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Husbands of Science Fiction

3 Jul, 2020


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[Another piece tor dot com passed on]

Writers frequently marry other writers, but it is a lamentable fact that often fame descends more on one than the other. To address this injustice, I have put together a list of some notable husbands of science fiction.

The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.

C. L. Moore needs no introduction, but her charming husband Henry Kuttner might. Impressed by Moore’s writing, Moore’s fan sought her out via an intermediary, an effort rewarded with marriage and even better, the chance for Kuttner to partake in his spouse’s talent. Thanks to the couple’s habit of poorly documented collaboration, it’s often difficult to untangle who wrote which pieces published under their entangled bylines. Nevertheless, it’s widely agreed some of the stories that appeared under the Kuttner byline were solo efforts by Moore’s husband. If you can track down a copy of the collection Two-Handed Engine, I recommend it; if Kuttner’s work fails to entertain, the book includes lots of Moore’s pieces so your time will not be wasted.

Similarly, Leigh Brackett was in her day a household name for her SF and film work, but modern readers may be interested to know her hunky husband Edmond was also a writer. Although contemporary readers may find space operas” (a term inspired by the then-popular soap opera” radio shows) like Crashing Suns and The Star Kings unsubtle and dated, no Empire Strikes Back, but A for Effort.

When one says Vinge”, of course one thinks of Joan D. Vinge, the author of such works as The Snow Queen, Catspaw, and Eyes of Amber. Interesting, the former Mr. Joan D. Vinge also dabbles in science fiction, in works like The Witling, and The Peace War. Readers may see parallels between Vinge’s Heaven Belt and her ex-husband’s later Zones of Thought books, which just goes to show that men can write acceptable books, provided a woman is there to show them the way.

Judith Merril had many paramours1 and husbands; men often age badly, so replacing them frequently is simple common sense. A few of Merril’s boys were drawn into science fiction. Arm-candy Walter M. Miller, for example, penned the post-apocalyptic fix-up A Canticle for Leibowitz, widely regarded as a book. Former husband Fred Pohl found work in the field as editor and author; not bad for a fellow who was only married to Merril for about four years2. He even won a Best Fan Writer Hugo; below the fold but still a Hugo!

Perhaps the oddest example of male writers is Walt Richmond. Almost all of Leigh Richmond’s works were presented as collaborations with her husband Walt. Wife-spouse collaborations are nothing new; what catches the eye with the Richmonds was the means by which he contributed to the creative process. According to writer/critic Thomas Disch, Walt would would sit with a quiet smile on his lips and telepathically project his inputs to Leigh, who would translate them into their prose at the typewriter.” I have seen, but cannot now place my hands on, a further elaboration that Walt’s faith in his wife’s receptivity was such that he didn’t double-check the printed page that resulted. Well, presumably the arrangement pleased Leigh in some way.

1: The social customs of fandom at the time did not frown on serial assignations, provided the men had no legally designated guardians such as a mother or wife whose interests might placed at risk by male promiscuity. Indeed, it was not unheard of for a few soiled doves become long-term companions. 

2: Pohl collaborated on occasion with Science Fiction Showcase editor Mary Beyer’s fellow, Cyril. There are probably other examples of collaborating husband pairs in SF, although none come to mind just now.