Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
Letters to Tiptree Paperback – August 24, 2015
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This book centers around a collection of—quite literally—love letters from current SFF writers addressed to Sheldon/Tiptree in various sets of her identities, and explaining what her existence, her work, her reception, and her struggles meant to them personally. The next, shorter section includes several sets of correspondence between Sheldon/Tiptree and some of her closest correspondents at the time the identity behind her nom de plume became public. That is, these are the letters where Sheldon identifies herself as Tiptree to Ursula K. LeGuin and Joanna Russ, sharing her fears that the revelation will destroy their friendships, and then the return letters from those writers, embracing and supporting her, and their continued correspondence in the aftermath. And finally there is a collection of introductions from collections and editions of Sheldon/Tiptree’s work after that time, discussing the literary and gender politics that Sheldon/Tiptree’s existence and reception revealed, at a time when data from that sort of controlled social experiment could have the greatest impact on the field. Also included are more recent academic papers looking back on her legacy.
This is not quite a work of literary scholarship, neither is it a work of biography. It is, as I say, pure love letter. As such, it supplies an essential completion to an understanding of Sheldon/Tiptree’s place in the field and her impact on readers and writers that goes beyond the sheer excellence and brilliance of her writing.
I didn’t have the experience of the dual-vision of Sheldon/Tiptree that is recorded in the latter parts of the collection (and some letters in the first part). The exposure of her identity occurred right around the time I was starting to pay attention to authors (as opposed to simply reading every book in the SFF section of the library). But I remember vividly reading some of her work in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when all this was going down and feeling that sense of frustrated kinship of what it means to have to re-invent and mask yourself to have your work judged on anything resembling an even playing field. It's also daunting to consider how little we've moved beyond the day when an author who is--or is believed to be--male will have their work treated as cutting-edge and groundbreaking, when the same work written by an author who is (or is believed to be) female can have it dismissed as "women's writing" and self-indulgent. And yet, to set Sheldon/Tiptree aside as simply unequivocal and incisive proof of that phenomenon would be to buy into a notion that her body of work exists as commentary, as meta-text, rather than as something that should be read, evaluated, and honored for its objective brilliance.
So I feel a bit weird that this "review" is more meta-text commentary than a discussion of content. Let's just say that this is a valuable and fascinating celebration of the work and lessons of a great writer.
Letters to Tiptree is divided into several sections. The first and largest consists of letters written for this collection by authors, academics and fans to Alice, Tiptree and/or Raccoona. There is an impressive diversity of voices here, containing writers of varying backgrounds, nationalities, races, generations, gender identities, sexualities and classes. This diversity serves to showcase the wide impact Tiptree's work had--and continues to have--upon the speculative fiction community. But letter writing--even when the letters remain unanswered--remains a two-way street. I found myself equally as fascinated by what the letters revealed about their writers as what they said about Tiptree. Some clearly had an eye towards their audience, while others were more focussed on the person they were writing to. Some letters were restless and unhappy, while others were breathtaking in their sincere gratitude. Even the anger present in some merely added to the sense that this collection was a beautiful love letter.
Gender and identity are naturally one of the major preoccupations of these letters. It was interesting to see the different conclusions authors came to while pondering what ground--if any--feminism has gained since Tiptree's death thirty years ago. However, this wasn't the sole focus of these letters. They also dwelt on some of the other overarching themes of Tiptree's work, such as class, colonialism, technology and time.
The second section is formed of a selection of letters exchanged between Alice Sheldon and her contemporaries--specifically Ursula LeGuin and Joanna Russ. Sheldon had been writing to these two women under the guise of Tiptree and had formed close friendships with them. When the death of Sheldon's mother began to unravel the identity of James Tiptree, Jr., she was quick to write to them and confess the truth. The letters included in this book centre around these confessions. After hearing so much about the influence of Tiptree on the letter writers of the first section, it was a delight to hear her speak in her own voice. At the same time, it was a little bit heartbreaking because her fear and unhappiness are very evident.
This is followed by a section with a more academic focus, containing a few anthology introductions and excerpts from more scholarly works. I'd been able to grasp much of the context of Tiptree's work from the letters in the first section, though this did a good job of filling in some of the gaps and expanding the territory a little bit. I found Wendy Guy Pearson's 1999 paper on Tiptree as a transgender writer to be particularly interesting.
The collection was rounded out with letters from the two editors addressed to Tiptree and reflecting on their experiences of putting the collection together.
If the aim of the book was to interest new readers in the life and work of Tiptree, it succeeded in my case.