Tag Archives: james tiptree jr

In the Chinks of the World Machine

Look, any book whose title is taken from a Tiptree story – and “The Women Men Don’t See” no less – is likely to be very appealing to me. And ta dah! It was.

Unknown.jpegThis delightful feminist, academic, personal, humorous, thoughtful, and passionate examination of women in science fiction and women writing science fiction came out in 1988. So yes, it’s dated – of course it has. There have been lots more stories written in the last (oh heck) nearly thirty years that have a variety of female characters, and of course more female authors challenging and playing with science fiction ideas. But I think that the categories that Lefanu considers – Amazons, utopias and dystopias, women in love, and so on – these categories often still apply to the ways that women appear, or are thought that they should appear, as characters. So I certainly found these chapters resonant and not only from a historical perspective.

The second half of the book was the bit that I really loved, though. James Tiptree Jr, Ursula Le Guin, Suzy McKee Charnas and Joanna Russ: what a magnificent set of women, and a magnificent set of stories between them. Lefanu examines a set of the novels and short stories of each of the women (in Russ’ case, almost all her science fiction) and dissects the ways in which they present women. She’s not always flattering – she has some issues with Le Guin’s early female characters, which I don’t entirely agree with – but she is always interesting and insightful.

One of the things I really appreciated and enjoyed about this book is that while Lefanu is absolutely writing an academic piece and interrogating issues of feminism and how science fiction fails or encourages women, there are also personal moments that didn’t feel at all out of place. I really, really like this idea that the writer actually exists and has an opinion – that the book isn’t pretending to be a disembodied, clinical examination but acknowledges the very real body behind the … well, typewriter probably.

If you’re interested in feminist science fiction, in women in science fiction (in all senses), or have a somewhat historical literary bent, this is a really great book. It’s very approachable and even if you haven’t read the stories Lefanu examines (I’ve only read one of the Charnas books), she explains them enough that her analysis makes sense… and I still want to read the books.

Galactic Suburbia 153

In which letters are written to Octavia Butler. Get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

What’s New on the Internet?

British Fantasy Awards: Letters to Tiptree won one!

No Award on Conflux & Asian Flavours in SFF fandom.

Octavia project: Octavia Estelle Butler was born on 22 June, 1947, and died in 2006. In celebration of what would have been her 70th birthday in 2017, and in recognition of Butler’s enormous influence on speculative fiction, and African-American literature more generally, Twelfth Planet Press is publishing a selection of letters and essays written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans.
We are looking for letters addressed to Butler, which should be between 1000 and 1500 words. We are paying 5cpw up to $USD75 for letters, to be paid on publication. We are looking for World First Publication Rights in English, and exclusivity for the first twelve months of publication.

Submissions: octaviaproject@twelfthplanetpress.com

More Butler stuff: Radio Imagination

Tansy’s new releases: Bounty (the final Fablecroft book) & Unmagical Boy Story


Alisa: Jamberry & business training.

Alex: Once Upon A Time season 2; the Patternmaster series, Octavia Butler; The Starry Rift, James Tiptree Jr; Goldenhand, Garth Nix.

Tansy: The Life & Times of Angel Evans, by Meredith Debonnaire; DC Superhero Girls: Hero of the Year; Revolutionary Art: Writing For Social Justice webinar series; Hex – How to Be a Fan on iView; Labyrinth Board Game Facebook page; Dracula’s Feast on Kickstarter.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

The Starry Rift

My copy claims that Sheldon died shortly after completion of this book. WOE.

Unknown.jpegConfusingly, the quote on the front of my copy calls this a science fiction novel, which confused me immensely since I thought Tiptree only wrote two, and I have read them both. Anyway, it became a bit clearer as I read: this is three short stories linked together by the idea of two students asking a librarian at the Great Central Library of Deneb University, for help in their research on humans. So you could tenuously see this as one, 1001 Arabian Nights-style narrative, but I think that’s stretching it a bit..

Anyway, the three stories do all centre on humans; in the first and third, it’s humans in conflict with aliens – new aliens – and in the second it’s human on human violence. They are, despite the conflict, surprisingly positive stories about humans overcoming difficulties. All of the stories take place in or around a place called the Rift: an area of space that is relatively empty of stars, and therefore planets – which, pre-FTL, makes it hard to navigate through (something about needing landmarks, I think).

