On August 9, 2015, the 2014 James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award was presented to Jo Walton for her novel My Real Children (Tor 2014) at Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia Street in San Francisco.
As is traditional at the Tiptree Award ceremony, Jo was crowned with a tiara, serenaded with a song, and given chocolates and art — all specially created to honor her novel, My Real Children. In addition, this event also included an interview with Jo Walton, a reading by Ada Palmer, an a capella musical performance by Trickster and King (Ada Palmer and Lauren Schiller), and a cake.
Walton is the co-winner of the 2015 Tiptree Award. Monica Byrne and her novel, The Girl in the Road were celebrated at Wiscon 39 in May.
The 2014 Tiptree Award winners, honor list, and long list have been selected. Our congratulations to Monica Byrne and Jo Walton, this year’s winners!
Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road is a painful, challenging, glorious novel about murder, quests, self-delusion, and a stunning science-fictional big idea: What would it be like to walk the length of a few-meter-wide wave generator stretching across the open sea from India to Africa, with only what you can carry on your back? With profound compassion and insight, the novel tackles relationships between gender and culture and between gender and violence. It provides a nuanced portrait of violence against women, in a variety of forms, and violence perpetrated by women. Through the eyes of two narrators linked by a single act of violence, the reader is brought to confront shifting ideas of gender, class, and human agency and dignity.
Jo Walton’s My Real Children is a richly textured examination of two lives lived by the same woman. This moving, thought-provoking novel deals with how differing global and personal circumstances change our view of sexuality and gender. The person herself changes, along with her society. Those changes influence and are influenced by her opportunities in life and how she is treated by intimate partners, family members, and society at large. The alternate universe trope allows Walton to demonstrate that changes in perceptions regarding gender and sexuality aren’t inevitable or determined by a gradual enlightenment of the species, but must be struggled for. My Real Children is important for the way it demonstrates how things could have been otherwise — and might still be.
In addition to selecting the winner, each jury chooses a Tiptree Award Honor List. The Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list. This year’s Honor List (in alphabetical order by the author’s last name) is:
Jennifer Marie Brissett. Elysium(Aqueduct Press 2014) — A masterfully layered tale of star-crossed lovers, ambiguously situated before, during, and after a devastating alien invasion. Adrian/Adrianne and Antoine/Antoinette move through a liminal, re-creative space that tells spooling variations of an original story we might never see, but can reconstruct. Variously lovers, siblings, and parent and child, these relationships change in subtle and overt ways that are tied to the gender of the characters in each looping iteration.
Seth Chambers, “In Her Eyes” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2014) — This excellently written and evocative story is about a woman who is a polymorph, capable of drastically altering her body. It’s told from the point of view of the man who loves her. Each week she becomes a different woman for him, until she changes her gender, then her very self.
Kim Curran, “A Woman Out of Time” (Irregularity, edited by Jared Shurin, Jurassic London 2014)
A fictionalized version of Joanna Russ’s classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, based on a true history (with very mild adjustments). Time travel paradoxes, complexity theory, and alien intervention are beautifully interwoven in this lyrical exploration of the gendering of scientific discovery. The story’s epigraph will tempt readers to explore what is known of the life and work of Emile Du Chatelet, a contemporary of Voltaire and the translator and commentator of Newton’s work, and to undo the disservice she has been done by history.
Emmi Itäranta, Memory of Water (Harper Voyager 2014) (published in Finnish as Teemestarin kirja, Teos 2012) — This beautifully crafted novel, written simultaneously in English and Finnish, uses a delicately-told coming-of-age tale to examine a future replete with water crises, a totalitarian police state, and suffocating gender roles.
Jacqueline Koyanagi, Ascension (Masque Books 2013) — A fun, fast-paced space opera with surprising heft. Its beautifully diverse cast of characters explores intersections of gender and race, class, disability, and polyamory, all while racing to save the universe from certain destruction.
Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, editors, Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press 2014) — An anthology of young-adult stories about diversity, many featuring queer or trans characters or gender issues. This is a book that should be in every middle and high-school library!
Pat MacEwen, “The Lightness of the Movement” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, April/May 2014) — A solid, well-told alien-contact story about a xeno-anthropologist studying an alien species. The alien’s gender roles are well described and very alien. Though the story never enters the aliens’ minds, MacEwen does a fabulous job of making it clear how the aliens think.
Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) — This gloriously chaotic look at the day after aliens land in the lagoon off of Lagos, Nigeria’s coast approaches gender with a diversity that intersects with many aspects of modern Nigerian life: age, religion, social class and politics, among others. The character Ayodele, an alien who takes the form of a human woman to make first contact, is particularly noteworthy in how her chosen gender exposes fault lines across the panoply of characters that drive the narrative.
Nghi Vo, “Neither Witch nor Fairy” (Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, Crossed Genres, 2014) — Two orphaned brothers try to get by in 1895 Belfast. The story focuses on the younger brother, who thinks he’s a changeling. He asks the fairies to tell him what he truly is. (Saying anything more would be telling.)
Aliya Whiteley, The Beauty(Unsung Stories 2014) — A piece of disturbing, thought-provoking horror that explores what happens to a small community of men when sentient mushrooms spring from the graves of women who died years before from a deadly fungus infection. These mushrooms, called “Beauties” by the storytelling narrator, gradually and inexorably shift their roles over the course of the narrative, starting as supposedly mindless providers of comfort and ending with roles more traditionally masculine: inseminating, caring for the male mothers, and engaging in violent battles to protect their progeny. Allegorically explores a variety of aspects of the human experience, including gender and sexuality.
It was a particularly good year for gender exploration in science fiction and fantasy. In addition to the honor list, this year’s jury also compiled the following long list of other works they found worthy of attention:
Monica Byrne, along with authors and works on the Honor List and the long list will be celebrated during Memorial Day weekend (May 22-25, 2015) at WisCon in Madison, Wisconsin. Jo Walton is unable to attend WisCon, but will be feted at an alternate celebration in San Francisco in August. (You cannot have too many celebrations.) Each winner will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.
Each year, a panel of five jurors selects the Tiptree Award winner. The 2014 jurors were Darrah Chavey (chair), Elizabeth Bear, Joan Haran, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Amy Thomson.
N.A. Sulway’s imaginative and highly original novel tells the story of Rupetta, an artificial intelligence created 400 years ago from cloth, leather, and metal, brought to life by the touch of her creator’s hand on her clockwork heart.
Although Rupetta is a constructed being, she is not a robot. Her consciousness is neither digital nor mechanical. Nor is she an android, a creature that is, etymologically, male. (The word is not gyndroid). Rupetta’s power does not come from her brain, but from her heart. Sulway has placed her construct not in the future, but the past, and made her female, created with traditionally feminine technology: sewing and weaving. Rupetta is a woman, made by a woman in the image of a woman, and the world changes to accommodate her existence.
A deft blend of fantasy, science fiction, romance, and even gothic horror, this beautifully written story challenges the reader’s expectations about gender and of a gendering society. It examines power and what makes an object of power, relationships and love, sexuality and identity, and how culture is shaped and history is made.
Rupetta was published by British independent publisher Tartarus Press in a limited hardback edition and a more widely available e-book version. Both are available for purchase from Tartarus’s website.
NikeSulway lives and writes in Queensland, Australia. Her novel The Bone Flute won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Emerging Author in 2000. Since 2007, she has been the co-director of Olvar Wood Writers Retreat, and one of the editors of Perilous Adventures, a literary magazine.
