Over the course of writing this column for Kirkus Reviews, I’ve found that the early women authors writing in the genre were some of the most influential, producing some incredible stories over their careers. I’ve looked at quite a few who were incredibly influential: Margaret St. Clair, Judith Merrill, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore, and Mary Shelley. This week, we finally get to the woman who was considered one of the very first professionals in the pulp field: Gertrude Barrows Bennett, who wrote under the name Francis Stevens. She only wrote for a couple of years, but proved to be an incredible influence on the authors who followed her.
Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965, Eric Leif Davin – Stevens’ active publishing period falls before this time, but she does get some good mentions throughout this book, which poists that discrimination in the SF world wasn’t entirely accurate on an industry level, which runs counter to current perceptions of SF’s roots. It’s an interesting theory, one which he breaks down quite a bit.
Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of the “Science Romance in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920, Sam Moskowitz – This is a fantastic hybrid of anthology and history. Moskowitz is to be handled with care, but in this instance, he seems to be mostly accurate (he does continue the idea that Augusust Swift was H.P. Lovecraft – he wasn’t), but presents a nice history of the Munsey Magazines along with some solid biographical information on Stevens.
American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps, edited by Peter Straub – Like all other Library of America volumes, this contains a short, updated biography, alongside her story Unseen-Unfeared.
The Nightmare, and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy, edited by Francis Stevens, Gary Hoppenstand – You can read the introduction here, and it’s an interesting read with some good biographical points about Bennett/Stevens and her life that don’t show up in many other places.
Stevens, Francis, SF Encyclopedia – There’s a short entry on Stevens here, with some notes about her impact.