Sunday, September 9, 2012

James Tiptree, Jr.; The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon--by Julie Phillips

This is a biography of Alice Sheldon, who wrote science fiction under the name James Tiptree, Junior. It's a fabulous book--I read it before reading any of James Tiptree's work, and I'm currently working my way through Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a "best of" short story collection. So far, I'm not as into the stories as I was into the biography, oddly. But the biography is a well-written book, about a fascinating woman. Sheldon (Tiptree) doesn't even start writing sci-fi until page 209 of this 396 page book. When Alice starts reading sci-fi magazines in the early 1930's, as a teenager, it's because her "uncle" Harry shares them with her when they go to their summer lodge. But "by the late 1930's, tribes of awkward, self-conscious youths--Alice's contemporaries, later Tiptree's editors and friends--were meeting in national science fiction conventions." But Alice wasn't a part of this world of conventions... "If she was going to be unconventional at all, she intended to be charismatic, discerning, and bohemian, not scruffy, opinionated, and weird." I love reading about her friendship with Ursula K. LeGuin. And about her friendship with Joanna Russ, whose work I don't know, but need to check out! I'm not much of a reader of biographies. This book is pretty great, though.

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