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Her Smoke Rose Up Forever [Paperback]

James Tiptree
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Jan 2004
These 18 darkly complex short stories and novellas touch upon human nature and perception, metaphysics and epistemology, and gender and sexuality, foreshadowing a world in which biological tendencies bring about the downfall of humankind. Revisions from the author's notes are included, allowing a deeper view into her world and a better understanding of her work. The Nebula Award-winning short story Love Is the Plan, the Plan Is Death , the Hugo Award-winning novella The Girl Who Was Plugged In , and the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novella Houston, Houston, Do You Read? are included.

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Her Smoke Rose Up Forever + James Tiptree, JR.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tachyon Publications (30 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892391201
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892391209
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 14.1 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Showcases what are undoubtedly the best of Tiptree’s stories." -- SF Site

About the Author

James Tiptree Jr

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With Delicate Mad Hands... 16 Dec 2008
By Murray
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book after listening to StarShipSofa's excellent podcast on the life and works of James Tiptree Jr. You can't help but be intrigued by Tiptree, or Alice Sheldon as her name really was, who as a child saw the world with her lawyer/naturalist father and travel-writer mother, worked as an artist, joined the US army (working in its Air Forces intelligence department), and was later asked to join the CIA -- a bisexual woman who ended her own and her husband's lives in a long-planned suicide (she at 71, he 84). But so often it's the case that authors with interesting lives are less interesting as authors, and it's the accountants and office workers who make the better writers. But Tiptree's writing, rather than being just an aspect of her colourful biography, adds another dimension to it. It is obviously the product of an intelligent, compassionate, incisive person (reading it, and not knowing, I think you'd be hard pressed to put money on whether it was written by a man or a woman), genuinely concerned with the very human issues she explores through science fiction.

