REVIEW: James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest review by Fred Kiesche, blogger extraordinaire of The Eternal Golden Braid.]

REVIEW SUMMARY: Hopefully will revitalize the number of Tiptree books in print.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The ups and downs of world traveler, egg farmer, intelligence officer and occasional author Alice B. Sheldon in her multiple identities.

MY REVIEW

PROS: Should prove to skeptics out there that there is more to SF than Star Wars.

CONS: Ignores much of the field and its history, and does not give a sense of where Sheldon fit in.

BOTTOM LINE: Does not live up to the hype.


I was really looking forward to this book. I had read several reviews, and, without fail, they were glowing.So, when the kind folks at SF Signal offered me a chance to do a guest review, I jumped at it. The book arrived, I opened it, and…

What a waste of time.

Sorry folks, this one did not work for me. I’m familiar with Sheldon’s works in science fiction, both under the names James Tiptree, Jr. and Raccoona Sheldon. The facts behind her/his existence have been known for years, and I’ll point you towards this Wikipedia entry if you need to be brought up to speed.

James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon/Raccoona Sheldon would be a fascinating subject. What Charles Platt did in twelve-some-odd pages in the second volume of his collection of interviews was a better job. Concise, but detailed.

Where Platt was concise, Phillips meanders and wanders. For example, the author drops the occasional hint that Sheldon had major problems. There’s a one-line throwaway that she was diagnosed with bipolar late in her life. There are few references when she was a teenager of banging her head against the bathroom wall of her school to relieve headaches. There are several references to addiction to drugs. However, the author fails to concentrate on this and instead spends endless (endless!) pages of spouting pseudo-feminist theories of poor oppressed Allie.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it. The woman came from money. She married money (twice). I know, directly or indirectly, dozens of women from her same era who did a hell of a lot more with a hell of a lot less. She appears, more, just not to have wanted to commit to do anything. She wanted to be a writer. A painter. Went to school, got sidetracked. Got married. Did not want to work out problems, got divorced by indifference. Went to another school. Drifted into the WAC’s. Drifted into a different branch. Got bored, married again. Ran a chicken farm for two years, not realizing it would actually be work (Toms River, NJ, you all). Drifted into the CIA. Drifted out of the CIA. Drifted into graduate school…You get the idea.

Oppressed member of a minority? Or, a person who, due to “class” and mentality/mental problems just couldn’t hack it and hid behind a series of masks (a woman–Alice Sheldon–who pretends to be a man–James Tiptree–who pretends to be a woman–Raccoona Sheldon). Many women worked in the field of science fiction before Sheldon, even more worked in the field during her career and many have followed. What made her special? What made her unique. You won’t find the answers here; I suggest you dig around for her (mostly) out of print works and see what made her tick.

Biographies about (or autobiographies by) writers can be minefields. Think about the subject: You are writing about somebody who spends day after day in a room, starting at a piece of paper or a screen (depending on when we are talking about). The “action” is inside. For a biographical work about an author to succeed, you either have to make the life interesting or really get into the creative process.

Unfortunately, for me, this work did neither. The best that can be hoped from this is that we’ll see a resurgence in works by “Tiptree”. Maybe even Hollywood will dip its toe into her works (much as it has mucked about with the works of Philip K. Dick).

31 thoughts on “REVIEW: James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips”

  1. I must confess that I find this review puzzling. While the biography does adopt a tone of sympathy towards the subject, it wasn’t any more than what was necessary to keep her experiential world in focus. Perhaps if you pointed to some of the objectionable pseudo-feminist theories I would understand more clearly.

  2. Sorry, chief, but considering how much time I spent on the book to begin with, I’m not in the mood to revisit it and cite chapter and verse. There’s this project to read short stories that I need to finish before the folks at SF Signal jump all over me!

    ;-)

    Seriously, look for the Charles Platt profile. Then look at this book. Sometimes brevity is a virtue. Focus is a virtue.

