Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Michael Moorcock: Also Wrong About Leigh Brackett

Kevyn Winkless forwarded this absolutely fantastic article by Michael Moorcock. If you are a fan of Leigh Brackett, you won’t want to miss it.

It contains, however, an error that I have been calling out in the week since Leigh Brackett’s centennial:

There was a time when the kind of science fantasy Brackett made her own was looked down upon as a kind of bastard progeny of science fiction (which was about scientific speculation) and fantasy (which was about magic). Critics of the 50s hated it because it was very uncool to be as blatantly, gorgeously romantic as Brackett, to combine the natural and the supernatural so effortlessly. Maybe that was why, too, she deliberately obscured her gender in the early days. It was a pretty unladylike form.

Part of this I debunked last Thursday when Tansy Rayner Roberts brought up the “dismissed for mashing up science fiction and fantasy” assertion. The part about Leigh Brackett “obscuring her gender” I showed to be incorrect when I called out Jeet Heer about it last Friday.

Now, you’d think I’d be a little embarrassed. Here I am contending with these people over something like this when Michael Moorcock was saying pretty much the same thing back in 2000. But just like all those people reading on some Star Wars wiki that Leigh Brackett’s Star Wars script was “discarded” and accepting it as a given,  Moorcock and Rayner and Heer are all simply repeating something they’ve heard. Sure it sounds plausible. Yes it feels right. Heck yeah, people love to hear it. And hardly anyone would be so gauche as to challenge them on this sort of thing. But it’s still wrong.

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6 responses to “Michael Moorcock: Also Wrong About Leigh Brackett

  1. Cirsova December 15, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    I’ll need to start reading more Astounding to check it out, but I gather that there was a bit of an elitist vibe coming from the Campbellian camp that really did look down on the kinds of stories that companies like “Love Romance Publishing” were putting out as ‘unserious’ science fiction; that very well could have been what killed the pulps in the 50s and drove writers like Brackett to greener pastures. The letters to the editor do give an impression that there has always (at least since the 40s) been a war between the hard sci-fi and the romantic sci-fi crowds.

    I can see how a portion of Analog’s audience could see stuff like Maker of Universes, Amber or the Green Phoenix and balk at the idea they could be called Science Fiction.

    • jeffro December 15, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      There was a split, sure. Where I’m not convinced of is that “hard sf” was necessarily male and “planetary romance” was fundamentally female. Critics may have complained about the latter… but they complain about everything. If the first wave of rpg’s is representative fandom, then those critics had very little impact on people’s imagination. (Changed in publishing starting in ~1977 would have had a much bigger effect.)

      One thing we know for sure, though. Leigh Brackett did not hide her identity as a woman or alter her voice as a writer to accommodate “anti-woman” fans, critics, and editors. That is the main thrust of these fairy tales, but it is pure myth. The narrative was created by someone else, it became ubiquitous, and then people dropped Leigh Brackett into it as if she supports it when she doesn’t. Mostly because “Leigh” seems like a dude’s name or something….

      • Cirsova December 15, 2015 at 1:55 pm

        Oh, no I wouldn’t suggest that they were gendered at all, but I definitely get the impression that there were those even back in the 40s and 50s who felt that we needed to put a stop to all of the silliness of swordsmen on mars and naked venusian sorceresses.

        The late 60s, early 70s is when I see the notions of SF/F fusion as a “women’s thing” first being floated despite all of the evidence that it was just an SpecFic thing in general.

        It’s fairly obvious from the titles being labeled Sci-Fi during the 70s that the ‘Hard Sci-Fi is TruSci-Fi’ camp of the previous decades hadn’t really won.

        And you’re right, while some women may have hidden their names, to say that they hid them to hide the fact that they were a woman would need to be evaluated on a case by case basis, considering just how many pulp authors went by initials and pseudonyms and how many women went by their full names.

    • jeffro December 15, 2015 at 2:06 pm

      A. Merritt– he hid the fact that he was a man with an old testament name for fear that he’d be written off by socialist atheist science fiction bigots! Or something.

      • Cirsova December 15, 2015 at 2:20 pm

        Exactly. A person would have to make a lot of assumptions to jump to the conclusion that a writer was hiding this or that about themself for using a pseud or initials, much less make that assumption about ALL writers doing so.

  2. Pingback: Throwing Gary Gygax Under the Bus for Justice | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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