In the Books Section:
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
Discussed March 2016
By James Triptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon)
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- Were you familiar with Tiptree before reading this book? Had you read other works by her, or her biography?
- Did you finish the book?
Did you like the book? Why or why not?
- What was your favorite story? Your least-favorite story? Were there stories you enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) for style reasons? For content reasons?
- Would you classify all the stories in the collection as science fiction? If not, why not?
- Alice B. Sheldon wrote for many years under the pen name James Tiptree Jr., and was believed by her various friends and admirers in fandom to be male. Robert Silverberg famously called her writing “ineluctably masculine.” Do you agree? Do you see any stylistic differences between the stories she published as Tiptree and those she published as Racoona Sheldon (her female pen name)? (Racoona stories in the collection are “The Screwfly Solution” and “Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!”)
- Gender relations in Tiptree’s stories are always fraught. Did you find her depictions of men and women—and how they interact—plausible? Do they reflect your own perceptions of the world? Do they reflect something specific to the time in which Tiptree wrote?
- Were there aspects of any of the stories that you found “dated,” or do you feel they aged well? Do you think Tiptree would have written differently had she lived in a different time?
- Several of Tiptree’s stories (“Her Smoke Rose Up Forever,” “On The Last Afternoon,” “Slow Music,” “A Momentary Taste of Being”) concern life after death and offer a sort of psychic afterlife as an alternative to the life of the flesh. Did you find the characters’ struggles to choose whether to stay embodied or move on to potentially greater things compelling? Do you believe Tiptree came down on the side of one choice or the other being “better”?
- Two stories in the collection are told from an alien perspective (“We Who Stole the Dream,” “Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death”). Did you find Tiptree’s aliens convincingly non-human?
- Very few of Tiptree’s stories in this collection include LGBT content, and when they do it is described as a romantic rather than sexual connection (“With Delicate Mad Hands,” “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”). How did you feel about what content was included?
- Almost of Tiptree’s stories in this collection end on a pessimistic note—for individuals and for the race as a whole. Do you feel any stories here offer hope for humanity’s future or ideas for how we can save ourselves from ourselves?