The last collection of the fiction and nonfiction of Alice Sheldon, a.k.a. James Tiptree Jr., is introduced by Jeffrey D. Smith, who tells the reader that, by its very nature, this collection is less a book by Tiptree than one about her. Although the essays and stories and articles here were assembled by Tiptree before her death, Smith has interleaved Tiptree's words with notes of his own, including quotes from private correspondence between the two. The results are revealing and surprisingly moving.
During the 10 years Sheldon wrote and interacted with others using the Tiptree persona, she became known as one of the finest SF writers in the world. Her short fiction (perhaps the most notable collection is Her Smoke Rose Up Forever) has always been more highly regarded than her full-length pieces, and it was during the years 1967 to 1976 that her most famous work, mainly in novella form, was conceived and written. Once the male Tiptree was exposed as the female Sheldon, her work--and her relationships with colleagues and fans and critics, previously conducted solely by mail--changed.
This change lies at the heart of the nonfiction and is the strength of the book. The breezy "Tiptree" letters and articles written from Central America depict a wiry older man who is nonetheless still active--vigorous enough to notice attractive women--making his way capably through a sometimes dangerous environment. It is fascinating to superimpose upon this picture that of the "real" writer--the small, rather vulnerable, middle-aged woman. It becomes clear that both pictures are true, and the reader is left desperately wanting to learn more about Sheldon and Tiptree and the strange intersection of truth, art, and lies that was their life. Until we get a full-scale Tiptree biography, however, this is all we have. --Luc Duplessis.