Most of the material in this collection comes from the 70s, so Tiptree was writing at a time when SF had been stylistically and thematically freed by the New Wave and the generally increased literariness of the 60s. Starting with her first major success as a short story writer, "The Last Flight of Doctor Ain", the book contains some fine stories, including the ones that won her two Hugos and three Nebulas ("The Girl Who Was Plugged In", "Love Is the Plan and the Plan is Death", "The Screwfly Solution" and the double-winner "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?"). "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" is the tale of an ugly young nothing picked off the streets to become a soap star -- only, not in her own body.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Collection 23 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
James Tiptree's writings defy classification. She takes subtle stories and enhances them with her use of language and style. To discover her true identity enabled me to understand the sensibilities she put into her work. A great collection of stories to take you to another time and place.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Book in the World 27 Dec 1998
By Alan Heuer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Do you have a favorite book in the world? This book, quite simply, is mine. This is a posthumously-published collection of eighteen stories by James Tiptree, Jr. (pseudonym for Alice Sheldon). It contains most of her best short fiction. It also contains a compelling introduction by John Clute. Mark Richard Siegel, who wrote the Starmont Reader's Guide on James Tiptree, Jr., wrote the sentence that I think best captures the essence of what is distinctive and special about Tiptree's work. He wrote: "Her stories showed that, for the individual, the most significant thing is passionate experience, the intensity of certain moments, good and bad, when she is most truly alive." Do you crave passionate experiences? Tiptree will put you through them. But be warned that Tiptree often put her characters through mercilessly gut-wrenching passionate experiences, wrenching THIS reader's gut right along the way. Tiptree is not for readers who like their fiction safe and cozy, knowing everything will turn out all right in the end. Here are a few words on my five favorite stories in the book.
My own personal favorite Tiptree story is "The Screwfly Solution." In this story a sort of psychological plague has broken out in various parts of the world where men are murdering women wholesale. Tiptree introduces us to (and makes us care about) one particular family. In 21 pulse-pounding pages Tiptree gives us the stunning macro-story of the fate of humanity in the face of this terrifying "plague," along with the heart-wrenching micro-story of its effect on one family. It is a masterpiece of economical storytelling, and no SF story has an ending which packs a bigger wallop.
My (close) second favorite story in the book is "A Momentary Taste of Being." In his introduction to the book, John Clute writes of this story: "...word-perfect over its great length, and almost unbearably dark in the detail and momentum of the revelation of its premise...[it] may be the finest densest most driven novella yet published in the [science fiction] field." I can tell you it is my all-time favorite novella. The story concerns a space mission, a desperate attempt by humanity to find a habitable planet (for colonization) to relieve some pressure from a horrendously overpopulated and polluted Earth. The pressure in the story just builds and builds to a climax as intense as any you are likely to experience in fiction.
I think "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death," a story of alien love, is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece of style. Not everybody agrees. Gardner Dozois in his excellent and mostly laudatory essay, "The Fiction of James Tiptree, Jr.," writes of this story: "I can never read [its] galumphing, ungrammatical, childishly-rapturous narration without hearing it in the accents of the Cookie Monster...." Tiptree herself, in typical self-depreciating fashion, described it as being written in "the style of 1920 porno." I think the highly unusual style helps us understand and feel the true alien-ness of the viewpoint character, and I believed totally while I was reading. As John Clute writes, "...[it] has a juggernaut drive, a consuming melancholy of iron, a premise the author never backed away from...."
In "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" three astronauts return from a trip around the sun only to find they have somehow been transported hundreds of years into the future. What they find in the future, and more important, how they react to what they find there, constitutes the most powerful story I've ever read dealing with the gulf between the sexes.
In "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" a horribly-deformed young woman gets a chance at a happy life. This is another story with an unusual narrative style, and frankly, when I first read this story over two decades ago, I found it a bit disconcerting. It works for me now, though. This is a heartbreaking story, fiercely told.
One caution is that I would encourage you to read the stories in the book before reading John Clute's introduction, as Clute gives away some of the story endings in his introduction. And surprise endings are not uncommon in Tiptree stories. I am not talking about gimmicky, meaningless surprises, there for the sake of having a surprise. Tiptree's surprises often ENLARGE her stories, altering the meaning of what has gone before, increasing their power to move us. The book gets my most passionate recommendation.
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best tales of one of the best of all sf authors 17 Jan 2008
By Rory Coker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In 508 pages we get 18 short stories by James Tiptree, Jr. Original publication dates range from 1969 to 1981. Time has overtaken many of the tales in a strange way, that makes one wish Tiptree were still around to appreciate developments. For instance, in "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," the world breathlessly watches the real-time antics of young, beautiful wealthy girls... who are actually brainless synthetic creations animated by what amount to brains in jars in an underground lab. What would Tiptree make of the Parises, Nicoles, Lindsays and Brittanies of our own day, who appear to have no brains located anywhere?

Tiptree really got rolling in 1973, when she published her three best-known stories, "The Girl...," along with "Love is the plan the plan is death," and "The Women Men Don't See." Along with 1976's "Houston, Houston, do you read?" these are the quintessential Tiptree tales. "Love is the plan..." is my favorite science fiction short story, and one of the best short stories of any kind ever written. It has not a single human character, and depicts the unbearably touching efforts of a gigantic, heavily-armored, multi-limbed alien to tackle and solve three deadly problems faced by his species, two internal--- stemming from instinctively programmed behavior--- and one external, a global climate change. That he will fail, and why he will fail, is evident early on from many clues fairly planted within the narrative. But he does his level best, which is indeed far better than you and I could hope to do, and like most Tiptree aliens, he is totally charming and lovable throughout his hopeless task. Our own species is currently failing completely to deal with a global climate change, and we are neither charming nor lovable in our miserably conflicted efforts.

"A Momentary Taste of Being" is another quintessential Tiptree story; an expedition of interstellar exploration inadvertently discovers the true purpose of human existence... a purpose which reveals all human effort, achievement and aspiration to be utterly pointless and futile. "With Delicate Mad Hands" is a key story, from 1981, that catches Tiptree in transition from symbolic War of the Sexes tales to space-operatic adventure. Almost all her stories from 1981 to her death in 1987 were space adventures set in the distant future.

