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Invisible Women

by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

When I proposed this book of classic science fiction stories by women to Toni Weisskopf, the publisher of Baen Books, she suggested a title for this introductory essay: “The Women Fen Don’t See. It’s a great title with a marvelous pun, which is very science fiction.

Let me explain why the title is great, and why I didn’t use it.

Toni’s title is a fannish in-joke.

One of the classic feminist stories of science fiction is James Tiptree Jr.’s “The Women That Men Don’t See.” (Tiptree, for those of you who don’t know, was a woman. You can find the story in her collection, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.)

Toni changed the word “men” for the word “fen.” Hardcore science fiction people (like me) generally use the word “fen” as the plural of the word “fan” when referring to sf fans. Science fiction fandom is a separate community from general science fiction readers (those who have never attended a convention, for instance). Science fiction fandom rose in tandem with the genre of science fiction, and for a long time, science fiction fandom seemed so small that the worldwide fen could gather in a single hotel.

When looked at under a hard cold light, that last statement was not true. But like so many things in science fiction, it felt true.

Just like Toni’s proposed title felt true as well. I went with it until I started the research for this anthology. And then I realized that fen do see their own history. They know about the women who have been part of the field from the beginning, and have consistently honored those women for decades.

It’s actually people who have little history with the hardcore center of the science fiction field who believe that women have had no place in the genre. To those people (those non-fen), the women of science fiction have become invisible.

I was rather shocked when I realized that the women of science fiction had become invisible. Okay, no. I was exceedingly shocked when I realized it.

Because I have written and edited science fiction for more than thirty years, and never once had I had a story rejected because I was female. Nor was I turned away from any editing jobs that I wanted because of my gender.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a bestselling writer in multiple genres. My sf books have hit the USA Today bestseller list, the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, and the Times of London bestseller list, as well as other lists. I’ve been nominated for every award in the sf genre, and I’ve won quite a few of them, including the prestigious Hugo Award (which I won twice, once for editing and once for my writing).

My science fiction resume goes on for pages, just like the resumes of so many women authors in the science fiction field. And I have not been invisible to the fen.

I have been the guest of honor at many science fiction conventions, often co-guest of honor with other women, like Connie Willis or Lois McMaster Bujold. Women have always been on the programming items, and women have often planned and run the conventions, which are, in some cases, multimillion dollar enterprises.

The idea that women are discriminated against in science fiction is ludicrous to me.

Have I encountered boorish behavior at sf conventions? Hell, yes. Connie Willis and I were repeatedly called “little lady” on a panel at a Westercon by an outspoken male fan who wore (I kid you not) a propeller beanie. Everyone in the audience expected us to shout him down.

We didn’t. I expected Connie to yell at him. She expected me to. So we both stared at the guy we later called “Beanie Boy” in gap-mouthed surprise.

Surprise because such behavior is rare at sf conventions.

Yeah, I got groped in the late 1980s and early 1990s, back when I was young and cute. I got groped outside of sf conventions as well. Sexual predators appear in all forms at sf conventions, just like they do in the real world, and those horrid people need to be reported no matter where you encounter them.

And when I became the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1991, I received a lot of weird responses in part because I was the first (and so far only) female editor of the magazine. When Edward L. Ferman, the publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, announced that I would replace him as editor, the reaction was generally positive. After all, women have edited science fiction since the genre’s official beginnings in 1926.

After Ed’s announcement, I got a lot of hate mail, including one memorable—and completely serious—signed handwritten letter, telling me that I couldn’t edit because I didn’t have a penis. I’ve often wondered about that: Is there some editing trick that male editors use their penises for? None of the male editors will tell me.

In all seriousness, though, those letters angered my husband more than they angered me. That marked the first time my husband (Dean Wesley Smith, an sf writer himself) had ever seen the kinds of disparaging and harassing comments that women in all businesses still receive on a regular basis.

Most women develop coping mechanisms.

Mine are pretty simple: a hard elbow to the gut of any man who pinches my ass, a report to the proper authority of any person who harasses me (sexually or otherwise), a sharp retort to a sexist idiot (with the singular exception of Beanie Boy, because he caught me off guard), and a good hard laugh at the some of the stupidity that bigots come up with—like the penis comment.

I also tend to look at the positives rather than the negatives. When Ed made that announcement twenty-five years ago, only about one-quarter of the response I received was negative. The positive responses warmed my heart. They included marvelous cards and letters from hundreds of people in the field. I also got a congratulatory phone call from Nobel Prize winning scientist Linus Pauling, who had subscribed to the magazine since its inception in 1949.

In my decades in science fiction, I have worked with hundreds of professional women—some behind the scenes and some out front. Women are some of the science fiction field’s biggest bestsellers and its most decorated writers. Since 1968, not a year has gone by without women being nominated for the field’s top awards.

In fact, science fiction’s most award-winning writer is Connie Willis. Wired Magazine in an August 23, 2015, article about the Hugo Awards, called her the Meryl Streep of the genre.

Streep received her awards and nominations at the Academy Awards, where the awards are segregated by gender. The major science fiction awards don’t segregate its categories by gender.

Connie isn’t the most award-winning woman in the field in women-only categories. She’s the most award-winning person in the field, period.

Full stop. End of story.

So, imagine my surprise when young writers who were trying to break into the field told me that women didn’t write science fiction. And then when the young writers saw the look of complete surprise on my face, some of them had the grace to realize who they were talking to—the woman with whom they had come to study how to write science fiction—and they would say, “Present company excepted, of course.”

