Rachel Pollack, Rest in Power
Our science-fiction heroine and Tarot futurist TransSister, has left us. A remembrance and an audio interview
Author, Tarot-futurist, and science-fiction pioneer Rachel Pollack has left us, earlier this afternoon, the seventh of April. She was 78. She was ageless.
Her wife Zoe Matoff announced her passing this afternoon, with a heavy heart. She was surrounded by loved ones.
Rachel’s work is the stuff of legend. When I interviewed her (see clip below), I said, “How long do you have? All day?”
Pollack’s authorship is a map of 20th century consciousness— she was one of the first women working in the science fiction genre. It was Rachel, along with Joanna Russ, Marge Piercy, Octavia Butler, and of course LeGuin, who first rattled my fantasy cage.
When I became a producer at Audible, I called Rachel and said, “How’d you like to crack the audiobook sci-fi-patriarchy wide open — let’s produce your novels!”
She laughed as hard as I hoped she would— and then we fucking did it.
If you haven’t heard Godmother Night or Temporary Agency, I think you’ll love them — especially if you have a soft spot for the pagan separatist resistance.
I got to know Rachel personally in the 1980s because of the great zine revolution, our DIY renaissance. My magazine On Our Backs delighted her; her TransSisters zine thrilled me.
There were so many firsts. Rachel created the original DC-Comics First Trans Superhero. It changed comix.
The next game changer started when Pollack moved to the Netherlands for a spell and wrote 78 Degrees of Wisdom: A Tarot Journey of Self-Awareness.
That one tome kicked off a movement of examining the traditional card deck with psychoanalytic insight and metaphysical value beyond divination. No one has looked at those 78 images the same way since.
It took Rachel and I years to pin the rights to record 78 Degrees— it’s when we truly got be friends. One needs a dark sense of humor to navigate publishing bureaucracy— not to mention patience and persistence! She knew it was a legacy worth fighting for.
We were so gleeful to finish the recording (with her favorite narrator, Coleen Marlo). The two of us celebrated by taping an exclusive interview, which I’d like to share with you below.
(The full interview is at the end of the Audible recorded title. You’d never know it; it’s like a secret Easter egg!)
I miss Rachel so much. I took a deep breath before I opened the record. But I can’t stop listening.
Susie Bright’s Interview with Rachel Pollack, from 78 Degrees of Wisdom, ℗ Audible Studios
Godmother Night, ℗ Audible Studios, World Fantasy Award for Best Novel
“Pollack's fairy-tale plot is resourceful and original, but here, she portrays women's intimate relationships with one another with resonance and realism. Another fine outing by one of the most gifted and sensitive fantasists working today.”
Temporary Agency, ℗ Audible Studios, shortlisted for the Nebula Award
“Pollack is primarily concerned the emotional underpinnings of the people in her future society— and, by extension— in our own. The two novellas combine into a rational framework while never forgetting that the key to good fiction is people and what happens to them.”
I’d love to hear your stories and memories of Rachel’s work. She made a difference, she IS making a difference. I’ll be drawing a special page for her tonight.
what a loss. what a life.
Thank you so much for this remembering of Rachel Pollack. What an ncredible person she was.