Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tiptree, Again

I finished the Philips biography of Alice Sheldon, and then I reread a bunch of Sheldon's stories. God, she was good. But Julie Philips' summation of some of them surprised me. Consistently I found that the weakness of the bio was Philips' sweeping statements unbacked by either examples or explanation, and this was particularly true about the stories. The all-female future of "Houston, Houston, Do You Read" is described by Philips as "neither happy nor free," and search as I might, I found nothing in the story to support that statement. And the protagonist of "The Women Men Don't See," Don Fenton, is described as "likeable," which I really didn't see.

I suppose this personal reaction is a necessary part of literature. It's also the reason we have, say, contests like the Nebulas. But it makes me wonder what readers are seeing in my two contenders, "Fountain of Age" and "Safeguard," that may be completely contrary to what I see there. Or put there. Or tried to put there. I like Max, that old reprobate, but maybe others find him repulsive or tedious.

The author, like the deceived spouse, is always the last to know.

2 comments:

Peggy said...

Wow, I don't know how she came to that interpretation of "Houston, Houston". It always seemed clear to me that the displaced men assumed that an all-female world must be an unhappy one, while ignoring the fact that the women seemed to be getting along just fine without them. I think it's very similar to "The Women Men Don't See", where the apparently well-meaning male protagonist clearly doesn't understand women. That disconnect is part of what made the stories so powerful to me when I first read them as a teenager in the 80s. It was so different from most of the male-centric SF I had read to that point.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

I must confide I've never understood why Alice Sheldon is ranked among the mighty.

What a wretched hombre I am!