The Women Other Women Don’t See

Trigger Warning:  Humor, Snark, Truth, Thoughts That Might Be Different Than Yours.

In case you’re wondering, yes, the title of this post is a riff on the James Tiptree, Jr., story “The Women Men Don’t See”.  And yes, there is a book review buried in here.  I’ll provide the pertinent information about the book later.  First, though, some of men

I’ve heard for years that there were virtually no women writers in science fiction and fantasy before [insert date du jour here] because they were discriminated against by all the men in the field and had to use masculine pseudonyms or initials if they wanted to write sf/f.  The actual date when this began to change is something of a moving target and depends loosely on the age of the person making the statement.

This belief is pretty widely held in the field, to the point that it’s almost holy writ.  And while men have spread this myth, women tend to be the loudest in voicing it.

I’ve always been skeptical of it because it just didn’t fit my observations.  I began reading science fiction (and later fantasy) in the late 70’s and early 80’s (late elementary, junior high and high school, in other words).  Because my father monitored my reading to make sure it was age appropriate, I tended to read a lot of older stuff because I knew it was more likely to pass muster.  Fortunately, at that time older science fiction and fantasy was pretty easy to come by.

Asimov Presents the Great SF Vol 1There were a number of anthologies edited by Robert Silverberg in my 7th grade junior high library.  The Del Rey Best of series was just wrapping up, and DAW’s Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF series was just getting started.  Plus many older works were available in paperback reprints or in second hand book stores.

Know what I found in those volumes, especially those edited by Silverberg and Asimov?  Women writers. Margaret St. Clair.  Julian May.  Mildred Klingerman, Carol Emshwiller. Miriam Allen deFord.  Katherine McLean.

I was blown away by “In Hiding” by Wilmar H. Shiras.  I felt like the central character (who was not the narrator) could have been me.  I tracked down Children of the Atom, the mosaic novel of which “In Hiding” is the first section when I discovered there was an SFBC edition.

At some point, I’m fairly sure I was still in elementary school, I found an old reading text.  For those from different educational backgrounds, these are basically anthologies, similar to those of the university level, that contain grade appropriate stories or novel excerpts along with some discussion questions and writing exercises.  Why do I mention this?  Because it contained the first story in Zenna Henderson’s series about The People (which was begun in the 1950s).  The book was old enough in the late 1970s that it was no longer in use as a text, which would probably give it a publication date somewhere in the 1960s.  (BTW, part of this series was adapted as a TV movie in 1972 for ABC and starred William Shatner.)The People

Know what was well represented on bookstore shelves at the time (again, I’m limiting the discussion to late 70s-early 80s)?  A number of women writers.  There were plenty of titles by Andre Norton, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Kathryn Kurtz, Evangeline Walton, Doris Piserchia, C. J. Cherryh, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jo Clayton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Tanith Lee, Vonda N. McIntyre, Jane Gaskell, Chelsea Quinn Yarbo, and others who have faded into the mists of time and memory.

My point is that I never considered that women writers weren’t part of the field.  I took it for granted that they were.  After all, I had no trouble finding (and enjoying) their work.  Or did I imagine reading those books by Phyllis Eisenstein, Patricia McKillip, and Jane Yolen?

It was only later that I was told that women weren’t part of the field until “recently”.  Really?  I hadn’t realized Anne McCaffery, Pamela Sargent, Judith Merrill, and Kate Wilhelm were such Johnny Jane come-latelies.

I was also told any science fiction and fantasy authors who wrote for the pulps in the 1930s and 1940s had to hide their sex from the editors and readers.

C L Moore chin on hand

C. L. Moore

For example, there was C. L. Moore, who was forced to use her initials so editors would buy her stories.  Except, uh,…no.  She used her initials because she started writing after hours at the bank where she worked.  This was the depths of the Depression, and she was supporting her elderly parents.  She was afraid that if her employer found out she had a second income and how she earned it, he would fire her.  Moore is on record as saying so as early as the 70s.  There is also abundant evidence that her gender was known to fans and editors within the first couple of years of her career.

Then there’s Leigh Brackett, who had to hide behind a man’s name.  Except that she didn’t.  Leigh is her birth name.  Brackett had an impressive body of work in the pulps in the early 40s but then her output slowed, becoming sporadic until her death in the late 1970s.  But not because she was ostracized, discriminated against, or blacklisted.  She had moved on to more lucrative fields, namely screenwriting.

Brackett had written a hard-boiled detective novel which caught the attention of producer Howard Hawks.  Hawks hired Brackett to co-write the screenplay for the film adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Her co-author was a studio hack, now what was his name…oh, yeah, William Faulkner.  (Yes, that William Faulkner.)  Among her screen credits is the film Rio Bravo, starring an obscure actor named John Wayne.  (Perhaps you’ve heard of him.)  Brackett wrote screenplays for several of his movies.  The last thing she worked on before her death was the first draft of a little movie entitled The Empire Strikes Back.

