Re: RARA-AVIS: Noir sf: Leigh Brackett: Moore

From: foxbrick (
Date: 26 Oct 2007

--- In, "Richard Moore" <moorich@...> wrote:
> One other suggestion, perhaps out of left field, are some of the
> stories by Leigh Brackett from the pulps of the 1940s. Brackett
> a great admirer of Chandler and herself wrote a hardboiled
> 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
> 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
> the spare, laconic prose and psychically wounded heros of
> Hammett and Chandler into the sf pulp...It was why she could move
> 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
> 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.

Except that Brackett could write and Fenimore Cooper couldn't. Her space opera was as sophisticated as the form has been, hugely influential on Poul Anderson, Charles Harness and the other important "next-gen" writers in that form...if I'd read enough of the latter day literary New space opera folk to say, I'd be surprised not to see her influence there, as well. She really was as good as Richard suggests (and I hadn't read this yet when noting the use of the term "science fantasy"--she really does need to be mentioned when discussing that form, as do C. L. Moore and Fritz Leiber...both of whom also wrote noirish or hardboiled CF work from time to time).

Todd Mason

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