    It seems to me that Alice Sheldon had some serious health (physical and mental) issues. While she did not drink as much as Ting, she did drink. She abused drugs. She did not seem to be able to focus on any one “career”, usually due to (I think) wildly over optimistic expectations (does anybody seriously believe that you’d be able to take six months off from running a chicken farm each year?).

    Concentrating on what is real (physical and mental problems) would have made an interesting read. Throwing in the belief that Sheldon (as one example) had to adopt a pseudonym for reasons that the field was dominated by men…well, I have a harder time swallowing that. By the time “Tiptree” was active, there were quite a few writes who were women and who wrote as women. Take a look at Anne McCaffrey’s publication history in Analog, for example. What about Leigh Brackett? C.L. Moore? Andre Norton?

    Sheldon had problems beyond that of sex. Certainly her class opened a lot of doors for her; the problem was in following up.

    It would have been a better book, if Phillips had dug into the health issues. You may find differently.

    I should also be very clear in stating that I have enjoyed “Tiptree’s” stories, as I have enjoyed by I’ve read by “Raccoona Sheldon”. If this biography raises awareness that there is a serious side to SF, that will be a good thing. If this biography can get those works of fiction back into print, that will be a better thing!

    (To forestall any accusations of being “sexist”, I guess I should poitn out that one of my degrees was in the field of Women Studies. In fact, I was the first person of male persuasion to get such a dgree. During that time I wrote a couple of papers on feminist SF, women in SF, etc. Guess I should have hung on to those papers, maybe I’d have a book in them!!!! :-$ )

  3. Sorry, chief, but considering how much time I spent on the book to begin with, I’m not in the mood to revisit it and cite chapter and verse.

    It’s rather tempting to suggest that if you’d been paying attention to the book, you wouldn’t need to revisit it; you’d have examples in your head already.

    Drifted into graduate school…You get the idea.

    No, not really. I find it hard to imagine characterising someone who had the success in her chosen fields — she got a PhD in psychology. From scratch. In her fifties! — as unable or unwilling to “commit”. I also find it hard to argue that having multiple successful careers is in some way worse than sticking to one.

    Oppressed member of a minority?

    I’m pretty sure Phillips never does anything so absurd as to describe women as a minority.

    (a woman–Alice Sheldon–who pretends to be a man–James Tiptree–who pretends to be a woman–Raccoona Sheldon).

    Er, not to be overly pedantic, but Tiptree didn’t pretend to be Racoona Sheldon. Sheldon pretended to be both Tiptree and Racoona.

    What made her special? What made her unique. You won’t find the answers here

    On the contrary, I think the biography does a good job of describing what made Sheldon’s fiction unique, and the sources and experiences from her early life that she drew on.

    Think about the subject: You are writing about somebody who spends day after day in a room, starting at a piece of paper or a screen (depending on when we are talking about).

    Except that in the case of Alice Sheldon (a) given the amount she did in her life, you quite patently have a lot of actual experience to write about, and (b) given the extent of her correspondence, you have a lot to draw on when it comes to her internal life. And Phillips’ book does both.

    Of all the baffling comments in your review, the assertion that Phillips “does not give a sense of where Sheldon fit in” is perhaps the most baffling: did you not read the last two hundred pages of the book, or did you read them and not notice the interviews with and letters from a majority of the most important writers of the period?

    By the time “Tiptree” was active, there were quite a few writes who were women and who wrote as women. Take a look at Anne McCaffrey’s publication history in Analog, for example. What about Leigh Brackett? C.L. Moore? Andre Norton?

    I do not think “C.L. Moore” (“Moore met Henry Kuttner, also a science fiction writer, in 1936 when he wrote her a fan letter (mistakeningly thinking that ‘C. L. Moore’ was a man)“) and “Andre Norton” (“She legally changed her name to Andre Alice Norton in 1934 to appeal to a predominantly male audience and to increase her marketability“) are good examples of women writing as women. I also do not think that at the time Tiptree was writing there was anything like parity between men and women writers, and that to conclude otherwise you must have ignored massive amounts of textual evidence in support of this point in Phillips’ book — the correspondences with Russ and Le Guin, for starters.

