James Tiptree Jr.
Secretive author who explored gender identity, sex, and death.
August 24, 1915 – May 19, 1987
James Tiptree Jr. was the pen name of Alice B. Sheldon, who kept her true identity secret for the majority of her career. A complex figure, she came from outside the genre yet embraced its modes to boldly examine issues of sex, gender identity, male/female relations, and death.
Sheldon’s life was as rich as her fiction. Early on she worked as a painter and art critic, then joined the US Army during World War II to serve as an Air Intelligence officer, rising to the rank of Major. She worked for the newly founded CIA and later earned a doctorate in experimental psychology. Although she long had literary aspirations, and published some non-genre stories in the 1940s, Sheldon began writing science fiction in earnest at age 51.
Analog published her first sale, “Birth of a Salesman,” in 1968. Four more stories appeared that year, launching a decade of work that became increasingly more startling and challenging. Notice and recognition from her readers and peers quickly followed.
“The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” (1969) was nominated for a Nebula Award, “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side” (1972) was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Tiptree preferred short fiction, writing only two novels. Seven collections of her stories were published during her lifetime. She won three Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, one World Fantasy Award, and many others. In 1991 the James Tiptree Jr. Award for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores the understanding of gender was created in her honor.