Leigh Brackett

Leigh Brackett

Leigh Douglass Brackett (December 7, 1915, in Los Angeles, California – March 18, 1978) was a female writer of science fiction, mystery novels and — best known to the general public — Hollywood screenplays, most notably "The Big Sleep" (1945), "Rio Bravo" (1959), "The Long Goodbye" (1973) and "" (1980). Brackett died of cancer on March 18, 1978 at the age of 62.


Brackett's first published science fiction story was "Martian Quest", which appeared in the February 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Her earliest years as a writer (1940-1942) were her most productive in numbers of stories written; however, these works show a writer still engaged in mastering her craft. The first of her science fiction stories still attempt to emphasize a quasi-scientific angle, with problems resolved by an appeal to the (usually imaginary) chemical, biological, or physical laws of her invented worlds. As Brackett became more comfortable as an author, this element receded and was replaced by adventure stories with a strong touch of fantasy. Occasional stories have social themes, such as "The Citadel of Lost Ships" (1943), which considers the effects on the native cultures of alien worlds of Earth's expanding trade empire.

Brackett's first novel, "No Good from a Corpse", published in 1944, was a hard-boiled mystery novel in the tradition of Raymond Chandler. Hollywood director Howard Hawks was so impressed by this novel that he had his secretary call in "this guy Brackett" to help William Faulkner write the script for "The Big Sleep" (1946). The film, starring Humphrey Bogart and written by Leigh Brackett, William Faulkner, and Jules Furthman, is considered one of the best movies ever made in the genre.

At the same time, Brackett's science fiction stories were becoming more ambitious. "Shadow Over Mars" (1944) was her first novel-length science fiction story, and though still somewhat rough-edged, marked the beginning of a new style, strongly influenced by the characterization of the 1940s detective story and film noir. Brackett's heroes from this period are tough, two-fisted, semi-criminal, ill-fated adventurers. "Shadow"'s Rick Urquhart (reputedly modelled on Humphrey Bogart's shadier film characters) is a ruthless, selfish space drifter, who just happens to be caught in a web of political intrigue that accidentally places the fate of Mars in his hands.

In 1946, the same year that Brackett married science fiction author Edmond Hamilton, "Planet Stories" published the novella "Lorelei of the Red Mist". Brackett only finished the first half before turning it over to "Planet Stories"' other acclaimed author, Ray Bradbury, so that she could leave to work on "The Big Sleep". "Lorelei"'s main character is an out-and-out criminal, a thief called Hugh Starke. Though the story was well concluded by Bradbury, Brackett seems to have felt that her ideas in this story were insufficiently addressed, as she returns to them in later stories—particularly "Enchantress of Venus" (1949).

Brackett returned from her break from science-fiction writing, caused by her cinematic endeavors, in 1948. From then on to 1951, she produced a series of science fiction adventure stories that were longer, more ambitious, and better written than her previous work. To this period belong such classic representations of her planetary settings as "The Moon that Vanished" and the novel-length "Sea-Kings of Mars" (1949), later published as "The Sword of Rhiannon", a vivid description of Mars before its oceans evaporated.

With "Queen of the Martian Catacombs" (1949), Brackett found for the first time a character that she cared to return to. Brackett's Eric John Stark is sometimes compared to Robert E. Howard's Conan, but is in many respects closer to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan or Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli. Stark, an orphan from Earth, is raised by the semi-sentient aboriginals of Mercury, who are later killed by Earthmen. He is saved from the same fate by a Terran official, who adopts Stark and becomes his mentor. When threatened, however, Eric John Stark frequently reverts to the primitive N'Chaka, the "man without a tribe" that he was on Mercury. Thus, Stark is the archetypical modern man—a beast with a thin veneer of civilization. From 1949 to 1951, Stark (whose name obviously echoes that of the hero in "Lorelei") appeared in three tales, all published in "Planet Stories"; the aforementioned "Queen", "Enchantress of Venus", and finally "Black Amazon of Mars". With this last story Brackett's period of writing high adventure ends.

Brackett's stories thereafter adopted a more elegiac tone. They no longer celebrate the conflicts of frontier worlds, but lament the passing away of civilizations. The stories now concentrate more upon mood than on plot. The reflective, retrospective nature of these stories is indicated in the titles: "The Last Days of Shandakor"; "Shannach — the Last"; "Last Call from Sector 9G".