Of course.

The first time I heard this, I wrote it off. The young writer who had mouthed this inanity wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier. I figured she just didn’t know.

Then I heard it again, and again, and yet again. (Hell, I heard it just last week at my local professional writers’ lunch from a young woman who had been born in the 1990s, and who knew I was working on this project. She had the grace to look embarrassed.)

I would answer these young writers by listing wonderful writers. I would say, “Of course, women get published in science fiction. What about Connie Willis? What about Nancy Kress? What about Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Lois McMaster Bujold . . . ?”

The most common response I got was this: “They’re exceptions,” these young writers would say. “Just like you are.”

But sometimes—okay, often—the response I got was: “Who? I’ve never heard of these writers.”

Whenever I got the second response, I was stunned. Again, I figured ignorance on the part of the speaker—at first.

But then I encountered that “who?” response more often than the “exceptions” response.

Something else was at play here.

I’m a former journalist. I also received my B.A. in history. Those two disciplines taught me that a myth doesn’t spring up overnight just because everyone chooses to believe something that’s not true. A myth shows up because the evidence to counteract it is often hard to find.

About the time I was coming to realize that today’s young female writers had no idea that they weren’t storming the barricades—that there were no barricades and had never been any in sf—I taught a science fiction class for professional writers. That class, in June of 2013, was the first time I had ever taught science fiction to established writers.

I teach two craft workshops per year in person at the WMG Publishing offices. (I co-teach others online with Dean.) Those in-person craft workshops are always for writers who already have credentials, always with an eye toward continuing education. One trick I learned early was that the classes need to have a common fictional vocabulary, so I always assign a long reading list before the class begins. I always make sure the books and stories I choose are easy to purchase or are accessible online.

As I prepped the science fiction class’s list, I discovered something shocking. I couldn’t find most of the classic science fiction short stories by women. Those stories weren’t in print. Worse, they’d rarely been anthologized.

The award-nominated stories, the award-winning stories, by women writers somehow rarely made it into the best science fiction of the year anthologies, especially the volumes that were compiled in the 1990s and the early 2000s.

When I was coming into the field, Isaac Asimov edited a volume of Hugo-nominated stories every year, but he died in 1992. Connie Willis edited the last volume of those stories ever published, in 1992. After that, the best stories of the year—as voted on by fen—rarely got anthologized.

The same thing happened with the stories that won readers awards at the top magazines of the genre. Even though women won those awards every year, those stories never got anthologized. That happens to men’s stories as well, partly because of publishing schedules. The best-of volumes usually appear about the time the short lists for the various awards from the previous year get announced.

But the fact remains that the best stories of the year, chosen by readers, the people who give their hard-earned money to buy fiction, were rarely put in the best-of anthologies.

But timing isn’t the only reason women got left off that list most of the time. There are year’s best volumes—thick ones—with only a handful of female authors included, in years when women dominated the awards. For example, women received the majority of the fifteen short fiction nominations in the 1993 Hugo awards, winning two of those awards. A glance at the table of contents of the only science fiction best-of still in print from that year shows that of those eight short stories by women, only three of them appear in that volume—and only one of the winners. (There were twenty-four stories in that volume, and only seven of them were by women.)

Discrimination? Oh, probably not. Probably something called unconscious bias or second-generation discrimination. The person who has unconscious bias, unlike a hardcore bigot, will prefer someone who looks like him to someone who doesn’t.

That unconscious bias will show up in editing by the stories that appeal to the editor. Editors often prefer stories that speak to their own experiences. Since the majority of editors of years-best collections in the past sixty years have been male, those editors often chose the stories that most reflected their own experiences.

There’s a secondary bias at work as well. In the last half of the twentieth century, space opera was considered “inferior” to hard science fiction in the literary circles of science fiction publishing. Many of our best women writers became bestsellers by writing space opera.

And literati of science fiction also had one other surprising prejudice: they believed that bestselling books were inferior to other books. If a mass readership liked something, these people reasoned, then it was bad by definition.

This is the reason that science fiction as a publishing category nearly died off in the 1990s. Things have improved a lot in this century, but that doesn’t help the perception that the writers who toiled in the successful, but less accepted, subgenres didn’t exist at all.

I mention the literary part of the genre because it held its strongest sway in the short fiction categories. It’s easier to maintain a magazine with literary pretentions than it is to maintain a book line with the same attitudes. A lot of sf book lines died in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some magazines, including the one that I used to edit, lost a vast amount of readership when those literary attitudes I just mentioned took over at the turn of this century.

On the other hand, some of the sf magazines grew in circulation. For example, Asimov’s Science Fiction grew in overall circulation after Sheila Williams became editor. She got rid of a lot of the slipstream fiction (the stuff you couldn’t tell from realistic fiction) and purchased a lot of space opera and adventure fiction. Her company, Dell Magazines, also jumped into the digital revolution quickly and whole-heartedly, which upped their subscription base considerably. And, just a note: Dell Magazines employs three women editors at its four digest fiction magazines.

Science fiction with a sense of wonder, space opera, and adventurous science fiction rose in popularity in this century. But finding it at the short length—in anthologies—has been hard.

As I dug deeper and deeper into the recent past, looking for easy ways to give my students some of the best stories in the genre, I realized that for a variety of reasons, the best stories, the most memorable stories, have been lost.

