Did You Just Misgender Leigh Brackett!?

Okay, there’s been this long-running narrative myth that while Leigh Brackett didn’t have to change her name to hide that she was a woman, she somehow flew beneath the radar with a masculine sounding sound name and found success that would’ve been denied to her if it were more commonly known she was not a man.

Well, I’ve found a smoking gun.

Not only was it known that Leigh Brackett was a woman, Wilbur Peacock, the editor of Planet Stories at the time, went out of his way to correct someone who referred to Brackett as “he” in a letter to the Vizigraph (Planet Stories’ letters section).

Brackett Planet Stories

Planet Stories, May 1943 Issue, P 124

This was relatively early in Brackett’s career, too. She’d only been publishing scifi in the pulps since around 1940, but in 1943 Peacock stated with confidence (and accuracy) that she would be one of the greats of science fiction.

So, a couple things. Sometimes the pulps, SF pulps in particular, are painted as some kind of boys’ club, yet most evidence I’ve seen implies that couldn’t be further from the truth. Weird Tales had several women writing both stories and letters. The issue of Thrilling I read had a pretty even split in the letters section. This is one of the earlier Vizigraphs I’ve read; here you have the Editor not only praising Brackett and confirming that she’s a woman, he even encourages the female readership he’s certain exists to interact more and get involved. Given that the later issues I’ve read tended to have more women writing into to the letters section, it seems they did!  Even if there wasn’t anything close to gender parity, the picture of the pulps and sci-fi as hostile and closed off to women just doesn’t jibe with reality.

Anyway, I would’ve included some more links, but Jeffro scooped me on writing the actual article, since I found this over the weekend and was gonna wait (but clearly this was important enough that it couldn’t wait!)


6 responses to “Did You Just Misgender Leigh Brackett!?

  1. “…she somehow flew beneath the radar with a masculine sounding sound name and found success that would’ve been denied to her if it were more commonly known she was not a man.”

    Can someone explain then how Babette Rosmund won her success then? Granted, her career in fantasy was shortened when she was tapped by Street & Smith to edit DOC SAVAGE and THE SHADOW, two of the biggest media empires of the time. Can’t get any more feminine a name than one ending in a French diminutive, so such success should have been denied to her.

    • Yeah, it’s total bunk. C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, and Andre Norton tend to be the big go-tos for anyone trying to propagate said myth. Moore has stated her reasons so clearly it’s laughable people still suggest otherwise, and Norton’s excuse seems to have more to do with the early children books she wrote than her science fiction and fantasy , but this is the most definitive ‘blown-out-of-the-water’ evidence I’ve found yet for Brackett.

  2. Pingback: RETROSPECTIVE: “Outpost on Io” by Leigh Brackett – castaliahouse.com

  3. Pingback: Happy Birthday Leigh Brackett! | Cirsova

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