This last story was published in the very last issue (Summer 1955) of "Planet Stories", always Brackett's most reliable market for science fiction. With the disappearance of "Planet Stories" and, later in 1955, of "Startling Stories" and "Thrilling Wonder Stories", the market for Brackett's brand of story dried up, and the first phase of her career as a science fiction author ended. A few other stories trickled out over the next decade, and old stories were revised and published as novels. A new production of this period was one of Brackett's most critically acclaimed science fiction novels, "The Long Tomorrow" (1955). This novel describes an agrarian, deeply technophobic society that develops after a nuclear war.

But most of Brackett's writing after 1955 was for the more lucrative film and television markets. In 1963 and 1964, she briefly returned to her old Martian milieu with a pair of stories; "The Road to Sinharat" can be regarded as an affectionate farewell to the world of "Queen of the Martian Catacombs", while the other – with the intentionally ridiculous title of "Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon" – borders on parody.

After another hiatus of nearly a decade, Brackett returned to science fiction in the seventies with the publication of "The Ginger Star" (1974), "The Hounds of Skaith" (1974), and "The Reavers of Skaith" (1976), collected as "The Book of Skaith" in 1976. This trilogy brought Eric John Stark back for adventures upon the extrasolar planet of Skaith (rather than his old haunts of Mars and Venus).

Most of Brackett's science fiction can be characterized as space opera or planetary romance. Almost all of her planetary romances take place within a common invented universe, the Leigh Brackett Solar System, which contains richly detailed fictional versions of the consensus Mars and Venus of science fiction in the 1930s–1950s. Mars thus appears as a marginally habitable desert world, populated by ancient, decadent, and mostly humanoid races; Venus as a primitive, wet jungle planet, occupied by vigorous, primitive tribes and reptilian monsters. Brackett's Skaith combines elements of Brackett's other worlds with fantasy elements.

The fact that the settings of Brackett's stories range from a rocket-crowded interplanetary space to the superstitious backwaters of primitive or decadent planets allows her a great deal of scope for variation in style and subject matter. In a single story, Brackett can veer from space opera to hard-boiled detective fiction to Western to the borders of Celtic-inspired fantasy. Brackett cannot, therefore, be easily classified as a Sword and planet science fantasy writer; though swords and spears may show up in the most primitive regions of her planets, guns, blasters and electric-shock generators are more common weapons.

Though the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs is apparent in Brackett's Mars stories, the differences between their versions of Mars are great. Brackett's Mars is set firmly in a world of interplanetary commerce and competition, and one of the most prominent themes of Brackett's stories is the clash of planetary civilizations; the stories both illustrate and criticize the effects of colonialism on civilizations which are either older or younger than those of the colonizers, and thus they have relevance to this day. Burroughs' heroes set out to remake entire worlds according to their own codes; Brackett's heroes (often anti-heroes) are at the mercy of trends and movements far bigger than they are.

The Empire Strikes Back

Brackett worked on the screenplay for "The Empire Strikes Back". The movie won the Hugo Award in 1981. This script was a departure for Brackett, since until then, all of her science fiction had been in the form of novels and short stories.

The exact role which Brackett played in writing the script for "Empire" is the subject of a small controversy. What is agreed on by all is that George Lucas asked Brackett to write the screenplay based on his story outline. It is also known that Brackett wrote a finished first draft which was delivered to Lucas shortly before Brackett's death from cancer on March 18, 1978. The screenplay was revised for filming by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan, and both Brackett and Kasdan (though not Lucas) were given credit for the final script.

The exact relationship between Brackett's draft script and the revised shooting script is a matter of disagreement. Many reviewers have believed that they could detect traces of Brackett's influence in both the dialogue and the treatment of the space opera genre in "Empire". [cite web |url=http://dir.salon.com/story/ent/movies/feature/2002/04/10/lucas/index.html |title=Galactic Gasbag |last=Hart |first=Stephen |publisher=salon.com] However, Laurent Bouzereau in his book "Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays" states that Lucas disliked the direction of Brackett's screenplay and discarded it. He then produced two screenplays before turning the results over to Kasdan, who did not work directly with Brackett's script at all. According to this scenario, Lucas' assignment of credit to Brackett was a mere courtesy or mark of respect for the work Brackett had done during her illness. [cite web |url=http://www.echostation.com/echo3/annotate.htm |title=A Certain Point of View |last=Perry |first=Robert Michael |publisher=www.echostation.com] Support for this view comes from Stephen Haffner, owner of the press that printed "Martian Quest: The Early Brackett", who has read Brackett's script, and claims that -- outside Lucas' storyline -- nothing of Brackett's personal contributions to the script survives into the finished movie.

Brackett's screenplay has never been published. According to Haffner, it can be read at the library of the Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico, but may not be copied or borrowed off-site.


hort science fiction


*"Martian Quest" (Astounding Science Fiction February 1940)
*"The Treasure of Ptakuth" (Astounding April 1940)
*"The Stellar Legion" (Planet Stories Winter 1940)
*"The Tapestry Gate" (Strange Stories August 1940)
*"The Demons of Darkside" (Startling Stories January 1941)
*"Water Pirate" (Super Science Stories January 1941)
*"Interplanetary Reporter" (Startling Stories May 1941)
*"The Dragon-Queen of Jupiter" (Planet Stories Summer 1941) also published as "The Dragon-Queen of Venus"
*"Lord of the Earthquake" (novelette; Science Fiction (magazine) June 1941)
*"No Man's Land in Space" (novelette; Amazing Stories July 1941)
*"A World Is Born" (Comet Stories July 1941)
*"Retreat to the Stars" (Astonishing Stories November 1941)


*"Child of the Green Light" (Super Science Stories February 1942)
*"The Sorcerer of Rhiannon" (novelette; Astounding February 1942)
*"Child of the Sun" (novelette; Planet Stories Spring 1942)
*"Out of the Sea" (novelette; Astonishing Stories June 1942)
*"Cube from Space" (Super Science Stories August 1942)
*"Outpost on Io" (Planet Stories Winter 1942)
*"The Halfling" (novelette; Astonishing Stories February 1943)
*"The Citadel of Lost Ships" (Planet Stories March 1943)
*"The Blue Behemoth" (Planet Stories May 1943)
*"Thralls of the Endless Night" (Planet Stories Fall 1943)
*"The Jewel of Bas" (novelette; Planet Stories Spring 1944)
*"The Veil of Astellar" (novelette; Thrilling Wonder Stories Spring 1944)
*"Terror Out of Space" (Planet Stories Summer 1944)
*"Shadow Over Mars" (Startling Stories Fall 1944) published in book form as "The Nemesis from Terra"


*"The Vanishing Venusians" (novelette; Planet Stories Spring 1945)
*"Lorelei of the Red Mist" (novella; Planet Stories Summer 1946), with Ray Bradbury
*"The Moon That Vanished" (novelette; Thrilling Wonder Stories October 1948)
*"The Beast-Jewel of Mars" (novelette; Planet Stories Winter 1948)
*"Quest of the Starhope" (Thrilling Wonder Stories April 1949)
*"Sea-Kings of Mars" (Thrilling Wonder Stories June 1949) published in book form as "The Sword of Rhiannon"
*"Queen of the Martian Catacombs" (Planet Stories Summer 1949) expanded and published in book form as "The Secret of Sinharat"
*"Enchantress of Venus" (novella; Planet Stories Fall 1949) also published as "City of the Lost Ones"
*"The Lake of the Gone Forever" (novelette; Thrilling Wonder Stories October 1949)
*"The Dancing Girl of Ganymede" (novelette; Thrilling Wonder Stories February 1950)
*"The Truants" (novelette; Startling Stories July 1950)
*"The Citadel of Lost Ages" (novella; Thrilling Wonder Stories December 1950)


*"Black Amazon of Mars" (Planet Stories March 1951) expanded and published in book form as "People of the Talisman"
*"The Starmen of Llyrdis" (Startling Stories March 1951)
*"The Woman from Altair" (novelette; Startling Stories July 1951)
*"The Shadows" ( Startling Stories February 1952)
*"The Last Days of Shandakor" (novelette; Startling Stories April 1952)
*"Shannach - The Last" (novelette; Planet Stories November 1952)
*"The Ark of Mars" (Planet Stories September 1953) later published as part of the book "Alpha Centauri or Die!"
*"Mars Minus Bisha" (Planet Stories January 1954)
*"Runaway" (Startling Stories Spring 1954)
*"Teleportress of Alpha C" (Planet Stories Winter 1954/1955) later published as part of the book "Alpha Centauri or Die!"
*"The Tweener" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction February 1955)
*"Last Call from Sector 9G" (Planet Stories Summer 1955)

After 1955

*"The Other People" (novelette; Venture Science Fiction Magazine March 1957) - also published as "The Queer Ones"
*"All the Colors of the Rainbow" (novelette; Venture Science Fiction Magazine November 1957)
*"The Road to Sinharat" (novelette; Amazing Stories May 1963)
*"Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction October 1964)
*"Come Sing the Moons of Moravenn" (The Other Side of Tomorrow, 1973)
*"How Bright the Stars" (Flame Tree Planet: An Anthology of Religious Science-Fantasy, 1973)
*"Mommies and Daddies" (Crisis, 1974)
*"Stark and the Star Kings" (2005), with Edmond Hamilton (in the collection of the same name)

cience fiction novels

*"Shadow Over Mars " (1951) - first published 1944; published in the U.S. as "The Nemesis from Terra" (1961)
*"The Starmen" (1952) - also published as "The Galactic Breed" (1955, abridged), "The Starmen of Llyrdis" (1976)
*"The Sword of Rhiannon" (1953) - first published as "Sea-Kings of Mars" (1949)
*"The Big Jump" (1955)
*"The Long Tomorrow" (1955)
*"Alpha Centauri or Die!" (1963) - fixup of "The Ark of Mars" (1953) and "Teleportress of Alpha C" (1954)
*"The Secret of Sinharat" and "People of the Talisman" (1964) - expansions of "Queen of the Martian Catacombs" (1949) and "Black Amazon of Mars" (1951), respectively, packaged back-to-back as an Ace Double novel; republished under one title as "Eric John Stark, Outlaw of Mars" (1982)Skaith novels
*"The Ginger Star" (1974) - first published as a two-part serial in Worlds of If, February and April 1974
*"The Hounds of Skaith" (1974)
*"The Reavers of Skaith" (1976)

cience fiction collections

*"The Coming of the Terrans" (1967)
**Includes "The Beast-Jewel of Mars", "Mars Minus Bisha", "The Last Days of Shandakor", "Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon", and "The Road to Sinharat".
*"The Halfling and Other Stories" (1973)
**Includes "The Halfling", "The Dancing Girl of Ganymede", "The Citadel of Lost Ages", "All the Colors of the Rainbow", "The Shadows", "Enchantress of Venus", and "The Lake of the Gone Forever".
*"The Book of Skaith" (1976) - omnibus edition of the three Skaith novels
*"The Best of Leigh Brackett" (1977), ed. Edmond Hamilton
**Includes "The Jewel of Bas", "The Vanishing Venusians", "The Veil of Astellar", "The Moon that Vanished", "Enchantress of Venus", "The Woman from Altair", "The Last Days of Shandakor", "Shannach — The Last", "The Tweener", and "The Queer Ones".
*"Martian Quest: The Early Brackett" (2000) - Haffner Press
**Includes all of Brackett's early short stories published up to March 1943.
*"Stark and the Star Kings" (2005), with Edmond Hamilton
**Includes "Queen of the Martian Catacombs", "Enchantress of Venus", "Black Amazon of Mars", "Stark and the Star Kings" (collaboration with Hamilton)
*"Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories" (2005) - Volume 46 in Gollancz's Fantasy Masterworks series
**Includes "The Sorcerer of Rhiannon", "The Jewel of Bas", "Terror out of Space", "Lorelei of the Red Mist", "The Moon that Vanished", "Sea-Kings of Mars", "Queen of the Martian Catacombs", "Enchantress of Venus", "Black Amazon of Mars", "The Last Days of Shandakor", "The Tweener", and "The Road to Sinharat"
*"Lorelei of the Red Mist" (2007) - Haffner Press
** Includes "The Blue Behemoth", "Thralls of the Endless Night", "The Jewel of Bas", "The Veil of Astellar", "Terror Out of Space", "The Vanishing Venusians", "Lorelei of the Red Mist", "The Moon That Vanished", "The Beast-Jewel of Mars", "Quest of the Starhope", "The Lake of the Gone Forever", and "The Dancing Girl of Ganymede"

cience fiction, as editor

*"The Best of Planet Stories No. 1" (anthology; 1975)
*"The Best of Edmond Hamilton" (collection; 1977)