In addition to selecting the winner, the jury chooses a Tiptree Award Honor List. The Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list for the rest of the year. This year’s Honor List is:
Eleanor Arnason, Big Mama Stories(Aqueduct Press 2013) — Big Mamas are galaxy-sized women, powerful beings who can stroll around space and travel through time by sheer force of character. They are feminist, sensible, and adventurous. They come in all kinds of colors, and they survive by their wits, sometimes aided and abetted by Big Poppas. In these five stories, Arnason offers a new mythos, laced with both humor and wisdom.
Aliette de Bodard, Heaven Under Earth(Electric Velocipede #24, Summer 2012) — In a world with few biological women, some men have been medically altered to carry children and live as wives. When a new wife who was born a woman in a household, her presence causes Liang Pao,an altered man, to scrutinize to scrutinize his reasons for wanting to keep the status quo and to re-examine his own sexuality and feelings towards family, culture, status, and gender.
Nicola Griffith, Hild (Farrar Straus & Giroux 2013) — This stunningly beautiful historical novel describes what life might have been like for a woman whose mother has arranged for her to be “the light of the world”: the real-life St. Hilda of Whitby. In a rollicking good read, the reader is drawn into action and adventure as Hild becomes a king’s seer, a warrior, and a vessel through which the dynamics of power and gender in war-ravaged 7th-century Britain can be explored.
Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Summer Prince(Arthur A. Levine 2013) — Set in a somewhat dystopic matriarchal future Brazil, this lavish, provocative YA novel centers on June Costa, a rebellious teenage artist. She and her best friend Gil become entwined with Enki, the Summer King, who is elected to a position of celebrity and social eminence for one year before he becomes a ritual sacrifice. This book grapples with the nature of love, social and political conscience, creative rebellion and personal awakening, and an exploration of sexuality remarkable for its treatment of bisexuality and multiple relationships.
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice(Orbit 2013) — This political revenge story draws the reader into a fraught and ruthlessly colonizing military galactic empire. The protagonist is a human being whose consciousness began as a spaceship inhabiting dozens of bodies and vessels. Now stranded in one body, she bides her time and plots against the leader of the culture she once unquestioningly served. The story examines the brutality of occupation as well as exploring questions of gender and embodiment within a cultural framework that does not recognize gender, only class.
Bennett Madison, September Girls(HarperTeen 2013) — In this young adult fantasy, a young man named Sam spends a summer in a beach town where he encounters numerous Girls with mysterious pasts that even they have a hard time recalling. Exploring the myth of mermaids and gods of the deep through an examination of gendered power dynamics, Sam learns how to become a man in ways that differ from the models he’s been supplied with by his somewhat clueless father, abrasive older brother, and American culture in general.
Sarah McCarry, All Our Pretty Songs (St. Martin’s 2013) — A modern-day retelling of the myth of Orpheus, this is the story of two teenagers who grew up closer than sisters despite their parents’ drug-fueled rock-star baggage. The girls’ relationship is tested when the mysterious Jack moves to town, along withstrange and disturbing otherworldly interest in his musical talent. The lyrical beauty of the writing and the way the story’s concerns support the value of all of the girls’ relationships (not just the romantic ones) make this contemporary myth surprising and affecting.
Janelle Monae, Electric Lady(Bad Boy Records 2013) — Janelle Monae’s lastest album is a musical work of science fiction, the latest installment in the conceptually rich world of Cindi Mayweather, a prototype android. A cross-medium Afrofuturist fable, loosely inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, Electric Lady has dramatic scope, powered by magnetic waves of sound and rhythm.
Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni (Harper 2013) — This debut novel combines elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology in an immigrant tale, the story of two supernatural creatures in 1899 New York. Ahmad is a jinni, a “man” made of fire. Chava is a golem, a “woman” fashioned of clay. A golem is traditionally male. By making Chava a female figure, Wecker expands this well-trod fantasy element. Although she is a powerful and supernatural being, Chava discovers that in 19th-century New York, her choices and freedoms are limited by the gender of the body she inhabits.
