RIP, Joanna Russ

Legendary feminist science fiction author Joanna Russ died yesterday after a series of strokes. She was 74. Russ was the author of The Female Man and many other science fiction classics. Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden remember Russ in their own way; Patrick with a long quote from The Female Man; Teresa with this lovely remembrance of the time she spent with her:

We got into the habit of going grocery shopping together because she had two things I didn't: a car, and a back injury that made it impossible for her to lift anything heavier than a medium zucchini. We'd go shopping after work, then go to her house and put her groceries away, then sit down at the kitchen table and talk until Patrick phoned to ask where the hell I was. I'd tell him we were nearly finished putting the groceries away, and Joanna would drive me home.

We got buzzed on conversation.

I was nonplussed when she found out about slash fiction, and borrowed a stack of it from a local fan who shall remain nameless unless she outs herself. One night not long after that we were at the Continental (a Greek restaurant on University Avenue), and she started talking about Kirk and Spock fanfic in terms of images and patterns and literary theory.

You can learn more about Russ and her contribution to the field and to feminist thought in On Joanna Russ, the scholarly volume edited by Farah Mendelsohn.

Joanna Russ, 1937-2011


  1. I had never heard of this author. Feminist sci-fi?? I’m so fracking THERE. Going to the library now. R.I.P., Joanna…

  2. Just discovered her recently courtesy of the great Sam Delany’s “The Jewel-Hinged Jaw”. “Picnic on Paradise” is one of the strangest stories I’ve read.

  3. I enjoyed her novel “And Chaos Died” immensely.

    (It just missed winning the 1970 Nebula award.)

  4. Joanna was a post-graduate supervisor on my Masters degree and a friend. She was there for me when I broke up with my husband. She rejoiced with me when I received my PhD.

    I remember once bursting out in an elevator with her that “Men and women both should be able to wear tulle and rick-rack, and people will still respect them for the professionalism of their work or the quality of their writing.” In the mid-eighties it was a wonderful thing that she saw my sentiment as reasonable and not laughable.

    She was a bright, broadminded, humorous woman with amazing insight and stunning prose. I loved the characters and worlds she created. More than that I loved her.

    Go well beloved mentor.

    Dr Katherine Phelps

  5. I used to see her a lot around Seattle when she lived here, and she was always very supportive of the lesbian community, dropping off books for the now-defunct Lesbian Resource Center’s library and kindly giving me a few for myself. I will miss Joanna Russ the person more than the writer, though I loved most all of her writing, even though I hadn’t spoken to her in many years, since she moved to Tuscon.

    May her journey to the Summerland be a good one. I will miss her but I thank her for the huge body of work she left.

    She was one of a kind, and a muse.

  6. Russ was a trailblazer. Though not a spec fic reader myself, the fact that she wrote made it easier for lesbian and feminist writers to be heard. I honor you, Joanna. Lee Lynch

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