Several tales here were completely new to me, particularly "Slow Music," from 1980, in which a chance (?) encounter of the earth with some alien stream of disembodied consciousness has made suicide so irresistibly attractive that there are only a handful of living humans. This story seems to contain a sly self-portrait of Tiptree herself, as the dying ancient human wreck that the two main characters discover on their way to see "The River," as the stream is called.

There's not a bad or mediocre story in the volume. And, alas, this is probably the only collection of Tiptree fiction currently in print in the US. Get it while it's still available.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Anthology 8 April 2010
By 88 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
* viii * Introduction (Her Smoke Rose Up Forever) * essay by Michael Swanwick
* 1 * The Last Flight of Dr. Ain * (1969) * shortstory by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 9 * The Screwfly Solution * (1977) * shortstory by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 33 * And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side * (1972) * shortstory by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 43 * The Girl Who Was Plugged In * (1973) * novelette by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 79 * The Man Who Walked Home * (1972) * shortstory by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 95 * And I Have Come Upon This Place by Lost Ways * (1972) * novelette by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 115 * The Women Men Don't See * (1973) * novelette by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 145 * Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light! * (1976) * shortstory by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 163 * Houston, Houston, Do You Read? * (1976) * novella by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 217 * With Delicate Mad Hands * (1981) * novella by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 275 * A Momentary Taste of Being * (1975) * novella by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 361 * We Who Stole the Dream * (1978) * novelette by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 385 * Her Smoke Rose Up Forever * (1974) * novelette by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 403 * Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death * (1973) * shortstory by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 421 * On the Last Afternoon * (1972) * novelette by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 445 * She Waits for All Men Born * (1976) * shortstory by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 459 * Slow Music * (1980) * novella by James Tiptree, Jr.
* 505 * And So On, and So On * (1971) * shortstory by James Tiptree, Jr.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an amazingly beautiful collection by an incredible writer 7 Dec 2004
By tangerine - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
James Tiptree, Jr. (the pen name for Alice Sheldon) excelled at imaginative plots, intriguing science, and most of all, lyrical writing. Her explorations of gender, biology and science were vivid and controversial, and she won all of science fiction's major awards. This short story collection was out of print for many years, and has now been revised with the author's original notes. It is a must-have for science fiction fans, feminists, anthroplogists, and, well, everyone. This is one of my favorite authors, and I truly love this book.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Big ideas, some truly brilliant gems, lots of difficulty, sex 12 Aug 2012
By Forest F. White - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Pros: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever is a collection of short stories and novellas, but I had very different reactions to many of them. The better of them are character-focused and Tiptree/Sheldon lets her gift of description and drama run free. When this is happening, the story can be truly enthralling -- staggeringly so. Also, these stories are generally about big ideas, so there are quite a few that held my interest on the merit of the core concept in play.

Cons: In total, about 1/6 stories were brilliant. Another 1/6 had a major idea in play that kept the story going. The rest, sadly, were a nightmare to read. Devices employed deftly for great dramatic affect in other stories, like exploiting bizarre points-of-view or slipping between times or conscious states, really fumbled when not executed well. This also sometimes coincides with a sparse descriptive voice, providing no flavor to the painful journey. Most of the stories are very long, so turned into marathons of trying to find something relatable or even logical throughout most of the book. In some literary fiction, a mass of confusion and specific obtuseness can serve a purpose (for example, Kathy Acker or Toni Morrison), but in the worst cases in this book, it seemed only to muddle or even destroy a perfectly good narrative in progress. Also, every one of these stories is about sex or the biological reproductive imperative; sometimes it is so forced as to break the logic of the story and other times it generalizes a nuanced relationship into a simple sexual one that is boring. Why Tiptree/Sheldon has to get this into every story is beyond me, but many of them would have been better served without it, while in the better ones it is an essential ingredient.

Conclusion: The few great stories here are so bright that I would recommend this book. And there really are grand ideas to ponder, but necessarily need to be extracted from over-sexed, under-described, confusing rambles that go on for pages and pages. For example, I ended up really disappointed with "Houstin, Houstin, Do you read?" because the core story was amazing but this bland drug and sex party nonsense keeps dropping in to break up its awesomeness. This is the sort of problem most these stories suffer from, and that is also remarkable because it is an unusual flaw.
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