shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


the apes we don't see

Scientists believe they have discovered a new group of giant apes in the jungles of central Africa. (via Greg van Eekhout)

Obvs, there's only one -- possibly two -- appropriate ways to observe this happening: reading Karen Joy Fowler's controversial, award-winning, kick-ass short story "What I Didn't See" and the James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon) short story it's inspired by "The Women Men Don't See."

Both can be read gratis at SciFiction, which you should be reading anyway. I offer the first paragraphs of each below to convince.

Of Karen's story:

I saw Archibald Murray's obituary in the Tribune a couple of days ago. It was a long notice, because of all those furbelows he had after his name, and dredged up that old business of ours, which can't have pleased his children. I, myself, have never spoken up before, as I've always felt that nothing I saw sheds any light, but now I'm the last of us. Even Wilmet is gone, though I always picture him such a boy. And there is something to be said for having the last word, which I am surely having.

Of Tiptree's*:

I see her first while the Mexicana 727 is barreling down to Cozumel Island. I come out of the can and lurch into her seat, saying "Sorry," at a double female blur. The near blur nods quietly. The younger one in the window seat goes on looking out. I continue down the aisle, registering nothing. Zero. I never would have looked at them or thought of them again.

*For those unfamiliar with Tiptree's work, I reprint her biography from SciFiction because it's important to reading Karen's story: "James Tiptree, Jr." was born Alice Bradley in Chicago in 1915. Her mother was the writer Mary Hastings Bradley; her father, Herbert, was a lawyer and explorer. Throughout her childhood she travelled with her parents, mostly to Africa, but also to India and Southeast Asia. Her early work was as an artist and art critic. During World War II she enlisted in the Army and became the first American female photointelligence officer. In Germany after the war, she met and married her commanding officer, Huntington D. Sheldon. In the early 1950s, both Sheldons joined the then-new CIA; he made it his career, but she resigned in 1955, went back to college, and earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology.

At about this same time, Alli Sheldon started writing science fiction. She wrote four stories and sent them off to four different science fiction magazines. She did not want to publish under her real name, because of her CIA and academic ties, and she intended to use a new pseudonym for each group of stories until some sold. They started selling immediately, and only the first pseudonym—"Tiptree" from a jar of jelly, "James" because she felt editors would be more receptive to a male writer, and "Jr." for fun—was needed. (A second pseudonym, "Raccoona Sheldon," came along later, so she could have a female persona.)

Tiptree quickly became one of the most-respected writers in the field, winning the Hugo Award for "The Girl Who was Plugged In" and "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?," and the Nebula Award for "Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death" and "Houston, Houston." Raccoona won the Nebula for "The Screwfly Solution," and Tiptree won the World Fantasy Award for the collection Tales from the Qunitana Roo.

The Tiptree fiction reflects Alli Sheldon's interests and concerns throughout her life: the alien among us (a role she portrayed in her childhood travels), the health of the planet, the quality of perception, the role of women, love, death, and humanity's place in a vast, cold universe. An award in Tiptree's name has celebrated science fiction that "expands and explores gender roles" for ten years now.

Alice Sheldon died in 1987 by her own hand. Writing in her first book about the suicide of Hart Crane, she said succinctly: "Poets extrapolate."

If you're unfamiliar with Karen, I can't help you. You need to remedy that.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home