Joanna Russ

American author (1937-2011)

Joanna Russ (February 22, 1937 – April 29, 2011) was an American writer, academic and feminist. She is the author of a number of works of science fiction, fantasy and feminist literary criticism and is best known for The Female Man, a novel combining utopian fiction and satire.


  • The trouble with men is that they have limited minds. That's the trouble with women, too.
    • Existence (1975)
All page numbers from the paperback edition published by Ace Books #66021 (Dec. 1974)
  • “And you think they’ll let you,” said Machine. It was a flat, sad statement.
    “No,” she said, “but nobody ever let me do anything in my life before and I never let that stop me.”
    • p. 119
All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Ace Books
  • Sit a man on his ass with nothing to do but eat and the first thing that goes is his mind. It never fails.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 42)
  • He wished his imagination would not take so impressionistic a turn. It never fails.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 110)
  • Houses stretched off on all sides, sometimes dipping below the ground and sometimes emerging out of it, piling themselves into pyramids, into almost toppling waves, never one rooftree more than eighty yards from the next. The planet was covered. There were the old, open-air cities planted with whatever would grow, mountains honeycombed, resorts in Antarctica, covered roads crammed with carrier traffic only, hovercraft, sea-craft, masses, structures, and installations under the sea, nets of algae towed in the air, some insects and no animals whatever, but people, people, people everywhere.
    What’s the opposite of the Garden of Eden?
    • Chapter 3 (p. 120)
  • “Rational people,” said the man, “realize that their lives must be made meaningful. Meaning isn’t just given us.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 155)
All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Bantam Books
  • How withered away one can be from a life of unremitting toil.
    • Part 2, Chapter 5 (p. 22)
  • Dismissing the whole thing as the world’s aberration and not mine, I went back to bed.
    • Part 2, Chapter 8 (p. 25)
  • There are more whooping cranes in the United States of America than there are women in Congress.
    • Part 4, Chapter 8 (p. 61)
  • Anyway everyboy (sorry) knows that what women have done that is really important is not to constitute a great, cheap labor force that you can zip in when you're at war and zip out again afterwards but to Be Mothers, to form the coming generation, to give birth to them, to nurse them, to mop floors for them, to love them, cook for them, clean for them, change their diapers, pick up after them, and mainly sacrifice themselves for them. This is the most important job in the world. That’s why they don’t pay you for it.
    • Part 7, Chapter 1 (p. 137)
  • Fucking, if you will forgive the pun, is an anti-climax.
    • Part 7, Chapter 2 (p. 139)
  • “Well, hell,” said Jael more genuinely, “the war. If there isn’t one, there just was one, and if there wasn’t one, there soon will be one. Eh? The war between Us and Them.
    • Part 8, Chapter 6 (pp. 163-164)
  • I told him to open his eyes, that I didn’t want to kill him with his eyes shut, for God’s sake.
    • Part 8, Chapter 8 (p. 181)
  • Remember, I don’t threaten. I don’t play. I always carry firearms. The truly violent are never without them.
    • Part 8, Chapter 8 (pp. 181-182)
  • If you want to be an assassin, remember that you must decline all challenges. Showing off is not your job.
    If you are insulted, smile meekly. Don’t break your cover.
    Be afraid. This is information about the world.
    You are valuable. Push yourself.
    Take the easiest way out whenever possible. Resist curiosity, pride, and the temptation to defy limits. You are not your own woman and must be built to last.
    Indulge hatred. Action comes from the heart.
    Pray often. How else can you quarrel with God?
    • Part 8, Chapter 9 (p. 191)
  • As my mother once said: The boys throw stones at the frogs in jest.
    But the frogs die in earnest.
  • Remember: I didn’t and don’t want to be a “feminine” version or a diluted version or a special version or a subsidiary version or an ancillary version, or an adapted version of the heroes I admire. I want to be the heroes themselves.
    What future is there for a female child who aspires to being Humphrey Bogart?
    • Part 9, Chapter 4 (p. 206)

On Strike Against God (1980)

