23. Robots Have No Tails

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Henry Kuttner (1914-1958) started his writing career by selling a story to Weird Tales, which appeared in the February 1936 issue. By the end of 1937 he had sold thirteen more to that magazine and an additional fourteen to Thrilling Mystery. Astoundingly prolific, he considered himself a horror writer until his agent convinced him that the half dozen or so new science fiction pulps could better support his production. He sold 43 more stories in 1938 and 1939. These gave him a reputation as a hack, probably deservedly. When William Knoles published “Girls for the Slime God” in the December 1960 Playboy, “a belated tribute to the burgeoning beauties who brightened the science fiction of yore,” his primary example of slavering salaciousness was the uncredited Kuttner and his “The Avengers of Space” in the August 1938 Marvel Science Stories.

Then suddenly, and bafflingly, Kuttner became one of the top writers in the field in the 1940s. After a good run in Unknown, twenty-five top-rank stories appeared in Astounding from 1942 through 1945. At first nobody realized it; he had so sullied his name that John W. Campbell requested his using a pseudonym. Almost all the stories appeared under the names Lewis Padgett and Lawrence O’Donnell. Jaws dropped throughout the field when Campbell revealed that Padgett was Kuttner in 1943. That the vast increase in quality was due to his collaborating with his wife as of 1940, Catherine L. Moore, was kept a secret for many more years. Kuttner and Moore absolutely owned Astounding in 1943, being two of the handful of writers who weren’t swept up by the war. Eight stories were published under the Padgett name, two credited to Kuttner, a two-part serial by Moore, and one as by O’Donnell.

Four of those stories featured (I’d say starred, but his unforgettable and unique robot Joe was the true star) the genius inventor Galloway Gallegher, all but one of the total, with the last appended to the series in 1948. They are shambles of stories, told with drunken illogic, wild humor, and phantasmagoric detail. They betray nothing of Moore’s tempering literary smoothness and character building, and for good reason: they are all by Kuttner alone.

We have this on the best possible authority, that of Moore herself, in her introduction to the 1973 Lancer paperback edition of Robots.

In 1942, when four of these stories were written, under the name of Lewis Padgett, Henry Kuttner and I had been married for two years and were more or less commuting between New York, where our publishing concerns were, and Laguna Beach in California where – so to speak – our hearts were. …

In later years we worked more and more closely together on almost everything we wrote, and I was rather astounded on rereading the Gallegher stories to realize that not a word of any of them is mine.

I have never seen a Kuttner signature on a Gnome book. I don’t know if such a thing exists. Kuttner signatures are so rare that the only one I’ve seen was on a mystery he and Moore wrote. For such an insider, this is extremely odd and I’ve never seen an explanation.

cover art by William Timmins

Gnome Notes

The stories are placed out of chronological order. Kuttner didn’t invent Joe until his third Gallagher story and so “The Proud Robot” gets the first slot, with the first story left until last.

The dust jacket cover gives the title as Robots Have No Tails… but the ellipses are to be found nowhere else on or in the book.

Kirkus Reviews gave the expected publication date as May 15, 1952.

Reviews

P. Schuyler Miller, Astounding Science Fiction, December 1952
Pure entertainment, lavishly supplied.

Mark Reinsberg, Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1952
While the stories lack contrast and their dialog becomes repetitious, Gallegher and his robot are still the most memorable comic team in science-fiction.

Contents and original publication

• “The Proud Robot (Astounding Science-Fiction, October 1943).
• “Gallagher Plus” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1943).
• “The World is Mine” (Astounding Science-Fiction, June 1943).
• “Ex Machina” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1948).
• “Time Locker” (Astounding Science-Fiction, January 1943).

Bibliographic Information

Robots Have No Tails, by Lewis Padgett (pseud. of Henry Kuttner), 1952, copyright registration 15May52, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number not given [retroactively 52-10383], title #23, back panel #20, 224 pages, $2.75. 4000 copies printed. Hardback, red-orange boards, spine lettered in black. Dust jacket Illustration by Ric Binkley. “FIRST EDITION” stated on copyright page. Manufactured in the United States of America by H. Wolff, New York. Back panel: 4 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th St., New York 3.

         Variants

None known.

Images

Robots Have No Tails, red-orange boards, black lettering