Following the vein of my last article I felt it important to delve deeper into the historic female authors of this beloved genre. The world of cinema and television lead the passive dabbler to believe that the world of Sci-Fi is a product of the last hundred years. How did people of so many years before imagine fantastic future based concepts when there was no technology or science to support it? Even more impressively, how were the women of these times, suppressed in everything from economics to education, able to imagine technologies more fantasy and magical than the mainstream science of the day? Would these concepts even be exposed to the masses, let alone the sheltered women of yesteryear? Who would have thought Cyborgs were conceived in 1929 by a lady with a Liberal Arts Degree from 1912? Read on.
Let us start with the oldest example of a Science Fiction Author and then move into the contemporary scene. Starting with a rather famous name, one not known for her Science Fiction but for her royal title, Margaret Lucas Cavendish. She started her literary life well before her rise to the court. Margaret was born in 1623 to a father who was exiled for killing a man in a duel and had to be pardoned by King James before being allowed to come back to England. In 1666, Cavendish published one of the oldest known examples of Science Fiction, A Blazing World. This story told of a woman that was transported to a utopian world where she was crowned the empress of a population of anthropomorphic animals. Eventually she uses her new found power to invade her original world with the help of bird-men and fish-men. The former drop fireballs and the latter traverse the waters in submarines. All of this 206 years before Captain Nemo did his 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Moving to the slightly more contemporary time of Jules Verne, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in 1860. Born into poverty because her father abandoned the family, Gilman had less than five years of formal education. Despite her disadvantages, she went on to establish The Forerunner. This literary magazine gave her a voice to talk about a utopian society for women. This led to works like Moving the Mountain in 1911 and Herland in 1915. Passing in 1935, her periodical was prolific enough to make 28 full length books.
The last author we will look at is Clare Winger Harris born in 1891. She was a contemporary of Mrs. Gilman. Mrs. Harris published her first work, The Runaway World, when she submitted to a contest for the Weird Tales publication in 1926. From there, 11 years before Orson Welles did his radio broadcast, Clare wrote The Fate of the Poseidonia for the periodical, Amazing Stories, in 1927. This story was about Martians invading Earth to steal water from the planet. Independence Day flash back anyone? Being a prolific writer, one of her other noted works, The Artificial Man, published in the Science Wonder Quarterly in 1929, looked into the actual concept of cyborg.
In all three cases, like Mary Shelley, all these authors were considered feminist leaders of their day. All worked to further the rights of women and visualized a world of equality both in gender, race, and ethnicity. These in themselves are the vision of many Science Fiction Authors. In that theme I bring these notable authors to light in a more mainstream environment. Let us celebrate the diversity and creative nature that comes from those who grow and expand the genre!