  • "You are on strike against God"--said by a nineteenth-century American judge to a group of women workers from a textile mill. He was right, too, and I don't wonder at him. What I do wonder is where did they get the nerve to defy God? Because you'd think something would interfere with them, give them nervous headaches, hit them, muddle them, nag at them (at the very least) and prohibit them from daring to do it, just as something interferes with me, too, tries to keep me away from certain regions. (first lines)
  • After a while you tame your interior monsters, it's only natural. I don't mean that it ever stops; but it stops mattering. (p8)
  • Something-elses of the world, unite! (p19)
  • Leaning her silly, beautiful, drunken head on my shoulder, she said, "Oh, Esther, I don't want to be a feminist. I don't enjoy it. It's no fun." "I know," I said. "I don't either." People think you decide to be a "radical," for God's sake, like deciding to be a librarian or a ship's chandler. You "make up your mind," you "commit yourself" (sounds like a mental hospital, doesn't it?). I said Don't worry, we could be buried together and have engraved on our tombstone the awful truth, which some day somebody will understand: WE WUZ PUSHED. (p37)
  • ...I'd say tiredly over and over again (to an absent Dr. D.)that I had no troubles with sex, only with men, and that my trouble with men did not come from what was between their legs but from what was between their ears. (p47)
  • Nothing but machines left between people. Telephones, taxis, letters, the discarded automata of the modern love affair. (p63)
  • After the first shock you think, "Well, that's over," but what do you do then? The news that kills is the news that makes everything else impossible; you can't sleep or go out or read or watch TV because you can no longer enjoy anything; I had never before realized what a substratum of pure pleasure there is in just going to sleep, for instance. Just eating. All spoiled now. (p63)
  • Sex, when it's good (but how often is it that?) is like nothing on earth. So silly, so grand. So indecent, so matter-of-fact. (p95)
  • Sex doesn't last. (p95)
  • The amazing peacefulness, the astonishing lack of anger, the sweetness and balm of being at last on the right side of power. (p100)
  • Let's be for us. For goodness' sakes, let's not be against us. (p107)

The Zanzibar Cat (1983)


short story collection

  • My mother's country: the body and garden of the Great Goddess, fair, ornamental, tended; I can wander forever in Her lap under the sun of Her face, in a cultivated place like the Botanical Gardens of my childhood where everything is suffused with the divine personality, regal, wide, and lovely. Everything's here-pineapples from Java, Norway pine, greenhouses like tropical igloos, the long wide lawns, camomile meadows veiled with hair, lawns that look like-and are-the dancing-grounds of angels.
    The fatherland is another place.
    • beginning of "old Thoughts, old Presences"
  • In the summer of 192- there occurred to me the most extraordinary event of my life. (beginning of "The Extraordinary Voyages of Amélie Bertrand")
  • After she had finished her work at the North Pole, Jannina came down to the Red Sea refineries where she had family business, jumped to New Delhi for dinner, took a nap in a public hotel in Queensland, walked from the hotel to the station, bypassed the Leeward Islands (where she thought she might go, but all the stations were busy), and met Charley to watch the dawn over the Carolinas. (beginning of "nobody's Home")
  • Duke Humphrey, bearded and humped, had died six hundred years before but not really, so that the people of Appletap-on-Flat were understandably frightened when he began to reappear in the outlying districts with (it was said) a demon cat from Zanzibar sitting on his hump and telling him what to do. (beginning of "The Zanzibar cat")

Extra(ordinary) People (1984)


short story collection

  • This is the tale of the Abbess Radegunde and what happened when the Norsemen came. (first line of "Souls")
  • Writing isn't talking. God damn it. Look, James, this isn't going to be an easy letter. I'm going to finish it, put it in the Net, turn my signal off, and go to bed. I'll be asleep by the time you get up, so don't call if you decide to answer your red light or just go looking for something intelligible to read or know about (little enough here for either of us). I keep thinking of the impulses in the Net as sparks flying underground or undersea or bouncing off satellites; of course it's faster than that. It's already morning in Hawaii and this will get to you almost instantaneously when I depress the Transmit key. Which is a little daunting, the irreversibility. (beginning of "Bodies")
  • Lady Sappho in curly gold letters is the name of the book I will (will not) write. (beginning of "Everyday Depressions")


