“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Michael Willis from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)
Science Fiction’s Forgotten Femfanzines
By Michael Willis
Black Flames emerged from the recesses of the library archives to shed light on the nearly forgotten history of femfanzines. Edited and produced in January 1946 by Virginia “Jim-E” Daugherty, Black Flames, is one of a handful of known Science Fiction fanzines specifically meant for women, and a distinctive fanzine featuring work exclusively produced by women.
An author identified only as ‘Tigrina’ was among the contributors to Black Flames. According to Dr. Lisa Yaszek, professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech and the inciting editor of the anthology Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction, Tigrina was the nickname and later pseudonym of Edythe Eyde, who wrote the featured story of Black Flames. Eyde would later go on to create Vice Versa, widely considered the first lesbian magazine in North America, for which she would be “honored by the gay rights organization ONE, Inc, … and in 2010 she was inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Hall of Fame” (Yaszek 253-254). Rich Dana, Olson Graduate Research Assistant for Special Collections & Archives at the University of Iowa, in his recent Seminar Presentation, uncovered a series of letters Tigrina wrote to Rusty Hevelin in which, while writing in the persona of her pseudonym “she declared herself a Satanist. She did these crazy cartoons. She stood up to a lot of guys in fandom and she really excited a lot of people … she really did make a big splash on the fan scene …[and] pushed the boundaries of fanzines”.
Black Flames also enshrines, in a full page tribute, the awe inspiring work of Leigh Brackett whose first novel, No Good from a Corpse, so impressed Director Howard Hawks that he hired her to work on the screenplay for The Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Dr. Yaszek writes in her book The Future is Female! that Brackett was so “busy in Hollywood, she asked her friend Ray Bradbury to complete her novella ‘Lorelei of the Red Mist’ published jointly [later] in 1946.” That was only the beginning for Brackett who went on to continue publishing in several genres while also working on several other screenplays. Then late in 1977 a well-known Hollywood director, impressed with her work, personally selected her to write the first draft screenplay for arguably the fan favorite movie of one of the most popular franchises in all of Science Fiction. George Lucas personally selected Leigh Bracket to write the first draft of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
With such amazing and influential women among its contributors, why wasn’t there more than a single issue of Black Flames? All three women — Daugherty, Tigrina, and Brackett –were members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society around the same time, but after Black Flames Daugherty seems to disappear into history. Kathryn Heffner, Post Graduate Researcher at the University of Kent, explains that the fate of Black Flames was not unusual.
“Fanzine production, especially in that time period, embraced ‘one shots’ or single publications,” Heffner explains. Sometimes, as in the case of Black Flames, publications were developed as part of a “combo zine,” a partnered activity not unlike the collabs we now see on YouTube. Heffner added that two conditions factored in these one-off publications: First, active participation in a fandom meant being involved in “other fan activities like conference organizing,” which limited how much time they had available for the labor of writing and publishing. Another factor, Heffner said, was the not insignificant cost of mimeograph production.
Perhaps similarly striking stories lie smoldering in the far corners of the Rusty Hevelin Science Fiction Collection, waiting for an intrepid scholar to spark them into life.
Note: The author wishes to thank Peter Balestrieri, Curator of the Rusty Hevelin Collection of Science Fiction at UI Special Collections, for sharing his background knowledge and additional items from the Hevelin Collection that helped bring the story of Black Flames to life.
Lane, Carly. “Leigh Brackett”. Forgotten Women of Genre, read by Courtney Enlow, produced by Cher Martinetti, 15 Aug. 2019. Syfy Wire Fangrrls, Carly Lane, 15 Aug 2019, web, https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/forgotten-women-of-genre-leigh-brackett.
Yazek, Lisa. The Future is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp to Pioneers to Usula K. Le Guin, edited by Lisa Yaszek, Library of America, 2018, pp. 400-401.
Yaszek, Lisa, and Patrick B. Sharp. Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction, edited by Lisa Yaszek and Patrick B. Sharp, Wesleyan UP, 2016, pp. 253-254.
Pacificon Combozine: https://fancyclopedia.org/Pacificon_Combozine
Black Flames, edited and produced by Virginia “Jim-E” Daugherty, no. 1, Jan. 1946.
Kipple, no. 7, edited by Ted Pauls, Nov. 1960, pp. 25-29
Clute, John. “Brackett, Leigh.” The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight. Gollancz, 23 Feb. 2021, http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/brackett_leigh.
Dana, Rich. “Who is Tigrina? Exploring Identity in Early SF Fandom.” YouTube, uploaded by UISpecColl, edited by Liz Riordan and Meaghan Lemmenes, additional voicing by Lindsay Moen, 19 Jul. 2020, https://youtu.be/OG1Db85Si4A.
“Edythe Eyde”. Fancyclopedia 3, primary contributors Leah Zeldes Smith and Rich Dana, 8:17, 28 Feb. 2021, https://fancyclopedia.org/index.php?title=Edythe_Eyde&oldid=149048.
Kirtley, David Barr, host. “The History of Women in Science Fiction.” Geek’s Guide to the Galaxay, produced by Joseph Adams, episode 346, wired.com, 1 Feb. 2019. Youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-KeGRokMPE.
Lane, Carly. “Leigh Brackett.” Forgotten Women of Genre, read by Courtney Enlow, produced by Cher Martinetti, 15 Aug. 2019. Syfy Wire Fangrrls, Carly Lane, 15 Aug 2019, audio, https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/forgotten-women-of-genre-leigh-brackett.
“Virginia Daugherty”. Fan: Presenting the Hasse Volume, edited and produced by Walter J. Daugherty, no. 2, July 1945, p. 18.
Yazek, Lisa. “Biographical Notes.” The Future is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp to Pioneers to Usula K. Le Guin, edited by Lisa Yaszek, Library of America, 2018, pp. 400-401.
Yaszek, Lisa. Galactic Suburbia: Recovering Women’s Science Fiction, Ohio State UP, 2007.
Yaszek, Lisa, and Patrick B. Sharp. “Tigrina.” Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction, edited by Lisa Yaszek and Patrick B. Sharp, Wesleyan UP, 2016, pp. 253-254.