So maybe you’ve heard about this James Tiptree, Jr fellow but apart from the fact that ‘he’ is actually a ‘she’, the only thing you know about her is that there’s an award in her honour. Certainly an excellent reason to dive in to Tiptree’s oeuvre, but where to start?
In the best example yet of why we choose the titles we do for the SF Masterworks series, the best place to start with James Tiptree, Jr is the collection widely regarded to be her finest (and one of the finest in all SF) is Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.
For a decade, Alice Sheldon produced an extraordinary body of work under the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr, until her identity was exposed in 1977. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever presents the finest of these stories and contains the Nebula Award-winning ‘Love is the Plan the Plan is Death’; Hugo Award-winning novella ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’; ‘Houston, Houston, Do You Read’? – winner of both the Hugo and Nebula – and of course the story for which she is best known: ‘The Women Men Don’t See’.
This is a true masterwork – an overview of one of SF’s true greats at the very height of her powers.
Tiptree’s reputation rests largely on her short fiction. In fact, she only published two novels, but it’s these we’ve chosen as her Essentials, to be enjoyed after experiencing the wonders of her short stories:
As is customary, we end by pointing out that . . .
. . . and in this case, we really recommend that you do read about her. It’s a fascinating story – from her childhood as a ‘character’ in one of her mother’s books, to her time at the Pentagon and in the CIA, to the controversy over whether ‘James Tiptree, Jr’ could possibly be a woman (categorically not, stated one very famous SF writer) and the effect Sheldon’s ‘unmasking would have on her writing, to her tragic death. In many ways, Alice Sheldon’s life was as remarkable as her work.