Books : reviews

Judith Merril, Emily Pohl-Weary.
Better to Have Loved: the life of Judith Merril.
Between the Lines. 2002

What was it like for a gender-bender who made it in a man's world fifty years ago?

Known as the little mother of science fiction, Judith Merril burst onto the New York literary scene in 1948 with a disturbing story about nuclear radiation. Find out how Merril and other early science fiction writers lived, argued, dated, mimeoed their manifestos, and learned step by step how to write stories and (in some cases) how to get paid for them.

Better to Have Loved journeys amongst the people, places, and things Merril loved. Her life was a microcosm of alternative cultural and political movements. Born into early Zionist circles, she ventured as a teenager into the Trotskyism of the l930s and ’40s. From there she became involved with emergent science fiction, resistance to the war in Vietnam, the free university movement, and tuning-in and turning-on. In 1968, Merril moved to Canada to live and work in Rochdale, Toronto’s student-run university.

When Merril died in 1997, she left her granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary with a partially-completed manuscript, a dozen tapes of interviews they had conducted during her last year, and complete instructions about everything she wanted included in the book. Better to Have Loved is the result.