From Tiptree to Otherwise

We’ve spent the last month deep in discussion about the name of this award. We’ve listened to your feedback, reflected on our own assumptions and commitments, and we have decided that it’s time for the name to change.

The Tiptree Award is becoming the Otherwise Award.

The rest of this long post describes our process in detail, shares some of the words from our community that helped us come to our decision, and explains why we’ve chosen Otherwise as our new name.

Use the navigation links below if you’d like to skip to a particular section.

The name of the Award: if you want to know why it’s changing

What we heard from you: if you want to understand how we came to this decision

What we’ve come to realize: if you want a short, snappy summary

What we feel: if you’d like to contemplate love, care, and tradition with us

So… the name? If you want to know how and why we chose Otherwise

What is not changing, and what happens next: if you’re curious about plans and timelines

A little help from our friends: if you want to support us through this transition

 

The name of the Award

When this award was founded back in 1991, its goal was to make the world listen to voices that had been ignored. Pat Murphy, cofounder of the Award and member of the Tiptree Motherboard, remembers, “We wanted to create an award that pointed out the absurdity of those who kept saying ‘but women can’t write science fiction.’ Naming the Award after James Tiptree, Jr. allowed us to celebrate Tiptree’s powerful writing and influence on the field — and at the same time, the name let us laugh at those who had dismissed women’s writing and yet had happily embraced Tiptree’s work as unquestionably masculine.”

In the beginning, the Award’s focus was on gender alone. Over the years, that focus expanded, but the Award’s goal is still to make the world listen to voices that they would rather ignore.

In mid-August 2019, in the wake of the Astounding Award’s decision to drop John W. Campbell’s name, the Tiptree Motherboard began to hear from some newly raised voices among our supporters. They were suggesting that the James Tiptree Jr Literary Award ought also to change its name. Since then, the seven of us on the Motherboard have been engaged in a deep, emotional, and intense process of discussion, introspection, and consultation.

On September 2, we published “Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award.” That post summarizes the story of Alice and Huntington Sheldon’s deaths, and gives a full account of the events that led many to call for a name change. That story is deeply painful for many, we have realized, and we will not repeat it here. In our post, we explained why the Award’s founders named it after James Tiptree, Jr., and why, at that time, we were tentatively choosing to retain the name. In that post, we asked for you to email us with your suggestions. Many did. Thank you so much.

We received many emails and social media messages that urged us to keep the name. But we were, in the end, convinced by the many and heartfelt messages that asked us to change. We entered into this discussion as a conversation about how to interpret what happened at the end of Alice and Huntington Sheldon’s lives (a topic on which Sheldon’s biographer, Julie Phillips, has recently reflected further). But the responses to our post made us realize that this was in fact a conversation about whose lives and voices we value. And that’s a matter about which there should be no ambiguity.

We value the disabled writers and readers and artists and fans who support this award. Many of them – many of you – have told us that the Award’s current name holds negative, painful, exclusionary associations. So we’re changing it.

We know this has been a painful conversation for many. We are sorry we didn’t realize the depth of harm this would bring up.

Our decision to change the Award’s name has also caused pain. Many, even some who support the name change, feel that this change erases the work of an important woman author and the story of a complicatedly gendered life.

That’s a pain that we on the Motherboard share. The influence of Tiptree – the work published under the persona, Alice Sheldon’s life, and the history of this award – is important to the history of gender and feminism, as Julie Phillips’ 2006 biography and Rox Samer’s in-progress documentary film, Tip/Alli, document. Those of us who knew Tiptree as a man (either through letters or stories) remember the seismic shift we experienced when the identity of the person behind the persona was revealed. We will continue to honor that influence and to celebrate the feminist roots of our project. The Award’s name is not the only way to remember our important predecessors.

We do not see this new stage the Award is entering now as an erasure of its past, but as a recognition of what is needed to take us into the future. Pat Murphy and Karen Fowler came up with the idea for the Award, but they are the first to admit that they didn’t build the Award. A community built the Award and at the same time the Award built a community. Being part of that community has been serious work while being enormous fun.

We want the Award to keep encouraging writers, artists, and other creative people to invent the future that we want to live in. For that to happen, we need readers, supporters, and creators to gather together in support of the Award’s winners and of the process of choosing them. And for that to be possible, we need all the voices to be heard.

 

What we heard from you:

Some of the feedback we received suggested that the arguments for changing the name were coming from science fiction fandom’s right-wing trolls, keen to take down a social-justice-focused award as payback for the loss of the award honoring their icon John W. Campbell. We want to be very clear that this was not the source of the criticisms we received. The people who asked us to consider changing the name were people we know and trust: members of our community of supporters, with whom we have participated in feminist science fiction fandom for many years.

