Friday, July 31, 2015

"Shambleau" by C.L. Moore

Available in Northwest of Earth, Paizo Publishing, 2007

I became interested in C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith stories upon learning Smith was an inspiration for Star Wars' Han Solo. The first and most famous Smith story, "Shambleau", was also Moore's first professional sale (Weird Tales, November 1933). It establishes Smith as a tough-minded man visiting a colony on Mars for shady business the details of which are left cryptic. Spotting a young woman being chased by a mob, Smith manages to save her and avoid bloodshed simply by saying she is his, a twist that strikes even Smith as odd.

Letting the woman stay with him, Smith realizes she is not quite human, but cannot say definitively what she is. After a day out on business, Smith returns to his lodgings and acts on his attraction to his guest and her palpable willingness to have him. Before things go too far, Smith finds himself suddenly revolted. This, however, is not enough to save him a perilous second encounter with her.

I found Moore's style evocative yet easily readable, particularly in its depiction of Smith's conflicting attraction and horror at what he discovers the woman to be.

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