Wednesday, May 31, 2023

"She Saved Us From World War Three"


Bookman and occasional small press publisher Henry Wessells has asked me to remind the universe of the existence of his remarkable chapbook, "She Saved Us From World War Three." 

Very well, I shall. 

Let's start with the cover photograph of Gardner Dozois, taken by author John DeChancie back when mastodons yet roamed the land and the Great Man was only beginning to lose his youthful gauntness. John gave it to me decades after the fact when he was cleaning house. Henry chanced to see it hanging up when he came to visit once and after all those long years, the pic discovered its destiny. 

Inside is my interview with Gardner about his relationship with Alice Sheldon, the woman who wrote under the name of James Tiptree, Jr. It's a fascinating document because he was one of the very few science fiction people who actually met her, and they had a close enough relationship that she felt free to call him late at night when she was sitting, gun in hand, thinking of blowing her brains out, so he could spend hours talking her out of it. But the interview was not originally meant to be the meat of the chapbook.

It was to have been an introduction to a small collection of the Dozois-Tiptree-Sheldon correspondence, but for unknown and probably artistic reasons (I really should ask Henry someday) the introduction became the main event.

Following the interview is a brief essay by Wessells explaining the circumstances of his becoming involved in the preservation of the correspondence. Then two letters from Sheldon to Dozois. The first is an advance warning that she is about to be "outed" as a woman. The second tells him how relieved she is that he's still her friend. (Gardner knew literally close to everybody working in the field of science fiction and corresponded with dozens, maybe hundreds of them. There was nobody he respected more than the person who wrote Tiptree's stories. So this cannot have come entirely as a surprise to her. But she was a complicated individual.)

Finally, there are two fold out facsimiles/photographs of the letters themselves, typed on Tiptree's famous blue paper with darker blue ink.

Printed on slick paper, with a heavy slick stock cover. 15 pages of text, including the title page, plus the two fold-outs. 

Having read this far, you know whether you need a copy or not. There really is nothing quite like it anywhere and it's priced at an eminently affordable $20. The chapbook was published by Temporary Culture in an edition of 225 and you can order a copy here.

And did she really . . .?

Save us from World War Three? I honestly don't know. Alice Sheldon certainly believed she did. And Gardner Dozois believed her. Read the interview and make up your own mind.

It's kind of scary that we live in a world where this is eminently plausible, though.


1 comment:

  1. Synchronicity. Today Terence Hanley has a very interesting post about early Weird Tales magazine with a James Tiptree connection: