Vintage Treasures: The Best of Henry Kuttner

Vintage Treasures: The Best of Henry Kuttner

The Best of Henry Kuttner-smallI’ve gotten used to introducing these vintage Best Of collections — as I did recently with The Best of Robert Bloch and The Best of Murray Leinster — assuming that most readers have no idea who the authors are.

There’s been a surge of interest in Henry Kuttner lately, however, and he’s been in the news half a dozen times this year at Black Gate alone. The most recent was just last week, when we listed him as one of the luminaries covered by Bud Webster’s Past Masters.

But before that, Connor Gormley wrote a Fantasy Face-Off featuring Henry Kuttner’s Elak of Atlantis vs. Robert E Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian, I discussed The Startling Worlds of Henry Kuttner and looked at his Weird Tales classic “The Graveyard Rats.” And we announced the lucky winners of the giveaway copies of Thunder in the Void, the deluxe collection of Kuttner’s Space Opera tales from Haffner Press.

It’s not just us with a recent Kuttner obsession. In just the last few years, there’s been a re-discovery of this brilliant pulp author. Haffner also published the detailed retrospective Detour to Otherness, a collection of tales co-written with his wife, C.L. Moore, and a generous volume of his weird menace tales, Terror in the House: The Early Kuttner, Volume One. He’s been a favorite over at Paizo’s Planet Stories imprint as well, and they’ve brought his classics The Dark World, Elak of Atlantis, and Robots Have No Tails back into print in handsome new editions.

Centipede Press and the Science Fiction Book Club produced a massive 915-page retrospective of Moore and Kuttner’s collaborative work in 2006, Two Handed Engine: The Selected Stories of Henry Kuttner and C.L.Moore.

And his 1943 short story “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (co-written with Moore) was made into the feature-length film The Last Mimzy by New Line Cinema in 2007.

Seriously, that’s not bad for someone who died over 50 years ago.

That doesn’t even include the numerous digital collections and reprints from Kuttner’s impressive catalog that have proliferated at Amazon and B&N over the past 18 months.

But we’re here to talk about the 1975 Del Rey paperback The Best of Henry Kuttner, edited by Lester del Rey (presumably, as he was general editor for the series and the actual editor is uncredited).

thrilling wonder stories October 1947-smallMost of the stories contained within were co-written with C.L. Moore, although in large part they were credited exclusively to Kuttner on publication. Virtually all of them were published in SF pulps between 1939 and 1955.

Here’s the back cover text, focusing on five of Kuttner’s most popular pieces:

The Best of Henry Kuttner

Here in one superlative volume 17 science-fiction tales by a master storyteller.

“Mimsy Were the Borogoves”
Scott and Emma seemed to be ordinary children — until they found a strange box of toys!

“The Proud Robot”
Never was there an inventor quite like Gallagher; he did his best work when drunk, but could never remember what he invented when he sobered up!

“The Misguided Halo”
A young and inexperienced angel accidentally bestowed a halo on the wrong man — and then the trouble began!

“Or Else”
An extraterrestrial visitor tried to make peace between two Mexican peasants feuding over a waterhole — with disastrous results!

“Exit the Professor”
What a family — those Hogbens! Survivors of the fabled Atlantis, these hillbillies used telekinesis, teleportation and telepathy to make their way in the 20th Century!

— Plus 12 more….

And here’s the complete TOC.The Last Mimzy

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Henry Kuttner: A Neglected Master, introduction by Ray Bradbury
“Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (Astounding, February 1943)
“Two-Handed Engine” (F&SF, August 1955)
“The Proud Robot” (Astounding, October 1943)
“The Misguided Halo” (Unknown, August 1939)
“The Voice of the Lobster” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1950)
“Exit the Professor” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1947)
“The Twonky” (Astounding, September 1942)
“A Gnome There Was” (Unknown, October 1941)
“The Big Night” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1947)
“Nothing But Gingerbread Left” (Astounding, January 1943)
“The Iron Standard” (Astounding, December 1943)
“Cold War” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949)
“Or Else” (Amazing Stories, August/September 1953)
“Endowment Policy” (Astounding, August 1943)
“Housing Problem” (Charm, October 1944)
“What You Need” (Astounding, October 1945)
“Absalom” (Startling Stories, Fall 1946)

After the release of The Last Mimzy, the book was repackaged as The Last Mimzy: Stories, a trade paperback movie tie-in February, 2007. The edition is still in print, priced at $13.99.

