Tachyon tidbits featuring James Tiptree Jr., Joe R. Lansdale, Jaymee Goh, and Bruce Sterling
The latest reviews and mentions of Tachyon titles and authors from around the web.
James Tiptree Jr., Joe R. Lansdale (photo: Karen Lansdale), Jaymee Goh (Francesca Myman), and Bruce Sterling (THE VERGE)
For VOX, Kay Steiger profiles James Tiptree Jr. as the most prescient science fiction author you aren’t reading.
Dystopias are having a moment. A popular and critically acclaimed adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale is on TV. George Orwell’s 1984 recently became a best-seller again, more than 60 years after it was published. A slew of newer releases, such as Idra Novey’s Those Who Knew, have explored the “messy, continuing aftermath of the MeToo movement,” as Alexandra Alter wrote for the New York Times.
But one writer whose work feels especially relevant isn’t even in the mix: Alice Sheldon.
Sheldon primarily wrote under a male pseudonym — James Tiptree Jr. — in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Today, that work has an eerily contemporary feel. Her short stories depict worlds defined by familiar gender dynamics, shot through with dark themes and, often, wry humor.
At the time, “Tiptree’s” work was received as sharp and innovative, earning Hugo and Nebula awards and drawing a fervent fan base. Admirers included fellow science fiction writers like Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin.
But today, a mere handful of universities list these stories on syllabi of science fiction classics. The last time a publisher put out a collection of Sheldon’s work was 1990 (reissued in the mid-2000s). She has only a few thousand reviews on the popular book website Goodreads — compared to the hundreds of thousands for Le Guin or the more than 1 million for The Handmaid’s Tale alone.
Sheldon has been all but forgotten in this modern dystopia resurgence, even though what she created as James Tiptree might resonate louder now than ever. But the author herself is a fascinating figure and deserves to be recognized today.
Hansi Oppenheimer has started a GO FUND ME for the forthcoming All Hail The Popcorn King, a documentary on Joe R. Lansdale, and the ensuing release party.
From Bubba Ho-Tep to Hap and Leonard and for all of the fans that have followed along throughout Joe R Lansdale’s storied career, All Hail The Popcorn King the documentary is something of a monument.
This is a film that we can all get excited about!
Joe’s unique voice has spanned multiple genres and been adapted for film and TV. He has supported and collaborated with generations of writers, filmmakers and fans. Our film celebrates his contributions to Pop Culture through interviews with his many colleagues, fans and collaborators.
Joe himself has collaborated with our team on this documentary, and he has generously granted us access to invaluable interviews and materials from his private collection. We can’t wait to give The Popcorn King a grand salute with this premiere, but to do that, we need your help.
Our goal through this campaign is to raise $2,000, which will cover the costs of Post Production and booking Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse for a once-in-a-lifetime event that will include Joe’s friends and family.
STRANGE HORIZONS (April 22, 2019) features Jaymee Goh’s essay “Variations on a Name: The -Punks of our Times.”
Steampunk is dead, I am told. “An agent told me I can’t use the word ‘steampunk’ to describe my novel,” a friend told me, “and I asked other editor friends and they said the same thing. You can’t call your book steampunk anymore.”
Steampunk, an aesthetic of accelerated technology in settings inspired by industrial revolutions, has always had a fraught problem with definition. When I first participated in steampunk, I noticed that we almost always had to figure out how to define it so that people could recognise it when described with words, and then we had to define it so people could have flexibility with it. Is it set only in Victorian times? Can it be non-British? If it was American, can it be Native American? I had to listen to people describe it as “Victorian science fiction” because that was their easy short-hand to explain “science fiction inspired by the Victorians” and immediately locked it up to a specific time and place, a specific look and vocabulary, rooted in an imperialist history that directly shaped the white supremacist conditions of today’s world.
In Technological Innovations Science Fiction Predicted with 100 Percent Accuracy on B&N SCI-FI & FANTASY BLOG, Jeff Somers includes the prescient Bruce Sterling.
But to be fair, most of examples of sci-fi prophecy are only kind of accurate. Verne’s vision of going to the moon is remarkable—but he also thought the spaceship would be fired out of a giant gun. Bellamy’s concept of debit cards is amazingly prescient—but he also assumed those cards would draw on a common fund of government-managed money. And all of those Star Trek technologies are close-but-no-cigar. Generally, SF predictions tend to be just that: similar in concept but wildly different in the details.
And then there are the books on this list: the technologies imagined by these five writers are so accurate, you have to wonder if they used a time machine to conduct their research.
Book: Heavy Weather, by Bruce Sterling (1994)
Bruce Sterling’s 1994 novel deserves to be high on to-read lists these days; it’s a great story, and a trailblazer in the cli-fi subgenre. It also contains a few amazingly accurate predictions about the future world of 2031. Although the main thrust of the story revolves around a group of high-tech stormchasers in a world where climate change generates incredibly destructive weather phenomena, in one passage Sterling casually describes cryptocurrencies so accurately, it’s made more than one person speculate only half-jokingly that he might be Satoshi Nakamoto, the unknown person who launched Bitcoin in 2009. As Sterling wrote 15 years earlier, “electronic, private cash, unbacked by any government, untraceable, completely anonymous, global in reach, lightninglike in speed, ubiquitous, fungible, and usually highly volatile” was the way of the future. The only thing he got wrong: it didn’t take until 2031 to hit the market
For more info about HER SMOKE ROSE UP FOREVER, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by John Picacio