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Miracle In Three Dimensions
C.L. Moore
Isle Press, 303 pages

C.L. Moore
C.L. Moore was born in 1911 in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was chronically ill as a child and spent much of her time reading literature of the fantastic. She left college during The Great Depression to work as a secretary at the Fletcher Trust Company in Indianapolis. Her first stories appeared in pulp magazines in the 1930s, including two significant series in Weird Tales.

Moore met Henry Kuttner, also a science fiction writer, in 1936 when he wrote her a fan letter (mistakenly thinking that "C. L. Moore" was a man), and they married in 1940. Afterwards, almost all of their stories were written in collaboration under various pseudonyms, most commonly "Lewis Padgett." Their stories include the classic "Mimsy were the Borogoves" (the basis for the film The Last Mimzy) and "Vintage Season." They also collaborated on a story that combined Moore's signature characters, Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry: "Quest of the Starstone" (1937). After Kuttner's death in 1958, Moore wrote almost no fiction and taught his writing course at the University of Southern California. C. L. Moore died on April 4, 1987 at her home in Hollywood, California.

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A review by Greg L. Johnson

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Miracle In Three Dimensions Catherine Moore is probably best known to SF and fantasy readers for her many collaborations with partner and husband Henry Kuttner, a partnership that produced such classics as "The Vintage Season" and "Mimsy Were The Borogoves." But before that Catherine was a successful writer on her own, and the stories of C.L. Moore were mainstays of the science fiction magazines of the 30s. This was the pulp era, a time when magazine SF was in its infancy and writers were making up the rules as they went along. Judging by the contents of Miracle In Three Dimensions, C.L. Moore invented as many of the rules of writing science fiction as anyone.

Take, for example, prose style. It's a common criticism of pulp writing that the style is crude or uneven. That may have been true of other writers, but hardly for C.L. Moore. The prose style of a story like "The Bright Illusion" is hardly crude, though it is different than the mainstream fiction of its time. In stories like this Moore is writing in a grand, romantic style that presents impressions and ideas on a wide canvas, one that evokes ancient myths and archetypes and encompasses vast reaches of space and time. A clipped, sparse prose style would simply not work as well to create the right atmosphere and sense of epic drama the story requires.

Character is another issue. In a series of notes to the stories, Ian Lohr argues that here C.L. Moore is engaged in a kind of minimalism, where a character has the least necessary amount of individuality in order to carry a larger burden of symbolism and ideas. It works in a story like "Greater Glories" where an unnamed man's encounter with a strange, god-like computer produces a meditation on man, woman, and love. But there are also times, such as "Doorway Into Time" where a little more time spent on characterization could have improved the story of a man, a woman, and the alien who captures them. That Moore could create believable, fleshed-out characters when the story called for it is evidenced by "here lies," a murder mystery that is also the only non fantasy or SF story in the collection.

Still, the roots of science fiction as a genre that emphasizes setting over character, with its own sense of style as to how best convey the ideas that writers wanted to present, are apparent in almost every story in Miracle In Three Dimensions. Catherine Moore and writers like her didn't invent science fiction, but they did establish many of the conventions and ideas that turned SF into a popular genre. Above all, they invoked a sense of wonder, expressing a feeling that there were forces greater and grander in the universe than one individual, or even one species. And few, if any, writers of her time did that better than C.L. Moore.

Copyright © 2008 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson was amused to discover the Isle Press's fidelity to the original material extended all the way to leaving many of the original mistakes and typos in the text intact. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.


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