I mean my god. This is a big one. I don’t know. I love reading, I love books, but these days I rarely get that kind of fizzy-brain high that Her Smoke Rose Up Forever delivered. It’s not about quality, exactly, more about…newness? The discovery of something new to me. (Though I should have read this long ago). This is a short story collection by James Tiptree Jr, which was a pseudonym for Alice Sheldon, and the stories within are amongst the most subtly distressing and illuminating that I’ve read. Story titles include:
‘The Screwfly Solution’
‘With Mad Delicate Hands’
‘Her Smoke Rose Up Forever’
‘A Momentary Taste of Being’
‘The Women Men Don’t See’
‘Love Is The Plan The Plan Is Death’
Only graphic on occasion, the power comes from the dread that permeates every page. The personal is political, and that’s demonstrated in every one of these stories, and the politics are grim. And painfully current – even though these are forty-year old stories about first contact, alien empires, intergalactic exploration, deep space civilisation, time travel, and dying earths.
So here are all the SF tropes we know and love, rewired to shock in all the wrong places. I want to say the stories are cold and misanthropic, but they’re not; there’s a sad love for humanity in them that only makes them tougher.