Nowadays the youngsters have a much harder time.

This is from an interview Tangent Magazine held with Leigh Brackett (you know, NORTHWEST SMITH, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and some non-SF flick called THE BIG SLEEP) and Edmond World-Wrecker Hamilton (my idol). It touches on a point I’ve noticed before.

TANGENT: Leigh, there were very few women writing science fiction during the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. Were there any special problems you had to face being a woman?

BRACKETT: There certainly wasn’t with me. They all welcomed me with open arms. There were so few of us nuts that they were just happy to receive another lamb into the fold. It was simply that there wasn’t many women reading science fiction, not many were interested. Francis Stevens sold very fine science fiction stories to Argosy back in 1917, back around that period.

HAMILTON: Her name, you see, could have been a man’s name and Leigh’s name could have been a man’s name. Catherine Moore, who wrote SF long before you did, and a dear friend of ours, wrote under the name of C. L. Moore. Now, I don’t think there was much real bias on the part of women’s libbers–

BRACKETT: I never ran into any. On some of the first few stories I sold people would write into the letter columns and say Brackett’s story was terrible, women can’t write science fiction. That was ridiculous, there were women scientists you know, there’s no problem there. What they were complaining about was that I didn’t know how to write a story (chuckling). When I learned a little better I stopped hearing this. What they were complaining about was the quality really, not…you know. The editors certainly, there was never any problem with them.

HAMILTON: Hedda Hopper, in her column that she had, went into how Howard Hawks wanted to do this movie on Raymond Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep. Hawks had picked up this detective story and so he told his agent, you know, this chap would make a good screenwriter on this, so get Mr. Brackett. So in this newspaper column it was reported how astonished he was when this fresh-faced girl that looked like she had just come from a school-girl tennis court suddenly turned up. He gulped and went right on with it (chuckling).

BRACKETT: But no, there was never actually any discrimination against women screenwriters. The first job I ever got was at Republic and the highest paid person on the lot was a woman. The discrimination against women came in later, much later, when television came along with all these male-oriented western series and detective series, and they figured a woman wouldn’t be able to write that kind of thing. Which is where the problem came in.


The whole interview is here.

Another short quote from the same interview: 

TANGENT: What changes have taken place in the writing since those early days?

HAMILTON: It has of course changed a great deal. I’m thankful that I got into it at a very early day because frankly the first story I wrote I could never sell today. It wouldn’t be accepted; it would be crude. In those days science fiction was in very little magazines, they were very anxious for printable material, therefore a lot of us―Jack Williamson and I were talking about this last night―succeeded in breaking into print and getting a little money for it, very little, while we learned to write. Nowadays the youngsters have a much harder time. They’ve got to write really good from the very first story. Being a product of the older days I can’t help feeling affection for those old magazines. I prefer the old stories, but that doesn’t change the fact that the field has advanced in literary quality, technique, and everything. We chaps, most of us who started in the old days, could never make it now, with what we did then.

One more:
TANGENT: In The Big Sleep, Leigh, there’s always a question Bogart fans seem to ask: Whatever happened to the chauffeur? He just dropped out about halfway through.

BRACKETT: The whole thing is confusing; the novel is confusing. I was down at the set one day and Bogart asked me who killed Owen Taylor, the chauffeur, and I said I didn’t know, and they asked Bogart and he didn’t know, and Hawks said let’s send Chandler a wire and find out, and his answer came back, “I don’t know.” It’s a very confusing plot and one of my favorite novels because the forward momentum is so tremendous and the characters are so interesting that you really don’t care.

HAMILTON: The Big Sleep appeared in the summer of 1946. I was assiduously playing court to this young lady, and so I was living with my sister in Arcadia and I had to go all the way downtown—not having a car at that time―to see that. Well, I got in on the middle of that damn picture, and let me tell you…it’s confusing enough when you get in on the beginning of that picture. But the picture improves; by that I mean that when you overcome all the mind boggling difficulties with plot and so on– I liked it better than I ever used to. It really had a beautiful tempo.

My comment: Geiger killed the chauffer by sapping him down, put the body behind the wheel, and drove it off the quay into the drink. That is how Gieger ended up with the blackmail photos of Carman murdering Brody; and that is why Lundgren offs him. Fans are confused by Geiger’s lies when Marlowe grills him, but from the acting and the context, it is pretty clear he is lying, and he’s the killer.