One of science fiction’s most important feminist voices, James Tiptree, Jr was the pseudonym under which Alice Hastings Bradley Sheldon wrote most of her fiction – she was making a point about sexist assumptions and also keeping her US government employers from knowing her business. Most of her work consists of short fiction, of which Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (SF Masterwork paperback | Gateway eBook) is considered to be her best selection. Sheldon’s best stories combine radical feminism with a tough-minded tragic view of life; even virtuous characters are exposed as unwitting beneficiaries of disgusting socio-economic systems, and good men are complicit in women’s oppression, as in her most famous stories ‘The Women Men Don’t See’ and ‘Houston, Houston, Do you Read?’ or in ecocide.
Much of her work, even at its most tragic, has an attractively ironic tone which sometimes becomes straightforwardly comedy – it is important to stress that Tiptree’s deep seriousness never becomes sombre or pompous. Her two novels Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air (coming from Gollancz in 2016) are both remarkable transfigurations of stock space opera material – the former deals with a vast destroying being, sympathetic aliens at risk of destruction by it and human telepaths trying to make contact across the gulf of stars. She died tragically in 1987.
Gateway is privileged to be republishing her works – works like The Starry Rift . . .
These are the heroes of the Starry Rift, a dark river of night that flows between the arms of our galaxy: a headstrong teenaged runaway who makes first contact with a strange alien race; a young officer on a deep-space salvage mission who discovers an exact double of a woman he thought he’d lost; and the crew of an exploration ship who must plead for the human race to avert an interstellar war.