Alyx - Joanna Russ

This is one of the first titles in a new science fiction series from The Women’s Press.

The list will feature new titles by contemporary writers and reprints of classic works by well known authors. Our aim is to publish science fiction by women and about women; to present exciting and provocative feminist images of the future that will offer an alternative vision of science and technology, and challenge male domination of the science fiction tradition itself.

Published in this series


The Adventures of Alyx

The Female Man

Extra (Ordinary) People


The Wanderground


The Planet Dweller


Memoirs of a Spacewoman


Native Tongue


Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind

An Anthology of Original Stories


First published in Great Britain by

The Women's Press Limited 1985

A member of the Namara Group

124 Shoreditch High Street, London EI 6JE

Copyright ©Joanna Russ 1983

First published in the United States by

Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, Inc,

New York, 1983.

All rights reserved.

“Bluestocking" first published as "The Adventuress" in
Orbit 2,
New York, Berkley Books, Copyright © 1967 by Damon Knight;

“I Thought She Was Afeard Till She Stroked My Beard" first published as “I Gave Her Sack and Sherry” in
Orbit 2,
New York, Berkley Books, 1967, Copyright © 1967 by Damon Knight; 

“The Barbarian" from
Orbit 3,
New York, Berkley Books, 1968, Copyright © 1968 by Damon Knight; 

Picnic on Paradise.
New York, Ace Books, 1968. Copyright © 1968 by Joanna Russ; and 

“The Second Inquisition” from
6, New York, Berkley Books, 1970, Copyright © 1970 by Damon Knight.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Russ, Joanna The adventures of Alyx.

I. Title

813'.54[F]    PS3568.U763

ISBN 0-7043-3972-2

Reproduced, printed and bound in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbury, Bucks


Joanna Russ was born and grew up in New York City. Her stories began to be published in 1959, and in 1967 the first Alyx story, ‘The Adventuress’ (‘Bluestocking’ in this collection) appeared which marked a turning point in her career. ‘Long before I became a feminist in any explicit way,’ Russ remembers, ‘I had turned from writing love stories about women in which women were losers, and adventure stories about men in which the men were winners, to writing adventure stories about a woman in which the woman won. It was one of the hardest things I ever did in my life.’

Joanna Russ is the Nebula and Hugo award-winning author of many short stories and novels, including
The Female Man
(The Women’s Press, 1985)
Extra (Ordinary) People
(The Women’s Press, 1985)
And Chaos Died, The Two Of Them
We Who Are About To
.... Her critical works include
How To Suppress Women’s Writing
(The Women’s Press, 1983), a survey of women writers and the literary tradition. She is associate professor of English at the University of Washington, Seattle.







This is the tale of a voyage
that is of interest only as it concerns the doings of one small, gray-eyed woman. Small women exist in plenty—so do those with gray eyes—but this woman was among the wisest of a sex that is surpassingly wise. There is no surprise in that (or should not be) for it is common knowledge that Woman was created fully a quarter of an hour before Man, and has kept that advantage to this very day. Indeed, legend has it that the first man, Leh, was fashioned from the sixth finger of the left hand of the first woman, Loh, and that is why women have only five fingers on the left hand. The lady with whom we concern ourselves in this story had all her six fingers, and what is more, they all worked.

In the seventh year before the time of which we speak, this woman, a neat, level-browed, governessy person called Alyx, had come to the City of Ourdh as part of a religious delegation from the hills intended to convert the dissolute citizens to the ways of virtue and the one true God, a Bang tree of awful majesty. But Alyx, a young woman of an intellectual bent, had not been in Ourdh two months when she decided that the religion of Yp (as the hill god was called) was a disastrous piece of nonsense, and that deceiving a young woman in matters of such importance was a piece of thoughtlessness for which it would take some weeks of hard, concentrated thought to think up a proper reprisal. In due time the police chased Alyx’s coreligionists down the Street of Heaven and Hell and out the swamp gate to be bitten by the mosquitoes that lie in wait among the reeds, and Alyx—with a shrug of contempt— took up a modest living as pick-lock, a profession that gratified her sense of subtlety. It provided her with a living, a craft and a society. Much of the wealth of this richest and vilest of cities stuck to her fingers but most of it dropped off again, for she was not much awed by the things of this world. Going their legal or illegal ways in this seventh year after her arrival, citizens of Ourdh saw only a woman with short, black hair and a sprinkling of freckles across her milky nose; but Alyx had ambitions of becoming a Destiny. She was thirty (a dangerous time for men and women alike) when this story begins. Yp moved in his mysterious ways, Alyx entered the employ of the Lady Edarra, and Ourdh saw neither of them again—for a while.


Alyx was walking with a friend down the Street of Conspicuous Display one sultry summer’s morning when she perceived a young woman, dressed like a jeweler’s tray and surmounted with a great coil of red hair, waving to her from the table of a wayside garden-terrace.

“Wonderful are the ways of Yp,” she remarked, for although she no longer accorded that deity any respect, yet her habits of speech remained. “There sits a red-headed young woman of no more than seventeen years and with the best skin imaginable, and yet she powders her face.”

“Wonderful indeed,” said her friend. Then he raised one finger and went his way, a discretion much admired in Ourdh. The young lady, who had been drumming her fingers on the tabletop and frowning like a fury, waved again and stamped one foot.

“I want to talk to you,” she said sharply. “Can’t you hear me?”

“I have six ears,” said Alyx, the courteous reply in such a situation. She sat down and the waiter handed her the bill of fare. “You are not listening to me,” said the lady.

“I do not listen with my eyes,” said Alyx.

“Those who do not listen with their eyes as well as their ears,” said the lady sharply, “can be made to regret it!”

“Those,” said Alyx, “who on a fine summer’s morning threaten their fellow-creatures in any way, absurdly or otherwise, both mar the serenity of the day and break the peace of Yp, who,” she said, “is mighty.”

“You are impossible!” cried the lady. “Impossible!” and she bounced up and down in her seat with rage, fixing her fierce brown eyes on Alyx. “Death!” she cried. “Death and bones!” and that was a ridiculous thing to say at eleven in the morning by the side of the most wealthy and luxurious street in Ourdh, for such a street is one of the pleasantest places in the world if you do not watch the beggars. The lady, insensible to all this bounty, jumped to her feet and glared at the little pick-lock; then, composing herself with an effort (she clenched both hands and gritted her teeth like a person in the worst throes of marsh fever), she said—calmly—

“I want to leave Ourdh.”

“Many do,” said Alyx, courteously.

“I require a companion.”

“A lady’s maid?” suggested Alyx. The lady jumped once in her seat as if her anger must have an outlet somehow; then she clenched her hands and gritted her teeth with doubled vigor.

“I must have protection,” she snapped.


“I’ll pay!” (This was almost a shriek.)

“How?” said Alyx, who had her doubts.

“None of your business,” said the lady.

“If I’m to serve you, everything’s my business. Tell me. All right, how much?”

The lady named a figure, reluctantly.

“Not enough,” said Alyx. “Particularly not knowing how. Or why. And why protection? From whom? When?” The lady jumped to her feet. “By water?” continued Alyx imperturbably. “By land? On foot? How far? You must understand, little one—”

Little one!
” cried the lady, her mouth dropping open. “
Little one!”

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