The Women Men Don’t See by James Tiptree, Jr.

When Toni Weisskopf and I first discussed this project in Colorado Springs in February, we joked that the title of the book should be The Women Men Don’t See. Once we settled down, we realized that the title was alienating part of our audience. And, as I dip into this project publicly, I realize something else: I’m getting a lot of help and support from men. In fact, most of the recommendations for the older works have come from men who are sf fans of longstanding. So it would have been an unfair title as well.

The famous story tied to the title often doubles for the history of Tiptree herself. She presented herself as male to the field, only to provoke shock and disbelief when it became clear she was female. (Short version: She didn’t make public appearances.) I think the history of her revelation has overshadowed her fiction, and that’s too bad, because her fiction is so incredibly strong.

Take this story, which I reread after decades away. Written from the point of view of a man who sees others as objects (not just women, but the non-white pilot of the plane as well), the story is a perfect example of an unreliable narrator tale.

Our protagonist and the pilot of the small plane, along with two women, crash in a South American on a spit near some land. The tale is riveting from start to finish, and until the bright white light appears, this thing could be something out of a modern thriller novel. The writing is superb. Some of the language is dated—women’s libbers. (sigh)—but the story itself overcomes that.

I wasn’t going to include this story as my Tiptree, partly because of the title. I’m reconsidering. That last sentence is a killer…

I read this in Her Smoke Rises Up Forever, a collection of Tiptree’s works.

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