James Tiptree, Jr.

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A Brief Biography of James Tiptree, Jr. | A James Tiptree, Jr. Chronology | A Bibliography of the Writings of James Tiptree, Jr. | James Tiptree, Jr. Book Covers | The James Tiptree, Jr. Award | The World of James Tiptree, Jr.  | Love was the Plan, the Plan was . . .: A True Story About James Tiptree, Jr. Mark Siegel | Introduction to Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by John Clute


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A James Tiptree, Jr. Biography
This biography has been improved thanks to the help of Julie Phillips, who  is writing a biography of Tiptree for St. Martin's Press. My thanks to Julie.

Alice Bradley Sheldon was born in 1915 in Chicago, Illinois, daughter of Mary Hastings Bradley, a prolific author, mostly of travel literature, and Herbert Bradley an attorney, African explorer, and naturalist. At an early age, she accompanied her parents on their world travels, including an African safari in 1921-1922. Initially, she pursued a career as a graphic artist and a professional painter. She married, in 1934, William Davey--a marriage which ended in 1941. In 1941, she began a two year stint as an art critic for the Chicago Sun, then joined the United States Army in 1942, being assigned to Air Intelligence the following year.

At the end of the war, she married Huntington Sheldon, and in 1946, she was discharged from the Army after attaining the rank of Major. The same year, she was published for the first time, a piece called "The Lucky Ones" (in The New Yorker) and began to co-manage a small, rural business with her busband. In 1952, however, they both returned to Washington to be in on the ground floor development of the new Central Intelligence Agency, then located in temporary buildings near the Reflecting Pool in Washington. In 1955 she resigned from the C.I.A. In 1959 the C.I.A. moved to Langley Virginia and the Sheldons to nearby McLean, VA.
 
In 1956, she enrolled at American University, receiving a B.A. in 1959. At George Washington University, she began work on a doctorate in Experimental Psychology, which she finally earned in 1967. In the wake of her persuit of a graduate degree, after a first career in government service, Sheldon, uncertain what to do with the rest of her life, began to write. In 1968, with the help of her husband and the inspiration of a jar of marmalade, she adopted the pseudonym of "James Tiptree, Jr." and began to publish science fiction short stories, widely admired for their "male" author's ability to delineate female character and explore profoundly women's issues.
In 1973, a first collection of her work, Ten Thousand Light Years from Home, was published by Ace Books. In 1974, her first story--"Angel Fix"--under a second pseudonym, "Raccoona Sheldon"--this time the product of a favorite denizen of her yard and her actual last name--appeared. (She would write four others in subsequent years.) A second collection of stories, Warm Worlds and Otherwise, was issued by Ballantine in 1975--its introduction by Robert Silverberg, full of praise for Tiptree as a terribly perceptive, but distinctly "male" author, demonstrating well that her true identity had not yet been discovered. Her first novel, Up the Walls of the World, was published by Putnam in the same year. By the time her next book, Star Songs of an Old Primate, again a collection of short fiction, appeared from Ballantine in 1978, the secret was out: "James Tiptree, Jr." was a woman.
 
In the wake of her mother's death in 1976, her trick was exposed, but she also won a Nebula award the same year for her novella, "The Screwfly Solution." Continuing to publish in the science fiction magazines, she collected more stories in the 1981 book Out of the Everywhere and Other Extraordinary Visions (Ballantine). Brightness Falls from the Air was published in 1985.

On May 19, 1987, she took the life of her invalid husband, then 84, blind and bedridden, and then shot herself in the head. They were found dead, hand in hand in bed, in their Maclean, Virginia home, fulfilling a wish, made in a letter (to Robert Silverberg) of 1976, to "take myself off the scene gracefully . . . while I am still me" (Davis A14).

A James Tiptree, Jr. Chronology
1915 Born in Chicago, Illinois, daughter of Mary Hastings Bradley, a prolific author, mostly of travel literature, and Herbert Bradley, an attorney, African explorer, and naturalist 
1921-22 Accompanies her parents on a safari to Africa
1934 Marries William Davey 
1941 Divorces William Davey; art critic for Chicago Sun (1941-42) 
1942 Enlists in U.S. Army 
1943 Assigned to Army Intelligence 
1945 Marries Huntington Sheldon 
1946 Discharged from Army as a Major; "The Lucky Ones"; runs a small rural business with her husband (1946-52) 
1952 Move to Washington in order to participate in development of the C.I.A. 
1954 Becomes a clandestine agent in Near East (1954-55) 
1955 Resigns from C.I.A.
1956 Enrolls at American University 
1959 C.I.A. and the Sheldons move to Northern Virginia; receives B.A. from American University; begins graduate work; teaches as a graduate assistant 
1967 Receives Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from George Washington University
1968 (53) First uses "James Tiptree, Jr." pseudonym in the story "Birth of a Salesman"; "Birth of a Salesman," "Help, Mamma Come Home," "The Man Doors Said Hello To," "Fault," "Faithful to Thee, Terra, In Our Fashion" 
1969 (54) "Beam Us Home," "Your Haploid Heart," "The Snows are Melted, the Snows Are Gone" 
1970 (55) "The Night-blooming Saurian," "I'm Too Big but I Love to Play" 
1971 (56) "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side," "And So On, And So On," "I'll Be Waiting for You When the Swimming Pool is Empty," "Mother in the Sky With Diamonds," "Painwise," "The Peacefulness of Vivyan" 
1972 (57) "Forever To a Hudson Bay Blanket," "All the Kinds of Yes," "Amberjack," "And I Have Come Upon This Place by Lost Ways," "The Man Who Walked Home," "The Milk of Paradise," "On the Last Afternoon" 
1973 (58) "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," "Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death," "Ten Thousand Light Years from Home," "The Women Men Don't See" 
1974 (59) "Angel Fix," "Her Smoke Rose Up Forever," "The Last Flight of Doctor Ain" 
1975 (60) "A Momentary Taste of Being," Warm Worlds and Otherwise
1976 (61) Sheldon's mother dies; her true identity is discovered; "Beaver Tears," "She Waits for All Men Born," "Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!", "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?", "The Psychologist Who Wouldn't Do Awful Things To Rats" 
1977 (62) Receives Nebula Award for "The Screwfly Solution"; "Time-Sharing Angel," "The Screwfly Solution" 
1978 (63) "We Who Stole the Dream," Up the Walls of the World, Star Songs of an Old Primate
1980 (65) "Slow Music," "A Source of Innocent Merriment" 
1981 (66) "Out of the Everywhere," Out of the Everywhere and Other Extraordinary Visions, "With Delicate Mad Hands," "Lirios: A Tale of the Quintana Roo" 
1985 (70) Brightness Falls from the Air
1987
Kills her husband and commits suicide, May 19, 1987

