Out of Everywhere

A James Tiptree Jr. Critique

I’m a list kind of person

I find it very easy to latch onto something and create an obsession. Most prominently, my obsessions takes the forms of musicals. (My current being the revival of Hair, which funny enough, originally premiered the same year Alice Sheldon started writing as Tiptree. How’s that for irony?) When I first decided to collect Tiptree’s work, I looked at old science fiction bookstores and science fiction conventions. I had only to find anything that wasn’t the collection I had, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. The next book I found was Brightness Falls from the Air, which seems to be one of the easier ones to track down aside from HSRUF. As I slowly accumulated more books, I realized the need to see all of what was out there. So I began my research. It was much more difficult a few years ago. Now, I’ll bet it’s all on Wikipedia. Oh, the advances the internet has made in even a few years’ time. (Just look at Facebook and Twitter!) I had to go between several different sources, including old sci fi websites which hadn’t been updated in years, to find all the books and their contents. I remember a couple of them being particularly tricky, such as Tales of the Quintana Roo. I don’t believe I ever found what was in that book until I bought it and read it.

So now I have not just one list, but several. I have a list of the collections and all the stories they contain. I have an alphabetical list of all the short stories (there are 69, if you’re curious), and I have an excel spreadsheet of which stories are in which collections, and which ones I have read. This makes me seem like such an organized person, but it honestly just helps me keep track of my obsession with greater ease. Anyway, since this blog is about reviewing and collecting the stories, I thought I’d give a brief blurb on what I own. As of right now, I have five collections of short stories, with three on the way in the mail (thank you Amazon!), both novels, and the small collection of poetry. A couple years ago when I went looking for the remaining five books, it was incredibly difficult to even find mention of Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home, and Byte Beautiful was horrendously expensive to buy online. When I went looking last week, I found all five of the remaining unowned ones for less than ten dollars each. How’s that for beautiful? I have read 37 of the 69 short stories. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll reread those stories I’ve read before in order to review them, including the two novels and the poetry. I wonder if this will change my view about them. But then again, it is called a review. Well, we shall see.

P.S. Check out the page with the list of books. I love old sci fi cover art.

P.P.S. On another SF note, I just finished David Brin’s Startide Rising. I highly recommend it. It has space-faring dolphins and a very interesting idea of universal evolution.


February 13, 2011 Posted by | Collecting, History, Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , | Leave a comment


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