A New Project

For last 18 months, those of you who follow me on Facebook saw my frustration at my discovery that many classic sf stories are impossible to find. Not only are the stories hard to find, but mention of them in places like Wikipedia and other online information sites is also hard to find. I decided to do something about that on a variety of fronts. John Helfers and I will be editing books that will take on this problem with a series of reprint volumes, focused on the award winners and nominees in the field. That will come in 2016 (earliest).

The first project to appear, though, is one I sold to Baen earlier this year. I’m doing a companion website with the volume, which you can find here. But rather than repeat myself, I’m going to append the introductory post right here, so you can see what I’m doing.

Women in Science Fiction (the name of the website) is the lofty and pretentious name I’m giving to a rather loose project that will extend over several volumes.

…I’m the former editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The first and only female editor of that magazine, by the way. I’ve worked as an editor off and on for years on other projects as well. In addition to this editing project, which I’ll explain below, I’m also editing a best-of mystery volume, Fiction River (both as occasional volume editor and series editor with Dean Wesley Smith), and several reprint anthologies coming up in late 2016. More on those later. I’ve won a Hugo award for my editing, been nominated for many other awards, and won a special World Fantasy award as well. I’ve also done a lot of ghost editing for others behind the scenes.

Why am I giving you my editing credentials? Because this website was born from an as-yet-unnamed editing project I’m doing for Baen Books. I pitched the book to Toni Weisskopf under this unwieldy title: Tough Mothers, Great Dames, and Warrior Princesses: Classic Stories by the Women of Science Fiction.

That title may stick. We’ll see.

My goals with the Tough Mothers anthology are complex. In short, I want to compile a volume of excellent science fiction stories by women, including some classics, that could have been published today. I don’t want this volume to look like something you have to read in a college literature class. I want it to be something you’ll grab off the shelf immediately, thinking you’re in for some marvelous reading—and I want that impression to be right. I want stories impossible to put down, stories with heart. They don’t have to be “by women about women” the way that the Women of Wonder volumes were. I want these stories to be by women, yes, but about anything. And I want them to be rip-roaring good reads.

The project came about because of a science fiction class I taught in 2013. I wanted my students to read some classic stories in sf before the class. I had no trouble finding endless reprints of favorite stories by men. But when it came to classic stories by women, most weren’t in major collections. Even the retrospectives of the best stories of the 20th Century only mentioned these stories; they weren’t reprinted in the volumes.

When I was a young writer, I read all of the Hugo-award nominated stories in collections compiled by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. Those volumes ceased with Isaac’s death in 1992. (The remaining volume in the contract was co-edited by Connie Willis. There were no more after that.)

The end of those volumes created a huge vacuum: So many of the classic stories that I loved from sf were published in the 1990s and never collected. Ever. The older Hugo volumes also went out of print, and that led to something I never thought I’d encounter—the perception that women had had no success in the science fiction field until the 21st Century.

In fact, when I went to Wikipedia as I was writing the proposal for this anthology I’m editing for Baen, I discovered the Women in Speculative Fiction listing only had a few female writers listed from the 20th Century, but several new writers from the late 2000s were prominently listed.

If anyone wants to use this site to update Wikipedia, I would appreciate it.

Why do I care? Two reasons, I guess. I want these stories to live and continue to be read. I don’t want them to be lost. I’m focusing on women in the Tough Mothers volume, but I’ll also be editing reprints of award-nominated stories starting in 2016, emulating the volumes that Isaac published over 20 years ago.

Classic (and future classic) stories by women and men shouldn’t get lost in dusty old magazines and broken web links. We need an easy way to find these stories. Anthologies will do that.

But I wanted to start with Tough Mothers and this website, since I’ve been told repeatedly by young female writers in the sf genre that women never did anything in sf until the year 2000 or so. Our history is being lost and, as someone with a B.A. in History, I find that offensive in the extreme.

This website isn’t meant as the be-all and end-all of women in science fiction. Most of the posts will be from me, noting the stories as I read them for this volume and, I hope, for future volumes. The website is, as I say in the tagline, an exploration. It’s my exploration of the history of part of the sf field.