The young writers, particularly young female writers, immediately assumed discrimination. Since I know most of the editors and publishers in the science fiction field, I never assumed discrimination. Many of the editors those young writers were accusing of discrimination were women. (Of course the young writers didn’t know that: they had no idea who edited books and book lines.)

So the shouts of discrimination made no sense to me . . . until I went to Wikipedia one afternoon in 2014. I looked up “women in science fiction,” and found no listing. Wikipedia suggested I try “women in speculative fiction,” so I did—and immediately got mad.

The Wikipedia entry was all about how women were denied entry into sf (without citations, mostly). Then on that page, there was also a listing of the women who wrote sf. With a half dozen exceptions, the only women listed had been published in the twenty-first century.

None of those women listed were the most successful authors in the genre. No Anne McCaffrey, no C.J. Cherryh, no Elizabeth Moon, not a one. Yeah, Tiptree was there, and so was Le Guin, but Connie Willis, the Meryl Streep of Science Fiction? Not there.

(As I have reviewed the listing two years later in prep for this essay, I saw that the listing has been cleaned up considerably, but I’ve been complaining about it during that entire time, and I asked people to contribute to it. A lot of people have clearly stepped up. If you’re one of them, thank you!)

After I looked for the award-winning stories and saw that Wikipedia list, I started to understand those young writers’ point of view. To them, the women who came before them had faded into nothingness. We had become invisible, and therefore, to new writers, we did not exist.

I never thought of myself as invisible, even though I often got left off of lists of women who wrote science fiction. I’d been told repeatedly by a certain segment of the field that I didn’t write stories of interest to women (!), hence I was never mentioned.

I found it irritating, but I ignored it, because I’m clearly doing well without being on any of those lists, just like other women writers who routinely get left off the lists of women sf writers. I honestly didn’t give these things much thought.

Until January 14, 2015. That was the day that Charles Coleman Finlay’s ascension to the editorship of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction was announced.

The science fiction field’s oldest news magazine, Locus, reported Finlay’s editorship and listed the previous editors of the F&SFall of them, except me. In fact, Locus stated that my successor, Gordon Van Gelder, took over the editorship from Edward L. Ferman, wiping me out of existence entirely.

I have had to deal with incredible nastiness about my years as editor of F&SF for decades now. Comments about the way that I ruined the magazine with my choice of stories. Comments about my youth (even though I was the same age as both Gordon and Ed Ferman were when they took over), my appearance, and my female bent. The kinds of comments women have received in business for decades.

My tenure at F&SF was quite successful, including making the magazine competitive in the genre awards again, and presiding over the largest circulation the magazine held in the 1990s, circulation that has dropped off precipitously in the past fifteen years.

Much of that nastiness has been behind the scenes, although it creeps up in places like The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and Wikipedia again, where my contribution to the magazine is mentioned only once, in a list.

That January day, I had had enough. I posted on Facebook and other social media sites (in posts that are still there):

You want to know how women get ignored in the sf/f field? Read this from Locus Mag, theoretically the news magazine of the field. It says that Gordon Van Gelder took over the editing duties of F&SF from the previous editor, Ed Ferman. Hello! Gordon got the editing duties after ME. I was the previous editor of F&SF.

At the same time, I called Locus and demanded that they fix this problem immediately. The editor-in-chief, Liza Groen Trombi, apologized. She claimed that the error came from Locus itself. She said that the writer and the copy editors of the piece hadn’t seen the error. She immediately corrected the story—as she should have.

Honestly, I would much rather have had the oversight be an intentional slight. Because if Liza’s statements are true, my editorship—as the first female editor of one of the genre’s most important magazines—has become so marginalized that staff writers and copy editors at the oldest news magazine in the field had no idea I had ever been editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

I stand by my comments on Facebook that day. This is how women become invisible. We get left off official histories. When we are mentioned, there is no analysis. We’re just a name on a page. We get ignored by the “premiere news magazine” of the field. We get marginalized.

After that, I started talking to other active women in the field, women who’ve been writing and publishing science fiction for decades, and discovered that they have had similar experiences. I also found out that just the mention of the fact that some writers were claiming there were no women in science fiction made the professional women writers I’d been talking to vibrate with anger. In fact, I discovered a reservoir of anger so deep that we could probably irrigate the Mojave Desert with it.

If you want to see but one example, go to multiple award-winning sf writer Eleanor Arnason’s online essay at Strange Horizons, which she posted on April 13, 2015. Her title, “What Are We, Chopped Liver?” says it all.

Within the sf field itself—the critics and academics, the well-intentioned male editors feeling liberal guilt, the new women writers bravely storming barricades that were never there—we women do not exist.

The fen know that we’re here. The fen know that we’ve always been there.

But that narrative in which there has been no female participation in sf, no women writing sf, in which women had to hide under pen names and initials because of being discriminated against . . . that narrative has triumphed over the truth.

That narrative is insulting. It’s demeaning. And it’s wrong.

I don’t believe in bitching about things. I believe in taking action.

So I sat down with Toni Weisskopf, the publisher of Baen Books, at a conference in February of 2015. Toni has worked in the sf field for almost thirty years in an exceedingly influential capacity. We discussed our invisibility (hence the joke: “The Women Fen Don’t See”) and I pitched this anthology.

Toni thought it a good idea. She gave me a hundred-thousand words, which she wanted divided up as ninety-thousand words of fiction and a ten-thousand word essay.

