November 30, 2011


I want to tip my hat to the friend who introduced me to the science fiction writer, C. L. Moore. Settling down with any new artist always involves a series of questions. Is the author any good?  Will the book provide a new experience or idea? Will it take me to a place I’d like to be? Or will I have wasted time and money? Like an infant being introduced to solid foods for the first time, I’m wary of the experience.

  C.L. Moore

Moore’s first story, “Shambleau,” left me with mixed feelings. I found no flaw in the writing but thought the plot demanded too great a suspension of disbelief.  We are expected to accept that the story’s hero rescues an exotic woman from being stoned but never questions why the crowd that wished to kill her shows such a dread of her. He hides the woman in his room then goes about his business in the community never thinking to ask why this creature, a Shambleau, strikes such terror among them. As the story turns upon the man’s willful ignorance, I didn’t buy it.

The second story was of greater interest. It dealt with the search for beauty’s essence, a search the leads, not to truth as Keats would have us believe, but to darkest evil. The plot is linear and describes the hero’s journey as he descends deeper and deeper into realms of distilled beauty. The details of the journey form the basis of the plot and they are wonderful. 

By the third story, I had begun to settle in with my new author. In “The Bright Illusion,” the writer takes on an enormous risk as she attempts to create a world that is foreign to human sensibility. Descriptions like that are no mean feat – a challenge akin to describing a color that in our world doesn’t exist. Yet Moore manages it. She convinces me that I am in a universe I have never seen and can scarcely imagine. Again the plot line is minimal but the details are extraordinary.  Moore is a writer who has mastered the art of description to the degree that the sounds, textures, and colors she creates are enough to satisfy. Edgar Allen Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” uses the same device and creates unimaginable terror simply by rendering in detail a series of rooms. 

C. L. Moor died in 1987, a master of her trade, but she is new to me. To anyone who has yet to become familiar with her work, I take get great pleasure in introducing her to you.