Lecture 19: “Who Is Tiptree, What Is He?”
5 September 2013
“But Rudy, it's been such fun. How many times in one's life does a
door open to total escape, utter newness? I was so profoundly
dispirited, alienated […] And suddenly I was in the middle of a
different light, a new me, first having a good joke of being someone
else, and then as the stories went on and out, having started
genuine friendships among delightful people whose native language
—crude, childish, humourous—rational—was mine...”
— Alice Sheldon, letter to Rudolph Arnheim (1969)
● I'm pleased to see people starting already on
the study guide.
● Remember that I need to approve you as an editor
before you can edit.
● There's still plenty of low-hanging fruit to be picked.
● Yes, this counts as a quiz for purposes of taking
enough quizzes to avoid an automatic non-passing
● Questions about the final exam?
● Other matters?
Some final words about Kindred
“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of
politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics
itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and
schizophrenia.” (Orwell 137)
“I had thought that eventually, he [Rufus] would just
rape her [Alice] again—and again. In fact, I was
surprised that he hadn't already done it. I didn't realize
that he was planning to involve me in that rape. He
was, and he did.” (O. Butler 162)
[Dana:] “Were you helping slaves to escape?”
[Kevin:] “Of course I was!” (193)
“Wait a minute,” he [Kevin] said. “I'm not
minimizing the wrong that's being done here. I
[Dana:] “Yes you are. You don't mean to be, but
you are.” (100)
“Be careful, Dana,” he [Kevin] said, unwittingly
echoing Rufus. “Be as careful as you can.” (91)
“This could be a great time to live in,” Kevin
said once. “I keep thinking what an experience it
would be to stay in it—go West and watch the
building of the country, see how much of the Old
West mythology is true.”
“West,” I said bitterly. “That's where they're
doing it to the Indians instead of the blacks!”
He looked at me strangely. He had been doing
that a lot lately. (97)
“that which hurts”
“To me, it's getting more and more believable. I don't
like it. I don't want to be in the middle of it. I don't
understand how it can be happening, but it's real. It
hurts too much not to be And … and my ancestors, for
“The wall of my living room. I was back at home—in my
own house, in my own time. But I was still caught
somehow, joined to the wall as though my arm were
growing out of it—or growing into it. From the elbow to
the ends of the fingers, my left arm had become a part
of the wall. I looked at the spot where flesh joined with
plaster, stared at it uncomprehending. It was the exact
spot Rufus's arms had grasped.” (261)
“History is therefore the experience of Necessity,
and it is this alone which can forestall its
thematization or reification as a mere object of
representation or as one master code among many
others. Necessity is not in that sense a type of
content, but rather the inexorable form of events […]
History is what hurts, it is what refuses desire and
sets inexorable limits to individual as well as
collective praxis, which its ‘ruses’ turn into grisly and
ironic reversals of their overt intention. But this
History can be apprehended only through its effects,
and never directly as some reified force.”
— Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious
(end of ch. 1)
“Love is the Plan the Plan Is Death”
● What happens in this story?
● What do we know about the aliens?
● What is defamiliarized?
● How do we read the story?
● What is “the Plan”?
● Why write a story entirely about aliens?
● What can we fairly determine about the author
from the story?
Yes, in the warm and I want only to calm
him, I am full of love—but the kill-roar is
rushing through me, I too am swelling,
rattling, booming! Invincible! To crush—to
Oh, I am shamed. (405)
“No—it roars me, the new power of black.”
“This sweetness that floods our bodies when
we yield to the Plan. Great is the Plan! Fear it,
fight it—but hold the sweetness yet.” (407)
… and the limits of reason
“in the warm days I am me, Myself-Moggadeet.
Ever-growing, ever-learning. In the warm we
think, we speak. We love! We make our own
“'Fa-ther?' A word I don't know. But wait—' His
mangled head turns to me. The winters grow?
Your mother said this? Oh, cold! Oh, lonely,' he
groans. 'A big learning she gave you. This
learning I fear to think.” (413)
[The Old One:] “Look around, young one.
These stony deadwoods. Dead sheets of
trees that grow in the warm valleys. Why are
they here? The cold has killed them. No
living tree grows here now. Think, young
I look, and true! It is a warm forest killed to
“Will the winters grow until we can learn nothing
but only live blindly in the Plan, like the silly
fatclimbers who sing but do not speak?” (414)
“It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a
theory that I find absurd, for there is to me
something ineluctably masculine about
— Robert Silverberg, "Who Is Tiptree,
What Is He?"
Alice Bradley Sheldon (1915-1987)
● Best known for SF written
under the pseudonym
“James Tiptree, Jr.” (1967-
● Real identity not publicly
known until 1977.
● Inducted into Science
Fiction Hall of Fame in
● First published story was
“Birth of a Salesman” in
the 1968 issue of Analog,
then edited by John W.
The photo of Alice Bradley Sheldon (slide 12) is
a low-resolution copy being used only as a
teaching tool, and is irreplaceable. Original