To Tower Against The Sky By Christopher M. Chupik

To Tower Against The Sky

By Christopher M. Chupik

(The author wishes to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Deuce Richardson)

A piece of news was brought to my attention recently:

http://adventuresfantastic.com/new-leigh-brackett-story-announced/

As a big fan of Leigh Brackett, this was great news, but it made me wonder. This year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth, one that has been largely unheralded. The 2015 Hugo Awards failed to acknowledge her centennial, though I suppose that’s to be expected. After all, they had much more important things to worry about, like distributing wooden asterisks.

Despite being an inspiration to such writers as Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock and E. C. Tubb, Brackett seems to have fallen into a curious limbo. Feminists like to invoke her name in lists of female SF authors, but there seems to be a curious reluctance to speak of the woman or her work. A female writer who held her own in a male-dominated field long before the women’s liberation movement would seem to be the kind of role model modern feminists would want to celebrate, right?

Wrong. Nowadays, she’s mostly known for having written the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, very little of which made it to the screen. And this is often portrayed as the crowning achievement of her career. It’s a bit like remembering Shakespeare solely on the basis of The Two Noble Kinsmen.

To understand how this happened, it’s important to understand Leigh Brackett.

Born December 7, 1915, Leigh Brackett was a tomboy, raised in a family of women. A fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett was unapologetic in her love of old-fashioned interplanetary adventure. Despite some success with her detective novel No Good From A Corpse (which earned her a screenwriting job on the movie adaptation of The Big Sleep), she turned down higher-paying markets to keep writing for lower-paying pulp venues like Planet Stories and Thrilling Wonder Tales. As Brackett wrote for the introduction to The Best of Planet Stories:

“Planet unashamedly, published ‘space opera’. Space opera, as every reader doubtless knows, is a pejorative term often applied to a story that has an element of adventure. Over the decades, brilliant and talented new writers appear, receiving great acclaim, and each and every one of them can be expected to write at least one article stating flatly that the day of space opera is over and done, thank goodness, and that henceforth these crude tales of interplanetary nonsense will be replaced by whatever type of story that writer happens to favor — closet dramas, psychological dramas, sex dramas, etc., but by God important dramas, containing nothing but Big Thinks. Ten years late, the writer in question may or may not still be around, but the space opera can be found right where it always was, sturdily driving its dark trade in heroes.”

To put this in perspective, she said that in 1975, two years before I was born. And she could just as easily been talking about the current situation in the SF genre.

Her work may have been labeled Space Opera, but it blended elements of Sword and Sorcery with a hardboiled sensibility, creating something unique. Her Mars was like Barsoom seen through the cynical eye of Chandler, peopled with characters out of Robert E. Howard. Her prose was lean, with a harsh poetry that invoked dying worlds, dangerous men and mysterious women. Here she introduces Matt Carse, the tomb-robbing protagonist of her novel The Sword of Rhiannon:

“Carse walked beside the still black waters in their ancient channel, cut in the dead sea-bottom. He watched the dry wind shake the torches that never went out and listened to the broken music of the harps that were never stilled. Lean lithe men and women passed him in the shadowy streets, silent as cats except for the chime and whisper of the tiny bells the women wear, a sound as delicate as rain, distillate of all the sweet wickedness of the world.

They paid no attention to Carse, though despite his Martian dress he was obviously an Earthman and though an Earthman’s life is usually thought of as less than the light of a snuffed candle along the Low Canals, Carse was one of them. The men of Jekkara and Valkis and Barrakesh are the aristocracy of thieves and they admire skill and respect knowledge and know a gentleman when they meet one.”

Brackett was drawn to writing strong male protagonists (“I’ve always been bent on masculine things,” she once said). Combined with her ambiguous first name (keep in mind names like “Leigh” and “Marion” were unisex in those days), many readers assumed she was male. That’s not to say she couldn’t create female characters as fierce as her men. “People of the Talisman”, which first appeared in Planet Stories under the gloriously pulpish title of “Black Amazon of Mars”, features Ciaran, a female warlord in male guise who is revealed to her army and the readers thus:

“The woman wheeled her mount. Bending low, she caught the axe from where it had fallen and faced her chieftains and her warriors, who were as dazed as Stark.

‘I have led you well,” she said. “I have taken you Kushat. Will any man dispute me?’

They knew the axe, if they did not know her. They looked from side to side uneasily, completely at a loss. Stark, lying on the ground, saw her through a wavering haze. She seemed to tower against the sky in her black mail, with her dark hair blowing. And he felt a strange pang deep within him, a kind of chill foreknowledge, and the smell of blood rose thick and strong from the stones.”

It’s hard not to imagine Brackett feeling a bit like Ciaran herself. It is interesting to note that Brackett never felt discriminated against as a female author in a male-dominated field. She held her own without complaint.