  • In the field of science fiction or fantasy, morality—when it enters a book at all—is almost always either thoughtlessly liberal (you can’t judge other cultures) or thoughtlessly illiberal (strong men must rule) or just plain thoughtless (killing people is bad).
    • "Books" (review column), The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1968
  • Perhaps it’s because I was brought up with no religion at all that I detest the science-fiction tropism towards re-writing Christianity from what one might call the village-atheist point of view. Although (Robert Sheckley's) “Budget Planet” and Fritz Leiber’s “One Station on the Way” are colorful and active enough, there seems to me to be no point in flogging dead fundamentalist doctrines so late in the day.
    • "Books" (review column), The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1970
  • There are plenty of images of women in science fiction. There are hardly any women.
    • "The Image of Women in Science Fiction" (1970)
  • Only those who have reviewed, year in and year out, know how truly abominable most fiction is.
    • "Books" (review column), The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1979

How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

  • At the level of high culture with which this book is concerned, active bigotry is probably fairly rare. It is also hardly ever necessary, since the social context is so far from neutral. To act in a way both sexist and racist, to maintain one's class privilege, it is only necessary to act in the customary, ordinary, usual, even polite manner.
  • Ignorance is not bad faith. But persistence in ignorance is.
  • Minority art, vernacular art, is marginal art. Only on the margins does growth occur.
  • The idea that any art is achieved 'intuitively' is a dehumanization of the brains, effort, and the traditions of the artist, and a classification of said artist as subhuman. It is those supposed incapable of intelligence, training, or connection with a tradition who are described as working by instinct or intuition.
  • I think from now on, I will not trust anyone who isn't angry.
  • When the memory of one's predecessors is buried, the assumption persists that there were none and each generation of women believes itself to be faced with the burden of doing everything for the first time. And if no one ever did it before, if no woman was ever that socially sacred creature, "a great writer," why do we think we can succeed now?
  • The re-evaluation and rediscovery of minority art (including the cultural minority of women) is often conceived as a matter of remedying injustice and exclusiveness through doing justice to individual artists by allowing their work into the canon, which will thereby be more complete, but fundamentally unchanged.
  • middle-class women, although taught to value established forms, are in the same position as the working class: neither can use established forms to express what the forms were never intended to express (and may very well operate to conceal).
  • Fantasy is reality...Surely the mode of fantasy (which includes many genres and effects) is the only way in which some realities can be treated.I grew up in United States in the 1950s, in a world in which fantasy was supposed to be the opposite of reality. 'Rational,' 'mature' people were concerned only with a narrowly defined 'reality' and only the 'immature' or the 'neurotic' (all-purpose put-downs) had any truck with fantasy, which was then considered to be wishful thinking, escapism, and other bad things, attractive only to the weak and damaged. Only Communists, feminists, homosexuals and other deviants were unsatisfied with Things As They Were at the time and Heaven help you if you were one of those. I took to fantasy like a duckling to water. Unfortunately for me, there was nobody around then to tell me that fantasy was the most realistic of arts, expressing as it does the contents of the human soul directly.”
  • The impulse behind fantasy I find to be dissatisfaction with literary realism. Realism leaves out so much.

Much anti-feminist criticism of feminist writing can best be answered with, 'Yeah? And where were you at the time, twinkletoes? Writing your ten-thousandth essay on King Lear?”

To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction (1995)

  • If any theme runs through all my work, it is what Adrienne Rich once called "re-vision," i.e., the re-perceiving of experience, not because our experience is complex or subtle or hard to understand (though it is sometimes all three) but because so much of what's presented to us as "the real world" or "the way it is" is so obviously untrue that a great deal of social energy must be mobilized to hide that gross and ghastly fact. As a theatre critic (whose name I'm afraid I've forgotten) once put it, "There's less there than meets the eye." Hence, my love for science fiction, which analyzes reality by changing it. Mundane, realistic fiction often carries its meaning behind the action, underneath the action, underneath the ostensible action. Science fiction cancels this process by making what is usually a literary metaphor into a literal identity. (Introduction)
  • How multiform the universe is, how branching, how structured, how crystalline! Mountain ranges, clouds, trees, human relations, human literary inventions-how fractal they all are! (Introduction)
  • An examination of English literature or Western literature reveals that of all the possible actions people can do in this fiction, very few can be done by women. Our literature is not about women. It is not about women and men equally. It is by and about men. ("What Can a Heroine Do? or Why Women Can't Write")
  • Puberty is an awakening into sexual adulthood for both sexes. According to Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, it is also the time when the prison bars of "femininity," enforced by law and custom, shut the girl in for good. Even today entry into woman's estate is often not a broadening-out (as it is for boys) but a diminution of life. Feminist utopias offer an alternative model of female puberty, one which allows the girl to move into a full and free adulthood. ("Recent Feminist Utopias")
  • Whether tentative or conclusively pessimistic, the invented, all-female worlds, with their consequent lesbianism, have another function: that of expressing the joys of female bonding, which-like freedom and access to the public world-are in short supply for many women in the real world. Sexually, this amounts to the insistence that women are erotic integers and not fractions waiting for completion. Female sexuality is seen as native and initiatory, not (as in our traditionally sexist view) reactive, passive, or potential. ("Recent Feminist Utopias")
  • here, of course, we come to the one occupation of a female protagonist in literature, the one thing she can do, and by God she does it and does it and does it, over and over and over again. She is the protagonist of a Love Story.

