I’ve umm’d and ah’d about whether to persevere with or give up reading James Tiptree Jnr’s “10,000 Light-Years from Home” (1977, Pan-Science Fiction). Even as I write, I’m still not 100% sure whether I will finish it or not… so why am I reading it?
I came across mention of it on Mastodon, Tiptree being rated as a science fiction writer and this the book to read. Not being a science fiction reader, preferring the past to the future, it seemed an opportunity to expand my horizons. Having struggled through the first three chapters, it seems as though there are multiple strands that will eventually merge. By page 72 this seems to be the case. However, the book has still not drawn me in sufficiently to want to finish it. This despite my fascination with when the book was published and its future-gazing. It seems so much more than I pick up today where the future vision seems to have stagnated.
Does this mean the book is not good? I don’t think so. It’s rated as one of the best, the publisher wrote an introduction to the book: “Here was a story by a professional, a man who knew how to interest me…he writes the kind of fiction that is worth reading and is a pleasure to read at the same time.”
Britannica gives some background to Tiptree – not a “he” but a “she” – while Vox puts her work into perspective.
It’s simply not my kind of book. But it might be yours. It did get me reflecting though: why is there such a need to focus on sex in entertainment? I hadn’t expected the graphic scenes (rather mild by today’s standards) in the opening chapter. Not having read the blurb or anything about the author before embarking on the read, I had no idea Tiptree was fascinated with gender issues.
The start of the Vox article notes:
Feminist dystopian fiction owes just as much to this woman — who wrote as a man — as Margaret Atwood.
While I found Margaret Atwood’s film of “A Handmaid’s Tale” incredibly moving, rating it as one of the best I’ve seen, it’s not a book I’m going to read. The mental images are likely to be too much for me. Similar to Tiptree. I much prefer the more gentle but still hard-hitting approach of Doris Lessing.
Knowing something of the author’s interest in a topic is another way I approach books taking me out of my comfort zone. This got me through editing Gideon Master’s trilogy: “Lucifer’s Child”, “Gestation” and “Ovum” which TSL published. This is a struggle between good and evil, this world and others. Knowing more about Tiptree and her motivation, I can’t say the same – her focus on gender issues rather put a damper on things.
And with that, I’ve decided not to finish the book. But it might be one for you. As might the trilogy by Gideon Masters.
Another dystopian novel published by TSL and a little more gentle than those already mentioned are by Jo Wilkinson “When Falls the Night” and “Into the Darkness”.