With the ‘70s, the genre was changing. Heroes were out, anti-heroes were in. SF was becoming increasingly bleak and experimental. The Venera and Mariner probes had relegated the romantic vision of Mars and Venus to legend. But Brackett would not bend to the conventions of her time. In her last three novels, The Ginger Star, Hounds of Skaith and Reavers of Skaith, Brackett took her most popular hero, Eric John Stark (a sort of Tarzan-meets-Conan of the spaceways) beyond the Solar System to the dying world of Skaith. Skaith is ruled by the Lord-Protectors and their servants, the Wandsmen, who keep the Skaithians from leaving for the stars. The Wandsmen in turn command the Farers, a hedonistic mob the people of Skaith are obligated by law to provide for. Such is the skill of Brackett that this never devolves into a lecture, but there is a definitely a feeling she was criticising the counterculture and the increasing anti-science bent of the early ‘70s.

And here, I suspect, we come to the real reason the feminists have marginalized Brackett: she was a conservative.

I had to dig a bit to confirm this. I had a suspicion based on her work that her opinions were not quite in tune with modern leftist orthodoxy. Brackett, along with her husband Edmond Hamilton, were signatories to the pro-Vietnam War petition that appeared in the June 1968 issue of Galaxy. Combine that with her disinterest in feminism, and it becomes very clear why Brackett has been allowed to drift towards obscurity.

Now, the other side assures us that there is absolutely no leftward bias to the SF community. After all, George R. R. Martin lost to Jerry Pournelle forty years ago! Pardon me, my eyes just rolled right out of their sockets. (And yes, I do know that GRRM is a Brackett fan and I appreciate the fact that he has promoted her work. I just find his assertion that the community now is the same as the idealized one of his memory is naïve at best.) While I realize that the Vietnam War is now long behind us, people have a long memory for political vendettas. After all, Hollywood is still making movies about the Blacklist, in 2015.

I’m not saying this is some sinister conspiracy, heavens no. Systemic closure is more than sufficient to explain it. Brackett was always an independent spirit. She wrote the characters she loved in the type of stories she loved, standing defiantly outside the mainstream. In short, she wasn’t part of the clique. If not for her connection to the cultural juggernaut that is Star Wars, she might have slipped off the radar altogether.

But Leigh Brackett wouldn’t want to be a trophy on feminism’s shelf, collecting praise and dust. For those who rediscover her work, she remains the Queen of the Planet Pulps, plying her dark trade in heroes. For ultimately, neither her politics nor her sex are the defining characteristics of her life. The works she left behind are. Let Leigh Brackett be remembered for her accomplishments. Let her works inspire a new generation. Let her stand, towering against the sky, once more.

183 responses to “To Tower Against The Sky By Christopher M. Chupik

  1. She was at the top of the list of writers who made put my hands on the keyboard. And Hatari!

  2. Baen has, I believe, her entire work for sale in various bundles

    http://www.baenebooks.com/s-139-leigh-brackett.aspx

    I should probably go back and reread them

    • This is good to know. I am formulating a Christmas list.

    • Excellent…when I find a new used paperback shop she is one of 3-4 writers I immediately search out to see if I can finish up my collection.

      Her Mars is, as far as I’m concerned, the real Mars. The one currently at 2 AUs from Sol is an imposter. The real Mars is full of beast jewels and innocent little girls who are sadly psychic vampires who would be fine if only we could get them to Earth.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        In know. It’s very disappointing that our Solar System, incredible as it is, never measured up to our imagination. On the other hand, we don’t have SJWs lecturing us on why we can’t judge the cultural practices of the Warhoon horde.

        • Put they do lecture about us ‘contaminating’ the natural pristine environment of Mars.

          • The Other Sean

            If they’re so concerned, I suggest we altruistically provide space for them on the next available rocket to Mars, so they can go personally protect the Martian environment.

    • Looks like a big chunk of her stf. I don’t see The Long Tomorrow, and there may be a few others missing. You won’t find her detective stories here, and of course, movie scripts are seldom published as the rights are usually pretty tangled. (Although, you can find what purports to be her Star Wars script at various places on the Internet.)

      I’ve been a Brackett fan ever since I was buying used Planet Stories two for a quarter.

      • Yeah after I posted the link I scrolled down and realized the list was shorter than I thought it was. But it’s still a lot. And quite possibly others could be made available if people ask….

    • Bless you, because Amazon’s kindle offerings of her work are…slim, to put it mildly. (And as bookshelf space is at a premium for me, I’m getting most things in ebook form wherever I can!)

    • I hadn’t known about this…My Brackett reading had been restricted to the library, Kindle purchases, and a used copy of The Book of Skaith I was lucky enough to pick up for the cheap. I’ll have to check these out.

      Trouble is, sometimes old pulp stories get re-released under another name. Sea Kings of Mars being essentially the same as Sword of Rhiannon for instance. I’ll have to get some summaries to go with those titles.

  3. Leigh Brackett was awesome!

    Not just her science fiction, but her detective novel No Good from a Corpse, is great, and a lot of her work is for sale on Kindle, a lot of it around 99 cents!