What Are We Fighting For?: Sex, Race, Class & The Future of Feminism (1998)

  • Staying in charge of feminism is personally comfortable and personally gratifying for White women and may avoid the struggles and problems talked about his chapter (as well as some others), but if we do, we will lose. Not only we lose allies and our moral decency-no small matter for a radical movement whose position is founded not on armies but on its claims to justice-we will lose something of even greater importance: the ability to understand the interconnections between different kinds of oppression. That is, we will lose any possibility of developing an accurate map of the world. And if we don't have that, we will fail, even in getting anything for ourselves. ("THERE IS A VILLAGE / OVER / THAT HILL", p311)


  • Although the aesthetic satisfaction of the syllogistic form still attracts me, I'm no longer sure that it can handle much more complexity than that of a shopping list, let alone social criticism or the reconceptualization (or "breaking set") feminists have been calling the click! phenomenon for some two decades now.
  • We may not, by the way, be the only sapient beings in the galaxy-in fact the odds are heavily against such an occurrence-which probability sometimes gave me inexplicable comfort in the midst of the combined horrors of adolescence and the ghastliness of growing up to the tune of "Love and marriage / Go together like a horse and carriage," illegal abortion, and all the other viciousness we endured because we were young. There seem to be plenty of folks now who find that smothering, coercive, conformist, witch-hunting, red-baiting era an object of nostalgia.
    They can have it.
  • ...if everything is related to everything else (which I believe) then you can start anywhere, and (if you attend carefully to your own experience and everything you know) you will find yourself forced to broaden your inquiry to include as much of everything else as you possibly can.
  • I began reading science fiction in the 1950s and got from it a message that didn't exist anywhere else then in my world. Explicit sometimes in the detachable ideas, implicit in the gimmicks, peeking out from behind often intolerably class-bigoted, racist, and sexist characterizations, somehow surviving the usual America-the-empire-is-good plots, most fully expressed in the strange life-forms and strange, strange, wonderfully strange landscapes, was the message:
    Things can be really different





in Dream Makers Volume II by Charles Platt

  • after having had contact with students for so many years, I think it's a lot harder to change somebody's life than people think. People will say they've been changed, but what they really mean is they read something which crystallized an awful lot of things they were already feeling. I don't think books really change people's minds very often; I think that's awfully rare.
  • What we have to watch out for, to keep from being suckered in, is when someone purports to explain not one particular concrete thing, but the way in which a whole species works.
  • There's an awful lot of mythology hidden in science. The pathology that was hidden behind nineteenth-century science is beginning to be fairly obvious. I think that the same thing goes on today in sociology and psychology, even in biology.
  • The abortion question is illustrative of this. Women say, 'We want the right to own our own bodies.' And the opposition, the Moral Majority, say things like, 'When does life begin?' That's not the point. I don't give a damn when it begins. I don't give a damn what the real differences between men and women are. I just don't want to be stepped on when I walk out into the street. I don't want to have to go out at night in terror. I don't want you to tell me that you won't give me a decent job. I don't want to have a low salary. I don't want to be maltreated.
  • The same professors who talked about literature as an absolute value never talked about the sexist messages we were getting from it. The rules of conduct of that time, in the 1950s, were completely different for women, on campus, from what boys were permitted to do. There was a peculiar kind of tacit agreement to pretend that the absolute values were classless and sexless, even though they aren't.



in Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Writers by Larry McCaffery (1990)

