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 1930s 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/
1. SHAMBLEAU (1933) – In this Northwest Smith debut story our anti-hero is lying low between smuggling capers in the Martian city of Lakkdarol. While passing time in the more dangerous quarters of the city Northwest gets the hots for a Martian woman of the Shambleau species and saves her from being killed by a pursuing mob of Martians, Earth colonists and expatriate swamp-men from Venus.
Thinking with his man-parts Smith disregards the warnings of the mob and not only drives them off but takes the nubile Shambleau back to his hole of a hotel room to pass the time until his Venusian partner Yarol can catch up with him. In between perilous forays out to dangerous back-alley taverns like New Chicago and The Martian Lamb in search of word about Yarol the Shambleau lures Northwest Smith into a darker and darker erotic relationship.
Before he realizes it the smuggler finds himself addicted to the other-worldly sensual thrills that come courtesy of the Shambleau and her mass of snakelike hair: a writhing collection of tentacular veins and nerve-endings that roam the Shambleau’s partners during intimate acts. C.L. Moore is like a science fiction version of Anne Rice as she lyrically describes the simultaneous ecstacy, dread and disgust that fill Smith … even as he hungers for more and more of the Shambleau.
Can Chewie – I mean Yarol – save his partner from the clutches of this odd being? Well, yes, of course, but along the way the reader gets treated to a more surreal and repulsively erotic tale than one might expect from a 1930’s story.
2. BLACK THIRST (1934) – Though Yarol would feature more prominently as the Northwest Smith stories went along this second outing is once again focused on Smith in solo action. The space outlaws are on Venus this time around and while Yarol is off pursuing his own kind of fun on his homeworld Smith is left to his own devices.
In one of the seaport cities Smith finds himself embroiled in an adventure featuring the Mingas, an aristocratic Venusian caste of glorified pimps who traffic in supplying humanoid women for brothels across the solar system and beyond. The Mingas genetically enhance their female “merchandise” to fit the various desires and fetishes of their clientelle.
All of these interplanetary courtesans can be sent out to ply their trade as pure as the driven snow since the Mingas themselves are a Venusian species who don’t need sex – their vice involves getting intoxicated by the sheer physical beauty of their genetically engineered “products” … and the most exquisitely crafted beauties are kept for their own appreciation in the bowels of the Mingan castles.
Flabby and sluggish Venusian eunuchs, horrors from the depths of the coal-black seas of Venus and a trip through increasingly perverse circles of biologically distorted women await Northwest Smith in this odd tale. Vaudir, one of the well-crafted beauties seeking escape from the harem of Far-Thursa Castle is our ruthless hero’s companion in this story. Unfortunately Vaudir is just one of many sultry female acquaintances of Smith who go the way of James Bond’s women in these adventures.
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