They don’t write this way these days

Tuesday January 8, 2008  They don’t write ’em like this any more:

Among new ebooks at Project Gutenberg, a couple of short sf stories edited by John Campbell: “Alarm Clock,” Everett B. Cole, Astounding/Analog September 1960 and “A Spaceship Named McGuire,” Randall Garrett, Analog July 1961

In both, the protagonists are naturally dominant men — magically so.  When our hero tells people to do things (or to freeze), they obey.

The Garrett story also has a naturally dominant woman.  She is, of course, inferior to the naturally dominant man; he doesn’t automagically obey her commands, and she obeys his.  This enables him to solve the problem caused by her misguided attempts to think like a man — that is, logically.

The Cole story has no female characters.

The natural automagical dominance is probably one of Campbell’s enthusiams; one I haven’t seen discussed.

“Women shouldn’t try to think like men; they have their own, separate but equal way of thinking” would make the Garrett story less publishable today.  At the time, it was unremarkable.

The man being in charge, of course?  Women were writing that; and I don’t think they were doing it to editorial order.  Joanna Russ wouldn’t write that today; but she wrote it then.  See her first published story, the fantasy “Nor Custom Stale” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 1959.

As for the complete lack of female characters in the Cole story — again, women were writing that way also.  See Andre Norton’s 1958 novel <i>The Time Traders</i>.

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