‘Short in the Chest’: Margaret St Clair and the Revenge of the Housewife Heroine



Margaret St Clair was better known in her own time as a writer of fantasy short stories, under the pseudonym Idris Seabright. Rosemary Herbert writes that ‘she had a penchant for tackling controversial themes and for using gadgetry and environments symbolically’. ‘Short In The Chest’, which as Pamela Sargent notes ‘had some difficulty finding publication in a market that regarded the subject as too daring’, was finally published in July 1954 in Fantastic Universe – not the most successful of the pulp magazines, but the story itself attracted enough attention to be anthologised on more than one occasion. It is not only daring (for its time) but also very funny, taking as its theme an interview between a young woman (Major Sonya Briggs) with ‘sexual problems’ and a symbolic gadget in the form of a philosophic rob[ot]’ known as a ‘huxley’ and designed to offer counselling and advice but, on this occasion, suffering a malfunction which significantly alters its perceptions.


Sexual Problem Science Fiction Female Character Totalitarian State Fiction Mode 
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© Debra Benita Shaw 2000

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