Review: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr.

Published by: Tachyon Publications
ISBN 13: 1892391201
Published: 9781892391209
Pages: 508
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Recommended
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Women of Speculative Fiction

This is part of my reading challenge for 2017, to expand my woeful knowledge of women in speculative fiction by reading at least 24 books by women that were and are instrumental in our genre.

For some reason I kept putting off reading this. I’m blown away by Tiptree’s work, so why the delay? When I started it finally, and loved each reveal… I also realised that until then I’d known I just didn’t have the emotional space for Tiptree just then. It’s heavy work, and needs time to consider each piece. Tiptree really is absolutely amazing.

Of this collection of eighteen stories there were four award winners (of what I could see), and one that was shortlisted by she requested that it be left off the ballot, and many many others shortlisted besides. We start off with a story of a spreading sickness. Doctor Ain is travelling to a conference, and on his way his sickness is spreading. It’s at the conference he talks of an ‘improved’ (weaponised) leukaemia strain and we now know what sickness Ain is carrying. We see his movements mostly through the later recollections of others, as if Ain has later been investigated for his heinous crime.

The pattern of the idea of the disease continues – whether it’s used to control the population, or how our bodies would work compatibly with aliens – mixing with the ideas in old fables of how the fae could bewitch the unsuspecting – much as has been in our past, could be in our future.

Because it’s Tiptree we see a lot of anger, a lot of morose inevitability, ideas that investigate gender roles, enslavement, sexuality, and many ideas which don’t just cross the line into the disturbing – it surrounds you completely. Tiptree is abundantly clever with her words, going as far as the narrator telling the reader you can skip this part – when it’s the opposite of true.

I can’t recommend this book enough, and we are so lucky to have had Tiptree in our genre. And to hell with those who outed her, and rejected her work when her alias was uncovered.

(Slight warning that the collection may make you angry (as it has me) for her genius, and what she went through.) 


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