What is the Tiptree Award?
In February of 1991 at WisCon (the world’s only feminist-oriented science fiction convention), award-winning SF author Pat Murphy announced the creation of the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award, an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender. Pat created the award in collaboration with author Karen Joy Fowler. The aim of the award is not to look for work that falls into some narrow definition of political correctness, but rather to seek out work that is thought-provoking, imaginative, and perhaps even infuriating. The Tiptree Award is intended to reward those writers and other creative artists who are bold enough to contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles, a fundamental aspect of any society.
Why the Name “Tiptree”?
The award is named for Alice B. Sheldon, who wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. By her impulsive choice of a masculine pen name, Sheldon helped break down the imaginary barrier between “women’s writing” and “men’s writing.” Her fine stories were eagerly accepted by publishers and won many awards in the field. Many years later, after she had written some other work under the female pen name of Raccoona Sheldon, it was discovered that she was female. The discovery led to a great deal of discussion of what aspects of writing, if any, are essentially gendered. The name “Tiptree” was selected to illustrate the complex role of gender in writing and reading.
Who Is the Tiptree Award?
The Tiptree Award is governed by its “motherboard.” Each year, the motherboard selects five jurors who are interested in gender, and in speculative fiction. The jurors choose the year’s winner(s), honor list, and short list. The motherboard, the jurors, and all the people who recommend, donate, or otherwise contribute make up the “Tiptree Award.” Like our namesake, we are complex and many-sided.