Out of Everywhere

A James Tiptree Jr. Critique

“And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side” Review

“And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side” © 1971 by James Tiptree, Jr.

First appears in Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home

Also appears in Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

While, for the most part, I really like the titles of Tiptree’s stories, they do get a bit tedious to always type out. (The only title that is possible more tedious to type out is The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, but that is neither here nor there.) Unlike the last story (which I am going to refrain from typing out) I can actually see how the title of the story pertains to the plot, which is about sex drives and aliens and society, and a whole slush of things like that.

Spoilers. So, the story starts off with a news reporter who’s managed to get himself onto a international (inter-planetal?) space station because he wants to get some shots of aliens. He meets a human man there and wants to ask him some questions, but then the man goes off on his own story about how he met his first aliens in a bar, and how humans are inexplicably attracted to the different with a desire to impregnate it, and that humans always go seeking sex from the aliens, even the ones who reproduce in completely different ways from humans. He says it has ruined him because he cannot even look at regular humans anymore, and that since most of the species are not compatible with humans, people will die trying to sleep with them. However, the story ends with the reporter not taking in any of it, and instead rushing off to the crowd he can see heading to dinner that includes aliens.

The writing style was what I found particularly interesting more so than the story itself. It almost reads like a news story, where reporters don’t tend to quote themselves, but will summarize the questions they have. This story did that a bit, since it was mostly a story around a monologue/conversation. The narration, first person, would say something like “One of the early GR casualties, I thought,” (Ten Thousand 2) and the man responds to the though, which shows the narrator clearly said it out loud, just didn’t convey that to the reader. And while the narrator never seems to truncate any of the man’s testimony, whenever he gets a chance to get his narration in, it’s always to poke fun at him or degrade him in some way. So the English major in me likes to go “Ha! Untrustworthy narrator!” As for the title, I feel it applies to the man in the story, not the narrator, which is interesting cause the story and the title are in first person, but the speaker is a different person for each. The title is the man’s realization of the situation humanity is in, which the narrator has not yet realized. The other thing I found noteworthy about this story is the mention of Stars’ Tears, and that’s only cause I’ ma huge nerd. It’s only the briefest of mentions, as it often is when the story is not actually about Stars’ Tears. It is noteworthy because the Stars’ Tears universe, as I like to call it, is Tiptree’s favorite. There are so many “future earth” stories that take place in this universe, and you always know it’s this universe because of the mention of Stars’ Tears. I like it so much because it’s the universe of my favorite story, “We Who Stole the Dream” and of Brightness Falls from the Sky. However, I am going to come back to Stars’ Tears when I talk about those stories.

Overall, 3 out of 5 stars. I liked the story most of all for the Stars’ Tears reference, but it wasn’t bad.

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February 20, 2012 Posted by | Books, Hard Science Fiction, Her Smoke Rose Up forever, Review, Society, Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One down…

So, I finished Byte Beautiful, finally. It was only eight stories, but it just took forever for me to finally get around to reading “I’ll Be Waiting for You When the Swimming Pool is Empty.” It was a bit disappointing that the story wasn’t really that good either. I always want the last stories in collections to be good, but sometimes the order is picked randomly and you can’t always win. I read a Stephen King short story collection last year (Nightmares and Dreamscapes, I believe it was) and he said in the intro that he’d chosen the order of his stories in his last collection by assigning them each a number or royal from a suit of cards in a deck (since he had 13 stories) and then shuffled them and drew them and that was the order. I don’t know how other people do it, and I know it’s not a universal thing. Sometimes the order is picked purposefully and sometimes it’s not. Anyway. Since I finished a book, I thought I’d give an overview. “With Delicate mad Hands” was a great opening, aforementioned super long title was a not so great ending. Overall, I rated the whole book a 3.375 (or 3 ⅜) with the majority being 4 out of 5 stars, which is pretty good. I think my favorite story was “The Man Who Walked Home,” with “Your Faces,  O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light” coming in a close second. The story I obviously liked the least was “The Peacefulness of Vivyan,” with the only 2 star rating. I understand it’s point, I just didn’t like the way it was done. It had one story that you cannot find in any other collection (“Excursion Fare), but the three best stories (including “With Delicate Mad Hands”) can all be found in Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, which is still in print, and you should go buy, cause it’s a great collection. As for Byte Beautiful, it’s better than good, as my rating says, but not a must-have unless you’re a Tiptree fan like me and you want all the books for the sake of having all the books.

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Collecting, Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I’ll Be Waiting for You when the Swimming Pool is Empty” Review

“I’ll Be Waiting for You When the Swimming Pool is Empty” copyright © 1971 by James Tiptree, Jr.

Originally published in Ten-Thousand Light Years from Home

Also published in Byte Beautiful

So, it’s been months since I’ve updated this, mostly because I thought no one was reading it, so it didn’t really give me any motivation to continue. (I also read something like ten books in those months, with the majority of those being YA books, which didn’t really put me in the mood for Hard political science fiction.) But I finally got around to reading the last story is Byte Beautiful, which, after “Excursion Fare” is a little baby of a story. I think I finished it in ten minutes. It’s one of those stories that make me wonder more about how the order of the stories was chosen for the book than the actual story itself. This book begins with “With Delicate Mad Hands,” a very long, mostly feminist, close-to-our-time story, whereas this one does not really have any feminist themes (which is rare for Tiptree) and even seems to mock it at one part, and it is set far, far in the future. It’s story about the future and evolution of society, particularly as it is influenced by an outside, advanced force.

Anyway, spoilers (but in a non River Song coy whisper way, in a literal way). The beginning doesn’t spend a lot of time describing the main character, past that he is “a nice Terran boy” (Byte 166). He comes from an “Earth” that is far advanced and has moved past the point of wars and has more of a free-love vibe. Oh yeah, you can tell this was written in the late 60’s/early 70’s. Anyway, every Terran gets to go off on a little trip of his or her own as a rite of passage kind of thing. So this boy decides to go to a very remote area of space, to a planet that is still agrarian, and warlike. He comes down in the middle of a battle and tries to talk the very vicious warlords into ending the war, which they eventually agree to because they are afraid of his advanced weapon, like the shield around his ship that can vaporize any threats it detects. He then tries to move their civilization towards industrialization and show them the fallacy of their current religious beliefs, which involve sacrificing babies and such. And since he has a much longer life-span than this planet, he is around for a couple of their generations to see the massive changes he makes, especially when he starts his own school (started with the offspring of a massive orgy he has with women sent to kill him, but that’s something else entirely). Eventually, he gets called back home and leaves them something so they can communicate with him, and a while later, they contact him and tell him they’ve fixed up the planet so that it’s all nice and not warlike anymore, and what should they do next. He tells them to build space ships and spread the knowledge around to other planets. Years later, they send a message again that they’ve done that and fixed all the planets they could find and what should they do next, but they get no response. It doesn’t say, but the assumption is that the Terran died.

I… don’t really know what to say about this story. I mean, I can sort of see where it’s going, with going in and changing a society to be like your own, in your own image, as it were. Or perhaps, it’s a bit of a reflection on religion, based on the Christian ideology. God creates the people in his image, and then continues to point them in the direction he wants (the Flood story, Moses, Jesus, etc.). And after all this direction, the people have come to rely on it, so when it suddenly disappears, the people don’t know what to do because they were not allowed to develop society on their own. But I’m just throwing out ideas. I’m not entirely sure what her meaning was with this story. Though I would love to know the thought process that went into the title. I’ve puzzled over that a bit, and I can’t come up with a good answer for how it relates to the story, except that maybe the emptiness of a pool, as a symbol of the end of summer, could be equated to the loss of direction, the end of childhood. But it’s a bit of a stretch.

Overall, 3 out of 5 stars. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either, or at least, I can’t really figure out the point to the story, so it doesn’t mean much to me.

February 15, 2012 Posted by | Books, Byte Beautiful, Death, Hard Science Fiction, Review, Society, Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home, War | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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