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Jirel got herself out of her armor alone, somehow, after much striving and twisting. Her doeskin shirt was stiff with sweat and stained with blood. She tossed it disdainfully into a corner. The fury in her eyes had cooled now to a contained and secret flame. She smiled to herself as she slipped a fresh shirt of doeskin over her tousled red head and donned a brief tunic of link-mail. On her legs she buckled the greaves of some forgotten legionary, relic of the not long past days when Rome still ruled the world. She thrust a dagger through her belt and took her own long two-handed sword bare-bladed in her grip. Then she went down the stairs again.

Catherine Lucille Moore (January 24, 1911 – April 4, 1987) was an American science fiction and fantasy writer, most often as C. L. Moore. She was one of the first women to write in either genre, and paved the way for many other female speculative fiction writers. She and her first husband Henry Kuttner were prolific co-authors under their own names and three pseudonyms.

I’d never even heard of C.L. Moore until I started this feature on the blog. I considered reprinting her old Jirel stories but they are still under copyright until 2029 and there is no information available about who actually owns that work. My knowledge of fantasy covers Conan  and Dragonlance and that’s about it. It’s a genre I learned from film and television, not books. Beast Master, the Conan movies (all three), Willow, Legend, The Princess Bride, those to me are fantasy movies and those are the measures by which I gauge the genre. For those like me who are only hearing about her for the first time, Moore basically created the first Red Sonja, the fiery red-haired warrior woman that has become a cliche in fantasy today.

“Black God’s Kiss” is a hugely entertaining piece of amazon sorcery adventure (with time / space warps thrown in for the good measure), which launched the Jirel of Joiry series and C. L. Moore’s popularity with readers. You can read it for free here:

Moore met Henry Kuttner, also a science fiction writer, in 1936 when he wrote her a fan letter under the impression that “C. L. Moore” was a man. They married in 1940 and thereafter wrote almost all of their stories in collaboration—under their own names and using the joint pseudonyms C. H. Liddell, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Lewis Padgett—most commonly the latter, a combination of their mothers’ maiden names. The movie The Last Mimzy was based off a story they wrote called “Mimsy Were the Borogoves“.

Henry Kuttner’s marriage to C. L. Moore produced a unique and extremely effective writing collaboration, where it was often not possible to tell which stories were the result of them working together… Perhaps all of the stories benefited in one way or the other from the union of these brightest stars in classic science fiction.

After Kuttner’s death in 1958, Moore continued teaching his writing course at the University of Southern California but wrote almost no fiction. She did write for a few television shows under her married name, but upon marrying Thomas Reggie (who was not a writer) in 1963, she stopped writing entirely.

Selected works: