Saturday, May 8, 2010
James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips
A biography of Alice B Sheldon, or James Tiptree Jr.
She seem to have been a person with very unusual life. Born to rich parents who took her to expeditions to darkest Africa when she was just a small child, later artist, a volunteer in female army corps during the second world war, intelligence analyzer for CIA, and for a short time she and her husband run a chicken hatchery, and later a scientist with a doctorate in psychology. And then she started to write science fiction using a pen name "James Tiptree Jr.", and had very active correspondence with several sf authors who all believed her to be a male. The book is very interestingly written, and gives a good picture of Sheldon and her very confused gender identity, but at many place was very depressing book. She never found herself at home in a very restrictive role the women had in US for most of 20th century, and had to copy with severe depression and misuse of drugs, mainly amphetamines, for most of her life. (I wonder if she had something what would nowadays be called an ADHD spectrum disease, that might in part explain why she had so many, so different “careers” in her life, had so much difficulties coping with “regular life” and why she found amphetamine-type drugs so “good” for her).
One thing I would have wanted to see in the book would have some examples of the paintings Alice Sheldon made in the 30's, when she was on her artist phase. She had some exhibitions, and was able to sell several paintings, but there are no pictures of them in the book. Otherwise, this very comprehensive work, and makes one want to reread some of Tiptree's works.