  4. Very interesting discussion – probably have to read the book in question before I can comment on the subject itself. However…

    I also find it hard to argue that having multiple successful careers is in some way worse than sticking to one.

    But where is your Puritanical sense? Seriously, a person who ‘job hops’ from place to thing to thing isn’t always as valued as somebody who works in a field for years. What I find fascinating about this is that if you actually have success in every field your viewed as a Renaissance Man (er, Woman) but if you don’t, you meander without being able to stick to it. Seems unfair.

    Did the book explain why she chose to use two psuedonyms? Did it explore what having a second, female, psuedonym might mean from a mental standpoint?

    I assume the book covered the murder/suicide that marked the end of her life?

  5. I liked the book a lot more than Fred did, but I have to agree with him about Sheldon’s careers — she clearly had some kind of trouble committing. Over and over again, she tried something new (painting, the CIA, chicken farming, SF writing, psychology), but only stuck with it to a point — to the point where intial impetus and native talents would take her without further sustained effort.

    I didn’t expect Julie Phillips to engage in pop psychologizing of her subject; good biographies don’t do that. But she did draw out that pattern of behavior in Sheldon, and it’s very pronounced.

    I wouldn’t characterize them as “multiple successful careers,” either — again, they were moderately successful at the time, but Sheldon always lept away from things when they would start to take too much of her mental energy, and so she never really was “successful” at them. She never did anything with her psychology degree, for example — she did get a PhD, late in life, but then just stuck it on the shelf. Similarly, she quit the CIA rather than turn it into a career.

    I had the feeling that Phillips had theories about Sheldon’s pattern of behavior, and had some stories or anecdotes to back them up, but suppressed those stories because they either reflected badly on people still alive or were too sexual. (The one thing Phillips does come across as too coy about is Sheldon’s sex-life, which Phillips seems to believe — and I agree — was central to a real understanding of her character.)

  6. Scott:

    Did it explore what having a second, female, psuedonym might mean from a mental standpoint?

    I would say so, yes. And the book goes right up to the end of her life.

    but Sheldon always lept away from things when they would start to take too much of her mental energy, and so she never really was “successful” at them.

    Hmm. That’s just not the impression I got. My feeling was that she moved on when she got bored, or emotionally skittish, in terms of her connections with her colleagues. It’s not that she wasn’t willing to put any more effort in, it’s that she felt a particular job had given her as much as she was going to get out of it.

    The reason I reacted so strongly to the idea that she didn’t “commit” was that I felt she always put all her efforts into whatever she was doing at the time she was doing it, and because at the very least I think her military, academic and writerly careers have to be counted as successful by any reasonable metric.

  7. Disclaimer: My review of James Tiptree Jr. just appeared in the November/December issue of the Women’s Review of Books. In the late spring and summer I spent many hours with the book, reading, rereading, making notes, rereading some more, then working through several drafts of my review. I happily look forward to spending more time with the book. That’s one of my tests as a reviewer: How does the book stand up to all that attention? Is it squeezed dry by the time I’m done, or is it still offering new pockets to explore? Do the events it recounts and the interpretations it offers stick in my mind when I’ve been away from the book for three months? Julie Phillips’s biography passed my tests with flying colors.

    At the same time, reading and reviewing are inherently subjective. What one gets out of a book depends in part on what one is willing to put in. Whether it offers plausible answers to one’s questions depends a lot on the questions one asks. As a writer of the female persuasion who was born in 1951, I suspect my questions were different from Mr. Kiesche’s — and possibly closer to the biographer’s. Alice’s “failure to commit” (which has come up in other discussions of the book) doesn’t strike me as a character fault: like many another woman and many another writer/artist, she had to find — create — her own way. She committed when, and for as long as, commitment was called for. She committed to her marriage to Ting Sheldon, even though part of her wanted to bolt. And just how does one earn a Ph.D. in experimental psychology without making some kind of commitment?

    A question Mr. Kiesche might consider: If Alice Sheldon had started submitting stories under her own name, or a female name, would she have been so immediately taken up by the male editors whose encouragement and mentorship was so crucial to the evolution of Tiptree? And if the byline had been female, would the stories have been read as carefully and taken as seriously?

