somehow this descended into talking about c.l. moore.

Yesterday was my twenty-sixth birthday, and it was pretty nice!  I worked for four hours, which was just long enough to feel like I was having a nice time talking to customers without feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.  And then Roommate and I hung out for a while before going to a shop called the Golden Fig, because on your birthday, you get a free truffle.  I picked out one filled with passionfruit…filling stuff, and it was amazing.  Violently yellow on the inside, and deliciously sweet and tropical.  Passionfruit flavour is delicate and vibrant at the same time, like how wrought-iron designs are both delicate and strong.  It’s a good thing those truffles are normally, like, $3 each, or I’d be in grave danger with them!

For dinner we went to a place called the Wild Onion.  One gets the sense that it gets pretty rowdy in the evenings, but at 5 in the afternoon, it was just a nice place to get burgers and a chocolate-chip cookie cooked up in a skillet (with ice cream on top!).  And then we came home and hung out, lol.  It was a very chill birthday, but a nice one. 

And really, who can complain when the following came in the mail in the days before it?

  • The movie Carnival of Souls on DVD
  • A big black umbrella with a handle like that of a sword
  • A pair of kokopelli earrings
  • A box of my mother’s chocolate-chip cookies (not baked in a skillet, but even better tasting)
  • A space-opera anthology autographed by C.L. Moore

All of these are really exciting to me, but the last edges out the others by just a little bit.  (Sorry, Jeanbean, I promise I am still totally pumped for the movie and umbrella.)  C.L. Moore is basically my favourite author these days, and I am ecstatic to have another book she signed.  Especially since it’s in beautiful condition, nice enough that I can probably read it!

You might not know who Moore is, and that’s totally fine.  I didn’t until a couple years ago, when Roommate finally got me hooked on Star Trek: Deep Space 9 using the episode “Far Beyond the Stars.”  In this episode, which is destined to pretty much be my favourite Trekisode forever, Captain Sisko starts getting thrown into these strange hallucinations (or are they) of 1950s Manhattan.  He’s not Sisko there but Benny Russell, a black man who contributes regularly to a science fiction magazine called Incredible Tales.  The rest of the regular writers are modeled off real science fiction writers of the time, from Harlan Ellison to Isaac Asimov. 

Two of the characters in the episode, Kay and Julius Eaton, are the Star Trek equivalent of C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner.  You can tell because they write stories jointly, and it’s implied that the stories they write are fairly light.  In real life, Moore and Kuttner started out independently, started collaborating in the late 1930s, and rarely wrote alone again after they were married in 1940.  They were basically adorable, from everything I’ve read about them, and just a little bit sad in a fairy-tale kind of way; within five years of Kuttner’s death, Moore stopped writing entirely.

While I love both writers, things Moore signed are significantly cheaper than things Kuttner signed simply because she lived about twice as long.  Kuttner died of heart problems when he was 42; Moore, meanwhile, lived into her 80s and died of Alzheimer’s-related issues the year I was born.  Someday, I’d like to own something Kuttner touched, too, but I simply don’t have the cash for that.

Moore will always be foremost in my heart anyway, because she’s such an inspirational figure in the history of writing.  When she was twenty-two years old, in the height of the Great Depression, she was working as a secretary in a bank in Indiana and doing her best to support her parents.  She wrote up a story called “Shambleau” for kicks, decided it was good enough to submit, and sent it to Weird Tales.  They paid her $100 for it (the equivalent of nearly two thousand dollars today!) and published it, and she was pretty much instantly famous among readers of the magazine.  Weird Tales had never published anything like it–it was lush and sensual in a way people like August Derleth are decidedly not–and from its first printing, it was notable enough to get H.P. Lovecraft’s praise.

While “Shambleau” is easily Moore’s most famous story, I think her biggest contribution to fiction is another character, one called Jirel of Joiry.  Picture, if you will, a stereotypical fantasy heroine.  She’s feisty, maybe even angry, with violently red hair and unusually coloured eyes.  Maybe she wears a chainmail bikini and carries a huge sword.  Do you know the kind of character I mean, if only from seeing her on book covers?

Jirel of Joiry is one of the mothers of that stereotype.  In 1936, “Black God’s Kiss” made her the first true heroine of a published fantasy story.  (Red Sonja, one of Robert E. Howard’s creations, technically made her debut a few months earlier–but she was a side character, not the main player.)  Jirel is the mistress of a castle in Joiry, presumably somewhere in medieval France, and she braves some beautifully described, truly alien worlds to get what she needs in a given story.  She’s fiery and angry–and does not wear a chainmail bikini–and quick with a sword.

I will defend Jirel of Joiry to the death.  (The author Tamora Pierce actually accidentally made me cry over this subject a few months ago, lol.  But that’s a story for another post.)  Suffice to say, I think she’s a hugely important character who, when taken in historical context, should be upheld as an important step in the right direction for women in science fiction and fantasy stories.

And all that’s why I think C.L. Moore is great historically.  Her personal life sounds like it was pretty sweet, too, and she was a great writer.  Moore continues to be an example and inspiration to me.  So I’m excited to have a bit of something that she touched, that bears some mark of her time here on earth.

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