James Tiptree, Jr Award to Retain its Name

tiptree

Logo from Tiptree.org

This morning, I read the File 770 article Tiptree Award Motherboard Decides to Keep Name and followed the link to their source material Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award, written by Alexis Lothian at Tiptree.org.

I’m glad Sheldon’s pseudonym will remain on the award. Look, I know from one perspective, what she did was horrible, but let’s view her situation through the lens of compassion. Click on both links and read the whole story. If any of us were faced with her situation, it would be nightmarish, and who knows how we’d react.

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Tiptree Award Name May Change (Here We Go Again)

light

Cover image from “Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home”

I read Alice Sheldon’s (pen name James Tiptree Jr) anthology of short stories Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home decades ago when I was a kid (all right, a young man) and recall thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve probably heard of the award named after her, but didn’t pay much attention until reading Mike Glyer’s pixel scroll this morning.

In this case, the award name may be changed due to a personal tragedy in Sheldon’s life. From Wikipedia:

Sheldon continued writing under the Tiptree pen name for another decade. The last years of her life were not happy ones, as her husband was a nearly blind invalid incapable of caring for himself, and she herself was suffering health issues caused by a lifetime of smoking. In 1976, then 60-year-old Sheldon wrote to a friend expressing her desire to end her own life while she was still able-bodied and active, but she was reluctant to act upon this intention, as Huntington would have no one to care for him, and she could not bring herself to kill him.

Eleven years later, on May 19, 1987, Sheldon finally carried through her plan—by shooting her husband in his sleep, followed by herself; she had telephoned her attorney after the first shooting to announce her actions. They were found dead, hand-in-hand in bed, in their Virginia home. According to biographer Julie Phillips, the suicide note Sheldon left was written years earlier and saved until needed. In an interview with Charles Platt in 1980, Sheldon spoke of her emotional problems and of her previous suicide attempts over the preceding 20 years.

The James Tiptree Jr. Award is given in her honor each year for a work of science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender. The award-winning science fiction authors Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy created the award in February 1991. Novels such as Half Life by Shelley Jackson and Light by M. John Harrison have received the award.

At least one person commenting on File 770 had compassion, but who knows how many other people judge without understanding what Sheldon may have been going through (I still read 770 but choose not to comment there because of how I was recently treated by some of its other readers).

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Cloister

cloister

© Roger Bultot

A terrified Sandoval Carson treaded across rough, ancient stones paralleled by pitted archways and shrouded by overgrown vegetation. The cloister was just ahead, and so, he hoped, his salvation.

Once he had stepped through the dark mirror that had once been a patio window, he was young again, though, he suspected, only here. He had to find the one who could help him correct all his life mistakes.

“Hello, Sandoval.” The voice was behind him.

“Can you help me?” Carson pivoted and then faced himself.

Dark Carson lunged at him screaming, “I’ve always hated you.”

“Me too,” he gurgled, dying.

It’s been a while, but this morning, I decided to contribute to Rochelle Wisoff-Field‘s weekly photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

The color adjustment of the photo made me feel apprehensive, as if I were looking at a horror film, one where the hero was about to be pounced upon by the monster at any moment. In this case, the monster is himself.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

EDIT: Forgot to add a title and to mention that this is just one of many “Dark Mirror” tales I’ve written over the past few years. Usually, they take a person to their greatest desire or need. It obviously meant something grim in Sandoval’s case.

The Sacrificed

alternate universes“I can’t do it, Erickson. I’m no killer.” Rafael Isaiah Johnson had traveled back in time 172 years to stop a global extinction event and save the human race, but the man he hoped to enlist as an ally, Austin Randolph Erickson had another idea, a murderous one.

The two men, one a Hispanic-African-American who wouldn’t be born for another 135 years was standing in the other man’s kitchen between the refrigerator and the stove, the exit to his back, while the opposing person, a white American man of Scandinavian ancestry was facing him and holding out the butt of a loaded semi-automatic Glock 20. The drawer to his left and second from the top was still pulled open.

“You’ve got to do it, Johnson. I believe you. I believe all of the holographic evidence you brought with you, that my unborn son is the key in time, the critical element in preventing the reversal of the effects of climate change. Take the gun. If I don’t exist, then he won’t be born.”

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Reminder

boots

© Adam Ickes

“Todd, why is there a pair of boots out front?” Kim stood at the window looking at what her husband placed outside.

“They were Erica’s boots. There should be a public reminder.” The thirty-year-old electrician stared wistfully into the fireplace as logs were peacefully consumed.

“Oh.” She sat on the sofa next to Todd. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright to say she committed suicide.” He took her hand.

“You want to go through with the lawsuit, right?”

“I know it won’t make any difference to my sister, but a person who cyberbullied her shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

Yesterday, the rather colorful and expressive New York State Senator from Brooklyn, Kevin S. Parker, responded to a criticism from Republican Candice Giove that he had improperly used his parking placard to block a bike lane on a busy street by tweeting “Kill Yourself!” It’s all over the news including The New York Times and USA Today. After receiving a great deal of public criticism from fellow Senators, journalists, and the general public, he apologized, and then kept attacking Ms. Giove.

