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[Home]James Tiptree, Jr

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James Tiptree, Jr was the [pen name]? of science fiction author Alice Sheldon (1915-1987). She also wrote under the pseudonym Raccoona Sheldon. Sometime painter, graphic artist, and art critic.

Born: August 24, 1915, Chicago
Died: May 19, 1987, Maclean, Virginia
Married: to William Davey 1934-1941; to Huntington Sheldon 1945 until her death.

Sheldon served in Air Intelligence in the US Army 1942-1946, and retired with the rank of Major. She worked at the CIA 1952-1955. She earned a B.A. from [American University]? in 1959, and a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from [George Washington University]? in 1967.

Her first fiction sale was "The Lucky Ones", to The New Yorker magazine in 1946.

She won the Nebula award for her grisly little novella, "The Screwfly Solution"

Sheldon adopted the pseudonym of James Tiptree, Jr. in 1968 because "I was tired of always being the first woman in some damn profession..." The imposture was successful until the late 1970s, possibly aided by a misunderstanding that it was intended to protect the professional reputation of an intelligence community official.

When asked for biographical details, Tiptree was forthcoming in everything but gender. Many of the details given above (the Air Force career, the Ph.D.) were mentioned in letters she wrote. Readers were permitted to assume gender, and invariably they assumed "male".

When all was revealed, two prominent science fiction writers suffered some embarassment. [Robert Silverberg]? had written an introduction to Warm Worlds and Otherwise, arguing on the basis of selections from stories in the collection that Tiptree could not possibly be a woman. Ursula K. Le Guin had prevented Tiptree from adding "his" signature to a petition by female science fiction authors, believing Tiptree to be a man. Both acted understandably under the circumstances, and both felt compelled to defend their positions later in print.

Sheldon continued writing under the Tiptree pen name for another decade. On May 19, 1987, Sheldon took the life of her invalid husband, and then took her own. They were found dead, hand in hand in bed, in their home.

There is a James Tiptree, Jr. Award given in her honor each year, funds for which are raised in part by bake sales.


Short story collections

"On James Tiptree, Alice Sheldon and bake sales", by Karen Joy Fowler http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue22/tiptree.html

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Last edited December 4, 2001 9:39 am by Vicki Rosenzweig (diff)