FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #500: The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin Edited by Lisa Yaszek

It’s hard to believe I have written 500 Friday’s Forgotten Books reviews! Patti Abbott invited me to join the group and Bill Crider encouraged me as well. So on January 9, 2009 I posted my first Forgotten Book review of THE DREAMING JEWELS (aka THE SYNTHETIC MAN) By Theodore Sturgeon. Over almost 10 years, I’ve tried to alternate Science Fiction with Mysteries each Friday. I reviewed some Fantasy titles, too. To celebrate this milestone today, I chose The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin. The Library of America has done some great volumes of Science Fiction especially the Philip K. Dick sets, but this new volume includes some of the best SF writing of the 20th Century. I read C. L. Moore’s “The Black God’s Kiss” in the early 1960s and was blown away. I quickly searched my local used bookstores for more of C.L. Moore’s work.

I was also a huge fan of “Andre Norton” in the 1960s. Later, I learned both “Andre Norton” and “Andrew North” were actually Alice Mary Norton. Her “All Cats Are Gray” thrilled me as a kid. I read a lot of Leigh Brackett’s work, too. A born story-teller! I recently reread “In Hiding” by Wilmar H. Shiras about mutant children featured in one of the Bleiler and Dikty YEAR’S BEST volumes. Still powerful after almost 70 years! James Tiptree, Jr. (aka, Alice Bradley Sheldon) was one of my favorite writers and “The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” shows why. Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness shocked the SF world and made Le Guin one of the genre’s Major Stars.

This volume includes a variety of stories and some of them were new to me. I hadn’t encountered Leslie F. Stone’s “The Conquest of Gola” and Leslie Perri’s “Space Episode” before reading this book. If you’re interested in the evolution of Science Fiction, the impact of women writers on the genre, and reading some wonderful stories, I highly recommend The Future is Female! GRADE: A
Introduction by Lisa Yaszek
CLARE WINGER HARRIS: The Miracle of the Lily | 1928
LESLIE F. STONE: The Conquest of Gola | 1931
C. L. MOORE: The Black God’s Kiss | 1934
LESLIE PERRI: Space Episode | 1941
JUDITH MERRIL: That Only a Mother | 1948
WILMAR H. SHIRAS: In Hiding | 1948
KATHERINE MACLEAN: Contagion | 1950
MARGARET ST. CLAIR: The Inhabited Men | 1951
ZENNA HENDERSON: Ararat | 1952
ANDREW NORTH: All Cats Are Gray | 1953
ALICE ELEANOR JONES: Created He Them | 1955
MILDRED CLINGERMAN: Mr. Sakrison’s Halt | 1956
LEIGH BRACKETT: All the Colors of the Rainbow | 1957
ELIZABETH MANN BORGESE: For Sale, Reasonable | 1959
DORIS PITKIN BUCK: Birth of a Gardener | 1961
ALICE GLASER: The Tunnel Ahead | 1961
KIT REED: The New You | 1962
SONYA DORMAN: When I Was Miss Dow | 1966
KATE WILHELM: Baby, You Were Great | 1967
JOANNA RUSS: The Barbarian | 1968
JAMES TIPTREE, JR.: The Last Flight of Dr. Ain | 1969
URSULA K. LE GUIN: Nine Lives | 1969
Biographical Notes

31 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #500: The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin Edited by Lisa Yaszek

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Lot of good stuff here. I am a big fan of many of these writers. Only a couple I have not heard of-Alice Jones, Claire Harris, Alice Glaser, Leslie Stone and Leslie Parrish. The rest of the stories I have mostly read. There has been some discussion about the inclusion of Marion Zimmer Bradley due to her apparent knowledge and participation in child abuse. I would probably chosen a different James Tiptree and Leigh Brackett. Like you I read a lot of Andre Norton in the early 60’s, although I always knew Norton was a woman writer. I think her picture was on one of the dust covers. Today I agree with your rating.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, I would have made other choices for Leigh Brackett and James Tiptree, Jr., too. But leaving out or including Marion Zimmer Bradley could have gone either way because of the circumstances.

