Guest Post Series Announcement: SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition of A Handful of Time (1963), Rosel George Brown)

The time has come for a new Guest Post series on SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969. My reasons are two-fold: 1) to showcase a deserving and fascinating topic in line with my goal to feature lesser known SF from a range of viewpoints and traditions 2) to feature posts from reviewers in the vintage SF blogsphere and beyond (in any combination of the following) that attempt to move past standard lists and grand narratives of canon, tackle fiction from evidence-based analytical and academic perspectives, or are simply darn good writers whose sites I cannot help but return to compulsively.

Why pre-1969? Although most endpoints are arbitrary in nature, 1969 saw the publication of Ursula Le Guin’s magisterial The Left Hand of Darkness. Considered a watershed moment in the history of women writers as it was the first to win a Hugo Award for best novel, Le Guin among many others were part of a rich (albeit oft suppressed and ignored) genealogy of women SF authors reaching back to Mary Shelly. My focus on short stories will allow exploration of many authors who did not write novels, whose novels overshadow their short fiction, and those whose rich body of early work focused predominately on the short form.

Thus I have rounded up my normal suspects along with new voices. The first guest post series covered the work of Michael Bishop and the second Kate Wilhelm.

Topics in the queue: Robot therapists, French and Soviet SF, a range of speculative fictions from the 19thcentury to the 1960s seeping with horror and psychological tension, 40s/50s pulp, and New Wave experimentation…

Authors include: Judith Merril, Sonya Dorman, Pamela Zoline, Kit Reed, Anne McCaffrey, C. L. Moore, Katherine MacLean, Edna Underwood, Nathalie Henneberg, Olga Larionova, Leslie Perri, Alice Eleanor Jones,  Margaret St. Clair, Kate Wilhelm, among many many others.

Check out Ian Sales’ worthy resource the “100 Great Science Fiction Stories by Women.” And two worthwhile recent anthologies of early SF stories by women to track down: New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow (1994) and Feminine Futures: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers (2015).

List of Guest Post Reviews

Incomplete list of my previous reviews related to the theme

Miriam Allen deFord

Judith Merril

Kit Reed

Margaret St. Clair

Kate Wilhelm

Anthologies with stories by women authors

  • Best SF Stories from New Worlds 3 (1968), ed. Michael Moorcock, story by Pamela Zoline
  • Orbit 1 (1966), ed. Damon Knight, stories by Sonya Dorman, Kate Wilhelm, Virginia Kidd, and Allison Rice
  • Orbit 3 (1968), ed. Damon Knight, stories by Joanna Russ, Doris Pitkin Buck, and Kate Wilhelm

A Gallery of Tantalizing Covers and Relevant Volumes

Heat Death

(Uncredited interior art illustrating Pamela Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe” in New Worlds Speculative Fiction, July 1967, ed. Michael Moorcock)


(Cover for The Thought Stealer / The Mechanical Man (1930), the latter is by Amelia Reynolds Long)


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition of The Mile-Long Spaceship (1963), Kate Wilhelm)


(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1963 edition of Out of Bounds (1960), Judith Merril)


(Mel Hunter’s cover for the September 1964 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Avram Davidson, contains stories by Miriam Allen deFord and Sonya Dorman)


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1969 edition of Xenogenesis (1969), Miriam Allen deFord)


(Lloyd Birmingham’s cover for Fantastic Stories of Imagination, September 1962, contains Ursula Le Guin’s first published SF story, “April in Paris”)


(Frank R. Paul’s cover for Science-Fiction Plus, October 1953, ed. Hugo Gernsback, contains Anne McCaffrey’s first published short story, “Freedom of the Race”)


(Keith Roberts’ cover for Science Fantasy, November 1965, ed. Kyril Bonfiglioli, contains Josephine Saxton’s first published short story, “The Wall”)


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1966 edition of Orbit 1 (1966), ed. Damon Knight, four of nine short stories are by women)


(Richard Merkin’s cover for the influential anthology England Swings SF (1968), ed. Judith Merril, contains stories by Josephine Saxton, Hilary Bailey, and Pamela Zoline)

28 thoughts on “Guest Post Series Announcement: SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969

  1. I’ve read Ursula LeGuin “April in Paris” in her collection,”The Wind’s Twelve Ouarters”,the VG Classics edition[1989].I don’t recall what it was about.The most memorable ones for me in there,were “Winter’s King” and The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas”.I don’t mean it as any stain on her,that I found her novels more memorable.The choice is only preferential.

