Catherine Moore and Shambleau

Like Andre Norton, Catherine Moore was another college student in the Midwest whose studies fell victim to the Depression. She ended up working in a bank.  One day, while practicing her typing, she began writing about a woman fleeing an angry mob.  The woman is saved by the steely-eyed, enigmatic space rogue Northwest Smith.  But that’s just the beginning of what became “Shambleau,” which she sold in 1933 to Weird Tales for $100.  It was her first sale.  She was 22 years old.

In 1975, Lester del Rey wrote:  “It is impossible to explain to modern readers how great an impact that first C.L. Moore story had. . . Here, for the first time in the field, we find mood, feeling and cover. . . we also experience as never before the horror of what we might find in space and the romance of space itself.  And–certainly for the first time that I can remember in the field–this story presents the sexual drive of humanity in some of its complexity.”

Yes, there’s sex in “Shambleau,”and horror, and Northwest Smith is the kind of hero young Clint Eastwood wouldn’t mind playing. Of writing it, Moore said, “The situation was wide open, and with no mental processes whatever I surrender myself to it and the typewriter. (This is among life’s most luxurious moments–giving the story its head and just keep your fingers moving. They know where they’re going.)”

Later she married sf writer Henry Kuttner and begin a long collaboration that eventually landed them in Hollywood.  After his death she wrote for shows like Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip.  In 1981 she became the first woman to win the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.  She died in 1987.

Have you read C.L. Moore?  Like her, hate her?

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2 thoughts on “Catherine Moore and Shambleau

    1. hgpress Post author

      The best used bookstore here in Northeast Florida had a bunch of C.L. Moore in stock last week – I was glad to see it 🙂

      Reply

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