Saturday, June 15, 2013
YEAR 1933: SHAMBLEAU
The short-story "Shambleau" was the first professional sale of C.L. (Catherine Lucille) Moore, appearing in the November 1933 issue of WEIRD TALES. It introduced Moore's gun-wielding hero Northwest Smith, and begins on a futuristic version of Mars, colonized by Earthmen like Smith but still inhabited by more primitive native Martians. Smith saves a mysterious alien girl from a mob who call her by the name "Shambleau." Smith does not initially know why the mob hates her, but he claims her to save her from death. The mob leaves in a mood of disgust, and Smith takes the woman to his own dwelling. There, as the book cover above shows, the Earthman learns the folly of taking in unknown alien, as "Shambleau" is the alien source of the myth of Medusa. Smith only survives Shambleau's soul-sucking attentions thanks to the intervention of a friend.
All the references to Greek mythology aside, purple passages like this one make clear what Shambleau really represents:
In nightmares until he died he remembered that moment when the living tresses of Shambleau first folded him in their embrace. A nauseous, smothering odor as the wetness shut around him—thick, pulsing worms clasping every inch of his body, sliding, writhing, their wetness and warmth striking through his garments as if he stood naked to their embrace.