Friday, April 22, 2011

C.L. Moore (1911-1987)

Author, Illustrator, Teacher, and Screenwriter
Born January 24, 1911, Indianapolis, Indiana
Died April 4, 1987, Los Angeles or Hollywood, California

Catherine L. Moore was born in Indianapolis and grew up a sickly child immersed in fantasy. She attended Indiana University for two years but was forced to go to work during the early years of the Great Depression. As a secretary of a bank president, she typed during the day, but at night, after the bank had closed its doors, she wrote away, composing stories she hoped would win her a place in the pulp magazines of the day. Her dream came true with the first story she ever submitted to Weird Tales. Then and now, her "Shambleau" is a sensation.

Northwest Smith, a forerunner to interplanetary heroes all the way to Han Solo, was the hero of her first four stories for Weird Tales. Then came Jirel of Joiry, the acknowledged first heroine in the field of heroic fantasy, then dominated by Robert E. Howard's Conan. Northwest and Jirel traded back and forth as the protagonists of her fiction for "The Unique Magazine" until 1937 when they teamed up in a story that was itself a team-up between Catherine and her future husband, Henry Kuttner of Los Angeles. The story was "Quest of the Starstone," and it was illustrated by Kuttner's future best man, Virgil Finlay.

Catherine's last story for Weird Tales was a reprint, "Nymph of Darkness," co-authored by another Angeleno, Forrest J. Ackerman. Fittingly enough, it was printed in the last issue of the 1930s. Six months later, Catherine was married and living on the East Coast, engaged in a writing collaboration with her husband that would last almost two decades. Weird Tales had by then already made a similar move, to offices in New York City. By the end of 1940, Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright would be in his grave, and the magazine's heyday would come to a close.

C.L. Moore's Stories and Letter in Weird Tales
"Shambleau" (Nov. 1933)-Northwest Smith
"Black Thirst" (Apr. 1934)-Northwest Smith
"Scarlet Dream" (May 1934)-Northwest Smith
"Dust of Gods" (Aug. 1934)-Northwest Smith
"The Black God's Kiss" (Oct. 1934)-Jirel of Joiry
"Black God's Shadow" (Dec. 1934)-Jirel of Joiry
"Julhi" (Mar. 1935)-Northwest Smith
"Jirel Meets Magic" (July 1935)-Jirel of Joiry
"The Cold Gray God" (Oct. 1935)-Northwest Smith
Letter to "The Eyrie" (as Miss Catherine Moore, Oct. 1935)
"The Dark Land" (Jan. 1936)-Jirel of Joiry
"Yvala" (Feb. 1936)-Northwest Smith
"Lost Paradise" (July 1936)-Northwest Smith
"The Tree of Life" (Oct. 1936)-Northwest Smith
"Quest of the Starstone" (Nov. 1937) with Henry Kuttner-Northwest Smith & Jirel of Joiry
"Hellsgarde" (Apr. 1939)-Jirel of Joiry
"Nymph of Darkness" (Dec. 1939) with Forrest J. Ackerman-Northwest Smith, reprinted from Fantasy Magazine (Apr. 1935)

Further Reading
Reprints of C.L. Moore's stories are common in anthologies published since the 1960s, but if you're looking for collections of her stories alone, start with these:

  • The Best of C.L. Moore (1975), with an introduction by Lester Del Rey and an afterword by the author herself
  • Jirel of Joiry (Paperback Library, 1969)
  • Northwest Smith (Ace Books, 1981)
  • Black God's Kiss (Planet Stories, 2007)

The Jirel stories and Northwest Smith stories have been published in other collections as well, some of which are pricey. Catherine's only solo novel, Doomsday Morning (1957), is generally available, too. However, despite flashes of the color and imagination from her days writing for Weird Tales, it's not a very satisfying book.

You can also read more about C.L. Moore on my blog, Indiana Illustrators, at indianaillustrators.blogspot.com. I have also posted an article about her on my blog, Hoosier Cartoonists, at hoosiercartoonists.blogspot.com.


Catherine L. Moore (1911-1987)--The date of the photograph is unknown, but the author-to-be is quite young, perhaps still a student. Look upon this and other pictures of her, read her stories, and you'll not wonder why Forrest J. Ackerman called her "Catherine the Great," why E. Hoffman Price confessed his love for her, and why Henry Kuttner proposed to her shortly after their first meeting. From the collection of Julius Schwartz and reprinted in Locus, March 1988.


Welcome to my new blog, in which I plan to tell the stories of the artists and writers who made Weird Tales a magazine made of pulp but containing gems. Please leave comments and requests. You can also contact me by email at:


Text and captions in this blog are copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley. All rights are reserved. Images are the property of their individual owners or creators. This blog is for informational and educational purposes only.

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