To do the women of sf justice, I would need several million words of fiction. Women have written a lot of science fiction from the very beginning—whether you date sf as beginning with the Epic of Gilgamesh in 2400 B.C. (as the marvelous writer Jack Williamson used to do), Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in 1818 or with Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories in 1926.

For the purposes of this anthology, I’m going to define the beginning of science fiction in the modern era the way that science fiction fandom generally does, with the publication of Amazing Stories in 1926. That puts this anthology in line with two very good twenty-first century scholarly works, one by Justine Larbalestier and the other by Eric Leif Davin.

I’m relying in part on their research for the next section of this introduction. I’ve confirmed some of it with my own sources. My husband owns a complete sf digest collection (and we used to own a massive pulp collection). We have a great deal of research material at our fingertips. I’ve done spot checks on the quotes in both books, using our collection, and found that the books are accurate.

Davin, in particular, has done much of the work I initially planned to do, and so much more. His astonishingly well-researched Partners in Wonder: Women and The Birth of Science Fiction 1926-1965, published by Lexington Books in 2006, begins with a list of two hundred and three known women who published in U.S. science fiction magazines between 1926 and 1960. He adds an appendix with minibiographies of more than a hundred of them, which turned out to be the ones he could trace.

In addition, he lists twenty-six women who edited “science fiction, fantasy, and weird” magazines in the years between 1928 and 1960. His editorial listings start with Miriam Bourne, who acted as an associate editor and managing editor for Amazing Stories, beginning in 1928, its first year of publication. He also lists Marcia Nardi, an associate editor with All-Story in 1929, and Madeline Heath, who edited All-Story in 1929.

In other words, women not only published stories at the dawn of the modern science fiction era, they edited stories as well.

Pick up Davin’s book for the bibliographic material alone. The amount of work he did here is astonishing and extremely valuable to the field—and so many people don’t know it exists. Give it to anyone who tells you that women did not publish science fiction before the year 2000. (Or the year 1970—or whatever myth someone chooses to believe.)

Amazing Stories’ first issue appeared in April of 1926. In the June 1927 issue, Clare Winger Harris became the first woman to publish a story in a science fiction magazine.

“It was the beginning of a popular and rewarding science fiction career for Harris,” Davin writes, “(in) a field still so young that it was composed of only a single magazine. Nevertheless, she was there, almost from the beginning, with her name splashed on future covers to attract readers.” [Davin, page 29]

That latter emphasis is mine. I’ve been in publishing a very long time, and the rules now are the same as they were ninety years ago. You put the names of popular writers on the cover to sell your magazine. Clearly, Harris had a following. And Hugo Gernsback, rather than hiding the fact that he was publishing a woman, was investing in Harris—and her female byline.

Indeed, Gernsback was deeply aware that he had a female audience for his magazine. He wrote this in his editorial for the September 1926 issue:

“A totally unforeseen result of the name (Amazing Stories), strange to say, was that a great many women were already reading the new magazine. This is most encouraging.” [quoted in The Battle of The Sexes in Science Fiction, Justine Larbalestier, Wesleyan University Press, 2002, page 23]

Indeed, the presence of women in the science fiction field, as writers, editors, fans and casual readers, is clearly there for anyone willing to look. Davin looked. He conducted what he calls “an archeological dig” into the archives of early twentieth century science fiction for Partners in Wonder. He builds on the groundwork that Justine Larbalestier lays in The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, in which she does a textural analysis of gender relations from 1926 to the 1990s, with an emphasis on feminist thought.

Larbalestier states that “the period from 1926 to 1973 is absolutely crucial to the formation of contemporary feminist science fiction, and yet very little critical work has been undertaken on that period.” [Larbalestier, page 2]

Davin took that statement as a clear challenge to explore the history of women in the science fiction field. Exploring the history of women in the field is different than examining feminist science fiction.

Not every feminist is a woman and not every woman is a feminist. Feminism brings a particular political point of view to the research. That point of view is generally seeks to explore issues of gender, sometimes following a corrective impulse and sometimes to inform readers about the differences between the past and present (if there are any).

For the purposes of this volume, I prefer Davin’s purely factual data-driven account. And before some critics accuse me of anti-feminist leanings, let me set the record straight.

I am a feminist of longstanding. I studied women’s history and gender studies from some of the pioneering women in both disciplines, including the renown Gerda Lerner. I use a lot of my experiences in my fiction, particularly my mystery fiction. It would be a lie to tell you that my feminist leanings have nothing to do with this book.

This book comes directly from my training and my point of view, but in a very different way than most feminists approach things. When I worked at rape crisis centers and suicide hotlines in the 1970s and 1980s, I learned the dangers of silence, secrets, and hidden information. I learned to speak up and speak the truth, even when the truth was hurtful.

It is that impulse (yes, a corrective impulse) which informs this book.

I’m leaning on Davin because, unlike so many historians and writers of gender studies before him, Davin isn’t out to prove a feminist theory with his book. He wants to prove that the accepted story of women in the sf field is incorrect. So he wrote a more general book about the early years of twentieth century science fiction than Larbalestier did.

Davin’s phrase “archeological dig” is an accurate one: he examined “every issue of every science fiction magazine published in the United States in [the years 1926 to 1965] . . .” He looked for “stories written under both female names and pseudonyms of known women . . . Pertinent editorial comments and readers’ letters were also examined . . . one of the results of this research has been the assembly of the most complete bibliography of female authors in the science fiction magazines.”