  8. “If Alice Sheldon had started submitting stories under her own name, or a female name, would she have been so immediately taken up by the male editors whose encouragement and mentorship was so crucial to the evolution of Tiptree? And if the byline had been female, would the stories have been read as carefully and taken as seriously?”

    I would suggest that a serious look be taken at the stories published by various female authors, with clearly female names, starting in the 1940’s and going through the time of Sheldon’s death. Where did they appear? What was the critical reaction? How many won awards and when? What “serious” anthologies (e.g., Knight’s Orbit series) did they first appear in?

    Encouragement and mentorship from male editors: Some, like Ellison, would have encouraged her no matter what her name. Look at the names that appeared in “Dangerous Visions”, for example.

    Others, like Campbell, are open to debate. Campbell clearly (if you look at the collection of his letters, or look at Asimov’s autobiography, as an example) mentored a lot of authors. I recall reading (by Heinlein and Asimov) about instances where they would send a story and get back a response from Campbell of significantly longer length than the original story. Looking at Sheldon’s career in Analog, several female names appeared, some on the cover. From that evidence it would appear that Campbell was capable of “mentoring” female names as well as male names.

    Damon Knight, looking at the run of Orbit over the years clearly had no trouble mentoring men or women. We need more like him and more like that anthology!

    “And just how does one earn a Ph.D. in experimental psychology without making some kind of commitment?”

    She earned it, and she pretty much threw it away. The same could be said for her work on the theory of art/vision, or the chicken farm, or the work in intelligence. She threw herself into an activity, it came to possess her, and then she threw it away. Man or woman, anybody who commits as much as she did, who dedicates herself as much as she did, and then tosses it…what a waste.

  9. “In the late spring and summer I spent many hours with the book, reading, rereading, making notes, rereading some more, then working through several drafts of my review.”

    Folks, believe it or not, I pretty much did the same. My copy is looking pretty ragged, with highlighting, post-its, 3×5 cards and more sticking out of it. If you think my review is harsh, you should have seen the earlier versions.

    You can’t get 100% agreement that something is “good” or something is “bad”. Some will admire this biography. Others will not. The same can be said of anything that gets reviewed at this site. All I can say is that I am being honest in my review. You all may agree with me or not, but it’s the truth.

    As for the broader subject at hand, Sheldon/Tiptree/R. Sheldon, this biography has brought attention to a neglected and mostly out-of-print author. If publishers bring her stuff back to print (like has happened with P.K. Dick), then it’ll be a good thing, no matter what I personally think of the biography.

  10. Wow, I’m really disappointed in you guys, SF Signal. I don’t always agree with your opinions in your reviews, but I’ve always found the reviews themselves to be worthwhile assessments of the material covered. This, however, is one of the most idiotic reviews I’ve ever read.

  11. “She appears, more, just not to have wanted to commit to do anything.”

    Erm… read Larry Niven’s autobiographical descrptions of his time in college reading comic books, or Kurt Vonnegut’s various periods of goofing off in both college and the military. Einstein daydreamed. Da Vinci completed only a handful of projects, usually dropping one to start another.

    How is this a legitimate critique of the book? it’s merely a criticism of Alice Sheldon, a criticism that’s absurd: read the above examples.

    Instead, the review should have answered: Does the book cover her life? Does it analyze how her life affected her work? Does it place her in the context of the field?

    Mr. Kiesche says no, but then he apparently wanted Ms. Phillips to discuss drug addiction and mental instability rather than, say, the “pseudo-feminist theories” that might explain how and why a woman would choose/need to hide behind a male persona. If she’d written about drug addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, then that would be of importance; but she wrote about gender issues, so, Mr. Kiesche, don’t ya think maybe, just maybe, that perhaps it should be the meat of the book?

  12. Fred:

    What I don’t understand is how someone who got a degree in Women’s Studies doesn’t think that men and women writers were treated differently in 1967.

