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!)



Fall and Winter Review Round-Up

Been a long time since I shared a list of the stories I’ve been covering at Castalia House.


http://www.castaliahouse.com/46255-2/ (Queen of the Martian Catacombs, by Leigh Brackett)














Happy Birthday, Leigh Brackett!

Today was the Queen of Sci-Fi’s birthday. Last year, her centennial saw a spat of narrative-spinning articles either diminishing her contributions to the Star Wars Universe or propagating falsehoods about how she had to hide her identity and faced top-down sexism in the SF industry (an allegation she herself denied in interviews).

What’s the web saying about her this go round, with no new Star Wars movie on the immediate horizon for Christmas release?

Leigh Brackett (1915-1978) was a science fiction novelist; she was known as the “queen of space opera” for her novels and stories about Eric John Stark.  She was also a screenwriter.  She worked a number of times with Howard Hawks, on films like The Big Sleep, Rio Bravoand El Dorado, and also contributed—just how much is unclear—to the script for The Empire Strikes Back. – December 7: Happy Birthday Ellen Burstyn and Sara Bareilles, Lebeau’s Le Blog

(Worth noting, one the biggest obfuscating factors in determining her contributions is the public absence of the intermediary scripts Lucas wrote between Brackett’s first draft and the version handed off to Kasdan. Nonetheless, her original script is available for comparison against the final project, though it should be remembered that it was a first draft and the lady herself was no longer with us to make her own rewrites.)

We’re only going to talk about the SF/F Ace Doubles here; some people don’t know that Ace didn’t just do SF/F doubles, they did westerns, mystery, and the like as well. In fact, D-31 (A.E. van Vogt’s World of Null-A and Universe Maker) is actually the first SF/F Ace Double. Interestingly, it’s not as collectible—judging by price—as the next one, which was (Figure 2) D-36: Robert E. Howard’s Conan The Conqueror and Leigh Brackett’s The Sword of Rhiannon. (We’ll get onto talking about price in a bit.) There’s been a lot of controversy over the last year or so about whether the “good old stuff” is really that good; some people claim that it—and this is a hell of a claim to make about a whole genre—lacks literary merit, is not socially acceptable any more (because of changing social morés), and is the bastion of “old white guy” writers. Literary merit is not something I’m going to argue; it’s my contention that only time will tell. Literature goes in and out of fashion, and what’s part of Sturgeon’s 90% now may well be part of the 10% tomorrow. (You will, of course, remember Theodore Sturgeon’s comment that “90% of everything is crud,” often misquoted as “…is crap,” though I do sympathize with the latter version, often called “Sturgeon’s Law.”) Social acceptability is another thing; we cannot change the past (although we could, if we wanted, revise what was written in the past), so when we’re reading something from, say, Victor Hugo’s time, we don’t attempt to revile Hugo for not holding modern societal views on theft or treatment of criminals. So should we revile Isaac Asimov for his sometimes laughable fictional treatment of women? (I’m separating this particular example from the real-life Asimov who, I understand, was somewhat of a “serial groper”; something that is entirely unacceptable today.) And for the third fault claimed above, what about writers like Leigh Brackett? You can hardly say she was an old white guy; in fact, many of the writers published by Ace were—although often white and male—hardly old at the time. –  DOUBLE, DOUBLE, WHAT’S THE TROUBLE?, Amazing Stories

Most of the Good Old Stuff I’ve read has been pretty good, but Brackett is phenomenal.

It’s fitting that at the end of her life the Queen of Space Opera Leigh Brackett wrote the early script for The Empire Strikes Back. While there’s debate about how many of Brackett’s words and creations remain in that Star Wars sequel, I like to believe her spirit — and the spirit of the worlds she created through her stories — gave the film its heart and soul. – Space operas boldly go to the heart of the human soul, Jason Sandford

Here, here!

Two points on this, one of cinema’s most famous twists and most oft-quoted lines — or, I should say, oft-misquoted lines. The actual dialogue never included Luke’s name, with Vader only saying “No, I am your father.” A minor mistake but a crucial one for something so famous. Just as Lucas hadn’t planned out multiple trilogies from day one, he didn’t even anticipate this pivotal twist, one that defines so much of the trilogy’s ultimate themes, until he was writing Empire Strikes Back with Leigh Brackett that the outline changed from his original plan for Luke to meet the ghost of his real father on Dagobah. – 6 Lies You’ve Been Told About Star Wars, Cheatsheet

#7 – Leigh Brackett’s script was discarded.

If you’ve not read Brackett, do your self a favor.  Read her.  There are very few writers who can write fast paced action adventure with complex and flawed characters like she can and do so with a sense of poetry. – Leigh Brackett at 101, Adventures Fantastic


Leigh Brackett was one of the best there ever was. As long as we live, we’ll cherish her name. –HAWKS MADE A NUMBER OF WESTERNS IN HIS LIFE, NONE OF WHICH HAD THE INTENSE IMPACT ON US THE WAY ‘RIO BRAVO’ DID, Cinephilia & Beyond

While I found far fewer big-name media sites name-dropping Brackett this week, I’d have to say that the overall quality of content regarding her has certainly improved as a matter of percentages for her 101st as compared with last year.

