Author Archives: garrwest
I’ve watched this clip a few times since Vonda McIntyre’s class visit.
So, these are the “Little Faces,” huh? Kinda (actually really) scary.
Dear Mr. Tiptree,
You seem like an awesome person: you write rationally, you like to make jokes, you are self-critical, and you have a particular interest in politics. To me, that seems like we would have gotten along quite well and would have had many great conversations. I should confess right away that I’ve taken to reading some of your private correspondence with Ursula LeGuin and Joanna Russ. So sorry about that!
That being said, I’ve got one question in particular to ask you about the contents of those letters, and I think that you’d appreciate it if I was just blunt about it:
What’s with all the hate?
How can you go around calling people “Ay-rabs,” single out some people because of their race, or others because of their religion? Were you raised this way or did some people from these groups do something to offend you? Did you support the Civil Rights movement?
I suppose I’m having a difficult time reconciling the hateful things you say with some of the other messages you champion. You fiercely deplore male dominance but admit that you feel that some types of people should be oppressed. I think that you even know these things are contradictory, but you persist in doing it in your private letters. Do you think that you’re being irrational? Do you think your feelings about these kinds of people have affected your feminist beliefs?
I think that I can understand many of your other thoughts, about feeling oppressed, fearing government corruption, even your blatant bellicose attitudes (to an extent). Because of this, I wish that I could sit down and talk to you in depth about your time in D.C. during the McCarthy Years or even during the Watergate Scandal. You seem to have paid close attention to politics and those things appear to have shaped your attitudes in life. All in all, it’s been a lot of fun reading your take on events as they transpired!
I hope you don’t mind if I call you Tip.
The best-written thing that I have come across is a letter written by James Tiptree to Joanna Russ just when they were beginning to correspond with each other. I do not think that it stands as a piece of literary genius, but think that it is amazingly well-written because it is both real and complex- I think about its content more than that of any of the other letters.
Throughout his personal writings, Tiptree constantly displays intense prejudices against many ethnic groups like Arabs, Catholics, and Germans. He rants about them constantly and generally demeans them.
Yet, strikingly, in a letter to Russ from 1973, Tiptree recognizes these faults and admits that he has many prejudices deeply ingrained into his character!
In this letter, he laments about the oppression of friendly groups while simultaneously expressing his own guilt at oppressing certain groups in particular. This letter is like witnessing the evolution of racism to civil rights in miniature.
How remarkable that Tiptree achieved a level of self-consciousness that allowed him to reflect on his own weaknesses. Usually people are never able to admit that they are wrong, let alone critically examine themselves in a negative light.
Because of this demonstrated capability of self-reflection, Tiptree no longer seems to be mindlessly contributing to oppression. He has gone a step above beyond this in that he has shown that he is capable of looking at himself objectively, comprehending the wrongness of his actions, and demonstrating the ability to overcome social brainwashing.
Russ Papers, in the Joanna Russ and James Tiptree correspondence found in the Special Collections & University Archives, the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon. See Box 10, File 26. Dated 1 September 1973.
Keep Calm Picture found at <http://blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/keep-calm-and-stop-racism-19.png>.
Meme found on ForkParty.com, posted by Drew, <http://www.forkparty.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Say-NO-to-racism.jpg>.
James Tiptree Jr. or Alice Sheldon? What should I use?!
Up the Walls of the World was written by James Tiptree, Jr. (also known as Alice Bradley) and published by Berkley Publishing Corporation in 1978 with 319 pages.
Setting & Species
Up the Walls of the World is told from the points of view of three different species. The novel begins with “The lone Destroyer,” a gargantuan Leviathan-like creature that aimlessly roams space, destroying everything in its path. Forgotten by its own species, it is constantly referred to as “a huge dark nothingness” full of sadness and guilt (166; 148). As the Destroyer continues its eternal rampage across the Galaxy, it begins to encroach on Tyree. The Tyrenni, who are an incorporeal and telepathic race, live underground on Tyree. The Tyrenni have traditionally different gender roles than humankind; the male gender is responsible for rearing the young and governing, while females are “rugged and work-tempered and competent,” truly the explorers of the species (14). The last viewpoint represented in the novel takes place on Earth, on which a scientist, Doctor Daniel Dann, is carrying out experiments on potentially telepathic humans for the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy.
