Stuff and Nonsense: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever: The Great Years of James Tiptree, Jr.


8.08.2014

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever: The Great Years of James Tiptree, Jr.


A collection of eighteen stories by James Tiptree, Jr. (a pseudonym of Alice Sheldon). There isn't a story in this collection I didn't like. Even when I was full of horror and/or apprehension, I found the stories darkly beautiful and intensely fascinating. "With Delicate Mad Hands" is probably the closest any of the stories come to having a happy ending -- and the principal character dies horribly so, obviously, it's a nontraditional happy ending -- but I didn't come away from the collection depressed or despairing over humanity. Thoughtful, yes. Disoriented by the abrupt shift back to this current reality, certainly. In these stories, Tiptree/Sheldon crafted a future that I yearn grab to with both hands while also running away from, screaming as I go.

I feel I should warn you that this short story collection is a kind of literary trap -- pick it up with the intention of skimming a story or two and you'll find yourself surfacing, disoriented and aghast, three hours later. And don't think you can "just" read one before bed! I went to bed early one night with "With Delicate Mad Hands" and it was well past midnight before I gave in and accepted I would have to finish the story in the morning as it is deceptively lengthy. And then I had the most fucked up, creepy dreams. Read these stories in the daytime, under the strong, hot light of the summer sun.

And I can't wait to read more! I don't know why it took me so long start reading Tiptree/Sheldon, but now that’s I've started, I don't intend to stop. Five out of five ghostly white milch deers.

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever: The Great Years of James Tiptree, Jr. w/ an intro by John Clute & illus by Andrew Smith (Arkham House, 1990)

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