Profiles: Henry Kuttner

If you didn’t know, Ray Bradbury passed away a few weeks ago; Bradbury was one of the greatest science fiction authors, and in fact, was just one of the greatest writers period. There’s quite a lot of people that are familiar with his work, but not too many people know about his writing teacher, Henry Kuttner.

Henry Kuttner was a writer in the 1940’s and 50’s, and someone who was on the periphery of many other great and considerably well known authors such as Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and William S. Burroughs. He was a writer whose work spanned from Science Fiction to horror, from simple fables to humorous folk tales, and despite both the obvious quantity (he wrote hundreds of short stories and dozens of novels) and widely agreed-upon quality (Richard Matheson dedicated I Am Legend to him, as thanks for the inspiration Kuttner was to him) of his stories, Kuttner has been relegated to dusty corners of used bookstores. With that in mind, here are some links to some of his stories you can buy for extremely cheap.

  1. One of Kuttner’s most loved creations was the alcoholic scientist Gallegher, who was only brilliant when blackout drunk.
  2. A collection of short stories focusing on the birth of a new race of mutants (no, it beat the X-Men by about 20 years), and their troubles against a world that hates and fears them.
  3. A newly packaged collection of some of Kuttner’s best stories, unfortunately packaged in conjunction with a failed movie, which can be safely ignored. This also has a very touching introduction by Ray Bradbury.

A few years ago, I was on vacation, I purchased the above Best of Henry Kuttner stories on a whim. I’d never read it, or even heard of him, and by the end of the trip, I’d finished it. Since then I’ve read that book dozens of times, to the point where soon, I’ll have to buy another copy just to be able to read it. I’ve given it out as gifts, recommended it to anyone I’ve ever met with even a cursory interest in Science-Fiction, so I strongly urge you to try him out. He was a great writer, and tragically one that’s far less revered than he deserved. To end things, here’s a nice quote from Ray Bradbury, found in the introduction of the Last Mimzy stories:

“Back in 1942 you will find my first horror story, published in the November issue of Weird Tales. It’s title is “The Cradle,” and the last three hundred words were written by Henry Kuttner. I had trouble with the story, sent it to Hank, and he responded with a complete ending. It was good. I couldn’t top it. I asked permission to use it. Hank said yes. That ending, today, is the only good part of that long-lost and deservedly well-buried story. It’s nice to be able to say that Henry Kuttner once collaborated with me.

Well, here’s his collection. It represents only a small part of the hundreds of stories he wrote. Kuttner had no family, but…

His children live here in this book.

They are lovely and special and fine.

I want you to meet them.”

-Ray Bradbury

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