Originally posted by Demonik - 06 May 2006 C. L. Moore - Shambleau (Consul, 1961)
Black God's Kiss, Shambleau, Black God's Shadow, Black Thirst, The Tree Of Life, Scarlet Dream
Had Northwest Smith been able to forsee the future, he would not have shielded the frightened, scarlet clad girl from the wild mob pursuing her through the streets of Lakkdarol, Earth's latest colony on Mars. "Shambleau! Shambleau!" the crowd cried with loathing and disgust, but Smith drove them off and took the exhausted girl to his quarters. There was no hair upon her face - neither brows nor lashes, but what lay hidden beneath the tight scarlet turban bound around her head?
Originally posted by Severance - 06 May 2006 Thanks for posting this Dem, I've got this one myself, though being 45 years old it's a bit worse for wear. Notice how the authors name is spelt wrong on the cover. Catherine Lucille Moore was the creator of possibly the first female 'sword and sorcery' hero in Jirel of Joiry (featured in 2 of the 6 stories here) - Robert E. Howard created his own Dark Agnes de Chastillon after reading of Moore's heroine.
Black God's Kiss has some wonderfully dark imagery as Jirel ventures into a hellish realm to find a suitable weapon against a conquering lord, Guillaume. The horses she thinks are so magnificent and beautiful running across the landscape, are on closer inspection running together in sheer terror, the whole herd being blind.
The title story Shambleau features her planetary hero, Northwest Smith, on a Mars reminiscent of the works of Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury, encountering a member of the race of psychic vampires, the Shambleau. A well- deserved classic of 1930s science-fantasy.
Gollancz released a trade paperback called Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams containing many of her best stories a couple of years ago as part of their Fantasy Masterworks - well worth picking up IMO.
Originally posted by Calenture - 29 May 2006 I'm not sure I've ever read of Dark Agnes de Chastillon. Leigh Bracket's Mars definitely needs remembering, if only someone can find the time. I think I have a few of her Martian novels as Ace Doubles.
About Bradbury's Mars: I only noticed recently that my Corgi paperback of The Silver Locusts contains Usher II, which is absent from my SFBC copy of The Martian Chronicles, though I'd always thought them the same (re-titled) book. Anyway, back to Shambleau:
I just found this thread a few days ago. Some comments here might double-up on others above. Sorry about that. I wrote this year's back, and you've reminded me that it should be in The Dolls House. But here first:
A collection of stories by Catherine Moore, wife and frequent collaborator of Henry Kuttner. The stories are of Jirel of Joiry, one of fantasy's few female swordwielders, and Northwest Smith, whose dubious enterprises on Mars and Venus invariably lead him into trouble.
Black God's Kiss: Joiry has fallen to Guillaume, but its first lady, the red-haired yellow-eyed Jirel will not submit to the conqueror. Seeking a weapon powerful enough to overcome their enemies she travels through a mysterious tunnel in the castle's dungeons, a tunnel which brings her out into a hellish land as strange as anything in fiction. This is a brilliantly paced story, genuinely weird and with a superb conclusion.
Shambleau: Northwest Smith confronts a mob pursuing a girl, and to his confusion the mob's reaction is not one of hostility to him but disgust. She is Shambleau. But what is Shambleau? Dressed in red rags and a turban, with green eyes like a cat, she is clearly of some alien origin but Smith is bewildered by the revulsion she evokes in any who set eyes on her. She is one of an ancient race which gave rise on Earth to the legend of the medusa, whose mere look could turn the beholder to stone - this is implied in a preface to the story. What follows is a bizarre story of sexual obsession, and of a creature so alien that finally we understand why it arouses such fear and loathing in those who know its nature.
Black God's Shadow: Jirel has conquered Guillaume, but the nature of the curse she has laid on him haunts her and she seems to hear him calling her from that strange hellish land beyond the tunnel. Again she journeys through it to lift the curse. Not so spontaneous and a bit drawn-out this one.
Black Thirst: Northwest Smith is loitering by a Venusian wharfside when he is approached by a Minga girl. The girls bred by the Minga are known for their legendary, almost inhuman beauty, and to lay so much as a finger upon one of them is to invite death, so Smith is astonished when he is invited to secretly enter the Minga palace. Here he is to learn the mystery surrounding the breeding of the Minga girls, and the strange tastes of the ruler of the palace, the Alendar.
The Tree of Life: Northwest Smith's aircraft is shot down over the ruins of Illar, where he seeks shelter. Distracted by the sound of a woman sobbing, he finds a ghostly woman, white skinned and naked but for her purple hair which surrounds her like a cloak. He helps her find the doorway back to her own dimension...but has it all been a ruse to trap him here? Who is Thag, to whom the girl is so determined to lead him? Why are the small creatures who dwell in this misty dreamlike landscape so fearful?
One of Moore's strengths is in the creation of genuinely strange dreamlike alien environments, but unfortunately she does labour over them sometimes at the cost of the narrative. Worth reading for the sexy priestess and genuinely weird creature at the end, but a bit slow.
Scarlet Dream: Smith buys a brilliantly patterned shawl which exerts a hypnotic fascination, leading him into another dimension through his sleep. The denizens of this place are prisoners, entering a temple to feed, where they in turn become prey of a flesh-eating monster. Vampire grass and cannibal trees are other threats, and Smith's only chance of escape means death for the lovely girl he finds there.
Black God's Kiss, Shambleau and Scarlet Dream are by far the best three of the stories here, the liveliest and most inventive. The cover painting is good but uncredited. Moore's collaborative work with her husband is too often credited solely to Kuttner, so it's good to see this collection of her work available after too long an absence.
My copy has a different cover, which I'll try to put here soon.
Originally posted by Charles Black - 06 May 2006 It's a pity that there isn't a book that contains all of the Northwest Smith tales.
As per Rog's request, here's the main bits of the Shambleau thread from the old site, and 18 months later CB's request appears to be coming true:
This is due for release next month from Paizo Publishing's Planet Stories imprint as well as these in the forthcoming months -
I'm holding on by a fingernail and my right bollock!