Projects, Projects, and More Projects

We’ve just about finished going through all of the submissions for 2017. We should be able to announce the line-up for at least issue 5 by mid-December. Issue 6 may be a little later, partly because the incredibly tough choices that need to be made within the constraints of budget and space. While I can always adjust for space, the only way we can adjust for budget is by our reader’s support.

  • Buying copies for stocking stuffers helps, naturally.
  • If you’d like to buy a back cover advertisement for either issue, that covers an entire story, right there.
  • We’re also considering doing some merch, for people who’ve bought all of our issues but still want to find new ways to support us. We will be setting up a CafePress or similar store soon, hopefully in time for Christmas, but it’s looking a little late for that, now. We also need to touch base with our artists to make sure that they’re okay with that in the use terms for the art we’ve commissioned.

I need to put together the pre-order Kickstarter for next year. I’ll probably flip it live in January so you’ll have someplace to spend that Christmas money you get.

With everything that’s been going on, I’ve struggled to keep up with both my pulps column AND writing new gaming content, but the last couple weeks, S:tT helped inspire me to get a few more gaming posts, and the long weekend let me not only catch up on my Planet Stories reading, I started the first volume of Swords of Steel. I’m always a little wary of promoting advertisers by way of review (ethics, and all), so I wanted to read it for myself before I started going into how you need to buy this (but really, support our sponsors, so they’ll continue to sponsor us). You need to read them. I’ll do some mini posts on it, if not actual reviews of the stories, but Swords of Steel is the real deal, and if you want more stories like the kinds we love and publish, DMR’s anthology series is a must read.

Lastly, things are coming along nicely with the Stark project. I’m probably going to go over the text AT LEAST one more time before I say “the text is good to go”, but I have the text from all three novellas prepped, formatted, and checked against the original Planet Stories text. I’ve avoided taking an editorial pen to the text except in occasions where an obvious typographical error is present and in one or two instances where a missing comma creates a confusing sentence.

The stage I’m at now is writing up character descriptions backed with examples from text, assembling project specs that could be turned over to artists. Once that stage is done, I’ll just need to scrounge the money I need to get things started. Fortunately, the Kickstarter for that is more or less ready for me to flip a switch on. When the day comes, I’ll have a press release to send out.

Lastly, I’m considering writing a self-help/DIY book on how to put out an SFF mag or anthology. I’ve gotten a lot of comments along the lines of “oh, wow, that’s so impressive, I wish I could do something like that, it’s crazy how you managed to put out a magazine that looks as good as it does.” The truth is, anybody can do it, and unless you go at the breakneck pace I did for 2016, it doesn’t cost a lot of money, either. So, I may try to collate and impart what I have learned.

Update on Kickstarter & Future Plans (sorry for scant posting!)

I’m very happy that we’ve had so much outside content worth sharing, as I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to write nearly as much as I normally do.

Copy edits are done on Issue 3, and I’m doing a secondary round of line-edits on Issue 4. A part of me wants to shill for advertising slots, as we haven’t sold many yet, but finishing the Kickstarter with enough money to meet the goal is the top priority. Frankly, until we meet our goal, my hands are a bit tied on what else I can work on and offer.

So, this is enormously important. While we are garnering several positive reviews and good publicity, it’s critical that we are able to grow our readership to the point of sustainability, or at least near sustainability. The good news is the Amazon sales are not chump change; the bad news is they aren’t enough to sustain a quarterly semi-pro publication. Still, I suppose it at least means we’re not overwhelmed with more orders than we can handle.

I have a massive time-sensitive project that I desperately want and need to do, but I need around three grand to pull it off. It’s important enough to me that I’m willing to skimp on Cirsova Magazine if I need to so that I have funds to allocate to it. What is this time-sensitive project? A fully illustrated 70th anniversary edition of the Early Stark trilogy aimed at younger readers. I can’t give away more details, but I have big plans for it.

So, please support us on kickstarter! With $2500, we’ll try to shoot for two issues. $5000, we’ll have 3. $10,000, we’ll certainly be able to be quarterly again in 2017.

Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing my rejected clickbait article over at Castalia House because I didn’t have time to finish Queen of the Martian Catacombs and Astounding’s letters section was kinda boring and I don’t know that I’ll be able to get an article out of it.

If Leigh Brackett Had Written Frozen

I’m about half-way through The Enchantress of Venus and got to wondering: what if Leigh Brackett, Queen of Sci-fi, had written Frozen?


The chill winds from her heart of ice blow their death across the hills of Denmark; he will not let it go.

Kristoff would’ve been folded into the character of Hans, who would have been more roguish from the beginning.

Anna would’ve been a false romantic lead for Hans/Kristoff, projecting childlike innocence and purity while seeing and bringing out the best in the flawed man.

Hans/Kristoff would be more intrigued by the darkness and strength of Elsa; he knows Anna would be a nice girl to settle down with, but there’s something about Elsa’s strength and anger that he sees as a challenge.

Anna would’ve died at some point tragically in a fire-fight against out of control snow monsters; she sheds a single tear as she dies in Hans/Kristoff’s arms, and her last words are “Save my sister from herself”.

Hans/Kristoff would eventually smack some responsibility into Elsa; Elsa would fall in love with Hans/Kristoff because he was the first person to stand up to her and not be afraid of her nor cater to her just because she has crazy magic powers.