This post was supposed to herald a “letters to the editor” section on the WWAH website, and it does, but as with everything about this project, one cannot scratch a surface without falling down a rabbit hole. I begin to wonder if every single story ever published in SFF has its own story behind it. My intent with “letters to the editor” was merely to show that women have been reading, and commenting upon, science fiction and fantasy during the hundred years WWAH covers. I thought it would be interesting to see what we have had to say throughout the years, and I chose this particular letter at random out of a selection of letters written by women to the then editors of Amazing Stories from its own or so you say feature.
The letter to the editor (below) is taken from the July 1961 issue of Amazing Stories, which at the time was edited by Cele Goldsmith. It is a response to Isaac Asimov’s story “Playboy and the Slime God,” (later reprinted as “What Is This Thing Called Love?”) which appeared in the May 1961 issue of Amazing Stories. This story was commissioned to satirize an article that had appeared in the November 1960 issue of Playboy magazine.
Mike Resnick, in his introduction to (the book) Girls for the Slime God (Wunzenzierohs Publishing Company, 1997), calls the Playboy article “a wonderful tongue-in-cheek piece of nostalgia about all those old science fiction pulps that featured BEMs (Bug-Eyed Monsters, for the uninitiated) ripping the clothes off the heroine, and usually sporting titles like the one the article itself bore.”
Amazing Stories had its own reaction to the article:
…We at Amazing felt kind of sorry for the Playboy people. You know, no more really exciting stuff in the sf mags, and all that. How’re you going to get your kicks any more if these sf writers start talking about cultural taboos instead of heaving breasts? Compassion is our middle name. We commissioned one of sf’s most sex-appealing writers to create a story especially for the insatiable Playboy, and to prove to him that sf has not forgotten that S-X is the most important thing in the universe.
And then one Mrs. Patsy Ruth Wilson had something to say about everything:
Aw, come off it now! You and Asimov may understand Slime Gods and BEMs, but you certainly don’t understand women. Take “Playboy and the Slime God,” for instance. Now, if that slimy alien had evidenced any lustful intentions toward what’s-her-name, the woman would have fought to the bloody death to defend her (doubtful) virtue. However, since the aliens so clearly found the Earthwoman’s charms nonexistent, her womanly pride would not have rested until she had been able to seduce them, in some fashion. She would have retained no interest in the Earthman, however exciting he might be; and what’s-his-name was as exciting and appealing as a dead cockroach. Rather, the woman would have persisted until she had participated in some fashion in the creative processes of the aliens. If these processes had indeed been so individual and private, i.e., budding, that the Earthwoman could not “cooperate,” as Asimov so quaintly put it, then the woman would at least have wormed her way into the monster’s confidence until she was allowed to witness the activity and participate to the extent of giving frequent, detailed, and probably conflicting instructions to the alien as to how he/she/it/they should conduct the event.
The matter of aliens and Earthwomen will be an interesting problem, if it ever arises. Having dominated man–emotionally, sexually, intellectually, culturally, physically, psychologically, sociologically, and economically–Earthwoman would not be able to keep her hands (figuratively and literally) off any alien whose sex could possibly be construed as masculine or partly masculine. Women, depending on their characters, would be making “men” out of aliens or “monkeys” out of aliens–or both, if there is any real difference. But, then, that’s something a mere man could not understand. Or perhaps it’s something men don’t really care to face up to.
Mrs. Patsy Ruth Wilson
Ft. Worth, Texas
Regardless of what you might think about the contents of Mrs. Wilson’s letter, one thing is clear. She cared about what she was reading.
It would be unfair to end this post without including the response to this response, a short quip by Norman M. Lobsenz, the then editorial director of AS, who says:
Why, it’s something NL faces every day. If women are going to react to aliens as Mrs. Wilson suggests, this raises the question of how alien females would react to earthmen. Same way, probably. Therefore hard radiation is the least of the problems facing our intrepid astronauts.