Tiptrees stories are a distinctive contribution to science fiction. In their settings and the way the plots are established, many of the stories evoke the Golden Age of science fiction in the early twentieth century. The author conjures up corrupt galactic empires, distant futures, amazing occurrences, bug-eyed and exotic aliens, and alien worlds with the stroke of a pen. Whereas older science fiction aimed at “amazing stories,” Tiptree’s work aims at unsettling and idiosyncratic explorations of the psychology and biology of love and death. Like the New Wave writers of the 1960s and 1970s, she uses her settings and plots metaphorically, occasionally experimenting with unusual narrative voices, as in “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” a Hugo Award winner. Unlike many of the New Wave writers, she pursues her themes with an expository directness.
A strand of her work, composed of her most famous stories, can be identified clearly as feminist and therefore related to the feminist science fiction of the 1970s and 1980s. It is easy to read some of her fiction as representing a radical feminism. She consistently portrays the male sex drive as violent, most shockingly perhaps in “The Screwfly Solution” (1977, as Raccoona Sheldon), a Nebula Award winner. In that story, human males sprayed with an alien hormonal “pesticide” kill all women. She evokes visions of women’s societies as happily separate from men and of women as severely damaged by men,...
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