Leigh Brackett

Leigh Brackett

Not to put to fine a point on it, Brackett moved on from writing for the pulps because her talent was recognized by someone who could pay her what her stories were worth.  Brackett also mentored some kid named Ray Bradbury, who completed “Lorelei of the Red Mist”, which she was working on when she got the assignment of The Big Sleep.  He not only finished her story but also went on to have a minor career in the field and openly acknowledged Brackett’s influence on his own writing.  Maybe you’ve heard of him as well.

I never bought into the idea that there were few women in science fiction and those few had to hide their sex, nor did I buy into the myth of a patriarchy who actively tried to silence female voices.  But I never realized just how many women wrote for the pulps until I read Partners in Wonder by Eric Leif Davin.  I’d read his earlier book, Pioneers in Wonder, which is a history of some of the early sf writers of the pulps.  I found Pioneers in Wonder to be informative, interesting and insightful.  I expected Partners in Wonder to be similar, a brief history of a few early women writers.

Hoo, boy.  Was I in for a surprise.

Partners in WonderPartners in Wonder
Women and the Birth of Science Fiction 1926-1965
Eric Leif Davin
Lexington Books, 431 p.
hardcover, $125.88
trade paper, $47.98
kindle, $33.49

No, you aren’t reading those prices wrong; they’re not typos.  Lexington is a small press in the UK.  And this book won’t be light reading.  I’m not expecting anyone to rush out and buy it at these prices.

But that’s beside the point.  Davin is a historian at the University of Pittsburgh, or at least he was when this book was written (2006).  So some of the things he says about the current state of the field might be a little out of date in places.

Davin, like I said, is an academic, and as such takes an academic’s approach to the material, in this case a cultural historian’s approach.  What that means is that I’m going to try to attempt to summarize his results and acknowledge up front that I may get some technical points wrong.  And make no mistake, this is an academic book.  There are footnotes, or rather, end notes.  Davin documents his information.  He doesn’t take the predominant historical narrative of the field at face value but checks everything.

Startling Stories Vulcan's DollsDavin examined every issue of every science fiction and fantasy magazine published in the US between 1926 and 1965, looking for women writers.  First he limited himself to magazines that were devoted to either science fiction or fantasy (and admits there were women who published science fiction and fantasy in general fiction magazines that aren’t included in his count).  Second, he only counted authors who could be verified as female.  Any author with a gender neutral byline or who used initials who couldn’t be verified as female weren’t included.

Davin goes into detail in his chapters, describing and/or quoting some of the authors at length.  He also conveniently provides tables and summary figures in Appendices.  From 1926-1949, 65 female authors published 288 stories in 20 magazines (i.e., all of the genre magazines of the period),  From 1950-1960 another 138 female authors joined the field, for a total of 203 women writers who together published a total of 922 stories.

Miskatonic University Press Weird Tales compendiumThese figures don’t include women who published in Weird Tales.  In The Unique Magazine, 127 known women writers published 365 short stories and serials, or 13.45% of the fiction.  These figures do not include female poetry authors (63, or 40% of the poets), nor do they include authors of indeterminate gender.

I could go on with the figures, but I won’t.  I sense that some of your eyes are starting to glaze over.  I think you’re starting to get the idea:  although in the minority, women were a significant portion of the active writers during the era of “patriarchal oppression.”  Davin provides brief biographies of 133 of these women.

And Davin doesn’t limit himself to just women authors.  He also lists 26 women who edited science fiction, fantasy, and weird magazines between 1928 and 1960.  Included are Cele Goldsmith (Amazing Stories and Fantastic Stories), Dorothy McIlwraith, (Weird Tales), and Bea Mahaffey (Other Worlds) of the swimsuit fame that got Resnick and Malzberg removed from writing for the SFWA Bulletin.

Midwest Fandom

Midwest Fandom in the 1950s Back Row: unidentified, unidentified, Don Ford, Roy Lavender Front Row: Margaret Keifer, Loyd Eschbach, Pat Lake, Bea Mahaffey, Dee Dee Lavender From the collection of Mike Resnick.

In addition, Davin shows that women were active in fandom from the very beginning of organized fandom (Chapter4).  One of the ways he determined how active women were in fandom was through the letters columns in the magazines.  Which resulted in something I found amusing.  Isaac Asimov is on record for stating that male fans didn’t want females invading their space.  According to the letter columns of the time, it seems that the only fan who held that opinion was… Isaac Asimov.  A number of males fans welcomed their female counterparts.  As did the editors, something Davin goes to great lengths to document.

And in Chapters 8 and 9, Davin examines (respectively) anti-Semitism and racism in the field, and shows that these things may have been exaggerated, especially where accusations against a certain editor are concerned.

