"We can go to science fiction for its sense of wonder, its power to take us to far-off places and future times. We can go to political fiction to understand injustice in our own time, to see what should change. We may go to poetry — epic or lyric, old or new — for what cannot change, for a sense of human limits, as well as for the music in its words. And if we want all those things at once — a sense of escape, a sense of injustice, a sense of mortality and an ear for language — we can read the stories of James Tiptree, Jr.," the reclusive, award-winning author whose vague biography started out in the Congo, routed through a period as a painter, then service as a photo intelligence officer in WWII, and finally a researcher and teacher of "soft" sciences before getting to writing science fiction. There was another facet that was only guessed at by some, dismissed by others: the fact that "Uncle Tip," and his reclusive friend, the former school teacher Racoona Sheldon, were the same person. And they were Alice Bradley Sheldon. [more inside]
After suffering a series of strokes earlier this week, feminist science fiction author and essayist Joanna Russ has died. Russ's best known work is probably her novel The Female Man; this and her other works were often misunderstood and dismissed by the male-dominated science fiction field of the 70s. Despite this, her short story "When It Changed" (which was included in Harlan Ellison's Again Dangerous Visions) won a Hugo award in 1973, and her novella, "Souls," won a Nebula award in 1983. In retrospect, of course, hers is one of the names that will be remembered from that era of imaginative writing.