[June 28, 1961] The Second Sex in SFF, Part IV

Many years from now, scholars may debate furiously which decade women came to the forefront of science fiction and fantasy.  Some will (with justification) argue that it’s always been a woman’s genre – after all, was it not Mary Shelley who invented science fiction with Frankenstein’s monster?  (Regular contributor Ashley Pollard says “no.”) Others will assert that it was not until the 1950s, when women began to be regularly published, that the female sff writer came into her own. 

It’s certainly true that a wave of new woman writers has joined the club in just the last few years.  If this trend continues, I suspect we’ll see gender parity in the sf magazines by the end of this decade.  Right around the time we land on the Moon, if Kennedy’s recently expressed wishes come to fruition. 

Come meet six of these lady authors, four of whom are quite new, and two who are veterans in this, Part IV, of The Second Sex in SFF. 

Photo generously provided by the author

Kit Reed: Born in my hometown of San Diego, Ms. Reed happens to be the one person on these lists with whom I am friends.  Like me, Ms. Reed was previously a reporter.  She’s been a rising star in sff since her debut in 1958 of The Wait in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF).  Interestingly, she does not consider herself a “woman” author and thinks the distinction superfluous.  I’ve only read the four stories she’s published in F&SF, so I may not have a complete picture of her talents.  Nevertheless, I’ve liked each successive story I’ve encountered more than the last.  She’s going to be famous someday, I predict.

Jane Dixon Rice: I understand Mrs. Rice was a fairly prolific writer during the War, but so far as I can determine, she has written just three stories in recent past, all of which came out in F&SF, and all of which were pretty good.  The last was over a year ago.  I hope she hasn’t disappeared for another decade-and-a-half long hiatus.

Jane Roberts: Ms. Roberts popped on the scene in ’56, writing for F&SF, and she was a regular for the next several years.  The only woman invited for the first science-fiction writer’s conference in Milford, PA (also in 1956), her work is beautiful and haunting.  She hasn’t published anything in the genre since the ’59 piece Impasse, which is really too bad.  I hope she comes back soon.

Joanna Russ: An English graduate of the distinguished universities of Cornell and Yale, Ms. Russ has to date published just one story in the genre, the quirky Nor Custom Stale.  It’s something she squeezed in the cracks in between studying for her Masters’, and it shows great promise.  Now that she’s gotten her advanced degree, I’m hoping we’ll see more of her work!

From Fanac

Evelyn Smith: Ms. Smith has been writing in the genre since 1952, back when she was Mrs. Evelyn Gold (wife of Galaxy editor H.L. Gold).  In fact, much of her early work was featured in Gold’s magazine – editor Gold was always keen on publishing at least one woman author in every issue to garner female readership.  I understand that Gold’s increasing agoraphobia broke up their marriage, but they remain friends.  In any event, Smith is now a regular in both Galaxy and F&SF, and her stuff is always worth reading.  She is truly one of the pillars of the sf authorial family.

Margaret St. Clair.  Last, but certainly not least, is an author who has been around under one nom de plume or another since just after the War.  Her work bespeaks a broad-ranged talent.  If you know her as Ms. St. Clair, you’ve no doubt enjoyed her playful sense of humor.  If you are acquainted with her alter-ego, Idris Seabright, you’ve seen her more somber, fantastic side.  She regularly appears in Galaxy, IF, and F&SF, and she’s also turned out several novels (which I’ve unfortunately not yet had the pleasure to read.) I expect she’ll continue to be a household name for a long time to come.

Thus ends the last of the list I’d compiled as of the end of last year (1960).  Just in the course of creating this series, several new (to me) woman authors have made it into print.  Thus, this installment shall not be the last of the sequence

Stay tuned!

7 thoughts on “[June 28, 1961] The Second Sex in SFF, Part IV”

  1. This has been a fine list and is much appreciated. But darn if I don’t feel like there are some names you’ve missed. I can’t name any of them, but there’s this niggling at the back of my mind that they are there.

    In any case, let’s hope you’re right about more women turning to our genre to write. If you look at the crowds at most conventions, the odds would seem stacked against you, but I hope I’m proven wrong.

    1. You’re almost assuredly right.  These are the authors who have been active since October 1958, and whose works I’ve come across.  I don’t read every magazine, and some authors may be in a hiatus.  There’s also another complete article left in the series!

      If you come up with any names, please let me know.

      1. Leigh Brackett has published several stories, mostly in “Planet Stories” and “Startling Stories”, but she also published a story in F&SF a few years ago.  Marion Zimmer Bradley has published a dozen or so stories, all over the magazines, but especially in “Fantastic”. Rosel George Brown (don’t let the “George” fool you, she’s a woman and a mother) has been appearing everywhere since about 1959, with at least a dozen stories. A few years ago, Mildred Clingerman was publishing a great number of stories, but I only remember seeing one story lately, in F&SF back in ’58. I have seen several stories lately by Miriam Allen deFord, mostly in F&SF and in “Fantastic Universe”.  In just the last two years, I’ve seen 3 stories by Phyllis Gotlieb in “Fantastic” and 4 stories by Zenna Henderson in F&SF. Some years back, Shirley Jackson became famous for “The Lottery”. We may not have seen anything from her to match that, but I do recall seeing another story by her in F&SF fairly recently. Katherine MacLean continues to co-author stories with several men, including one that was just nominated for a Hugo, but she’s also been publishing stories on her own, in both F&SF and “Astounding”. Judith Merril hasn’t been publishing quite as many stories as she used to (I think we may have lost her to the editing side of the business), but she did publish stories in F&SF in both ’58 and ’59.  Since 1958, Evelyn E. Smith has published at least 2 stories each in F&SF, “Fantastic Universe”, and “Galaxy”.  And after a great start with “The Mile-Long Spaceship”, Kate Wilhelm has been writing up a storm, with a dozen stories appearing in 4 or 5 magazines. I’m sure there are other women writing stories for us, but these are sure to lengthen your list a bit.

        1. Darrah,

          Thank you for this lovely list!  Many of these writers have been spotlighted in previous articles, which I hope you will also enjoy, but I appreciate the added detail you’ve provided.

          I do remember Mildred Clingerman, but it has been a while.  I will check my notes and make sure Kate Wilhelm ends up in the next article.

          Thanks again for joining the Journey!

  2. Thank you very much for the latest entry in this series.  It’s interesting to note that F&SF seems to be the most important market for female writers.  Perhaps the fact that they are open to fantasy explains that fact.

    Kit Reed seems to be a strong new writer, and I look forward to more of her work.

    I didn’t recognize the name of Jane Rice at first (I think I get her mixed up with Jane Roberts) but I have definitely read and enjoyed her stories in F&SF.  As a matter of fact, I have one of her older stories from the late, lamented “Unknown” sitting around here somewhere . . .


    Jane Roberts (the second in our trilogy of JR’s) has definitely produced some fine stories for F&SF as well.

    It’s too early to say anything about Joanna Russ, except that “Nor Custom Stale” was a fine story, and I hope she doesn’t turn out to be one of those people who publish one thing and then vanish.

    Evelyn Smith mostly does light comedy, and is better than most at that sort of thing.  I can clearly remember her story “At Last I’ve Found You” from some years ago.  Although done as farce, its theme was about as daring, in its own way, as Theodore Sturgeon’s famous (or infamous) story “The World Well Lost.”

    Margaret St. Clair seems to be the most prolific author here.  I tend to prefer her delicate, poetic, often sad stories as “Idris Seabright.”  I can recall when F&SF had a “name the story” contest, and the winning suggestion for one of Seabright pieces was “Brightness Falls from the Air.”  Excellent story, too.

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