I’ll stop here.  There’s a great deal of detail in the book, which I won’t try to reproduce.

I will address two more points.  First, the science fiction women wrote has always differed from the science fiction men wrote, especially in the 1950s.  Whereas male oriented science fiction of the time focused on exploration, that of women tended toward empathy and community and was often set in some type of utopia.  This is less true these days as gender roles have blurred in the intervening decades.  Davin refers to this as “First Wave” feminist fiction, which he distinguishes from the Second Wave of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Mildred Clingerman

Mildred Clingerman, author of 14 stories in the 1950s.

The second, and in some ways more important point, is why have all of these women writers been forgotten?  Davin offers several contributing things.  First, science fiction at the end of the 1950s (there were almost no pure fantasy markets at the time) moved from being a magazine (and thus short story) oriented field to a novel oriented field.  For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, many women writers didn’t make this transition.  There was a significant drop in the number of female science fiction authors in the early 1960s.

But I think one of the major reasons that many of the women writers from before the 1960s have been forgotten is that they wrote the wrong kind of science fiction and were not recognized by women who came later.  Here’s what Davin has to say:

…for political reasons Second Wave feminists did not believe science fiction had a female past.  They were not able to see back, beyond the early-Sixities contraction, to that female past because their mythology said it had never existed.  And one does not seek something one believes does not exists. (p. 307)

…many women who came into the field with a working knowledge of only Second Wave feminist science fiction, denigrated the Fifties female counter-culture for its somehow “inferior” emphasis on “hearth and home”…Thus, asserting that only their own overtly-politicized version of women’s science fiction really mattered, they disparaged and denigrated the vast bulk of early women’s writing. (p. 309)

Davin concludes

The counter-cultural concerns and worldviews expressed in First Wave women’s science fiction are just as valid and important as the themes, concerns, and sensibilities found in male or Second Wave feminist science fiction.  We are talking about such concerns as human interdependence and the struggles for emotional connection, we are talking about cooperation, and community…Surely cooperation, altruism, and community are worth writing about.  And First Wave’s women science fiction writers did exactly that. (p. 310)

Davin takes his fellow social historians to task for taking the narrative of the science fiction and fantasy fields as being a sexist patriarchy at face value without verifying the narrative with actual data.  He’s right to do so.  As Davin shows in his book, with actual numerical data, that myth ain’t so.

Women have always made a significant contribution to the field ever since science fiction as a genre came into existence.  They contributed as fans.  They contributed as editors.  They contributed as writers.  To say otherwise is to marginalize their contribution and their work.  Especially if you’re pushing an agenda.

Some of the authors and stories Davin goes into detail about sound interesting, even some I know I will have major philosophical differences with them.  I’d like to read them.  To some extent that’s possible.  I’ve got collections or novels by some of these authors, and copies of old pulps that contain other stories.  I’ll be looking at them from time to time, starting with the next review post.

Update:  The same day I posted this, Kristine Kathryn Rusch announced a new project she’s working on to bring the work of many of these women back into print.  You can find out more here.

Kris, thanks for doing this.  Most of these women who have faded into obscurity were excellent writers, and I want to read more of their work.

57 thoughts on “The Women Other Women Don’t See

  1. John Bullard

    Well done, Keith! Thanks for bringing this book up for us to read (if we can afford it…). Having sadly watched the outbreak of the SJW Jihad in SF&F over the last few years where their arguments are based on post-modern collective-think and feelings instead of facts and logic to brow-beat everyone into following their creed with no dissenting opinions, I have become more and more disillusioned and tired listening to the same old-same old. It’s good to now have a sourced academic work to point them at for them to further ignore or explain away instead of having to reassess their arguments. What a sad state of affairs for a once robust community that used to allow many different viewpoints in one big tent. I blame fluoride in the water and Evil Republicans ™ for this!!!!

    1. Keith West Post author

      Thanks, John, and you’re welcome. I have less and less tolerance for the no-dissenting-opinions crap. Davin did a pretty thorough job in this book. His results need to be more widely known.

      1. Woelf Dietrich

        Agreed. I’m new to fandom so I was surprised to hear how no women authors get a chance or recognition. My reading experience did not reflect that. Awesome article.

        1. Keith West Post author

          Thanks. I took my time trying to get this one together and still don’t think I succeeded in writing exactly what I wanted to say.

          1. Woelf Dietrich

            Whatever you wanted to say, what you’ve said here is fine. And do you want to know why? Most articles on female authors in speculative fiction are so vehemently political, they always end up berating males and things just get worse from there. Your article is about the love of fiction, about reading and books and about discovering authors, and you can see it in your words.

          2. Keith West Post author

            Thank you. You nailed what I was trying to say. Which proves that authors aren’t always the best judges of their own work.

