Leigh Brackett

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Leigh Brackett
Leigh Brackett 1941.JPG
Brackett in 1941
Born Leigh Douglass Brackett
(1915-12-07)December 7, 1915
Los Angeles, California, US
Died March 18, 1978(1978-03-18) (aged 62)
Lancaster, California
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter
Nationality American
Genre Science fiction, crime fiction
Notable works Eric John Stark series
Spouse Edmond Hamilton (m. 1946–77) (until his death)

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Leigh Douglass Brackett (December 7, 1915 – March 18, 1978) was an American writer, particularly of science fiction, and has been referred to as the Queen of Space Opera.[3] She was also a screenwriter, known for her work on such films as The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959), The Long Goodbye (1973) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

Life[edit]

Leigh Brackett was born December 7, 1915 in Los Angeles, California and grew up there. On December 31, 1946, at age 31, she married Edmond Hamilton in San Gabriel, California, and moved with him to Kinsman, Ohio. She died of cancer in 1978 in Lancaster, California.[4]

Career[edit]

Fiction writer[edit]

Brackett first published in her mid-twenties, the science fiction story "Martian Quest", appeared in the February 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Her earliest years as a writer (1940–42) were her most productive; occasional stories have social themes, such as "The Citadel of Lost Ships" (1943), which considers the effects on the native cultures of alien worlds of Earth's expanding trade empire.

The Brackett-Bradbury collaboration "Lorelei of the Red Mist" took the cover of Planet Stories in 1946
Brackett's first detective story, "Murder in the Family", was published in Mammoth Detective in 1943

Brackett's first novel, No Good from a Corpse, published in 1944, was a hard-boiled mystery novel in the tradition of Raymond Chandler (the book led to her first big screenwriting assignment) and Brackett's science fiction stories became more ambitious. Shadow Over Mars (1944) was her first novel-length science fiction story and though somewhat rough-edged, marked the beginning of a new style, strongly influenced by the characterization of the 1940s detective story and film noir.

In 1946, Brackett married fellow science fiction author Edmond Hamilton. Planet Stories published the novella "Lorelei of the Red Mist", in which the protagonist is a thief called Hugh Starke. Brackett finished the first half before turning it over to Ray Bradbury, so that she could leave to work on the movie The Big Sleep. Brackett returned to science fiction writing after her movie work, in 1948. From then on to 1951, she produced a series of science fiction adventure stories that were longer than her previous work, including classic representations of her planetary settings as "The Moon that Vanished" and the novel Sea-Kings of Mars (1949), later published as The Sword of Rhiannon, a vivid description of Mars before its oceans evaporated.

With "Queen of the Martian Catacombs" (1949), Brackett created Eric John Stark. Stark, an orphan from Earth, is raised by the semi-sentient aboriginals of Mercury, who are later killed by Earthmen. He is saved by a Terran official, who adopts Stark and becomes his mentor. When threatened, Stark reverts to the primitive N'Chaka, the "man without a tribe" that he was on Mercury. From 1949 to 1951, Stark (whose name echoes that of the hero in "Lorelei of the Red Mist") appeared in three tales, published in Planet Stories, "Queen of the Martian Catacombs", "Enchantress of Venus" and "Black Amazon of Mars". With this last story, Brackett's high adventure period of writing ended.

Brackett's stories adopted an elegiac tone, no longer celebrating the conflicts of frontier worlds but lamenting the passing of civilizations, concentrating more on mood than plot. The reflective, introspective nature of these stories is indicated in the titles: "The Last Days of Shandakor", "Shannach — the Last" and "Last Call from Sector 9G".

"Last Call" was published in the final issue (Summer 1955) of Planet Stories, always Brackett's most reliable market for science fiction. With the disappearance of Planet Stories and later in 1955, of Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories, the outlets for Brackett's stories closed and the first phase of her career as a science fiction author ended. Other stories trickled out over the next decade and old stories were revised and published as novels. A new production of this period was one of Brackett's most critically acclaimed science fiction novels, The Long Tomorrow (1955). This novel describes an agrarian, technophobic society that develops after a nuclear war.

Most of Brackett's writing after 1955 was for the more lucrative film and television markets. In 1963 and 1964, she briefly returned to her old Martian milieu with a pair of stories; "The Road to Sinharat" can be regarded as an affectionate farewell to the world of "Queen of the Martian Catacombs", while the other – with the intentionally ridiculous title of "Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon" – borders on parody.