    Never pegged her as a conservative from her work (which is a testament to writing for story first, I guess), but these days conservative seems to be defined as any slightly non-orthodox position on anything.

    Ironic that I see a lot of leftists invoking Baroness Orczy as the creator of superheroes – but always with the triumphant and identarian: girls invented superheroes, never just ‘a woman invented the first superhero.’ No: ‘girls invented superheroes, so superheroes belong to all women collectively.’

    Ironic that Orczy herself would undeniably be considered conservative today, and if modern feminists actually knew anything about her, they would be desperate to forget her – much like Ayn Rand, like or dislike her writing and politics, but no one can possibly deny her success.

    It may well explain their impression of a lack of women in the field: they keep erasing the most successful examples.

    • The Scarlett Pimpernel was not a superhero, any more than is the Batman. He is also predated by Hercules, Samson and Gilgamesh, to name only the most prominent.

      That such distinctions are missed by today’s feminists is about what one would expect of grrrls — women tend to be better educated.

      • It’s the Secret Identity, I think. Circularly defined as the essence in order to make him the first. . . leaving out such figures as Robert the Devil and the prince in “Iron Hans” both of whom had a menial position from which they burst into heroic form when needed. (Mind you, both of them only do it three times before all is revealed.)

        • Charlemagne did it (including a turn as a thief) and Haroun al-Rashid did it. Jesus did it to Mary Magdalene and to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Secret identities are nothing so new as Orczy. (And Robin Hood had a lot more Merry Men than the Pimpernel’s Legion had.)

          • A secret identity is something more than a disguise. A secret identity is when you pose as two different people for a long time.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              IMO by that standard, the Pimpernel wasn’t a “secret identity” as he was never seen as the “Pimpernel” just in his real identity and his disguises.

              IE Batman is seen as Batman as well as seen as Bruce Wayne.

              • I concur; what Sir Percy did was travel incognito. In fact, there was no Pimpernel in the sense of a distinct persona, any more than Moriarty exercised as the Napoleon of Crime.

                You want to go “secret identity” you probably have to start with that old fox, Zorro. Then see where The Shadows lead you.

                • The Pimpernel had more faces than Lon Chaney. This mastery of disguise was his ‘super power’ — unless you want to count his incredible luck/cleverness in always escaping whatever traps were laid for him.

              • Good point. Been awhile since I read that book.

                True, I don’t remember him being seen as the actual Pimpernel, but a Pimpernel persona was still meant to be known to the public.

                • The Pimpernel persona was less an identity than it was a way of taunting without risk, sorta like certain internet trolls.

                  The first “secret identity” may have been the Bishop of Myra, who employed a secret identity to anonymously bestow gifts on favoured households.

        • Hercules had secret identities!

      • Batman not a superhero? Okay that’s just wrong.

        And it was still a series of stories focused on a hero’s alternate persona so that the protagonist could engage in derring do. By that standard, sure, a woman invented the first example of the modern conception of superhero.

        • Except there is this famous Count from a French novel of derring do, revenge, and so on. Except, of course, the Count was his real identity either.

          • But SP was explicitly heroic while CoMC had more of a revenge motive.

            • Free-range Oyster

              Would you say the Count qualifies as an anti-hero?

              • I don’t know. Depends of the definition, and it shifts now and again. I’ve also read a couple different versions, abridged and unabridged, etc, and watched a few different adaptations. From what I recall, he eventually realizes he’s gone too far and done too much damage, forsakes revenge and tries to move on. I don’t know if that cancels out prior anti-heroics – is the anti-hero required to stay the course all the way through?

                All I know is, it was a heck of a read.

          • and he pretty much abandoned his “real” identity to become the count.

        • Batman can travel from the Earth to the Moon without using either the League teleporters or a ship.

        • Name one super power Batman possesses.

          The ability to recover from terrible injuries in preposterously short time is not a super power until you can do it at Wolverine-like speeds.

          This leaves open for debate whether Tony Stark/Iron Man is a superhero, as his intellect and inventiveness arguably* constitute a superpower.

          *Assuming you’re buying the beer; if I’m buying the beer this is not arguable.

          • He routinely defeats villains Superman can’t handle. I consider that de facto superhero status.

            • Nope – doesn’t constitute a super power, merely super accomplishments. He can defeat such villains because, lacking super powers he is forced to employ intelligence, courage and good writers — non of which represents a super power.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            In the Wearing The Cape series, Tony Stark would likely be a Verne Type Super.

            IE somebody who can create Super Gadgets.

            Oh, in Wearing The Cape, nobody else can duplicate a Verne’s Super Gadgets.

            That is, a Verne built super-suit can only be created by the Verne, not in a factory.

            Although, another Verne can create a similar Super Gadget. [Grin]

          • The Other Sean

            Superwealth and supertech. 🙂

          • I’ve never seen anything (apart from his durability) that indicates that Tony Stark included any kind of inertial dampers into his armor.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Stark creates “Magic Tech” so of course his armor would have something like that. [Wink]

        • The problem with the superhero genre is that it’s the genre defined as that which deploys the superhero tropes. (Like a sonnet is a poem that conforms to the form of a sonnet.)

