Dear Ursula

Dear Ursula K. Le Guin,

At several different times in her letters, James Tiptree Jr. aka Alice Sheldon said that she did not plan on outliving her husband.  In the ever-so-clear hindsight, we can see that Tiptree was alluding to her suicide, possibly suicide pact, with her husband. But, did you guess that that was what she intended to do? Tiptree often makes light of her depression, describing and disguising it with humor. But, it is quite obvious that she was depressed.  Knowing this, did you have any inkling that she was going to commit suicide? If you could go back in time, would you have tried to persuade Tiptree out of thinking of suicide, or do you believe her suicide was justified? And, if you had told her not to commit  suicide, do you think your words, whether in person, written letter, or phone call,  made any difference to Tiptree’s resolve?

I hate to sound horribly mean and accusatory, but these questions have been nagging at me for ages. It’s hard to get a sense of your reactions to Tiptree’s letters because the letters you sent to Tiptree are mostly not included in the archives. Thus, there is just silence. Suicide and depression are things that strike a chord with me personally.  It is disconcerting and saddening to read someone’s letters  of depression and intent of suicide. I guess, I just wanted to know whether or not Tiptree’s letters scared you as much as they did me, and if you did try to confront her. I would like to  hear your side of the story.



One response to “Dear Ursula

  • cstabile

    I also wondered why we don’t have Ursula’s letters to Tiptree. Did she, like Kate Wilhelm, destroy the letters she didn’t want to consign to the archives?

    I’ve been doing research on media guidelines for reporting suicide (long story). One of the things that I’ve learned is that while there are things we can do to prevent suicides, at the end of the day, the person taking their own life is responsible for the act, and not anyone around them. I think we all feel terrible when someone commits suicide. And I think that’s part of what makes it such a terrible thing. The Samaritans have information that might be helpful for your research on their website.

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