Leigh Brackett was an American science fiction (and sometimes crime/western) author and Golden Age Hollywood screenwriter (e.g. The Big Sleep
and much later The Empire Strikes Backnote
). She has been called the "Queen of Space Opera
Thematically, Brackett's stories often deal with colonialism-induced clashes of civilizations as space-travelling humans settle on planets with older (or younger) aboriginal cultures and have commerce or conflict with them. Her early SF stories had a detective/noir flavor, which gradually developed into frontier stories set in space. Her later stories became more elegiac, lamenting civilizations passing away.
She wrote most of her stories (short stories and novelettes) for pulp magazines, but also wrote several novels. Quite a few stories feature pulp hero Eric John Stark, a human born on Mercury and raised by a tribe of insectoid Mercurian aborigines. As an adult Stark has sympathies both for humans and for non-humans, which sometimes causes loyalty conflicts and troubles with the (human) authorities. Stark is also, as is common for Brackett's Mercurian humans, black-skinned and black-haired, which also sometimes leads to prejudice and tension. (Most illustrators depicted him as white-skinned and sometimes blonde
She created her own Verse
for her Planetary Romances
, the Leigh Brackett Solar System
. More than half her stories are set in a (mostly) internally consistent parallel of our solar system with human settlers and alien cultures on Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Asteroids, and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. During the 1940s
her stories described worlds consistent with early theories about the habitability of the planets, but in the 1960s
when the Mariner space probes started to bring back data about Mars, Venus and Mercury that made the premise of life on those planets utterly implausible she used her Verse less often and eventually stopped writing such stories in 1964. In the 1970s
she invented an "extra-solar" planet, Skaith, where Eric John Stark could have his later adventures.
As the market for pulp fiction evaporated in the 1950s she switched to a successful career of writing for film and television, occasionally revisiting her SF milieus in novels (some of which reworked earlier short stories), especially near the end of her life in the late 1970s. She died of cancer in 1978.