In a genre of writing that was dominated by men through the mid-20th century, openly lesbian science fiction author Joanna Russ offered a refreshing and often critical perspective. The New York Times reports that Ms. Russ died on April 29 in Tuscon, Arizona. Her death at age 74 was due to stroke-related complications. Ms. Russ was well known for her witty humor, her unique approach to fiction writing, and her role as a leader in the thriving movement of feminist science fiction.
According to Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Ms. Russ came out as a lesbian around the time she published her landmark novel, The Female Man, in 1975. The novel tells the story of four women whose lives intersect across history. Ms. Russ, who was born in New York City, earned degrees from Cornell and Yale, and went on to teach at several universities. She received a Hugo Award in 1983 for her novella, Souls, and a Nebula Award in 1972 for her short story, “When It Changed.” In addition to fiction, Ms. Russ also wrote non-fiction feminist criticism and reviewed books for The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
As Conseula Francis and Alison Piepmeier put it in a recently published interview with Ms. Russ in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, “Although much has changed from the world she intervened in with her fiction and her critical essays, too much remains the same, and her arguments and visions—about women, about [gay men] and lesbians, about a society that allows everyone the space to enact their full humanity—still need to be acknowledged.”