Author Biography and Bibliography
"James Tiptree, Jr." was born Alice Bradley in Chicago in 1915. Her mother
was the writer Mary Hastings Bradley; her father, Herbert, was a lawyer
and explorer. Throughout her childhood she travelled with her parents,
mostly to Africa, but also to India and Southeast Asia. Her early work
was as an artist and art critic. During World War II she enlisted in the
Army and became the first American female photointelligence officer. In
Germany after the war, she met and married her commanding officer,
Huntington D. Sheldon. In the early 1950s, both Sheldons joined the
then-new CIA; he made it his career, but she resigned in 1955, went back
to college, and earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology.
At about this same time, Alli Sheldon started writing science fiction.
She wrote four stories and sent them off to four different science
fiction magazines. She did not want to publish under her real name,
because of her CIA and academic ties, and she intended to use a new
pseudonym for each group of stories until some sold. They started
selling immediately, and only the first pseudonym"Tiptree" from a
jar of jelly, "James" because she felt editors would be more receptive
to a male writer, and "Jr." for funwas needed. (A second pseudonym,
"Raccoona Sheldon," came along later, so she could have a female persona.)
Tiptree quickly became one of the most-respected writers in the field,
winning the Hugo Award for "The Girl Who was Plugged In" and "Houston,
Houston, Do You Read?," and the Nebula Award for "Love is the Plan, the
Plan is Death" and "Houston, Houston." Raccoona won the Nebula for "The
Screwfly Solution," and Tiptree won the World Fantasy Award for the
collection Tales from the Qunitana Roo.
The Tiptree fiction reflects Alli Sheldon's interests and concerns
throughout her life: the alien among us (a role she portrayed in her
childhood travels), the health of the planet, the quality of perception,
the role of women, love, death, and humanity's place in a vast, cold
universe. An award in Tiptree's name has celebrated science fiction that
"expands and explores gender roles" for ten years now.
Alice Sheldon died in 1987 by her own hand. Writing in her first book
about the suicide of Hart Crane, she said succinctly: "Poets extrapolate."