Fury Essay - Critical Essays

Henry Kuttner


“Clash by Night” and Fury were first published in magazines as by Lawrence O’Donnell, one of the pen names used by Henry Kuttner and his wife, C. L. Moore. Fury was primarily his work. It was one of the first science-fiction novels to be selected for hardcover publication when the large, established commercial publishers—in this case, Grosset and Dunlap—became increasingly interested in science fiction in the early 1950s.

Fury was the only full-length science-fiction novel that Kuttner and Moore wrote for John W. Campbell, Jr.’s Astounding Science-Fiction magazine. At that time, they were writing science fantasy for other science-fiction magazines, such as The Mask of Circe (Startling Stories, May, 1948, as by Henry Kuttner, published in book form, 1971). They branched out into another genre, the crime novel, with such books as The Brass Ring (1946) and The Day He Died (1947), both published as by Lewis Padgett.

Fury is typical of much of the magazine science fiction of that era in having an extensive background and a plot loaded with incidents, both requiring a good deal of exposition. The Kuttners also were concerned with characterization and mood. Rather like a crime novel, Fury is distinctive for its unconventional, ruthless lead character and its unflattering view of humanity, which is portrayed as having the potential for a grand future—the exploration and settlement of the galaxy—but as seeming undeserving of it. In this book, most individuals, once their basic needs are comfortably met, are content with self-indulgent, perverse diversions. Humanity in the mass is so lacking in ambition, imagination, and diversity that its collective behavior can be predicted and its collective will easily manipulated. Its established, privileged leaders, the Immortals, can afford to take such a long view that they see no imperative for immediate major action to cure social ills. Without Sam Reed to give them something to match the furious, blind, unthinking drive to live and procreate exhibited by the flora and fauna on the surface, the human race would simply fade away. This philosophy is in marked contrast to the rationality and morality of the stories that make up the authors Mutant (1953, as by Lewis Padgett).