Catherine Louise Moore started working as a bank clerk in Depression-era Indianapolis after being forced to drop out of college. One rainy afternoon, she said, she happened to pick up the September 1931 issue of Amazing Stories. At the comparatively ripe old age of 20 she got hooked. “From that moment on I was a convert. A whole new field of literature opened out before my admiring gaze, and the urge to imitate it was irresistible.” She began sending stories to magazines two years later. Wonder Stories, a Gernsback publication, didn’t think much of her approach, the opposite of its normal superscience, and so she sent the story to Weird Tales. Truth or legend, the scene in the office was immortalized by Sam Moskowitz in Seekers of Wonder:
E. Hoffman Price, pulp magazine writer of the 1930s, never tires of telling anecdotes about the remarkable Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales… Wright would invariably dig into his desk and thrust a manuscript at me…
“But the highest peak was reached,” Price says, “in 1933, when he handed me a manuscript by one C. L. Moore.
“And that did take my breath. ‘For Christ’s sake, Plato, who is C. L. Moore? He, she or it is colossal!’ This, of all times, was when my enthusiasm equaled Farnsworth’s. He quit work and we declared a C. L. Moore Day.”
Catherine’s use of initials appears to have been a caution aimed at her employer rather than editors or fans. Writing weird tales was not an occupation for a proper 22-year-old female and certainly not for one working at an institution as staid as a bank. Women could easily be fired for any such perceived transgression. Alice Mary Norton would disguise her name for similar reasons.
We know that her identity was publicly revealed in the May 1934 fanzine The Fantasy Fan, produced by two names that would later be legends of their own in the comic book world, Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger. Did editors know it earlier? Moskowitz wrote that “editors frequently used the term ‘the author’ when they referred to C. L. Moore, which seems to indicate that they were aware of her sex, but avoided revealing it.”
Moskowitz’s other telling anecdote is that another young fan, one Henry Kuttner, sent a letter for Weird Tales to forward to Mr. C. L. Moore, and was staggered when Miss Moore wrote back. They met when she took a Californian vacation in 1938 and were married two years later. They flooded the magazines with manuscripts under their own names and collaboratively as Lewis Padgett and Laurence O’Donnell. By Gnome’s era, her status was secure. The jacket flaps give her extravagant praise even by the standards of blurbism and call her “Miss Moore” and the “wife and collaborator of Henry Kuttner.” It further lists their books as The Fairy Chessmen, Judgment Night, Robots Have No Tails, and Mutant, all Gnome titles and each, except Judgment Night, published under the Padgett name. One mystery, as always. Despite the clear association of Padgett with Moore in the Moore books, the Padgett books never mention her name in any fashion, not even in the “other books by” listings.
As would Northwest of Earth, Judgment Night contains a mixture of stories about her two main series characters, Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry.
Contents and original publication
• “Black God’s Kiss,” (Weird Tales, October 1934) [Jirel]
• “Shambleau,” (Weird Tales, November 1933) [Smith]
• “Black God’s Shadow,” (Weird Tales, December 1934) [Jirel]
• “Black Thirst,” (Weird Tales, April 1934) [Smith]
• “The Tree of Life,” (Weird Tales, October 1936) [Smith]
• “Jirel Meets Magic,” (Weird Tales, July 1935) [Jirel]
• “Scarlet Dream.” (Weird Tales, May 1934) [Smith]
Shambleau and Others, by C. L. Moore, 1953, title #31, 224 pages, $3.00. 4000 hardbound copies printed. Teal boards with maroon lettering. Jacket Design by Ric Binkley. “FIRST EDITION” stated on copyright page. Printed by H. Wolff. Back cover: 25 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th Street, New York 3