As the telepathic Tyrenni sense the continual destruction of nearby planets by the Destroyer, they know that they are next.
Faced with species-wide extinction, the Tyrenni begin to search for a way to save their children from impending doom. One Tyrenn male orates, “it is for our children… we face the death of our world, our race, our you. The children! When our children are burning, must we not face the unthinkable if it will save them?” (87). Using a special beam that enhances their abilities, some are able to transport their consciousnesses into other beings on other planets, away from the Destroyer. The optimal species that they choose to host them is humankind. However, in fleeing to human bodies, the Tyrenni will be switching places with the humans, the human souls would be sent to inhabit Tyrenn bodies. Kicked out of his own body and sent to the alien world by a rogue group of Tyrenni, Dr. Dann sympathizes with the plight of the aliens and attempts to help them. As the Destroyer reeks havoc and some Tyrenni flee into human bodies, the remaining Tyrenni and the newly transported human souls are able to make accidental contact the Destroyer. As the plot begins heat up, the special beam is disrupted, causing a human soul that had been flung towards Tyrenni to miss and instead end up inside the Destroyer’s central hub…
To kill or not to kill? That is the question.
One of the central themes of Up the Walls is the question as to whether murder is ever justified. In order to save their own race from extinction, the Tyrenni must steal human bodies and doom their original owners to death on Tyree. Opposed by some Tyrenni factions as genocide and a “life-crime,” the fear of Armageddon initiates a brief civil disturbance on Tyree over the differing views of the morality and necessity of the act (86). During the disagreement, one of the main alien leaders exclaims, “This is a criminal plan. What right have we to steal intelligent bodies and bring these people here to suffer and die?” (121). Even though it would mean the death of their race, many Tyrenni feel that condemning innocent humans to die would be so immoral that even the threat of extinction could not justify their actions. However, some are able to drag themselves and their children to Earth, taking over the uncivilized bodies of humans, justifying their actions as their duty to protect their offspring. Overall, the novel demonstrates an awareness of the value of life and questioning whether the ends justify the means.
Most of the culture of Tyree, as explained by Tiptree, deals with gender distinctions and the raising of young Tyrenni by males. Called “fathering,” the males of Tyree have a monopoly on raising the young, there is not even a word for “mother.”
At the time the novel takes place, a feminist movement is in the early stages of forming. As demonstrated by one of the main characters, a female named Tivonel, some of the aliens are beginning to question why there are distinct gender roles and why females cannot raise young themselves. Indeed, many Tyrenni females dream of a time when they will not be treated poorly, saying, “somewhere out there must be a world where we aren’t like this. Where the females are able to do the Father-ing and all the high-status activities” (127). Thus, there is an association of raising children with greater political power and it is the main feminist motif in the book. The politics surrounding these unique gender roles are heightened by the possible transportation to Earth. Once Tivonel goes to Earth and returns to Tyree, she is bombarded by questions from females asking, “How was it [Earth] for females?” (119). Clearly many females on Tyree are struggling to better themselves and their place in society.
Surprisingly, one of the most striking and enjoyable characters is the Destroyer. Although I had expected the Destroyer to be a static character moving towards one evil goal, the destruction of life, it was actually the character with the most personal growth. Indeed, the entire book focuses on a depressing theme of overcoming uncertainty, loneliness, and impending death, all of which the Destroyer is able to encapsulate in its own existence, forcing the reader to sympathize with it. The book expresses these dark emotions from every corner and every character, and no one is immune to it, making the constant struggle to preserve such futile life many times more interesting. Overall, the people who might like this book would probably be interested in themes such as impersonal romance, feeling impending doom, anxiety, and the place of parenting in our society.
If you wish to buy the book for only $00.01 : http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0425038807/negativespaceA/