Saturday, October 22, 2022

Where I’m mean to Henry Kuttner

I have been going through a phase of reading a bunch of Henry Kuttner’s short stories after I read his Hogben stories. And, in the process, I learned he was a part of the Lovecraft Circle. That’s the bunch of folks who not only wrote Mythos stories but corresponded with Lovecraft himself.

And the circle included some pretty big names. Robert E Howard. Clark Ashton Smith. Robert Bloch. August Derleth (who is admittedly more famous for keeping Lovecraft in print than anything he wrote) And there are others (Like Frank Bellknap Long, who seems to only be remembered for writing The Hounds of Tindalos. Which is worth remembering) Lovecraft was a letter writing fiend.

But I wasn’t familiar with Kuttner being part of the circle and I’ve been reading Mythos stuff for most of my life. And it’s not like I’d never heard of Kuttner. I first read his Gallagher stories in high school.

So I went and read some of the stories that were part of Kuttner’s Mythos work. And, for the most part, it fell short of having a Mythos feel. I’m not asking for cosmic horror and despair but I do want some level of greater scope and the inexplicable.

The best of what I read was the Graveyard Rats, which has nothing remotely Mythos related. It probably just gets lumped in because it’s a really strong, cracking good story. Well, that got me to read it so I’m not complaining.

The Spawn of Dagon was one that particularly struck me because it used the deep ones as essentially a competing race with humanity, not something outside of nature and rational thought. It was pulpy sword and sorcery with a Myrhos post it on it.

Not that there is anything wrong with pulpy sword and sorcery. And it can be combined very well with Mythos. Robert E. Howard’s Worms of the Earth is a magnificent example of blending those two genres.

Kuttner could write. Just not Mythos.

There are many authors who took the seeds that Lovecraft planted (in a graveyard on a moonless night, possibly using a human femur for the shovel… I let the metaphor get away from me, didn’t I?) and wrote memorable works. For me at least, Kuttner didn’t pull it off.

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