In this section of the post, we share some of the words from winners of the Tiptree Award and leaders within our community that helped us arrive at our decision. We encourage you to read them so that you can understand what has led us to believe that the name must change. We encourage everyone to read M.L. Clark’s beautiful essay “Letting Go of Our “Heroes”: Ongoing Humanist Training and the (Ex-)James Tiptree, Jr. Award.” Clark writes about their own process of thinking and feeling through the implications of the name change in a way that mirrors the experience of several members of the Motherboard during the last few weeks.

We appreciate how thoughtful people have been in their emails. In various ways, many have said: “The decision to change the Award name makes me very sad, but I understand why you have made this decision and I appreciate your willingness to share your process.”

It might have been possible to acknowledge the pain caused by the name and still continue to use it. Hirotaka Tobi, 2006 winner of the Japanese Sense of Gender Award – founded by the Japanese Association for Gender Fantasy and Science Fiction (G-Ken) and inspired by the Tiptree Award – urged us to do so in a letter generously translated by 2017 juror and G-Ken member Kazue Harada.

The name Tiptree has become a symbol of progress and inspiration in the literary field of science fiction.

I understand that you care about those who are hurt by the name of Tiptree, as your compassion and concerns have certainly been ‘cultivated’ by Tiptree’s works. Even though her end of life action has hurt many people’s feelings, even though there may be clues in her works that she was capable of the actions on her final day, I feel that her name cannot be dismissed. I strongly believe that the meaning of literature is to understand complex paradoxical meanings: on one hand, her works lean toward emphasizing the inevitability of death; on the other hand, these works give power to say ‘NO’ to death (suicide and murder) for readers. Our creative expression is developed and enriched through living with the pain of this paradox. I believe that you as a writer and as a scholar understand this paradox very well.

I would like to express my opinion that we should keep the name of the “Tiptree” Award, as we accept both her honor and disgrace demonstrated by her good deeds and horrible actions. In order to continue its name, I will suggest expanding the award to include nominated works recognizing new ideas of gender and sexual difference as well as authors broadcasting views of voices of those who have been suppressed because of illness and disability. I suggest grappling with not only the issues that James Tiptree Jr. was able to achieve but also the issues that she was “unable” to achieve. I propose that the award can develop into something for “those who have been killed by Tiptree.”

This award should bear the name of Tiptree in order to confirm this determination and to express its purpose. Every person is imperfect, but we seek to contemplate on our actions, hope to grow from the reflections, and live for atonement. As part of this process, the individual takes responsibility under one’s own name.

As we know, Tiptree is no longer with us. She is unable to pay for her own crime. However, we can discuss both her good and evil actions and can continue reconstructing the idea of the writer and award. We can continue developing the space for expressions of science fiction.

– Hirotaka Tobi, translated by Kazue Harada

Though this is not the path we have chosen, we include this excerpt to show our appreciation and respect for those who have thought through this issue deeply and reached different conclusions than ours.

The controversy over the name led Nisi Shawl, winner of the 2009 Award, to think deeply about her feelings about James Tiptree, Jr, and Alice Sheldon. She wrote this message for us to share:

I’ve been thinking about the controversy surrounding the James Tiptree, Jr. Award’s name ever since I first heard about said controversy, because I’m a disabled person who received the Tiptree in 2009. Also, I’ve served as a Tiptree Award juror twice, and served once as a juror for the related and similarly-named James Tiptree, Jr. Fellowship.

Looking back at my letter to Tiptree, written for the anthology of that title in 2015, I notice a couple of things. First, the conflation of those two figures, Tiptree and Sheldon. I addressed the letter to “Tip,” but I spoke of incidents in Sheldon’s life. I’m not alone in this conflation, though as the Tiptree Award Motherboard note in their carefully considered response to the controversy, the award is named not for the human being but for the trick she played on her audience.

The second thing I noticed is my wording toward the end of my letter describing the couple’s death. I’m not going to repeat it here, because taken out of context, what I wrote could cause you reading this post real pain. If you want to know the content of the two relevant sentences in my letter, contact me directly. What I’ll point out here is that my language in the letter was deliberately harsh. I wanted to scold Alice Sheldon, or “Tip,” as I addressed her, for her attitude and actions. I was assuming Ting’s acquiescence to his death, but mourning it, and decrying the emotional distance I believed it required from his killer. I referenced the dominant paradigm’s mistreatment of disabled people, but I was far from wanting to perpetuate its attitude. Yet that intention is not an antidote for the harm my words potentially could cause.

