Letters to Tiptree: what does it mean to “write like a man”?

cover of Letters to TiptreeLetters to Tiptree was released this week from World Fantasy Award-winning Australian small press Twelfth Planet Press, and I’m rather excited about it. This comes on the heels of feminist F/SF podcast Galactic Suburbia winning the Hugo Award for best fancast on the weekend, which I was also quite excited about! (My squee could be heard from t’other side.) Letters to Tiptree editors Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce are also on the Galactic Suburbia podcast, along with Tansy Rayner Roberts – who I think now is the only Australian to win two Hugo Awards? Can anyone correct me on that?

The media release for Letters reads:

For nearly a decade, between 1968 and 1976, a middle-aged woman in Virginia (her own words) had much of the science fiction community in thrall. Her short stories were awarded, lauded and extremely well- reviewed. They were also regarded as “ineluctably masculine”, because Alice Sheldon was writing as James Tiptree Jr.

Sheldon’s adventures in publishing have often been regarded as the least interesting part of her life. From little-girl adventurer in Africa with socialite parents to working photo-intelligence in WWII through to the early CIA—which she left to undertake a doctorate in experimental psychology— Sheldon led a fascinating life. And, as her biographer Julie Phillips has portrayed, there are the unanswerable questions around her experience of sexuality and gender identity.

In Letters to Tiptree, forty writers, editors, critics, and fans address questions of gender, of sexuality, of the impossibility and joy of knowing someone only through their fiction and biography. They reminisce about the impact of Tiptree’s work, about teaching her stories, and about what it means that a woman can write “like a man”.

Letters to Tiptree includes letters from:

Kathryn Allan, Marleen S. Barr, Stephanie Burgis, Joyce Chng, Aliette de Bodard, L. Timmel Duchamp, A.J. Fitzwater, Lisa Goldstein, Theodora Goss, Nicola Griffith, Valentin D. Ivanov, Gwyneth Jones, Rose Lemberg, Sylvia Kelso, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Brit Mandelo, Sandra McDonald, Seanan McGuire, Karen Miller, Judith Moffett, Cheryl Morgan, Pat Murphy, Sarah Pinsker, Cat Rambo, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Justina Robson, Nisi Shawl, Nike Sulway, Lucy Sussex, Rachel Swirsky, Bogi Takács, Lynne M. Thomas, Elisabeth Vonarburg, Jo Walton, and Tess Williams.

Additionally, the book contains academic material including:

– archived letters from Alice Sheldon, Ursula K Le Guin and Joanna Russ
– excerpts from The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms by Helen Merrick
– an excerpt from Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction by Justine Larbalestier
– the 2005 introductory essay to Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a collection of James Tiptree Jr’s short fiction, by Michael Swanwick

About the Editors

Alexandra Pierce reads, teaches, blogs, podcasts, cooks, knits, runs, eats, sleeps, and observes the stars. Not necessarily in that order of priority. She is a Christian, a feminist, and an Australian. She can be found at her website, and on the Hugo Award- winning Galactic Suburbia podcast.

Alisa Krasnostein has been successfully editing and publishing books for eight years. In 2011, she won the World Fantasy Award for her work with the press, and Twelfth Planet books and stories have won the Shirley Jackson, Locus, WSFA Small Press, Aurealis, Ditmar, Chronos and Tin Duck awards. Alisa is also a four times Hugo nominee, and winner of the Peter McNamara Award in 2011, as co-host of the Hugo- winning Galactic Suburbia Podcast. Twelfth Planet Press has championed underrepresented voices from the very start. Previous projects include the acclaimed Twelve Planets series of twelve short collections of short fiction by Australian women and Kaleidoscope, an anthology of diverse YA fiction, published in 2014.


[Disclosure: I am Facebook friends with Alisa and have met the editors at conventions, but am unconnected with the business except as a happy customer. I purchased a copy of this book myself, and HaT has since also received an electronic review copy.]

Categories: arts & entertainment, Culture, gender & feminism, history

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4 replies

  1. I have been informed that Shaun Tan (yay!) has multiple Hugo Awards – Best Professional Artist x3 and Best Related Work – but that Tansy Rayner Roberts is the first Australian woman to win more than one. Hurrah for them both!

  2. I hope they include Robert Silverberg’s introduction to Warm Worlds and Otherwise, where he goes on at some length about how “masculine” Mr. Tiptree is and pooh-poohs the idea that he might be a woman. And, of course, his postscript to that introduction.


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