  13. I wonder if anybody commenting on my review has read SF Signal’s Review Policies on the front page?

    “I don’t agree with your review. Your review is wrong. What do you think about that, Mr. Smarty Pants?”

    “Hooray for you! You have an opinion. So do I. That’s what my review is – an encapsulation of my opinion about the book and the reading experience it provided. Since an opinion is never right or wrong, saying so is rubbish. It’s OK to have a difference of opinion. Can’t we all just get along?”

    Sounds like a plan!

    I’d also note the text in the Review Policies regarding the star ratings:

    “A two star book is one that is going to appeal to fans of the series or author, but the book has some issues. Note that this book isn’t lame or a waste of time – it just isn’t going to appeal without something else (love of author, fondness for the subject matter, etc.) to help pull you through it. I’ve read several books by Jack Chalker and Fred Saberhagen like this.”

    So, even a two star book has some merit!

    “This, however, is one of the most idiotic reviews I’ve ever read.”

    I will say that has got to be my favorite reaction to my review. Priceless.

  14. “Since an opinion is never right or wrong, saying so is rubbish.”

    Bull. Alice Sheldon’s effect on speculative fiction is precisely because she was a woman writing as a man. It is the backbone, muscle, heart and mind of her writing. Her writing is about gender issues. Ergo, the most critical sections of her life with respect to her work are gender issues. To dismiss feminist analysis as ‘pseduo’ is to absolutely ignore the import of Alice Sheldon and her work. It is idiotic. And to believe that men and women were equal in the ’60s is historical ignorance.

    An uninformed, illiterate, blatantly ignorant opinon is worse than useless. It’s a disservice and disgrace to the science fiction community. You don’t have to like a particular book, but to dismiss a biography of a feminist for discussing feminism and utilizing feminist analysis is idiocy.

  15. “An uninformed, illiterate, blatantly ignorant opinon is worse than useless.”

    Or would that just be an opinion that does not fit neatly into what you feel is right?

    “It’s a disservice and disgrace to the science fiction community.”

    Oh, please. The SF community is built on differing opinions.

  16. I found Fred’s review helpful, simply because there is so much more about the artist formerly known as James R Tiptree Jr that has been left unsaid in the book.

    The obvious has been stated : that she felt it wise , perhaps neccessary, to disguise her sex under the mores of the times. The point is, not everyone else in the same situation felt that way. Why not?

    The impression is left that this book could have been, should have been, about a far more complex and diverse character than portrayed. Many of us know intellectual dilletantes, flitting from cognitive flower to flower yet never settling on an area where their talents are made best use of. Many are ultimately innefectual; others have far too much talent to be confined to merely one career – Paul Linebarger comes to mind.

    The fact that Tiptree’s work has stood the test of time indicates a greater than uusual talent for a mere dilletante: yet her background of priviledge and consistent inability to follow through, her health and social problems should have resulted in a book about someone far more human, and not a feminist cardboard cutout.

    On a personal note, the glass ceiling still exists, though to nowhere near the same degree that it used to. I’ve seen it from both sides. I myself belong to an objectively persecuted minority, yet I won’t let that define me except as part of who I am, and with no effect on my talents (or more often, lack thereof).

    Zoe

  17. Can you muster a counterargument?

    You’ve made two arguments against the book in your (supposed) critique: (1) that she lacked commitment and (2) that feminist analysis should be abandoned. Both arguments have been demolished: (1) lack of commitment does not affect the quality of writing, artistry, or genius; and (2) a decidely feminist author, particularly one whose feminism altered the speculative fiction landscape, must be analyzed in terms of gender issues.

    But if the best you can do is sophomoric statements — and I mean that literally — feel free to indulge in your delusions of competence.

  18. This blog is not about in-depth critique – it is about more simple book reviews.

    Fred didn’t like the biography written by Phillips. He states his reasons for his disappointment. These are entirely reasonable statements of his opinion on the biography. Note it has nothing to do with his feelings on Sheldon or her writing (which, to be honest, we don’t know much about.)