          Unlike fantasy or science fiction, there is not a philosophical underpinning. Indeed, I think a certain cheery incoherence is exactly what keeps a work from slipping into a SF or fantasy — or mundane! — genre.

          • I think a certain cheery incoherence is exactly what keeps a work from slipping into a SF or fantasy — or mundane! — genre.

            I think a certain cheesy incoherence is exactly what keeps a work from slipping into a SF or fantasy — or mundane! — genre.

            FTFY

            • Cheesy’s optional. Wearing the Cape is not cheesy.

              • Nor, I believe, is it incoherent.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Well, the Super-Powers don’t always “make sense” and scientists can’t explain them only catalog them.

                  Note, there are no Batman like heroes in Wearing The Cape.

                  The closest thing to a “non-Super” hero is a certain police detective who can’t be permanently harmed or killed.

                  He believes that he’s the hero of a detective novel series and only his now-dead author could kill him off.

                  Oh, no secret identity and he doesn’t talk about his “power” as it still hurts to be shot. [Smile]

                  • scientists can’t explain them only catalog them.
                    Best quote I’ve read in that vein: “Teleportation isn’t an explanation, it’s a label.” — Pam Uphoff (Mages at Large, I think)

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                One thing I like about Wearing The Cape is that the incoherence is acknowledged.

                Vernes able to create Super-Gadgets that no non-Super can construct/reproduce?

                Atlas/Ajax types who display great strength and can take damage that would kill a non-Super but their body cells are no different than the body cells of non-Supers?

                Speedsters that can enter a “Warp Zone” where they appear to be outside normal time but what can/cannot happen there makes no sense?

                Scientists studying Super-Powers can’t explain how the Powers work and so-forth.

                Then we get into the Magic-Based Supers. [Wink]

                • Be careful what you say about magic-based supers. You don’t want to wind up spending time as a fashionable hat.

                  Man, hasn’t he written the next six books already? I mean, I started that series way back in September and now I’m done.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    I’m always polite to Her Royal Highness of Oz as well as to other magic-users. [Smile]

                    • Yes, you don’t want to get on Ozma’s bad side. 😉

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Nod, which is why I’ll never ask her “Are you really the Ruling Princess of Oz or just a Breakthrough who thinks she’s the Ruling Princess of Oz?”. [Very Very Big Nervous Grin]

                      Oh, when Hope/Astra is mentioned as visiting Oz, it’s beginning to look like Ozma really is the Ruling Princess of Oz. [Smile]

                    • Actually, after Ronin Games I’m not sure the question is relevant. Even if Oz doesn’t exist prior to her breakthrough it appears (based on the Ultra-class…or Ultimate…forget and the book isn’t here) and the entire history is edited into the universe. So by breaking through and thinking she is she, in essence, creates all needed for it to be true.

                      Talk about a self-made woman.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Aided perhaps by all those people who wrote about, dreamed about, etc a Real Oz.

                      Sort of like the Baker Street Irregulars might create (unknowingly) a universe where Sherlock Holmes was real. [Smile]

                    • Is it just me or does the fact that people feel fulfilled being worn as a hat (and even Ozma felt fulfilled being filled as a jar) strike anyone else as more than a little creepy.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      I seems to remember that people Ozma turned into hats didn’t want it to happen again *because* they liked it.

                      So no, I don’t think you’re wrong about it being a little creepy. [Smile]

                      Of course, it appears that Ozma believes “turn about is fair play” in that if she’s going to turn people into objects, that she should be willing to turn herself into objects.

                      By the way, normally her “turn into hats” spell have a time limit but of course she can make it permanent and has threatened to do so.

                      Of course, as I said above most of the time people don’t want to have it happen again.

              • No Capes!

      • Batman not a superhero? That’s just wrong.

        And the SP was still a series of stories focusing on the secondary persona adopted by the protagonist so he might engage in derring do. By that standard, yes, a woman invented the first example of the modern definition of superhero.

      • On the other hand, I’ve always personally considered King Minos the first supervillain, with his island fortress, mad inventor, and underground maze with a monster.

      • Patrick Chester

        Ah, Batman is a superhero. He can breathe in space.
        http://www.shortpacked.com/index.php?id=7

        😉

    • So, the real question is, how many of those claiming this have even read Baroness Orczy and can tell us a thing about those novels? Given their disdain for that kind of story I’m welling to be a number hard to distinguish from zero.

      Then again, their supposed grand intellect are a lot like him, “we seek it here; we seek it there; the rightes seek it everywere”

    • All this talk about Orczy has me hearing Daffy Duck relating the story about The Scarlet Pumpernickel….

    • adventuresfantastic

      Leigh and her husband Edmond Hamilton were both conservatives. In his memoir of friends who had passed on, The Book of the Dead, E. Hoffman Price writes in his chapter on Hamilton how much Hamilton hated liberals and thought they were destroying the country. He and Price both stated they were glad they wouldn’t live to see what a hash the liberals were going to make of things. (p. 324-325) The things Price quotes Hamilton saying makes it clear he would have fit in well among the Huns.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Who can point me in the direction of Hamilton’s stories?

        • adventuresfantastic

          Hafner Press has been reprinting them.

        • Baen has a bunch of his. The list is longer than their Brackett list (with some overlap) but is probably a smaller percentage of his total output.

          • I seem to recall Hamilton did quite a bit of work for DC, mostly Golden Age but some Silver Age, too. I forget what characters he wrote for and lack the inclination to look it up when I know there are so many here able and (likely) eager to do so, although I will offer this link as being of likely general interest to the topic of Hamilton & Bracket:

            Sci-fi author, Batman scribe Edmond Hamilton to be honored
            By Michael Sangiacomo, The Plain Dealer
            on September 22, 2014 at 1:13 PM, updated September 22, 2014 at 5:01 PM
            KINSMAN, Ohio – Batman and Superman comic author and science-fiction writer Edmond Hamilton will be honored Oct. 4 in his hometown with a day’s worth of activities ending with a toast at his gravesite.

            Also honored will be another Kinsman resident, Hamilton’s wife Leigh Brackett, who wrote the screenplay for “The Empire Strikes Back.” Hamilton died in 1977, his wife died a year later.

            When Hamilton was writing all those Superman and Batman stories in the 1940s through the 1960s, his name did not appear on the credits page. In those days, the editors at DC Comics figured no one cared who wrote and drew the stories. But looking back, it’s easy to spot the ones Hamilton wrote. It helps that today when DC repackages those old stories that the writers and artists get full credit.
            [SNIP]
            The celebration of the couple’s life will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Joseph Badger School, 7119 Ohio 7 in Kinsman, with a $5 admission fee.

            There will be a discussion on Edmond’s influence on Batman and the school children will act out a play based on one of Hamilton’s stories at 4 p.m.

            RTWT

  4. questionableprovenance

    She would never be honored by today’s SF [the S stands for “scum”]. She liked strong male characters, she was comfortable with herself, married to a man – in short, a human female, not a feminist.

  5. Great post. Now you have me wanting to go back and reread her work. She was one of the authors who kept me interested in science fiction during the 80’s and 90’s. My first introduction to her was through the Science Fiction Book Club. One of the “books of the month” was The Book of Skaith. I got it, spent way too much time reading it instead of doing my school work and was hooked.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Getting people to read/reread Brackett is one of the things I hoped to accomplish. 🙂

  6. I’ve told this story before but! She was kind enough to autograph my Brackett collection. 8+ pbs. Leigh had a Friday and Saturday signing due to a new book coming out. Friday I bought her new book and asked if I could come back Saturday with some of her other books to autograph. She said yes. So Saturday I came back with my Brackett novels. She only signed them and didn’t personalize them. I was in the USAF stationed at Edwards AFB and I think she took a little pity on me. She invited me over to hers and Edmonds house for coffee and cookies later in the week. She did tell me to bring only 1 book for him to sign. Edmond had been in ill health the past year.

  7. It is sad, but predictable that modern day Feminists and the clique that stole SF would ignore her. She doesn’t fit the mold of a woman raging against the patriarchy. She liked space opera, were she alive today, she would probably use the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’. She was unashamed and skillful in writing about ‘manly men’, another forbidden topic.
    A personal observation is that neither blacks nor women that have successful careers and got there by their own efforts feel ‘discriminated’ against. Usually because they are too busy being successful.
    It is truly a gift to treasure that Baen has the publishing rights to her works. The traditional publishers would not bother to preserve her works.

    • Eric John Stark against the Space Taliban! And I don’t know about not raging against the Patriarchy. I can easily imagine a scenario: Stark felled by a treacherous blow, now captive and awaiting execution along with other infidels when the heroine penetrates the enemy stronghold incognito, whips off the burka to reveal she’s armed to the teeth, releases Stark and tosses his a weapon. They make a daring escape, releasing the prisoners and taking down the bad guys-

      -or is that the wrong kind of patriarchy?

      • So, you’ll have this available on Kindle for Christmas, right?

        Because, damn, that sounds like it could be a very fun story.

      • I can haz story? *tilts head to side, looks cute*

        • *looks at half-finished WIP novel draft*

          *looks at research-heavy novella draft I’d hoped to complete a week ago in order to have something more immediately published*

          *looks at various and sundry short story ideas and outlines on the shelf*

          *looks at work for that lousy day-job thing*

          *covers head*

      • I’d buy and read that story! *big anime cute eyes*

        • Can I just say that your girl there is gorgeous. (okay, I’m a sucker for calicos & totries, even in the dilute form.)

          • She was a sweetie. We lost her to renal failure last May, and I still miss her. Every time we took her in to the vet’s office for her shots, etc, they were amazed at how nice she was.

