RARA-AVIS: Brackett & cross genre influences

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 01 Sep 2003

Sorry about my false posting just now. Sometimes my pinkie hits an extra beat. I just picked up a copy of MARTIAN Q UEST by Leigh Brackett (Haffner Press 2002) which collects all the early Brackett science fiction. The introduction by Michael Moorcock had a passage of interest to this list.

I've often thought about the elements of hardboiled style that Brackett uniquely combined with romantic science fiction tradition. Separately, I've also remarked upon the hardboiled aspects of cyberpunk fiction. In this passage Moorcock begins discussing ERB's influence on Brackett and moves into our area.

"Burroughs could sometimes rise to her (Brackett's) romantic vision but his heroes were fundamentally country (occasionally arboreal) gents, while Leigh's, wherever their actual adventures took place, were fundamentally urban rough diamonds. They tended to bring metropolitan experience and values to the frontier. It was Ed Hamilton who described the likes of The Continental Op not as detective stories but as urban adventure stories, and Leigh approved of that description. She took as much from the likes of James M. Cain, who came from Maryland to use the sharp street language of Southern California as his inspiration, as she took from Burroughs. She antedated cyberpunk by some fifty years, by bringing the spare, larconic prose and psychically wounded heroes of Hemingway, Hammett and Chandler into the sf pulp, rather as Max Brand (especially as Evan Evans) had brought it to the Western."

The only part that gives me pause is his last point. I have read (and enjoyed) a fair amount of Max Brand and much of it predates Hemingway, Hammett and Chandler. I have not read as much of his later stories which would include those published under the Evan Evans name but I have trouble imagining Faust changing styles as a result of reading Hammett and the like and channeling that into stories published as by Evans. What I have read of late Brand does not seem all that different from the Brand of the late teens and early 1920s.

But leaving that aside, I thought this was an insightful comment, especially in the urban nature of Brackett's heroes.

Richard Moore

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