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What If ? A Film about Judith Merril

Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th St., New York, New York 10016; 212-808-4980
Produced by Richard Elson and Imageries P.B., Ltd.
Directed by Helen Klodawsky
VHS, color, 52 min.
Literature, Women's Studies

Reviewed by Brad Eden, Ph.D., Head, Web and Digitization Services, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   

The story of science fiction writer Judith Merril is the stuff of fiction. She grew up in New York City, and was one of the first women to write science fiction in the late 1940's and early 1950's. She saw the use of science fiction as an avenue for political comment at a time when McCarthyism was at its peak. Writing under a number of male pseudonyms, she explored concepts of interplanetary communication and exploration that would eventually become NASA's mission in the early 1960's. She also was a passionate and daringly inventive feminist, and questioned all aspects of space exploration, including sex in space. A number of her colleagues, including sociologist Barry Wellman, futurist Stanford Beer, and authors Dennis Lee and Elisabeth Vonarburg, are interviewed during this video, and provide interesting insights into the woman who became known as the moderator and host of the "Dr. Who" television series. Before her death in 1997, this film was able to conduct a number of interviews with Judith regarding her influences and life story.

This film is highly recommended for English and writing classes from junior high upward, as well as college classes dealing with important women writers of the twentieth century. Ms. Merril's contributions to the science fiction genre are immense, given the conditions she had to work within and the preconceived genre that she helped to influence and change. This film won the Gold Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2000.