Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tangent Online Interview with Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton

Here is an excerpt of a 1976 interview with Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton, covering the treatment of women in science fiction and Hollywood.
TANGENT: Leigh, there were very few women writing science fiction during the 30's, 40's, and 50's. Were there any special problems you had to face being a woman? 
BRACKETT: There certainly wasn't with me. They all welcomed me with open arms. There were so few of us nuts that they were just happy to receive another lamb into the fold. It was simply that there wasn't many women reading science fiction, not many were interested. Francis Stevens sold very fine science fiction stories to Argosy back in 1917, back around that period. 
HAMILTON: Her name, you see, could have been a man's name and Leigh's name could have been a man's name. Catherine Moore, who wrote SF long before you did, and a dear friend of ours, wrote under the name of C. L. Moore. Now, I don't think there was much real bias on the part of women's libbers-- 
BRACKETT: I never ran into any. On some of the first few stories I sold people would write into the letter columns and say Brackett's story was terrible, women can't write science fiction. That was ridiculous, there were women scientists you know, there's no problem there. What they were complaining about was that I didn't know how to write a story (chuckling). When I learned a little better I stopped hearing this. What they were complaining about was the quality really, not...you know. The editors certainly, there was never any problem with them. 
HAMILTON: Hedda Hopper, in her column that she had, went into how Howard Hawks wanted to do this movie on Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep. Hawks had picked up this detective story and so he told his agent, you know, this chap would make a good screenwriter on this, so get Mr. Brackett. So in this newspaper column it was reported how astonished he was when this fresh-faced girl that looked like she had just come from a school-girl tennis court suddenly turned up. He gulped and went right on with it (chuckling). 
BRACKETT: But no, there was never actually any discrimination against women screenwriters. The first job I ever got was at Republic and the highest paid person on the lot was a woman. The discrimination against women came in later, much later, when television came along with all these male-oriented western series and detective series, and they figured a woman wouldn't be able to write that kind of thing. Which is where the problem came in. Dorothy Fontana gave a very concise, intelligent discussion of that one night out there at UCLA. This is breaking down now. In other words, they are reading the script to see if it's a good script and not who wrote it. 
TANGENT: What about in science fiction? Has it changed at all? 
BRACKETT: As I say, there never was any discrimination as far as I know of, but a great many more women are writing science fiction than ever before. 
TANGENT: What about the women's libbers in the field now, say Joanna Russ for instance? 
BRACKETT: Well, Joanna's got her own axe to grind. She's got her own way of looking at things, but I never worried about it much one way or the other. 
TANGENT: It's like she and others assume the problem existed and are working from there.
Unfortunately, that general methodology of assuming a problem exists instead of verifying is now endemic.

As Brackett and Hamilton have unique insights into pulp fiction and John Campbell's editorialship, I will return to this interview later this week.

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