Gertrude Barrows Bennett

Gertrude Barrows Bennett (September 18, 1884 – February 2, 1948), known by the pseudonym Francis Stevens, was a pioneering author of fantasy and science fiction.[3] Bennett wrote a number of fantasies between 1917 and 1923[4] and has been called "the woman who invented dark fantasy".[5]

Her most famous books include Claimed (which Augustus T. Swift, in a letter to The Argosy called "One of the strangest and most compelling science fantasy novels you will ever read")[a] and the lost world novel The Citadel of Fear.

Bennett also wrote an early dystopian novel, The Heads of Cerberus (1919).[7]

Gertrude Barrows Bennett
BornGertrude Mabel Barrows
September 18, 1884[1]
Minneapolis, Minnesota
DiedFebruary 2, 1948 (aged 63)
San Francisco, California[2]
Pen nameFrancis Stevens
OccupationWriter, stenographer
Period1917–26 (fiction writer)
GenreScience fiction, fantasy
Notable works
SpouseStewart Bennett
Carl Franklin Gaster
Argosy 19180914
Citadel of Fear was serialized in The Argosy in 1918


Gertrude Mabel Barrows was born in Minneapolis in 1884, to Charles and Caroline Barrows (née Hatch). Her father, a Civil War veteran from Illinois, died in 1892.[8] Gertrude completed school through the eighth grade,[3] then attended night school in hopes of becoming an illustrator (a goal she never achieved). Instead, she began working as a stenographer, a job she held on and off for the rest of her life.[9]

In 1909 Barrows married Stewart Bennett, a British journalist and explorer, and moved to Philadelphia.[3] A year later her husband died during a tropical storm while on a treasure hunting expedition.[10] With a new-born daughter to raise, Bennett continued working as a stenographer. When her father died toward the end of World War I, Bennett assumed care for her invalid mother.[3]

During this time period Bennett began to write a number of short stories and novels, only stopping when her mother died in 1920.[9] In the mid-1920s, she moved to California. Because Bennett was estranged from her daughter, for a number of years researchers believed Bennett died in 1939 (the date of her final letter to her daughter). However, new research, including her death certificate, shows that she died in 1948.[9]

Writing career

Bennett wrote her first short story at age 17, a science fiction story titled "The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar". She mailed the story to Argosy, then one of the top pulp magazines. The story was accepted and published in the March 1904 issue.[3]

Once Bennett began to take care of her mother, she decided to return to fiction writing as a means of supporting her family.[3] The first story she completed after her return to writing was the novella "The Nightmare," which appeared in All-Story Weekly in 1917. The story is set on an island separated from the rest of the world, on which evolution has taken a different course. "The Nightmare" resembles Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot, itself published a year later.[3] While Bennett had submitted "The Nightmare" under her own name, she had asked to use a pseudonym if it was published. The magazine's editor chose not to use the pseudonym Bennett suggested (Jean Vail) and instead credited the story to Francis Stevens.[3] When readers responded positively to the story, Bennett chose to continue writing under the name.[3]

Over the next few years, Bennett wrote a number of short stories and novellas. Her short story "Friend Island" (All-Story Weekly, 1918), for example, is set in a 22nd-century ruled by women. Another story is the novella "Serapion" (Argosy, 1920), about a man possessed by a supernatural creature. This story has been released in an electronic book entitled Possessed: A Tale of the Demon Serapion, with three other stories by her. Many of her short stories have been collected in The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy (University of Nebraska Press, 2004).[11]

In 1918 she published her first, and perhaps best,[12] novel The Citadel of Fear (Argosy, 1918). This lost world story focuses on a forgotten Aztec city, which is "rediscovered" during World War I.[13][14] It was in the introduction to a 1952 reprint edition of the novel which revealed for the first time that "Francis Stevens" was Bennett's pen-name.

A year later she published her only science fiction novel, The Heads of Cerberus (The Thrill Book, 1919). One of the first dystopian novels, the book features a "grey dust from a silver phial" which transports anyone who inhales it to a totalitarian Philadelphia of 2118 AD[4]

One of Bennett's most famous novels was Claimed! (Argosy, 1920; reprinted 1966, 2004, 2018), in which a supernatural artifact summons an ancient and powerful god to early 20th century New Jersey.[13][15] Augustus T. Swift called the novel, "One of the strangest and most compelling science fantasy novels you will ever read").[a]

Apparently The Thrill Book had accepted more of her stories when it was cancelled in October 1919, only seven months after the first issue. These were never published and became lost.[10]