The issue of harm reduction in the naming of the award is the kind of multifaceted problem the award was founded to address–though the axis of difference on which it focused was originally gender rather than ability. And what I’ve been hearing and saying about how we respond to this problem? That is the kind of multiplex analysis the Tiptree Award’s founders were encouraging by naming it not after an historical figure but a mythic one, a mythic figure arising out of one writer’s response to powerful social pressures.

There’s still plenty to mull over here. And I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with having received the Tiptree. With having received an award named with that name.

But I don’t see how that makes it okay for me to say other potential recipients should think and feel the same way about the matter.

– Nisi Shawl

Nisi’s message offered some suggestions of ways that we might be able to continue using the name. But the responses we share below, among many others, convinced us that the change is necessary.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, editor and writer, wrote to ask us to change the Award’s name. The themes of her response, which connects the deeply personal to the collective and political, were shared by many of disabled creators and fans who wrote to us. We share this excerpt from her email with permission:

I am a deafblind Hugo award winning editor, and speculative fiction writer. My work focuses on the intersection of disability and media, as well as the intersection of disability and gender. I was the guest co-editor in chief of Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, and I am writing to you today as a member of the science fiction and fantasy writing community, as a disabled activist, and as a writer.

First, I do believe that it is vital to change the name of the Tiptree Award. The intersection of disability and gender is an important subject, which I hope more authors will interact with. I myself write on that subject, and if I were lucky enough to be selected for the honor of the Tiptree (or its relevant lists), I could not in good faith accept it at this time. I believe many of my disabled peers could not either. The name of the award would feel antithetical to the work given the circumstances surrounding Sheldon’s murder of Huntington and her subsequent suicide. I don’t know what happened between Ting and Alice. I don’t know what their relationship was like – and based on what I’ve seen, I’m not sure anyone else does. That uncertainty means I could not fathom accepting an award named for an author who murdered someone like me. Perhaps an able bodied person could, but to me and my disabled existence it just isn’t possible.

Second, I hope that in consideration of a name change, the direction will go towards not naming it after a person. The world changes too much for legacies to remain, but ideals and constructs that do not represent persons are much more shelf stable. And we should interrogate legacies, we should try to be better.

Thirdly, I believe that the name change is important because ableism is a systemic disease. We can’t always see it, but it can be felt. It is felt deeply within our genre, and the conversation around the name of the Tiptree has only made it more clear to me: my professional field is rife with ableism, and we must seek to change that. Allowing the name to remain, with disabled people emphasizing their discomfort, implicitly allows ableism to take root. It allows us to say that disabled voices do not matter.

– Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

Among those who participated in the public conversation, two additional Award winners spoke up. Hiromi Goto, 2001 Award winner, 2001, posted this statement on Twitter:

I’m a recipient of the Tiptree award. … It behooves us to listen to & respect the experiences, concerns & corrections of the people who have systematically been & continue to be oppressed & marginalized.

My understanding is that some folks think that there was a suicide pact, others that there’s a grey area, others that it was murder-suicide. In this situation I would compare to the wording of how judges are selected for a competition. There’s that line of whether or not you have a bias or _a perceived bias_… And if so you should eliminate yourself from this jury. I think that there’s enough grey area to Sheldon’s history to outweigh the balance re: bias / perceived bias. Tiptree’s stories will always remain. They are powerful.

But with the passage of time and expansions in standpoint and we hear from voices who have never been centred we need the capacity, ability and love to be able to change. If the Tiptree Award is to honour fiction that expands or explores our ideas about gender then it would be a crying shame that the prize been perceived as one fixed in an ableist mentality.

I think it is time to #ChangeTheName I’m speaking with love and pride. I am proud to be a Tiptree Award winner. And I want to continue to be proud.

– Hiromi Goto

And Catherynne M. Valente, 2007 Award winner, posted this statement on Twitter:

If it matters, I won the Tiptree in 2007. I owe a great deal to this award. I’m trying hard to put my feelings about her work aside, as I ask others to do with regards to their heroes. She is gone & cannot be hurt, but those still here can. The name should be changed.

– Catherynne M. Valente

We saw our own decision process reflected in some emails, where people shared their own feelings about a name change. Debbie Notkin, the first chair of the Motherboard and the chair of the first Tiptree jury, wrote of the process she went through:

I cherish the Tiptree Award, and consider it one of the best endeavors I’ve ever been involved with…. In a vacuum, I would certainly argue for not changing the name of the award. All of our heroes have flaws—in fact, one of the worst aspects of having heroes is the desire that they be perfect. If we give into that, we can either have heroes or tell the truth, but not both. Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree, Jr. will always be a hero of mine.