    1. Keith West Post author

      In addition to the quote I provided, he quotes several of the Second Wave authors. I’m at work and my copy of the book is at home, or I would give you more detail. I’ll try to respond further later.

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  4. Keith West Post author

    OK, now that I’m home and everyone else has gone to bed (or is headed that way), I’ve been able to look up Davin’s sources. He quotes Lisa Tuttle, Pamela Sargent, and critic Chris Morgan. Tuttle in particular seemed to have dismissed writers such as Mildred Clingerman, Zenna Henderson, and Judith Merrill as writing “sentimental stories”. Davin summarizes Tuttle’s comments in her article “Women SF Writers” in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by John Clute and Peter Nicholls.

      1. Keith West Post author

        You’re welcome. I don’t have Clute’s book, so I’m going to have to track down a copy.

        1. Craig

          FYI, the Encyclopedia went online a few years ago. It has since been been vastly expanded; I haven’t looked at the online version of the women in SF article.

          1. Keith West Post author

            Thanks. I didn’t know that. I will try to take a look over the weekend.

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  6. Uh Huh

    I found a link about the Malzberg/Resnick Witchunt from a writer who was condemning them man for the word “Knockout” and is obviously pushing censorship which to me is a disgrace for any writer to even think about. Yet it is all to common in todays so called Tolerant +, Enlightened Times.

    I wanted to post this link with my response on his sight but since NoScript notified me that it would have required me to expose myself to a potential XSS attack I decided not risk it. So Ill just post it here along with a link to the page, if anyone cares to read it,

    It was just one of many hate columns of the day that preceded this whole Hugo debacle and shows why there probably was a need for a group such as SP to come and check the new Wannabe Hierarchy,

    Here is a good article that refutes todays SJW’s naive arrogance on the subject of History and so called Patriarchy in SF/F

    I had you on my list to read but I can tell you after reading this that Ill be doing a U and censoring you from my buying list and anyone I speak of writing with if you come up I’ll advice them that you are one of those Modern LibNazi’s who think censorship is not censorship if it’s something you personally choose to find offensive.

    I don’t mind giving back the same medicine to those who should know better.

    And DUDE, if you think lavishing someone with compliments and then adding that the person was a “Knockout” is proof of evil in this world, then you must be deflecting and covering up skeletons in your own closet as every adult on the planet has done far worse and many many times so.

    Why are you not out picketing romance publishers for being the hallmark of Sexism in fiction if you pretend to feel so strongly about it.

    I’d say Hypocrisy has a lot to do with it.

    Quite pretending to be above human nature, It’s a unsustainable ideology that fosters it’s own unique brand of hate.

    1. Keith West Post author

      I’m with you. To call someone a “knockout” is a compliment. Even if it’s not one you care for, try to be gracious enough to take it in the spirit it was intended. Especially if the person making the compliment isn’t referring to you but someone else.

      Thanks for posting, and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here.

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  9. Suburbanbanshee

    1. Obviously a lot of feminist sf theorists also happened to be lesbians, and might naturally have had less interest in romantic stories that have women romancing men. And if they weren’t romance readers, they also wouldn’t be aware that the conventions of romance stories change a lot from decade to decade, and thus wouldn’t be able to appreciate the ingenuity of a story within those conventions, or how they break them.

    2. A lot of guys back in the day did read and enjoy stories with strong love interest plots. For example, if you read Louis L’Amour stories with romance elements, that wasn’t a sop for the ladies; it was for all his readers who liked love stories. So it was natural for sf magazines to have a nice mix of different kinds of plots.

    1. Keith West Post author

      These are good points. I don’t often read category romance, so I’m not very familiar with the conventions of the genre. I don’t know that I would recognize when the conventions were being broken. OTOH, I like stories that do have a romantic subplot because I like stories about people, and romance and love are part of what makes a person human.

  10. wanderingmuses

    Really excellent piece! I, too, would be interested in some of those old stories (that I’ve probably read since I’m old) so I look forward to Katherine’s book.

  11. James May

    Nice piece. Facts, not assumptions.

    I never hear anyone mention Mary Gnaedinger. This is from memory but she edited all 80 plus issues of Famous Fantastic Mysteries 1939-53 and Fantastic Novels in a similar timeframe but interrupted by WW II so it was only 25 issues or so.

    Mostly reprints from the old Munsey mags with some newer and sometimes original stuff from English authors. I used to have every issue. Very informed of the field and high literary content – the highest – and much-loved in its day.

    Covers and interior art by Lawrence Stevens (and his son) and Virgil Finlay.

    It’s worth contrasting your post with Foz Meadows piece in the Huffington Post where her research consisted of the usual assumptions about “three straight, white Anglophone men.” She had to retract and edit the post. That quote came out. The 3 men were Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke. You can tell from modern feminist writings on the Golden Age they’ve never really read that stuff and don’t know anything about it. All they know is it’s colonialist and makes fun of aliens but can’t ever make a case for it. Why would they? They were straight white men. There’s your case. “Nuff said.

