Meet Me at Infinity

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 7, 2001

Meet Me at Infinity by James Tiptree, Jr.

Thirteen people attended this discussion, including one first-time participant. Also, one person submitted comments by email. The book under consideration was a recent collection of short stories and essays by James Tiptree, Jr. Only one person at the meeting was able to finish the book.

For those unfamiliar with the author, a brief introduction is in order. James Tiptree, Jr. was one of the major SF writers of the 60s and 70s, writing such award-winning stories as “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” and “The Women Men Don’t See.” Tiptree was a recluse who never appeared in public, and no in the SF community knew anything about the author. Finally it was revealed that Tiptree was the pseudonym of Dr. Alice Sheldon, a psychologist who worked for the CIA. Shortly after her death in the 80s, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award for gender-bending SF was established. Presented annually at WisCon, this award has gone to several excellent works including The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh.

Since Meet Me At Infinity was published several years after the author’s death and it came out from a major publisher, we expected it to be a “best of” Tiptree. Unfortunately this book turned out to contain the “uncollected Tiptree”. This means that most of the stories were minor works. Several stories contain interesting ideas, but none of the stories are completely successful. These stories simply give us no idea of the quality Tiptree achieved in her best work. We spent a large portion of the meeting naming our favorite Tiptree stories (“The Screwfly Solution”, etc.) and wishing they were included in this book.

The nonfiction portions of the book were better. Tiptree’s essays discussing her work were interesting, but it was frustrating that none of the famous stories she mentioned were available in this book. The interviews and letters to fanzines were fun to read, but Tiptree’s attempts to maintain the false male persona prevented much real personal information from getting through.

Overall we found Meet Me at Infinity to be an unsatisfying book. It is only appropriate for Tiptree completists, who have read all of her famous work and want to get their hands on every word she wrote. Readers wishing to try Tiptree’s work for the first time should find one of her other books, which unfortunately are all out of print. After the meeting many of us had a nice dinner at The Spaghetti Warehouse.

–A. T. Campbell, III