But we are not in a vacuum. We’re in a community. And we’re in a historical moment when groups that have been horribly marginalized and abused are – often for the first time – finding that they can acknowledge their pain, make demands, make their voices heard, make change. And find allies….

I am trying to remember that it’s not only possible but common to be on many sides of a controversy at the same time. For me, the side that intensely wants to cling to the award’s name wants that because of all the history, all the sweat and tears, all the time and energy I and so many others poured into the Tiptree Award, not into some award that would someday change its name. That side also passionately cares about vindicating Pat and Karen for their courageous choices and all the world-changing that has gone on not just in Tiptree’s name, but in the name of the founding mothers.

The side of me that leans towards changing the name is about putting all my historical feelings onto a scale and weighing them against what the name is starting to mean to people who responded with their pain, and the knowledge that many more people aren’t responding because of their pain.

Debbie Notkin

 

What we’ve come to realize

The Tiptree Award was named as a joyful joke, 28 years ago.

James Tiptree, Jr/Alice Sheldon is a complicated figure who has grown more so as participants in the sff world have gained more diverse perspectives and more acute critical analyses. In 2019, the Tiptree name no longer captures what potential audiences, nominees, fans, need from an award (and, more recently, from a fellowship program) for the expansion and exploration of gender.

Some of the conversations surrounding this change, especially on social media, make it seem like a simple situation – a situation where you can say: “I am right and you are wrong. I will tell you the reasons you shouldn’t feel as you do, and you’ll stop feeling that way.”

But this is not a simple situation. It is, like life, difficult and messy and sometimes fraught with pain. But it is also, like life, brilliant and wonderful and filled with the possibility of joy.

Joy, absurdity, and irreverence have long been in the DNA of the Tiptree Award. What other award crowns the winner with a tiara, raises money with bake sales, and serenades the winner? Now, our community has spoken and said: there is too much discomfort over this history for many of us to feel joyous about this name.

Keeping the joy is more important than keeping the name.

We need a different name.

 

What we feel

In The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. Le Guin writes: “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”

This is love that we’re working with here. We love our award and the community that has grown from it.

And we love our supporters, and you love the Award too. And we want to reciprocate the hospitality you have shown us. Which involves not just logistical work, (figuratively) unlocking doors and setting up chairs and getting out food everyone can eat, but also the work of gesture, to emotionally convey “you are welcome here.”

We have a tradition we are stewarding. A tradition is a mystical thing, a reverberating ritual carrying meaning that grows through repetition. We respect that a ritual – especially one whose meaning is partly a delicate multilayered joke – loses some power when changed, like a transferred plant cutting. It takes years to grow roots again.

We have a history that is important — it serves as the foundation on which we build. We are aware that the work of writers who are not part of the dominant culture is all too often erased and suppressed. Through the Award, we support the past works that serve as our foundation — and the new voices that point the way to the future.

We care so much about the continued presence of an award celebrating genre work that expands and explores gender. And we care about that award valuing – in its name, in its processes, in what work it celebrates – playfulness, flexibility, adaptability, the brashness of anyone who creates art and the humility of anyone open to reading challenging art, and affection. We can retain the spirit of the Award, preserve its playful incisiveness, through a name change.

We are optimistic about new jokes. And we are optimistic about bridging the traditions we’re keeping (tiara, auction, jury, Honor List, free and open nominations, WisCon, a speech and a choral filk, bakesale, original art, Fellowships to encourage and recognize emerging creators) with broader hospitality and welcome – salt and new bread – for a constituency we cherish.

 

So… the name?

In deciding on a new name for the former Tiptree Award, there were a few things we tried to bear in mind:

  • We were in agreement with the prevailing opinion that awards should not be named after people, no matter how wonderful those people might be.
  • We thought it wise to avoid overt textual references as well, for similar reasons.
  • We wanted to capture what excites us about the works and writers that the Tiptree Award has honored – which is never the same from year to year and jury to jury.
  • We wanted to love the new name, and we want you to love it too.

We think we’ve found a name that meets all these criteria. We hope you will agree. And we’d like to introduce you to:

The Otherwise Award

Isn’t the possibility of imagining, thinking, dreaming, living otherwise what draws us to the genre we love – whether we call it science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, magical realism, or something else?

At the heart of the creative work this award has honored for the last 28 years is the act of imagining gender otherwise. We have honored those who expand or explore gender by imagining the world otherwise. Over the next 28 years and more, we expect people’s lived experiences of gender to shift, change, and multiply in ways we can’t possibly imagine. But whatever happens, writers and artists will make sense of it, and push at the limits, by imagining otherwise.

