Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Forgotten Maestro of Sword and Sorcery - Henry Kuttner

Mention sword and sorcery fiction among friends and the name Henry Kuttner won't likely come up at all. Oh you'll get Howard, Lovecraft, perhaps Fritz Leiber, Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore. But when Moore's name comes up you'll not hear of her husband Henry Kuttner. That's too bad because the man was a maestro of the typewriter work hand to cheek with his wife C.L. Moore. They were an incredible combination working tirelessly to turn out solid and interesting science fiction, fantasy, and sword & sorcery.

 But who was Henry Kuttner?

According to Wiki : 
Henry Kuttner was born in Los Angeles, California in 1915. Naphtaly Kuttner (1829–1903) and Amelia Bush (c. 1834–1911), the parents of his father, the bookseller Henry Kuttner (1863–1920), had come from Prussia and lived in San Francisco since 1859; the parents of his mother, Annie Levy (1875–1954), were from Great Britain. Henry Kuttner's great-grandfather was the scholar, Josua Heschel Kuttner. Kuttner grew up in relative poverty following the death of his father. As a young man he worked for the literary agency of his uncle,[1] Laurence D'Orsay, in Los Angeles before selling his first story, "The Graveyard Rats", to Weird Tales in early 1936.
Alfred Bester told this anecdote about Kuttner: "Mort Weisinger introduced me to the informal luncheon gatherings of the working science fiction authors of the late thirties. I met Henry Kuttner", whom Bester described as "medium-sized", "very quiet and courteous, and entirely without outstanding features. Once I broke Kuttner up quite unintentionally. I said to Weisinger, 'I've just finished a wild story that takes place in a spaceless, timeless locale where there's no objective reality. It's awfully long, 20,000 words, but I can cut the first 5,000.' Kuttner burst out laughing.

 Heney Kuttner and C.L. Moore 

I've heard from both friends as well as  family that husband and wife writing teams are doomed to failure. Heartache soon follows in the footsteps of these sorts of collaborations  Not so with Henry Kuttner and C.L.Moore. They were one of the first couples of sword & sorcery as well as many science fiction collaborations.
 Wiki has this to say : 
"Kuttner was known for his literary prose and worked in close collaboration with his wife, C. L. Moore. They met through their association with the "Lovecraft Circle", a group of writers and fans who corresponded with H. P. Lovecraft.[3] Their work together spanned the 1940s and 1950s and most of the work was credited to pseudonyms, mainly Lewis Padgett and Lawrence O'Donnell. Both freely admitted that one reason they worked so much together was because his page rate was higher than hers.[citation needed] In fact, several people have written or said that she wrote three stories which were published under his name.[citation needed] "Clash by Night" and The Portal in the Picture, also known as Beyond Earth's Gates, have both been alleged to have been written by her.[citation needed]
L. Sprague de Camp, who knew Kuttner and Moore well, has stated that their collaboration was so intensive that, after a story was completed, it was often impossible for either Kuttner or Moore to recall who had written which portions. According to de Camp, it was typical for either partner to break off from a story in mid-paragraph or even mid-sentence, with the latest page of the manuscript still in the typewriter. The other spouse would routinely continue the story where the first had left off. They alternated in this manner as many times as necessary until the story was finished.
Among Kuttner's most popular work were the Gallegher stories, published under the Padgett name, about a man who invented high-tech solutions to client problems (including an insufferably egomaniacal robot) when he was stinking drunk, only to be completely unable to remember exactly what he had built or why after sobering up. These stories were later collected in Robots Have No Tails. In the introduction to the paperback reprint edition after his death, Moore stated that all the Gallegher stories were written by Kuttner alone.
In 2007, New Line Cinema released a feature film loosely based on the Lewis Padgett short story "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" under the title The Last Mimzy. In addition, The Best of Henry Kuttner was republished under the title The Last Mimzy Stories."

Henry Kuttner's connection to The Cthlhu Mythos 
And Sword & Sorcery 
Henry Kuttner was a vital part of the Lovecraft circle of writers and there are several Lovcraftian entities that he is credited with creating.
According to Wiki : 
A friend of Lovecraft's as well as of Clark Ashton Smith, Kuttner contributed several stories to the Cthulhu Mythos genre invented by those authors (among others). Among these were "The Secret of Kralitz" (Weird Tales, October 1936), "The Eater of Souls" (Weird Tales, January 1937), "The Salem Horror" (Weird Tales, May 1937), "The Invaders" (Strange Stories, February 1939) and "The Hunt" (Strange Stories, June 1939).[5]
Kuttner added a few lesser-known deities to the Mythos, including Iod ("The Secret of Kralitz"), Vorvadoss ("The Eater of Souls"), and Nyogtha ("The Salem Horror"). Critic Shawn Ramsey suggests that Abigail Prinn, the villain of "The Salem Horror", might have been intended by Kuttner to be a descendant of Ludvig Prinn, author of De Vermis Mysteriis—a book that appears in Kuttner's "The Invaders"
But the story that I've always used over and over again for really weird grave yard hi jinks in my sword & sorcery games has to be The Graveyard Rats. This is a great story to translate for a low level party of adventures and torment the hell out them.
According to wiki : 
Synopsis: Salem, Massachusetts—Cemetery caretaker "Old Masson" must deal with a teeming colony of abnormally large rats that are cutting into his graverobbing profits; the subterranean rodents drag away newly buried corpses from holes gnawed into the coffins. Apart from the flesh-eating animals, Masson eventually comes face-to-face with a burrowing zombie-like creature.
This often-anthologized tale made recent appearances in The Gruesome Book (1983, Piccolo/Pan Books) edited by Ramsey Campbell, and Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror (1997, Barnes and Noble Books). Other Kuttner stories are also tinged with Lovecraftianhorror. 'Rats was also adapted as part of the made-for-cable anthology film Trilogy of Terror II. Years later, the central premise of abnormally large rats was used in several novels and movies, among these, the acromegalous rats in the film-version of H. G. Wells's story The Food of the Gods, and Stephen King's Graveyard Shift (1970), which deals with a colony of mutated rats nesting beneath a textile mill.
 Mr. Knutter's Elak of Atlantis stories are decent and solid reads. Very easy to revamp as AS&SH adventures for a group of medium level adventurers.
They are as follows according to wiki: 
  • "Thunder in the Dawn" (1938)
  • "Spawn of Dagon" (1938)
  • "Beyond the Phoenix" (1939)
  • "Dragon Moon" (1940)
     The Dark World is another of Mr.Kuttner's books worth taking a good solid look at.
     Further Online Support 
    There are a number of his works available in the public domain for free download.
    The internet archive has some of them right over HERE 
     Project Gutenberg has two of his efforts right over HERE


  1. While I generally find Kuttner inferior to his wife (CL Moore), he definitely can spin a good yarn.

  2. CL Moore without a doubt is the better writer and much better known. Kuttner was a journeyman writer of sword and sorcery but also had his hand in a pretty wide array of fictional fields. Its only now that he's starting to be recognized for the worlds that he created.
    Thanks for the comment Trey and more to come!

  3. Added to my "to read" list. Thanks Needles!

  4. Your welcome I'll be doing more of these types of posts coming up. They've really got a different feel to many of the more modern S&S stories as well. Mr.Kuttner was a good tale smith and a pretty solid writer. I hope you enjoy the style of the tales. Thanks for the comment.