chapter  14
16 Pages

Judith Merril Moving In and Out of This World: Urban Landscape Encounters of a Science Fiction Personality in the Sixties and Seventies

ByDianne Newell, Jolene McCann

A prominent American science fiction (sf) star in the late 1960s when she left the US and moved to Toronto, Judith Merril’s ability to locate and represent her emotional experiences and interactions with landscapes (cultural, emotional, historical, physical) was out of the ordinary. Sf writers tend to focus on the environment, to ask ‘What If?’ and to work in dialogue with others. But even within sf circles, the emotional content of her fiction and non-fiction work, fuelled by her physical mobility and her revolutionary desire to find windows onto the universe, stood out. Here we explore Merril as a case study of the ways in which connections between space, time and emotion have come together in the making of a human life. She relocated and moved around in the 1960s and 1970s, curious, energized and optimistic, always in pursuit of the ‘excitement of ideas’ and seeking new portals for discovery. We also look at her experience with recurring feelings of fear in times when she found herself helpless to act on her ideas. Fear is a powerful and essential emotion for our own safety and survival. It also absorbs or saps energy and can be debilitating when experienced for extended periods of time, as happened with Merril. Enabling our project are her unique reflections on her movements in space and time: the voluminous collection of personal papers,

which she maintained intact throughout all her moves, and her award-winning memoir, Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril.2