There was also a hardcover from the Science Fiction Book Club, with (as usual) a different cover:

The Best of Henry Kuttner-SFBC

The Best of Henry Kuttner was published by Ballantine Books in April, 1975. It is 398 pages, priced at $1.95.

So far we’ve covered the following volumes in the Classics of Science Fiction line (in order of publication):

The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum
The Best of Fritz Leiber
The Best of Henry Kuttner
The Best of John W. Campbell
The Best of C M Kornbluth
The Best of Philip K. Dick
The Best of Fredric Brown
The Best of Edmond Hamilton
The Best of Murray Leinster
The Best of Robert Bloch
The Best of Jack Williamson
The Best of Hal Clement
The Best of James Blish

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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the wasp

John: Between you writing you assume readers are unfamiliar with these authors and the authors of the Tor.com Appendix N piece on Jack Vance saying they really had no other experience of him or his works made me feel very old. With so much new stuff out there, it’s easy to skip over seventy+ year old stories. I don’t want to sound like some crotchety old guy moaning about the good old days, but , still, it makes me a little melancholy that stories and authors, I and all my genre reading friends were at least familiar with, are just sort of fading from the general reading audience’s attention. Hopefully, articles like this help keep attention on some of the best of the older stories.

Oliver.Klages

It helps that Paizo Publishing reissued many stories by classic pulp authors in the planet stories library. I got my introduction to Kuttner from “Robots have no tails”.

The Planet Stories Library though i found by chance when i was looking on amazon.de for prints of old pulp covers.

By now most of the planet library is on my bookshelf, excluding those that i deem to new, like the stories by Gygax.

John, you have probably read Gygax’s books that are part of the Planet Stories library. Are those any good? As in, in the same league as Wellman, Kuttner, …?

the wasp

John: I’m in absoulte agreement with you and it’s a big part of why I blog about classic swords & sorcery. Desiring to see a genre live and grow is why I write about new stories. My biggest disappointment is that with the explosion of e-books, so many classic authors I grew up devouring, like Simak and G. Dickson, are still mostly unavailable.

I disagree with some of what Foz Meadows wrote earlier this month, but I totally understand and sympathize with her desire to read books that speak to her. Modern sci-fi and fantasy’s twice as old now as it was when I was born in the mid sixties and it’s exploded way beyond being a niche market. There’s just so much stuff to sort through.

So, we have to keep plugging away at promoting the best of the old and unsung while not losing sight of the new and exciting.

the wasp

Thank you.

westkeith

I don’t know how I missed this post, but I’m glad I found it. I read the SFBC edition of this book when I was 14, and the effect it had on me was incredible. I was blown away by “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” “The Proud Robot”, and “The Twonky”. Since then I’ve tried to track down every story by Kuttner (with or without Moore) that I can find and/or afford.

It’s been good to see the renewed interest in Kuttner in recent years. While this book calls itself the best of his work, Kuttner wrote several stories which weren’t included that IMO are as good or better than what you find here. “When the Bough Breaks” and “We Kill People” are the ones that come to mind. Maybe they’ll show up in a Haffner Press volume soon.

Thanks for another great entry your series about this landmark series.

[…] I’ve discussed here (starting with The Best of Murray Leinster, The Best of Robert Bloch, The Best of Henry Kuttner, and The Best of C M Kornbluth.) I believe it may also have been the first, since it has the […]

[…] Vintage Treasures: The Best of Henry Kuttner […]

James McGlothlin

I finished this collection about a month ago. Great book! Of the 4 or 5 Best ofs that I’ve read so far, this is probably my favorite.

Let me just say Kuttner is hilarious! “The Proud Robot” has got to be one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read–loved it! I can’t remember laughing that hard or out loud over a book since Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or a P. G. Wodehouse tale.

Also funny were the two stories focusing upon the Hogben hillbilly family–reminiscent of Lovecraft’s Whateley family from “The Dunwich Horror.”

“What You Need” was a familiar tale since I believe there was an old Twilight Zone episode based on it.

Great book!

James McGlothlin

Oh man! C. L. Moore! I read one of her stories in an anthology last year and absolutely loved it! I’ve definitely got to track down that Best of.

James McGlothlin

John,

I was reading Kuttner’s best of today, and came back to this older BG post and saw that you left a question (3 years ago to the day!) that I never answered.

The story was “Black God’s Kiss” in The Sword and Sorcery Anthology, edited by David Hartwell and Jacob Weisman (Tachyon, 2012).

Better late than never!

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