Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blavatsky and Science Fiction

Locus Online, the website of the magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field, carries a May 25 review by Stefan Dziemianowicz of a new collection of short stories by the American science fiction writer Henry Kuttner. He points out how the writer referenced his tales.

Probably the most interesting aspect of Kuttner’s shudder pulp stories is their esoteric references to the work of Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and other writers of supernatural fiction, as well as the teachings of celebrity occultists like Madame Blavatsky. (References to The Book of Dzyan, an ancient book of Tibetan lore that Madame Blavatsky was fond of flogging, appear in several tales, notably the title story.) Like his mentor, Lovecraft, the young Kuttner was reading and absorbing the work of a lot of different writers, and he knew that mentioning them in a story helped to enhance the verisimilitude of the seemingly supernatural shenanigans.

Blavatsky’s influence in the field of science fiction is another area that has not received enough attention. The collection by Kuttner (1915–1958), Terror in the House: The Early Kuttner, Volume One, is comprised of stories published in the 1930s. The rest of Stefan Dziemianowicz’s review can be read here.

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