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The interplanetary adventurer Northwest Smith trapped for food by Thag, a 4-dimensional monster, in the ruins of the ancient Martian city of Illar.
Dark Illar is the perfect desert ruin for trapping your PCs and getting them into a sci fi Gothic adventure. The place is a nasty nightmare location just waiting for PC's to blunder into a hellish encounter.
A Bit Background NorthWest Of Earth
These are classic C.L. Moore and their pulp science fiction roots show through. The fact that many of her stories seem to feature Lovecarftian god like aliens is simply icing on the cake. She remains one of my all time favorite writers. North West Smith is the classic anti hero adventurer/space which now seems the classic trope.
According To Wiki :
By profession, Smith is an outlaw who lives by a variety of criminal means, including smuggling. By nature, he is an anti-hero, ruthless, self-serving, and cynical. Despite this, he has a core of goodness and often does the right thing in spite of himself. Smith is described as a dark haired man with "space bronzed" skin and pale eyes, who wears brown spacer's leathers and carries a raygun at his side like an old west gunfighter. His ship, the Maid, is small and unspectacular but surprisingly fast and agile. His closest ally is the equally amoral Venusian, Yarol.
His stories often involve ancient alien beings who have been worshipped as gods. This theme is similar to the tales of H. P. Lovecraft though, unlike Lovecraft's tales, Moore provides a hero who always manages to win out over hopeless odds. The classic Northwest Smith story is "Shambleau" in which Moore plays with themes of sexuality and addiction in Smith's encounter with a strange female alien.
The story "Quest of the Starstone" is also worth noting because it connects Smith with Moore's other most famous character, Jirel of Joiry.
Moore originally created Smith as a western character and kept the name when she switched to science fiction. She reportedly liked the absurdity of a character named "Northwest" in space, where compass points are meaningless.
Moore traced the origin of the character's name to the typing work which she was doing for a living while writing Shambleau and which included a letter addressed to a "Mr. N.W.Smith"
You can find out more about the first lady of Science Fiction
The North West Stories and collections are the following :
- "Shambleau" (Weird Tales, November 1933). On Mars, Northwest rescues a strange, beautiful girl from the Lakkdarol mob. They become very close.
- "Black Thirst" (Weird Tales, April 1934). A Minga woman invites Northwest into the forbidden Venusian fortress where she lives. It turns out to be even larger than expected.
- "Scarlet Dream" (Weird Tales, May 1934). An oddly-patterned shawl that Northwest picks up in Lakkdarol gives him unpleasant dreams.
- "Dust of Gods" (Weird Tales, August 1934). Northwest and Yarol take a job searching for the physical remnants of a dead god in northern Mars.
- "Julhi" (Weird Tales, March 1935). Northwest takes a wrong turn in the ruins of Vonng, Venus.
- "The Cold Gray God" (Weird Tales, October 1935). In the polar city of Righa on Mars, Northwest meets a Venusian lady who isn't quite herself.
- "Yvala" (Weird Tales, February 1936). Northwest and Yarol go looking to capture slave-women on one of Jupiter's moons and find out more about themselves.
- "Lost Paradise" (Weird Tales, July 1936). A little old man with a big secret helps Northwest learn more about ancient Lunar history.
- "The Tree of Life" (Weird Tales, October 1936). In the ruins of Illar, Northwest finds out more about the Martian drylanders' past.
Fanzine stories and collaborations
- "Nymph of Darkness" (Fantasy Magazine fanzine, April 1935; written with Forrest J. Ackerman)
- "Quest of the Starstone" (Weird Tales, November 1937; written with Henry Kuttner)
- "Werewoman" (Leaves fanzine, Winter 1938/39)
- "Song in a Minor Key" (Scienti-Snaps fanzine, February 1940). Northwest meditates on his own past life.
Northwest Smith stories appear in the following collections:
- Shambleau and Others (1953): Shambleau, Black Thirst, The Tree of Life, Scarlet Dream (collection also includes Black God’s Kiss, Black God’s Shadow and Jirel Meets Magic, three Jirel of Joiry stories)
- Northwest of Earth (1954): Dust of Gods, Julhi, Lost Paradise, The Cold Gray God, Yvala (collection also includes The Dark Land and Hellsgarde, two Jirel of Joiry stories)
- Scarlet Dream (1981): Black Thirst, Dust of Gods, Julhi, Lost Paradise, Shambleau, The Cold Gray God, The Tree of Life, Yvala, Scarlet Dream, Song in a Minor Key
- Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams (2002): The same stories as Scarlet Dream, together with five stories of Jirel of Joiry.
- Northwest of Earth (2007): All of the Northwest Smith stories, both primary and fanzine/collaborations.
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