    1. Keith West Post author

      Thank you. I try to deal with facts as much as possible.

      Thanks for mentioning Mary Gnaedinger. I had totally forgotten about her and FFM. That’s a pulp that doesn’t get a lot of love these days, but it played an important role in the field.

      I didn’t see the Foz Meadows piece, but then I don’t regularly read HuffPo. I can say with certainty that Meadows and I have very little common ground, having read some of her columns. In fact, I took issue with one not long after I started this blog. For those who are interested (or have too much time on their hands), it’s here:

  12. Reziac

    There’s a huge thick book, I think pubbed by the Library of Congress, that matches pseudonyms to real names. I became aware of its existence when I asked a librarian at Montana State University to help me track down the author of a book who’d published under just initials. (Turns out he’d been a professor at MSU, many decades past, in a field completely different from this book.)

    Anyway, it would probably be useful for matching up some of those “undetermined” individuals of SF/F’s murky publishing past.

    1. Keith West Post author


      Thank you very much for the information. I had no idea such a book existed. That would certainly be helpful. Would it contain information as far back as the 1920s and 30s?

  13. Suburbanbanshee

    I forgot to say earlier that the Margaret Brundage cover of Weird Tales illustrating a woman writer’s story was a nice touch. Brundage’s artwork was pretty much the ultimate fusion of fine art and pulp, she did her own thing (pastel chalks instead of regular paint), and the horror stuff she drew was called misogynist and sexist until the academics found out she was a woman.

    1. Keith West Post author

      That’s one thing Davin didn’t address, the women artists of the period. Other than Brundage, I’m not aware of any. Doesn’t mean there weren’t any.

      Brundage is in a class by herself. I love her work. I’ve been intending to read and review The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage for a while now.

      As for your observation that Brundage’s illustration was for a story written by a woman, that was intentional. I’m glad you caught it and liked it.

      1. Suburbanbanshee

        Oh, there were plenty of women pulp artists, I know that. I don’t have their names on the tip of my tongue, either. I’m always proud of myself when I learn an artist’s name and can start recognizing their work. 🙂

        Of course, just on the numbers of how many magazines existed to be sold to, you’re usually going to find more women artists doing crime and mystery illustrations for the pulps than sf/f. Researching artists is pretty difficult, from what I understand, but there are some sites out there with some info.

        Here’s a guy who used a female pseudonym, “Truda Dahl,” because he did so much pretty-pretty work for women’s magazines. 🙂

        1. Keith West Post author

          I have no doubt there were plenty of women artists working in the pulps. I agree with you that most would be working in other fields.

          Thanks for the link about Dahl. Looks like an interesting character.

    1. Keith West Post author

      I like those illustrations. Thank you for the link. Blue Book was one of the top general fiction pulps of its day. Nelson S. Bond published regularly there IIRC. Davin mentions that Blue Book published sf and fantasy on a regular basis and says he didn’t look at the women writers there because it wasn’t devoted solely to sf. Makes you wonder how many other women wrote sf and fantasy who never appeared in the sf pulps that have been forgotten today.

  14. Paula R. Stiles

    This article is so problematical that I almost don’t know where to start. Let’s start with how I know all of the female writers you mentioned above. I’ve been reading them since I was a kid. I sure didn’t blank them or deny their existence. Neither did any of the female writers or readers in the genre that I know. You know who I do hear denying their existence? A whole lot of men.

    Leaving aside the troubling image of a man lecturing women on their own history in the genre, even you have the wherewithal to admit that women were a minority during the Pulp years back in the day (“…although in the minority, women were a significant portion of the active writers during the era of ‘patriarchal oppression'”), yet you blame women for erasing those writers from the genre record, for refusing to put them in anthologies of Golden Age science fiction. Never mind that the editors refusing to do that were men and their excuse was that women didn’t write science fiction back then. The female editors of anthologies like Women of Wonder certainly weren’t.

    I also find your use of title a bit eye-rolling, as well as your extravagant praise for Silverberg. I like Silverberg, too, but you are aware, are you not, that when Silverberg wrote his effusive introduction to “Warm Worlds and Otherwise,” he was completely convinced that Tiptree was a man and refused to be told otherwise? A man, in fact, who he felt wrote more convincingly about women than women in the genre did?

    Go ahead. Tell us all again about how Silverberg and other male writers of Golden and Silver Age science fiction were really pro-female writer.

    1. Keith West Post author

      “This article is so problematical that I almost don’t know where to start.”

      You’re certainly free to feel that way.

      “Let’s start with how I know all of the female writers you mentioned above. I’ve been reading them since I was a kid.”

