Over at TOR.COM, Brit Mandelo suggests Where to Start with the Works of James Tiptree, Jr.
Alice B. Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.)
So, where do you start if you want to start reading Tiptree—which is a very good idea, given their position as namesake of a genre award for fiction exploring ideas about gender and as an individual whose own complex gender identity threw the field of sf into an uproar when revealed?
The first thing to note is that Alice Sheldon wrote under the names James Tiptree, Jr. and Raccoona Sheldon. While stories published under each name dealt with issues of gender, often the level of externalized rage and aggression is higher in the Raccoona stories; “The Screwfly Solution,” for example, is not a delicate or gentle representation of masculinity—but it is one that makes a stunning impact. There have been two recent omnibus collections that gather up much of Tiptree/Sheldon’s work, both fiction and nonfiction: HER SMOKE ROSE UP FOREVER and MEET ME AT INFINITY. The first is all short fiction, while the second also contains other work.
These books are pulling from a history of publications that spans twenty years from 1968 to 1988, generally a few stories every year. Tiptree/Sheldon was prolific, engaged, and provocative; there are eight initial short story collections and two novels that collect much of this work, distilled down into those two previously mentioned more recent books. (A list.)
So, let’s start there. If you’re new to Tiptree/Sheldon, HER SMOKE ROSE UP FOREVER is a solid place to begin. The novels, interestingly enough, are mostly regarded as forgettable. This is a writer whose primary mode was short fiction, and whose facility with the medium is hard to debate. All of these are damn good stories, even the ones that are a little “out of date” or are wrestling with the problems of gender and sexuality that were more on the cutting edge in the seventies and strike us as outmoded now.
Read the rest of Mandelo’s fascinating piece at TOR.COM.
For more info about HER SMOKE ROSE UP FOREVER, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by John Picacio.