Monday Morning Brackett

Leigh-BrackettIt’s been a madhouse here with me working pretty much night and day towards a book deadline, so my weekly posts have been greatly reduced.  I should have things back to at least three updates (hopefully interesting ones) a week, possibly THIS week.

Right now I need to go make some final adjustments to some action sequences, but I wanted to leave you with some links to other Leigh Brackett articles that popped up over the last few days.

The web site of Keith West

The web site of Don Herron

The web site of Sarah Hoyt

Keith Taylor at the Two Gun Raconteur

brackett4On a disappointing note, there’s apparently been some controversy about just how useful Brackett was to The Empire Strikes Back, and related matters. There’s a nice rebuttal here, which should catch you up if it’s new to you. I think I’m most saddened that SO many people are only going to be hearing about her in relation to Star Wars and might be less inclined to seek out her work owing to some of the articles circulating. Brackett is FAR more important to science fiction and fantasy than Star Wars… except that Star Wars seems to have penetrated the public consciousness to a far greater extent, so in the long run perhaps she isn’t. And that also saddens me. She was so far ahead of her time that I wonder if Star Wars or Firefly would even have existed without her blazing a trail.

Commenters on Sarah Hoyt’s site, linked above, suggest that the reason Brackett’s forgotten is that she’s a conservative and that there’s some kind of conspiracy from the substantially liberal writing industry.

I happen to be fairly liberal in my social and religious outlook and have known for ages that two of my three biggest writing heroes were conservatives. It hasn’t ever stopped me from digging them, but perhaps that’s a comment upon me rather than others. In any case, I don’t think Brackett’s political opinions are widely known anymore, and am more inclined to believe her relative obscurity can be traced to two things.

brackett61. Lack of a sense of history among fantasy and science fiction readers, who seem only to read what’s currently in print, and 2. The simple fact that Brackett only ever created ONE series character. And, let’s face it, Stark only turns up in three short stories before appearing in three novels at the end of Brackett’s career (and, long after her death, Stark appears in a fourth weak tale she wrote with Edmund Hamilton). The short stories are set on a Mars and Venus that don’t exist, and modern readers don’t seem to be able to deal with that. Maybe if the novels had been fantastic with a capital F it would have made a difference, but the third one always read to me like a contractual obligation, which was a real disappointment.

It’s my guess that if she had created more series characters, or had written more adventures featuring Stark, she would be more widely read. People just seem to prefer revisiting the same characters rather than constantly being introduced to new ones. For many readers it’s not the author who matters as much as the characters. To paraphrase Spock (well, Theodore Sturgeon), it is not logical, but it is often true.

Incidentally, speaking of Stark, Haffner Press recently announced that there’s going to be another Brackett hardback from their stable, so if you’re wanting a complete collection of her tales — including the outline for the fourth, never written Stark novel — you should send them money. I know I will.

5 Comments on “Monday Morning Brackett

  1. Thank you for linking my guest blog. I have been a long-time lurker here. I do have a correction and some clarifications, though.

    In my piece, I quite specifically state:

    “I’m not saying this is some sinister conspiracy, heavens no. Systemic closure is more than sufficient to explain it.”

    No conspiracy is required. I think her politics are a contributing factor and I don’t think that the marginalization of Brackett is even a conscious effort on the part of most of the people doing it. I was reluctant to bring politics into the piece, but it was apparent there was some reason why Brackett was being treated so oddly. Take this Liz Bourke piece from 2012:

    http://www.tor.com/2012/08/28/sleeps-with-monsters-what-marion-zimmer-bradleys-darkover-stories-reveal-about-the-history-of-women-in-sff/

    (the stuff about Brackett is in the first two paragraphs)

    I note that Bourke never got back to Brackett at Tor.com. There had to be a reason why someone like Bourke was hesitant to talk about a female SF author. This was one of the things that got me interested in what Brackett’s politics were. When I learned she was a conservative, it clicked. I don’t think her politics matter to most of her readers, but I do think they matter to those in the SF community who have set themselves up as gatekeepers. If she had all the right — well, left — views, she would be embraced wholeheartedly. By spurning the narrative of Golden Age sexism and holding views contrary to the Left-leaning feminism of today, Brackett becomes an inconvenient figure. So she falls to the margins. I would like to be wrong about this, but the more I’ve learned, the more I think I’ve hit on one of the reasons.

    Thank you for giving me a fair hearing, at least, unlike that person at File 770 who admitted they didn’t actually read my piece and then spent five posts tearing it apart. 🙂

    • In my own case, the problem stems from me having read your post five days previous and then writing my own Brackett post when I had fifteen minutes. With time at a premium I should have kept the post light and surfacey (I’m under deadline). Instead, stream of consciousness prevailed and I ended up writing in generalities without fact checking. Ten minutes later, a couple of pics, and I was done. On reflection it’s clear that I was careless — if I’m to briefly don a news man’s hat and report on things, then I need to look more deeply into a story.

      I’m still under deadline and can’t explore your links thoroughly, but I do submit an apology to you as you so CLEARLY state that you don’t believe it’s a sinister conspiracy. I had it in my head that mention of conspiracy was to be found in the comments, not in your own article, and I didn’t mean to suggest that you had stated that.

      Certainly the information you cite begs further examination. I do think, however, that Brackett’s lack of series characters through most of her career has long been a contributing factor to lack of knowledge about her, and I also feel that genre readers have an appalling lack of knowledge and appreciation of work that’s come before, even if it’s great. But the points you raise do cause me to arch an eyebrow in curiosity.

      • Apology accepted.

        Promoting knowledge, curiosity and debate about Brackett were what I hoped to accomplish with my piece. I hope that I’ve done so.

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