      Glad to hear it. Unfortunately most younger readers can’t say the same thing.

      You know who I do hear denying their existence? A whole lot of men.”

      Do any of these men have names?

      “Leaving aside the troubling image of a man lecturing women”

      Hmm, and here I thought I had written my post for both men and women. Men and women who were not aware of the contributions of women to the field because they had been told these women writers didn’t exist. Seems to me that anyone who cared about women’s contributions to the field would welcome a post that gave these women some publicity and made people (both men and women) aware of their existence and their work.

      “you have the wherewithal to admit that women were a minority during the Pulp years back in the day (“…although in the minority, women were a significant portion of the active writers during the era of ‘patriarchal oppression’”), “

      Yes, women were a minority. They were not nonexistent as some people claim, which was my point. No one, certainly not me, is arguing that men weren’t the majority. What I am saying is that men were not the entirety. A minority is anything less than 50%. I’m traveling and don’t have access to Davin’s book, but I believe IIRC that he calculates the number of women writers to be roughly between 15 and 20% in the decades he examined. And while that’s certainly a minority, that’s not an insignificant percentage.

      ” Never mind that the editors refusing to do that were men and their excuse was that women didn’t write science fiction back then.”

      Again, do these men have names? Please provide examples of both the editors and the anthologies in which they intentionally did not include women, along with supporting statements to that effect from these men.

      “your extravagant praise for Silverberg”

      I merely stated that I became aware of some of these women writers when I encountered their works in anthologies, some of which were edited by Silverberg. I fail to see how that is extravagant praise. Furthermore, I said nothing about Silverberg’s introduction to WARM WORLDS AND OTHERWISE, or Tiptree either, other than to say the title of the post is a riff on the title of a Tiptree story. I am aware (and have been for years) that Silverberg wrote the introduction with the belief that Tiptree was a man. Silverberg’s introduction has nothing to do with the topic of the post. The topic of the post is Eric Leif Davin’s book documenting that women were active in the science fiction and fantasy fields as writers, editors, and fans since the earliest years that science fiction pulps existed.

    2. Uh Huh

      @Paula, This is why articles like this are illuminating. It will bring out people like you to let us all know that beside the daily articles one can read linked from SFSignal that basically state The Evil White Nerds have always had a patriarchal oppression/hate for “Da Ladies” and even though they do little more then incite it’s own brand of hate and a New Repression Hierarcy. But anyone who suggests otherwise becomes akin to a Enemy of the state.

      Even when the rare article just states the facts,like this one(even though it does not suggest the history feminists/Modern Liberals are portraying) Then people like yourself get upset at the rare opposing POV and come on and pretend that you are representing women and that men have no right to even suggest a counterpoint even if it’s a straight review of a big book of facts.

      I’m sorry but there is something us 80’s Nerds turned into apparent Evil Hate White Machines have learned in these past so called progressive years. It’s that there are two things worse then a Bigot.
      One is a Hypocrite and the other is a Hypocritical Bigot.

      Now the mirror has been put up to one group these last few decades. Maybe it’s time we do the same for the other groups so we can all live in the present and future and not the past.

    3. Carbonel

      Guess what. I’m a female and Mr. West is informing me about MY history. Just as much as yours Ms. Stiles.

      And he recollects it just as well as I do–and the guys I hung out with in fandom who shared my interests.

      So pipe down and quit trying to silence THIS woman’s voice, all right? Those of us women in science fiction are sick and tired of women like you and your male “allies” trying to write us and our voices out of existence.

      It’s sexist, dishonest garbage. Knock it off.

  15. Dan Lane

    I also grew up with old books.

    There was a shelf in my house full of yellow spines (Daw), blue and white (Ace doubles), and multicolored mysterious titles for a curious youngster to explore. There was Tanith Lee, who I was sad to find out today that she died recently. C.J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Jodi Lynne Nye, Jennifer Roberson, and others populated those shelves, along with Christopher Stascheff, Isaac Asimov, Jerry Pournelle, and Fritz Leiber, and others.

    For the young reader I was, though, those names didn’t matter. Not till later. There were whole worlds of stories to discover! I’m not in the least ashamed to say I spent more time devouring those books than I did reading my classwork, or even playing video games (child of the eighties. eh, it could’ve been worse). My grade school art project was a diorama of The Battle of Five Armies from The Hobbit. My college notebooks have Bolos and dragons doodled in the corners.

    It still jars me whenever I hear “there were no women in science fiction till just now.” My first response, after “what the frack?” is usually to wonder if these folks are even readers? It’s darned near impossible to miss women in science fiction. No Andre Norton? No Pern? The mind boggles, it does. Who will they erase next, Elizabeth Moon? No more Serranos? Lois McMaster-Bujold? No more Miles? Not to mention no more Sarah Hoyt (who I got here from, at MGC), whom they might wish to rub out *today* if they could.

