Reading Journal Entry: The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1

I've always been a big fan of James Tiptree Jr., since reading 'The Women Men Don't See' and 'Your Faces, Oh My Sister, Your Faces Filled With Light!' as a pre-teen. Later I discovered the story behind the name, and she's enchanted me ever since.

Doesn't she just look like someone worth knowing?

Her real name was Alice Sheldon. She masqueraded as a man to the SF community for many years, after initially choosing a pseudonym out of concern for her academic career. Robert Silverberg wrote a famous introduction claiming that the rumours about ehr sex couldn't possibly be true, Tiptree was a distinctly 'masculine' author. A couple of years later the truth came out and, from what I've heard, everyone took it with a modicum of good humour.

Her death was shocking; in 1987 she took the life of her invalid husband and then her own.

Her work has been most praised for its exploration of gender roles, and in 1991 the James Tiptree Jr. Award was created to “reward those women and men who are bold enough to contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles, a fundamental aspect of any society” (from the introduction).

This is the first anthology created by the award team. It includes some of the winning stories and several essays about the history of the award, about Tiptree, about the field in general. The quality is uneven; there are some gems that are worth reading.

The opening story, 'Birth Days' by Geoff Ryman, is very good. Alice Sheldon's letter to her editor about her pseudnym is priceless. The essays are sometimes pedantic and unnecessary (LeGuin's diatribe on genre – so 1996) and sometimes overwritten and unnecessary ('Judging the Tiptree'). But 'Looking Through Lace' by Ruth Nestvold is very good as well.

The anthology concludes with an odd triplet, first Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale 'The Snow Queen' and then two modern reinterpretations. I found the first modern story overly didactic (she doesn't marry him and live happily ever after! Cause she doesn't need him! Cause of feminism! Get it?!) but 'Travels with the Snow Queen', by Kelly Link, was at least funny.

As a whole: almost worthy of the women whose fake name is on the cover.


Fiona said...

Kelly Link is one of my favorite short story writers - definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed the snow queen story.

Maxine said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, thank you.
Is the Karen Joy Fowler on the minipic of the book on your site the same KJF who wrote "The Jane Austen Book Club"?
If you've read that, what did you think of it?

mapletree7 said...

Amazon thinks they're the same person.

I haven't read it, but it sounds

To the Bat-Library!

jds1339 said...

Definitely the same Karen Joy Fowler. She was one of the co-founders of the award.

mapletree7 said...

And the JABC is now on my bookshelf, waiting its turn.