  • You have to have conventions and rigid symbols and patterns before you can upset them.
  • This isn't something I feel the need to apologize for. The idea that every year or two years you're supposed to turn out these new books that are all going to be wonderful and commercially popular is a misguided notion that commerce has foisted upon us. The writing process has a rhythm all its own, and at least for me the rhythm is absolutely different for every book.
  • The idea that artists should be willing to push something as far as it will go, until they watch it crack, has always appealed to me.
  • Revision, self-criticism, change-all these are essential for any art form to maintain a sense of vitality.
  • all political propaganda generally ends the same way: it's yours now, this thing isn't over; I can't tell you what finally happened because it hasn't finally happened yet! This is always a problem when you write anything with real social or political consciousness-what you're describing hasn't ended. I suppose this is true, in a way, of all fiction.
  • I'll never understand the kind of writer who genuinely advances the proposition that life is a dream or a fiction. To me that's the voice of privilege, whether it's money, class, sex, color, or what have you. Most of us can't find refuge in anything so false.
  • I was constantly reading these stories about fucking in bars and fistfights and war, and my reaction, quite naturally, was that I didn't know anything about those things so I couldn't possibly write about them. And the stuff I could write about was considered trivial-writing about a fishing trip was considered "deep" and "raw," while a description of a high school dance was unimportant. There really was a profound bias about what was proper material for "Great Writing." So I decided to write about something nobody knew anything about-to transform the realism of my life into SF and fantasy. I was also drawn to the way SF writers' minds seemed to work. Current fiction bored me stiff, but not SF, where the conceivable was far larger than the personally observable. It's interesting to note that so-called mainstream fiction seems finally to be catching up to SF in this regard; it's becoming increasingly unrealistic, surrealistic, fantastic, “postrealistic.” I feel justified.
  • We need to force the reader always to come back to where we all are. Otherwise, it's pure game playing, escapism. And you fall out with an awful shock.
  • People accept all sorts of attitudes-about racism, sexism, and class-simply because they don't have the time or the energy to think these things through. It's easier to accept the status quo, especially if you're part of a privileged group and want to think well of yourself. So one way to make people aware of how morally atrocious and even downright stupid many of their assumptions are is to confront them with a pattern whose meaning they think they're comfortable with-and then to undermine the whole thing, forcing them to see how arbitrary and wrong they've been.
  • SF was born didactic! It originated as a teaching medium-which is why its potential to actually effect some changes in people's attitudes is infinitely greater. It's got representative protagonists, for example-at least it starts like this in the works of H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and other proto-SF writers. If you look at, say, The War of the Worlds, the human beings there may represent certain attitudes or types, but they are obviously not "individuals" in the sense that characters in the great realistic novels are.
  • people will never be totally at home, spiritually, in any environment.
  • One of the most exciting things about working in SF for me, a woman, is that SF is so open-ended-it's perfectly possible to imagine a world where sexism doesn't exist, or in which women can be presented in the context of new myths that women can admire or learn from.
  • the whole Robinson-Crusoe-and-the-desert-island business is, at bottom, an imperialist myth: you find a place "out there" and you make it yours, whether the people who already live there want you to or not. This goes on in SF all the time--you can see it in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, for instance. I'm not interested in that notion. It's been obvious for at least twenty or thirty years now-certainly since the '60s to us white folks-that it's simply not a good attitude for people to take. And, of course, if you were really put in that situation, I'd think you'd do amazingly well just to stay alive.
  • A lot of reviewers froth at the mouth whenever someone takes a hallowed situation and refuses to reinforce all the usual capitalist, imperialist, Americans-can-do-anything attitudes associated with it.
  • I'm not anti-utopian in spirit. I'm just not so naive as to think that people can discard who they are. My point isn't that utopia is impossible-I think "Bodies" presents a real utopia-but that creating it isn't as simple as most SF implies.
  • Anger is a necessity. It's part of all radicalism. When Marxism isn't second-generation, academic, and establishment-theoretical, its motive is sheer fury. What else? When groups get past a certain point of oppression, it's a revelation to be angry. Prior to that you'd go through a stage of feeling you have to be so moral, so good, that anger seems inappropriate; you think you shouldn't get angry. Eventually you get to a place where you can more honestly express that anger, and that's fine. Mother Jones said, "Farmers in this state are raising too much corn and not enough hell!" There's a point where it's essential to get in touch with anger in situations where people or structures are dumping on you. You need this anger to resist looking at the structure and saying, "It's us, it's our fault"; or "What they're saying is true, we must be wrong." If you lose touch with this outrage, you wind up forgetting what you were mad about in the first place; you start feeling that you'd really rather not get involved, that you can't change things, that it's no use. Oppression is always mystifying and confusing. Lying, really.
  • most of the women in my generation who were doing groundbreaking work usually felt the need to find a way to distance a lot of personal, controversial issues. And while some awareness on some questions has gone up among the general public, so that it may be possible to say things out loud now that in 1965 or 1970 were certainly very tough to say out loud, in many ways they're getting tough to say again. Back in the early '70s, I shocked myself in writing parts of The Female Man. It scared the dickens out of me. I doubt that women are ever going to feel comfortable being direct, at least not until our society's undergone some changes of its own. When women try to speak totally directly, we lack the social forms or the cultural images or the permission to do so. These things just aren't in our vocabulary yet, so we still have to get at things in a roundabout manner.
