Basically if you’re interested in Joanna Russ’ work, or you’re interested in the way fiction, in particular, can be involved in radical truth-telling, you need to get this book. It’s from Aqueduct Press.
I am a big Joanna Russ fan, so I’m intrigued by everything that does any work deconstructing her work. Mandelo takes as her project the idea that Russ’ entire oeuvre is concerned with radical truth-telling – that art should bring not only pleasure but truth, and not only deconstruct myth but also present new realities. She goes through all of Russ’ science fiction novels, pointing out the truths that are present there and how Russ uses that fiction to suggest new ways of being. I especially liked how Mandelo presented her own journey to understand And Chaos Died – which I haven’t read – and how context can radically change how we understand an author’s intent. I also really, really appreciated how Mandelo addressed the very tricky subject of Russ’ transphobia in The Female Man, and stresses that being able to adjust our understanding of truth should be part of the truth-telling process. And the fact that Russ did, indeed, change her perspective (on trans women and other issues) makes me respect her the more, and gives me something to aim for.
Mandelo also addresses some of Russ’ non-fiction, particularly How to Suppress Women’s Writing and To Write Like a Woman, where the truth-telling is perhaps more obvious in some ways. Overall Mandelo presents Russ’ body of work as a series of writings deeply concerned with the multiple ways in which truth can be told or distorted and what we as a society must do about that. It kinda makes me a bit uncomfortable when I know that I do often go for escapist literature… and I’m not sure how much Russ would approve of that… but perhaps if I can do it with my eyes open she wouldn’t despair too much?
It is Tiptree month, because yesterday Alice Sheldon would have turned 100. I am completely ensnared in All Things Sheldon/Tiptree at the moment because of Letters to Tiptree, which was launched yesterday for Sheldon’s birthday and which has been consuming much of my time over the last few months. I’m immensely proud of this book and still incredibly honoured that Alisa asked me to co-edit it with her.
A few people have written articles about Sheldon and Tiptree, so here – have some links:
Leah Schnelbach on What James Tiptree can teach us about the power of the SF Community
Brit Mandelo on Where To Start with the Works of James Tiptree, Jr
Tansy Rayner Roberts on Raccoona Sheldon’s “The Screwfly Solution”
Galactic Suburbia on the amazing biography written by Julie Phillips a few years ago
Alisa talked about Tiptree and other things over on the Three Hoarsemen podcast
Not sure you’re interested in reading a whole bunch of letters to Sheldon/Tiptree? Here are some examples:
Gwyneth Jones (includes one of the greatest lines ever)