Featured Writer: C. L. Moore

Science fiction was never just a man’s domain. Many cite the whole of science fiction owes its creation to Mary Shelley and her seminal work Frankenstein. Throughout the genre’s history, many women rose to prominence with their influential stories. Today, we’ll meet the first powerhouse female of the project, C. L. Moore.

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.

– C. L. Moore

Born Catherine Lucille in Indianapolis, IN, Moore spent her childhood chronically ill. As we see time and again with our writers, Moore occupied her sick years by reading the fantasy stories of the old pulp magazines. Following childhood, Moore continued her education at Indiana University. It was during her time as a student here that her first works as a writer found a home with the local student magazine. The Vagabond accepted three of Moore’s stories during the final years of the magazine’s run in 1931.

Her earliest professional stories began two years later in 1933. Published under the name “C. L. Moore,” these works included two series: the Northwest Smith stories and the Jirel of Joiry stories. Both found in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, her Jirel of Joiry is most notable for its female protagonist which was unusual for its genre. While she had much success as a solo writer, much of her beloved works come from the collaboration with her first husband, Henry Kuttner.

Pseudonyms

  • C. H. Liddell
  • Lewis Padgett
  • Lawrence O’Donnell

Kuttner originally reached out to Moore in 1936 with a fan letter where he mistook Moore for a man. Only four years later did the two marry and began a short-lived career of collaborations. While the pair frequently published under each other’s names, the two had a list of pseudonyms they frequently used. The most common being Lewis Padgett, which honored the pair’s mothers by combining their maiden names. Later in the project, we’ll read one of the stories published under this pseudonym.

Moore continued writing up until Kuttner’s death in 1958. Following his death, she retired from literary writing and taught classes in writing. Shortly before giving up writing entirely, Moore had a career as a television screenwriter at Warner Brothers. Moore died in 1987 following a debilitating battle with Alzheimer’s. Though her name is synonymous with her first husband, Moore’s career helped pave the way for all the female writers that followed. An achievement that greatly eclipses the numerous awards and honors she garnered in her career.

Notable Works:

  • Doomsday Morning
  • Jirel of Joiry series
  • Northwest Smith series
  • “The Twonky” with Henry Kuttner
  • “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” with Henry Kuttner
  • “Vintage Season” with Henry Kuttner

Our next award-winning short story is Moore and Kuttner’s “The Twonky,” which took home Best Short Story at the 1943 Retro-Hugo Awards. Before we get there, though, the next post will look at Moore’s writing partner Henry Kuttner and his brief writing career.

See you then!

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