Saturday, June 14, 2008

Alice Sheldon's "The Women Men Don't See" (as by James Tiptree, Jr) (novelette, free): A woman is very unhappy in a male dominated society

Quote from short story titled The Women Men Don't See by James Tiptree, JrThis might have been ok (if not great) non-genre story, but the completely unnecessary introduction of aliens near end & bizarre ending ruined it for me.

Story summary.

Much of it is an adventure story. A woman, Ruth Parsons, has hired a private plane piloted by Captain Estéban, & is taking a trip to somewhere in South America with her daughter Althea. She will also take a hitchhiker, Don Fenton (the narrator), on board.

On the way, there is plane crash, & the four are stranded in a small wet place with no freshwater & no hope of early rescue.

Ruth & Don will go looking for fresh water, & end up spending a couple of nights away from crash site. That's where we get the background of Ruth filled up. She never married, nor did her mother, & hopefully her daughter too will not marry - though the daughter hopefully have bear the child of Captain Estéban, now that she's alone with him. We learn that Ruth is carrying major rage inside her against a male dominated society.

While on their camping site beside a river when out looking for fresh water, she'll find a curious object, & instantly know it's an alien artifact. Aliens - students on earth! - come looking for it in the morning in their boat. She successfully bargains with them to be taken to their world, away from this male dominated world, along with her daughter - never to return!

Fact sheet.

First published: F&SF, December 1973.
Rating: B
Download full text from Internet Archive.
Included in Ellen Datlow's Sci Fiction classics.
Related: All stories as by James Tiptree, Jr.


Anonymous said...

Tinkoo said...

Enlightening post - at the link in anonymous comment above.

Couple of points:
a. May be being a woman is necessary for some of the Sheldon's stories to resonate. "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" was another one that I just could not relate to. I've never had reason to feel disconnected from my society the way link above suggests for story's protagonists.

b. While the "white man" probably features in many stories from US, I've always unconsciously ignored the "white" of it - the way I ignore a variety of irrelevant-to-me words in cross-cultural or old stories. Could be a byproduct of non-Western non-English background.