MEET ME AT INFINITY
by James Tiptree, Jr.
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
James Tiptree, Jr. (a.k.a. Alice Sheldon) may be one of science fiction’s most underrated authors. Although she has a cult following and many of her works are remain in print, to the majority of readers, she, and her strange story, have been relegated to the vanished history of the science fiction field. Meet Me at Infinity, billed as the final Tiptree collection, is a rather eclectic blend of eight stories and thirty-six essays and letters by Tiptree.
The eight stories reflect upon some of Tiptree’s best writing, but also include several non-descript pieces. “Please Don’t Play With the Time Machine” was first submitted in 1968, but did not see publication until the Fall 1998 issue of Amazing. The story was originally written in the 1950s and seems slight and dated, especially compared to stories such as “The Color of Neanderthal Eyes.” Many of the stories are only a page or two in length, scarcely longer than Jeffrey D. Smith’s comments about them.
The collection’s title is taken from a piece of Star Trek related fiction published in a fanzine in 1972. Interestingly, the story does not appear in the collection. In fact, stories not appearing in this collection is a recurrent problem. Several of the essays which are included were written as afterwords or introductions to other Tiptree stories. However, these notes by Tiptree do not indicate where the particular story can be found. While this may not cause a problem for an owner of Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a collection which contains three of the five stories discussed, a reader who is interested in the stories will have to track them down.
The meat of Meet Me at Infinity is neither the stories, which form a wonderful introduction to Tiptree’s writing, nor the story notes or reviews which appear in the second half of the book, but rather the biographical and semi-biographical essays and letters which give the reader an indication of who this author really was. Of course, given Tiptree’s life, this is a rather interesting proposition.
As is now known, James Tiptree, Jr. was the pseudonym used by Alice B. Sheldon throughout her career. When Sheldon began writing, however, she let little personal information out, and it was several years before there was an inkling that “Tiptree” was actually a female. In fact, when the idea was first suggested, it was pooh-poohed by Robert Silverberg. The truth became known when Locus magazine revealed Sheldon’s identity in 1977.
Almost as good as Tiptree’s writing are the notes provided by Tiptree’s friend and editor Jeffrey D. Smith. Smith provides a framework for many of the pieces which are included, both in the fiction and non-fiction sections of the book. These help provide a context for the stories and essays which Tiptree does not always provide herself when writing, although they frequently quote correspondence with Tiptree.
Meet Me at Infinity is a strong and varied introduction to one of science fiction's great authors who is in danger of being lost to a later generation of readers. While the inclusion of more bibliographical information would have been a nice addition to the work, it still provides a starting point for the discovery of Tiptree's writings and her life.
|Happiness Is a Warm Spaceship||Please Don’t Play With the Time Machine|
|A Day Like Any Other||Press Until the Bleeding Stops|
|Go From Me, I Am One of Those Who Pall||The Trouble Is Not In Your Set|
|Trey of Hearts||The Color of Neanderthal Eyes|
|If You Can’t Laugh at It, What Good Is It?||In the Canadian Rockies|
|I Saw Him||Spitting Teeth, Our Hero—|
|Do You Like It Twice?||The Voice from the Baggie|
|Maya Maloob||Looking Inside Squirmy Authors|
|Comment on “The Last Flight of Doctor Ain”||Afterword to “The Milk of Paradise”|
|Afterword to “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever”||Introduction to “The Night-blooming Saurian”|
|The Laying on of Hands||Going Gently Down, or, in Every Young Person There Is an Old Person Screaming To Get Out|
|The Spooks Next Door||Harvesting the Sea|
|More Travels, or, Heaven Is Northwest of You||With Tiptree Through the Great Sex Muddle|
|Quintana Roo: No Travelog This Trip||Review of The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin|
|How to Have an Absolutely Hilarious Heart Attack, or, So You Want to Get Sick in the Third World||The First Domino|
|Everything But the Signature Is Me||The Lucky Ones|
|Something Breaking Down||Dzo’oc U Ma’an U Kinil—Incident on the Cancun Road, Yucatan|
|Not a New Zealand Letter||Biographical Sketch for Contemporary Authors|
|Contemporary Authors Interview||S.O.S. Found in an SF Bottle|
|Note on “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”||How Do You Know You’re Reading Philip K. Dick?|
|Review of Kayo by James McConkey||Zero at the Bone|
|A Woman Writing Science Fiction|
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