Sci-fi is of course still disparaged in some circles, but the genre’s writers, artists and fans received hardly any respect in the ’40s, when Brackett was active. She was paid less to write sci-fi than other forms of pulp fiction, and readers didn’t always welcome female genre writers warmly. Brackett was heralded the “Queen of Space Opera,” but the moniker was not necessarily complimentary. Compared to other pulp and science fiction, the subgenre of space opera was considered especially silly entertainment.
As an essay from Brackett’s friend Michael Moorcock explains, “There was a time when the kind of science fantasy Brackett made her own was looked down upon as a kind of bastard progeny of science fiction (which was about scientific speculation) and fantasy (which was about magic).”
But Brackett had to remain true to herself. “Why don’t you write nice stories for the Ladies’ Home Journal?” her aunt asked her once. The author replied, “I wish I could, because they pay very well, but I can’t read the Ladies’ Home Journal, and I’m sure I couldn’t write for it.” She then defended what she called “escape fiction” as a way of creating and exploring new worlds: “Space opera has been telling us tales of spaceflight, of journeys to other worlds in this solar system… These stories served to stretch our little minds, to draw us out beyond our narrow skies into the vast glooms of interstellar space, where the great suns ride in splendor and the bright nebulae fling their veils of fire parsecs-long across the universe.”
As io9 observes, Brackett’s “credit as screenwriter for one of the greatest space adventures of all time is vindication for someone who chose to write space opera at a time when that term was considered a put-down.” The feature is well worth reading in full, and offers insight into Brackett’s contribution to the “Star Wars” empire, as well as a sense of the profound courage she had in remaining true to her passions.