The first story is definitely my devastating favourite. “The Only Neat Thing To Do” got a number of accolades when it was published, and they are well deserved. Coati Cass is 16, space-mad, and has just been given “a sturdy little space-coupe” for her birthday. So off she goes exploring… and of course, runs into something unexpected. The nobility that Tiptree imagines for Coati, and the realism of her voice, are both just wonderful.

“Good night, Sweethearts” is an interesting story of identity, celebrity, loss and starting over. It’s a good story but it doesn’t really stand out for me.

Lastly, and longest, is “Collision”. This story is told both by humans and by the aliens with whom they are coming into contact; the conceit is that this story has been constructed through interviews with participants. There’s a human exploration team, and there’s bad humans called Black Worlders who have been doing some nasty things, and there are aliens who are getting angry at humans… The blurb says that “explorers cross impassable chasms of language, biology and hallucination to prevent a new age of war,” which about sums it up. Like I said before: surprisingly positive.

Overall this may not be quite the strongest of Tiptree’s work, but it’s still damn fine and should be read for “The Only Neat Thing To Do” anyway.

Bonus note: referencing your own work (Brightness Falls from the Air) to make sure it’s clear these stories are in the same world. Good work, Tip!

Galactic Suburbia 136

355514-molly-meldrumIn which Alex and Tansy leap back into 2016 to talk Awards (it’s that season again!), comics, novellas, mysterious London novels and epic feminist canon.

Also, Molly Meldrum.

We’re on iTunes and over at Galactic Suburbia.
Locus Recommended Reading List.
BSFA Awards shortlist

Letters to Tiptree 99 cents! Bestseller on Amazon!

Tansy’s new podcast plug! Sheep Might Fly & Fake Geek Girl

Kickstarter for Ursula Le Guin documentary.

Nominating for Hugos (til end of March) don’t forget.

And Part 1 of the University of Oregon’s Tiptree Symposium, with Julie Phillips (Alex says: sorry not sorry, Tansy)


Tansy: Hellcat by Kate Leth & Brittney Williams, Archie by Mark Waid & Fiona Staples, The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar, The Beatriceid by Kate Elliott, “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor, “The Heart is Eaten Last” by Kameron Hurley (note: Kameron says any new Patreon subscriber automatically gets access to all the stories she has posted so far including this one – bargain at as little as $1 a month!)

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susannah Clarke; Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman; The Just City, Jo Walton; Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas. MOLLY.

Skype number: 03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 134

In which we throw our remit out the window to talk about a year’s worth of non-SFF!

What’s New on the Internet

This year, the Tiptree Motherboard established the Tiptree Fellowship Program to seek out and support creators who are striving to complete new works and make their voices heard. By adding Fellows each year, this program will create a network of creators who can build connections, support each other, and find opportunities for collaboration.

First Tiptree Fellows: Walidah Imarisha and Elizabeth LaPensée.

You can donate to encourage these and other new creators – donate through PayPal — or you can mail a check to 680 66th Street, Oakland, CA 94609.

Kate Elliott on Fangirl Happy Hour

What Non-SFFH Culture Have we Consumed over the YEAR?

Alisa: The West Wing rewatch, Transparent S1 and 2, Billy and Billie S1, The Good Wife
Tansy: Leverage, Glee, Grace & Frankie, Please Like Me Season 3, Master of None
Alex: Spooks rewatch; Veronica Mars
Alisa: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (non-spoilery discussion mostly of seating, context and spoiler-avoiding)
Tansy: Musketeers! Footloose, A League of Their Own
Alex: Suffragette; Sound City
Alisa: Self publishing webinars (Mark Dawson, Nick Stephenson); Undisclosed, The SweetGeorgia Show
Tansy: The Tuesday Club
Alex: Radio Lab; new ones: Gastropod and Chat 10, Looks 3; Waleed Aly on Osher Günsberg Podcast
Tansy: Check, Please; Dumbing of Age
Tansy: A Few Right-Thinking Men, Sulari Gentill; The Suffragette Scandal, Courtney Milan; Castles Ever After: When A Scot Ties the Knot, by Tessa Dare
Alex: Andy Goldsworthy, Enclosure; Roger Crowley, Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire; Jan Morris, The World: Life and Travel 1950-2000

Skype number: 03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 130

Party Down 2009 Key artIn Which We Have High Expectations Of What Lies Beyond Equality, but in the meantime there’s Party Down. Get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

We apologise for the sound quality of this episode, which had a few glitches that even the Silent Producer could not magic away, notably Alisa’s emergency phone call which the mike occasionally picks up. (Everything’s fine now.)

