Margaret St. Clair

Margaret St. Clair (17 February 1911 – 22 November 1995) was an American science fiction writer, who also wrote under the pseudonyms Idris Seabright and Wilton Hazzard.

Margaret St Clair FA 194611
Margaret St. Clair c. 1946


St. Clair was born in Hutchinson, Kansas. Her father, US Representative George A. Neeley, died when Margaret was seven, but left her mother well provided for. With no siblings, Margaret recalled her childhood as "rather a lonely and bookish one." When she was seventeen, she and her mother moved to California. In 1932, after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, she married writer Eric St. Clair. In 1934 she earned a Master of Arts in Greek Classics.[1] The St. Clairs lived in a hilltop house with a panoramic view in what is now El Sobrante, California, where Margaret gardened and bred and sold dachshund puppies.[2]

In her rare autobiographical writings, St. Clair revealed few details of her personal life, but interviews with some who knew her indicate that she and her husband were well-traveled (including some visits to nudist colonies), were childless by choice, and in 1966 were initiated into Wicca by Raymond Buckland, taking the Craft names Froniga and Weyland.[3] Eric St. Clair worked variously as a statistician, social worker, horticulturist, shopfitter, and a laboratory assistant in the University of California at Berkeley Physics Department; he also published numerous short stories and magazine articles and was "perhaps the leading American writer of children's stories about bears, having sold close to 100 of them."[4]

The St. Clairs eventually moved from El Sobrante to a house on the coast near Point Arena, "where every window had an ocean view."[3] Margaret survived her husband by several years. A lifelong supporter of the American Friends Service Committee, she spent her final years at Friends House in Santa Rosa, California. She died in 1995.

Short stories

St. Clair wrote that she "first tried [her] hand at detective and mystery stories, and even the so-called 'quality' stories", before finding her niche writing fantasy and science fiction for pulp magazines. "Unlike most pulp writers, I have no special ambitions to make the pages of the slick magazines. I feel that the pulps at their best touch a genuine folk tradition and have a balladic quality which the slicks lack."[2]

Beginning in the late 1940s, St. Clair wrote and published, by her own count, some 130 short stories. Her early output included the Oona and Jick series of eight stories published from 1947 to 1949, chronicling the comic misadventures of "housewife of the future" Oona and her devoted husband Jick. The stories were ostensibly set in an idealized future but cast a satirical look at post-war domestic life, with its focus on acquiring labor-saving household devices and "keeping up with the Joneses." St. Clair would later remark that the Oona and Jick stories "were not especially popular with fans, who were—then as now—a rather humorless bunch. The light tone of the stories seemed to offend readers and make them think I was making fun of them."[1]

She was especially prolific in the 1950s, producing such acclaimed and much-reprinted stories as "The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles" (1951), "Brightness Falls from the Air" (1951), "An Egg a Month from All Over" (1952), and "Horrer Howce" (1956). She occasionally drew inspiration from her education in Classics and her knowledge of Greek myth, as in "Mrs. Hawk" (1950), a modern update of the Circe myth, "The Bird" (1951), about a modern man's fateful encounter with the mythical phoenix, and "The Goddess on the Street Corner" (1953), in which a down-on-his-luck wino meets an equally vulnerable Aphrodite.

Beginning in 1950 with "The Listening Child", all of St. Clair's stories in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction appeared under the pseudonym Idris Seabright. The Seabright story "Personal Monster" appeared in the September 1955 issue immediately before the story "Too Many Bears" by a newcomer to the magazine, St. Clair's husband, Eric; in his introductory note to "Too Many Bears", editor Anthony Boucher quipped that Eric St. Clair "is enviably married to two of my favorite science fiction writers."[5]

Three of her short stories were adapted for television. "Mrs. Hawk" was filmed as "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk" for the 1961 season of Thriller, with Jo Van Fleet in the title role. "The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes" (1950) and "Brenda" (1954) were filmed as segments of the 1971 season of Rod Serling's Night Gallery.

St. Clair wrote only a handful of stories in the mystery genre, but one of them, The Perfectionist (1946), was widely reprinted and translated, and served as the basis for the play A Dash of Bitters by Reginald Denham and Conrad Sutton Smith.[1] She also wrote several pieces of fiction and satire for "gentlemen's magazines" including Gent and The Dude.

She used the Wilton Hazzard pseudonym, a general house name used in magazines published by Fiction House, for a story published in an issue of Planet Stories which already contained a story under her own name.


St. Clair also wrote eight novels, four of which were published in the Ace Double series.

