In the past year or so I’ve put together an informal series on the first three published short fictions by female authors who are new(ish) to me and/or whose most famous SF novels fall mostly outside the post-WWII to mid-1980s focus of my reading adventures. So far I’ve featured Josephine Saxton (1935-), Carol Emshwiller (1921-2019), Nancy Kress (1948-), Melisa Michaels (1946-2019), Lee Killough (1942-), and Eleanor Arnason (1942-).
I do not expect transformative or brilliant things from first stories. This is particularly relevant to keep in mind for today’s post. Rather, it’s a way to get a sense of subject matter and concerns that first motivated authors to put pen to paper and to further map the territories that fascinate me.
Today I’ve selected the first three professional science fiction stories published by Betsy Curtis (1917-2002). She is “best” known for her Hugo-nominated short story “The Steiger Effect” that appeared in Analog Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. (October 1968). It lost to Harlan Ellison’s “The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World” (1968). Her short biographical blurb by Eric Leif Davin in Partners In Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction 1926-1965 (2006) indicates that she received an M.A. in English (1941) from Oberlin College, in 1966 another M.A. in Education from Allegheny College, and was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism (375). Her work is not discussed in much detail by Davin. She published 13 stories in professional magazines and two in fanzines between 1950-1973. For a bit more about her fannish activities, check out the following forum posts.
Have you read any of her work? If so, what were your thoughts?
2.75/5 (Below Average)
Betsy Curtis’ “Divine Right” first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas (Summer 1950). You can read it online here.
Sometime in the future a family of telepathic monarchs rule. Until the death of King Almar the Eighth, Curtis suggests the monarchy was more on the benevolent side of things–collecting a small tithe and encouraging the indoctrination of children to its glories through song and rhyme. But everything changes with the controversial ascension of King Glann. Unlike his predecessors, he squeezes the people dry for new palatial constructions. The story’s protagonist, the young Tod Winster bubbles with the capitalistic credo: “But Dad [..] When you’ve worked hard and earned something, shouldn’t it be yours to keep?” (98). He wants a bicycle. And in a confusing sequence of events his life savings are handed over as a tithe to King Glann in a ceremony to inaugurate the completion of the Winter Palace… but something is amiss. The king doesn’t seem to be a telepath at all. And Tod’s confused actions create the spark of rebellion!Continue reading