He notes, “This bibliography reveals a fascinating form of ‘invisibility’—scores of female authors and hundreds of their stories ‘hiding in plain sight.’” [Davin, page 20]

Indeed, Davin discovered “at least” two hundred thirty-three women writers who published a total of 1,055 stories in the science fiction magazines between 1926 and 1965.

He writes, “These stories represent an entire school of literature, with its own themes and concerns. It is an impressive body of work—a thousand and one tales of Scheherazade, existing like some secret female script, unknown to the larger world. Unacknowledged and trivialized they may be, yet the authors and their stories are there. They represent a female counter-culture flourishing in the midst of the larger male body of work which historians of both genders have wrongly assumed characterized the entire genres in those years.” [Davin, page 313]

Why did “historians of both genders” assume that science fiction is a male-only literature? For the same reason the young writers I’ve been talking to assumed that almost no women wrote science fiction before them.

For the entire history of modern science fiction, the stories by women weren’t anthologized as much as the stories by men.

The science fiction anthologies mostly came into being in the 1950s. Publishing changed in those years for a variety of reasons that are out of our purview here. One of the changes (pioneered by a woman, Betty Ballantine, in collaboration with her husband Ian) was the rise of mass market paperback books. Those books made it possible for the first time to easily anthologize genre stories (as opposed to literary stories, which were often anthologized in hardcover).

Historians of the science fiction field, looking at important works of the field in a particular decade, will often begin with compilation anthologies and those give a partial (and often misleading) view of the past.

Again, Davin’s research comes in handy. He writes that most anthology editors overlooked the work of early women writers. Those editors “have followed the lead of Damon Knight in his influential Science Fiction of the Thirties (1975). Knight chose eighteen stories (by nineteen authors) to represent the 1930s. Not one of them was by a woman. Likewise, Martin Harry Greenberg and Joseph Olander, in their Science Fiction of the Fifties, also slighted the role of women. Out of twenty-one stories they picked to represent the 1950s, only two were by women. . . . Similarly, in his 1996 unearthing of the ‘greatest stories of the decade,’ Robert Silverberg found eighteen stories from the Fifties worth noting. Only one was by a woman. And in The End of Summer: Science Fiction of the Fifties, edited by Barry N. Malzberg and Bill Pronzini, we find ten stories they claim to be representative of the decade. Not even one is by a woman.”

Davin adds a personal note to all of this information.

“Had I relied on such works,” he writes, “I would have had as skewed a vision of the past as have most others in the field, and there would have been little to write about.” [Davin, page 246]

In an essay, “The Women that SF Doesn’t See,” (note the title) for Asimov’s in October of 1992, Connie Willis points out that women did exist in large numbers in the sf genre before 1960. She writes:

The field didn’t just have women writers—it had really good women writers. These were wonderful stories, and I don’t believe they were overlooked at the time, because when I read them, they were all in Year’s Best collections.

I’ve only done a spot-check, but it seems that the year’s best collections which Connie saw as a young girl were edited by a woman, Judith Merril. The Merril anthologies carry all of the women writers that Connie mentions in her essay and more.

It doesn’t help, however, because the compilation anthologies—the best of the decade anthologies—never included those stories by women.

I find it particularly sad to see Damon Knight listed as the leader of this awful trend. Damon, also a mentor and teacher of mine, was married to Kate Wilhelm, one of the best science fiction writers in the field. She’s also one of the field’s most influential women. (And no, I couldn’t squeeze a story of hers here. Her “Forever Yours, Anna” [and two other award-nominated stories] ended up on my editing equivalent of the cutting room floor.)

Kate influenced generations of science fiction writers through her writings. She also influenced generations, in partnership with Damon, at the Clarion Writers Workshops, which they founded with Robin Scott Wilson. She was one of the founders of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1965 and designed the template for the Nebula Award, the actual physical award.

A side note: I looked up her history online so that I could cite some of these things, several of which she told me in person. She’s not mentioned, even in connection with the founding of Clarion, or if she is, she’s mentioned in passing, as if she had nothing to do with these things. Again, a woman’s contribution disappears.

Although, to be fair, Kate’s prodigious writing output, which spans from the 1950s to now, is front and center in her biography—as it should be.

Kate’s marginalization on her activities with Damon points out another way that women get marginalized. Women who are married to a man in the same (or a similar) field often get ignored while the man receives credit for things they have both done.

One of the many research books I’ve used to prepare this essay repeatedly quotes and honors Lester Del Rey as the brains behind the imprint Del Rey books, but neglects to mention his wife, Judy-Lynn Del Rey, whose editing work helped create the modern fantasy genre. Judy-Lynn Del Rey was the brains behind Del Rey books, the person who upended the entire fantasy genre and put writers who are now famous on the map.

(Her work in the fantasy genre—in fact, the entire fantasy genre—is outside the purview of this essay as well, but I hope to get to that in another book.)

The same thing happens in these research books to Betty Ballantine. She founded Ballantine Books with her husband Ian, and in many histories of publishing, gets little or no credit. Fortunately, the fen have come to the rescue again. She and Ian were inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in a joint citation.

Sometimes marginalization happens when writers collaborate. C.L. Moore collaborated with her husband, Henry Kuttner, throughout their marriage, and early writings about them gives Kuttner more credit than Moore for those stories. (In recent years, Moore has received a lot more credit for her work with Kuttner.)

When I first heard of Moore, I’d been given to understand that she owed her career to Kuttner, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. They hadn’t met when she published her first stories. They met after he wrote her a fan letter.