      1. Todd Mason

        That’s “Leslie Perri”, which in her early career was the professional/writing name for Doris Baumgardt…my redux post also deals a bit with her, making this Doe Baumgart/Leslie Perri week in FFB. I have a few anthologies like this one I’ve been meaning to Get To for FFB, ranging from the classic (Pamela Sargent’s various WOMEN OF WONDER volumes) to the more or less “forgotten” to the relatively recent (Mike Ashley’s THE FEMININE FUTURE: EARLY SCIENCE FICTION BY WOMEN WRITERS). Baumgardt briefly married to Frederik Pohl, more enduringly married to Richard Wilson (they were all in the Futurian Society together back at the turn of the ’40s) and she did some journalism, some editing and only three published sf stories I’m aware of…this one seems to be editors’ favorite when representing her. I definitely might’ve made another choice for Margaret St. Clair, as well, but look forward to seeing this volume. Bradley’s rather mixed legacy goes beyond her cavalier attitude toward her husband’s bad behavior, but if we exclude her from literary consideration for that, whence also Anne Sexton and entirely too many male writers…

      2. Todd Mason

        And, of course, Anthony Boucher at THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION and, to a lesser extent, James Quinn at IF were particularly keen on publishing women writers in the 1950s…even if Quinn’s interest, particularly, might be partially in hope of side benefits.

  2. wolf

    I also fondly remember those “early” stories from the 50s and 60s e g – Leigh Brackett and C L Moore etc blew me away!
    And the work of Judith Merril as a fabulous editor might also be mentioned.

    PS and totally OT:
    Didn’t have so much time last week – helped an American/Hungarian friend of my wife move back to NYC after she fell seriously ill here in Hungary and decided it was better for her with her daughter in NYC …
    Lots of things to arrange with offices and stuff to pack.

  3. Deb

    Congratulations on #500! Quite an achievement. I know I started reading Patti’s blog sometime around 2009, so I’ve been lurking for almost a decade too!

    What I find interesting is how many of the early female SF writers chose the publish using male or ambiguous (Leslie, Leigh) names or just used initials. I’m sure it made it easier to get published and also to avoid the whole “I can’t read this, it’s bound to be awful—it was written by a woman” attitude.

    1. wolf

      Deb, that goes for Fantasy too.
      I totally forgot to congratulate George on this achievement!
      Still remember my surprise when “Andrew Norton” turned out to be a woman – what a relelvtion!
      That a woman could write adventure novels like that!
      And much later JAMES TIPTREE, JR … 🙂

      PS and a bit OT (I may have written about this before):
      As a student in the 60s I was so happy when I saw “Analog Magazine” on my way from the train station to university and of course bought all those I could get.
      The SF published in German had been mainly classic Asimov, Heinlein etc so I was fascinated by the new writers there.

      1. george Post author

        Wolf, thank you for your kind congratulations! I grew up reading Heinlein, Asimov, van Vogt, “Andre Norton,” and the other classic SF writers. But I was always open to new writers.

    2. george Post author

      Deb, congratulations to you for enriching so many blogs–including mine!–for over a decade. You’re right about women resorting to “camouflage” with male names and initials in order to make it into print.

      1. Todd Mason

        Actually, as this book is among those to make clear, there was certainly less sexism in fantastic fiction editing than there was in some other fields of publishing, where women writers were actually forced to hide. Clare Winger Harris and her peers in the ’20s and ’30s mostly weren’t hiding, and if anything WEIRD TALES and the sf magazines encouraged women writers…WT even had one male contributor who worked extensively under a woman’s name. Even John W. Campbell, who encouraged Jewish writers who hadn’t made their names elsewhere (such as Asimov) to take on more WASPy pseudonyms, never pushed for Katherine McLean or Judith Merril or Jane Rice to hide their gender. And, for that matter, fantasy and sf magazines had major women editors and associate/managing editors from fairly early on, even if we don’t count JWC’s right-hand woman Kay Tarrant…Dorothy McIlwraith at WEIRD TALES and SHORT STORIES, Mary Gnaedinger at FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES, FANTASTIC NOVELS and A. MERRIT’S FANTASY MAGAZINE, Bea Mahaffey at UNIVERSE SF and other Ray Palmer magazines, Lila Shaffer before her working with Palmer, then Howard Browne at Ziff-Davis with FANTASTIC ADVENTURES and AMAZING (by the end of Browne’s term, he had as an assistant Cele Goldsmith, who would be probably the best of the Ziff-Davis fiction magazine editors before moving over to become the Industry Standard as their bridal magazine editor, when ZD sold AMAZING and FANTASTIC to Sol Cohen). That Leigh Brackett had an “ambiguous” name, or that Shirley Hoffman liked to sign herself Lee Hoffman, leaned coincidental more than was usually credited…even if it helped Brackett with her film career and probably didn’t hurt Hoffman in her career as a western novelist.