  • The point is to show how small the greatest of disasters can appear when seen from a distance of several billion miles or years.
  • I've never lost the feeling of transcendental beauty and awe that attached itself to the physical world. Lucretius has a line in De Rerum Naturae that says something about how everything in nature fits together and gives a joy beyond expression. It's a feeling people have surely always had about the way the seasons or planets change, the way plants grow, a sense of joy or awe about what's around us.
  • The key for me wasn't the '60s but the early '70s and the feminist movement. Gloria Steinem once said that women get more radical as they get older because things start to pile up-the alienation, the outsideness. We don't age as men do; there's no reward. We get out or go under. Radicalism for any oppressed group isn't youthful; it's lifelong...Simply being a female so often has the effect of placing women so far out, so far on the margin, so far from being central or important, that when women go radical, they tend to jump a long way. Radicalism partly derives from the basic question, How much have I really got to lose? I'm not sure you can generalize about this, but it seems clear to me, from my recent researches, that black women are frequently more radical than white feminists and black lesbian feminists are more radical still, because just to stay alive they've had to become radical. Like Barbara Smith, Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga. Audre Lorde has a collection of essays called Sister Outsider that is magnificent on this topic. There is a tradition of women on the Left being overlooked that I myself just found out about quite recently. I discovered that in the most amazing ways it's always been women who were the most radical figures on the Left. Suppressed radicals, punished radicals. Not only has this happened before, but it's happened and happened and happened and happened. There have been something like two to four feminist movements in the last three hundred years. Dale Spender's book, Women of Ideas, has some evidence of this. We've buried the slave revolts, and we constantly bury radical events like the labor wars.
  • What fascinated me about the theater then was that you could project a private reality onto actual material things: people, sets, voices, scenes. It gradually dawned on me that I could do this in words, too.
  • For women, there's simply no easy way of finding some kind of fulfillment. The whole idea of going from your own world to an alien world makes sense only if you're not an alien in your own world. It's very hard to feel at home here when you're not. So women either don't go into space-you're either there or here but without much traveling in between-or you came from there and now you're here, but what the hell are you doing here?
  • Women traditionally do an enormous amount of interpersonal work, but there's no public vocabulary for this sort of activity-just as there's no public vocabulary for what mothers do raising children, or what housewives do. Anne Wilson Schaef has pointed out that there is this public male reality and anything that isn't in it is either crazy or trivial or nonexistent. There's no consensual way of talking about what makes up the daily lives of most women, so it's not surprising that women have been exploring telepathy, ESP, magic, and alternative forms of communication. Marion Zimmer Bradley does, Le Guin does, I do, even Suzy Charnas-really, just about every contemporary woman SF author I can think of has worked in these areas.
  • there is no God in any of my stories or in my beliefs. In fact, if there's one thread running throughout my fiction it's precisely the lack of that kind of authority. My books, I would say, are designed to undermine that notion, to force readers to question the authorities governing their lives, be they literary, sexual, political, religious, whatever. Cosmic awe isn't religion. I'm an atheist, and I loathe having religion imported into my work. If you believe in religion, do it, but don't assume or insist that I do.
  • You notice that some of the stuff by men that I would call certainly pornographic, Henry Miller, for instance, is taken very seriously. It’s all so obvious. When women do it, it’s silly, when men do it, it’s serious.
  • The mystery stories are very interesting because again, often the ones that women write are as good as or not as good as the ones the guys write, but the women write about personalities, about characters, and what is character-driven. The men tend not to; they are more comfortable apparently with technical problems. I think the best writers are the kind who do both at the same time.
  • Every culture will find justification for everything they believe or want to believe. I still think that a lot of the world is still in shock, and I think probably what brought it on was easier birth control. The sort of, where are we, what do we do now?
  • It’s still very much a different world for men and women.
  • It’s that idea of disguise that I find myself coming back to. You can really, in a sense, be anybody or anybodies, plural, in writing.
  • this is a public discourse in which female sexuality really doesn’t exist...If you believe the public discourse then you have to also believe that female sexuality is a dreadful thing and must be squashed at all costs, and so on. I just hope there are many, many more young people who are growing up without that, without all of it, anyway.
  • One thing I have tried to do when I write...was take the sex in my stories and simply make it part of the whole fabric. It’s not special, it’s not sacred, it’s not demonic, it just happens. It’s as much an ordinary part of life as heating your dinner up, or something, and I always worked very hard to get that over.
  • What I think of the mystification I was exposed to, it was just hard. I’m seventy, but this must have started when I was eleven or twelve, being squashed. Somebody was saying that for gay women to come out, they usually do it a good bit later than gay men, because you can’t get a picture of yourself at all, one way or the other.