Otherwise means finding different directions to move in—toward newly possible places, by means of emergent and multiple pathways and methods. It is a moving target, since to imagine otherwise is to divert from the ways of a norm that is itself always changing.

With the addition of a space, the name also means “other, wise”: that is, wise to the experience of being the other. Such wisdom might come from direct experience or from careful, collaborative consultation.

The Black queer studies scholar and creative writer Ashon Crawley has a beautiful essay “Otherwise, Ferguson” that speaks to the possibility of otherwise politics:

To begin with the otherwise as word, as concept, is to presume that whatever we have is not all that is possible. Otherwise. It is a concept of internal difference, internal multiplicity. The otherwise is the disbelief in what is current and a movement towards, and an affirmation of, imagining other modes of social organization, other ways for us to be with each other. Otherwise as plentitude. Otherwise is the enunciation and concept of irreducible possibility, irreducible capacity, to create change, to be something else, to explore, to imagine, to live fully, freely, vibrantly. Otherwise Ferguson. Otherwise Gaza. Otherwise Detroit. Otherwise Worlds. Otherwise expresses an unrest and discontent, a seeking to conceive dreams that allow us to wake laughing, tears of joy in our eyes, dreams that have us saying, I hope this comes true.

We’ve always sought and found the works that bring all this to mind and heart. We’re excited to name the Award with a word that encapsulates what we feel it stands for.

 

What is not changing

Beyond the name, the traditions that have grown up around this award are very important to us. These include:

  • Open nominations, where anyone can nominate any work (including their own) at any time of the year and at no cost
  • Celebrating MANY works, not just one or two per year, and trying to avoid the heartache of competition among them
  • Supporting emerging creators with our Fellowship program, where each year’s Fellows help to choose those who will be honored in the following year
  • Funding our program activities primarily through communal efforts, like the bakesale and auction, that transparently reflect your support
  • Our WisCon rituals of song, tiara, art, and chocolate
  • Space Babe

All of these will continue, and we hope that the Otherwise name will inspire new traditions.

 

What about all the Tiptree winners?

We will consider everyone who has won a Tiptree Award, been named on the Honor or Long List, or awarded a Tiptree Fellowship, to be retroactive Otherwise honorees. Whether you describe your achievement with the Tiptree or Otherwise name – or with both – is up to you.

 

What happens now?

For the next two weeks, we’re going to hold off on making any permanent changes while we listen to responses from you – just in case there are any compelling reasons not to use Otherwise that we have missed. You can reach us at feedback@tiptree.org if you would like to share your thoughts.

Then, we will start the process of changing our website, our publications, and all the rest. The actual name change will take a while — and we’ll need help from the community to accomplish it. The administrative aspects of the name change involve a lot of practical details, from getting the new domain names and revising the web site to dealing with the IRS, the State of California, and various vendors. But we are committed to making this change, as quickly as we can manage.

The next round of fellowships (2019) will carry the new name. And at WisCon 44 in May 2020, we will present our 29th award: the first Otherwise Award.

 

A little help from our friends

Here’s another tradition that will continue: this is an award that exists because of the community that supports it. We can’t do this without you.

Are you excited to join us in imagining Otherwise? Do you have a little time and energy to spare? The Award has always been run by volunteers, and this is a moment where we could really use some help.

We’re taking this opportunity to revisit the way we have administered the Award in the past, to see how we might be able to do things better. We’ll be looking for folks to help us with special projects related to art and design; web and social media; organizational support for the auction at WisCon; and service on the juries that choose the Award and Fellowship winners.

One of the first efforts after the announcement of the Tiptree Award at WisCon was the creation of a cookbook: The Bakery Men Don’t See. Who knows what projects will arise from the Otherwise Award?

If you’d like to help, please email us at info@tiptree.org. (Yes, we’ll be working on changing the addresses.)

There’s a lot to do. Come and help us change the world some more.

Gabriela Damián Miravete wins 2018 Tiptree Award! Honor and Long List Announced

Gabriela Damián Miravete has won the 2018 Tiptree Award for her short story “They Will Dream In the Garden,” translated by Adrian Demopulos and published online by Latin American Literature Today (May 2018).

About the Winner

“They Will Dream In the Garden,” a beautifully written and translated story, uses the future tense to imagine a Mexico in which femicides are already part of history. In a collective attempt by survivors to preserve memory and justice, traces of the minds of the women murdered are encapsulated in interactive holograms “living” in a beautiful garden. The story looks at the economic, social, and racial dimensions of violence against Mexican women today, focusing on indigenous women, poverty, and unemployment, on repression of women’s educational opportunities, and of women’s ability to move about freely. The story hints at positive change as some women decide to fight back through collective action, mutual support, and self-defense, eventually shifting the public perception of gendered violence and improving the actions of the next generation. By offering a possible look into the future, far from giving the sense of a closed chapter, the story itself is a device of memory preservation, a call to action, and a fine example of science fiction as a tool for feminist exploration and social change.