But it wasn’t just the presence of men in a woman’s life that got her dismissed or the fact that an anthology editor didn’t notice her. An anthology editor might have liked a woman’s writing, but her subject matter might have prevented her inclusion in the anthologies of the mid-twentieth century.

Many of the writers (not just women) who wrote in the pre-space flight era of the 1930s to 1960 (or so) wrote stories with science that became outdated by the time Damon published his Science Fiction of the 1930s volume. The 1970s and 1980s were a particularly combative time period in science fiction history, in which many of the literary critics (including Damon) and the editors at major publishing houses dismissed space opera entirely.

These same folks fought the influence of Star Trek and Star Wars on science fiction of the day. Clearly, the editors and critics of that period lost their battle against popularity.

But not without damaging some of our best writers along the way. One of those writers was Leigh Brackett. In The Best of Leigh Brackett, a collection of short stories by Brackett published shortly before her death in 1977, her husband, science fiction writer Edmond Hamilton, wrote a somewhat defensive introduction to the stories that included this paragraph, aimed at critics like Damon:

Those were the days when we were all writing, in accordance with the latest guesses of astronomers and scientists, about a Mercury that kept one face always to the sun and the other to space and had a Twilight Belt between these extremes of savage heat and bitter cold, where there were alternate sunsets and sunrises due to the rocking of the planet, and where life might conceivably exist. Today those concepts have been shot down by better data from probes and more advanced scientific methods. But in those days they were valid. . . . [The Best of Leigh Brackett, edited by Edmond Hamilton, Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1977, page ix]

The best-of-the-decade anthologies, published after space probes and “more advanced scientific methods” didn’t just leave out Brackett’s Mars, but also C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories and Ray Bradbury’s classic Martian tales. They were considered unworthy, disproven by science, just as Star Wars was considered unworthy and more of a fantasy. (To see the Star Wars arguments, which have continued into the twenty-first century, see Star Wars on Trial, edited by David Brin.)

A lot of very good fiction has been dismissed by literary critics and anthologists. Sometimes, the fiction was dismissed when it came out. In the 1950s, science fiction by women got dismissed if it revolved around hearth and home.

Writer and critic James Blish, using his William Atheling, Jr., pen name, wrote this about Rosel George Brown:

Mrs. Brown is just about the only one of F&SF’s former gaggle of housewives who doesn’t strike me as verging on the feebleminded: in fact I think her work has attracted less attention than it deserves. [Larbalestier, page 173]

By the time Blish wrote that, in 1964, Brown had been nominated for Best New Author Hugo in 1958. (Yes, there was once a Best New Author Hugo.) She was receiving quite a bit of attention. (And no, unfortunately, she’s not in this volume either, although her very creepy story, “Car Pool” came close. You can find it reprinted in Earthblood and Other Stories, by Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown, also from Baen.)

And the other writers that Blish dismissed as a gaggle of feebleminded housewives? They include Mildred Clingerman, Zenna Henderson, Evelyn E. Smith, Judith Merril, Margaret St. Clair, Kit Reed and Shirley Jackson. Yes, so they wrote about hearth and home—often funny, scary or deeply satirical stories about a very claustrophobic period of time.

So did Leigh Brackett, even though Larbalestier quotes her as dismissing the genre, ignoring the fact that Brackett wrote stories like the very creepy “The Tweener” and the equally upsetting “The Queer Ones.”

Men also wrote hearth-and-home stories in the 1950s—Ray Bradbury is a case in point—but those stories weren’t dismissed. In fact, they were often seen for what they were: social commentary often of the Twilight Zone variety.

But hearth-and-home stories didn’t just get dismissed by male critics. Female critics dismissed them, too, as unworthy subjects for fiction. In the 1970s, Joanna Russ doubly dismissed hearth-and-home stories in her analysis of the kinds of science fiction women tend to write. She called hearth-and-home stories either “galactic suburbia” stories or “ladies magazine fiction,” which she defined as stories “in which the sweet, gentle, intuitive heroine solves an interstellar crisis by mending her slip or doing something equally domestic after her big heroic husband has failed.” [Larbalestier, page 173]

Sadly for women, the other two categories that Russ said women wrote were space opera (which was already on its way out) and avant-garde fiction, which was never very popular.

Russ, as with many critics, often couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Clingerman’s fiction, for example, is extremely subversive and biting. Yes, her intuitive heroines solve problems in untraditional not-always-heroic ways and that is the point. Clingerman, Jackson, early Kit Reed, all focused on powerless people who managed the world much better than the powerful.

Writers are constantly being told what they can and cannot write. Or, perhaps I should amend that to, what they should and should not write. Even now, it seems that the only “important” stories women should tell are about gender issues.

I’ve been told repeatedly by women in the sf field that I don’t write stories of interest to women. I always thought that comment was just something people said to me, not to other women. So, imagine my surprise when I read Connie Willis’s afterword to her story “Even The Queen,” in The Best of Connie Willis. For those of you who have never read the story, “Even The Queen” (which won the Hugo for best short story in 1993) examines a world in which menstrual cycles are optional.

About the story, Connie wrote:

. . . the episode that really convinced me I needed to write about this came when I was on a panel at a certain feminist science-fiction convention that shall remain nameless. (You know who you are.) I don’t remember what the panel was about, but I do remember that one of the panel members said that women only thought of their menstrual cycles as a “curse” because the male-dominated patriarchy had taught them to, and that left on their own, women would welcome and embrace their menses.

