Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A First Glance through "Our Pulp Fiction Heritage"

I was recently shown the excellent essay "Our Pulp Fiction Heritage and the Significance of Moldering Magazines" written by Robert Bee.  First among its many gems is an account of the many pennames used by science fiction writers, using Appendix N authors Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore as an example.
Although fans and scholars have traced many of these pennames, much pseudonymous work has not been reprinted. The husband and wife writing team of Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore relied on at least seventeen pennames. Although there have been several anthologies of Moore and Kuttner's work, much of their writing, which helped shape the development and maturation of SF as a genre, remains between the covers of various pulp magazines (Kuttner and Moore, Two-Handed Engine). This fact is unfortunate because Kuttner and Moore were at times overshadowed by their pseudonyms and were not given credit for the sheer breadth and quality of their work. Some pulp magazines had issues largely written by Kuttner and Moore under various pseudonyms. They were such an effective writing team that if one of them stepped away from the typewriter for a minute the other could take over the story where the other writer left off (Clute, Encyclopedia, 827). Their stories were varied enough that some of their pennames conveyed a "heteronym," a term coined by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa who wrote his poetry and prose under a variety of pen names. Pessoa's heteronyms differ from pseudonyms in that he invented a biography and a different writing style for each of his "other selves." Kuttner and Moore's strongest heteronyms include "Lewis Padgett" and "Laurence O'Donnell." The Lewis Padgett stories, largely published in Astounding during the 40s and 50s include classics such as "The Twonky" and "Mimsy Were the Borogoves," and the Baldy series about persecuted supermen. The Padgett stories are slick, clever SF, with humor and complicated plots. The Lawrence O'Donnell stories, most notably "Clash by Night" and "Fury" are thematically complex with strong characterization and literary touches such as epigraphs, quotations, and mythological references. Kuttner and Moore also wrote under other pennames several superb science fantasy and far future novels for Startling Stories during the 40s. Kuttner and Moore's pennames conveyed distinct enough styles that fans might list their favorite writers as one or more Kuttner and Moore pseudonyms without connecting the pennames back to the original writers.
I am in awe of the skill needed, not just individually in the creation of distinct heteronyms, but also needed to work so seamlessly together as a team and in the other's heteronymic style.

It also makes me wonder what lost works of Appendix N are hidden in the moldering pages of the pulps.

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