Sign of the Labrys (1963) featured an overt early use of Wicca elements in fiction; St. Clair wrote that the book "was primarily inspired by Gerald Gardner's books on witchcraft."[1] The editor of The Crystal Well called Sign of the Labrys "an occult classic,"[1] and in his review of the novel for Analog, P. Schuyler Miller declared that St. Clair was one of the most unappreciated writers in science fiction.[6] St. Clair's research into witchcraft led to her friendship with Raymond Buckland, who recalled the St. Clairs as "absolutely wonderful people, very warm and loving."[3]


From the outset of her career, St. Clair was aware of her unusual role as a woman writing in a male-dominated field. An article she wrote for Writer's Digest in 1947, about selling stories to the science fiction market, begins: "Why is science fiction fun to write? At first blush, it doesn't seem attractive, particularly for a woman."[7] When the World Science Fiction Convention was held in Oakland in 1954, the Oakland Tribune highlighted St. Clair as a local author by asking her to provide a "menu of the future."[8] The back cover of her 1963 paperback novel Sign of the Labrys declared in large capital letters, "Women Are Writing Science-Fiction!" and continued: "Women are closer to the primitive than men. They are conscious of the moon-pulls, the earth-tides. They possess a buried memory of humankind's obscure and ancient past which can emerge to uniquely color and flavor a novel. Such a woman is Margaret St. Clair…."[9]

St. Clair's pioneering role as a woman writing science fiction was noted by Eric Leif Davin in his book Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965.[10]

The Margaret St. Clair Papers are archived at the University of California, Riverside.

Ramsey Campbell has described St. Clair's work as "startlingly original" and argues it has "yet to be fully appreciated".[11]



  • The Green Queen (1956)
  • Agent of the Unknown (1956)
  • The Games of Neith (1960)
  • Sign of the Labrys (1963)
  • Message from the Eocene (1964)
  • The Dolphins of Altair (1967)
  • The Shadow People (1969)
  • The Dancers of Noyo (1973)

Story collections

  • Three Worlds of Futurity (1964)
  • Change the Sky and Other Stories (1974)
  • The Best of Margaret St. Clair (1985)

Short stories


  1. ^ a b c d e Margaret St. Clair, "Wight in Space: An Autobiographical Sketch" in Fantastic Lives: Autobiographical Essays by Notable Science Fiction Writers edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Southern Illinois University Press, 1981, pp. 144-156.
  2. ^ a b Margaret St. Clair, "Presenting the Author", Fantastic Adventures, November 1946, p. 2.
  3. ^ a b c Chas S. Clifton, "Letter From Hardscrabble Creek: Chasing Margaret", Hardscrabble #17, June 1997. (Parts of this article were later incorporated into the book Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America by Chas Clifton, AltaMira Press, 2006.)
  4. ^ Introduction to "Olsen and the Sea Gull" by Eric St. Clair, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1964, page 41.
  5. ^ Introduction to "Too Many Bears" by Eric St. Clair, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1955, page 63.
  6. ^ Analog Science Fact & Science Fiction, March 1964, p. 91.
  7. ^ Margaret St. Clair, "Twenty-Seven Captured Suns," Writer's Digest, July, 1947.
  8. ^ "Here's Menu of Future—Sound Good?", page 8E, Oakland Tribune, Sept. 7, 1954.
  9. ^ Margaret St. Clair, Sign of the Labrys, Bantam Books, 1963.
  10. ^ Eric Leif Davin, Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965, Lexington Books, 2005.
  11. ^ Ramsey Campbell, "Introduction" to S. T. Joshi and Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, (ed.) Supernatural Literature of the World : An Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2005. ISBN 0313327742 (p. ix)

External links

1995 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1995.


Amazons! is an anthology of fantasy stories, edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, with a cover and frontispiece by Michael Whelan. It was first published in paperback by DAW Books in December 1979, and was the first significant fantasy anthology of works featuring female protagonists by (mostly) female authors. It received the 1980 World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology.

The book collects fourteen short stories, novelettes and poems by various fantasy authors, with an introduction by Salmonson and an essay on additional reading by Salmonson and Susan Wood.

Crossroads in Time

Crossroads in Time is an anthology of science fiction short stories edited by Groff Conklin. It was first published in paperback by Permabooks in November 1953. It has also been translated into Spanish.The book collects eighteen novellas, novelettes and short stories by various science fiction authors, together with an introduction by the editor. The stories were previously published from 1936-1953 in various science fiction and other magazines.

George A. Neeley

George Arthur Neeley (August 1, 1879 – January 1, 1919) was a U.S. Representative from Kansas.

Born in Detroit, Illinois, Neeley attended public schools in Joplin, Missouri and Wellston, Oklahoma. He earned a B.S. from Southwestern Baptist University in Jackson, Tennessee in 1902, and a J.D. from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas in 1904. He was employed for a while as a farmer and a teacher, before becoming a lawyer in private practice. He was an unsuccessful candidate for United States Representative to the 61st Congress in 1910.

Neeley was elected as a Democrat in a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Edmond H. Madison to the 62nd Congress and to the succeeding Congress (January 9, 1912 - March 3, 1915). He was not a candidate for reelection to the 64th Congress in 1914, but was an unsuccessful candidate for election to the United States Senate. He died in Hutchinson, Kansas, and was interred in Oak Park Cemetery, Chandler, Oklahoma.

His daughter was Science Fiction author Margaret St. Clair.


Grotesquerie is a literary form that became a popular genre in the early 20th century. It can be grouped with science fiction and horror. Authors such as Ambrose Bierce, Fritz Leiber, H. Russell Wakefield, Seabury Quinn, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Margaret St. Clair, Stanton A. Coblentz, Lee Brown Coye and Katherine Anne Porter have written books within this genre.