Quotes about Joanna Russ

  • All my early fiction tends to be rather male-centered. A couple of the Earthsea books have no women in them at all or only marginal woman figures. That's how hero stories worked; they were about men. With the exception of just a few feminists like Joanna Russ, science fiction was pretty much male-dominated up to the 1960s. Women who wrote in that field often used pen names.
  • She had much more intellectual training and intellectual capacity for thinking about science fiction than most writers ever bother with...I think it would be fair to say that she and Samuel Delany, between them, invented science fiction scholarship back in the ’60s and ’70s...In her science fiction reviews, she was always wanting the people she thought were good to be better, to be more intellectual and more challenging.
  • There was a hostility toward Joanna’s writing from male critics and male magazine editors, and men in general in science fiction. She had some friends, but quite a lot of the men in science fiction were appalled at the way that Joanna was challenging the norms of what women should be in science fiction.
  • Joanna Russ told me the same thing that when she was in high school she thought if she didn't write about men going off to war or hunting big game then she didn't have anything significant to say.
    • Larry McCaffery, 1988 interview in Conversations with Octavia Butler (2009)
  • Joanna Russ has written in "Recent Feminist Utopias": "I believe that utopias are not embodiments of universal human values, but are reactive; that is, they supply in fiction what their authors believe society lacks in the here and now. The positive values stressed in the stories can reveal to us what, in the authors' eyes, is wrong with our society. Thus if the stories are familial, communal in feelings, we may safely guess that the authors see our society as isolating people from each other, especially (to judge from the number of all-female utopias in the group) women from women. If the utopias stress a feeling of harmony and connection with the natural world, the authors may be telling us that in reality they feel a lack of such connection."
    • Marge Piercy "WHY SPECULATE ON THE FUTURE?" in My Life, My Body (2015)
  • All of Joanna Russ's novels are interesting beyond the ordinary. They ask nasty and necessary questions. They are always asking who owns things and what does it cost to survive, how and what do you eat and who do you use, what do you dare to do to make your own choices. They offer a gallery of some of the most interesting female protagonists in current fiction, women who are rarely victims and sometimes even victors, but always engaged sharply and perceptively with their fate...One advantage of working in a genre is that things have to happen, you must create a moving plot, and that discipline keeps Russ's springy intelligence at least somewhat anchored. If she is like any other writer, she makes me think sometimes of Swift. She is as angry, as disgusted, as playful, as often didactic, as airy at times and as crude, as intellectual. The quality of outraged, clear-sighted, pained intelligence, at once incandescent and exacerbated, is one of the major experiences for me in reading her work. Her critical essays tend to be witty and savage. Boredom is a torture to which the world obviously condemns her a lot.
    • Marge Piercy "An Appreciation of Joanna Russ" in Parti-Colored Blocks for a Quilt (1983) First published as "From Where I Work," in American Poetry Review 6, no. 3 (1977).
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