“Who is Tiptree, What Is He?” asked the introduction to the 1975 anthology, Warm Worlds And Otherwise. It’s one of the most infamous introductions in the history of literature, because the author that wrote it made this now-awkward statement:
It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing.
I wonder if Robert Silverberg’s still eating his words.
James Tiptree Jr. was the pen name of Alice B. Sheldon, who published her first sci-fi story in 1968. She took the surname, “Tiptree” from a brand of marmalade and her husband suggested the title, “Jr.”. She chose a male name because:
A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.
She kept up this ruse until 1976, when fans discovered that “he” was in reality a “she” and that’s when, according to Pamela Sargent: ” a lot of people had to reexamine their assumptions about the differences men and women writers.”
Four years after her death in 1987, fellow SF writers Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler, initiated the James Tiptree Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for works of science fiction and fantasy that explore the concept of gender.
But I’m not going to talk about that. Today, I’m going to talk about three stories from the aforementioned anthology that stood out to me. They are:
“The Girl Who Was Plugged In”: In this 1974 Hugo Award winning novella, a sickly girl named P. Burke is used by a corporation for product placement. Through electronic implants she “controls” an artificially grown beautiful girl named Delphi and becomes an international celebrity. But then everything unravels when she falls in love…
“The Night-Blooming Saurian”: A scientist promises a big game hunter that his team can go back and time and bring him back a dinosaur to hunt…
“Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death”: Poor Moggadeet! Because of instinct, his species go through a bug-eat-bug cycle (literally) every winter’s eve. He so desperately wants to break that cycle but nature is stronger than love… A 1973 Nebula Award winning short story.
If you want to learn more about Alice Sheldon, see the book, James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips