Monday, November 12, 2018

A Small Gang of Authors: Women in Science Fiction – Zenna Chlarson Henderso...

A Small Gang of Authors: Women in Science Fiction – Zenna Chlarson Henderso...: Ruth de Jauregui The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (December 1951) As one of the known 203 women science fiction writ...

Women in Science Fiction – Zenna Chlarson Henderson

Ruth de Jauregui

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (December 1951)
As one of the known 203 women science fiction writers published in American science fiction magazines between 1926 and 1960, Zenna Henderson was among those who never used a male pen name. Born in 1917, she was an early fan of science fiction, citing Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein as some of her favorite authors.

Her stories were often set in the American Southwest, where she was born and raised. She was an elementary school teacher and taught at the Sacaton, Arizona Japanese internment camp during World War II. She also taught in Connecticut for a year and in France for two years. She was briefly married to Richard Harry Henderson in the 1940s, but the marriage ended in divorce. Henderson's first story "Come On, Wagon!" was published in December 1951 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Ingathering (1995)
Cover art by Elizabeth Finney
Perhaps best known for her stories of the People, who fled their planet when it was going to be destroyed, Henderson incorporated concepts shared by the Jewish and Christian faiths. The People's invocation of "Presence, the Name and the Power,” speaks to Christians, while the disbursement of the People fleeing the destruction of their world and the continuing theme of dreams of returning home from their exile evokes the Jewish experience. Her first story of the People "Ararat" appeared The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (October 1952). All of Henderson's People stories were collected in Ingathering: The Complete People Stories of Zenna Henderson (1995).

She also wrote a number of science fiction stories that focused on young children and women, and their anger and angst. Her years of teaching allowed her to portray the emotions and actions of children set in a variety of sci-fi scenarios. These tales also include mental issues, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and agoraphobia. These stories are included in two collections, The Anything Box (1965) and Holding Wonder (1971).

While Henderson was criticized by some feminists for her use of stereotypical women's themes, her stories included young children, middle-aged and older women, women's relationships, and gender equality. She didn't just write those stereotypical roles, she used them to emphasize communication among human and alien women and how sharing their womanly roles could facilitate the peacemaking process. Today, her work is considered "pre-feminist."

The Anything Box (1977)
Henderson's novelette "Captivity" was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1959. Ingathering garnered second place as Best Collection in the 1996 Locus Awards.

One of Henderson's People stories, "Pottage," was made into an ABC TV movie starring William Shatner, Kim Darby, and Diane Varsi. The People (1972) is available in VHS and DVD formats. In addition, her story "Hush" was adapted as an episode in Season Four of the TV series Tales from the Darkside (1988).

Sadly, Henderson's career was cut short by cancer in 1983. Her work remains an influence on modern science fiction writers, including Lois McMaster Bujold, Connie Willis and Kathy Tyers.

Amazon: Zenna Henderson
Amazon: The People DVD
Amazon: Tales from the Darkside: Complete Series Pack