S. M. Wheeler, Sea Change (Tor 2013) — This debut novel tells a dark, fairy tale-like story of a young girl and her best friend, Octavius, who is an eloquent, intelligent kraken. When Octavius is captured, Lilly sets out to rescue him, bargaining with a greedy circus master, a witch, and a pair of gay bandits. She is transformed by her quest, giving up everything she has known, including her gender, to save her friend.
Nike Sulway will be honored during Memorial Day weekend at WisCon in Madison, Wisconsin. Sulway will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.
Each year, a panel of five jurors selects the Tiptree Award winner. The 2013 jurors were Ellen Klages (chair), Christopher Barzak, Jayna Brown, Nene Ormes, and Gretchen Treu.
Delivered May 25, 2014, at WisCon 38 in Madison, Wisconsin:
I would like to thank Nene Ormes, firstly, for her warm introduction of Rupetta to you, and for her role on the jury. I would also like to thank all of the jury members: Ellen Klages, who acted as the chair, Jayna Brown, Gretchen Treu and Christopher Barzak.
I would like to extend my thanks to the Motherboard of the James Tiptree Award, especially its founding members Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler, not just for their role in this year’s awards, but for their vision in establishing the award, and their ongoing commitment to bringing the works that the Tiptree jurors uncover to the world.
I would also like to send out a special thanks to the indefatigable Jeanne Gomoll, who has been an amazing support and become a dear friend. Her warmth and good cheer have made the process of organizing my trip to Wiscon a pure joy.
Finally, I would like to thank my publishers. Many authors express gratitude to their publishers. In this instance, however, this is more than just a duty I feel I need to fulfill. My gratitude to Ray and Rosalie at Tartarus Press is heartfelt and sincere. I cannot thank them enough for bringing this work to publication. Rupetta was rejected many times before it found a home. It was rejected because it had too many women characters, because it had too many queer characters, because some speculative fiction publishers felt it was too literary for them, while some literary publishers felt it was too speculative. Rosalie Parker, at Tartarus Press, believed in this work from the beginning. She and Raymond Russell, her partner at Tartarus Press, are the fairy godmothers of this book. I cannot thank them enough for their faith in the work, and their hard work in bringing it to publication.
Rupetta begins on November 11, 1619. This is not an accidental, or incidental choice. On that night, almost four centuries ago, a young man by the name of Rene Descartes had three dreams that inspired him—over the rest of his life—to attempt to develop a new, comprehensive method for perfecting human knowledge.
One of his correspondents – Poisson – writes that around this time Descartes planned to build several automaton driven by magnets. Specifically, he had envisaged constructing a dancing man, a spaniel chasing a pheasant, and a flying pigeon. It is no coincidence that my novel, which deals in part with some of the same philosophical problems that interested Descartes, begins that night.
I want to acknowledge Descartes tonight because he also—incidentally–inspired three of my own dreams, or wishes.
I figure, as this year’s winner of the James Tiptree Award, along with all of the other amazing gifts I have received, I get to claim three wishes.
When I studied Descartes and his work when I was at university, I learned that he was the father of an illegitimate child, Francine. The daughter of a friend’s housemaid (Helena Jans van der Strom). Very little is known about the relationship between Rene and Helena, except that she became his servant. I learned that Descartes planned to have the child removed from her home and her mother in Amsterdam and taken to France to be educated. Unfortunately, Francince died of scarlet fever when she was five years old, in 1640.
Some biographers have claimed that her death haunted Descartes for the rest of his life. But his grief interests me far less than the grief of Francine’s mother.
Rupetta is in some sense a book about compromised mothering. About non-conforming mothers. About mothers who are separated from their children. About grief. And longing.
My first wish is that we—and by we here I mean feminists—learn to speak about mothering in new, honest, complex and powerful ways. Not as an essential aspect of femininity, because it is not that, or as a biological right, but as a process we, as women, are often part of; a process many of us experience as both a source of power, and a means of oppression. As an intimate and deeply private process, and a very public role.
