This is the first part of the 2 Black God stories. For part 2, which I posted out of order inadvertently, search this blog for Black God’s Shadow.
Descrip: The Black God’s Kiss by the great C.L. Moore, one of the under-appreciated masters of fantasy and someone who we’ll see a lot more of here on the Thrilling Suspense Fantasy channel.
You know, a lot of critics praise C.L. Moore’s Jirel character as being right up there with Conan. I thought the Black God’s Shadow was good, but not on par with the couple of R.E. Howard’s Conan stories I’ve already read / heard. This is the 4th time I tried to get through Black God’s Kiss, because it doesn’t hold my attention like Howard’s stories do. Even now, I got all the way through the audiobook and I still didn’t get the point. Seriously, some warrior chick gets captured and kissed by her enemy, and suddenly she’s all a-flutter and hung up on him to where she has to kill him?
This whole love/hate thing… Ask me if I have a love/hate thing for my ex-wife, and then duck or you’re going to lose some teeth. I can handle some abstract fiction, but not all of it. I get the idea of romantically wanting someone that bends a character’s rigid mindset, and of purging said want to return to normalcy, and expressing it through fantasy fiction, but this story… Bleah.
This story was published in 1934, when C.L. Moore was 23. Okay, so maybe she had an obsession with dark men and this was her way of expressing it, and that plus the fact she’s a woman suddenly puts her into the same tier as Howard and Lovecraft. Maybe I’m just tired today, because after listening to Black God parts 1 and 2, I don’t think she’s anywhere near as good as H and L. I am going to take the time to read BG’s Kiss, just in case that will help me appreciate the finer points that I missed in the audio version.
Synopsis 1: Beautiful warrior chick can’t function anymore after an enemy black man captures and forcefully kisses her. Sounds legit.
Update: To be honest, I really have been tired for the last few days. In my head, I got the idea of the Black God mixed up with Guillaume potentially being a black guy, because of the way he was described in the story (his bright white smile is pointed out at least three times), and because I must be racist that way. Moving past that, I can say I did enjoy reading some of the supernatural aspects in Moore’s descriptions, BUT, there was too much of it and it did not move the story forward in any significant way, other than as eye-candy with dread-tinted glasses. Just enough would have kept the story going along smoothy for me, but too much was boring.
Because I’m focusing on Conan-type sword and sorcery, I think it’s natural that I compare Conan to Jirel. First off, if Conan hated someone that much, he would have gone after that person, even with his bare hands if necessary. We see that in the story The Tower Of The Elephant, where Conan kills the Kothian rogue in a room full of witnesses, after he was mocked. When Jirel loathes someone at that same level, she breaks out of her captive cell and runs away. Not only does she have to find a supernatural weapon to strike back, since normal weapons can’t possibly work, but she betrays her own religion and asks for help from a demon in that strange, Lovecraftian underworld Jirel always seems to end up in.
The underworld is so dark she can only see within it after taking her Holy Cross off, but she doesn’t see too much because things are always sneaking up on her. And then we get these startling points of white light that are always beautiful. A white woman, who is beautiful, hops around like a frog. A doppelganger of Jirel, who is beautiful, grants her wish. A pack of blind My Little Ponies runs around, like the Ghost Herd In The Sky, and of course, they are also beautiful. I guess the cherry on top is the comet that lands near Jirel, but she doesn’t head over to look at it, because she can’t lose her focus and she’s always the observer more than she is the participant.
After all that supernatural teasing, you would think there would be a complementing pay-off at the end of this story. You would think that the Black God’s Kiss, which was to be delivered to Jirel’s love/hate guy, would cause some kind of epic transformation, where his head splits apart, or tentacles come out of him, and he becomes Cthulhu spawn and kills his men in his other-worldly rage and this becomes a true Howard / Lovecraftian epic to inspire real fear into the reader forever. But no… Guillaume gets kissed, and he quivers a little and drops dead, and forget about the handful of men-at-arms standing around with their fingers up their butts, watching their leader die, but ahhh, oooh, Jirel hugs Father Cervais and whimpers over what she’s done, because… reasons.
In my opinion, Moore punked out. She could have gone all-out Lovecraft, since she saturates her first two stories with the trappings of that, and she still could have had her sad, romantic ending of, oh, Jirel had a hard-on for Guillaume but she couldn’t admit this to herself, because… womanly reasons. But no, Moore went Disney-weak and the last sentence has this supposedly mighty heroine blubbering her head off to the priest whose religion she betrayed for most of the story. The End. 2 stars!
Synopsis 2: After being defeated, a warrior is violated by an enemy and must end that enemy’s life, even if it means going against her principles. (C.L. Moore – Jirel, Black God’s Kiss)