The Mask of Circe Essay - Critical Essays

Henry Kuttner


After Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore were married in 1940, they collaborated to some extent on all their work. Kuttner received the sole byline for both the magazine and book publication of this novel, to which Moore made significant contributions.

The Mask of Circe is reminiscent of the works of A. Merritt, particularly The Ship of Ishtar (1926; first published in Argosy, 1924), with which it shares a vividly descriptive narrative style and the plot device of mysteriously transporting a man from Earth into another world, where characters from mythology exist. The Mask of Circe was one of several short novels the Kuttners wrote in the late 1940’s for Startling Stories, others being “The Portal in the Picture” (1949; book form as written by Lewis Padgett and C. L. Moore, Beyond Earth’s Gates, 1954), The Time Axis (1949; book form, 1965), Valley of the Flame (1946; book form, 1964), and The Dark World (1946; book form, 1965). These science fantasies, in which elements of fantasy stories are rationalized in the manner of science fiction, marked a departure from the science-fiction work they produced for John W. Campbell, Jr.’s Astounding Science-Fiction magazine, such as Mutant (1945-1953; book form as by Lewis Padgett, 1953, and as by Kuttner, 1954) and Fury (1947, as by Lawrence O’Donnell; book form, 1950).

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