Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Alice Sheldon is a difficult person to pin down, because she didn't want to be pinned down, labelled, put in a box. She struggled all her life with issues of gender, class, sexuality, and mental health. She was an incredibly interesting, intelligent, yet troubled person, whose legacy has a huge impact of the SSFnal world even today. She didn't want to just be known as the author who turned feminist speculative fiction and the idea of gendered writing on its head. She is many things to many people. But for me, if anyone questions the validity of women writing science fiction, I point them in the direction of James Tiptree, Jr.
Sheldon's legacy isn't without its problems. She had a problematic relationship with her gender presentation, sexuality, and women's rights of the day, her reactions to which are sad and infuriating in equal measure. In the end, the pain of not fitting in anywhere, the pain of her mental health problems she never received adequate help for, led to her taking her own life. Though she died when I was 14, a long time before I was introduced to her work, I miss her everyday, like some sort of ghost aunt.
I write about my thoughts on her relationship to gender, feminism, and sexuality in my essay which is included in "Letters to Tiptree", edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce, released by Twelfth Planet Press. This book of essays has been released to celebrate Sheldon's 100th birthday this month. There's been a variety of interesting excerpts, columns, and press for the release of the book.
For further reading:
"The Women You Didn't See: A Letter to Alice Sheldon" by Nicola Griffith at the LA Review of Books
"Letters to Tiptree" by Brit Mandelo at Tor.com
"Dear Dr Sheldon" by Gwyneth Jones
Galactica Suburbia Episode 125 - "James Tiptree, Jr." (audio)
"Where to start with the works of James Tiptree, Jr." by Brit Mandelo at Tor.com
"What James Tiptree, Jr. can teach us about the power of the SF community" by Leah Schnelbach at Tor.com
"The most secretive woman in the history of Science Fiction" by Ted Gioia at Conceptual Fiction
"Letters to Tiptree" by Twelfth Planet Press is now available for purchase in ebook and print formats through their website.