Not having as much time to read SF as I would like, I tend to take a glass half full view. (For the records I am generally neither, of the opinion that clearly the top half of a half full glass is empty and the bottom half is full). The half full view in SF is that there is a huge amount of really, really good SF that I have yet to read, and that I will come across stories that a more obsessive and time-endowed reader would have come across before.
Now I have to admit to ‘James Tiptree, Jr.’ having been a favourite author of mine since I started reading the old Year’s Bests/Nebula/Hugo volumes from the 1970s. Had I had the time I would have doubtless obsessively identified and read all of Tiptree’s stories in a matter of years. But that didn’t happen, so I’m having the same kind of extended pleasure that you would get from an extended tantric sex session, or rather, an extended tantric sex relationship on a deeply emotional level with Tipree, rather than a wham-bam thank-you ma’am on her oeuvre.
So, what we have here is a story that was lauded with honours back in the day, and is reprinted here on acccount of James Tiptree, Jr. being awarded the Solstice Award for an inspirational contribution to SF. And, for the record, this very evening, I cycled past the Wilkin & Son jam factory in Tiptree, which Alice Sheldon saw and picked the surname that she would write her stories incognito.
And the beauty of the story is that had it been published in Asimovs or F&SF today, it would be a standout story in 2012, so what people made of his 40 years ago, heaven knows. Well, we do know, it was a Hugo and Nebula nominee. It’s a conversation-cum-monologue as a journalist standing at a spaceport terminal, excitedly waiting for his first sight of aliens, listens to the ramblings of a human with much more intimate experience of life, and love, with another species, and the implications for humanity.