Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Quote to Tide You Over

It was a busy and distracting day today, so my apologies for a lack of posts and also my apologies for the emails I've yet to answer. In between my various errands and activities, I've been reading C.L. Moore's collected Northwest Smith stories and enjoying them greatly. I've read them many time before, but I recently had a strange desire to pick them up again and so I have.

The opening of Moore's first story in the series, "Shambleau," is a terrifically evocative one that nicely frames not just the tale it prefaces but also all those that follow.
Man has conquered Space before. You may be sure of that. Somewhere beyond the Egyptians, in that dimness out of which comes echoes of half-mythical names -- Atlantis, Mu -- somewhere back of history's first beginnings there must have been an age when mankind, like us today, built cities of steel to house its star-roving ships and knew the names of the planets in their own native tongues -- heard Venus's people call their wet world "Sha-ardol" in that soft, sweet, slurring speech and mimicked Mars's guttural "Lakkdiz" from the harsh tongues of Mars's dryland dwellers. You may be sure of that. Man has conquered Space before, and out of that conquest faint, faint echoes run still through a world that has forgotten the very fact of civilization which must have been as mighty as our own.
That's heady stuff in my opinion and I know it's already infiltrated my imagination, the fruits of which I'll discuss in the weeks to come.

Anyway, regular posting resume tomorrow, including the next installment of "Blue Book, Cover to Cover."


  1. I'm just reading Northwest of Earth right now, myself. I've just started the third story, Scarlet Dream. What I like best about them is the atmosphere of horror that permeates at least the stories I've read so far (Shambleau and Black Thirst. There seems to be a definite Lovecraftian influence in Moore's writing.

  2. I love Shambleau, although my favorite Moore story is Hellsgarde. I put Moore in the same company as Brackett and Burroughs and Clarke and Howard.

  3. Shambleau is a great story! I've never read any of Moore's other work but I would jump at the chance. I wonder if Niven was inspired by the Shambleau when he created the droud for Louis Wu? Coming directly from reading the second Ringworld book that's exactly what it put me in mind of just now.

  4. Ooo, my copy of Northwest stories has been waiting for me to head off on vacation. I can't wait to dive in for the first time.

  5. I really like the stories on an individual basis, but reading them in a collection shows just how repetitive they are. All but a couple of the stories have the exact same plot: Northwest encounters a strange, alluring woman; he falls prey to some sort of hypnotic alien entity or object associated with the woman; he gathers his supreme human will to break free; he blasts it; he walks away, wistfully.

  6. Thanks for the tip, James - I admit total ignorance of Shambleau.

    The quote reminds me of one I heard in a documentary from one of the first men on the moon. The night before touchdown he dreamed that when they drove in the lunar buggy, they would find another set of tire tracks already there. Curious, they would follow these tracks over the lunar landscape until they came to another buggy with two other astronauts in it. Their suits and equipment were identical to the Americans, except that they were clearly ancient, "older than the pyramids" were his words, if I recall.

  7. I haven't read Shambleau in ages. For any Francophones, there's a nice, old comic version.

  8. Part of me has always loved the poetry and atmosphere.

    The other part keeps pointing out that huge amounts of language drift would have been bound to happen, even with all the special features of the races in question.

    Anyway, the 2-part BBC dramatization/reading of "Shambleau" is frighteningly good.