Henry Kuttner was born in Los Angeles, California in 1915. Naphtaly Kuttner (1829–1903) and Amelia Bush (c. 1834–1911), the parents of his father, the bookseller Henry Kuttner (1863–1920), had come from Leszno in Prussia and lived in San Francisco since 1859; the parents of his mother, Annie Levy (1875–1954), were from Great Britain. Henry Kuttner's great-grandfather was the scholar Josua Heschel Kuttner. Kuttner grew up in relative poverty following the death of his father. As a young man he worked for the literary agency of his uncle, Laurence D'Orsay (in fact his first cousin per marriage), in Los Angeles before selling his first story, "The Graveyard Rats", to Weird Tales in early 1936.
Alfred Bester told this anecdote about Kuttner: "Mort Weisinger introduced me to the informal luncheon gatherings of the working science fiction authors of the late thirties. I met Henry Kuttner", whom Bester described as "medium-sized", "very quiet and courteous, and entirely without outstanding features. Once I broke Kuttner up quite unintentionally. I said to Weisinger, 'I've just finished a wild story that takes place in a spaceless, timeless locale where there's no objective reality. It's awfully long, 20,000 words, but I can cut the first 5,000.' Kuttner burst out laughing."
Kuttner was known for his literary prose and worked in close collaboration with his wife, C. L. Moore. They met through their association with the "Lovecraft Circle", a group of writers and fans who corresponded with H. P. Lovecraft. Their work together spanned the 1940s and 1950s and most of the work was credited to pseudonyms, mainly Lewis Padgett and Lawrence O'Donnell. Both freely admitted that they collaborated in part because his page rate was higher than hers. In fact, several people have written or said that she wrote three stories which were published under his name. "Clash by Night" and The Portal in the Picture (Beyond Earth's Gates) are sometimes attributed to her.
L. Sprague de Camp, who knew Kuttner and Moore well, has stated that their collaboration was so seamless that, after a story was completed, it was often impossible for either Kuttner or Moore to recall who had written what. According to de Camp, it was typical for either partner to break off from a story in mid-paragraph or even mid-sentence, with the latest page of the manuscript still in the typewriter. The other spouse would routinely continue the story where the first had left off. They alternated in this manner as many times as necessary until the story was finished.
Among Kuttner's most popular work were the Gallegher stories, published under the Padgett name, about a man who invented high-tech solutions to client problems (including an insufferably egomaniacal robot) when he was stinking drunk, only to be completely unable to remember exactly what he had built or why after sobering up. These stories were later collected in Robots Have No Tails. In her introduction to the 1973 Lancer Books edition, Moore stated that Kuttner wrote all the Gallegher stories himself.
In 2007, New Line Cinema released a feature film loosely based on the Lewis Padgett short story "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" under the title The Last Mimzy. In addition, The Best of Henry Kuttner was republished under the title The Last Mimzy Stories.
Marion Zimmer Bradley is among many authors who have cited Kuttner as an influence. Her novel The Bloody Sun is dedicated to him. Roger Zelazny has talked about the influence of The Dark World on his Amber series.
Kuttner's friend Richard Matheson dedicated his 1954 novel I Am Legend to Kuttner, with thanks for his help and encouragement. Ray Bradbury has said that Kuttner actually wrote the last 300 words of Bradbury's first horror story, "The Candle" (Weird Tales, November 1942). Bradbury has referred to Kuttner as a neglected master and a "pomegranate writer: popping with seeds—full of ideas".
William S. Burroughs's novel The Ticket That Exploded contains direct quotes from Kuttner regarding the "Happy Cloak" parasitic pleasure monster from the Venusian seas.
A friend of Lovecraft's as well as of Clark Ashton Smith, Kuttner contributed several stories to the Cthulhu Mythos genre invented by those authors (among others). Among these were "The Secret of Kralitz" (Weird Tales, October 1936), "The Eater of Souls" (Weird Tales, January 1937), "The Salem Horror" (Weird Tales, May 1937), "The Invaders" (Strange Stories, February 1939) and "The Hunt" (Strange Stories, June 1939).
Kuttner added a few lesser-known deities to the Mythos, including Iod ("The Secret of Kralitz"), Vorvadoss ("The Eater of Souls"), and Nyogtha ("The Salem Horror"). Critic Shawn Ramsey suggests that Abigail Prinn, the villain of "The Salem Horror", might have been intended by Kuttner to be a descendant of Ludvig Prinn, author of De Vermis Mysteriis—a book that appears in Kuttner's "The Invaders".
Crypt of Cthulhu 5, No 7 (whole number 41) (Lammas 1986), edited by Robert M. Price, was a special Henry Kuttner issue collecting eight Cthulhu Mythos stories by Kuttner. (It did not include "Spawn of Dagon" or "The Invaders").
The Book of Iod: Ten Tales of the Mythos is a collection of Kuttner's Cthulhu Mythos stories edited by Robert M. Price (Chaosium, 1995). (It also contains three additional tales concerning 'Iod's dread tome' by Robert Bloch, Lin Carter and Robert M. Price). The Kuttner stories included are: "The Secret of Kralitz", "The Eater of Souls", "The Salem Horror", "The Jest of Droom-Avesta", "Spawn of Dagon", "The Invaders", "The Frog", "Hydra", "Bells of Horror" and "The Hunt" - thus, all the Mythos stories which had appeared in the special Kuttner issue of Crypt of Cthulhu, plus "Spawn of Dagon" and "The Invaders". The story "The Black Kiss" (printed here, as often elsewhere, under the joint byline of Kuttner and Robert Bloch), was in fact written entirely by Bloch; Bloch co-credited Kuttner on the tale due to using the character Michael Leigh from "The Salem Horror". "Beneath the Tombstone" by Robert M. Price and "Dead of Night" by Lin Carter round out the volume. Price points out in his introduction to the volume that "Henry Kuttner's own private corner of the Cthulhu Mythos was, then, apparently derived in about equal measure from Lovecraft, Bloch, Zoroastrianism, and Theosophy."
Henry Kuttner spent the middle 1950s getting his master's degree before dying of a heart attack in Los Angeles in 1958.Edward J. Bellin
Robert O. Kenyon
C. H. Liddell
Woodrow Wilson Smith