Literary Birthday: Joanna Russ

One of the few female and openly gay writers in postwar science fiction—at the time even more straight male-dominated than the rest of the publishing world—Joanna Russ (born today in 1937) first made her name with a metafictional story cycle featuring the time-traveling assassin Alyx before penning the controversial women-only utopian novel The Female Man.

Russ, who once wrote “I will not trust anyone who isn’t angry,” later decanted her fiery feminism into the 1983 landmark study How to Suppress Women’s Writing. Reprinted in 2018, this still-relevant book lays out how the literary establishment ignores and marginalizes non-male voices. Russ boils these double standards down in the book’s most famous entry: “She wrote it but look what she wrote about becomes she wrote it, but it’s unintelligible/ badly constructed/ thin/ spasmodic/ uninteresting/ etc., a statement by no means identical with she wrote it, but I can’t understand it.”

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