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Who Is Tiptree, What Is He?

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Nineteenth lecture for my students in English 192, "Science Fiction," summer 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/m13/

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Who Is Tiptree, What Is He?

  1. 1. Lecture 19: “Who Is Tiptree, What Is He?” English 192 Summer 2013 5 September 2013 “But Rudy, it's been such fun. How many times in one's life does a door open to total escape, utter newness? I was so profoundly dispirited, alienated […] And suddenly I was in the middle of a different light, a new me, first having a good joke of being someone else, and then as the stories went on and out, having started genuine friendships among delightful people whose native language —crude, childish, humourous—rational—was mine...” — Alice Sheldon, letter to Rudolph Arnheim (1969)
  2. 2. Administrative Matters ● I'm pleased to see people starting already on the study guide. ● Remember that I need to approve you as an editor before you can edit. ● There's still plenty of low-hanging fruit to be picked. ● Yes, this counts as a quiz for purposes of taking enough quizzes to avoid an automatic non-passing grade. ● Questions about the final exam? ● Other matters?
  3. 3. Some final words about Kindred “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” (Orwell 137) “I had thought that eventually, he [Rufus] would just rape her [Alice] again—and again. In fact, I was surprised that he hadn't already done it. I didn't realize that he was planning to involve me in that rape. He was, and he did.” (O. Butler 162) [Dana:] “Were you helping slaves to escape?” [Kevin:] “Of course I was!” (193)
  4. 4. “Wait a minute,” he [Kevin] said. “I'm not minimizing the wrong that's being done here. I just …” [Dana:] “Yes you are. You don't mean to be, but you are.” (100) “Be careful, Dana,” he [Kevin] said, unwittingly echoing Rufus. “Be as careful as you can.” (91) “This could be a great time to live in,” Kevin said once. “I keep thinking what an experience it would be to stay in it—go West and watch the building of the country, see how much of the Old West mythology is true.” “West,” I said bitterly. “That's where they're doing it to the Indians instead of the blacks!” He looked at me strangely. He had been doing that a lot lately. (97)
  5. 5. “that which hurts” “To me, it's getting more and more believable. I don't like it. I don't want to be in the middle of it. I don't understand how it can be happening, but it's real. It hurts too much not to be And … and my ancestors, for Godsake!” (46) “The wall of my living room. I was back at home—in my own house, in my own time. But I was still caught somehow, joined to the wall as though my arm were growing out of it—or growing into it. From the elbow to the ends of the fingers, my left arm had become a part of the wall. I looked at the spot where flesh joined with plaster, stared at it uncomprehending. It was the exact spot Rufus's arms had grasped.” (261)
  6. 6. “History is therefore the experience of Necessity, and it is this alone which can forestall its thematization or reification as a mere object of representation or as one master code among many others. Necessity is not in that sense a type of content, but rather the inexorable form of events […] History is what hurts, it is what refuses desire and sets inexorable limits to individual as well as collective praxis, which its ‘ruses’ turn into grisly and ironic reversals of their overt intention. But this History can be apprehended only through its effects, and never directly as some reified force.” — Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious (end of ch. 1)
  7. 7. “Love is the Plan the Plan Is Death” ● What happens in this story? ● What do we know about the aliens? ● What is defamiliarized? ● How do we read the story? ● What is “the Plan”? ● Why write a story entirely about aliens? ● What can we fairly determine about the author from the story?
  8. 8. Instinct … Yes, in the warm and I want only to calm him, I am full of love—but the kill-roar is rushing through me, I too am swelling, rattling, booming! Invincible! To crush—to rend— Oh, I am shamed. (405) “No—it roars me, the new power of black.” (405) “This sweetness that floods our bodies when we yield to the Plan. Great is the Plan! Fear it, fight it—but hold the sweetness yet.” (407)
  9. 9. … and the limits of reason “in the warm days I am me, Myself-Moggadeet. Ever-growing, ever-learning. In the warm we think, we speak. We love! We make our own Plan.” (412) “'Fa-ther?' A word I don't know. But wait—' His mangled head turns to me. The winters grow? Your mother said this? Oh, cold! Oh, lonely,' he groans. 'A big learning she gave you. This learning I fear to think.” (413)
  10. 10. Climate [The Old One:] “Look around, young one. These stony deadwoods. Dead sheets of trees that grow in the warm valleys. Why are they here? The cold has killed them. No living tree grows here now. Think, young one!” I look, and true! It is a warm forest killed to stone. (414) “Will the winters grow until we can learn nothing but only live blindly in the Plan, like the silly fatclimbers who sing but do not speak?” (414)
  11. 11. “It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree's writing.” — Robert Silverberg, "Who Is Tiptree, What Is He?"
  12. 12. Alice Bradley Sheldon (1915-1987) ● Best known for SF written under the pseudonym “James Tiptree, Jr.” (1967- 1987) ● Real identity not publicly known until 1977. ● Inducted into Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2012. ● First published story was “Birth of a Salesman” in the 1968 issue of Analog, then edited by John W. Campbell.
  13. 13. Media credits The photo of Alice Bradley Sheldon (slide 12) is a low-resolution copy being used only as a teaching tool, and is irreplaceable. Original source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tiptree_585x4 91.jpg