Clash by Night (Hamlyn Paperbacks, 1980). Cover by Chris Moore
I’m a big fan of the short fiction of Henry Kuttner, one of the great genre pulp writers, and earlier this year I stumbled on a curiosity: a Hamlyn (UK) paperback collection of Kuttner’s pulp tales which has never been reprinted in the US: Clash by Night.
Clash by Night collects five Kuttner tales from the heyday of the science fiction pulps, 1943-1952. The stories collected here were originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder, and Space Science Fiction. They include some of Kuttner’s most acclaimed SF, and some that has been rarely reprinted.
Another thing they all have in common: They were all written with his wife, C.L. Moore, whom the editor didn’t see fit to credit on the cover, for reasons of obvious sexism. It’s small remedy to correct that slight in the title of this article, but I did it anyway.
[Click the images for bigger versions.]
Original magazine appearances: Astounding Science Fiction, March 1943, November 1944
and September 1946, Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1947, and Space Science Fiction,
May 1952. Covers by William Timmins (x3), Earle Bergey, and Orban
The title novella, “Clash by Night,” was originally published in Astounding, and was nominated for the 2019 Retro Hugo for Best Novella of 1943 (it lost out to The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Bedknob and Broomstick by Mary Norton, and “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” by H. P. Lovecraft, and there’s no shame in bowing to competition like that).
I first encountered “Clash by Night” in The Astounding-Analog Reader, edited By Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss, which I discussed right here back in 2019. Here’s the snippet that first intrigued me, from the editors’ intro.
Like Asimov’s, Heinlein’s was a cool fiction. For Kuttner, glamor and excitement came first, and science second or third. His ability to tell a story seem much more natural than theirs. By this date, he was prolific and well known, writing under many names; in “Clash by Night” we can watch the great, the ingenious Kuttner, diving and darting in and out of the mythological seas of his imagination in yet another disguise….
In the comments James Enge wrote:
I wish Kuttner and Moore had returned more often to the setting of “Clash by Night.” I liked Fury, the Kuttner novel set in the same world, but it seems like there could have been a lot more.
“Clash by Night” was the first installment in the storied pulp series Keeps, which as James notes included its more famous sequel Fury (serialized in three parts in Astounding, starting in the May 1947 issue), and two novels set in the same world by David Drake, Surface Action (1990) and The Jungle (1991).
The Jungle by Dave Drake, set in “the universe created by Henry Kuttner in his
classic Clash by Night” (Tor Books, November 1992). Cover by Roger Loveless
Naturally, because the world isn’t fair, and it’s especially unfair to women who dare call themselves science fiction writers, the 90s-era Tor volumes credited only Kuttner as the creator of “Clash by Night.”
Clash by Night also contains “When the Bough Breaks,” 4th place winner of the 2020 Retro Hugo for Best Novelette (losing out to “City” by Clifford D. Simak, “No Woman Born” by C. L. Moore, and “Arena” by Fredric Brown, and again, I think the electorate got it right).
The other stories are “Juke-Box,” “The Ego Machine,” and the classic “Vintage Season,” one of the most acclaimed and reprinted SF stories of the 20th Century.
Here’s a look at the interior art for “Juke-Box,” from Thrilling Wonder.
Interior illustration for “Juke-Box,” published under the pseudonym Woodrow Wilson Smith
Here’s the complete Table of Contents.
Introduction by Peter Pinto
“Clash by Night” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (Astounding Science-Fiction, March 1943)
“When the Bough Breaks” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944)
“Juke-Box” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1947)
” The Ego Machine” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (Space Science Fiction, May 1952)
“Vintage Season” by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1946)
Here’s John W. Campbell’s blurb for “Clash by Night” in the TOC for the March 1953 Astounding. The story appeared under Kuttner and Moore’s famous byline Lawrence O’Donnell, the name they used for much of their collaborative fiction.
John W. Campbell’s blurb for “Clash by Night,” from the March 1953 Astounding
What do modern readers make of these stories?
Here’s the most popular review at Goodreads, from July 2022.
