Space Cowboys and Alien Landscapes

Feminist Science Studies and Environmental Narratives in Leigh Brackett’s Science Fiction


  • Bridgitte Barclay



As Star Wars women Rey, Jyn Erso, Ahsoka Tano, and others build on Leia’s legacy, it is also important to celebrate the mid-century science fiction writer who influenced Star Wars earlier on – Leigh Brackett, Queen of Space Opera. Brackett not only wrote the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) before her death, but she also influenced American film and sf in the decades before. She was an accomplished screenwriter when Lucas approached her for The Empire Strikes Back, having written Rio Bravo (1959) and co-written The Big Sleep (1946) with William Faulkner, for example. And her pulps and novels established her as an authority in the science fiction genre, as well. She was the first woman to be shortlisted for the Hugo Award for The Long Tomorrow (1955), a novel that denounces the toxic violence of militarized science and venerates resistance. Similarly, Brackett’s Shadow Over Mars (1944) condemns authoritarian exploitation and reveres rebellion. These familiar themes, of course, are also in The Empire Strikes Back. While some of her elements did not make it to the final film – the Luke-Leia-Han love triangle and Luke’s Jedi twin Nellith, for instance – her style of frontier anti-authoritarian Space Opera resistance comes through clearly. Resurrecting Brackett’s work on The Empire Strikes Back and analyzing the influence of her earlier work situates the Star Wars saga as a descendant of mid-century feminist sf as we simultaneously celebrate its more inclusive contemporary narratives.




How to Cite

Barclay, B. (2023). Space Cowboys and Alien Landscapes: Feminist Science Studies and Environmental Narratives in Leigh Brackett’s Science Fiction. Unbound: A Journal of Digital Scholarship, 3(1), 1–5.