Monday, December 10, 2018

Women in Science Fiction – Pauline Ashwell

Ruth de Jauregui

British flag - Saffrodite /
While I've focused mostly on American women in science fiction, the British writers have contributed their fair share of fantastic tales to the genre.

British author Pauline Whitby (1926-2015) wrote under Pauline Ashwell, Paul Ashwell and Paul Ash. Her stories were published in a variety of magazines ranging from the British Yankee Science Fiction to the US magazines Astounding Science Fiction, later known as Analog Science Fact & Fiction. She also published love stories under several other pen names.

Ashwell's first known book was a children's fantasy, Little Red Steamer (1941), illustrated by Esmé Eve. Sadly, it's out of print and used copies are rare.

Her first published short story was "Invasion from Venus," published in Yankee Science Fiction in July 1942, under Paul Ashwell.

It wasn't until her stories appeared in Astounding that her writing career began to attract attention. Published under Pauline Ashwell in January 1958, "Unwillingly to School" was the first of at least eight stories in the American science fiction magazine. It was also the first of her Lysistrata "Lizzie" Lee tales. Lizzie, a tough-talking YA heroine, has been compared to Robert Heinlein's "Competent Young Hero" protagonists by SFE The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Some of Ashwell's tales in Astounding were published under the pen name Paul Ash.

The first Lizzie story was followed by three more, "The Lost Kafoozalum" (1960), "Rats in the Moon" (1982) and " Fatal Statistics" (1988). The quartet of stories were sorted into order (the final story was actually the second published) edited and bound up as Unwillingly to Earth (1992).

Ashwell's second book Project FarCry (1995) was compiled from five Paul Ash stories originally published in Astounding/Analog. The hardcover description from the Tor edition says:

"Richard Jordan is a telepath, but his psychic gifts have brought him nothing but trouble. For years he's been hiding his mental powers, considering them a curse, until a fateful encounter with an unusual alien species awakens him to the full potential of his abilities.

"Humanity has spread throughout the stars, prompting a desperate need for a reliable form of faster-than-light communication to link the farflung worlds of tomorrow. The government has spent a fortune searching for the answer, but with no success. Then Project Farcry discovers Richard Jordan....

"From the hidden recesses of an underground city to a distant planet trapped in another dimension, Project Farcry spans decades of future history as Jordan and his fellow telepaths, both human and alien, transform the very nature of space exploration."

Ashwell was one of the first women nominated for a Hugo Award. "Unwillingly to School" was nominated for the 1958 Hugos for Best New Author and Best Novelette. Her 1960 story "The Lost Kafoozalum" was nominated for Best Short Story, but lost to Paul Anderson's "The Longest Voyage."

She was also nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for "The Wings of a Bat" (1966) and Best Novella for "Man Opening a Door" (1991), both under the name Paul Ash.

Though Ashwell dropped out of the science fiction scene between 1966 and 1988, except for "Rats in the Moon" (November 1982), she roared back into the sci-fi world with five stories in 1988 and continued publishing in Analog for another twenty years.

Ashwell's final novel The Man Who Stayed Behind, was published in the July 1993 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Unfortunately, it was never released as a book.

Amazon: Pauline Ashwell Author Page
Project Gutenburg: The Lost Kafoozalum