In 1980, science fiction writer and editor Ben Bova told a group of women writers, “Neither as writers nor as readers have you raised the level of science fiction a notch. Women have written a lot of books about dragons and unicorns, but damned few about future worlds in which adult problems are addressed.” It’s no wonder that female science fiction authors have disguised their gender in order to have their work taken seriously. We have a list of women who used male and androgynous pseudonyms to compete in the male-dominated field of speculative fiction.James Tiptree Jr. Given Name: Alice “Alli” Sheldon Works: Numerous short stories, including “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” and “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” James Tiptree Jr. was an elusive figure, giving only one interview in “his” career, which was condcted by mail. He had a post office box and his own back account, but no one had ever met him in person. In 1976, they learned why: Tiptree was actually Alice Bradley, a one-time CIA agent who had adopted the Tiptree pseudonym while finishing her doctorate in psychology. Bradley said that when she started writing science fiction, she wanted to create a persona who would be sufficiently removed from her previous writing – which had focused largely on women and the nature of girlhood – and she wanted to submit her stories with a name that no editor would remember rejecting. She took the name “Tiptree” from a jam jar and the name “James” because male names were more common in science fiction than female ones. When Tiptree was revealed as a woman, it caused quite a stir among the science fiction community. Tiptree’s followers recognized the name as a pseudonym, but Bradley’s frequent travels and intelligence background led many to believe he was a high-ranking government official, but few had considered he might be a woman. Sheldon would later say that she was “ashamed” of taking a male pseudonym because she had taken the easy path into the male-dominated field.
CJ Cherryh Given Name: Carolyn Janice Cherry Works: Over 60 novels and short story collections, including Downbelow Station, Cyteen, and Cuckoo’s Egg. Carolyn Cherry submitted her first two novels, Gate of Ivrel and Brothers of Earth to DAW Books in 1975. Donald Wollheim, DAW’s founder, purchased both manuscripts, but, for marketability, suggested she go with a different name. The initials CJ disguised the fact that she was a woman and adding an “h” to her last name made it look less like a romance novelist’s. Vernon Lee Given Name: Violet Paget Works: Several ghost stories, notably “Oke of Okehurst: or the Phantom Lover” Vernon Lee wrote not only supernatural fiction, but also papers the theory of philosopher and aesthetics, subjects women were not considered intellectually suited for. Lee herself once said, “I don’t care that Vernon Lee should be known to be myself or any other young woman, as I am sure no one reads a woman’s writings on art, history or aesthetics with anything but mitigated contempt.” But she quickly became known as one of the premiere scholars in aesthetics and her fiction continues to be republished today. Paul Ash(well) Given Name: Pauline Ashwell Works: “Invasion from Venus,” “The Winds of a Bat,” The short story “Invasion from Venus” appeared in Yankee Science Fiction in 1942 under the name “Paul Ashwell.” But the real author was a fourteen year-old girl by the name of Pauline Ashwell. John W. Campbell would eventually publish “Unwillingly to School,” Pauline’s “debut” (now under her real name) in Analog magazine in 1958. She would continue to publish stories from time to time under the truncated name “Paul Ash,” including the Nebula-nominated “Wings of a Bat.” In the 1990s, Ashwell would publish two novels, Unwillingly to Earth and Project Farcry.
CL Moore Given Name: Catherine Lucille Moore Works: Numerous short stories, including “The Code” “Promised Land,” and “Heir Apparent” Although claims that CL Moore tried to conceal her gender are in dispute, Astounding editor and fellow scifi writer Frederik Pohl once said that Moore “felt a need to tinker with” her name to appeal to her overwhelmingly male readers. It apparently worked, as in 1936, Moore received a letter of admiration from science fiction writer Henry Kuttner, who believed Moore was a man. They married in 1940. The pair would go on to collaborate on many short stories, signing each work with a single pseudonym – one that was invariably male. L. Taylor Hansen Given Name: Lucile Taylor Hansen Works: A handful of short stories and 57 science articles in Amazing Stories from 1941-1949. L. Taylor Hansen, who was better known for her science articles than her fiction, didn’t merely attempt to obscure her gender; she denied it entirely. Hansen once titled a letter in Amazing “L. Taylor Hansen Defends Himself” and once included a photo of a man with one of her stories, claiming it was a photo of herself.
Tarpé Mills Given Name: June Mills Works: Miss Fury Comic book artist June Mills dropped her first name in favor of her more gender ambiguous middle name when she started making action comics. She created Miss Fury, one of the early female action characters in comics, and the first created by a woman. When Miss Fury proved a commercial success, she couldn’t hide her gender from interviewers, who realized that the comic creator was not only a woman, but bore a close resemblance to her character.
Andre Norton Given Name: Alice Norton Works: Over 300 titles, including Star Born, Merlin’s Mirror, and Star Man’s Son Alice Mary Norton went beyond pseudonym to increase her marketability. The year she published her first short story, she legally changed her name to Andre Alice Norton, figuring the male name would fit better with the boys her were her primary market. Over the years, she also published under the names Andrew North and Allen Weston. Murray Constantine Given Name: Katharine Burdekin Works: The Devil, Poor Devil, Proud Man, Swastika Night, and Venus in Scorpio Katharine Burdekin’s novels dealt primarily with fascist dystopias, and as her work grew more critical of fascism, she adopted a pseudonym to protect her family in the event of a German invasion of England. But her choice of a male pseudonym was likely linked to her feminist approach to the subject, and she frequently linked fascism to a “cult of masculinity” and “reduction of women.” Although the feminist overtones led many critics to believe that Constantine was a woman writing under a pseudonym, it wasn’t until two decades after her death that a scholar identified Constantine as Burdekin.
JK Rowling Given Name: Joanne Rowling Works: The Harry Potter Series These days, people will wait in line hours to purchase something from Ms. Joanne Rowling. But when she first submitted her tale of a boy wizard to Bloomsbury, the publisher suggested that she use two initials instead of her first name, so as not to turn off the young boys (Rowling doesn’t actually have a middle name, and took the K for her grandmother, Kathleen). If children care that the creator of Hogwarts is a woman, it certainly doesn’t show.