April 16, 2016

Review: Letters to Tiptree

Letters to Tiptree Letters to Tiptree by Alexandra Pierce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

James Tiptree Jr., AKA Raccoona Sheldon AKA Alice Sheldon, died nearly thirty years ago. In an unfortunately brief career, she made an indelible mark; not only for her groundbreaking, feminist stories, but because of the fact that she wrote most of them under the male pseudonym of James Tiptree Jr, before being outed as Alice Sheldon after her mother's death. This book celebrates what would have been her 100th birthday, and is filled with poignant essays of current SFF authors writing about what Tiptree/Sheldon meant to them.

The first section, containing the titular "letters," has thirty-eight authors expressing their feelings about Tiptree. Some write to "Tip," some write to Alice, some write to all three or various combinations thereof; but all of them turn out fascinating, complex thoughts about a complex woman. The second section, my favorite, consists of letters between Sheldon and the writers Ursula K. LeGuin and Joanna Russ in the late seventies, before and after her outing, as she tries to explain why she hid her identity (and wonders out loud if she will have any friends left). LeGuin, in particular, comes off as a warm, loving woman and staunch friend, delighted in the revelation that James Tiptree is Alice Sheldon.

The third section consists of introductions to Tiptree's collections, from books published before and after the revelation of her identity; excerpts from academic analyses of feminist science fiction and Tiptree's role therein; and a final essay from the author herself, shot through with wit and humor.

This is a moving tribute to a remarkable woman, who sadly left us far too soon. Her influence on the SF field is still great today, and I'm glad to see a book like this that will carry forth her banner into the future.

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