No, I seriously doubt Ms. Giove will commit suicide as a result of Senator Parker’s insensitive and impulsive tweet, but it did put me to mind of cyberbullying which occasionally does result in children and adults committing suicide. In my story, Todd put his sister’s hiking boots on a low wall in front of his house as a memorial. As a society, we need to do better.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Rewinding Time

the road

© Sue Vincent

Sixty-six year old Douglas Collier was shocked to find that he was walking out of the foothills toward Idaho State Highway 21 somewhere between Idaho City and Boise. In fact, he didn’t expect to exist at all, let alone be on his feet.

“What the hell just happened?” He stumbled across a low, grassy rise near some abandoned fence poles, gazing down at the asphalt pavement just below the hill.

“Are you talking to me?” The voice sounded like a snarky teenage boy, someone you’d find on social media flaunting their progressive values alongside their World of Warcraft online scores. The harness on Doug’s body, concealed under his faded blue jeans, tan, long-sleeved pullover shirt and dark blue jacket glowed a brilliant white and green as the AI spoke each word.

In a momentary burst of anger, he shot back, “Who the hell are you, Robert De Niro?”

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Death Wish

death

Photo credit: Kaia Pieters

“Hey, Sam.”

“Hey, Death. How’s it hanging?”

“Same old, same old. You know how it goes.”

“Not me. What do I know about being Death?”

“Yeah. Guess you’ve got a point. Want a smoke?”

“Nah. I got what I want right here.” The twenty-two year old lifted a gallon jug of Jack Daniels to his lips and gulped down a couple of swallows.

“Mind if I?” The spectral figure in black held out his left hand while his cigarette still smoldered in his right.

“Go ahead.” A lot of people thought Sam was goth because of his clothes and make up, but it was all to honor his BFF.

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Be Kind – Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle

suicide prevention day

Image found on Facebook

Today, Monday, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day. I found that out on Facebook when it was associated with the television and film franchise Star Trek, and the original series debuted on September 8, 1966. That anniversary was only two days ago.

I hadn’t realized these Star Trek related actors had all committed suicide, including TV and film icon Brian Keith. Most people know that Robin Williams committed suicide, and I think I recall that Get Smart actor Ed Platt (“the Chief”) took his own life.

I’ve been wanting to write about something today, but the topic eluded me until just a few minutes ago. Decades ago, I worked for a suicide prevention hotline in Berkeley, California, on the “graveyard” shift, so, as you can imagine, I’ve talked with many people who had been having tough times.

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Angel in the Wind

Empire State building

© Jill Wisoff

“They’ll be better off without me.”

Anne McCoy kept telling herself that looking at the view from the 86th floor observatory deck of the Empire State Building. As far as the despondent woman was concerned, this would be the last thing she’d see this side of eternity.

As she launched herself into thin air, she heard a voice.

“Your life is worth more than you can imagine, my daughter.”

Then a sudden gust of wind blew her up and back, and in a moment she had returned to the observation deck, with a broken hip and a new, grand destiny.

I authored this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields-Addicted to Purple writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

The photo is unmistakably the Empire State Building, and looking up specific incidents on that site, I discovered that on December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor, only to be blown back onto a ledge on the 85th floor by a gust of wind and was left with a broken hip. I changed the name of the person and a few of the circumstances to create my wee tale of survival and redemption.

Oh, in Genesis 32:22-31, Jacob wrestled with an angel, and among the other consequences, had his hip injured and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Somehow, it seemed to fit here as well.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Inseparable

sisters

© Mrs White

Wednesday could only make squawking and chirping noises but her sister Friday understood every word. She was the only one who could.

“Because everyone hates us, Wednesday. You know that. You’ve known that ever since you were old enough to see how different you look.”

Wednesday shook her head, her large beak moving from side to side. She chittered.

“I know you’re scared. It’ll be quick. Like going to sleep maybe. I’ll be with you. We only have each other.”

She tried to say “I love you, Friday,” but only inhuman sounds escaped her throat.

“I love you too, Wednesday. I always will. But you know there’s no place in the world for us.”

Wednesday pulled her hand out of Friday’s and squawked.

“No! I won’t leave you. It doesn’t matter that I look like everyone else, it matters that you’re my twin sister. Now we’re going together or not at all, and if we don’t go, where can we return to?”

Tears escaped Wednesday’s eyes as she let Friday take her hand again.

“Now come on, Wednesday. The water’s just over there.”

Friday led Wednesday to the ocean and then into the ocean. They would always love each other and in death, be perpetually inseparable.

I found an intriguing photo at the Up Against Mortality blog that lead to Photo Challenge #172. It was such a mournful image and certainly my melancholy tale reflects that.

I gave my characters names inspired by the poem Monday’s Child. In this case, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” and “Friday’s child is loving and giving,” though her expression of love is a dual suicide.

Friday could have left her twin since looked perfectly human, but their bond was stronger than that. Even as the author, I wish they could have found some place that would have accepted them.