Friday, March 28, 2008

Me and Science Fiction

Cover of the first magazine to publish
my work (What is Posat?)

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.

Alien Space Ship landing in midst of
burlesque show.

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.

First page of 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.

37 comments:

J Trout said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog. I have a blog on blogspot.com also. Are you the same Granny Smith with the 125exchange blog?

Granny Smith said...

Sorry, but I'm not that same Granny Smith. Thank you for visiting my blog

Just Jen said...

That is so neat! I would love to be published :D
On the topic of Mars, my youngest asked me the other day if Marvin the Martian from looney tunes actually lived on Mars, I said yes of course!

Lucy said...

Wow, With 4 small children you wrote stories well enough to have them published? That is so admirable! Especially, that it was the 50's Granny.
Before pampers and throw away bottles! I really enjoyed reading this. thanks!
(Oh, and I borrowed your widgit idea! thanks for that too!)

barbara said...

This was great. I am always humbled when I read/see how much others seem to accomplish.
and you make the jewelry I see on the side, too, correct?

Pretty impressive.

Leonard Blumfeld said...

Loved to read about your sci-fi stories and to see the titles from those old mags!

keith hillman said...

Granny, what an interesting post.It must be wonderful to have work published. It's something I can only dream about.

Thinking aloud said...

wow!! you wrote science fiction and published too...its something we dream about...lovely write...

Jo Anne O. said...

I really enjoy visiting you here as you bring a different perspective to the table! Even though I do not think about aliens or extraterrestial beings, I do remember a story I wrote as a child about building a space capsule in my friends backyard and blasting off in the cover of darkness to the moon! Seeing your magazine pages brought it back to me (why? I have no idea, it just did!)

Love your writing!

sister AE said...

How cool! My post mentions science fiction magazines too (and Heinlein).

I'm glad to hear you contributed to those magazines.

Greyscale Territory said...

This is so fascinating. Love finding out about the amazing lives of others.

You are quite an incredible woman! Love your insights! I have been here a number of times!

Gemma

Laini Taylor said...

Oh, this is so wonderful. I love those magazines! We had oodles of Asimovs when I was a kid and though I was always more into fantasy than sci fi, I love them both. The book cooking in my brain now is, in fact, sci fi, and I can't wait to write it!

Beatriz' suitcase contents said...

Granny, it is my first time on your fabolous blog, and I am happy I found you via SS. It is inspiring to know people that make, write, create what they want and have full lives. Thank you for sharing. I will be back.

gautami tripathy said...

Feels so good to know a published author!

word by word

anthonynorth said...

That was marvellous. Some of the best Sci Fi came out of those years. My all time favourite was Philip K Dick. I always have a volume of his short stories near by. Many I've read over and over again.

Pacian said...

Cool. :-)

I'm suprememly intrigued by those first pages...

tumblewords said...

Fascinating! I've never read science fiction but yours is wonderful - have you composed a book of your short stories? Easily done on Lulu and it might be a fun thing...

Whitesnake said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

My story is more medevial romance and i don't think I am good enough to get it published.
Too many spelling mistakes and me grammar and puntuaction is shocking.

The ideas are there and I write as they come to mind.

So I never know where the story will go.

Loved ya post by the way
Take Care

DeeBee said...

Very interesting that you wrote science fiction.

What an interesting thing to be able to share on this subject.

forgetfulone said...

Oh, Granny, you naughty girl! A burlesque show! Seriously, though, I am so impressed. You could have been the female "Ray Bradbury." I loved seeing the scans of the old magazines. Wait, I didn't mean "old." I meant out-of-publication. I'll leave so I can remove my foot from my mouth now.

Wine-dark Sea said...

this is splendid


WDS

Bethany said...

When are we going to get to read one of your sci-fi stories? They look fantastic! And the fact that you published them while being a young mom inspires me more than you know!

Jon said...

I love old magazines and books, I have a vast collection. You've inspired me to visit the local second hand book store to acquire some more.

Patois said...

Oh, I am so impressed. And I'd love to get to read one of those. Please do post one. Perhaps "The Quaker Lady and the Jelph"?

Maggie May said...

Wow, that is so interesting hearing of your success in the 50s. Well done. Not easy to write science fiction. You are still a good writer & your blog is always interesting.
I have got to learn the art of putting in photos! can't do that yet!

Lilibeth said...

I started reading the Quaker Lady and the Jelph. You know you might just have to post the rest of it....for those of us who are too curious.

Robin said...

You have led such a wonderfully fascinating life. You tease us with all these little tidbits.

I'm very intrigued by the way you've described your science fiction - it sounds, if I may, more "feminine" than others I've read (admittedly not many, it's not really my genre). What turned me off in the past was that overly masculine perspective, something I found it difficult to identify with, but I think I'd like yours much more. Would you care to share it with us?

Devil Mood said...

What an interesting post to read! So you were quite the fashionable writer back then...
I never wanted to go to space, it never even occured to me. Perhaps it's because I was born at a time when that was almost common, "been there, done that". I imagined that for the kids in 1969 it must have been completely different!

January said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing your glorious past with us.

As the mother of two young ones, it's nice to read about someone who raised a family and still managed to have a writing career.

Jennifer Hicks said...

funny, i was always scared as a little girl of leaving the earth...what a sense of adventure it's clear you have!
thanks for sharing your publications. your dedication and creativity is inspiring!

Sara said...

If those stories were mine, I'd have them framed, and hang them where they would start a conversation every time a visitor came by. This is too cool.

P.S. My daughter wants to go to Mars, too.

Rosie said...

Hello, I have found you via amy rigby and how happy I am to be here. Our house is full of foxed copies of early science fiction, which have all been read a million times (we live in France...) I've just finished rereading John Wyndhams Day of the Triffids (written 1951!) which really hasnt dated at all. I'll be back to read your back posts at leisure

SLW said...

Granny, you never cease to amaze! Now we see some of the history of your great writing. Thanks for sharing. I devoured all kinds of sci-fi in my youth, and still enjoy reading it, so I'm very impressed with your accomplishment.

amy said...

I loved reading about your sci-fi days, and picturing you writing away with typewriter and children in the background. And the illustrations are wonderful. I'm honored that you visited my blog!

nonizamboni said...

Phyllis--I always learn something new about you! It reads like a dream. (My Erica wanted to travel into space too--except her heart defect grounded her.)
I envy your sense of adventure in the midst of being a mom, etc. and it is encouraging to know one can have such a rich life.
Thank you, thank you for sharing, dear friend.
Mary Ann

Mare Freeborn said...

I love your post! I hope you don't mind, but I linked it on my blog. You always have the most interesting stories.

rebecca said...

oh, it was so wonderful to learn this about you! how admirable! thank you so much for sharing that part of your life with us, phyllis.

best,
rebecca