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On This Day: Joanna Russ

Joanna Russ, radical feminist author and scholar, was born on this day in 1937. An entertaining and challenging novelist, Russ began her writing career in the 1950s, although her feminist concerns only really emerged through her work with the publication of her Alyx stories in the 1960s. She was an out lesbian in a time when very few women dared and was one of the most outspoken authors to challenge male dominance of SF.

 

Her best known work, The Female Man, is a landmark book in the fields of science fiction and feminism. Despite not winning the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1975, The Female Man won one of the three Retrospective Tiptree Awards in 1996. Samuel R. Delany describes it as being “modelled with art, honesty and intelligence” and of being “accusing, astonishing, unsettling and very much alive”.

 

The Female Man is a tale of four women living in parallel worlds, each with a different gender landscape. When they begin to travel to each other’s worlds each woman’s preconceptions on gender and what it means to be a woman are challenged. Acclaimed as one of the essential works of science fiction, it takes a look at gender roles in society and remains a work of great power.

 

You can find more about Joanna Russ’ work via her Author page on the Gateway website and read about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.