I thought then (and think now) that this was one of the most idiotic things I had ever heard. . . . After the panel, I did some research and found out that this theory was not just the ravings of one lunatic but actually pretty common in feminist circles, and then I talked to every young woman I could find (just in case attitudes had changed), and they were all as outraged and/or gobsmaked as I had been. . . .

Plus, some of my fellow women science-fiction writers had been on my case because I wrote stories about time-travelers and old moves and the end of the world instead of writing stories about ‘women’s issues.’

So I decided to write one. [The Best of Connie Willis, Bantam Books, 2013, page 252]

When I pitched this anthology to Toni, I had “Even The Queen” as the story I would pick from Connie Willis. I included “The Women Men Don’t See” as the story I would pick from James Tiptree, Jr. I also thought about including the Hugo-Award-winning “Boobs,” by Suzy McKee Charnas.

And then I realized I was falling into the women-must-write- about-women’s-issues trap, which is expressly what I wanted to avoid for this anthology.

I call this a trap, because it seems like a large part of the science fiction literary community read Pamela Sargent’s groundbreaking Women of Wonder anthologies as prescriptive rather than corrective. The first volume, Women of Wonder, appeared from Vintage in 1975, the very same year that Damon Knight published Science Fiction of the Thirties and did not include a single woman.

Pam Sargent was correcting similar problems to the ones that I’m trying to correct now, only for a different generation, a generation for whom calling women writers “feebleminded housewives” in a respected literary journal was acceptable behavior. In addition to fighting the perception that women didn’t write science fiction, Pam was also fighting something that Justine Larbalestier calls the love interest problem: there was a perception among science fiction writers and critics that female characters only existed in science fiction as the yes-honey girl, the love interest for the hero.

Pam reprinted old stories in Women of Wonder and More Women of Wonder to show that female characters weren’t just the love interest and that women wrote science fiction throughout the history of science fiction. She says this in her introduction to the first volume:

My primary concern was to present entertaining, thoughtful, and well-written science fiction stories by women, in which women characters play important roles. (KKR: Emphasis mine) [Women of Wonder, page xiii]

Pam’s book was groundbreaking, one of the most important anthologies of its time, leading to More Women of Wonder in 1976 and Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years in 1995. Since then, there have been other women-only anthologies, including last year’s Sisters of the Revolution, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, anthologies which acknowledge their debt to Women of Wonder. In fact, Ann and Jeff, in their introduction, state that their volume is “a contribution to an ongoing conversation” about “feminist speculative fiction.” [Sisters of the Revolution, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, PM Press, 2015, page 1]

Ann and Jeff are right about the ongoing conversation about feminist speculative fiction. That conversation has dominated the discussion of women in science fiction since the James Tiptree Memorial Award began in 1991. That award does not reward the best women writing in sf, as some assume. Instead, the aim of the award is, as the website for the award states, “not to look for work that falls into some narrow definition of political correctness, but rather to seek out work that is thought-provoking, imaginative, and perhaps even infuriating. The Tiptree Award is intended to reward those women and men who are bold enough to contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles, a fundamental aspect of any society.”

Because the ongoing conversation has focused on gender and that focus has merged with the discussion of women in science fiction in general, anthology after anthology has had the same narrow focus as Pam Sargent’s necessary and groundbreaking works from forty years ago.

And we women who wrote about things other than women’s issues or who dared to have male protagonists instead of female ones in our stories were often told we don’t write for women or that we really aren’t women science fiction writers.

(Whenever I was told this [and I was told it more than once], I put it in a little box with the idea that male editors edit with their penises. I find myself exploring these concepts on occasion. How can I, a woman who writes science fiction, be anything other than a woman science fiction writer?)

It’s a shame that so many editors and anthologists have viewed Pam Sargent’s work as a blueprint rather than as a door thrown open on that impressive body of work that Davin writes about. By looking at Pam Sargent’s work as a blueprint, so many anthologies have reprinted the same stories by the same women, as if those women wrote nothing else. The anthologies also left out work by women who have a larger following than the women of the so-called canon.

There are a variety of ways to measure success in publishing. Some measure success by reviews in the right places or by being accepted by the literary powers that be, whoever they are at a certain moment in time. Others measure success by awards and award nominations. Still others measure success by the number of books sold—the more the better.

Science fiction turned its back on sales long ago. In fact, Damon Knight (again, Damon!) famously and mistakenly said, “Science fiction will never be popular. It can’t stand the suppression.” As if popularity was something to be avoided rather than achieved. [Quoted in “Science Fiction and Fantasy: Describing our Field” by Rob Chilson, Locus, November 1998.]

Unfortunately for that point of view, the works which survive hundreds of years are, for the most part, the most popular works of their day. No matter what the important critics say or what award a certain piece of fiction received was, the fiction in question wouldn’t survive past a generation or two if only a handful of people liked it. The books we pass to our children and friends are the books that will form the literature of the future.

It has long bothered me that the popular authors in science fiction—male and female—were dismissed by the literary establishment (critics, academics, and some publishers). Somehow, that establishment missed the forest for the trees.

Whenever I look at modern anthologies that continue the “ongoing conversation,” they don’t have a very wide scope. In fact, they ignore much of what the most successful people in the genre write. They really ignore the successful women in the genre, partly because they write space opera or about the end of the world.

