'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Black God's Kiss by CL Moore.

Jirel stands defeated as Joiry is conquered by Guillaume. Captured and imprisoned Jirel escapes and seeks a weapon to exact her revenge. Is revenge worth it at any cost?

Today I want to talk to you about to a pulp author from the 1930s that is new to me and perhaps to you as well. CL Moore was published in the same magazine that published many of Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith's stories; Weird Tales. I believe I became aware of CL Moore through CromCast Podcast, and due to their work had a basic idea of the story line of this tale.

The main character is "Jirel of Joiry" a warrior and Lady of Joiry. Although female characters are not unheard of, what sets Jirel apart is that her author was also a woman. Catherine Lucile Moore wrote under the name CL Moore and perhaps this allowed her to get published? This was the 1930s after all. That is supposition on my part as the artists who create the risque covers for Weird tales was also a woman. With that bit of background behind us I thought I would try my hand at a little review of this enjoyable pulp story who's character never rose to the fame of Conan and Robert E Howard or the Cthulhu Mythos and HP Lovecraft.

The Black God's Kiss was published in Weird Tales in October 1934, vol. 24, no. 4. I enjoyed the story and the character of Jirel and will be looking forward to continuing her adventures. I felt it stood on it's own and wasn't just a carbon copy of other heros I had read. It kept me interested as Jirel progressed across her journey with both good visuals and some depth to the story. I highly recommend you pick up this story and give Jirel and CL Moore a try. This was clearly an important character from the time of the pulps that is often overlooked.

The story was enjoyable and it flowed well. I found when I had put it down to go do something else, I was drawn back to the story to find out what would happed to Jirel, clearly the mark of a good tale! There was a few places I had to go back over and re-read to fully comprehend what had happened, but it was very few and I didn't find it hurt my enjoyment of the story. For good or bad depending on your opinion, I felt that CL Moore was less "thesaurasy" than some of the other pulp writers I am familiar with, especially Clark Ashton Smith. I felt this took a little potential flavor out of the story, but substitued it with easy of flow and language across nearly a century.

I think the story was paced well and had a lot of interesting visuals and ideas within it's pages. On it's surface it starts as a simple revenge story, but quickly becomes a question of what is actually worth sacrificing for that revenge. I especially liked this lack of black and white. Revenge wasn't portrayed as a simple right and wrong. Jirel being the hero doesn't instantly make her revenge justified or even a correct course of action. Jirel isn't just a carbon copy of the other Heros of her day, she feels like she has her own motivations, ideas and needs.

"I know. Do you think I'd venture down if I could not be sure? Where else would I find such a weapon as I need, save outside God's dominion?"

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