Up the Walls of the World

I am con­tin­u­ing my way through old sci­ence fic­tion as I look to low­er the num­ber of books I own to what fits on exist­ing shelves (this will take for­ev­er). Up the Walls of the World is by James Tip­tree, Jr. which is a pseu­do­nym for Alice Bradley Shel­don. Accord­ing to Wikipedia, Tip­tree’s true iden­ti­ty (and sex) was revealed in 1977. Up the Walls of the World, by James Tip­tree, Jr. was pub­lished in 1978 and the author’s pho­to is on the back of the dust jack­et. Pre­sum­ably the pen name was retained to attract exist­ing fans.

The most inter­est­ing thing about this book is how much a cen­tral con­cept has in com­mon with the pri­ma­ry plot of Star Trek the Motion Pic­ture. An extreme­ly large space far­ing enti­ty absorbs a Voy­ager space­craft and pos­es a threat to life. The female lead merges with the enti­ty as part of the solution.

Anoth­er sim­i­lar­i­ty is the book seems to go on and on in an effort to describe the enti­ty with the same effect as the end­less trip through V’ger in the movie. That effect being the read­er’s (view­er’s) thought “Can we get on with this?”.

The movie is just one year after the book so clear­ly the movie did not steal the plot direct­ly. Over at IMDB, the triv­ia on the movie includes:

Writ­ers who con­tributed ideas or draft scripts in 1975 – 77 includ­ed Gene Rod­den­ber­ry, Jon Povill, Robert Sil­ver­berg, John D.F. Black, Har­lan Elli­son, Theodore Stur­geon, and Ray Brad­bury.

One might posit that one or more of these authors knew Tip­tree and was made aware of the out­line of her cur­rent work. But Tip­tree’s iden­ti­ty was unknown and Sil­ver­berg and Elli­son were both on the record with their belief that Tip­tree was a man. Per­haps Up the Walls of the World was an expan­sion of an ear­li­er short work by Tiptree.

Oth­er than the Star Trek “con­nec­tion”, Up the Wall of the World is not all that interesting.

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