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).
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.
Why do I dislike Paizo’s Planet Stories imprint and recommend against people buying from them when the opportunity presents itself? Well, besides the fact that I hate Paizo and dislike several of the folks who work for them, their “Planet Stories” brand is a bit of a misnomer.
From what I’ve pieced together, Paizo found out that no one had owned the Planet Stories name and trademark for decades. The original Planet Stories folded back in the 1955 along with Love Romances and its parent company, Fiction House. The name had probably been free and unprotected for ages.
It would be like if I decided to swoop in and register the trademark for Thrilling Wonder Stories or some other dead pulp magazine. Paizo found Planet Stories’ corpse by the roadside and decided to wear its skin while publishing stuff that, ironically enough, wasn’t really Planet Stories. Paizo’s Planet Stories line is decidedly more Sword & Sorcery and Weird Fiction focused than the actual Planet Stories ever was, but I decided to take a closer look at just how little Paizo’s now-discontinued line had to do with its namesake.
Anubis Murders – Gary Gygax – post pulp
City of the Beast – Moorcock – post pulp
Black God’s Kiss – CL Moore – Weird Tales
Elak of Atlantis – Henry Kuttner – Weird Tales/Strange Stories
Secret of Sinharat – Leigh Brackett – Planet Stories
Northwest of Earth – CL Moore – Weird Tales/Leaves/Fantastic Universe/Fantasy Magazine
Lord of the Spiders – Michael Moorcock – post pulp
Samarkand Solution – Gary Gygax – post pulp
Almuric – RE Howard – Weird Tales
The Ginger Star – Leigh Brackett – post pulp
Masters of the pit – Michael Moorcock – post pulp
The Swordsman of Mars – Otis Adelbert Kline – Argosy
Infernal Sorceress – Gary Gygax – post pulp
Worlds of Their Own – Various modern – post pulp
The Hounds of Skaith – Leigh Brackett – Post Pulp
The Dark World – Henry Kuttner – Startling Stories
Death in Delhi – Gary Gygax – Post Pulp
Reavers of Skaith – Leigh Brackett – Post Pulp
Robots Have No Tails – Henry Kuttner – Astounding
The Outlaws of Mars – Otis Adelbert Kline – Argosy
The Sword of Rhiannon – Leigh Brackett – Thrilling Wonder Stories
The Ship of Ishtar – A. Merritt – Argosy
Steppe – Piers Anthony – Post Pulp
The Complete Silver John – Manly Wade Wellman – MoF&SF (Post Pulp/non-pulp)
Sos the Rope – Piers Anthony – Post Pulp
The Walrus & The Warwulf – Hugh Cook – Post Pulp
Template – Matthew Hughes – Post Pulp
Before they Were Giants – Various Authors – All Post Pulp
Sojan the Swordsman/Under the Warrior Star – Michael Moorcock – Post Pulp
Battle in the Dawn: the complete Hok the Mighty – Manly Wade Wellman – Amazing Stories
The Planet Killers – Robert Silverberg – Post Pulp
Hunt the Space Witch – Robert Silverberg – Post Pulp
The Chalice of Death – Robert Silverberg – Post Pulp
So, we have 21 books that are either post-pulp novels or collections of stories that were not published in the pulps, 4 books that are wholly or primarily from Weird Tales, 3 works from Argosy, and one each of Amazing Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, and, yes, Planet Stories.
Brackett is the one (perhaps the only) name on here who is solidly associated with the original imprint, though many of her classics were also in Startling and Thrilling (she was probably the best Thrilling ever had). Kline wrote stories you might have seen in Planet Stories, but due to the time frame he was writing in, he was primarily a writer for Argosy and Amazing.
Now, this is NOT to say that all Hard SF fans are nudniks, but here’s some concrete evidence that there HAVE been nudniks demanding science purity in science fiction. It is a thing that was not just made up.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a round-up of my Castalia House Short Reviews.
One of the cool things is, since someone uploaded scans of a ton of Planet Stories back in December of last year, you can actually read a most, if not all, of the stories I’ve been talking about! Going forward, I’ve been including links to where you can read the stories within the articles themselves. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about Queen of the Martian Catacombs.