            • I am sorry to hear that. We lost a 17 year old boy a year ago – Still miss him. He was a favorite at the Vet’s office since he didn’t know a stranger. That was just someone new to give pets. 😉

              • We lost Pixel 11 years ago, still miss him every day. When we took him to his final vet trip (renal failure and in pain. I am convinced he knew exactly what was happening, and went willingly. You’d have to be there) the entire office cried with us for half an hour. Old hands in the office still tell us how much they miss him. When we boarded him, he got the run of the clinic, and got to sit at their desks, telling them how to do their jobs. (He did that for me too. Also, hard to believe but true, Robert taught him to type CAT. I’d go for coffee, come back, and Pixel had filled pages and pages of CATCATCATCATCAT. And what can you do but thank him, praise him and pet him. Yeah, it reinforced the behavior, but he REALLY thought he was helping me.)

                • Well, sure — once you’ve said “Cat” what is there left worth saying?

                • Squeaky died at home, in my lap. It was only about a week and a half from the diagnosis to her last day. She put up with me doing the subcutaneous hydration at home, but after the second vet visit for a check on how she was doing, she’d had enough and quit eating. Wouldn’t even taste the super good flavored food that the vet sold me for her. She was a sixteen pound cat in her prime (not fat) and was down to thirteen pounds when she passed. We have another cat and are open to a new kitten when one comes along. I told my husband that the right cat will come to us when the time is right.

                  • Pixie took that too, the subcutaneous hydration.

                  • Mickie passed at home too, but it was in the wee hours of the morning while we were asleep. He had thyroid problems and ibs, dropped from just under 13 pounds (at top show weight) to 9 pounds.

                    We still have a 11 year old black Domestic Short Hair and (soon to be) 10 year old brown tabby Manx that rule our house and hearts. ❤

    • Regarding your other point, about feminists ignoring accomplished women who don’t fit their mold-

      True story, but I’m not going to name names because I don’t want to sling mud: there was this feminist fantasy author whose blog I used to follow. Sure she said her share of nonsense, but she had some interesting things to say as well-

      (this was before her fans started policing her. The first hint was after she said something against Muslim practices and got called out for it and apologized. I could practically feel her shock over the computer screen. This being just days after she’d raged against Western patriarchy to cheering comments, but I digress)

      -when Margaret Thatcher died I visited the feminist writer’s blog, thinking she might have something interesting to say. I mean, agree or disagree with Thatcher, like or dislike her, you have to acknowledge her impact and accomplishments. I was interested in seeing this feminist writer’s opinions on Thatcher.

      I visit the blog. Nothing. I try again next day. Nothing. A few days later the writer makes a post about…

      …the impact of Xena, Warrior Princess.

      I mean, okay, Xena was pretty cool before the show became a sort of parody of itself in later seasons, but still, a fictional character merits this attention and a real life woman gets nothing?

      That’s about when I began to realize that this feminism stuff might just be going off the rails.

  8. I was in my late teens/early twenties when I read The Ginger Star. It was serialized in Galaxy or Words of If. I loved the adventure and it got me to rethink Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs. It may have started me on the realization that my idiot conservative father was actually wise.

    Anyway, she wrote ripping good yarns.

    • I was in my mid-fifties before I found out some people use “ginger” to mean “red.” I thought the title of that book was very strange…

      • Worse, they call orange marmalade cats ginger cats. Why I don’t know. Their coats look like orange marmalade down to the variegation, but not like any ginger I’ve ever seen.

  9. The 2015 Hugo Awards failed to acknowledge her centennial, though I suppose that’s to be expected. After all, they had much more important things to worry about, like distributing wooden asterisks.

    They also had to protest the exclusion of women from the SFF prior to their enlightened reign.

    Recognizing Brackett would have harshed their mellow on that one.

  10. Great piece on Leigh, and the forthcoming book. If you are a Leigh Brackett fan you’re gonna love the following interview. It was the last ever done with her and husband Ed Hamilton before their deaths.

    http://www.tangentonline.com/interviews-columnsmenu-166/1270-classic-leigh-brackett-a-edmond-hamilton-interview

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I read that piece while researching this post. It was a huge help. Thank you.

    • My visit was in August 1976 when her 3rd Skaith book was published. I’m posting a picture of the book and it’s autograph on my FB page.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Another great quote from Truesdale’s interview:

      “BRACKETT: I was just about to say that if you have some very powerful idea that is of social significance, literary significance, or any other significance, and you really must tell the story, for heaven’s sake tell it and tell it as well as you can, and make it as fine a story on all levels as you possibly can. But I dislike the idea that you can’t write anything unless you have that flag up saying Significance.”

      Can I have an “amen”?

