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Henry Kuttner

(1915-1958)
Henry Kuttner was alone and in collaboration with his wife, the great science fiction and fantasy writer C.L. Moore, one of the four or five most important writers of the 1940’s, the writer whose work went furthest in its sociological and psychological insight, to making science fiction a human as well as technological literature. He was an important influence upon every contemporary and every science fiction writer who succeeded him. In the early 1940’s and under many pseudonyms, Kuttner and Moore published very widely through the range of the science fiction and fantasy pulp markets.

Valley of the Flame: Quite a little package of wonders

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Valley of the Flame by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore

Yeah, I know that one has to take inflation into account when computing these things, but still, what incredible deals the sci-fi lover could acquire 60 or so years ago! Take, for example, the March 1946 issue of Startling Stories, with a cover price of just 15 cents. For that minimal charge, the reader got stories by sci-fi greats Frank Belknap Long, Jack Williamson and Henry Kuttner, PLUS the entire novel Valley of the Flame, by one Keith Hammond. Hammond, as we know today, was just one of the many noms de plume used by the husband-and-wife writing team of Henry Kuttner and Read More

The Dark World: Another great fantasy from Kuttner & Moore

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The Dark World by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore

1946 was a very good year indeed for sci-fi's foremost husband-and-wife writing team, Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. Besides placing a full dozen stories (including the acknowledged classic "Vintage Season") into various magazines of the day, the pair also succeeded in having published three short novels in those same pulps. The first, The Fairy Chessmen, which was released in the January and February issues of Astounding Science-Fiction, was a remarkable combination of hardheaded modernist sci-fi and almost hallucinatory reality twists. Valley of the Flame, from the March issue of Startling Stories, was an exc... Read More

The Mask of Circe: Guaranteed to provide a few evenings of wonder

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The Mask of Circe by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore

Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, sci-fi's preeminent husband-and-wife writing team, eased back a bit from earlier years' prolific outputs in 1948, coming out with only four short stories and a short novel. The previous year had seen their sci-fi masterpiece Fury serialized in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction, and to follow up on that brilliant piece of work, the team switched gears, as it were, and wrote what was in essence an example of hard fantasy, The Mask of Circe. This tale, which was first published in the May 1948 issue of Startling Stories, finally got the book treatment it deserved in 1971.

In The Mask of Circe, Jay Seward, a modern-day psychiatrist, tells a very strange story over a Canadian campfire. As a result of some narcosynthesis research that he had been engaged in, repre... Read More

The Time Axis: Exciting, but not fully satisfying

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The Time Axis by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore

Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's sole novel of 1948, The Mask of Circe, was a very way-out excursion in the fantasy realm, and in early 1949, the pair followed up with an equally way-out piece of hard sci-fi. The Time Axis, which initially appeared in the January '49 issue of "Startling Stories," finds science fiction's foremost husband-and-wife writing team (my apologies to Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm!) at the top of their game, but perhaps giving their seemingly limitless imagination too free a rein. The book is well paced, finely and at times humorously written, exciting and colorful, bu... Read More

Fury: A classic of Golden Age science fiction

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Fury by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore

1946 had been a very good year indeed for Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, with a full dozen stories published plus three fine novels (The Fairy Chessmen, Valley of the Flame and The Dark World), and in 1947, science fiction's preeminent husband-and-wife writing team continued its prolific ways. Before the year was out, the two had succeeded in placing another 15 stories into the pulp magazines of the day, in addition to the novel for which Kuttner is best remembered: Fury. A classic of Golden Age science fiction, Fury originally appeared in the May, June and July issues of Astounding Science-Fiction under one of the pair's many pseudonyms, Lawrence O'Donnell. ... Read More

Robots Have No Tails: Unfailingly inventive and often laugh-out-loud funny

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Robots Have No Tails by Henry Kuttner

Originally released in 1952 by the early sci-fi/fantasy publisher Gnome Press, the meaninglessly titled Robots Have No Tails collects the five stories that Henry Kuttner wrote featuring the drunken inventor Galloway Gallegher. (As to that title, in the book's original introduction by Kuttner's equally celebrated wife, C.L. Moore, she tells us that her husband was at a loss for an appropriate name for this collection, and so told the publisher, "I can't think of one. Call it anything you like. Call it 'Robots Have No Tails' if you want to.")