Other genres

*"No Good from a Corpse" (crime novel; 1944)
*"Stranger at Home" (crime novel; 1946) - ghost-writer for the actor George Sanders
*"An Eye for an Eye" (crime novel; 1957) - adapted for television as "Markham" (1959-60; CBS)
*"The Tiger Among Us" (crime novel; 1957; UK 1960 as "Fear No Evil"), filmed as "13 West Street" (1962; dir. Philip Leacock)
*"Follow the Free Wind" (western novel; 1963) - received the Spur Award from Western Writers of America
*"Rio Bravo" (western novel; 1959) - novelization based on the screenplay by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett
*"Silent Partner" (crime novel; 1969)

ee also

*Eric John Stark
*Leigh Brackett Solar System


External links

* [http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/brackett.htm Leigh (Douglass) Brackett (1915-1978)]
*isfdb name
*imdb name|name=Leigh Brackett|id=0102824
* [http://helixsf.com/archives/Jul07/pastmasters.htm Past Masters - Gats, Six-Guns and Blasters] at Helix SF

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  • Leigh Brackett — Leigh Douglass Brackett (* 7. Dezember 1915 in Los Angeles, Kalifornien; † 17. März 1978 in Lancaster, Kalifornien) war eine US amerikanische Schriftstellerin und Drehbuchautorin. Einen Teil ihrer Werke verfasste sie unter dem Pseudonym V. E.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Leigh Brackett — est une romancière et scénariste américaine de science fiction, de fantasy et de polar noir, née le 7 décembre 1915 à Los Angeles, et morte le 24 mars 1978. Elle était la femme de Edmond Hamilton, lui même écrivain de SF. Œuvres Romans Elle a… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Leigh Brackett — Leigh Douglass Brackett (7 de diciembre, 1915 – 18 de marzo, 1978) fue una autora de Estados Unidos, escribió particularmente ciencia ficción. También fue guionista, conocida por sus trabajos en películas como The Big Sleep (1946), Río Bravo… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Leigh Brackett Solar System — The Leigh Brackett Solar System is a fictional analogue to the real world Solar System in which a majority of the planetary romances of Leigh Brackett take place.Although Brackett s stories do not form a series with a consistent chronology and… …   Wikipedia

  • Mars in the fiction of Leigh Brackett — The planet Mars appears frequently as a setting for many of the stories of Leigh Brackett, and Mars and Martians are frequently mentioned in other stories of the Leigh Brackett Solar System. Brackett s Mars shares some characteristics with the… …   Wikipedia

  • Mercury in the fiction of Leigh Brackett — The planet Mercury appears frequently as a setting for many of the stories of Leigh Brackett, and Mercury and Mercurians are frequently mentioned in other stories of the Leigh Brackett Solar System. Brackett s Mercury shares some characteristics… …   Wikipedia

  • Venus in the fiction of Leigh Brackett — Venus and Venusians are frequently appearing settings and characters for many of the Solar System stories of Leigh Brackett. Brackett s Venus shares some characteristics with the astronomical Venus, but in other respects functions as a consistent …   Wikipedia

  • Jupiter in the fiction of Leigh Brackett — Jupiter, the fifth and largest planet of the Solar System, and its moons play a significant role in the Solar System fiction of Leigh Brackett. In Brackett s stories, Jupiter s largest moons are inhabited by a variety of exotic intelligent… …   Wikipedia

  • Brackett — may refer to:=People=* Charles Brackett (1892–1969) American movie screenwriter and producer * Frederick Sumner Brackett (1896–1988), American physicist and spectroscopist * Gary Brackett, National Football League player * John Q. A. Brackett *… …   Wikipedia

  • Brackett — bezeichnet Brackett (Mondkrater), einen nach Frederick Sumner Brackett benannten Mondkrater Brackett (Wisconsin), einen Ort in den Vereinigten Staaten Brackett Field, einen Flughafen in Kalifornien Brackett ist der Familienname folgender Personen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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