Gabriela Damián Miravete is a writer of narrative and essay, a film and literature journalist, a professor at CENTRO university, and (according to her bio) the imaginary granddaughter of Ursula K. Le Guin. Miravete was part of “The Mexicanx Initiative,” a group of Mexican and Mexican American artists who attended WorldCon 76. With other authors, artists and people from different scientific disciplines, she co-founded Cúmulo de Tesla, a collective that wishes to strengthen the relationships between art, science, and science fiction. She has published short stories in several anthologies in Spanish. You can find her work in English in Three Messages and a Warning, an anthology of contemporary Mexican stories of the fantastic (Small Beer Press, 2010) and in A Larger Reality. Speculative Fiction from the Bicultural margins, an anthology of 14 stories, presented in both Spanish and English.

The Tiptree Award judges also wish to recognize Adrian Demopulos, the translator of “They Will Dream in the Garden,” with a special honor for a wonderful translation.

About the Honor List

In addition to selecting the winners, the judges choose 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. These notes on each work are excerpted and edited from comments by members of this year’s jury. This year’s Honor List is:

A collection of delightful, thought-provoking stories that fulfill the intended purpose of normalizing diverse pronouns as well as suggesting that the binary can be broken or even left behind. Buchanan writes: “In English, the personal pronouns we’re most used to are he and she. Not only do these require the speaker to know the gender of the person they’re talking about, but they only properly cover two genders. Humans don’t always fit in these boxes.” This collection addresses the complaint that people find it hard to learn new pronoun sets. Buchanan writes that the answer is to normalize new pronouns — “in conversation, yes, but also in our stories, in fiction, in all media. In stories about spaceships and about magic, heroism and exploration, families and home.” As an added bonus, the authors and editor make recommendations for other works to read.

This ghost story set in a small depressed Ontario town in the 1990s explores concepts around sexual agency and slutdom with extraordinary doses of humanity, humor, and lyricism. With issues of women’s sexual autonomy being currently (and always) very much under the spotlight, the author presents myriad ways in which the book’s characters’ sexualities clash with (or struggle under) patriarchal power structures and lays them across queerness, whiteness, poverty, religious and moral values, and public opinion. Through the eyes of the protagonist and of the queer ghost who is haunting her, the reader experiences the pains and thrills of inhabiting a gendered, sexualized, queer body in this story full of caustic language and powerful images. WARNING: descriptions of child sexual abuse and adult suicide.

This cerebral, investigative novel presents a future society in which humans have divided into Paxans and Outsiders. Paxans are committed to “a collegial, laterally organized meritocracy.” In this technologically advanced society, Paxans spend only a small portion of their lives in “meatspace” and the majority of their lives in virtual realities, inhabiting and conversing with their secondary and tertiary bodies, which represent selected and isolated aspects of their consciousness. Paxans have been given FTL travel by an alien race they call Delta Pavonians, and some women, cis and trans, are able and willing to undergo body modification and training to be able to communicate with the aliens. The story traces the mystery of a second alien planet, La Femme, and its telepathic inhabitants. The novel is an absorbing exploration of the many ramifications of the notion of gender and the myriad ways in which it is represented and exploited.

  • Meg Elison, “Big Girl” Fantasy and Science Fiction (Nov/Dec 2017)

A story about a common problem in society—fat shaming. This is especially a problem for women, both white and of color, and for teens who lack self-confidence and easily fall prey to ads and movie portrayals. With satirical condemnation of society and media reactions, this story portrays how internalizing the perceived norms of “feminine” leads to low self-esteem.

As the cover promises, so the book delivers: 15 graphic short stories by “seventeen women, demigirls, and bi-gender creators of color.” The rich heart-warming fantasy stories deal with folk tales, fairy tales, disability, immigration, race, grandmothers, baking, depression, romance, and much more magic. This anthology is a good way to find authors you’ll want to read again, and a great display of the dramatic potential and innovative storytelling in contemporary comics today.

An anthology of over 30 short stories and poems. About half were originally published in Glittership Magazine, and all have queer themes and characters. “The Little Dream” by Robin M. Eames (in which a character wears a t-shirt that reads “IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU INSIST THERE ARE ONLY TWO GENDERS”) and “Graveyard Girls on Paper Phoenix Wings” by Andrea Tang are particularly recommended. A wonderful variety of stories and a great way to find authors you want to read more of.