    Fred saw some items missing that he felt should be covered – where he might see those missing elements as evidence of bias, you might feel it was because they were irrelevant. Where Fred felt the biography focused on elements he felt were extraneous, you might see them as critical. Ultimately, it is from these places that healthy debate begins.

    Ad hominem attacks are not debate (they are the bastion of the uncreative, boorish, and small minded, as I’ve stated elsewhere.)

  19. These are entirely reasonable statements of his opinion on the biography.

    Well, yes and no. Fred saying that, for him, Phillips did not “make the life interesting or really get into the creative process” is a statement of opinion, and one I’m prepared to agree to disagree about. On the other hand, the statement that Phillips “spends endless (endless!) pages of spouting pseudeo-feminist theories of poor oppressed Allie” isn’t an opinion, it’s a description of the book that is provably true or false by reference to the text.

    It’s like saying, I don’t know, that some material is repeated between the different Accelerando stories even in the novel version. Whether that repetition harms the novel or not (I think it does, but only a bit) is a judgement call; whether that repetition exists at all is something that can be confirmed with reference to specific pages and by quoting from the text.

    Even accepting that “endless” is clearly hyperbole, Fred’s statement is factually wrong on at least one count — there’s nothing “pseudo-feminist” about the biography, it is a thoroughly feminist text. But I think the implication that Phillips focuses exclusively on feminist analysis, or even disproportionately on feminist analysis, is also wrong.

    I could pick much of the rest of the review apart in the same way, but the point is that a review should be trustable. Fred’s reviews are no longer trustable — I can’t even calibrate my taste against his and say, “oh, Fred didn’t like it, there’s a good chance I will”, I simply can’t trust him to give an accurate account of a book. The comments haven’t helped: if you’re putting a review up online and inviting comments, it’s at best disingenuous to refuse to defend your opinions when challenged.

  20. It’s like saying, I don’t know, that some material is repeated between the different Accelerando stories even in the novel version.

    While true, since this is a biography, I think it’s more akin to saying Edwin Williamson’s biography of Borges focuses too much on literature, on Dennis Brian’s biography of Einstein has too much science in it. Divorcing (or wishing to divorce) the subject from her or his contributions and effects on whatever field she or he worked in is absurd.

  21. Zoe, I’m not sure from your post whether you’ve read the book or not, but if you haven’t, I hope you — and anyone else who has any interest in Sheldon/Tiptree — will. Seriously. It does a great job of laying out Sheldon’s life, its historical context, and its connection to the stories. It portrays a very “complex and diverse character,” and without attempting to wrap her up in a neat little package.

    My problem with Mr. Kiesche’s review isn’t that I disagree with it; it’s that the review tells me more about his expectations than it does about the book. And yes, as a reviewer I know it can be less than satisfying to praise a book that so many others have praised. Nevertheless, I’ve read quite a few reviews since I turned mine in. What’s striking about them is how very good most of them are, and how different from each other. I think Sheldon’s courage inspired Phillips, and Phillips’s is inspiring a lot of reviewers and readers to listen more carefully and probe more deeply than is comfortable for many of us.

  22. P.S.

    Fred Kiesche wrote:

    She earned [the Ph.D in experimental psychology], and she pretty much threw it away. The same could be said for her work on the theory of art/vision, or the chicken farm, or the work in intelligence. She threw herself into an activity, it came to possess her, and then she threw it away. Man or woman, anybody who commits as much as she did, who dedicates herself as much as she did, and then tosses it…what a waste.

    It’s only a waste if one believes that the work of James Tiptree Jr. was a waste.

  23. I think the main problem with the review is not that it is negative. I haven’t read the book and couldn’t comment on its merits one way or the other. The main problem with the review is that it makes all kinds of conclusions without doing the hard, honest work, using examples from the book, and perhaps from the Platt piece, to back up those conclusions In short, it’s shoddy writing made worse by baseline assumptions that may also be erroneous.

