The distinctive literary style and unusual ideas of science fiction pioneer Henry Kuttner
A writer who has not received due recognition from readers is not uncommon in literature. Henry Kuttner was one of them. Having received great acclaim from his colleagues and followers, Kuttner did not gain widespread fame among the fans.
Briefly about the writer
Being one of the very first science fiction writers, Kuttner can hardly be called a pioneer who laid the foundations for future writers – no, Henry wrote on topics that were usual for that time. He was distinguished by a special literary style, a sense of humor, unusual ideas and the way he beat the stamps that were developing in those days. His literary career lasted a little less than a quarter of a century, during which he managed to try himself in a variety of genres.
Kuttner wrote using more than a dozen pseudonyms, making it impossible to establish the exact number of works he wrote.
Ray Bradbury once admitted that Kuttner finished his first horror story Candle (published in Weird Tales magazine, November 1942).
William Burroughs, in The Ticket That Burst, literally quotes Kuttner, who described the parasite monster in The Happy Cloak.
Henry Kuttner began writing when he was just twenty years old. Without a proper education, Kuttner undertook various genres and topics, from science fiction to mysticism, detective and eroticism, publishing under various pseudonyms.
Childhood and youth
Henry Kuttner was born in Los Angeles, California in 1915.
On the paternal side, his family has Germanic roots – in 1859 his grandfather, Naftaly Kuttner, together with his wife Amelia arrived from Leszno in Prussia in San Francisco. On the maternal side is of British origin.
When Henry was very young, his father passed away and his family began to experience financial problems. The boy had to start earning money from childhood. As a teenager, he worked part-time at his uncle’s literary agency, where he was able to look from the inside at the writing, publishing and editorial work.
Then he began his first attempts to write. According to Kuttner’s overseas fans, the first finished and published work of the future master was The Monkey Wrench, published under the pseudonym Bertram W. Williams in the August 1931 issue of Jungle Stories magazine. At the beginning of 1936, he sold his story “Rats of the Cemetery” to Weird Tales magazine, already well-known to us.
Working at a literary agency, he was able to give the green light to several promising authors. One of them was Lee Brackett, who in the future wrote the script for the 5th episode of Star Wars. Henry read several of her manuscripts, edited and helped sell them to Astounding Stories.
Kuttner maintained contact with many other writers of the time, including E. Hoffman Price and Clark Ashton Smith.
In the 30s, he willingly wrote in collaboration with Robert Bloch, who later became a no less popular writer, in the 40s – with the much less well-known Arthur C. Barnes. The fruits of cooperation with the first of these writers – at least four stories, for a long time inaccessible to the Russian-speaking reader. Only in the last couple of years, thanks to the efforts of enthusiastic translators, we were finally able to get acquainted with the “Black Kiss aka Sea Kissed” in 1937 and “The Grab Bag”, written no earlier than 1937, for the first time published in 1991.
Co-authorship of Kuttner with A.K. Barnes turned out to be more fruitful: their joint efforts created a whole cycle of stories about the adventures of Pete Manks, a time traveler. These stories are also translated into Russian only recently.
Creative activity and the path to fame
In the mid-1940s, Kuttner worked on Green Lantern comics, a character in the DC universe (Detective Comics). In addition, he continued to publish in magazines. His first story, “A Million Years to Conquer,” was published in 1940, followed by a number of others.
A very large role in the work of Henry was played by his wife, Katherine Moore, also a famous American writer and science fiction writer. Friends of the couple said that their cooperation was so smooth and natural that after writing a story or a story, they could not remember who wrote what.
According to the couple, it was normal for any of them to tear themselves away from history in the middle of a paragraph or even in the middle of a sentence, with the manuscript page still in a typewriter. The other spouse usually continued the story where the first stopped. They could do this several times until the story ended.
Henry met his future wife through a group of writers who corresponded with Howard Lovecraft (as you remember, Robert Howard was also a member), presumably in 1938. Two years later, they got married and later worked together on all their works. For 18 years of marriage, the couple’s children did not appear.