As I put together this anthology, I slowly came to realize that I did not want to reprint the same old stories that everyone else has reprinted. I didn’t want a feminist anthology.

I wanted to show the young writers of the field that women write science fiction—of all kinds. Not just space opera, avant-garde, and galactic suburbia stories. Not just stories about women. But stories. Excellent stories, about anything the writer damn well pleased.

In making my final choices for this volume, I decided to include as many of the bestselling and most influential authors in the genre as I could. When possible, I chose work that represented what the writer was best known for, be it a series character or a type of story. I was constrained, as all anthology editors are, by a word limit. I also set some of my own constraints.

I wanted stories that entertained as much now as they had when they were published. Sometimes I did not choose good stories with language that would be offensive to a modern audience, although there is a little archaic language in some of the older stories. (Just deal with it.) I also wanted stories that had an impact on other writers in the field—not just female writers, but male writers as well.

Finally, I did not want the stories in this volume to have a particular political slant. This introduction and the introduction to the stories have a slant, because I’m trying to introduce the important women writers of science fiction to a generation who does not know they exist.

But that’s as far as the politics go here. The stories themselves are politically all over the map. They’re also all over the subgenre map. I’ve made sure that we have hearth-and-home stories, space opera, alien-among-us stories, hard science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, alternate history and time travel.

Yes, there are some gender-bending stories and some stories with strong feminist themes in this anthology. But there are also stories that feature male protagonists in a traditional role.

Are there things missing from this volume? Oh, my goodness, yes. For every writer I’ve included there are dozens of other worthy candidates. For every story I’ve included by these major writers, there are several more by the same writers that should be in here.

So, what is glaringly, obviously missing from this volume? Writers of color. Writers from countries outside of the United States. Writers whose work is best at the novella length. Writers who write only novels. Writers who wrote their best stories in collaboration with someone else. Humor. A list of all the women writers who ever wrote sf. A list of women editors. A list of women publishers. A list of the most influential women of all time in science fiction. A list of the awards won by women. A list of the awards named for women. A recommended reading list. And on and on.

Some of the reasons for the big gaps, like a lack of writers of color or writers from other countries, comes from the fact that I’ve limited this volume to works published before the year 2000. While science fiction published in the United States had a lot of female writers in the years between 1926 and 2000, it had very few writers of color who self-identified as non-white. It also had very few writers from countries outside of the U.S. Those who did appear in the U.S. were often British. The growth of other voices in translation or writing from cultural backgrounds different than Anglo-whatever is more of a late twentieth century and early twenty-first century phenomenon.

Then there are the writers whom I deemed absolutely essential to this volume whose work I was unable to secure permission to use. (If I were to tell you the saga of my permissions adventures on this one volume alone, it would take another fifteen thousand words.)

The most heartbreaking for me personally is Octavia Butler. Her work is missing from these pages. Octavia wrote one of my very favorite novels, Kindred, a novel that influenced my own writing more than I can say.

I subsequently read everything she ever wrote. We became friendly over the years, which I valued. She died much too young, but she left a body of marvelous writing that includes only a handful of short stories.

As I put this volume together in the summer of 2015, I ran into the man who handled the permissions for Octavia’s estate. (This man was not Octavia’s agent; he belonged to another entity altogether.) He refused to license her work for this volume, upping the price of using a single story each time I tried to negotiate with him. His final ask for the use of one of her stories was double my entire advance for this book.

I finally quit trying to negotiate with him in disgust, and later discovered that other editors have had the same problems in dealing with him. Unlike all but one of those other editors, I informed the agent for Octavia’s estate that this man was unreasonable. The agent has promised to get him out of the loop. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

If he does not get out of the loop, one of the greatest voices in the science fiction field will be slowly lost—at least on the short fiction side. So for the record, the story of Octavia’s that I wanted to use here was “Speech Sounds.” You can find it in her collection, Blood Child and Other Stories. I encourage you to do so. I would have slotted it near C.J. Cherryh’s story in this volume, so if you’re reading in order, take a break, find and read Octavia’s story, and then continue reading this book. I love how upbeat the ending of that story is, and I also love what the story has to say about silence, communication, and relationships.

Writers get lost. They get ignored. They vanish. Sometimes this happens because of estate issues, as in the case of Octavia. But often, they disappear because the easily available sources do not include them. Davin had to dig through dusty old magazines to find 933 stories by 203 women because, as he says, the anthologists of the time did not include them.

I was born in the mid-twentieth century. I know how hard it was to be taken seriously as a woman in those years. The fact that male anthologists often left women writers and a female point of view out of those anthologies does not surprise me.

What does surprise me is that many anthologists of the “important” volumes of science fiction from the past twenty years have done the same thing.

It is no wonder that young female writers believe that they are knocking down barriers to a male-dominated science fiction field. The easily accessible volumes from the recent past make it seem that way. These writers would have to examine dusty old magazines to see the preponderance of female names. They would have to actually look at the awards ballots from the 1990s to see that women dominated the short fiction categories for years.

This anthology is but one corrective. Since I announced this project on a website titled women in science fiction, others have taken up the fight to retrieve the history of the field. I say more power to them. We need to revive good stories by great writers—not just the women of the field, but the men as well.

Thank you for picking up the anthology. If you enjoy the stories you find here as much as I did, please share this book with another reader. That’s how fiction survives. That’s how invisible writers become visible again.

That’s how stories live.

—Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Lincoln City, Oregon

September 12, 2015

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