Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, by James Tiptree, Jr.


Orthodox Herbertarian

James Tiptree, Jr. may have had one of the oddest journeys through the genre thus far. Tiptree was the pseudonym for Alice Sheldon (also known as Raccoona Sheldon), and was acknowledged as one of the genre's best authors in the 70's. I think she only put out two novels during her lifetime, but the body of short work that she left behind is one of my favorites. I usually don't care to comment on the author's lives too much in these reviews, but Tiptree's warrants a few comments. She suffered from debilitating depression almost her entire life, and not only was it so bad that she almost killed herself several times along the way; in the end she committed a murder/suicide, killing also her ill husband, Huntington Sheldon. She spent a lot of time in the neck of the woods that I am from, McLean, Virginia, because she and her husband both were CIA officers for a time. She adopted her pseudonym at a time when the perception was that a woman would have a very difficult time in building a solid male fan base, and she kept the illusion up until being outted by a fan. That fan happened across an obituary for Tiptree's mother, and noticed striking similarities between the life described in the obituary and the mother Tiptree described in various letters to fans. Once she was outed her career died a slow death, but she managed still to put out some extremely good short stories before she killed herself in the late 1980's. The stories in this book are made up mostly of ones that I have seen anthologized elsewhere, but are her absolute best. The book contains two Hugo Award winners and two different Nebula Award winners, but all the stories, almost without exception, are amazingly good. People still argue about whether or not these stories have a masculine or a feminine edge to them. It should be noted that these stories are not for the feint of heart, or the easily offended. Tiptree dealt frequently with rape, power discrepancies between men and women, breakdowns in communication that were generally along gender lines and usually led to enslavement, rape or death, and other similar ideas. To her credit Tiptree never pointed her finger at men and said that it was their fault. Her meta-message usually was something like, “this is just the way it all is,” so I find that in reading her fiction, as a man, its best not to view her as threatening to whack you with a blame stick. I’m not apologizing here – just warning...Please click here, or on the book cover above, to be taken to the complete review..