Horrors, Marvels, Gods and Demons: C.L. Moore’s Tales of Northwest Smith

Horrors, Marvels, Gods and Demons: C.L. Moore’s Tales of Northwest Smith

Northwest of Earth-small Northwest Smith Ace-small Northwest of Earth Planet Stories-small

As Steven Silver has already noted, today is C.L. Moore’s birthday. To celebrate Steven reviewed “Lost Paradise,” from the July 1936 Weird Tales, “one of her stories featuring her space-faring rogue Northwest Smith… essentially a bar story with a twist.”

Northwest Smith is one of the enduring serial characters C.L. Moore created for Weird Tales (the other was Jirel of Jorey) — and I do mean enduring. The tales of this “space-faring rogue” have been collected multiple times, and over 80 years later they are still in print. It’s pretty clear that George Lucas, a noted fan of Planet Stories and other SF pulps, drew on Smith as his inspiration for Han Solo, as the two characters are cut from the same cloth.

Over at Tor.com, Alan Brown has a more detailed look at C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith tales, which have been reprinted in a number of highly collectible volumes over the years. Here’s my favorite quote.

[Click the images to embiggen.]

There are flat-out horrors to be faced in the Smith stories, alongside frequently sexual undertones as well… The adventures of Northwest Smith are evocative tales that defy easy summarization. I can give you the bones of the plots, but their real magic lies in the prose itself, and Moore’s lurid descriptions of horrors, marvels, gods and demons. There are similarities between many of the tales, and more than a few hinge on Smith’s attraction to a beautiful woman, but each of these stories is unique, with its own twist on the many perils lurking around every corner of the Solar System. Smith himself is a tough-as-nails pilot and smuggler, dressed in leather, and always with a heat- or ray gun strapped to his hip. While the reader discerns a code of honor in his actions, it is a loose code that does not prevent him from committing theft and violence in pursuit of wealth.

Read Alan’s complete article “C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith Stories: Pulp Hero vs. Cosmic Horrors” here.

All told Moore wrote 13 Northwest Smith tales between 1933-1940; virtually all were first published in Weird Tales. They were first collected in Northwest of Earth, with a cover by Ric Binkley (above left, Gnome Press, 1954). Most recently they were reprinted by Erik Mona’s Planet Stories imprint in Northwest of Earth: The Complete Northwest Smith, with a cover by Andrew Hou (above right; Paizo Publishing, January 2008).

Northwest-Smith-CL-Moore Northwest Smith Ace-back-small

But my favorite edition, of course, is the paperback Northwest Smith, released by Ace Books in 1982 with a knockout cover by Jim Burns (above). This edition remained in print for years.

Our previous coverage of C.L. Moore includes:

Black God’s Kiss by C. L. Moore, by Ryan Harvey
“Jirel, Ma Joie!” (In Which I Encounter My First C.L. Moore) by C.S.E. Cooney
Happy 100th Birthday, C. L. Moore!
Earth’s Last Citadel by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner
Smugglers, Alien Vampires, and Dark Dimensions: The Best of C. L. Moore, by James McGlothlin
Birthday Reviews: C.L. Moore’s “Lost Paradise” by Steven H Silver

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Thomas Parker

These are wonderful stories. The night after I first read “Shambleau,” I had the most vivid nightmare of my life, clearly inspired by the story. Now that’s writing!

John E. Boyle

I second Mr. Parker; those are wonderful stories. Thanks for putting a focus on one of SF&F greats and someone who deserves to be better known.

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