Clare Winger Harris (1891–1968)
From The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women
When Clare Winger Harris’s byline appeared in Weird Tales in 1926, she became the first woman to publish a story under her own name in any of the American science fiction magazines. (Francis Stevens has the honor of being the first woman—but it wasn’t generally known until the 1950s that she was Gertrude Barrows Bennett.)
Harris’s entry into the genre was just the beginning. An underappreciated aspect of science fiction during its formative years was the prevalence of women writers in the pages of the magazines. As Lisa Yaszek pointed out in an interview with Library of America, “nearly 300 women entered the science fiction community between 1926 and 1940; about 300 more made their own contributions in 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.” In recent decades readers and critics have assumed that women writers of the past used male pen names because the (mostly) male editors and their audiences wouldn’t read their stories otherwise. But, Yaszek points out, “most women didn’t use masculine pen names. They published as women, and, at least in the early days, editors often published pictures of authors along with their stories.”
When Harris came along, however, and submitted one of her earliest stories for a contest, the editor expressed surprise when she came in third place, “for, as a rule, women do not make good scientifiction writers, because their education and general tendencies on scientific matters are usually limited.”
So, for our Story of the Week selection, we present one of the more popular stories by the woman who helped open the doors: a “pulpy” tale featuring plagues of voracious insects, interplanetary television, and a twist worthy of a Twilight Zone episode.