Women weren't excluded from early science fiction: they were erased

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/02/erasure-not-exclusion.html



not just women of any color, either, it was also people of color who were systematically erased and marginalized…


Andre Norton, Katherine MacLean, Leigh Brackett, Carol Emshwiller …


I can think of so many wonderful female authors from the early days of Sci-fi…

But I had to actively seek them out, I had to search and dig past all the familiar names of the men writing during the same period. Making it even more difficult is that some of them wrote under male pseudonyms (Margret St. Clair, for example, also wrote as Idris Seabright and Wilton Hazzard). Leigh Brackett! Can one even say enough about her contributions to the genre? How about Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein”?

Not only were women influential in the early days of Sci-fi but, while on the subject, we should also acknowledge their contributions to gaming.

Gary Gygax specifically cites Leigh Brackett, Andre Norton, and Margret St. Clair in “Appendix N” (inspirational reading) in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. Margret St. Clair’s work “Sign of the Labrys” is credited with inspiring the mega dungeon design of Gygax’s own home campaign Castle Greyhawk. Andre Norton’s novel “Quag Keep” is the first gaming-related novel - set in Greyhawk and written after playing a session in Gary’s home game.

It is important to recognize that women have been fundamental in these genres…just as they are fundamental (and often unrecognized) in so many others.


Whoopi Goldberg backs this up.


Gawdamnit, I wanna give you more than just a :heart:.

Yeah, here:



@doctorow This really puts me in mind of Trina Robbins’ histories of women’s comics art.


are you trying to deflect from an in depth discussion of sexism in SF?

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No. I’m pointing out that people of color (of whatever gender) were also marginalized and erased. I’d go so far as to say that that is an interconnected process, in fact, the marginalization of people of color and women of any race.


Agreed; racism and sexism are often closely interconnected, (if not always) and they are detrimental systems that readily feed into one another, both culminating in the same covert goal: the dominance of the straight, cisgender, able-bodied White male, over everyone else.


Pretty much. I was hoping to expand the conversation to that rather than just have it be a more one-dimensional conversation. The way that women were either marginalized, protected, or even given more privilege often rested on their skin as much as their gender. Race was employed to reinforce gender norms, and vice versa.

I’d guess that women who are not white were more likely to be erased from the history of sci-fi writing then white women were.

And let’s not forget that Chip Delany is also a gay man, as well.


Erasure is definitely an issue that faces all people who have been marginalized and oppressed; because representation matters and the stories we tell ourselves as a society matter.


In 1980 Octavia Butler wrote the “The Lost Races of Science Fiction”. Kinda hard to say her careers and observations were a diversion from the subject of women in science fiction.

There are apparently women in every race - who knew?



Hell, it was literally the same reason for exclusion, since John Campbell is a key part of the narrative. He was quite famously racist (to the point of justifying slavery), and he was a major, major gatekeeper in the industry - for 40 years - who was generally blocking the participation of anyone who wasn’t a white man.


Which is more interesting:
the “fact” that they are interconnected? Or the individual strands connecting them?

An urge to integrate them all into one overriding theory risks eliding over significant differences.


How about one damn person: John W Campbell? (Not that he was alone in that, either.)


This, this, this. Scream it from the rooftops. And, as the OP is pointing out, it’s not enough to be there, if you’re forced to hide behind a secret identity to do it. You must be allowed to be visible as you (should you choose to be).


It’s not about interesting, it’s about accurately understand the process of building a white supremacist society. Gender is fundamental to building that. In fact, white women are often part and parcel of excluding people of color from spaces like this and helping in the erasure of others from the historical record.


Intersectionality is real. You want to know why a lot of black people (and other POC, but I have mostly heard the sentiment from black women) get antsy when they hear the word “feminist”? Because they see it being wielded by people like you who insist that their problems in the exact same arena are somehow different. Or that they should focus on their issues as “women” and not as being black in a space that centres around white women.

Which is what you are doing. When you insist that someone who is pointing out that other groups experience the exact same thing and call it “deflection”, you are centering on cis white women and telling everyone else that their experiences are less valid or “can be discussed at some other time or in some other space”; a time that never comes and a space you never show up to.

And speaking as a woman, we don’t need you conducting purity tests for us to determine who is sufficiently feminist enough.


And I’ll note when I posted the link by Delany I did not say that women’s marginalization wasn’t a real problem, because of course it is… I noted that this is a more complex picture than just women (white women) being marginalized in the historical record…

And note that the discussion itself revolves primarily around white women authors (at least in the article itself, I have not listened to the podcast). I’d love to see this discussion expanded to include women of color and how racism and misogyny impacted their careers as well. As long as white, cisgendered men continue to be the primary gate keepers, this will be something we’re struggling to deal with.