Featured Writer: Henry Kuttner

As promised, today’s post looks at the other half of “The Twonky” writing team, Henry Kuttner. Often overshadowed by his numerous pseudonyms, including those shared with wife, C. L. Moore, Kuttner gained much prominence after his passing. With nearly three hundred stories to his name, it’s no wonder many contemporaries count him among their influences. Included in this list of writers is none other than future Hugo award winner, Ray Bradbury.

We are all part of some cosmic pattern, and this pattern works toward good and not evil. It builds and does not destroy. So I shall go on in my search for a race where I can find kinship and happiness.

– Henry Kuttner, “The Creature from Beyond Infinity”

We know little of Kuttner’s youth besides him spending it in poverty because of his father’s death. During this time, Kuttner found refuge between the pages of the pulp magazine Weird Tales. This magazine made its name in fantasy and horror and is most notable for publishing the early works of H. P. Lovecraft. So enamored with Lovecraft, Kuttner soon developed a regular correspondence with the writer.

Pseudonyms

  • Edward J. Bellin
  • Paul Edmonds
  • Will Gareth
  • James Hall
  • Keith Hammond
  • Robert O. Kenyon

Transitioning from work in his uncle Laurence D’Orsay’s literary agency to writing, Kuttner sold his first work in 1936. His dedication to Weird Tales paid dividends for the magazine ran his early poem “Ballad of the Gods,” and later that same year his first story, “The Graveyard Rats.” Kuttner produced his first science fiction piece in 1937 with his short, “When the Earth Lived.” His dedication to Weird Tales never wavered, and from 1938 to 1941, the magazine published his sword-and-sorcery series, Elak of Atlantis, and his early stories in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Kuttner’s credit in these Mythos is the lesser-known deities Iod, Vorvadoss, and Nygotha. Despite this, we know much of Kuttner’s work from his collaboration with wife C. L. Moore.

To many a critic and their fellow writers, their collaboration was seamless. Oftentimes it was unable to determine who contributed what to each story, so much so that both Moore and Kuttner couldn’t recall either. This spoke loudly to their partnership, one in which the two perfectly complemented one another. Kuttner provided ideas and exposition whereas Moore brought them to life with her stylistic writing. So in sync were the pair that either of them could pick up where the other left off without hesitation.

At the age of 35 in 1950, Kuttner joined Moore at the University of Southern California, where he completed his Bachelor’s degree. During this time, the pair focused their writing on mysteries and produced very little science fiction. In 1958, short of completing his master’s degree, Kuttner succumbed to a heart attack. He left behind his wife, who following his death, stopped writing literary fiction and took up teaching.

Notable works:

  • “The Twonky”
  • “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”
  • Tony Quade stories
  • Elak of Atlantis stories
  • “The Secret of Kralitz”
  • “The Eater of Souls”
  • “The Salem Horror”
  • Fury
  • Mutant

Kuttner undoubtedly left a major impact on the genre despite his short-lived career. His pairing with Moore presents the ideal for future writing collaborations in science fiction. Now that we know a bit more about the creative team, we can start one of their award-winning stories. Next time we’ll look at Moore and Kuttner’s short, “The Twonky.”

I hope to see you then!

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