Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Short Fiction Month: Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death - James Tiptree, Jr.

Another famous writer in science fiction of whom I have read absolutely nothing. Tiptree is well known in the genre for hiding her true identity for so long. The debate about whether she was a man or woman caused several well known figures in science fiction to embarrass themselves. Robert Silverberg in particular will be remembered for it. The revelation that she was in fact a woman raised some eyebrows back in 1976. From what I know of her life it was an extraordinary one, right up to the moment of her passing. Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death originally appeared in the Stephen Goldin anthology The Alien Condition  in 1973. I read it in the Lightspeed Special Issue Women Destroy Science Fiction! If anybody deserves to be in that issue it is Tiptree.

The story is written from the point of view of an alien just awakening from a cold winter. He has grown since he last saw the sun and he is ready to face the next stage in his life. He soon realizes that the world is growing colder and that his species is locked in a violent lifecycle called The Plan. He comes up with his own plan to break out of the cycle.
There is not a human in sight in this story. The alien Moggadeet is the only character and his views are ... wel, alien. It shows up in how he sees the world, how he narrates the story, how he discovers the details of his lifecycle. It doesn't make for easy reading. The main character exclaims rather than tells the story.
Excitement, enticement, shrilling from the sun-side of the world. I come! . . . The sun is changing again too. Sun is walking in the night! Sun is walking back to Summer in the warming of the light! . . . Warm is Me—Moggadeet Myself. Forget the bad-time winter.
It is fitting though. The story is an experiment in form as well as a tale about alien biology.

Between the lines of the narrative, the details of his ecology become clear and the conclusion, for anybody who knows anything about arachnids, should be obvious. Considered in that light, Moggadeet is not all that alien. To write him from his perspective without overly bold anthropomorphisation is quite an achievement. He may not have broken the cycle of life and death that governs his species, but there is a kind of contentment in the climax of the story that is hard to imagine from a human point of view. My first taste of Tiptree's writing is an interesting one. I guess another name just got added to the to-read list.

Story Details
Title: Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death
Author: James Tiptree, Jr.
Language: English
Originally published: The Alien Condition, edited by Stephen Goldin (1973)
Read in: Lightspeed Special Issue Women Destroy Science Fiction! (June 2014)
Story length: Short Story, approximately 6,700 words
Awards: Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award nominated
Available online: Lightspeed

No comments:

Post a Comment