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When the Mollusc met the Bear: Lost articles found hidden in the archives

whenmolluscmetbearpic

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!

When the Mollusc met the Bear

-Your fellow researcher, Grace


If You are out There Suzy, Don’t Read This

Suzy,

Recently I had the opportunity to read through some of your letters to Joanna Russ. In doing so, I gained a lot of insight into the influences which led you to write The Vampire Tapestry. That being said, my readings have also raised many questions, and I was hoping you could address some of them.

For instance, there are many occasions in which you display your discontent for the popularized vampire archetype. On March 21, 1978, you write about having seen an awful Dracula television show and later introduce your own vampire novel, almost as if to say, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” In fact, you go on to criticize many other vampire renditions and even Stoker’s own Dracula. On May 29, 1978, you claim that nothing interesting has ever been said in the genre and that you in turn feel as though you are working on a virgin topic.

Surely there must be some vampire stories you enjoy though. Why else would you want to/be so interested in writing one?

The other question I had for you is in relation to Weyland’s interactions with Floria. Throughout the rest of your novel you make Weyland out to be such a solitary individual whose sole objective is to survive. I understand what he has to gain in terms of psychological therapy from her, but why did he leave her be as he fled to New Mexico? It seemed to me that by sleeping with her he was simply fulfilling some curiosity, some scientific pursuit. Once it was over he didn’t have to compromise his safety by letting her live, but he did. Why? Was this simply the tipping-point at which Weyland becomes “soft” and too attached to his prey?

Thanks in advance,

Dylan

P.S. I really enjoyed the novel!

Box 1 Folder 39, Correspondence with Charnas, Suzy McKee, Joanna Russ Papers, Coll 261, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Or.


A Letter to a Not-Ghost

Dear Alli,

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?

The Psychologist Who Empathized with Rats: James Tiptree, Jr. as

Illustration by Alice Sheldon, 1967 PhD Dissertation.

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.

With love,
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.


I’m not even Unprejudiced

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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.

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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>.  


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