the sci-fi ranks (as a writer, not as a human being).

      • When I tweeted the author I suggested The Shattered Chain. While not the best Darkover novel it shows her place well while retaining that feminist focus on women’s roles that seemed to be a big part of the list.

  13. For those looking for dead-tree editions for Jirel and Northwest Smith stories, I highly recommend tracking down the Black God’s Kiss and Northwest of Earth collections published by the sadly-defunct Planet Stories line from Paizo.

    I liked this combined edition:

    It includes “Quest of the Starstone” which has been hard to find (which Planet Stories volume has it?)

    On a personal note, the best first date I ever had included bonding when she mentioned as a kid she had a pet guinea pig named Jirel and I immediately replied “of Jory”.

  14. … people suckling obscene fluids from spigots.

    Sorry — I just can’t visualize that. Could you perhaps draw me a picture?

    Or maybe just draw me a pitcher of them obscene fluids? Sounds tasty.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Nope. 😛

      • Dang – that’s the problem these days: you can’t get obscene fluids on tap, or even bottled. Every place serves them up in cans or (even worse) plastic bag inside a cardboard box. Kills the flavor and besides, who wants to drink flat obscene fluids?

  15. scott2harrison

    Is it possible that our esteemed hostess is Juille under another name? The description matches except for the “morally conflicted” part and she might have resolved the conflict in the intervening years.

  16. I have to credit M. Lackey and Leslie Fish for my introduction to C. L. Moore and to C. J. Cherryh. The songs “Jirel of Joiry” and “Captain Signey Mallory” got me interested and I went looking for the books/stories.

  17. “Kuttner and Moore became a writing team, much as Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton did only to an even greater degree”

    Almost an infinite degree. Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton report that despite best intentions and some effort they couldn’t work together. The one and only exception is a mediocre (unispired?) Stark meets the Star Kings written very very late in their lives.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I dunno. I’ve read that there was cross-pollenization between Brackett and Hamilton over the years.

      • heh. Did they have any children?

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          None that I’m aware of.

          Wikipedia has this to say: “Hamilton did an uncredited revision and expansion of two early Brackett stories, “Black Amazon of Mars” and “Queen of the Martian Catacombs”

          No citation given.

          • Twenty-six-and-a-half years ago, when we got married, we thought collaboration would be an easy and delightful thing. We could, we thought, begin now to turn out twice as many stories with half the effort.
            We tried it.
            Hamilton had to know the whole plot right to the last line before he began. Brackett was only interested in the opening. In short, our methods of working were diametrically opposed, and in order to keep peace in the family we made a firm decision that each one should stick to his/her own typewriter.
            Over the years we find our working methods have changed. Hamilton no longer has to have a complete outline on paper. Brackett generally has one in her head. Ideas and style have changed as well. So we decided to try it again and see what happened, being in general agreement on basic concepts, and utilizing our own favorite characters.
            So here is our first, one and only, true, authentic collaboration.
            —Leigh Brackett
            Edmond Hamilton

            STARK AND THE STAR KINGS Readily available from Baen including as a free sample. IMHO worth looking for only for completists but given the complete Eric John Stark saga in hand might as well read this one too.

            This is in considerable contrast with Moore and Kuttner who clearly did collaborate closely on some works. There is ground to argue that in some cases an original publication might be as by O’Donnell say with primary work by one or the other.

            Most O’Donnell stories were written primarily by Moore, but this one [Clash by Nightas by Lawrence O’Donnell.] seems to have been Kuttner’s work in large measure.

            David Drake. Seas of Venus Baen Publishing Enterprises.

            It might be that “[m]uch of her {Moore’s] fame rests on a pair of series characters”. IMHO there is support for a greater fame in other works.

  18. c4c

  19. When you recommend an author, you should include links to the books (amazon affiliate credit for the person making the recommendation, and assistance for the people looking for the books)

  20. I forgot to point out that the (now late, as of this week) Phyllis Schlafly wrote a science fiction novel. She collaborated with an Air Force general, as I recall, and basically did all the writing part.

  21. Lisanne Norman is another one.

    I had herd of Jirel of Joiry, but never read any stories about her. This is interesting to know.

    • I couldn’t get into her “Sholan Alliance” books. I recall they miffed teen!me
      with always shifting, inconsistent rules over the vast psychic powers and the increasing focus on sex scenes by the time the catlike protag was kidnapped by lizard folk.

      I think I just up and reread C.J. Cherryh’s CHANUR series instead.