    JeffV

  24. To go back to your original review for a sec: I can see how the class question might have rubbed you the wrong way. It’s true that Alice blew a lot of opportunities, particularly her education; and that annoyed me about her sometimes too. But I also felt that she wasn’t just spoiled (although she was that); she expected so much of herself that she saw anything she actually did as second-rate. I could identify with that, so I had some sympathy for it, but I can see how you might not.

    It sounds like her story would have made better sense to you if she had actually been mentally ill. But I think that between actual illness and willfull throwing away of chances there’s a big middle ground in which she was simply too unhappy or scared to do what was right in front of her nose. Besides, I tend to think that in all of her different careers, she was circling what she really wanted to do: paint, write, tell stories about herself, and particularly talk about her sexuality (and don’t underestimate how utterly, utterly taboo that was). Every time she quit a career, it was because she wanted to write; but every time she came too close to painting or writing the truth about herself, she fled.

    So there wasn’t just one factor that kept her from concentrating on her work; it was a whole complex of factors, none of which might have been sufficient on its own. If the biography seems vague to you, it might be that you were looking for just one answer, when I would argue that there are several.

    Does that make sense?

  25. James Tiptree, Jr., did not impress me; I know I’ve read a couple stories by her, because of the all the breathless praise I heard about how wonderful it was that she was managing to sell her work, but I don’t remember the stories.

    Why should she have felt any need to hide her sex? Everybody knew — had known for years — that Andre Norton was female; the biographical notes on the book flaps had been using the feminine pronoun since before 1960 (personal observation). C.L. Moore was known to be female, too, at least by the editors. As was E.M. Hull. And Judith Merril and Kate Wilhelm never used initials, publishing under their actual names. Then came Anne McCaffrey, who had several cover stories in ASF. But there are still females who are convinced that no editor or publisher or even agent will so much as look at any manuscript that has a girl’s name on it! And never did — especially that chauvinist Campbell. Phphphtttt!

    BTW, I am female, and this victimhood — “They won’t buy my manuscript because I’m a girl” — is ridiculous. “They” generally buy whatever they think they talk others into buying; either that poor girl author isn’t managing to sell her work to the publisher, or she’s in denial about the value of her work.

    Pogo

  26. Pogo– The book, if you read it, actually does a brilliant job of explaining why Sheldon felt the need to create the Tiptree persona. It’s not anywhere near as simple as “women couldn’t get published”. It’s a complicated story that’s as much about her own issues as it is about society’s, and that’s not only clear in the book, it’s told in a really engaging way.

  27. I point you all to the following, which may be of some interest to the commentators here:

    http://www.sho.com/site/mastersofhorror/movie.do?content=screwfly_solution

    http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/classics/classics_archive/sheldon/sheldon1.html

    http://www.tachyonpublications.com/zblog/2006/12/screwfly-solution-on-showtime.html

    The start of a Hollywood revival of Sheldon’s published works? When is the published revival going to start? Hopefully Tor/Orb has got an anthology in the works or perhaps NESFA. Their books are built to last.

  28. Just as a point of interest:

    Don’t think the use of the Tiptree pseudonym was a considered, calculated thing. The whole sf career was done pretty much on the fly. She’d written a few stories and decided to send them out to the magazines. She figured they’d be rejected, and she thought that a male writer sending a second story in to the same magazine wouldn’t be remembered as someone already rejected, while a woman would be more noticeable and elicit a “her again?” reaction. Plus there was the fun of pretending to be a man. The whole thing was a lark, something she didn’t expect anyone to take seriously. As Julie Phillips demonstrates in the biography, when other people did take “Tiptree” seriously, then, belatedly, she had to as well.

    Here are some pertinent lines by Alice Sheldon from the Tiptree collection “Meet Me at Infinity”:

    “The first SF stories were naturally not expected to sell, so a pseudonym was selected at random (from a jam pot). The plan was to use a new name for each batch of stories, so as to avoid permanent identification with the slush pile. But ‘Tiptree’ sold, and thus became permanent.”

  29. Oh Fred – I just realized this review would have been a whole lot more interesting if you had published it under a psuedonym – perhaps as Kathy Ulberman or Betty C. Turing, something like that.

    :D

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