My first published stories - way back in 1951 - were in science fiction magazines. I was 30 years old at the time, with four small children, and , frankly, I don’t know how I could have found the time to hunt and peck out publishable stories on my old typewriter. But I had always been an omnivorous reader, science fiction had become suddenly fashionable (readership of the top magazines in the hundreds of thousands), and I was the grown-up little girl who had wanted to be both both astronomer and space traveler. I remember sitting on the front steps, looking up at a starry sky and saying to my mother, “Oh, I want so much to go to Mars!”
To which she replied, “Oh, don’t be silly!”
As this post will disclose, if you didn’t know it already, Granny Smith’s full name is Phyllis Sterling Smith. My first published story was in the same 1951 Galaxy Magazine as the first installment of Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters. The title of my story was What is Posat?
I never wrote space opera. Most of my stories were solidly tied to earth, and were either stories of a future that might be an outcome of current trends, or were stories of alien visitors. Some of these were humorous, such as The Best Policy which postulated aliens who took human form, landed in the midst of a burlesque show, and - and this is the twist - were unable to tell a lie.
My favorite of my sci fi stories is The Quaker Lady and the Jelph, which was dramatized on a national TV hour-long Science Fiction Theater as “The Quiet Lady”. I think the network was CBS, but we had no TV set in our house yet in those days and had to view it at the home of a friend (who was also a Friend i.e. Quaker). It was also anthologized several times. It, of all my stories, best dramatizes some of my own feelings about alien incursions from space - that we should give aliens the benefit of the doubt before assuming that they should be eliminated. After all, they would have evolved a society advanced enough to develop space travel before destroying themselves by warfare! And they might be altruistic enough to risk their lives to save the lives of this primitive earthly society, as did the Jelph of this story.
Enough said. These few faded pages of old magazines are what remain of my science fiction days. I no longer want to go to Mars, but am happy that little robots wander the Mars landscape sending back pictures and information that I can access on the inter net that none of the science fiction writers of the 50s imagined in their stories of the future.
And I look with an ever-increasing sense of delighted wonder at the night sky and a universe or universes that scientists think to be ever more infinite and complex. And maybe - just maybe - we will understand more of it before we self-destruct.