Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of another neglected pulp hero – in this case Northwest Smith. Created by the female author C.L. Moore in the 1930′s Northwest Smith was a ruthless outer-space smuggler and mercenary decades before Han Solo. With his Venusian partner Yarol at his side and armed with a trusty blaster Smith roamed the solar system in his deceptively fast spaceship The Maid. In the course of their criminal pursuits the two often found themselves in the role of reluctant heroes, sometimes with the fate of entire planets at stake. For more on Northwest Smith and other neglected pulp heroes click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/
5. JULHI (1935) – After a smuggling run to Venus Northwest Smith foolishly lets his guard down in an underworld tavern and gets shanghaied away to the Venusian island called Vonng. Smith is the latest kidnap victim from lowlife hangouts to wake up weaponless on the deserted island as a sacrifice to Julhi, a lovely yet monstrous creature with a beautiful upper body but multiple lower limbs.
Julhi is just one of a race whose dimension shares the same space as Vonng’s crumbled ruins but where time passes much more slowly than in our realm. The story wouldn’t be out of place on the renewed Doctor Who series. Julhi and her kind are psychic vampires, draining memories and emotions from their prey like a traditional vampire drains blood to survive.
Northwest Smith’s sultry female companion in this adventure is named Apri, a Venusian who possesses psychic abilities which Julhi uses to travel between her dimension and ours. What Julhi wants most of all is to let all of her kind into our dimension so that they may have fresh food aplenty. Can Smith stop her? You already know the answer to that.
6. NYMPH OF DARKNESS (1935) – The Venusian port city of Ednes is on the tip of a peninsula that juts so far out into the coal-black seas of Venus that unnamed horrors from the depths regularly emerge from the waters and roam the night-darkened waterfront streets looking to satisfy appetites of all kinds. If you’re lucky all they’ll do is eat you. Even the city’s patrolmen stay huddled inside for the hours between midnight and dawn when the weird menagerie of creatures are at large.
Naturally that makes those hours the perfect time for the kind of illicit transactions that Northwest Smith and his clients engage in. Only the gutsiest and the most skilled of the criminal element dare to traverse the waterfront at such times and the inherent risks let them command very high prices for their services. Smith is making his cautious way through the perilous nighttime streets and alleyways of Ednes when he is drawn into one of his strangest adventures.
Our hero’s night among the horrors of Ednes sees him encounter Nyusa, a beautiful and naked mutant girl who is the product of a union between a Venusian woman and one of the crawling sea-creatures who mated with her when she fell into its clutches one night. Northwest does battle with Dolf, a hybrid monster of flesh and mist: yet another being spawned by bestial mating between the sea-beasts and their victims. He also finds himself fighting the Nov, a sluglike race (think of the Hutts) who pimpishly use Nyusa’s odd mutant powers for their own unfathomable purposes.
C.L. Moore was, like so many other sci-fi writers, startlingly prescient in this story with the way she seems to have intuited Dark Matter, a subject of intense interest among astrophysicists these days. But in Nymph of Darkness Moore presents the Dark Matter as possessing a sinister intelligence of its own. By story’s end the Nov have abused Nyusa to the breaking point and she unleashes powers she never knew she had.
The mutant maiden inflicts all manner of agony on the Nov but naturally spares Northwest Smith because of his chivalrous assistance to her during the story. With a parting kiss Nyusa departs the physical realm for spheres beyond human understanding.
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