Monday, March 8, 2010

Gushy McFanboy: The Dirty 3530's

A shout out to my buddy Carlos for the loan of some SF classics (next up: John Carter of Mars!). Specifically, Northwest of Earth, the Complete Northwest Smith by Catherine Lucille Moore. I was most pleased and taken aback: this is very sexy, sensual stuff! Who knew they had sex in the 1930's? Weird.
These weird tales neatly employ aspects of all the speculative fiction genres: extensively realized alien worlds of SF, the ancient magics, slaves, and swords you expect from fantasy, and the ravenous, slavering extra-dimensional gods and demons you shiver at in horror stories.
Northwest Smith is the Man With No Name in space. His job is morally questionable, his surroundings alien, his past... no doubt unsettling. His pass-times include drinking to excess, plying the space-ways on dubious errands, and pushing back the forces of unspeakable evil gnawing, ever gnawing at the borders of reality. There are plenty of thrills here of all kinds. Plenty of horrors, too, the quiet kind that eat at you later when they're peckish.
"Shambleau" remains a darn good cautionary tale. If you take a soul-sucking sex-kitten-slash-Medusa back to your place you'd better hope you have a friend or mild acquaintance to flame-gun her off you. Eventually.
The writing is very florid, but don't let it put you off (assuming like me you are deeply, irrationally prejudiced against The Past). Consider 'Nymph of Darkness'. That one was my favorite. Was it the nude, invisible, female object of a creepy cult's worship? Her demonic mode of transport? Or that, like Indiana Jones to come, Northwest's presence in the story isn't even that essential?
Check this writer out! Or, if you're of a more fantasy bent, try her 'Lady Conan': Jirel of Joiry. Northwest Smith met Jirel while time-travelling once: she's a feisty 15th century French Xena.
Huzzah for cross-overs!

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