The stories here all originally appeared in the most celebrated sci-fi magazine of the era, John W. Campbell's Astounding Science-Fiction, and despite the fact that most of Kuttner and Moore's output after thei... Read More

Mutant: Kuttner & Moore’s final novel

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Mutant by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore

By the early 1950s, the great husband-and-wife writing team of Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore had moved to the West Coast to acquire degrees at the University of Southern California, and were concentrating more on their scholastic pursuits than their (formerly prodigious) sci-fi/fantasy output. In 1953, the pair released Mutant, which would turn out to be their final, novel-length work of science fiction as a team. Mutant is what is known as a "fix-up novel," consisting of four short stories originally published in 1945 and a final story released in 1953, cobbled together with some interlinking material. Taken as a whole, the book is another great achievement for the pair; a wonderfully well-written, thought-provoking, multigenerational piece of hard science fiction.

Mutant tells the story of the Baldies, a population o... Read More

The Well of the Worlds: Kuttner & Moore went out with a doozy!

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The Well of the Worlds by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore

Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's final science fiction novel, Mutant, was released in 1953. There would be sporadic short stories from the famous husband-and-wife writing team throughout the '50s, as well as a mystery series from Kuttner featuring psychoanalyst/detective Dr. Michael Gray, not to mention a superior sci-fi novel from Moore herself, Doomsday Morning, in 1957, but Mutant was, essentially, the last word, sci-fiwise, from the team. But Mutant is what's known as a "fix-up" novel, comprised of five short stories (in this case, mainly dating back to 1945) cobbled together to make a whole, so I ... Read More

Earth’s Last Citadel: Had me fairly riveted

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Earth’s Last Citadel by C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner

Catherine Moore and Henry Kuttner, generally acknowledged to be the preeminent husband-and-wife writing team in sci-fi history, initially had their novella Earth's Last Citadel released in the pages of Argosy magazine in 1943 (indeed, it was the very last piece of science fiction to be serialized in that publication). It was finally published in book form 21 years later. This is a pretty way-out piece of sci-fi/fantasy that reveals its debt to a handful of writers who had been major influences on the pair, particularly the florid early works of Abraham Merritt.
... Read More

The Creature From Beyond Infinity: Kuttner’s first novel

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The Creature From Beyond Infinity by Henry Kuttner

The Creature From Beyond Infinity was the first novel published by Henry Kuttner, an author who was one of the half dozen or so pillars of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. It first saw the light of day in a 1940 issue of "Startling Stories" magazine under the title A Million Years to Conquer, and finally in book form in the 1968 Popular Library paperback that I recently completed. Although that original title may perhaps be a more accurate descriptor, the pulpier Creature title gives a truer feel for what this book is: pulpy as can be!

In it, we meet Ardath, the sole survivor when his Kyrian spaceship crash-lands on Earth while our planet is still in the throes of its infancy. Ardath is instructed by his dying captain to repair the ship, put it into orbit around Earth, go into hibernation stasis for s... Read More

Chessboard Planet and Other Stories: A wonderful collection from Kuttner and Moore

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Chessboard Planet and Other Stories by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore

Chessboard Planet and Other Stories is a collection by science fiction's foremost husband-and-wife writing team, Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. The collection is comprised of a novella, two longish short stories, and a short piece.

The novella, "Chessboard Planet," originally appeared under the title "The Fairy Chessmen" in the January and February 1946 issues of John W. Campbell's Astounding Science-Fiction and, in my opinion, is an unjustly forgotten masterpiece. In it, the United States and the European union known as the Falangists have been at war for decades, and as the story opens, the U.S. is in big trouble. It seems that the enemy has come up with a scientific equation that can completely preempt reality; a formula made up of variable constants, the solving of which is driving our best scientific minds i... Read More

Secret of the Earth Star: A wonderful package from Starmont House

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Secret of the Earth Star by Henry Kuttner