    Science fiction without women writers would be a sad shadow of itself. It is a sorrowful thing to think there might be people who *don’t know* some of the best in the field even existed, because they think women were somehow kept out.

    Thanks for writing this. Not only did it bring back memories of good books I need to re-read again soon, but it’s a breath of fresh air indeed.

    1. Keith West Post author

      “Science fiction without women writers would be a sad shadow of itself. It is a sorrowful thing to think there might be people who *don’t know* some of the best in the field even existed, because they think women were somehow kept out.”


      And you’re welcome. I’m glad my post had a positive impact on your day.

  16. somercet

    Apparently Patriarchy is is to Feminism what der ewige Jude was to the NSDAP. Crimes must be invented and ascribed to Jews/men.

    Call it, der ewige Mensch .

  17. James May

    For context, another take on this issue is to look at the Stratemeyer Syndicate which published a lot of books aimed at women/girls in the same timeframe (1910-34) as the Munsey Magazines and early SF pulps which were aimed at men/boys. Some people like to behave as if SF pulps acted in concert with some larger exclusion of women and that’s false. In particular there are the Ruth Fielding books 1919-34. We’re talking about marketing and cultural interests no different than Field and Stream and Cosmopolitan, not discrimination and exclusion.

    Here is an excerpt from an article:

    “But squeaky-clean domestic romances remained the more socially acceptable reading choice until the turn of the century, when publishers like The Henry Altemus Company concluded that ‘girls as well as boys love adventure.’ The Stratemeyer Syndicate published 85 new girls’ series between 1910 and 1920 starring young women who played basketball, drove cars, helped the poor, solved mysteries, and even made movies. Most of all, they went to college. The historian Jane S. Smith has noted that less than four percent of college-aged American girls attended university in 1910, ‘but it was a rare heroine of fiction who did not take a room on the campus green, where she studied biology and Latin, drank cocoa with her kimono-clad chums and upheld the school traditions with moist-eyed fervor.’

    “These books captured the spirit of the Suffragettes, who in 1913 marched on the Washington Mall to demand women’s equality. The popular Ruth Fielding Series (1913-1934) was about an orphan living with a mean uncle who disapproves of her desire for a future outside the home. Smart and ambitious, Ruth works hard in school, goes to college, wins a film-writing contest and even starts her own production company. In book #15, Ruth Fielding Homeward Bound (1919), the narrator explains, ‘Marriage was something very far ahead in the future, if Ruth … thought of it at all.’ When Ruth’s boyfriend Tom proposes in book #19, Ruth Fielding on the St. Lawrence (1922), she feels that ‘to do as Tom wished would utterly spoil the career on which she had now entered so successfully. Tom, like most young men in love, considered that a girl’s only career should be a husband and a home…she wanted to live her own life.'”

    Perpetually aggrieved people with an agenda are selling a false narrative and not doing their homework. In addition, you’ll notice they love to ignore context and resent dragging in context as “derailing.” Nothing exists in a vacuum. There is always “compared to what?”

    1. Keith West Post author

      Excellent points, James. Thanks for making them and providing the link. I had heard of the Ruth Fielding books but really didn’t know anything about them. And you are absolutely correct when you say that certain magazines are aimed at men while others are aimed at women. That’s why there were both Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books around when I was a kid. The former appealed to boys while the latter had a lead character that girls could relate to.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that history is never as simple as it’s reported to be in the mainstream press and in popular publications. It’s always more complicated and has more aspects than whatever narrative is in vogue. As you point out, nothing exists in a vacuum. And I would say that’s especially true of history.

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  20. James

    Great post. As “just a reader” for many years, I only recently heard about this whole patriarchy in SF/F claim. My experience was similar to yours. I remember finding many female writers; they were easy to find. I was actually surprised that anyone believed there was some reluctance to publish female writers. I would love to see some statistics about top sellers. It seems to me there are at least as many female authors that are huge sellers as there are male, even if you don’t count J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer.

    1. Keith West Post author

      Thanks, James. I’m glad you liked the post. The thing about women weren’t welcomed in sf and f is that the date when women became a part of the field is that that date is a moving target. Right now I think the stats skew to women being more numerous than men, at least in fantasy. Not sure about science fiction.

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  25. Jed Hartman

    I just happened across this article. I know you wrote it a while ago, and I know I shouldn’t respond to this kind of thing, but I’m going to anyway.

    I see that you wrote this:

    “Know what I found in those volumes, especially those edited by Silverberg and Asimov? Women writers. Margaret St. Clair. Julian May. Mildred Klingerman, Carol Emshwiller. Miriam Allen deFord. Katherine McLean.”

