Friday, October 3, 2008

Feminist SF: Cover Art for Leigh Brackett’s “Black Amazon of Mars” (1951)

The cover of the March 1951 issue of Planet Stories magazine, depicting the title character in Leigh Brackett's novella "Black Amazon of Mars," is one of the more memorable pulp covers. Here
is how Robin Roberts’ “The Female Alien: Pulp Science Fiction’s Legacy to Feminists,” Journal
of Popular Culture
(1987), describes the scene:

“As the cover art for her story Black Amazon of Mars , from Planet Stories, March 1951, demonstrates, woman sf writers endorsed the portrait of the strong female alien. In ... Anderson’s painting, the Amazon dominates the cover, swinging aggressively –- at first glance apparently at the reader. In the background, lower left, John Stark
... is engulfed by the predatory fronds. His figure is dwarfed by that of the Amazon, Ciara. ... Brackett’s story differs from those by male sf writers; unlike them, she does not cast her hero and heroine’s relationship in terms of a mother-son bond nor even mention Ciara’s reproductive capacity. Brackett can envision a union of equals. At the end of the story, Ciara will rule the city she has conquered and Stark agrees to remain with her, at least for awhile. At the end, as well as the beginning of the story, Stark is silenced by Ciara’s strength and spendor.”

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