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Tiptree burst onto the science fiction scene in the 1970s with hard-edged, provocative short stories. Then the cover was blown: the author was actually a 61-year-old woman named Alice Sheldon--world traveler, debutante, chicken farmer, CIA agent, and experimental psychologist.Edition/Copyright: 07
Julie Phillipsis a journalist who has written on film, books, feminism, and cultural politics.James Tiptree, Jr.is her first book. She lives in Amsterdam, Holland.
Introduction: Who Is Tiptree, What Is He? No one [...] has, to my knowledge, ever met Tiptree, ever seen him, ever talked with him on the phone. No one knows where he lives, what he looks like, what he does for a living. [...] He volunteers no information about his personal life, and politely refuses to answer questions about it. [...] Most SF people [...] are wild to know who Tiptree ''really'' is. ---Gardner Dozois, 1976 In 1921 in the Belgian Congo, a six-year-old girl from Chicago with a pith helmet on her blond curls walks at the head of a line of heavily laden native porters. Her mother walks next to her, holding a rifle and her daughter's hand. In 1929, the girl huddles under quilts in a cabin in the Great North Woods, readingWeird Tales. The candle by her bed flickers as an alien gently removes a young human's brassiere. On Christmas Eve 1934, a nineteen-year-old in a white beaded evening gown makes her debut. At the party she meets a handsome, dark-haired boy in a tie and tails. She makes a joke; he laughs, and makes another. Five days later they elope and marry. In 1942, a divorcee wearing three-inch heels and a fox fur jacket goes down to a Chicago recruiting station and enlists in the army. Sometime in the near future, a woman and a man meet an extraterrestrial exploring party. The man tries to protect the woman. The woman says she doesn't believe in women's chances on Earth, and asks the aliens to take her away. In 1970, a man who does not exist sits down at a typewriter. He writes, ''At last I have what every child wants, a real secret life. Not an official secret, not a Q-clearance polygraph-enforced bite-the-capsule-when-they-get-you secret, nobody else's damn secret but MINE.'' James Tiptree, Jr., appeared on the science fiction scene in the late 1960s, writing fast-paced, action-filled stories about rocket ships, alien sex, and intergalactic bureaucratic anxiety. He was a brilliant and original talent, with a voice like no one else's: knowing, intense, utterly convinced of its authority and the urgency of its message. No one had ever seen or spoken to the owner of this voice. He wrote letters, warm, frank, funny letters, to other writers, editors, and science fiction fans. His correspondence was intimate and revealing, yet even his closest friends knew little more about ''Tip'' than his address: a post office box in McLean, Virginia. He was rumored to be a government official or secret agent. He did seem to know a lot about spooks around the water cooler: his characters worked in ''an unimportant bit of C.I.A.'' or remarked, ''Paranoia hasn't been useful in my business for years, but the habit is hard to break.'' He had opinions about fishing, duck hunting, and politics. He was courtly and flirtatious with women. When one of his friends, the writer Robert Silverberg, sent him a letter on his wife's stationary, Tip answered that he had ''shaved and applied lotion'' before reading on. Silverberg pictured Tip as ''a man of 50 or 55, I guess, possibly unmarried, fond of outdoor life, restless in his everyday existence, a man who has seen much of the world and understands it well.'' Men looked up to him. His women friends fell in love. The stories that came out of PO Box 315 became more and more brilliant and disturbing. It wasn't the sex, and it wasn't the death, but it was the combination of the two. His stories read like urgent messages from some haunted house on the corner of Eros and Mortality. Humans meet aliens---and abandon their very souls for a chance to sleep with them. A man in love with the Earth kills off the human race, including himself, to save her. A mission to th
James Tiptree, Jr. burst onto the science fiction scene in the 1970s with a series of hardedged, provocative short stories. Hailed as a brilliant masculine writer with a deep sympathy for his famale character, he penned such classics as ''Houston, Houston, Do You Read?''and ''The Women Men Don't See. ''For years he corresponded with Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Ursula Le Guin. No one knew his true identity. Then the cover was blown on his alter ego: A sixty-one-year old woman named Alice Sheldon. As a child, she explored Africa with her mother. Later, made into a debutante, she eloped with one of the guests at the party. She was an artist, a chicken farmer, aWorld War II intelligence officer, a CIA agent, an experimental psychologist. Devoted to her second husband, she struggled with her feelings for women. In 1987, her suicide shocked friends and fans. The James Tiptree, Jr.Award was created to honor science fiction or fantasy that explores our understanding of gender. This fascinating biography, ten years in the making, is based on extensive research, exclusive interviews, and full access to Alice Sheldon's papers
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