Category Archives: Tiptree
A collection of letters and misc. writings entitled “When the Mollusc Met the Bear” were found hidden in the University of Oregon’s special archives in the storage room. The letters include letters written to Vonda N. McIntyre from Ursula K. Le Guin, letters to James Tiptree Jr. from Le Guin, and vice versa. How these letters escaped the librarians’ attention is unknown (they are likewise, dumbfounded). Note, some of these letters have deteriorated or are in bad condition; thus, some letters are unfinished, for the other parts are missing. In order to share with you all these rare documents, I have included a link to a pdf, to save the trouble of transcribing these letters into text onto the blog and to avoid confusion. Enjoy!
-Your fellow researcher, Grace
After your mother died, you wrote of her ghost that was not truly a ghost. You spoke to her. When I read your letters, though I am just as much an atheist as you, I feel a similar phantasm filling the chair beside me. You feel so damn real.
Perhaps when you’re visiting some time, you could tell me why you really left the Psychology field. Your writing career emerged around the same time you finished your dissertation, so that would be an understandable explanation… though you must have put considerable efforts into writing, drawing energy from the focus on Psychology. Why? Was teaching too much for you? You seem to have an all-or-nothing switch, which could make it impossible to take care of yourself while doing the job to your standards. Or maybe you didn’t feel support from the department at George Washington– as a woman, as an empathy researcher?
I like to think you chose the world of SF, rather than feeling forced to leave Psychology, that soft science. So much of your life feels familiar to me, I’m afraid I will make a similar misstep. Though I’m sure your writing would not have been the same without your knowledge of Psychology. In that sense, it wasn’t wrong at all, just moving forward.
What would you think of the world today, twenty-six years after you died? I hope there is room and acceptance for a woman like you. You took the whole world into you and asked for nothing in return; is this what broke you? Like you named your lost birds, I will name you osprey (those seahawks Ting watched near the Lodge). Despite your power, you were still subject to the flimsiness of your delicate bird body. But your words and your not-ghost are still very much alive.
Naomi Wright [a stranger and a friend]
Mother’s death: Box 10, File 30: 10/27/1976 Letter from Tiptree, James Jr., Joanna Russ Papers, Coll 261, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Or.
Elms, A. C. (March 01, 2004). The Psychologist Who Empathized with Rats: James Tiptree, Jr. as Alice B. Sheldon, PhD. Science Fiction Studies, 31, 1, 81-96.
Phillips, J. (2006). James Tiptree, Jr: The double life of Alice B. Sheldon. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Sheldon, A. “Preference for Familiar Versus Novel Stimuli as a Function of the Familiarity of the Environment.” Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology 67.4 (1969): 516-21.
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>.