      2. george Post author

        Todd, I always sensed that Science Fiction was a genre where “anything goes.” Sure, there were barriers and conventions, but it seemed to me like SF offered more openness than, say, Westerns.

  4. Prashant C. Trikannad

    George, congratulations on the 500th FFB post! While I enjoy reading science fiction, I have done the genre great injustice by not reading women sf writers. I have only read Leigh Brackett. Thank you for reviewing this anthology.

  5. Jeff Meyerson

    Congratulations on #500! Bill would have been proud. .

    I don’t recall reading any of these stories, though I’ve read others by the usual suspects – Moore, Brackett, Norton, etc. Years ago, Jeff (Tiptree’s literary executor) and Ann Smith came to New York and we all went to see the off-Broadway adaptation of two of Tiptree’s stories into the musical WEIRD SCIENCE. The first act was based on “The Girl Who Was Plugged in.” I read Moore’s VINTAGE SEASON after reading Robert Silverberg’s “answer” to it, IN ANOTHER COUNTRY. I will look for this one.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, Bill Crider was a big motivator when it came to convincing me to join FFB. I’ll be looking forward seeing the Smiths at the BOUCHERCON in Dallas!

  6. Elgin Bleecker

    George – That’s a lot of FFBs, not to mention a boatload of Buffalo Bills posts, and other interesting items. You’ve got a great blog site going. And thanks for today’s post. Tonight, I am going to read “All Cats Are Gray.”

  7. Piet Nel

    Congratulations on your milestone, George! I’ve been looking forward to this book and I hope to order it soon.

    1. george Post author

      Piet, you’ll enjoy THE FUTURE IS FEMALE! The LIBRARY OF AMERICA does a great job with its volumes. I know 500 Friday’s Forgotten Books reviews seem like a lot, but it seems like I started writing these reviews yesterday!

      1. wolf

        George, I totally forgot to thank you for all those reviews!
        Just started with the Sturgeon “Dreaming Jewels” which brought back happy memories – I was stunned when I read that many years ago. Sturgeon is also one of my favourites – all his fantastic, even crazy ideas more than 50 years ago “struck me like a hammer”.

        I’ll try to read up on all of these – now that I have more time again.
        PS and OT again:
        Our American friend just sent an emaail – she arrived in JFK on time.
        Now we hope that her cancer therapy works …

      2. george Post author

        Wolf, I felt the same way you did when I first read Sturgeon’s “The Dreaming Jewels.” Many new cancer treatments including immunotherapy offer hope to many patients. I hope your friend has Good Luck!

    1. george Post author

      Todd, I love your posts! You offer up such great information and insights every time you post on your blog. And, your comments on this blog are extraordinary!

  8. Denny Lien

    For the record, “JOHN JAY WELLS” is Juanita Coulson (prominent fan writer, fanzine editor, and filksinger), who also published a half dozen or so sf novels and gothics under her own name a bit later. (She was the spouse of the late and much missed Robert “Buck” Coulson, also a sometime sf professional, with whom she co-edited YANDRO for many years). Pointing this out mostly in case someone who did know that “Andrew North” and “James Tiptree Jr” were female might not know that “Wells” was also, and who thus might wonder at an unexplained male name on the ToC.


Leave a Reply to Elgin Bleecker Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *