Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Leigh Brackett's jaw dropping audio interview from 1975

C C Offline
I've mentioned Leigh Brackett a few times before, especially with respect to what the "Lord Protectors" seemed to parody in one or more of the series of Skaith novels she wrote circa the mid 1970s.

Long since deceased, her published work dated all the way back to when John W. Campbell began his reign as the legendary editor of Astounding Science Fiction. He molded the first generation of writers that focused on hard speculative fiction. Which included Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur C. Clarke, and countless more -- with Bracket being one of them (though she never quite got over her childhood addiction to ERB adventure novels).

Unlike women speculative fiction authors of later decades, publishers didn't suggest that Brackett use initials for her first and middle name. Because "Leigh" was apparently gender-neutral even back then. It fooled director Howard Hawks, anyway, in the funny bit she mentions below about how she wound up co-writing the screenplay of the film noir classic The Big Sleep. She's the one who wrote the snappy lines in the movie -- it was that kind of stuff in her novel "No Good from a Corpse" that caused Hawks to seek her out.

Aside from The Big Sleep, she also co-wrote the western Rio Bravo (another selection of the Library of Congress), and did the initial draft of the second Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back, before dying of cancer. She wrote the script for 1973's The Long Goodbye. There were other movies, too.

This audio interview is almost a half-century old, recorded in 1975. It was conducted by Tony Macklin.

You can tell from the snippets below that Brackett's career was long before the dawn of Woke. There's no ranting about structural oppression and assorted systemic social conspiracies. You can almost hear Macklin's jaw drop when she responds that there was zero sexism among her colleagues back in the 1940s. (Granted, though, they were that strange new breed of eccentrics for the time called science fiction writers and editors. Wink)

Interview with Leigh Brackett


How did you get started in writing?

I began writing when I was thirteen. Because I liked to read, and I was very good in English composition, and I thought it would be an easy way to make a living. So ten years later I sold my first story.

I just wanted to write, There wasn't apparently anything else I wanted to do. I stuck right with it.

Where did you sell your first story?

To Astounding Stories. John Campbell. I sold him my first two.

And then how did your career develop?

I kept on writing science fiction. But the market wasn't big enough, it didn't pay enough. So I had to branch out into murder mysteries. Which I greatly enjoyed writing.

Howard Hawks read one of my books. He liked the dialogue. He rang up my agent and said, "I'd like to see Mr. Brackett." [laughter]

He sort of gulped after finding out that was actually Miss Brackett. But he said send her over, anyway. And apparently swallowed whatever prejudices he had and hired me to work on The Big Sleep. And that's how that began. But it wasn't my first film...

[...] Do you think you were before your time? Would this era [the 1970s] have been more receptive to you if you had starting writing now instead of back then?

No, I don't think so. I'm happy to have started when I did.

My whole world changed when I was exposed to science fiction at the age of eight. I was never the same after wards. But it was such a small genre back then, there were so few of us. [There was encouragement because of that, it was easier to get started and accepted as a writer.]

Just recently, I was at a seminar in California. And they asked me, how did I feel, about bucking all the masculine prejudice [of the late 1930s and 1940s]?

And I said I never thought anything about it in the first place. My sex never entered into it. I wanted to write science fiction, and that was the only place you could do it.

There was absolutely no prejudice.

You mean in the field, there wasn't?!!

No, absolutely not. We were such a small group of nuts -- everybody thought we were crazy. You went around hiding these things [SF pulp magazines] in your coat, so nobody would see the covers. You hardly dared to admit that you wrote the stuff.

And the guys welcomed me with open arms. Here was this fellow nut, and we could meet, and talk about the latest stories and older work, and all these things. We all spoke the same language. It was wonderful.

And the editors all told me to write better stories [like they did every novice or beginner], but they never criticized my sex one way or the other.

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)