    I’ve been reading through my father’s extensive science fiction collection, featuring anthologies dating from about 1950 through about 2000. You know what I’ve been finding in those volumes? All of those writers that you’re talking about, *plus twelve times as many men.*

    Literally twelve times as many. I’m keeping stats. A third of the anthologies I’ve looked at from 1953 through 1980 have *no* women among the authors. Most of the rest have only one story by a woman. The solo women are people like “Mrs. Edna Mayne (Hull) Van Vogt”, C. L. Moore, Idris Seabright, Mildred Clingerman, Evelyn E. Smith, Valentina Zhuravleva, Zenna Henderson, Jane Rice, Judith Merril, Kit Reed, Virginia Kidd (co-writing a story in a 1959 Silverberg anthology, featuring 16 male authors and no other women; I’m astonished that you would hold up Silverberg as some kind of paragon of including stories by women), Miriam Allen de Ford, Naomi Mitchison, Anne McCaffrey, and Ursula K. Le Guin. That list of women is from thirty anthologies over a twenty-year period. The *average* number of women in all those anthologies is about 1 per volume; there are a few anthologies in this set that include more than one woman, but very few.

    So, yes, you’re technically right that there existed women who wrote sf before Second Wave feminism, and those women are worth celebrating. But the idea that male anthology editors regularly published more than a very few of those women just isn’t true. The *highest* percentage of stories by women in these anthologies from 1953 through 1973 is 20%, and that’s only because two anthologies had only five stories each in them, so one story by a woman is 20%. Aside from those two instances, the highest percentage is 17%, for two anthologies that each had six stories, one of which was by a woman. Among anthologies that included more than six stories, the highest percentage is about 14%. As I noted earlier, a great many of the anthologies have 0% women.

    It is of course possible that my father had extremely skewed taste, and that he went out of his way to collect only anthologies that had few if any women. But I suspect that if you do a survey of 1950s sf anthologies, you’ll find that (a) nearly all of them were edited by men, and (b) an average of less than 10% of the stories are by women.

    Given such extreme numbers, I think it’s kind of silly to say “But the claim that they didn’t exist is false!” Sure, that claim is false. I imagine some people made that claim, and they were wrong. But that’s not the usual claim that’s made about women who wrote sf before the late ’60s. The usual claims I hear are things like “There weren’t many of them” and “They didn’t often get included in anthologies.” Both of which are quite true.

    PS: Here’s a fairly clear example: _Other Worlds, Other Gods: Adventures in Religious Science Fiction_, a 1971 anthology edited by Mayo Mohs. It includes 13 sf stories about religion dating from 1942 through 1969. Not a single one is by a woman; there isn’t even a story by Zenna Henderson, who was one of the great religious sf writers, and who regularly appeared as the only woman in an anthology.

    1. Keith West Post author

      Jed, thanks for your remarks.

      I’d like to address some of them. As you state, it has been a while since I posted this essay, so I went back and reread what I said, especially about Silverberg. I also did some checking on the ISFDB. I don’t recall which Silverberg anthologies I read in the 7th grade; I just remember there were multiple titles in the school library. So I checked the contents of about half a dozen at random. You are correct in your statement that Silverberg didn’t include women in every anthology, and women were the minority in the anthologies in which they were included.

      But I never said Silverberg included an equal representation of women. What I said was that in my personal reading experience I became aware of some women writers through some of Silveberg’s anthologies, as well as other anthologies. I still stand by that statement.

      Davin’s book, which was the focus of much of my post, didn’t deal with women in anthologies, only in genre magazines. Anthologies are a different animal. Women may very well have been less well represented in them. You data indicates that may well have been the case. I brought anthologies into the conversation to make the point that I don’t buy the narrative that women weren’t represented in early sf circles and publications. I have always considered women to be an important part of the field, in part because I first came across their works in anthologies I read in my youth.

      We probably run in different circles, but I have heard the statement that women weren’t active in the field in the 1930s through the [fill in the blank], had to use pen names, had to use initials, etc. While there were plenty of women active in the periodicals and in fandom, they weren’t the majority. I don’t think anyone is making that claim. But they did exist and in greater numbers than most people realize. Sadly many of them are forgotten and deserve to be rediscovered. They may not have been as well represented in the anthologies as in the magazines, but neither I nor Davin addressed the percentage of women in anthologies.

      You mention a survey of all the anthologies published in the 1950s would probably back up the data you’ve collected. I won’t dispute that. I would love to read through all the anthologies published in the 1950s and do such a survey. Unfortunately time and financial constraints currently prevent me from doing that. Maybe Davin will take that project up in his next book.

      Thanks again for your comments.

  26. J.J. Adamson

    I was really confused when I started to hear how there were no women authors in fantasy: when I was a kid in the eighties and nineties Terry Brooks was the only popular MALE fantasy author. The two most-read were Mercedes Lackey and Marion Zimmer Bradley.

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