Derik Badman's Journal

Content Tagged "James Tiptree Jr."

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2019-09-05 08:11

I gave up on A Stranger in Olondria after about 50 pages. The writing is just too much, too descriptive for me, and that, the narrator's impressions of everything, seems very much the point of the novel (the plot is so far quite light). I wanted to like it, but it's either just not for me, or it's the wrong time for me to be reading it. On the other hand I finished another 2 James Tiptree Jr. stories from the collection I am reading. I'm still enjoying them, but the longer one felt like it had a lot of setup that didn't pay out in the end. There was all this political and personal strife going on with the crew of this longterm space voyage, with a lot of really interesting setup and concepts, but then the primary climax about this weird alien creature felt like it had very little connection to all that set-up, unless that maybe that was the whole point. That all the human cruft that concerned the characters, in the end, was pointless in the face of something... not human. Hmm, I actually like that, maybe that was the point.

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2019-09-02 08:25

Finished another James Tiptree Jr. story last night called "With Delicate Mad Hands", one of the longer ones in the collection I am reading. It starts out interesting and rather brutal about a woman who was born with a messed up, upturned nose (such that she is insultingly called "Pig") and who becomes a hyper-competent space worker. Yet she is insulted and abused and finally legally allowed to fly a ship, but denied by her current captain. He rapes her and she kills him and steals their ship. The narrative questions her sanity as she follows this feeling or thought about a distant world with a voice she has heard in the back of her head for years and years. When, flying into the emptiness of space, unsure if she will just die when her air runs out, she finds a planet and then aliens, the story starts to lose momentum. I struggled through too long passages describing the aliens and the planet and... It is a story that really needed some cutting at the end to tighten it up and stay focused on the theme.

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2019-08-02 08:11

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a collection of fiction by James Tiptree Jr. (a.k.a. Alice Sheldon) showed up two days ago and I dove into it. Only a few stories in and I'm even more regretting not reading her work sooner. "The Screwfly Solution" is a dark story that is at once both about misogyny and aliens, but the latter only when you get to the very end after finding yourself believing in a more mundane explanation for the horrifying events.

I had to restart one of the stories. I got a handful of pages in the previous night, but last night, just needed to restart to reorient myself. So many science fiction (and fantasy) stories require a certain period of adjustment when you start them. There are unfamiliar words; the setting is often of an unclear place or time; the rules of reality are unclear, expected, or unknown; and it can take awhile to reorient your reading to fit the story. To me this stands in contrast to most realistic fiction where the time, place, and rules of the setting are often clearly posted before you even start reading.

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2019-07-21 10:41

Finished up reading James Tiptree Jr's Houston, Houston, Do You Read? the other half of that double novel I got. It's a really effective feminist sci-fi story about three mostly contemporary male astronauts who end up time travelling into the future. Tiptree manages to slowly and effectively reveal the situation via focalization of one of the astronauts and exposes the misogyny of the astronauts in a pretty brutal (but in many ways positive) ending. I really need to read more of her work.

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2019-07-07 00:00

Another recent read, also picked up at a bookstore up in Massachusetts was James Tiptree Jr.'s Brightness Falls From the Air. I'm not sure I've read her work before (maybe something short when I took Samuel Delany's sci-fi lit course), but as I've been reading more sci-fi and fantasy lately I thought I'd try it out. It is a really engaging novel that takes place in basically a single location over a single day. In reading it, like much sci-fi from the past, you have to suspend the disconnect between the futuristic technology in the book and our current tech, but she does a great job of creating an interesting web of characters and generating suspense. The point of view in the chapters shifts a few times in an effective way.

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