Joanna Russ’s Woman Warrior

In the late 1960s Russ wrote several short stories and one novel featuring Alyx, an independent woman from ancient times whose prowess with a sword and sharp martial instincts prefigure Xena the Warrior Princess, if not Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Alyx is not only a feminist warrior, but a mentor to younger women and a seeker of self-knowledge. The Alyx stories raised the question of self-determination vs. social responsibility that vexed many at the time. Though they shared some conventions with the sword-and-sorcery tale, four were featured in Damon Knight’s influential Orbit anthology series, a primary vehicle for the innovative New Wave SF that was reshaping the genre.