We Who Stole the Dream • 1978 • SF novelette by James Tiptree, Jr.


The „Dream“ is a Terran spaceship and the ones who stole it are the folk of Joilani. They are a diminuitive, enslaved race, embodying a female type, contrasting the oppressive male Terrans. Many die in heroic acts to help their comrades getting access to the spaceship. They set course to a far away region in space where they believe their ancestors came from. In fact, they find an Empire, they are welcomed and treated well. But cruelty comes with power and their ancestors are not so much better than the Terrans.


Not a story for the weak-hearted: Brutal, destructive sexual oppression in explicit descriptions.

The novelette is often compared to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest, appearing 1972 in Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions. Both tell about a peaceful species of alien humans, inferior to oppressing Terrans. They transgress their cultural norm, get violent in order to rebel against their enslavement and finally break free.

In direct comparison, Le Guin found far better and more interesting answers and aspects, and I liked the mood of the story much better than Tiptree’s one-dimensional and enormously dark dystopian version.

The twist in the underdeveloped end, where they find their ancestors drinking Star Tears, didn’t catch me at all emotionally – I just noticed it and went on.

Meta: ISFDB. First published 1978 in Stellar #4: Science-Fiction Stories. I read it in the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.


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