Mitch Wagner writes, "Alice Sheldon, who wrote brilliant science fiction under the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr., killed her husband and herself in 1987. The volunteers who administer the Tiptree Award literary prize now face pressure to change its name."
We on the Motherboard, those who remember Alice Sheldon and those who do not, have long known the story of how she and her husband, Huntington Sheldon (known as Ting), died.
Friends and family — and the science fiction community at the time — viewed this tragedy as resulting from a suicide pact: the desperate and tragic result of a combination of physical and mental illness and the Sheldons’ desire to die on their own terms. He was 84 years old; she was 71.
However, some who have read accounts of the Sheldon’s deaths more recently have pointed out a different interpretation. The story can also be seen as an act of caregiver murder: where a disabled person is killed by the person, usually a close family member, who is responsible for their support.
Both narratives fit the story. We see how much of the discussion of the Sheldons’ deaths, including our own, reflects the rhetorical tendencies identified in David Perry’s report, specifically the centering of those who kill over those who are killed. In the world outside of science fiction, Huntington Denton “Ting” Sheldon would be considered the more significant member of the couple. “Ting” Sheldon was Director of the Office of Current Intelligence of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy and is credited with building that office of the CIA.
Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award [Alexis Lothian/James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award]
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