I only have 100,000 words in Tough Mothers, which doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I’m trying to do, which is why I’m setting up this site. I want to call attention to great stories that I’ve read and pieces that I’m thinking about for the volume (and for future projects). I also needed a place where you readers can suggest your favorite stories, a place with a broader reach than my Facebook page, a place that isn’t my personal website. Go to the Suggestions page and leave a comment. Or mention something on one of the posts. I’ll see your ideas. I promise.

I hope that the site will outlive the original project and will continue as a home for other projects, which I can’t yet mention.

Right now, this site is new. It doesn’t have a lot of material yet. It will. Please be patient with me….

On the new website, I have a place for suggestions. I’ll be blogging about my journey of discovery and rediscovery of some classic old stories and some great new-to-me stories. I won’t clutter up this website with that information, so if you’re interested, join me over there. I’ll be updating often, as I read and work.

27 responses to “A New Project”

  1. K. A. Jordan says:

    As famous as The Witch World series was in it’s day, it saddens me to see how Andre Norton has faded out.

    She loved aspiring authors, published Fan Fiction from her worlds and made many friends. My sister once stayed in her house and always got Christmas Cards from her.

    She even wrote a few romance novels, ‘Iron Butterflies’ was one and I had 3 books about WWII that were simply wonderful. (I can’t find the names, though.)

    I’m so glad her work is receiving attention again.

  2. dafaolta says:

    Jessica Amanda Salmonson is still active I know, from Facebook. She has posted a lot of pulp covers in the past, but I’m not sure whether she owns the originals or not. I know she does sell books from her collection but I’m not sure how extensive it might be. I believe she is still writing, if I correctly understood one of her posts from earlier this month. It might have been about a reprint.

    Are you considering children’s books/stories? A lot of what we consider fantasy today would have been written strictly for children early on.

  3. Natalie K. says:

    You have a B.A. in History? No wonder I like your writing so much—I have a history degree, too! 😀

  4. Linda Jordan says:

    This is wonderful! I can hardly wait to read it. I remember way back in the 80’s, I think it was, when ‘Women of Wonder’ came out and there was huge surge of attention being paid to female SF and Fantasy writers. If felt like a huge rebellion against the politics of the time.
    Now we’re seeing the same repressiveness all over and it feels like a great time to be pushing for visibility for everyone. All over again.
    So many writers and stories who’ve vanished over the years. I’m excited to see what you dig up!

  5. Jamie says:

    Thank you for this! As a teenager, I bought a book, which I still have, called “How to write Tales of Horror, Fantasy, & Science Fiction,” and was edited by JN Williamson. I was browsing through it a while back, to see if I could find some new writers to read.

    Articles in that book were written by, or mentioned, several writers I’ve never been able to find: Jessica Amanda Salmonson was one, Sharon Baker (I found out she died), Ardath Mayhar, and a few others. The only one I would see every once in a while was Tanith Lee.

    I’ve only recently heard of Leigh Brackett, and she’s in my to-read queue on my Kindle. Hurray for the Kindle age; I’m hoping to finally find more greats I’ve never heard of, or heard of but never saw.

    Nevertheless, I am stunned that people think women in sci-fi is a new thing. Anne McCaffrey? CJ Cherryh? Lois McMaster Bujold? Geez, does no one look at copyright dates anymore? Good luck with the project; I’ll bookmark it so I can find more lost treasures.

  6. Great idea!! I’ll be sharing this with my Sisters in Crime group too – I have a hunch there’s a similar problem with “unknown” women writers and lost history….

  7. Jes says:

    A wonderful project. I hope news gets out and we learn a little and enjoy the stories a lot.

  8. Mary Ashcliffe says:

    Thank you for doing this. How do you want the community to support you please? I have some favorite authors and a great resource (male) if you are interested.

    I hope you will include anything for middle grade and young adult too.

    Thanks again.

    All my best,

    Mary Ashcliffe

    • Hi, Mary. Head on over to the womeninsciencefiction.com website and hit suggestions. Put any information there, if you can. Or if you’re not comfortable with that, contact me at my sff.net email krisrusch. (connect krisrusch with the @ symbol to sff.net–all this stuff we do to avoid spam. ) I hadn’t thought of middle grade and young adult, because I’m older than I think I am and when we walked up hill in the snow both ways, all sf was for kids. 🙂 Great idea. Thanks!

  9. Hello, I am doing a survey of classic science fiction and fantasy. In the process of working through a wide range of works, I have had a great many “why didn’t anyone tell me this” moments.

    Here are two that are related to women in science fiction:

    Andre Norton appears to have created the post apocalyptic mutant adventure genre with her book Star Man’s Son.This is the genre that became the popular Gamma World roleplaying game franchise.

    Leigh Bracket’s The Sword of Rhiannon is one of the best Mars themed planetary romance novels of all time. The fact that she could go toe to toe with Edgar Rice Burroughs is kind of a big deal.

    I’m sure many people are far better read than I am, but I did want to bring more attention to these two excellent authors who are now unaccountably obscure. I think they deserve more “buzz” than they tend to receive anymore. In any case, I think these two novels qualify as “rip-roaring good reads.”

    Thanks,

    Jeffro Johnson

    • Thanks, Jeffro. It hurts my heart to think that Andre Norton is considered obscure. I read everything she wrote when I was 12. What a glorious summer that was. I continued to read her and worked with her once up until her death. And the great Leigh Brackett–yes, she’s not as well known now, but oh, my, is she good. Thank you. More suggestions when you have them, please.

      • re: obscurity

        There is a generation gap. In the seventies, fantasy readers would have typically read stuff from a half dozen decades without giving it a thought. (See the love people have for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, for instance.) In the eighties, “old” fantasy would have been Lewis and Tolkien… and Leiber/Howard style sword & sorcery was strangely retired from the collective consciousness. Science fiction would have “started” with Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov… and everything from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Stanley Weinbaum got weird/moldy/obscure.

        Something happened with regard to publishing, libraries, book clubs, and book stores in the eighties to cause a shift. Maybe it had something to do with blockbuster movies and the dawn of video games. But Norton’s (yes, Norton’s!) obscurity stems from that. I may be overstating which authors took the brunt of this– trends like this are hard to pin down– but SOMETHING happened.

        However… I think people love finding out about the “old school.” So much good stuff to read! And it holds up better than a lot of people would think. Any endeavor that helps people wrap their heads around a de facto lost age of fantasy and science fiction is a good thing in my book.

        • Oh, I know about the shift. Two things happened. In the mid-eighties chain bookstores were small and couldn’t carry backlist or older titles. The chains edged out the independents in some neighborhoods. (Think Waldenbooks) Then the superstores came in and looked for backlist, but most of the older titles had reverted or been forgotten. But with the distribution collapse in the mid-late nineties, more backlist went OP and publishers started looking for blockbusters only. [sigh] Libraries culled their collections of older material and–voila!–obscurity.

          It still breaks my heart. And yes, this stuff is great to read. But Andre Norton… 🙁 Oh, sadness.

      • Kate Pavelle says:

        They aren’t obscure to me, although I’d assumed both were men. What does that say?

        • You aren’t the first person to make that mistake!

          “Famed forties film director Howard Hawks was looking for another screenwriter for his soon-to-be-smash film, The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Hawks remembered reading Brackett’s story, No Good from a Corpse. The legend goes he shouted to his assistant, ‘Get me that guy, Brackett.’ Brackett—Leigh Brackett—turned up. She and Howard Hawks went on to have a beautiful friendship, turning out more movies such as Rio Bravo, Hatari!, El Dorado, and Rio Lobo.” — Virginia Johnson at LibraryPoint

        • Same here. I also just realized Bujold was a lady when someone asked me if I read ‘female authors’. I guess it just didn’t matter to me to figure it out. I’ve stayed away from ‘about the author’ sections after reading some L. Ron Hubbard. I had no idea who he was before. Now when I read his stuff my mind is already kinda tainted. 🙁

      • Yes. Andre Norton is one of my earliest influences. I read everything I could find from her and Heinlein. Star Man’s Son was my favorite. Crossroads of Time was next. I actually wrote a song in high school titled Crossroads of Time and based on her universe. So sad. I try to connect kids with them today, but it;s hard to even find copies that aren’t falling apart.

  10. Paul Dellinger says:

    Have you run across Eric Davin’s book, “Partners in Wonder”? The entire book is about the role women have played in the SF genre, going back all the way to Gersback. He apparently did tons of research and uncovered many women writers of whom I was unaware.

  11. Cat Rambo says:

    What an awesome project! Really looking forward to watching what you do with it.

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