Re: RARA-AVIS: Noir Sci-fi

From: Richard Moore (
Date: 26 Oct 2007

To move from Noir SF (sorry but the term "Sci-fi" is considered by some to be a pejorative) to Hardboiled SF, one novel that comes to mind is POLICE YOUR PLANET. I do love that title and it fits a Spillane-like style and pace. It is by Lester Del Ray but was first published in 1953 in magazine and then in 1956 in book form as by Erik van Lhin. Del Ray later revised it in 1975 and it was published as by Lester Del Ray and Erik van Lhin--a collaboration with himself.

One other suggestion, perhaps out of left field, are some of the stories by Leigh Brackett from the pulps of the 1940s. Brackett was a great admirer of Chandler and herself wrote a hardboiled detective novel so good that Howard Hawks hired her to work with Faulkner on the adaptation of THE BIG SLEEP. Something of Chandler's stayed with her in her science fantasy stories. Chandler and Brackett were both romantics and favored the lone hero on a difficult quest.

As I was thinking about this I pulled down a Brackett collection to read the introduction by Michael Moorcock and found it very insightful. "She took as much from the likes of James M. Cain, who came from Maryland to use the sharp street language of Southern California as his inspiration, as she did from (Edgar Rice) Burroughs. She antedated cyberpunk by some fifty years, by bringing the spare, laconic prose and psychically wounded heros of Hemingway, Hammett and Chandler into the sf pulp...It was why she could move so easily between private eyes with a nasty past, star-weary spacers and moody cactus-cussers. And, of course, her lone outlaws, living on the edge of the civilised world, frequently commissioned to dare the unknown, are not a million miles from Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo..."

Brackett's brooding loner hero is exemplified in her stories of Eric John Stark. She wrote in a sub-form sometimes called science fantasy as it has elements of both SF and fantasy. In clumsy hands this can turn into a silly, juvenile mess but Brackett was a master and her best stories are transporting.

Richard Moore

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