  11. Pingback: Reeling | Cedar Writes

  12. adventuresfantastic

    Thanks for the link, Christopher. I’ve posted a tribute today (http://adventuresfantastic.com/happy-100th-birthday-leigh-brackett/) and am working my way through some of her best stuff (most recently her collaboration with Ray Bradbury, “Lorelei of the Red Mist” http://adventuresfantastic.com/brackett-and-bradbury-lorelei-of-the-red-mist/).

    Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward are discussing “The Moon that Vanished” on Howard’s site today. http://www.howardandrewjones.com/reviews/leigh-brackett-the-moon-that-vanished

    I do have one question. On what are you basing your statement that she turned down higher paying markets to write for the pulps? I thought it was the other way around. She wrote for the pulps when she didn’t have a script assignment, such as the screenwriters strike in the late 1940s. Hamilton implied as much in his introduction to The Best of Leigh Brackett.

    Anyway, great post and thanks again for the link.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Found it, Moorcock is quoted saying it here:

      http://io9.com/they-mocked-her-science-fantasy-then-she-wrote-empir-489586578

      “Like so many of her heroes, Leigh preferred the outlaw life. She always said her first love was science fantasy. She said it defiantly, when it paid less than other pulp fiction. When it paid less, indeed, than other kinds of science fiction. If she had chosen, in her fiction, to hang out with the scum of the L.A. streets instead of the dregs of the spacelanes, she could have made a lot more money . . . ”

      It’s second-hand, of course, but it seems consistent.

      • adventuresfantastic

        Thank you for the quote and the link. I’m not sure it’s saying she preferred pulp to movies, but pulp to other forms of fiction.

        The quote is from Moorcock’s introduction to the first volume of her collected short fiction that Haffner Press put out a few years back, Martian Quest. (I thought it was familiar.) On the following page of his introduction, Moorcock had this to say:

        “We probably have various Hollywood strikes to thank for a lot of the stories she wrote around that time [1946 and following], because when she couldn’t work for the movies, she wrote fiction. Later, she would come to write science fiction in favor of writing for the movies.” (The Skaith trilogy?)

        So what I’m drawing from that is Brackett initially chose the movies over the pulps for the money, and later in life when she had more financial freedom, she chose to write for love rather than money.

        And I think there’s no argument that she loved science fantasy adventure. That love shows in her work. Which probably has a lot to do with why I love it so much.

        Fiinally, a something I’ve wondered about for decades. When I was in the 7th grade (1979), I picked up a copy of Jack Chalkers first Well of Souls book. There was a blurb on the cover saying the book had won the Leigh Brackett-Edmond Hamilton Memorial Award. I may have the names reversed, and I’m not sure where my copy is or if I even still have it. I’ve never seen the award mentioned since. Does anyone know anything about it?

  13. Excellent, Thomas. Leigh (and Ed) were the best. We need more like them today.

  14. I…have never heard of this woman. How have I never heard of her? I *love* Burroughs, but his frequently-overwrought prose sometimes wears. But this woman…The Big Sleep was an *amazing* film. I want to read all her stuff now!

    As soon as I’m not-broke, I’m totally buying all those Baen packages.

    Sadly, though, doesn’t look like Sword of Rhiannon is available in ebook. But! It *is* available in audio, which will do for now! 😀

    • Imagine Burroughs (*), except with tightly-written descriptive prose and intelligent, introverted protagonists. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s first books were very much in the Brackett style.

      * actually, more like Otis Adelbert Kline, who was *way* better than Burroughs, but never got a movie contract…

      • Marion Zimmer Bradley’s first books were very much in the Brackett style.

        Remember that Marion was a letter-hack in the pulps back in the heyday of Brackett’s sword-and-planet adventures.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        I dunno. I’ve read some OAK, and while he has his moments, I think Burroughs has him beat. OAK’s Mars never feels as exotic as it should be, more like another country than another planet. IMO

        • It is often said that ERB wrote the better Martian books and OAK the better Venerian.

          Certainly, the “Peril” trilogy is OAK’s best work. Give that a try next time you feel like reevaluating OAK.

      • Argh, I hate it when they change the titles of things!!!

        I never could get into MZB. Tried several times, but always found (with maybe the exception of some of her short stories) the characters/plots off putting. I did like some of the anthologies she edited–found some excellent authors that way. But the writing of the woman herself always failed to engage me. I got about three chapters into Mists of Avalon, and was starting to think “Okay, here’s one of hers I might actually like” only to have the explicitly-described forced-incest–with accompanying near-pedophilia–dropped in and then I said NOPE and gave up entirely. Now that the truth is known about her real-life behavior, I am not sorry I was never a fan.

        • I never tried Mists but I enjoyed pretty much every Darkover book published prior to graduating HS (1985). My favorite, by her, at novel length is still House Between the Worlds. Even with all the revelations about her since I doubt I’ll part with that volume.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I saw it in the Baen eBook store under the title “Sea-Kings of Mars”. [Smile]

    • Sadly, though, doesn’t look like Sword of Rhiannon is available in ebook.
      Baen has it under its original title, Sea Kings of Mars.

