Out of Everywhere

A James Tiptree Jr. Critique

I have come upon this place by lost ways


My name is Samantha. Good. Now that that is out of the way, let’s get started. This blog is about James Tiptree Jr., one of my favorite authors. (In case you’re wondering, my other favorite is Faulkner. How’s that for opposite ends of the spectrum?) I assume most of you out there have never heard of Tiptree. (There’s a little bit about her history in the About page). If you ask the average (non scifi-savvy) person about famous science fiction authors, he or she might give you names like Bradbury, Vonnegut, or Huxley. If you ask someone who knows a bit more about the genre, you might get responses such as Anne McCaffrey, Philip K. Dick, or Ursula LeGuin. If you ask someone who was alive in the seventies, and read science fiction, you might find Tiptree. Certainly my generation of science fiction readers has never heard of her or any of her works. Not that it’s entirely their (our) fault. All of her works are out of print. The only thing still in print is a collection published posthumously of eighteen of her “best” short stories. So how did I, someone who was born after she lived and died, find her?

During my senior year of high school, while trying to figure out which colleges to apply to, and what to major in, one of my mother’s friends, who was at the time doing her MFA in Creative Writing, told me about the difficulty of writing science fiction as a respectable genre, especially at a university or college. She told me about Tiptree, and the in-print collection, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. So I bought it, read the brief bio/introduction at the beginning, thought it was bizarre, and read the first few stories. I am not one of those people that has a good memory for my first reaction to a book or story, but I distinctly remember the awe I felt after finishing “The Screwfly solution.” It was unlike anything I’d ever read in the genre, and I’ll tell you more about it when I get around to reviewing it. I finished the collection and knew I had to have more. Unfortunately for me, getting more proved to be difficult. Every time I went to a science fiction bookstore that sold used books, I went to the Ts and crossed my fingers. While I did find one or two of the books that way, the majority came from online. Thank god for the rise in popularity of selling stuff online, especially on Amazon.com.

So here I am, four years later. As I write this, I am in my final semester towards completing my BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. I had collected about half the books of Tiptree’s work, and for over a year, I had completely forgotten about her. This semester I am taking a class about science fiction literature. We read two of Tiptree’s stories, and instantly I was reminded of my desire to collect and read all her work. I had never made a collection of anything before, so I thought I’d finish this one. And since it seems so few people know about her, or about any of her work, I thought I’d write reviews of each story as I read or reread them. So here I am. Ready, steady, go.


February 12, 2011 - Posted by | History, Personal | , , ,

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