She and her husband shared Guest of Honor duties at the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention in Oakland, California.[5]

After another hiatus of nearly a decade, Brackett returned to science fiction in the seventies with the publication of The Ginger Star (1974), The Hounds of Skaith (1974) and The Reavers of Skaith (1976), collected as The Book of Skaith in 1976. This trilogy brought Eric John Stark back for adventures upon the extrasolar planet of Skaith (rather than his old haunts of Mars and Venus).

Brackett's Solar System[edit]

Often referred to as the Queen of space opera, Brackett also wrote planetary romance. Almost all of her planetary romances take place in the Leigh Brackett Solar System, which contains richly detailed fictional versions of the consensus Mars and Venus of science fiction in the 1930s–1950s. Mars appears as a marginally habitable desert world, populated by ancient, decadent and mostly humanoid races; Venus as a primitive, wet jungle planet, occupied by vigorous, primitive tribes and reptilian monsters. Brackett's Skaith combines elements of her other worlds with fantasy elements.

Though the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs is apparent in Brackett's Mars stories, her Mars is set firmly in a world of interplanetary commerce and competition. A prominent theme of her stories is the clash of planetary civilizations; the stories illustrate and criticize the effects of colonialism on civilizations which are either older or younger than those of the colonizers and thus they have remained relevant. Burroughs' heroes set out to remake entire worlds according to their own codes; Brackett's heroes (often antiheroes) are at the mercy of trends and movements far bigger than them.[6]

Screenwriter[edit]

Shortly after Brackett broke into science fiction writing, she wrote her first screenplays. Hollywood director Howard Hawks was so impressed by her novel No Good from a Corpse that he had his secretary call in "this guy Brackett" to help William Faulkner write the script for The Big Sleep (1946).[7] The film was written by Brackett, William Faulkner and Jules Furthman, starring Humphrey Bogart and is considered one of the best movies ever made in the genre; after her marriage, Brackett took a long break from screenwriting.

When she returned to screenwriting in the mid-1950s, she wrote for TV and movies. Howard Hawks hired her to write or co-write several John Wayne pictures, including Rio Bravo (1959), Hatari! (1962), El Dorado (1966) and Rio Lobo (1970). Because of her background with The Big Sleep, Robert Altman hired her to adapt Raymond Chandler's novel The Long Goodbye for the screen.

The Empire Strikes Back[edit]

Brackett worked on the screenplay for the first Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back. The film won the Hugo Award in 1981. This script was a departure for Brackett, since until then, all of her science fiction had been in the form of novels and short stories. Brackett's role in writing the script is disputed; George Lucas asked Brackett to write the screenplay based on his story outline. Brackett wrote a finished first draft which was delivered to Lucas shortly before her death from cancer on March 18, 1978. Two drafts of a new screenplay were written by Lucas and following the delivery of the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, turned over to Lawrence Kasdan for a new approach. Both Brackett and Kasdan (though not Lucas) were given credit for the final script.

Laurent Bouzereau, in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, states that Lucas disliked the direction of Brackett's screenplay, discarded it and produced two screenplays before turning the results over to Kasdan.[8] Some fans however believe that they can detect traces of Brackett's influence in the dialogue and the treatment of the space opera genre in Empire.[9] Moreover io9's co-founder Charlie Jane Anders has written that while "It's fashionable to disparage Brackett's contributions to Empire", "it's not true that none of Brackett's storyline winds up in the final movie — the basic story beats are the same."[10] Similarly John Saavedra of Den of Geek opines:[11]

Most importantly, you see that Brackett's draft, while definitely in need of a rewrite and several tweaks, holds all of the big moments we'd eventually see on screen. We still get a version of the Battle of Hoth (a much more ridiculous one), the wise words of an old Jedi Master, the excitement of zooming through a deadly asteroid field, a love triangle (a MUCH more overt one), a majestic city in the clouds, unexpected betrayals, and the climactic duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader that we would reenact on playgrounds for years to come.