  2. “… oft suppressed and ignored) genealogy of women SF authors …”

    “Ignored”? Yes, all too often back in the day, because – as I remember well – it was a common assumption that women couldn’t do things as well as men. Or rather, perhaps, as interestingly as men – because, it was stupidly assumed, what interested women was less exciting than what interested men. (Never mind evidence to the contrary provided by the careers of Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore.)

    But “suppressed”? That’s hard to swallow when all the period cover scans you’ve shared plainly proclaim female authorship. (“Suppressed” is a pretty strong word that indicates – to me – never having been published at all.)

    • Y’know, in the second issue of my zine, Kathryn Rusch had an interesting article on how to stake the claim of being pioneers, women would often be complicit in sweeping away and erasing the accomplishments of other women who came before them. It can even be a passive erasure, too. Claims on anthologies like “Women are writing sci-fi now!” imply that women were not writing sci-fi before. Changing the narrative to “women wrote under pseudonyms to hide they were women”, when the reality was much more complicated (such as CL Moore not wanting her employer to find out she wrote for disreputable rags like Weird Tales) is a way that the accomplishments of women writers can be suppressed. Meanwhile, you had Leigh Brackett and Margaret St. Clair both being published under their names. When it came to Brackett, folks in the letters section knew she was a woman and they adored her stories and were often clamoring for more of them.

      Anyway, this looks like it’ll be a great series, and I’ll definitely keep my eyes open, especially for any names Joachim covers from the mid-to late pulp era.

    • Pamela Sargent was the force behind the “Women of Wonder” anthology. But, Merril definitely played an important part in other ways. The antho obviously contained Merril’s famous story That Only a Mother (1948)

      • Ahh! You’re right. I should have consulted my copy. 😉 But yes, I recall seeing some other anthologies/critical commentary by Merril.

        Looking forward to the guest post series… (though I’m still getting caught up your older posts!)

        • I now think I was in error, it appears that Heinlein “invented” the term in the 40s but Merril popularized the more wide-ranging concept behind the term — with collections such as England Swings SF (speculative fiction rather that science fiction). And of course Moorcock did as well in New Worlds… I should read more of the editorials in New Worlds/affiliated publications, I know that Moorcock sometimes had Merril write them.

          • I thought it was my understanding some time back,that it was Sam Delaney who first used the term,to describe his own stuff.I think I read about it in Brian Aldiss’s SF history,”Trillion Year Spree;I think I’ll have to go back and have a look.

            It seems the British “new wave” such as J.G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock,were apparently aware that they were writing speculative fiction,even before the term was invented abroad!

      • I like how when we think it’s Merril we use the heroic “coined” but when it looks like it’s Heinlein we use the dismissive “invented” complete with scare quotes.

        • Thanks for your comment. I should point out that I admitted my mistake. Also, I think we can both agree that the genre-bending/pushing elements of the term did indeed arise in the New Wave era…

      • When I say “speculative fiction” I mean to include things like Dracula and Lord of the Rings in the same box as War of the Worlds and Starship Troopers, because I think many genre readers read both SF and fantasy (and for the same reasons, to have an unusual adventure and explore intriguing possibilities) and because so many writers write both. But Wikipedia suggests that when Heinlein first used the term he specifically excluded fantasy, so maybe this is one of those fluid terms which has evolved and which everybody uses however he or she wants.

      • I now feel like tracking down various Merril anthologies and seeing what she says about the term (she doesn’t address it directly in England Swings SF, alas)… because it definitely took on a context driven series of connotations in the 60s.

      • I remember Ellison talking about why he preferred to say “speculative fiction” in one of his innumerable intros…maybe I can google it up.

  3. Hi

    I am looking forward to this. You always expose me to new writers or works to try and even when I am familiar with a them, a new perspective is interesting. I did read the Kate Wilhelm story “Baby, You Were Great!” that you mentioned. Having only read “Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang” I was surprised at how brutal yet powerful the story was. A harbinger of the worst trends in Reality TV perhaps.


    • Hello Guy,
      Thanks for your comment + kind words. I am glad you “enjoyed” (perhaps appreciated is a better word) “Baby, You Were Great!” — I thought it was a powerful discussion of the male gaze mixed with a horrifying future technology that heightens contemporary issues.

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