Monday, May 26, 2008

Henry Kuttner, Part Two

I found two other items about Henry Kuttner that are worth sharing. The first is an article that article appeared as an introduction to Kuttner’s Sword and Sorcery book, Elak from Atlantis from Planet Stories. It is by Joe Lansdale and it is the finest overview of Kutner's work I've ever read. And will likely ever read. Here are a few excerpts.

It also appears complete on the Subterranean Press

Joe Lansdale:

Henry Kuttner is something of an unsung hero of science fiction and fantasy, and to some extent, horror fiction, if for no other reason than he wrote a classic little booger tale called “The Graveyard Rats”.

He was a witty, fast writing kind of guy who could come up with a story at the drop of a hat, and maybe have it finished before the hat hit the floor. Perhaps had he lived longer, and not been knocked dead by a heart attack in his forties, he would be better known, and perhaps if his novels, written by himself and in collaboration, had elicited the same impact his short stories received, he might also have a greater reputation with the mainstream. Within the field of the fantastic, and the science fictional, he is better known, and among certain aficionados of his work, he is considered to be as important a writer as almost anyone who ever wrote in the field (s).


To make matters even more confusing, he wrote under a number of different pen names, and if that isn’t enough, when he married C.L. Moore, another wonderful writer, the two of them worked together on almost all stories thereafter. It might even be said that if Henry Kuttner is unknown, so is C.L. Moore, because in a way, they became the same person, a writer(s) who wrote stories and used a lot of names to hide behind. They had to. They were producing a lot of stories for a lot of different markets and needed different names and different voices. They were like spies, moving from one country to another with falsified passports.

They worked together on stories so closely, that if one got up to go to the bathroom, the other could sit down and take their place and pick up where they left off, seamlessly producing prose until replaced once again by the other.


The bottom line is this. Kuttner was one talented dude and his stories move through the stories of a lot of writers writing today (I am one), and they will move through writers of the future as well; as long as there is the written word and there are heralds to proclaim his excellence, his stories will have their impact.

Okay. I lied. I don’t trust that at all. That’s the way it should be. It’s not the way it is.


Readers and writers these days find it hard to invest time into reading anything older than a year or two, but let me tell you, (and I pause to wag my finger and say shame on you) Kuttner still reads well and his stories are unique, and many ideas that are just now being explored by writers of science fiction and fantasy…well, sorry, Kuttner has already been there and he most likely did it better.


This is from a piece by Ian Lohr at Isle Press. The Julius Schwartz who he's quoting here shows up inextricaly bound up the Kuttners were as married people and collaborators. Schwartz of course was one of the pioneering writer-editor-publishers of DC Comics .

Ian Lohr:

They were married in 1940. Their working relationship, characterized by bibliographer Virgil Utter as “a marriage of souls and talent”, is described by their friend and contemporary Julius Schwartz:

“On one occasion I was invited to spend the weekend with Henry Kuttner at the home he shared with his wife, Catherine L. Moore, at Hastings--on--Hudson in New York state. About midnight Catherine went up to bed while Henry and I talked a little while longer. When it was time for me to hit the sack on the spare cot downstairs in the area of the house where the two did their writing, Kuttner took up his place on the other side of the room and set out to get some writing done. I eventually nodded off to the music of Henry Kuttner at the typewriter. Kuttner quit work at about 4:00 A.M. and the sudden interruption of keystrokes and his footsteps on the stairs woke me up. I turned over and was just nodding off again when the typewriter music began again with a slightly different pace and keystroke. Catherine had taken her husband’s place and was taking up right where he left off. They were really good collaborators, and their work together was so seamless that not even they could tell where one had left off and the other had started. Kuttner was the better plotter, but Catherine was the better craftsman in terms of literary ability.”

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