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Clare Winger Harris

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Clare Winger Harris
Clare Winger Harris SWQ.jpg
Clare Winger Harris, as pictured in the 1929 debut issue of Science Wonder Quarterly
Born Clare Winger
(1891-01-18)January 18, 1891
Freeport, Illinois
Died October 1968 (aged 76–77)
Pasadena, California
Nationality American
Period 1923–1930
Genre Science fiction
Spouse Frank Clyde Harris
Children 3
Cover of the April 1928 issue of Amazing Stories, which featured Clare Winger Harris's classic short story "The Miracle of the Lily."

Clare Winger Harris (January 18, 1891 – October 1968) was an early science fiction writer whose short stories were published during the 1920s. She is credited as the first woman to publish stories under her own name in science fiction magazines.[1][2] Her stories often dealt with characters on the "borders of humanity" such as cyborgs.[3]

Harris began publishing in 1926, and soon became well liked by readers. She sold a total of eleven stories, which were collected in 1947 as Away From the Here and Now. Her gender was a surprise to Gernsback, the editor who first bought her work, as she was the first woman to publish science fiction stories under her own name. Her stories, which often feature strong female characters, have been occasionally reprinted and have received some positive critical response, including a recognition of her pioneering role as a woman writer in a male-dominated field.


Clare Winger was born on January 18, 1891, in Freeport, Illinois[4] and later attended Smith College in Massachusetts. In 1912 she married Frank Clyde Harris.[5] Her husband was an architect and engineer who served in World War I and was chief engineer with the Loudon Machinery Company in Iowa and one of the organizers of the American Monorail Company of Cleveland, Ohio.[6]

Harris gave birth to three sons (Clyde Winger, born 1915; Donald Stover, born 1916; and Lynn Thackrey, born 1918).[5][6] She died in Pasadena, California in 1968.

Harris wrote her most acclaimed works during the 1920s. In 1930, she stopped writing to raise and educate her children.[2][7]

Writing career[edit]

Harris published her first short story, "The Runaway World," in the July 1926 issue of Weird Tales.[8] In December of that year, she submitted a story for a contest being run by Amazing Stories editor Hugo Gernsback. Harris's story, "The Fate of the Poseidonia" (a space opera about Martians who steal earth's water),[1] placed third. Harris soon became one of Gernback's most popular writers.

Harris eventually published eleven short stories in pulp magazines, most of them in Amazing Stories (although she also published in other places such as Science Wonder Quarterly).

In 1947 Harris's short stories were collected under the title Away from the Here and Now. Her stories have also been reprinted in anthologies such as Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the 20th Century (with a critical essay), Sci-Fi Womanthology, Amazing Science Fiction Anthology: The Wonder Years 1926-1935, and Gosh Wow! Sense of Wonder Science Fiction. She wrote one novel, Persephone of Eleusis: A Romance of Ancient Greece (1923).

Harris also wrote one of the first attempts to classify science fiction when, in the August 1931 issue of Wonder Stories, she listed 16 basic science fiction themes, including, "Interplanetary space travel," "Adventures on other worlds," and "The creation of synthetic life."[9]

Critical view and influence[edit]

When Gernback published Harris's first short story in Amazing Stories, he praised her writing while also expressing amazement that a woman could write good scientifiction (as science fiction was then called), saying "That the third prize winner should prove to be a woman was one of the surprises of the contest, for, as a rule, women do not make good scientification writers, because their education and general tendencies on scientific matters are usually limited. But the exception, as usual, proves the rule, the exception in this case being extraordinarily impressive."[10]

For many years Harris claimed to have been the first woman science-fiction writer in the United States.[7] While this can be debated (since Gertrude Barrows Bennett, writing under the pseudonym Francis Stevens, published science fiction stories as early as 1917), Harris is recognized as the first woman to publish stories in science fiction magazines under her own name.[3][7]

Even though Harris published only a handful of stories, almost all of them have been reprinted over the years. Of these, "The Miracle of the Lily" has been reprinted the most and praised by many critics, with Richard Lupoff saying the story would have "won the Hugo Award for best short story, if the award had existed then."[11] Lupoff also wrote that "[w]hile today's reader may find her prose creaky and old-fashioned, the stories positively teem with still-fresh and provocative ideas.[12]

"The Fate of the Poseidonia" has also been reprinted a number of times and is credited as an early example of a science fiction story with a heroic female lead character.[13] Other of Harris's stories are also noted for featuring strong female characters, such as Sylvia, the airplane pilot and mechanic in "The Ape Cycle" (1930). Harris also wrote one story utilizing a female point of view (in 1928's "The Fifth Dimension").

Because Harris was the first woman published in science fiction magazines, and because of her embrace of female characters and themes, she has been recognized in recent years as a pioneer of women's and feminist science fiction.[10]



  • Persephone of Eleusis: A Romance of Ancient Greece (1923)


  • Away from the Here and Now: Stories in Pseudo-Science (Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1947)

Short stories[edit]

(All stories included in Away from the Here and Now).

  • "A Runaway World" (Weird Tales, July 1926)
  • "The Fate of the Poseidonia" (Amazing Stories, June 1927)
  • "A Certain Soldier" (Weird Tales, November 1927)
  • "The Fifth Dimension" (Amazing Stories, December 1928)
  • "The Menace From Mars" (Amazing Stories, October 1928)
  • "The Miracle of the Lily" (Amazing Stories, April 1928)
  • "The Artificial Man" (Science Wonder Quarterly, Fall 1929)
  • "A Baby on Neptune" with Miles J. Breuer, M.D. (Amazing Stories, December 1929)
  • "The Diabolical Drug" (Amazing Stories, May 1929)
  • "The Evolutionary Monstrosity" (Amazing Stories Quarterly, Winter 1929)
  • "The Ape Cycle" (Science Wonder Quarterly, Spring 1930)


  • Letter (Air Wonder Stories, September 1929)
  • Letter (Wonder Stories, August 1931)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Donawerth, Jane (1990). "Teaching Science Fiction by Women". The English Journal (subscription required). 79 (3): 39–46. doi:10.2307/819233. JSTOR 819233. 
  2. ^ a b Davis, Cynthia J.; West, Kathryn (1996). Women Writers in the United States: A Timeline of Literary, Cultural, and Social History. Oxford University Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-19-509053-6. 
  3. ^ a b John Chute, Peter Nicholls, ed. (1993). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. St. Martin's Press. p. 544. ISBN 978-0-312-13486-0. 
  4. ^ Social Security Death Record for Clare Winger Harris, SS# 550-34-7527, accessed April 2, 2007.
  5. ^ a b "Clare Winger Harris" (in German). Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  6. ^ a b James Harris-Mary Cherry Family, PART 3, POSTERITY CHAPTER VI, Isaiah M. Harris-Wilkerson-Murrell Descendants, accessed April 2, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c "Curiosities by Richard A. Lupoff". Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. 1998. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  8. ^ "Fantasy & Science Fiction: Stories (by date)". SF Site. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  9. ^ Letter/essay from Clare Winger Harris, Wonder Stories, August 1931. An excerpt of this letter is reprinted on Google Groups here, accessed March 30, 2007.
  10. ^ a b Justine Larbalestier, ed. (2006). "Introduction to Clare Winger Harris's "The Fate of the Poiseidonia"". Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century. Wesleyan University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-8195-6676-8. 
  11. ^ "Science Fiction Timelines, 1920-30". Magic Dragon Multimedia. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  12. ^ "Curiosities, F&SF, July 1998
  13. ^ Donawerth, Jane (2006). "Illicit Reproduction: Clare Winger Harris's 'The Fate of the Poiseidonia'". In Justine Larbalestier. Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6676-8. 

External links[edit]