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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Black God's Kiss" by C. L. Moore

First appeared in Weird Tales.  Reprinted (in a few genre retrospectives) by L. Sprague de Camp, Robert Silverberg, Martin H. Greenberg, Jessica Yates, Jacob Weisman, David G. Hartwell.


Jirel of Joiry, their commander, is brought before Guillaume the conqueror, struggling so fiercely that her captors struggle to hold her despite her ropes.  They remove the commander's mask:  He's a she!

Guillaume forces a kiss on her (presumably of the title).  She bites his neck, and he backhands her.  She awakes in a cell and shrieks.  The guard investigates, and she escapes.

She finds Father Gervase.  She wants a weapon to destroy Guillaume with a weapon from hell.  She descends a circular tunnel.

She encounters a mirror self that tells her to enter, but she refuses.  The mirror self laughs when she seeks a weapon to kill Guillaume. She fights her way out but knows that she must strike or it will strike her.


She kills Guillaume with a kiss and immediately regrets it.


This is a surprising one.  The man painted as evil becomes the man of love.  While perhaps intimated somewhat through both of their loves of violence, through the kiss, as a guy it's hard to buy.  On the other hand, there's a long literary history of quarreling lovers--Gone with the Wind, most famously--but usually the two exchange more attempts at love?  Or maybe that's the problem, that she didn't recognize love until it was too late--and the mirror-self knew this unconsciously through the laughter.
"Jirel was... equal in battle to any swashbuckling male hero.... Every male reader loved the story.... [T]he first one remained marginally the best and most original."
--Lester Del Rey,  The Best of C.L. Moore

"If you have read past Shambleau to Jirel, you will probably have noticed what a close relationship the two women bear to one another.... [B]oth were versions of the self I'd like to have been."
--C.L. Moore,  The Best of C.L. Moore

"[H]er work has a texture and emotional intensity[,....] lyrical fluency and the power to evoke a Sense of Wonder in the past-haunted interstellar venues that were her specialty."
--Science Fiction Encyclopedia on C. L. Moore in general.

C. L. Moore on how she constructed stories

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