Descartes is, of course, perhaps most famous for the ideas he laid down in his Discourse on the Method and Principles of Philosophy. It is here that he decides that the only thing we can know without any doubt is that we are thinking beings.
That we think, and therefore we are.
My second wish is that we will continue and finally complete the work of undoing the false assumption expressed so powerfully by Descartes that it is our minds—our intellects—that are our only Truth. That our bodies are merely the vessels in which we live. I want to find a way to convince you to understand that we think with our bodies, and feel with our minds.
That we feel, and therefore we are.
Finally, I want to tell you a story that is not necessarily true, but it’s a good story and that, after all, should be enough. In the last years of his life, Descartes was summoned to the court of Queen Christina of Sweden. He was to act as her tutor and intellectual companion. He travelled to Sweden by ship.
Descartes had told the captain and crew that he was travelling with his daughter. No one aboard ship, however, had heard or seen her during the voyage. One night, a terrible storm overtook the ship. The waves were as tall as mountains. The sailors were afraid for their lives. Overcome with terror, and seeking some kind of magical cure for the sea’s fury, the sailors entered Descartes’ cabin. There, they discovered a cabinet, inside which was a living doll: a replica of Descartes’s dead daughter. According to one source, she sat up and turned to face her visitors.
The sailors took the mechanical Francine up on to the ship’s deck and threw her overboard.
My third and final wish is that, one day, we will find a way to encounter the new, the unfamiliar or uncanny, without fear or superstition or terror. That we will not, in that moment when the stranger sits up and turns to us, hurl stones or throw them overboard. But instead find a way to open our minds and hearts and embrace that strangeness on its own terms. With courage, and grace, and full acceptance.
On May 25, in Madison, Wisconsin, at WisCon 38, N.A. Sulway accepted the Tiptree Award for Rupetta.
The Tiptree Award is especially pleased that the publishers of Rupetta have published a paperback edition of the book as a direct result of its receiving the award.As is traditional, Sulway received a check for $1,000, a certificate of winning, a box of home-made chocolates, a Tiptree t-shirt (designed by Freddie Baer), a Space Babe cloisonne pin, and a piece of original artwork. Rupetta‘s protagonist has a clockwork heart, we commissioned Carl Cone to make one for Nike.
Nike gave an especially remarkable acceptance speech, which we are delighted to share with you all here
The 2014 jury is reading now. Jurors are Darrah Chavey (chair), Elizabeth Bear, Joan Haran, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Amy Thomson. Please recommend stories, books, and other works that explore and expand gender, using the link to the left of this column.
The Drowning Girl by Caitlin Kiernan didn’t only win the Tiptree Award; it also just won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel, presented in New Orleans in June 2013. Coincidentally, we brought Caitlin’s Tiptree prizes to her that same weekend. Her art award was designed by Catherine Crowe and consists of a beautifully designed box which incorporates a removable magnetic brooch.
Andrea’s art award is a double doll designed and created by Madeleine Robins. The fabric was designed by Nalo Hopkinson, who also provided design assistance. This doll represents the character Redwood until you flip up the skirts and turn the doll the other way up, at which point it becomes Wildfire.
Hairston also received $1000 in cash, the traditional chocolate (this year’s was handmade by Alan Bostick), a plaque, a Tiptree t-shirt designed by Freddie Baer, and a Space Babe pin. The impromptu chorus known as “the Tips” serenaded her with a song based on Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” accompanied by David Emerson on electric piano. For the duration of the convention, she got to wear the Tiptree tiara, designed by Elise Matthesen.
Now that the 2011 Tiptree Award has been announced, the 2012 jury is starting work. We are delighted to welcome Joan Gordon as a returning Tiptree Award chair. Joan will be working with the stellar jury team of Andrea Hairston, Lesley Hall, Karen Lord, and Gary Wolfe. Something exciting will come of this.