Because of a plague that kills men more frequently than women, one society in this polluted future has mostly women. But men still have more power and women still need to fear sexual assault. The other society is all women — many with special powers, including doublers who have multiple clone births, “starfish” who can grow new body parts, and girls given special treatment so they can help breast feed the multiple babies. The religion is Mother-based. A beautifully written novel.

This album follows the struggles, joys, incarceration, and eventual liberation of a queer, Black woman who is punished by a system that seeks to “cleanse” her of all elements in her life that deviate from the norm. She is sent to a prison in which her memories (each of which is a separate music video and an ode to mutual love in rebellion) will be erased. The workers in charge of the erasure, who sit back and enjoy the memories prior to destruction, serve as a sharp metaphor of the white supremacist, cisheteropatriarchal system that is obsessed with Black bodies and creativity while still remaining profoundly anti-Black. This concept album forms a cohesive science fictional narrative, introducing futuristic elements in a way that is rarely seen so explicitly in the medium, opening up new pathways for the musical exploration of feminist science fiction.

This story portrays a culture in which gender pronouns change depending on a multitude of factors for each individual at any given time. This story shows a character at the beginning of a new life whose sense of identity is affected by this new language with a multitude of unfamiliar pronouns. The story also touches on issues of immigration, poverty, unemployment, romance, and building a new family. The reader is given linguistic issues and endearing characters in a well-done story.

This young adult novel was translated from Swedish. In it, a society of women (in groups acknowledging the Maiden, Mother, and Crone) live apart from a patriarchal world. They populate their society by rescuing women and girls from poverty, evil men, and lack of education. The leader of the Abbey is the First Mother. This story is told in the time of the 32nd First Mother. The women of the Abbey preserve knowledge within a vast library. The novel ends with the narrator, a teenage girl, deciding to go back out into the world to see if she can help change how men and women see themselves and one another.

This visceral story with vivid writing explores in a literalized way the dysphoria that can come with being trans. The monster in the basement works as both a powerful metaphor and a plot device.

But Wait — There’s More!

In addition to the honor list, this year’s jury also compiled a “long list” of twenty-eight other works they found worthy of attention.

Now What?

The Tiptree Award winner, along with authors whose works are on the Honor List, will be celebrated at WisCon in Madison, Wisconsin during Memorial Day weekend. The winner will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.

Each year, a panel of judges selects the Tiptree Award winner. The 2018 judges were Margaret McBride (chair), Marina Berlin, Ritch Calvin, and Arrate Hidalgo.

The 2019 panel of judges will be chaired by Carol Stabile, and reading will begin soon. The Tiptree Award invites everyone to recommend works for the award. Please submit recommendations via the recommendation page. Full information on all the books mentioned above will be in the Tiptree Award database by late April 2018.

 

Virginia Bergin Wins 2017 Tiptree Award! Honor List and Long List Announced.

Congratulations to Virginia Bergin, who has won the 2017 Tiptree Award for her novel Who Runs the World? (Macmillan, UK, 2017). (The novel will be published in the US in November 2018 under the title The XY (Sourcebooks, 2018).

About the Winner

Who Runs the World? is a young adult novel that tells an intricately layered tale of intergenerational struggle and cooperation, the dehumanizing force of gender stereotypes, and the moral courage it takes to challenge cultural and political norms. Bergin invokes a premise familiar in feminist science fiction—a plague that kills nearly everyone with a Y chromosome. Without relying on biological determinism, Bergin uses this premise to develop a vividly imagined feminist society, and to grapple with that society’s changes and flaws over time.

Born three generations after the plague, into a social order rebuilt around consensus, 14-year-old River views her world as idyllic––until she discovers Mason, a teenage boy who has escaped from one of the “Sanctuaries” where “XYs” are held. As River, along with her mother and grandmother, learns about the violence of Mason’s life, she sees her community’s norms upended and hidden biases exposed. But the story does not end with the exposure of the seeming utopia’s hidden subjugations. For River has been shaped by a society that built itself with purpose and care around principles of justice. Growing up amid those principles has given River the tools to challenge her own culture’s fundamental contradictions. In an ultimately optimistic vision, Bergin dares to depict a future in which principles of transformative justice can have, if not victory over, at least even footing with the incentives of profit and exploitation.

At WisCon 42, the introduction and celebratory song and materials for the Tiptree winner contained language suggesting the novel portrays a trans-exclusionary view of gender. The Motherboard wrote a note of apology, which you can read at this link.