What’s New on the Internet

7 Jewish Authors Get Personal About Anti-Semitism (Alisa finds 7 new authors to read)

SF Editors Picks – Recommendations on great new SF/F/H stories by top editors.
Twitter @SFEditorsPicks
Facebook SFEditorsPicks

Mind Meld w/ Tansy & Tehani – Books That Made Me Love SFF

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Scandal S1 and S2; Party Down S1 and S2; Coode St Podcast Ep 251: Kristine Kathryn Rusch and women in SF; The Serial Dynasty podcast

Tansy: House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard; Alias by Brian Michael Bendis (Tor.com reread leading up to the show on Nov 20), SHIELD 50th Anniversary comics – Mockingbird [woo since we recorded this they announced it was going to series with the same writer!], [Don’t call her] The Cavalry, Agent Carter, Fury, Quake

Alex: Aurora: Beyond Equality; Up the Walls of the World, James Tiptree Jr; Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, Samuel Delany

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Up the Walls of the World

This book is absolutely bonkers. Mad. And completely wonderful.

This was Tiptree’s first novel, but naturally enough many of the concerns and interests of his short stories are present here as well. I am so sad that he did not write more novels; this made me so happy, as did Brightness Falls from the Air, that I do wonder what else could have come from that amazing brain.

Let’s start by talking about the authorial situation and get that out of the way. This was published in 1978. Tiptree had been revealed as Alice Sheldon at the end of 1976.  I was surprised therefore to discover that the brief bio in the end flap (oh hard backs I really do love you)  makes no mention of him being her, although it does acknowledge Tiptree as a pseudonym. But I guess that pre internet, how are people going to know about the identity? Via Locus maybe, and fanzines, and word of mouth. Tiptree was not such a big deal that the New York Times was going to run an expose. Presumably therefor with this publication your more casual, less crazy SF fans aren’t going to know who Tiptree ‘really’ is – and Tiptree is enough of a name (… and male…?) to make it worth keeping the pseudonym. But THEN I turned to the back and the back cover image is Sheldon! Now I’ve seen the pic before and it’s quite obvious to me who this is; but others have suggested that this could, actually, be an ambiguously gendered person. I’m not entirely convinced. But anyway, there’s that.

Now, to plot. I’m going to be entirely spoilery because I really want to think about what Tiptree is doing here.

Continue reading →

Aurora: Beyond Equality

I felt like a traitor giving this book only three stars on Goodreads. But it has to be said that I don’t feel the anthology lived up to what it was setting out to do.Does that make me a heretic? Possibly.

In the introduction, Susan Janice Anderson discusses how hard a lot of people said they found the topic. That they had to invent an entirely new society in order to talk about men and women being actually equal (to which in my head I say, duh; you’re writing SF aren’t you? Maybe that’s a bit harsh). It was very interesting reading about what they wanted to avoid (female monsters), and how hard it was to find models of what they did want. The Dispossessed and “When it changed” were of course mentioned.

The stories:

Continue reading →

Galactic Suburbia: Tiptree Month!

It’s Tiptreemonth! Our second Tiptree Spoilerific looks at several of James Tiptree Jr and Raccoona Sheldon’s most iconic and important short stories from the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Houston, Houston, Do you Read?
Your Faces, O my Sisters! Your Faces filled of Light!
And I Awoke Me Here on the Cold Hillside
The Girl Who Was Plugged In
Love is the Plan the Plan is Death
The Screwfly Solution
The Women Men Don’t See

You can Skype us to leave a short feedback message about Tiptree or any of our other episodes, to be included in a future show.

03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Letters to Tiptree

TiptreeIt 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)

Brit Mandelo

Nicola Griffith