A James Tiptree, Jr. Bibliography
Barr, Marleen. "'The Females Do the Fathering': James Tiptree's Male Matriarchs and Adult Human Gametes." Science Fiction Studies 13 (1986): 42-49.
Davis, Patricia. “Bullets End 2 ‘Fragile’ Lives: Author Kills Husband, Herself in McLean.” Washington Post, May 20, 1987.

Dozois, Gardner. The Fiction of James Tiptree, Jr. New York: Algol Press, 1977.
_____. "Introduction." Ten Thousand Light Years from Home. Boston: Gregg Press, 1976: v-xxxvi.
Frisch, Adam J. "Toward New Sexual Identities: James Tiptree, Jr." In The Feminine Eye: Science Fiction and the Women Who Write It. Ed. Tom Staicer. New York: Ungar, 1982.
Gearhart, Nancy S. "Alice Hastings Sheldon." Contemporary Authors, Vol. 198: 443-44.
Hildreth, Lillian H. "'Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death.' The Feminism and Fatalism of James Tiptree, Jr." Extrapolation 23.1 (1982): 22-30.
"James Tiptree Rebounds." Locus, No. 296 (1985): 4ff.
LeGuin, Ursula. The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction. Ed. Susan Wood. New York: Berkeley Medallion, 1979.
Mackey, Douglas. "The Short Fiction of James Tiptree, Jr." Survey of Science Fiction Literature IV. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 19xx: 1999-2002.
Pei, Lowrei, "Poor Singletons: Definitions of Humanity in the Stories of James Tiptree, Jr." Science Fiction Studies 6 (1979): 271-80.
Platt, Charles. "Profile: James Tiptree, Jr." Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, April 1983: 26-49.
Ross, Jean W. "Interview with James Tiptree, Jr." Contemporary Authors, Vol. 208: 444-50.
Russ, Joanna. "Recent Feminist Utopias." In Future Females. Ed. Marleen S. Barr. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Press, 1981: 71-85.
Siegel, Mark. "Double-Souled Man: Immortality and Transcendence in the Fiction of James Tiptree, Jr." in Death and the Serpent: Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, No. 13. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985.
_____. James Tiptree, Jr. Starmont Reader's Guide, No. 22. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1986.
_____. “Love Was the Plan, the Plan Was . . .: A True Story About James Tiptree, Jr.” Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction 44 (1988-1989): 5-13.

Silverberg, Robert. "Introduction." Warm Worlds and Otherwise. New York: Ballantine, 1975: ix-xviii.
Smith, J. D. "James Tiptree, Jr., Raccoona Sheldon, Bibliography." Khatru 7 (19xx): 23-25.
Tiptree, James, Jr. Brightness Falls From the Air. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1985.
_____. "The Color of Neanderthal Eyes." Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1988: 8-87.
_____. "Do You Like It Twice?" Phantasmicom 9 (1972).
_____. "Everything But the Name is Me." Starship (1979): 31-34.
_____. "In the Midst of Life." Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1987: 6-26.
____. Meet Me At Infinity: The Uncollected Tiptree--Fiction and Nonfiction. Ed. Jeffrey D. Smith. NY: TOR, 2000.
_____. Out of the Everywhere and Other Extraordinary Visions. New York: Ballantine, 1981.
_____. "Slow Music." Interfaces. Ed. Ursula K. LeGuin and Virginia Kidd. New York: Ace Books, 1980.
_____. Star Songs of an Old Primate. New York: Ballantine, 1978.
_____. Ten Thousand Light Years from Home. New York: Ace Books, 1973.
_____. 10,000 Light Years from Home. New York: Gregg Press, 1976.
_____. Up the Walls of the World. New York: Ace, 1978.
_____. Warm Worlds and Otherwise. New York: Ballantine, 1975.
_____. "With Tiptree Through the Great Sex Muddle." Khatru 3/4 (1975): 17-22.
Wood, Susan, "James Tiptree, Jr." Science Fiction Writers. 531-41.

James Tiptree, Jr. Book Covers
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