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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Henry Kuttner Fury 1947

Fury, Henry Kuttner, 1947, Steert and Smith Publications, Inc. Originally published under the pseudonym of Lawrence O'Donnell. This book: Prestige Books, undated. Magnum # 75413.

Introduction C. L. Moore

This is ffie story behind the story of FURY. It's as good a way as any I can think of to write an introduction to the present edition.

Henry Kuttner and I made our living by writing. So of course FURY was written primarily for money. But since we deliberately chose this rather agonizing way of making a living, we must have got something more than money out of it, and of course we did.

There, is a wonderful point in many stories which comes after the characters and the general lines of action are set, when things begin to move by themselves. This is where the unconscious takes over. All the writer's submerged beliefs and fears and hopes come surging joyfully to the surface to take full charge, and the writer's only function is to type fast enough to keep up. This happy state unfortunately isn't common. But when it does come, there are few greater pleasures in life.

The reason, of course, it that (besides the necessary money) such stories bring their writers that glorious freefall sensation which is a kind of catharsis of the unconscious. Characters personifying one's deeply felt beliefs and values test them out in action in a fictional world. You don't know at the time what's happened. You just know you feel wonderful. Long afterward, rereading the work, you can see what lies just under the surface.

Yesterday I reread' FURY for the first time in many years, and I'm not surprised, but interested, to see in it the two recurring themes which emerge quite explicitly in nearly everything we wrote. Hank's basic statement was something like, "Authority is dangerous and I will never submit to it." Mine was, "The most treacherous thing in life is love." In FURY these two ideas underlie everything that happens. I can identify which parts I contributed and which he did by this alone.

FURY was written by about one and an eighth persons. We collaborated on almost everything we wrote, but in varying degrees. It worked like this. After we'd established through long discussion the basic ideas, the background and the characters, whichever of us felt like it sat down and started. When that one ran down, the other, being fresh to the story, could usually see what ought to come next, and took over. The action developed as we went along. We kept changing off like this until we finished. A story goes very fast that way.

Each of us edited the other's copy a little when we took over, often going back a line or two and rephrasing to make the styles blend. We never disagreed seriously over the work. The worst clashes of opinion I can remember ended with one of us saying, "Well, I don't agree, but since you feel more strongly than I do about it, go ahead." (When the rent is due tomorrow, one tends toward quick, peaceful settlements.)

In FURY, which is a good example of this process, I wrote comparatively little of the copy. The idea was basically Hank's and I didn't identify very strongly with it. I didn't identify with Sam Reed, the lead character. But what I did contribute I can recognize instantly, after all these years, by the passages in which color-images pre-dominate, and in which my dramatically gloomy theme appears.

Rereading the book now, I find I enjoy it very much. I can accept the theme of FURY. I can even accept Sam, feeling rather horrified at my own acceptance of what he acomplished. Given the basic premise of the story, he had to be what he was - utterly ruthless, terribly intelligent, terribly vulnerable, fighting every hour of his life by every savage form of trickery, betrayal, murder, to reach a goal he was never truly aware of.
The premise is that manidnd, having settled down in a luxurious Eden of the future, with no challenges left, would slowly strangle in its own inertia if, out of somewhere, a deliverer did not come with a flaming sword to drive them back to life.
In this case life is the almost intolerable condition on the continents of Venus, full of the fury of mindless animal and vegetable and insect life gone wild with growth and death. Even the soil and the air are alive with fierce bacterial forms in constant struggle for survival widl every other lifeorm on the planet.

How Sam fulfills this challenge, by the most complex methods, for the worst of motives, is the story of FURY,

I often think about that last line, too. And wonder.

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