Demand My Writing: Joanna Russ, Feminism, Science Fiction

Demand My Writing: Joanna Russ, Feminism, Science Fiction

Demand My Writing: Joanna Russ, Feminism, Science Fiction

Demand My Writing: Joanna Russ, Feminism, Science Fiction


In this major study of the work of Joanna Russ, Jeanne Cortiel gives a clear introduction to the major feminist issues relevant to Russ’s work and assesses its development. The book will be especially valuable for students of SF and feminist SF, especially in its concern with the function of woman-based intertextuality. Although Cortiel deals principally with Russ’s novels, she also examines her short stories, and the focus on critically neglected texts is a particularly valuable feature of the study. "I recommend this book to any reader interested in Russ’s fiction, or in women’s science fiction generally."--Science Fiction Studies


One moves incurably into the future but there is no future; it has to be created–Russ, On Strike Against God (85)

The struggle on the page is not decorative–DuPlessis, ‘The Pink Guitar’ (173)

Joanna Russ published her first science fiction story ‘Nor Custom Stale’ in the popular Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1959, when she was 22 and in her second year at the Yale School of Drama. ‘It is Miss Russ's first story–’ wrote the editors in their introductory note to this text, ‘first, we are confident, of many’ (75). Joanna Russ has since not only written many stories, she has also accomplished a few things that the editors might not have expected from this young woman. Together with writers such as the French author Monique Wittig, James Tiptree, Jr., Marge Piercy, Ursula Le Guin and others, this promising young ‘Miss’ Russ would become one of the forces which revolutionized the genre in the 1960s and ’70s. This revolution transformed science fiction from a bastion of masculinism to one of the richest spaces for feminist utopian thinking and cultural criticism.

Although Russ published two poems when she was 15 and went on to study play writing, she chose narrative rather than poetry or drama for most of her work. In an interview which Donna Perry conducted with her in the early 1990s, Russ said that she had abandoned the ‘bare art’ of drama for narrative because ‘Too much of what I write is internal’ (293). However, most of what Russ writes also reverberates with a consistently radical political voice and is as much concerned with its external effects as it is with exploring ‘internal’ spaces. The title of this book, Demand My Writing, echoes this political urgency of Russ's fiction. Her writing always intensely engages with its audience and specifically with the individual reader. One could call this approach didacticism, but I prefer to call it political responsibility. Russ's concern with the reader correlates with her interest in writing, particularly women's writing. I stole the phrase I use in my title from . . .

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