Tiptree BioJames Tiptree, Jr.:
The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon

by Julie Phillips

We've been waiting for this one for a long, long time.  Alice Sheldon -- more widely known under  her nom de plume, James Tiptree, Jr. -- is, in our opinion, the most significant science fiction writer since Philip K Dick (and then some), but is still far from gaining the wide readership and critical acceptance that her writings warrant.  More than this, she may very well have led the most intriguing life of any science fiction writer in history, and now, with this biography, her life story will at last be told in what we fervently hope will be a fully fleshed out account.  This book has been in the works for quite some time, and we were frankly worried that it might never see the light of day.  Thankfully, we we were wrong and the book is now on our shelves. 

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon is the perfect biography.  Its subject is an important literary figure who led a singularly fascinating life, one that intersected with diverse strands and key areas of American life and is richly deserving of recording, yet one that is surprisingly little recognized, vastly under appreciated and sparsely documented.  This confluence has given author, Julie Phillips the literary equvalent of a splendid unexplored virgin forest covered in untrammeled snow through which she can romp, taking us -- her readers -- along for a one-of-a-kind magical mystery tour.

The themes of this biography are multiple and diverse -- issues of class and race, politics and imperialism, definitions of feminism, family relations, the possibilities of marriage, homosexuality and heterosexuality, war and peace, power and paranoia, and much else besides.  Taken together they form a solar system of ideas, all orbiting around the bright shining sun at its core:  human sexuality and the question of its relation to gender construction.  And this is only fitting and right for it is this very quandary that lies at the center of Tiptree's own work, which will, as a result of this fine biography, now be more readily apprehended by the wider readership that it so richly deserves.

Carter Scholz has written a detailed review containing a capsule summary of the biography that we encourage you to read.

To learn a bit about Tiptree's writings, go to our review of the excellent collection of her stories, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.  Buy the book.  Read it.  See.


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prices and availability current as of 16 August 2006