The term has also been used to describe macabre artwork and movies, and it is used in architecture.

Tales from the Spaceport Bar

Tales from the Spaceport Bar is an anthology of science fiction club tales edited by George H. Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer. It was first published in paperback by Avon Books in January 1987. The first British edition was issued in paperback by New English Library in 1988.

The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes

"The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes" is a short story by American writer Margaret St. Clair. It was first published in 1950, and has been anthologized in both print and television. It is an example of horror fiction.

The Rogues (TV series)

The Rogues is an American television series that appeared on NBC from September 13, 1964, to April 18, 1965, starring David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Gig Young as a related trio of former conmen who could, for the right price, be persuaded to trick a very wealthy and heinously unscrupulous mark. Although it won the 1964 Golden Globe award for Best Television Series, the show was cancelled after one season consisting of thirty episodes.

The Science Fiction Galaxy

The Science Fiction Galaxy is an anthology of science fiction short stories edited by Groff Conklin. It was first published in hardcover by Permabooks in 1950.The book collects twelve novelettes and short stories by various authors, together with an introduction by the editor. The stories were previously published from 1909-1949 in various science fiction and other magazines.

The Shadow People

The Shadow People can refer to:

"The Shadow People", a 1952 entry in the radio drama series The Hall of Fantasy

The Shadow People, a 1969 science fiction novel by Margaret St. Clair

The Shadow People, an audiobook based on the Doctor Who spinoff series The Sarah Jane Adventures

The World Jones Made

The World Jones Made is a 1956 science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick, examining notions of precognition, humanity, and politics. It was first published by Ace Books as one half of Ace Double D-150, bound dos-à-dos with Agent of the Unknown by Margaret St. Clair.

Thirsty God

"Thirsty God" is a science fiction story by Margaret St. Clair, first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction for March 1953 and collected in St. Clair's Change the Sky and Other Stories (1974). The story can be seen as a kind of morality fable concerning rape and its punishment.

Twisted (anthology)

Twisted is an anthology of horror short stories edited by Groff Conklin. It was first published in paperback by Belmont Books in May 1962 and reprinted in 1967. British paperback editions were issued by Horwitz in 1963 and Four Square Books in 1965. It has also been translated into Spanish.The book collects fifteen novelettes and short stories by various authors, together with an introduction by the editor. The stories were previously published from 1843-1961 in various magazines.


"Waterspider" is a science fiction short story by American writer Philip K. Dick, first published in the January 1964 edition of If magazine.Dick's story "Waterspider" features Poul Anderson as one of the main characters. The author refers to himself and his stories "The Variable Man" and "The Defenders", and mentions several other science fiction writers of the period, including Murray Leinster, A. E. van Vogt, Margaret St. Clair, Jack Vance, and Isaac Asimov.

Weird fiction

Weird fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction originating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. John Clute defines weird fiction as a "Term used loosely to describe Fantasy, Supernatural Fiction and Horror tales embodying transgressive material". China Miéville defines weird fiction thus: "Weird Fiction is usually, roughly, conceived of as a rather breathless and generically slippery macabre fiction, a dark fantastic (“horror” plus “fantasy”) often featuring nontraditional alien monsters (thus plus “science fiction”)." Discussing the "Old Weird Fiction" published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock says, "Old Weird fiction utilises elements of horror, science fiction and fantasy to showcase the impotence and insignificance of human beings within a much larger universe populated by often malign powers and forces that greatly exceed the human capacities to understand or control them." Weird fiction either eschews or radically reinterprets ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and other traditional antagonists of supernatural horror fiction. Weird fiction is sometimes symbolised by the tentacle, a limb-type absent from most of the monsters of European folklore and gothic fiction, but often attached to the monstrous creatures created by weird fiction writers such as William Hope Hodgson, M. R. James, and H. P. Lovecraft. Weird fiction often attempts to inspire awe as well as fear in response to its fictional creations, causing

commentators like Miéville to say that weird fiction evokes a sense of the numinous. Although "weird fiction" has been chiefly used as a historical description for works through the 1930s, the term has also been increasingly used since the 1980s, sometimes to describe slipstream fiction that blends horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

Worlds of Tomorrow

Worlds of Tomorrow is an anthology of science fiction stories edited by American writer August Derleth. It was first published by Pellegrini & Cudahy in 1953. Many of the stories had originally appeared in the magazines Worlds Beyond, Fantastic, Fantasy, The Magazine of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction, If, Fantastic Adventures, Future, Startling Stories, Astounding Stories, Weird Tales, The Fantasy Fan and Thrilling Wonder Stories. Abridged editions were published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1955, Berkley Books in 1958 and Four Square Books in 1963.

Worlds of When

Worlds of When is an anthology of science fiction short stories edited by Groff Conklin. It was first published in paperback by Pyramid Books in May 1962.The book collects four novelettes and one short story by various science fiction authors, together with an introductory note by the editor. The stories were previously published from 1954-1961 in various science fiction and other magazines.

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