About 150 people attended last weekend’s James Tiptree Jr. Symposium at the University of Oregon, celebrating the University’s acquisition of James Tiptree, Jr./Alice Sheldon’s papers, donated by Jeff and Ann Smith, as well as the centenary year of Alice Sheldon’s birth. The symposium was organized by Linda Long, Carol Stabile, Jenee Wilde, and many other people from the University of Oregon. We extend our heartiest thanks to all of them!
In attendance were both Tiptree Award founding mothers (Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler), several Tiptree Award winners, including Suzy McKee Charnas, Molly Gloss, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Nisi Shawl, two special Tiptree Award winners (L. Timmel Duchamp and Julie Phillips) and three motherboard members in addition to the founding mothers (Jeanne Gomoll, Debbie Notkin, and Jeff Smith), as well as a host of other fascinating people. Jeff Smith’s report on the symposium is here.
The event began with a keynote speech by Julie Phillips, author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, a definitive and fascinating account of Sheldon/Tiptree’s very complex life.
Julie spoke about Tiptree’s friendships-by-letter with Ursula K. Le Guin and Joanna Russ (both of whom also donated their papers to the University of Oregon collection). She read excerpts from letters, and spoke about the effect of the discovery that “Tiptree” was a woman on her close correspondents, and on the science fiction field. In distinction to the use of Internet pseudonyms for personal gain of various kinds, Julie said “Alice Bradley Sheldon used her pseudonym for good; she used it to figure out something about herself.”
Ursula Le Guin came to the podium to read her response to the letter Tiptree wrote her “confessing” that she was actually a woman.
The first day of the symposium also included several students from Professor Carol Stabile’s feminist science fiction class reading their selections from Tiptree’s letters, and an audiotape of Tiptree’s famous story, “The Women Men Don’t See.” Linda Long and Jenee Wilde, both of the University of Oregon Special Collections, led a tour of the exhibit available through February in the Knight Library. The Tiptree Award quilt could not be hung downstairs with the exhibit because of the size of the quilt and the historic status of the building (so no hooks can be installed), but it was beautifully on display on a table in the special collections room:
The Tiptree Award hosted a party on Friday night at a nearby hotel. All thanks to Margaret and Dale McBride, Leslie What, James Stegall and Gré, without whom we could not have had such a wonderful event.
The second day of the symposium featured a panel of science fiction editors (L. Timmel Duchamp of Aqueduct Press, Lisa Rogers and Gordon van Gelder of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Jacob Weisman of Tachyon Publications), followed by a panel of authors who knew Tiptree.
In the afternoon, Jeff Smith answered questions from students in Professor Stabile’s class and from the audience, Julie Phillips elaborated on her keynote and answered more questions, and we closed with a panel on the Tiptree Award itself.
When Joan asked how many people in the audience had been on a Tiptree jury, about half of us raised our hands. At the end of this panel, Nisi Shawl came down from the audience and she and Pat led us in a rousing chorus of the song from the year Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales won the award.
A good time was had by all! And perhaps the most exciting thing is that the folks at University of Oregon are talking about making this an annual event, focusing next year on Joanna Russ! Start thinking about your trip to Eugene in late 2016. You won’t regret it.