Starmont House had a wonderful thing going for itself in the early 1990s. The Seattle-based publisher, with its line of Facsimile Fiction, was taking the old pulp magazines of the '30s and '40s, making photocopies of selected stories, and packaging them in a line of reasonably priced paperback and hardcover editions; a genuine blessing for all fans of these old, rapidly moldering monthlies. Secret of the Earth Star, number 6 in the Facsimile Fiction line, in a series that stretched to at least 14, collects eight (NOT seven, as the book's cover proclaims) wonderful stories from Henry Kuttner, one of the sturdiest pillars of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. Alone and in collaboration with the equally talented Read More

Elak of Atlantis: Shows Kuttner in his formative writing years

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Elak of Atlantis by Henry Kuttner

When budding author Henry Kuttner wrote a fan letter to the already established Weird Tales favorite C.L. Moore in 1936, little did he know that the object of his admiration was a woman... a woman who, four years later, would become his wife, and with whom a collaboration would begin that was ultimately recognized as one of the sturdiest pillars of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Such a melding of talents was Henry and Catherine Lucille's, it has been said, that if one of the two stopped writing to go to the bathroom, the other could seamlessly continue the story in progress. Together, the pair wrote hundreds of short stories, in addition to a good dozen novels and novellas, often behind a bewildering plethora of pen names. Planet Stories' release of Elak of Atlantis allows us to s... Read More

Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors

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Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg & Martin Greenberg

Though hardly a runaway success in its day, and a publication that faced financial hardships for much of its existence, the pulp magazine known as Weird Tales is today remembered by fans and collectors alike as one of the most influential and prestigious. Anthologies without number have used stories from its pages, and the roster of authors who got their start therein reads like a "Who's Who" of 20th century horror and fantasy literature. During its 32-year run, from 1923-1954, and in its 279 issues, Weird Tales catered to a select readership that could not help but be impressed by early efforts from the likes of Robert E. Howard, Read More

Rivals of Weird Tales: Nary a clinker in the bunch!

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Rivals of Weird Tales edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz & Martin H. Greenberg

From 1923 – ’54, over the course of 279 issues, the pulp publication known as Weird Tales helped to popularize macabre fantasy and outré horror fiction, ultimately becoming one of the most influential and anthologized magazines of the century, and introducing readers to a “Who’s Who” of American authors. I had previously read and reviewed no fewer than six large collections of tales culled from the pages of “the Unique Magazine,” and had loved them all. But Weird Tales, of course, was far from being the only pulp periodical on the newsstands back when, as amply demonstrated in the appropriately titled, 500-page anthology Rivals of Weird Tales. In this wonderfully entertaining, generous collection, editors Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemia... Read More

Weird Vampire Tales: 30 Blood-Chilling Stories from the Weird Fiction Pulps

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Weird Vampire Tales: 30 Blood-Chilling Stories from the Weird Fiction Pulps edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Martin H. Greenberg

The 1992 Weird Vampire Tales anthology is the only collection of stories derived from the famed pulp magazine Weird Tales to limit itself to a single subject. The slim paperbacks Worlds of Weird and Weird Tales had merely offered a hodgepodge of stories, as did the thick hardcover Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies. Setting itself a different kind of challenge, Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors Read More

Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror: Another wonderful collection from “The Unique Magazine”

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Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror edited by John Betancourt & Robert Weinberg

This is the seventh anthology that I have reviewed that has been drawn from the pages of Weird Tales, one of the most famous pulp magazines in publishing history. Each of the previous collections had employed its own modus operandi in presenting its gathered stories. Weird Tales (1964) and Worlds of Weird (1965) had been slim paperbacks featuring previously uncollected stories. The Best of Weird Tales: 1923 (1997) had spotlighted tales solely from WT’s very first year. Weird Tales: A Selection In Facsimile (1990) was a generous hardcover offering photocopied pages from the original magazine. Read More

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

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The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories edited by Tom Shippey

I read Tom Shippey's other excellent collection, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories some time ago, so it was only a matter of time before I sought out this one. Like its stablemate, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories consists of a chronological collection of stories from a variety of authors with an introduction by the editor. I was struck by the idea of "fabril" literature, which is discussed in the introduction: a form of literature in which the "smith" is central. Certainly, a great deal of early science fiction in particular involves a clever engineer solving some sort of problem, and I'm sure many careers in engineering and the sciences have been launched in this way. I'd say that there is some tendency, though, as the genre matures, for technology to beco... Read More