Bennett has been credited as having "the best claim at creating the new genre of dark fantasy".[5] It has been said that Bennett's writings influenced both H. P. Lovecraft and A. Merritt,[3] both of whom "emulated Bennett's earlier style and themes".[3][9] Lovecraft was even said to have praised Bennett's work. However, there is controversy about whether or not this actually happened and the praise appears to have resulted from letters wrongly attributed to Lovecraft.[16][17]

As for Merritt, for several decades critics and readers believed "Francis Stevens" was a pseudonym of his. This rumor only ended with the 1952 reprinting of Citadel of Fear, which featured a biographical introduction of Bennett by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach.[18]

Critic Sam Moskowitz said she was the "greatest woman writer of science fiction in the period between Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and C.L. Moore".[3]

Because Bennett was the first American woman to have her fantasy and science fiction widely published, she qualifies as a pioneering female fantasy author.[15]



  • The Citadel of Fear (1918; reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, February 1942, and in paperback form in 1970,[NY: Paperback Library], 1984[NY: Carroll & Graf], 2015[Armchair Fiction])
  • The Labyrinth (serialized in All-Story Weekly, July 27, August 3, and August 10, 1918; later reprinted as a paperback novel)
  • The Heads of Cerberus 1st book edition. 1952, Cloth, also leather backed, Reading, PA. Polaris Press (Subsidiary of Fantasy Fress, Inc.) ill. Ric Binkley. Intro by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach (Thrill Book, 15 August 1919; reprinted as a paperback novel in 1952 and 1984; Dover 2014)
  • Avalon (serialized in Argosy, August 16 to September 6, 1919; reprinted in Claimed! and Avalon, Black Dog Books, 2018)
  • Claimed (1920; reprinted in 1985, 1996, 2004, 2018) 192pp, cloth and paper, Sense of Wonder Press, James A. Rock & Co., Publishers in trade paperback and hard cover.[6]

Short stories and novellas

  • "The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar" (Argosy, March, 1904; as by G. M. Barrows)
  • "The Nightmare," (All-Story Weekly, April 14, 1917)[19]
  • "Friend Island" (All-Story Weekly, September 7, 1918; reprinted in Under the Moons of Mars, edited by Sam Moskowitz, 1970)
  • "Behind the Curtain" (All-Story Weekly, September 21, 1918, reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, January 1940)
  • "Unseen—Unfeared" (People's Favorite Magazine Feb. 10, 1919; reprinted in Horrors Unknown, edited by Sam Moskowitz, 1971)
  • "The Elf-Trap" (Argosy, July 5, 1919)
  • "Serapion" (serialized in Argosy Weekly, June 19, June 26, July 3, and July 10, 1920; reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, July 1942)
  • "Sunfire" (1923; original printed in two parts in Weird Tales, July–August 1923, and Weird Tales, September 1923; also reprinted as trade paperback in 1996 by Apex International)


  • Possessed: A Tale of the Demon Serapion (2002; contains the novella "Serapion", retitled, and the short stories "Behind the Curtain", "Elf-Trap" and "Unseen-Unfeared")
  • Nightmare: And Other Tales of Dark Fantasy (University of Nebraska Press, 2004; contains all Stevens' known short fiction except "The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar", i.e. "The Nightmare", "The Labyrinth", "Friend Island", "Behind the Curtain", ""Unseen-Unfeared", "The Elf-Trap", "Serapion" and "Sunfire")

See also


  1. ^ a b Swift was at one time thought to be a pseudonym of H.P. Lovecraft but this has been proven spurious. He was a real individual in Providence. See the section Influence for more detail. Rock Publishing attributes the quotation to Lovecraft.[6]


