Creator / Henry Kuttner
Henry Kuttner was the author of many sci-fi and fantasy short stories in The Thirties
, and Fifties
He was one of the "Lovecraft
Circle", and contributed a number of elements to the Cthulhu Mythos
Kuttner liked the writing of fellow science-fiction writer C. L. Moore
, so a mutual acquaintance, H. P. Lovecraft, gave him Moore's address. Lovecraft failed to mention that 'C. L.' stood for 'Catherine Lucille', so Kuttner addressed his fan letter to 'Mr. C. L. Moore'. Even so, Kuttner and Moore fell in love and eventually married, frequently working as a Creator Couple
Among his works are the comedic Galloway Gallegher stories, which concern an inventor who reaches unimaginable heights of genius while drunk, which invariably causes trouble when he wakes up the day after with a hangover and no idea what his latest creation is supposed to do.
Some of Kuttner's works have been adapted for film. His short story, "The Twonky", was filmed in 1953, while "Mimsy Were the Borogroves" was adapted into The Last Mimzy
in 2007. "What You Need" was adapted as an episode
of The Twilight Zone
, and "The Graveyard Rats" as a segment of Trilogy of Terror II
Kuttner is not as well known as many of his contemporaries, mostly due to his death at the relatively young age of 42.
Tropes that appear in Kuttner's works include:
- After the End: The Black Sun Rises is set in the dark age following a nuclear war.
- AI Getting High: "The Ego Machine" has a robot putting his fingers in a light bulb socket. Apparently, it's the robot's analogue of taking a shot of whiskey.
- The Alcoholic: Gallegher has a severe and probably hereditary drinking problem, which the stories play for comedy.
- Alternative Number System: In "The Iron Standard", the six-fingered Venusians use base-12.
- Asshole Victim: Virtually all the characters in Kuttner's comedy stories are completely self-interested and come to some misfortune, sometimes consequently but also sometimes merely subsequently. See also Sadist Show below.
- The setting of the Elak of Atlantis sword-and-sorcery tales.
- Part of the backstory of the Hogben Family series, with the patriarch of the family supposedly being a survivor from Atlantis.
- Becoming the Mask: In "Private Eye" by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, the main character radically changes his identity in order to give himself an alibi for a murder he is planning. Since the police have chronoscopes in the future, he needs to play the role to the hilt. At the end he realizes he liked his new identity better.
- Bizarre Baby Boom:
- The 1953 novel Mutant has the "baldies", bald telepathic humans who were born after a nuclear war and subsequent fallout.
- A story called "Absalom" where more and more smarter and smarter children are born every generation. There is a problem with the older generations being envious and afraid.
- Brown Note/Ear Worm: In "Nothing But Gingerbread Left", a semantics professor develops a German-language ditty so catchy that a person hearing it will be able to do nothing but think about it. It is broadcast in occupied Europe as weapon against the Nazis.
- Chrome Dome Psi: The 1953 Fix Up Novel Mutant by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner compiled five short stories about a race of post-nuclear mutated humans called "Baldies" who are telepathic and completely hairless.
- Conqueror from the Future: "Endowment Policy" has a variant: a person tries to set his own past self as the world dictator.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Satirized in Don't Look Now
- Dark World: The setting of the novel The Dark World, an alternate version of Earth which has drifted into a fantasy world, although the magic is given a scientific explanation.
- Deal with the Devil: In "By These Presents", a man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for immortality and invulnerability — with two conditions, the combination of which gets him in the end.
- Death by Irony: Vanning in "Time Locker"
- Drunken Master: Gallegher's genius is activated only when drunk.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: MacDuff in The Voice of the Lobster
- For Want of a Nail: "What You Need" by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore) features what might be called a "nail salesman". He provides, for a significant fee, rather mundane items to a restricted clientele. These items turn out to be exactly what the clients need shortly thereafter (for example, a man receives a pair of scissors, which he uses to snip his tie when it gets caught in machinery; had he not had the scissors on him at the time, he would have been killed).
- Genetic Memory: In The Mask of Circe, a 20th-century descendant of the mythic hero Jason gains his ancestor's memories.
- Heroic Fantasy:
- Elak of Atlantis
- Valley of Flame
- The Dark World
- Ignore the Disability: Discussed in "Nothing But Gingerbread Left".
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Gallegher in "Time Locker", when he realizes that Vanning had reached into the future and crushed himself.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The Furies are programmed to enforce this in Two-Handed Engine.
- In "The Prisoner in the Skull", Fowler exploits this major telepath devoid of volition for his own gain, only for it to turn out that "Norman" is really Fowler himself given powers his brain cannot handle and sent back in time.
- Literary Allusion Title: "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" is a line from the surreal first verse of the poem "Jabberwocky", the secret meaning of which is a plot point in the story.
- The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Averted in "What You Need"; the proprietor of the little shop that sells you exactly what you're about to need notes he's been there for years. It's just a very low-key place.
- Make Wrong What Once Went Right: "Endowment Policy".
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: "The Iron Standard"
- Off with His Head!: Done posthumously by the headhunters in Home Is the Hunter.
- Physical God: Horrifyingly, one of the main characters in "Ex Machina" is revealed to be a de facto god.
- Robotic Psychopath: Although he's frequently likened to Narcissus and is definitely autosexual (in the sense of being sexually attracted to oneself), Gallegher's robot Joe also seems to legitimately have narcissistic personality disorder. The extent of his autocracy extends far beyond "Second Law" My Ass!.
- Sadist Show: The default tactic of Kuttner's comedy stories is to make the protagonist suffer and suffer without surcease.
- Society Marches On: The distant future that Gallegher inhabits is distinctly similar to 1940s urban America.
- Single Task Robot: Gallegher's robot, Joe, was created after Gallegher set out to create a simple device for a single purpose, went overboard and ended up with a Do-Anything Robot with all kinds of extra abilities — which refuses to obey any order not relating to the original single purpose.
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Gallegher's robot Joe possesses a wide variety of amazing functions that are all completely incidental to the robot's primary function. Played for laughs.
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Book of Iod, in his Cthulhu Mythos stories.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Get knocked for a loop by "Nothing But Gingerbread Left".
- Venus Is Wet: In "Clash by Night" and Fury, Venus is an ocean world where the landmasses are dominated by uninhabitable jungle, forcing the colonists from Earth to live in underwater cities.
- Vorpal Pillow: In "By These Presents", a man kills his disabled mother this way after selling his soul to the Devil.
- Was Once a Man: Gnomes in A Gnome There Was
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The neo-Viking leader in The Black Sun Rises started out this way.
- What Did I Do Last Night?: The driving force of the Gallegher stories.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A theme in "Camouflage", which features a cyborg implanted into a starship as its central character.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: In "The Iron Standard", a spaceship crew is starving on Venus because gold and silver are too common there, the society is too conservative to buy any of their devices, and the main medium of exchange is iron, which they only have as alloys.
- Zeerust: Inevitable.