  15. SFFWA issued a press release today condemning Leigh Brackett as ‘an “inauthentic” woman and writer whose talent and success should not be recognized as relevant in George Bush’s KKKristian Amerikka…’

  16. SFWA has been the LSFWA (L for Liberal) for some time. They’re so far Left (as an organizational whole) and PC they even have a committee to oversee the PCness of anything the SFWA Bulletin editor wants to publish. Forget SFWA. Now they’re trying to rewrite history. What does that tell you about them?

    • Actually, I think why Brackett is forgotten has less to do with politics than with what Limbaugh describes as “people think history began the day they were born.”

      Look at all the “women have never been in SFF”, “women have never won a Hugo”, and “Ancillary Noun’s lack of gendering is a new and fresh concept”.

      They can all be refuted with one name, and a very liberal name at that, Ursula LeGuin.

      However, admitting that means knowing something beyond their direct experience which seems very hard to most progressives. What they do know outside their bubble is also usually wrong.

      • There’s a ton of other evidence to prove SFWA has now become the LSFWA (which accounts for their new take on Leigh), but I’m sure part of the answer re Brackett is as you suggest and Rush has noted many times. That being that folks believe history began when they were born.

        • Embrace the power of and. Sometimes the answer really is “all of the above.”

          There are more reasons than one why they* don’t want you reading Golden Age SF/F.

          *You know – them. Heinlein wrote a novelette about them.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            Indeed, it’s not just one factor, it’s a whole lot of things that have combined to exile Brackett to semi-obscurity.

  17. Pingback: Why Leigh Brackett’s Contribution to Star Wars Has to be Erased | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

  18. *sigh* I’m reading this when I should be working ….

  19. And forgot to check the box thingy…

  20. Christopher M. Chupik

    And the fine feministas over at Tor.com . . . have once again ignored her birthday.

    But Bradley and Delaney? They have them covered.

    • Makes you wonder why those two are heroes and why Brackett isn’t.

      As I said earlier this year I would not be surprised to find out the known pedophiles who used fandom to find victims (2 that I know of) are, like man college administrators fear about athletic camps and Sandusky, just the tip of the iceberg.

      I don’t like thinking that but the efforts to protect such people and their embrace as people to emulate can’t help but raise questions.

      • Pretty simple: They’re “transgressive.”
        Note, for example, the lionization by the radical left of Eldridge Cleaver, an admitted (although supposedly reformed) serial rapist, who was part of the leadership of the Black Panther Party

        (Interestingly enough, he ended up becoming a Republican.)

  21. I’ve been reading a lot of pulp magazines these past few years, to the point I’m starting to feel like I live part time in 1940-something. However ambiguous the name “Leigh” might have been to outsiders (her Wikipedia entry states that Howard Hawks did think she was a he from the name), *everybody* in science fiction who read the magazines knew she was a woman. Her first story for Amazing in 1941 ran with a bio for her that included her picture, so it was never a secret. The readers of Planet Stories where she reigned as queen of the spaceways discussed her stories in the letter columns knowing she was a woman and referring to her as such.

  22. And to make clear to those only now being exposed to her work just how large her connection to the Star Wars body of work really is: Leigh Brackett wrote the first draft of the script for “The Empire Strikes Back” before she passed away, introducing many of the elements, character growth, and especially much of the pacing that made it into the final film. She contributed greatly to what has pretty much universally been judged the best of the Star Wars films*.

    * … to date (crosses fingers in hope that the new one doesn’t suck).

    • She contributed greatly to what has pretty much universally been judged the best of the Star Wars films.

      Damn faint praise; couldn’t you have said she contributed greatly to what are universally considered the top 50% of the watchable good Star Wars films?

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Vathara’s fanfic is the only Star Wars canon I would give a fig for these days. The jury is still out on whether the new movie can change my mind.

        • Who is Vathara and what is her fanfic about? (I’m always in the market for good fanfic.)

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Vathara is a crossover and AU specialist, who has published a original story under the name of C. Chancy on Amazon. (Foxfier, Suburbanbanshee, I still haven’t read A Net of Dawn and Bones, maybe you can speak to that?)

            She writes dark stuff, and particularly likes themes of dealing with betrayal, but still has an eye for good. She apparently really likes swords, dragons and transformations. Her reading habits wouldn’t be unusual in a Barfly.

            A few of us here are quite fond of her Embers, a long Airbender AU.

            For Star Wars she has Change of Fate, a crossover with Sword Art Online, and Shadows in Starlight, one of the very nice Rourouni Kenshin AUs that she does. These might be in the same setting, they might not. (Most of the other Star Wars stuff of hers I remember is in Buffy YAHF.)

            I’m also pretty fond of her ‘Project’ Bleach stuff.

  23. Christopher M. Chupik

    Well, I didn’t make File 770. I guess a Sad Puppy praising a pioneering female SF author doesn’t fit The Narrative.

  24. OT: for those interested in hard copy, _A Cat at Bay_ is now available via CreateSpace/Amazon.