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/
7. THE COLD GRAY GOD (1935) – A smuggling jaunt has brought Northwest Smith back to Mars. While hanging out in the cold and snowy Martian city of Righa our hero gets hired by a most unusual client. Her name is Jaida, a beautiful Venusian woman who years previously had been THE singing sensation of the Cabaret circuit at the network of casinos and leisure resorts of Jupiter’s colonized moons. At the height of her fame Jaida turned her back on success and went into seclusion.
It turns out the former singer “found religion” in the form of the esoteric worship of The Un-Nameable One, the god of Mars’ distant past. The god is worshipped now only by super-secretive cults throughout the solar system; cults which claim to know the secrets of the ancient lettering which adorns most Martian households but whose meaning has long been forgotten. Jaida hires Smith to recover a stolen relic of the dark religion from the Righa crook who nabbed it.
Northwest Smith succeeds in obtaining the purloined item, and the crook he stole it from either commits suicide or is killed by the mysterious clients he stole the relic for. (The exact circumstances are left vague in the story) Smith turns the object over to Jaida, but instead of getting paid the enormous amount of money the singer promised him our hero is instead designated to be one of the first human sacrifices to The Un-Nameable One when the cult brings him back to the material universe.
The Un-Nameable One had been banished millions of years ago by the holy men of the time using the now-indecipherable runes of their era. Smith is in danger of being killed and his body possessed by the nameless entity just as Jaida’s was. Even worse is the fact that the Un-Nameable One plans to conquer the entire solar system and beyond once it is restored to the physical plane. Once again acting to save himself Northwest Smith coincidentally saves countless other lives at the same time. He prevents The Un-Nameable One’s resurrection and destroys the relic so the forgotten deity may never again be conjured up.
8. YVALA (1936) – Northwest Smith and his partner Yarol are still on Mars at the start of this story. They’re back in the Martian spaceport city of Lakkdarol, which sounds like a prescription drug but isn’t. The two are in another down period money-wise and this time things are so bad Yarol has been forced to hock his blaster for food. Smith and Yarol are desperate for any smuggling gig but at present their competitors have beaten them to all the jobs smuggling shaven fur and “wool” from Martian animal life on the outward flights and smuggling various intoxicating substances from throughout the solar system on the inward flights.
With no other alternatives at the present moment our two heroes are forced to leave their ship The Maid in spacedock and sign on as crew members for the type of work they normally stay far away from: the smuggling of sex slaves. Just to get the meals that they’ll be entitled to as crewmen Northwest and Yarol find themselves working for the despised Willard Family, a multi-generational crime clan which for decades has specialized in illegally transporting sex slaves for any and all lifeforms as well as any and all sexual proclivities.
A space pilot marooned temporarily on one of the uncolonized moons of Jupiter was rescued by a Willard spacecraft and the now-maddened pilot told an odd tale. He claimed that the jungle-infested moon was home to a race of beautiful women and that he alone of all his crew had been able to resist the allure of the women and set off the crashed ship’s distress beacon. Since the Willards are as lacking in scruples as Weyland-Yutani Corporation is the crime family feels they’ve hit the jackpot: unregistered and uncategorized lifeforms on a presumed uninhabited moon. In other words an abundance of sex-slaves protected by NO world’s laws or treaties.
Our two heroes and their new fellow crewmen fly to the Jovian moon in a Willard craft. Once there they face the moon’s steaming-hot jungle climate plus carnivorous plant life of all kinds and sizes, including vines that act as tentacles and huge flowers that devour the moon’s animal life like gigantic Venus flytraps. Using their blasters our lead characters fight their way through the alien jungle and at last verify the marooned pilot’s story. The moon is home to a host of beautiful women who all look the same and all go by the name Yvala.
The temptresses lure our heroes to the white-stoned ruins of the last surviving city of the moon’s original inhabitants. As the tale continues amid those ruins Smith and Yarol’s colleagues meet their doom but our two lead characters escape after learning the truth about Yvala.
SPOILER: In this story C.L. Moore used a story element that, decades later Star Trek and similar programs would use repeatedly – an alien figure who played a part in Earth’s mythology from thousands of years earlier. Yvala is a space parasite who travels from planet to planet and during her stay on Earth was called Circe. Odysseus drove her off the Earth but she simply moved on to other inhabited bodies eventually reducing all their life forms to primitive beasts.
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