Brackett's screenplay has never been officially or legally published. According to Stephen Haffner, it can be read at the Jack Williamson Special Collections library at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico (but may not be copied or checked out) and the archives at Lucasfilm in California. It is available on the internet as a PDF file.[12]

Bibliography[edit]

Brackett's "The Dragon-Queen of Jupiter" was the cover story in the Summer 1941 issue of Planet Stories
Brackett's novelette "Citadel of Lost Ships" was the cover story in the March 1943 issue of Planet Stories
Brackett's novella "Black Amazon of Mars" was the cover story in the March 1951 issue of Planet Stories
Brackett's novella "Shannach - The Last" took the cover of the December 1952 issue of Planet Stories
Brackett's novella "The Ark of Mars" was the cover story in the September 1953 issue of Planet Stories, illustrated by Kelly Freas
Brackett's novella "Last Call from Sector 9G" was the cover story in the final issue of Planet Stories in 1955, illustrated by Kelly Freas

Short science fiction[edit]

1940–1941[edit]

  • "Martian Quest" (Astounding Science Fiction, February 1940)
  • "The Treasure of Ptakuth" (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1940)
  • "The Stellar Legion" (Planet Stories, Winter 1940)
  • "The Tapestry Gate" (Strange Stories, August 1940)
  • "The Demons of Darkside" (Startling Stories, January 1941)
  • "Water Pirate" (Super Science Stories, January 1941)
  • "Interplanetary Reporter" (Startling Stories, May 1941)
  • "The Dragon-Queen of Jupiter" (Planet Stories, Summer 1941), also published as "The Dragon-Queen of Venus"
  • "Lord of the Earthquake" (novelette; Science Fiction, June 1941)
  • "No Man's Land in Space" (novelette; Amazing Stories July 1941)
  • "A World is Born" (Comet Stories July 1941)
  • "Retreat to the Stars" (Astonishing Stories, November 1941)

1942–1944[edit]

  • "Child of the Green Light" (Super Science Stories, February 1942)
  • "The Sorcerer of Rhiannon" (novelette; Astounding Science Fiction, February 1942)
  • "Child of the Sun" (novelette; Planet Stories, Spring 1942)
  • "Out of the Sea" (novelette; Astonishing Stories, June 1942)
  • "Cube from Space" (Super Science Stories, August 1942)
  • "Outpost on Io" (Planet Stories, Winter 1942)
  • "The Halfling" (novelette; Astonishing Stories, February 1943)
  • "The Citadel of Lost Ships" (Planet Stories, March 1943)
  • "The Blue Behemoth" (Planet Stories, May 1943)
  • "Thralls of the Endless Night" (Planet Stories, Fall 1943)
  • "The Jewel of Bas" (novelette; Planet Stories, Spring 1944)
  • "The Veil of Astellar" (novelette; Thrilling Wonder Stories, Spring 1944)
  • "Terror Out of Space" (Planet Stories, Summer 1944)
  • "Shadow Over Mars" (Startling Stories, Fall 1944), published in book form as The Nemesis from Terra

1945–1950[edit]

  • "The Vanishing Venusians" (novelette; Planet Stories, Spring 1945)
  • "Lorelei of the Red Mist", with Ray Bradbury (novella; Planet Stories, Summer 1946)
  • "The Moon That Vanished" (novelette; Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1948)
  • "The Beast-Jewel of Mars" (novelette; Planet Stories, Winter 1948)
  • "Quest of the Starhope" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1949)
  • "Sea-Kings of Mars" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1949), published in book form as The Sword of Rhiannon
  • "Queen of the Martian Catacombs" (Planet Stories, Summer 1949), expanded and published in book form as The Secret of Sinharat
  • "Enchantress of Venus" (novella; Planet Stories, Fall 1949), also published as "City of the Lost Ones"
  • "The Lake of the Gone Forever" (novelette; Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949)
  • "The Dancing Girl of Ganymede" (novelette; Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1950)
  • "The Truants" (novelette; Startling Stories, July 1950)
  • "The Citadel of Lost Ages" (novella; Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1950)

1951–1955[edit]

  • "Black Amazon of Mars" (Planet Stories, March 1951), expanded and published in book form as People of the Talisman
  • "The Starmen of Llyrdis" (Startling Stories, March 1951)
  • "The Woman from Altair" (novelette; Startling Stories, July 1951)
  • "The Shadows" ( Startling Stories, February 1952)
  • "The Last Days of Shandakor" (novelette; Startling Stories, April 1952)
  • "Shannach – The Last" (novelette; Planet Stories, November 1952)
  • "The Ark of Mars" (Planet Stories, September 1953), later published as part of the book Alpha Centauri or Die!
  • "Mars Minus Bisha" (Planet Stories, January 1954)
  • "Runaway" (Startling Stories, Spring 1954)
  • "Teleportress of Alpha C" (Planet Stories, Winter 1954/1955), later published as part of the book Alpha Centauri or Die!
  • "The Tweener" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1955)
  • "Last Call from Sector 9G" (Planet Stories, Summer 1955)