  1. ^ Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. Social Security Administration.
  2. ^ California, Death Index, 1940-1997
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965 by Eric Leif Davin, Lexington Books, 2005, pages 409-10.
  4. ^ a b Nicholls, Peter; Clute, John (1993). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. St. Martin's Press. pp. 1164–65. ISBN 0-312-13486-X..
  5. ^ a b "The Woman Who Invented Dark Fantasy" by Gary C. Hoppenstand from Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy by Francis Stevens, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, page x. ISBN 0-8032-9298-8
  6. ^ a b (promotional page). ""Claimed"". James A. Rock and Company Publishers. Archived from the original on 2003-07-18. Retrieved 2007-05-16.
  7. ^ The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, Cambridge University Press, 2003, page 30.
  8. ^ U.S., Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries, 1862-1960
  9. ^ a b c d "The Woman Who Invented Dark Fantasy" by Gary C. Hoppenstand from Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy by Francis Stevens, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, page xvi. ISBN 0-8032-9298-8
  10. ^ a b The Influential Pulp Career of Francis Stevens
  11. ^ Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy by Francis Stevens, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8032-9298-8
  12. ^ "The Woman Who Invented Dark Fantasy" by Gary C. Hoppenstand from Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy by Francis Stevens, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, page xiii-xiv. ISBN 0-8032-9298-8
  13. ^ a b Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature by Frank Northen Magill, Salem Press, 1983, page 287.
  14. ^ "The Woman Who Invented Dark Fantasy" by Gary C. Hoppenstand from Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy by Francis Stevens, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, page xiv. ISBN 0-8032-9298-8
  15. ^ a b T. M. Wagner. "Review of Francis Steven's Claimed". SF Retrieved 2007-05-16.
  16. ^ Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Robin Anne Reid, Greenwood, 2008, page 289.
  17. ^ An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia edited by S. T. Joshi, David E. Schultz, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001, page 218.
  18. ^ "Introduction to Citadel of Fear" by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, Citadel of Fear by Francis Stevens, Polaris Press, 1952.
  19. ^ Note: all short story information comes from "The Fiction Mags Index". Archived from the original on 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2009-03-31.

Further reading

  • R. Alain Everts. "The Mystery of Francis Stevens (1883–1948)". Outsider 4 (2000): 29–30.
  • Bryce J. Stevens. "Into the Abyss: Did Francis Stevens' 1920 Novel Claimed Influence H.P. Lovecraft?". Presents textual evidence that Claimed may have influenced "The Call of Cthulhu".
  • Sam Moskowitz. "The Woman Who Wrote 'Citadel of Fear'". The Citadel of Fear by Francis Stevens. NY: Paperback Library, 1970.
  • Robert Weinberg. "A Forgotten Mistress of Fantasy". The Citadel of Fear by Francis Stevens. NY: Carroll & Graf, 1994.

External links

2019 in public domain

When a work's copyright expires, it enters the public domain. The following is a list of works that entered the public domain in 2019. Since laws vary globally, the copyright status of some works are not uniform.

A. Merritt

Abraham Grace Merritt (January 20, 1884 – August 21, 1943) – known by his byline, A. Merritt – was an American Sunday magazine editor and a writer of fantastic fiction.The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted him in 1999, its fourth class of two deceased and two living writers.

Arcana (convention)

Arcana is a long-running horror convention that bills itself as "a convention of the dark fantastic." Arcana is held annually in late September or early October in St. Paul, Minnesota and typically features a famous author or artist from the dark fantasy genre as its guest of honor. Arcana programming includes a variety of panels, talks, and films, plus an interview and reading with the Guest of Honor. Other programming includes a book and art auction and an "open" reading. The presentation of the Minnesota Fantasy Award is a key feature of each year's convention.

Argosy (magazine)

Argosy, later titled The Argosy and Argosy All-Story Weekly, was an American pulp magazine from 1882 through 1978, published by Frank Munsey. It is the first American pulp magazine. The magazine began as a children's weekly story–paper entitled The Golden Argosy.

Clare Winger Harris

Clare Winger Harris (January 18, 1891 – October 1968) was an early science fiction writer whose short stories were published during the 1920s. She is credited as the first woman to publish stories under her own name in science fiction magazines. Her stories often dealt with characters on the "borders of humanity" such as cyborgs.Harris began publishing magazine stories in 1926, and soon became well liked by readers. She sold a total of eleven stories, which were collected in 1947 as Away From the Here and Now. Her gender was a surprise to Gernsback, the editor who first bought her work, as she was the first woman to publish science fiction stories under her own name. Her stories, which often feature strong female characters, have been occasionally reprinted and have received some positive critical response, including a recognition of her pioneering role as a woman writer in a male-dominated field.

Dark fantasy

Dark fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literary, artistic, and cinematic works that incorporate darker and frightening themes of fantasy. It also often combines fantasy with elements of horror or has a gloomy, dark (or grimdark) atmosphere, or a sense of horror and dread.A strict definition for dark fantasy is difficult to pin down. Gertrude Barrows Bennett has been called "the woman who invented dark fantasy". Both Charles L. Grant and Karl Edward Wagner are credited with having coined the term "dark fantasy"—although both authors were describing different styles of fiction. Brian Stableford argues "dark fantasy" can be usefully defined as subgenre of stories that attempt to "incorporate elements of horror fiction" into the standard formulae of fantasy stories. Stableford also suggests that supernatural horror set primarily in the real world is a form of "contemporary fantasy", whereas supernatural horror set partly or wholly in "secondary worlds" should be described as "dark fantasy".Additionally, other authors, critics, and publishers have adopted dark fantasy to describe various other works. However, these stories rarely share universal similarities beyond supernatural occurrences and a dark, often brooding, tone. As a result, dark fantasy cannot be solidly connected to a defining set of tropes. The term itself may refer collectively to tales that are either horror-based or fantasy-based.

Some writers also use "dark fantasy" (or "Gothic fantasy") as an alternative description to "horror", because they feel the latter term is too lurid or vivid.

Fantastic Novels

Fantastic Novels was an American science fiction and fantasy pulp magazine published by the Munsey Company of New York from 1940 to 1941, and again by Popular Publications, also of New York, from 1948 to 1951. It was a companion to Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Like that magazine, it mostly reprinted science fiction and fantasy classics from earlier decades, such as novels by A. Merritt, George Allan England, and Victor Rousseau, though it occasionally published reprints of more recent work, such as Earth's Last Citadel, by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore.

The magazine lasted for 5 issues in its first incarnation, and for another 20 in the revived version from Popular Publications. Mary Gnaedinger edited both series; her interest in reprinting Merritt's work helped make him one of the better-known fantasy writers of the era. A Canadian edition from 1948 to 1951 reprinted 17 issues of the second series; two others were reprinted in Great Britain in 1950 and 1951.

Feminist science fiction

Feminist science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction (abbreviated "SF") focused on theories that include feminist themes including but not limited to gender inequality, sexuality, race, economics, and reproduction. Feminist SF is political because of its tendency to critique the dominant culture. Some of the most notable feminist science fiction works have illustrated these themes using utopias to explore a society in which gender differences or gender power imbalances do not exist, or dystopias to explore worlds in which gender inequalities are intensified, thus asserting a need for feminist work to continue.

Science fiction and fantasy serve as important vehicles for feminist thought, particularly as bridges between theory and practice. No other genres so actively invite representations of the ultimate goals of feminism: worlds free of sexism, worlds in which women's contributions (to science) are recognized and valued, worlds that explore the diversity of women's desire and sexuality, and worlds that move beyond gender.

Francis Stevens (disambiguation)

Francis Stevens was a pseudonym of writer Gertrude Barrows Bennett (1884–1948).

Francis Stevens may also refer to:

Francis George Stevens (1891–?), British civil engineer who founded Scouting in Sri Lanka

Paul Stevens (bobsleigh) (Francis Paul Stephens, 1889–1949), Olympic bobsledder

Frankie Stevens (Francis Stevens, born 1950), New Zealand entertainer and singer

History of feminism

The history of feminism comprises the narratives (chronological or thematic) of the movements and ideologies which have aimed at equal rights for women. While feminists around the world have differed in causes, goals, and intentions depending on time, culture, and country, most Western feminist historians assert that all movements that work to obtain women's rights should be considered feminist movements, even when they did not (or do not) apply the term to themselves. Some other historians limit the term "feminist" to the modern feminist movement and its progeny, and use the label "protofeminist" to describe earlier movements.Modern Western feminist history is conventionally split into three time periods, or "waves", each with slightly different aims based on prior progress:

First-wave feminism of the 19th and early 20th centuries focused on overturning legal inequalities, particularly addressing issues of women's suffrage

Second-wave feminism (1960s–1980s) broadened debate to include cultural inequalities, gender norms, and the role of women in society

Third-wave feminism (1990s–2000s) refers to diverse strains of feminist activity, seen both as a continuation of the second wave and as a response to its perceived failuresAlthough the "waves" construct has been commonly used to describe the history of feminism, the concept has also been criticized for ignoring and erasing the history between the "waves", by choosing to focus solely on a few famous figures and on popular events.

List of dystopian literature

This is a list of notable works of dystopian literature. A dystopia is an unpleasant (typically repressive) society, often propagandized as being utopian. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction states that dystopian works depict a negative view of "the way the world is supposedly going in order to provide urgent propaganda for a change in direction."

The Weird

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories is an anthology of weird fiction edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

Published on 8 May 2012, it contains 110 short stories, novellas and short novels. At 1,152 pages in the hardcover edition, it is probably the largest single volume of fantastic fiction ever published, according to Locus.

Women in speculative fiction

In 1948, 10–15% of science fiction writers were female. Women's role in speculative fiction (including science fiction) has grown since then, and in 1999, women comprised 36% of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's professional members. Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley has been called the first science fiction novel, although women wrote utopian novels even before that, with Margaret Cavendish publishing the first (The Blazing World) in the seventeenth century. Early published fantasy was written by and for both genders. However, speculative fiction, with science fiction in particular, has traditionally been viewed as a male-oriented genre.

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