James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon James Tiptree, Jr. discussion

about the end of her life . . . (Spoilers)

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message 1: by Thomas (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Thomas I've been thinking about this a great deal. I'd always heard that Alice Sheldon and her husband died together in a joint suicide pact. But when I read about it in Julie Phillips' book, it seemed more like Alice Sheldon shot her husband Ting, who repeatedly opposed the suicide idea, while he was asleep in bed... which is kind of more like ... um, a murder suicide.

message 2: by Rift (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rift Vegan Well, the pact was there, but you're right Ting was not ready for it. On the other hand, he was very ill and life without Ally may have been horrible. "Mercy killing" rather than "murder"?


message 3: by Thomas (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:59PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Thomas Yeah. Saying murder doesn't feel right. I think love was mixed up in Alice Sheldon's final actions. But it was always presented to me as being so mutual. I was a bit distressed to see how it actually went down. But I do think it makes a kind of sense, when you consider the hurtful sort of mercy you find in Tiptree's fiction.

message 4: by Joanna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joanna I just finished the book and thought it was absolutely fantastic. However, I wouldn't call what Sheldon did a "mercy killing" at all. Ting originally made the suicide pact with Alice years before because he was afriad she was going to just up and kill herself. I suppose he figured a pact would be a way to control this impulse. Sure Ting was old and blind but, according to Phillips, he was in fine health otherwise and did not want to die just yet. Alice Sheldon was desperatley unhappy for herself and for Ting. Her emotional, mental and physical health were in a completely different world than his. Her love for Ting was deep. Alice couldn't and wouldn't leave him behind. So she shot and killed him. I'm sure Ting would have been devestated to wake up and see Sheldon had killed herself but I can't say that justifies what she did. We have no idea if Ting would have followed suit or finished out his days on his own terms. Tommy hits the nail on the head--the actions of that night were a "hurtful sort of mercy" but mercy to who? Mercy for Alice not so much Ting.

message 5: by Samn (new)

Samn I get the feeling that if Ting had been the one to "enact" the suicide pact by shooting Alice, we would all be talking about how "Alice Sheldon's career came to an end when she was tragically murdered by her husband who then turned the gun on himself." Somehow a man killing his wife and then himself conjures up a different picture in people's heads than when a woman is the one pulling the trigger, especially when the culprit is someone we respect. I am of the belief that although I love Alice's writing, she shamelessly murdered somebody in his sleep and then took her life to avoid the emotional consequences.

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