After 1955[edit]

  • "The Other People" (novelette; Venture Science Fiction Magazine March 1957), also published as "The Queer Ones"
  • "All the Colors of the Rainbow" (novelette; Venture Science Fiction Magazine, November 1957)
  • "The Road to Sinharat" (novelette; Amazing Stories, May 1963)
  • "Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1964)
  • "Come Sing the Moons of Moravenn" (The Other Side of Tomorrow, 1973)
  • "How Bright the Stars" (Flame Tree Planet: An Anthology of Religious Science-Fantasy, 1973)
  • "Mommies and Daddies" (Crisis, 1974)
  • "Stark and the Star Kings", with Edmond Hamilton (in the collection of the same name, 2005)

Science fiction novels[edit]

Science fiction collections[edit]

  • The Coming of the Terrans (1967)
  • The Halfling and Other Stories (1973)
  • The Book of Skaith (1976) – omnibus edition of the three Skaith novels
  • The Best of Leigh Brackett (1977), ed. Edmond Hamilton
  • Martian Quest: The Early Brackett (2000) – Haffner Press
  • Stark and the Star Kings (2005), with Edmond Hamilton
  • Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories (2005) – #46 in the Fantasy Masterworks series.
  • Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances (2007) – Haffner Press
  • Shannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars (2011) – Haffner Press

Science fiction, as editor[edit]

  • The Best of Planet Stories No. 1 (anthology; 1975)
  • The Best of Edmond Hamilton (collection; 1977)

Screenwriter[edit]

Other genres[edit]

  • No Good from a Corpse (crime novel; 1944)
  • Stranger at Home (crime novel; 1946) – ghost-writer for the actor George Sanders
  • An Eye for an Eye (crime novel; 1957) – adapted for television as Suspicion series episode (1958)
  • The Tiger Among Us (crime novel; 1957; UK 1960 as Fear No Evil), filmed as 13 West Street (1962; dir. Philip Leacock)
  • Follow the Free Wind (western novel; 1963) – received the Spur Award from Western Writers of America
  • Rio Bravo (western novel; 1959) – novelization based on the screenplay by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett
  • Silent Partner (crime novel; 1969)
  • No Good from a Corpse (mystery collection; Dennis McMillan Publications, 1999) – reprints the titular novel and eight shorter crime stories.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brackett, Leigh (2005), Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories, London: Gollancz, p. xii .
  2. ^ Moorcock, Michael, Stark Rides Again , introduction to Brackett (2007), The Secret of Sinharat, Planet Stories Library, p. 9 
  3. ^ Happy 100th Birthday to Leigh Brackett, the Queen of Space Opera!
  4. ^ "Screewriter Leigh Brackett Succumbs to Cancer at 60". The Los Angeles Times (obituary). March 24, 1978. Retrieved May 24, 2010.  Quoted at Willick, George C, Spacelight .
  5. ^ "They Call Her for Salty Dialogue". Los Angeles Times. December 28, 1965. p. D10. Retrieved March 7, 2011. [Leigh Brackett] has been a pal of Ray Bradbury's for years, and with her husband was guest of honor at last year's World Science-Fiction Convention in Oakland 
  6. ^ Valdron, Den. "Colonial Barsoom: Leigh Brackett". www.erbzine.com/ ERBzine. 
  7. ^ Howard Hawks (subject) Richard Schickel (director/writer) Sydney Pollack (narrator) (1973). "Howard Hawks". The Men Who Made The Movies. 
  8. ^ Perry, Robert Michael. "A Certain Point of View". www.echostation.com/ Echo Station. A review of Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays written and compiled by Laurent Bouzereau 
  9. ^ Hart, Stephen. "Galactic Gasbag". Salon.com. 
  10. ^ "They mocked her "science fantasy." Then she wrote Empire Strikes Back.". 
  11. ^ "Star Wars: Leigh Brackett and The Empire Strikes Back You Never Saw". 
  12. ^ "Star Wars Sequel Screenplay by Leigh Brackett" (PDF). 

External links[edit]