Published in Science Fiction Studies, Volume 34, Issue 1, March 1, 2007, pages 59-86. Copyright © 2007 SF-TH Inc. at DePauw University.
James Tiptree, Jr., is surely one of the most controversial figures in the sf field, a field that is rife with controversy. The controversy surrounding Tiptree begins with the very question of his identity. In his introductions to Tiptree's 1975 short-story collection Warm Worlds and Otherwise, sf author and critic Robert Silverberg asked the questions that were on the minds of many in the sf community: "Who is Tiptree? What Is He?" Silverberg infamously concluded that "there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree's writing" (xii). But during the winter of 1976-77, the sf world learned that "James Tiptree, Jr." was in fact a pseudonym of Dr. Alice B. Sheldon. The remarkable Dr. Sheldon had served as a photo-intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, eventually rising to the rank of Major. After the war, she had gone on to work for the Central Intelligence Agency. Dissatisfied with her work at the C.I.A., she had re-invented herself at least twice: first as an experimental psychologist, then (perhaps more radically) as a "male" author of sf stories. When he learned of Tiptree's secret identity, Silverberg was a good sport about it. "I suppose I will ear some crow over that, but I'm not at all annoyed with you," he wrote to Alice Sheldon. " You didn't fool me, I fooled myself, and so be it" (qtd. Phillips 360).