Reviews of Beam Us Home (1969)
Review by djq (2010-10-03)
I found this early short story of Tiptree's impossible to classify by subgenre. I toyed with the idea of calling it "social criticism science fiction", but eventually just left the classification as a generic "science fiction". The story is a disturbing one for any lover of science fiction who devotes a lot of time and thought to this hobby because Tiptree's story criticizes, perhaps even insults, avid science fiction readers.
Her protagonist, named Hobie, seems to not be grounded in the real world, takes his Star Trek way too seriously, and lives a sort of fantasy life. When Hobie's real life becomes too horrific for any sane person to deal with, Hobie understandably withdraws even further into his fantasy life as a coping mechanism. Tiptree's short story is a mildly interesting, very depressing character study of this particular form of insanity. Where the story breaks down and ultimately fails for me is that there seems to be no ultimate point for telling the story, other than to demonstrate that if only fantasy could be real life might be better. Too bad for Hobie (and through him Tiptree's reader) that reality truly is the ultimate arbiter of fate. Fate for those unable to deal with reality is never pretty. As if we didn't know this already!
All in all, those who might enjoy this short story are those with literary tastes who like to think about the nature of man's existential dilemnas. Escapist entertainment, Tiptree's story is not. The story, in fact, is an indictment of escapist fantasy.