I enjoyed this story, particularly the setting of Venus. I really liked Kuttner’s novel Fury set in the same world, and enjoyed returning to it…. it was really about Scott’s crisis of faith in his life’s work as mercenary, more than the romantic relationships per se. I liked the businesslike nature of the mercenaries, particularly the punch-clock villain portrayal of the enemy company near the end… An enjoyable story that introduces a cool world. I wish Kuttner and Moore had written more stories in the Keeps series, but I’m looking forward to checking out the sequels written by David Drake.
Here’s the inside cover and Peter Pinto’s introduction for Clash by Night.
Inside cover and Peter Pinto’s introduction for Clash by Night
“Vintage Season” still wins fans for Moore and Kuttner today. Here’s a review that appeared online two days ago, on December 14, 2023.
A magnificent story, a beautiful work of art, perfect form, perfect prose … all the more remarkable that it was written in 1946, smack dab in the middle of the pulp era when literati of certain pretensions commonly assumed that nothing of artistic worthiness was being created in genre fiction … not sure I can think of another story so accomplished until Le Guin came onto the scene in the 60s … Lester del Rey describes it well in his introduction to the Best of C.L. Moore anthology:
“Moore’s masterpiece … a showpiece for all the talents of C. L. Moore. It blends the disparate elements of horror and beauty, alien culture and human feelings, progress and decadence. And it has the sense of inevitability needed for great fiction, skillfully combined with the uncertainty of a fine suspense story.”
One of the reasons I enjoy reading stories in their original magazine appearances is the wonderful artwork. Here’s a splendid piece by Orban for Lester del Rey’s “Pursuit,” which appeared in the same issue as “The Ego Machine.”
Interior art by Orban for Lester del Rey’s “Pursuit” (Space Science Fiction, May 1952)
I bought my copy of Clash by Night on eBay this year for about $6.
Clash by Night was published by Hamlyn Paperbacks in the UK in 1980. It is 216 pages, priced at £0.95. The cover is by Chris Moore. It has never been reprinted in the US, and there is no digital edition.
Our recent coverage of C.L. Moore includes:
Judgment Night by CL Moore
The Golden Age Of Science Fiction: The 1973 Forry Award: C. L. Moore by Rich Horton
Vintage Treasures: Doomsday Morning
Horrors, Marvels, Gods And Demons: C.L. Moore’s Tales Of Northwest Smith
Birthday Reviews: C.L. Moore’s “Lost Paradise” by Steven H Silver
Smugglers, Alien Vampires, And Dark Dimensions: The Best Of C. L. Moore by James McGlothlin
Happy 100th Birthday, C. L. Moore!
Black God’s Kiss by C. L. Moore by Ryan Harvey
More Haffner Goodness: Detour to Otherness
“Jirel, Ma Joie!” (In Which I Encounter My First C.L. Moore) by C.S.E. Cooney
Jirel of Joiry: The Mother of Us All by Ryan Harvey
Judgment Night: Space Opera and More From One of the Female Pioneers of the Genre by Paul Di Filippo
And our recent coverage of Henry Kuttner is here:
Birthday Reviews: Henry Kuttner’s “Ghost” by Steven H Silver
From the Vaults: The Lands of the Earthquake by Fletcher Vredenburgh
A Neglected Master: The Best of Henry Kuttner by James McGlothlin
Earth’s Last Citadel by Kuttner and Moore
The Watcher at the Door: The Early Kuttner, Volume Two, edited by Stephen Haffner
The Best of Henry Kuttner
Fantasy Face-Off: Henry Kuttner’s Elak of Atlantis vs. Robert E Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian by Connor Gormley
The Startling Worlds of Henry Kuttner
Henry Kuttner’s “The Graveyard Rats”
Announcing the Winner of Thunder in the Void from Haffner Press!
Henry Kuttner’s Thunder in the Void
Black Gate Kuttner Contest: And the Winners Are…
Terror in the House: The Early Kuttner, Volume One
More Haffner Goodness: Detour to Otherness
Robots Have Tales: Henry Kuttner’s Gallagher Stories by James Enge
See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.