(September 18, 1884 – February 2, 1948)
Gertrude Mabel Barrows (later, Bennett) was the first major female writer of SF and fantasy in the United States, publishing many stories under the pseudonym of Francis Stevens. She wrote a number of highly acclaimed fantasies between 1917 and 1923 and has been called "the woman who invented dark fantasy."
Her first story, "The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar," was published when she was 20, in the March 1904 issue of Argosy under the byline "G. M. Barrows." Although the initials disguised her gender, this appears to be the first instance in the U.S. of a female author both publishing science fiction and using her real name.
In Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of "The Scientific Romance" in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 (1970), Sam Moskowitz wrote:
Francis Stevens was the greatest woman writer of science fiction in the period between Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and C. L. Moore. She was greatly admired by A. Merritt. She had a flare for creating images of sheer imagination from the printed word, and despite her penchant for horror themes, the ripple of laughter that threads her works discounts the notion of intellectual morbidity.
Francis Stevens was the only woman to rate with the leaders in the art of the scientific romance.
Born in Minnesota, she moved to Philadelphia around 1910 and married a British news reporter, Stewart Bennett. He died in a shipwreck soon afterward. After the death of her husband, she worked at the University of Pennsylvania and then turned to full-time writing. In 1930, she moved to San Francisco.
- Entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
- “The Influential Pulp Career of Francis Stevens” by Andrew Liptak, Kirkus Reviews, December 19, 2013.
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