Prolific author and academic with an eye on female identity.
February 22, 1937 – April 29, 2011
Most of Joanna Russ’ work—fiction, criticism, and scholarship—form a career-long narrative that uses science fiction and fantasy to explore feminism, gender, and patriarchy.
She pursued fiction writing and academia simultaneously. Her first novel, the Nebula Award-nominated Picnic on Paradise (1968), features a time-traveling barbarian, thief, and mercenary named Alyx. Russ’ best-known work of fiction is the novel The Female Man (1975), which intertwines the stories of four versions of the same woman, each living in different, parallel worlds. Russ uses these worlds, and the attitudes and reactions of the women who move between them, to investigate female identity in society and to explore alternatives. The novel was awarded a retrospective James Tiptree Jr. Award in 1996.
The novel We Who Are About To… (1977) overturns the classic science fiction trope of brave survival by a starship-wrecked crew, offering a grim alternative. Russ won a Hugo Award for her novella “Souls” (1982) and a Nebula Award for the story “When It Changed” (1972).
Russ also wrote numerous works on literary criticism, feminism, race, and gender. How to Suppress Women’s Writing (1983) concisely outlines all the ways writing by women and minorities is marginalized. Other work includes Speculations on the Subjunctivity of Science Fiction (1973) and Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts (1985). She also reviewed speculative fiction for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In 1988 the Science Fiction Research Association awarded Russ the Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction scholarship.