About the Honor lISt

In addition to selecting the winners, 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. These notes on each work are excerpted and edited from comments by members of this year’s jury. This year’s Honor List is:

Charlie Jane Anders, “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue” (Boston Review, USA, 2017)

This graphic and visceral dystopia shows trans people stripped of their legal rights, abducted, and operated on in the name of “curing” their gender identities. Harrowingly portrayed through the viewpoints of both victim and perpetrator, the story describes a medicalized torture resonant with real-world histories of violent “treatment” for gender deviance that was routine only a few decades ago. Showing how fragile the human rights of marginalized people can be, Anders gives readers a glimpse of what has been a lived nightmare for many, and remains a terrifying possible future.

Indra Das, The Devourers (Del Rey, USA, 2016)

A fascinating, memorable novel that uses a nested narrative to thread its story through Indian history, from the 17th-century Mughal Empire to contemporary Kolkata. The structure uses multiple points of view to mirror the perspective of the book’s magical characters: a species of predatory shape-shifters who gain access to the memories of the people they consume. Inspired by mythological beings that include werewolves, djinn, and rakshasa, Das’s shape-shifters perceive gendered human behavior in illuminating ways, as the novel’s initial narratora queer present-day historian–comes to learn. The novel is beautifully written, using its original speculative framework to explore questions of gender, culture, and identity in new ways.

April Daniels, Dreadnought and Sovereign (Diversion, USA, 2017)

The first two books of a trilogy, these novels follow Danny, a transgender teenage girl stuck living as a boy. A chance meeting with a dying superhero allows Danny to have her deepest desire granted, with the side effect that she’s now the most powerful superhero on the planet. Daniels’ familiarity with the issues faced by trans people invests these books with a rarely achieved feeling of authenticity. The novels explore the family stress experienced by trans youth and dive headlong into contemporary political controversies surrounding trans rights. That they are excellent superhero fiction as well should see them widely enjoyed, and their message received by a broad audience.

Maggie Shen King, An Excess Male (Harper Voyager, USA, 2017)

A novel of exquisitely deep, nuanced characterization, set in a future China where there are forty million more men than women. This book explores polyandrous marriage, non-neurotypical cognition, state-sanctioned homophobia, and the dynamics of bonding in male-only spaces. It also features an exciting and unusual plot structure, beginning as a contemplative study of family that gradually accelerates to the pace of a techno-thriller.

Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties (Gray Wolf, USA, 2017)

A collection of short stories that explore the cultural treatment of women’s bodies, written with stunning artistry. These formally inventive tales use the speculative to illuminate the interiors of gendered worlds, from a worldwide plague viewed through its last survivor’s erotic connections to a reinterpretation of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes that becomes a meditation on sexual violence. Machado offers a multifaceted view of the insides and undersides of queer kinds of femininity that we mostly never see, brought into the light in all their darkness and brightness, sweetness and ugliness.

Rivers Solomon, An Unkindness of Ghosts (Akashic, USA, 2017)

A powerful novel of individual and collective survival in the face of generational trauma. On a generation ship, the Black inhabitants of the lower decks live and work under brutal conditions that recall slavery in antebellum America. The story follows lowerdecker Aster as she struggles to survive and make sense of her world. The capacity to maintain culture and possibility within bondage are key to Aster’s story, as is the way that the main characters––none of whom are wholly neurotypical––give one another space for their difference even when they are incomprehensible or even dangerous to one another.

JY Yang, “Black Tides of Heaven” and “Red Threads of Fortune” (Tor, USA, 2017)

Set in a society where children are without gender until they choose to be confirmed into a specific identity, these paired silkpunk novellas follow aristocratic twins from their identical childhoods through increasingly divergent adulthoods. The first is a bildungsroman of Akeha, the male twin, who must learn himself at a young age because he lacks any defined place within his family or culture. The second is a recovery narrative of Mokoya, the female twin, whose relatively frictionless path through life demands of her little introspection, until a traumatic event upends her sense of self, requiring she build a new understanding of her identity to navigate her grief. Both stories explore the process of struggling past expectation to achieve self-definition.

But Wait — There’s More!

In addition to the honor list, this year’s jury also compiled a long list of twenty-six other works they found worthy of attention.

Now What?

The Tiptree Award winner, along with authors and works on the Honor List will be celebrated during Memorial Day weekend at WisCon in Madison, Wisconsin. The winner will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.

Each year, a panel of five judges selects the Tiptree Award winner. The 2017 judges were Alexis Lothian (chair), E.J. Fischer, Kazue Harada, Cheryl Morgan, and Julia Starkey.

Reading for 2018 will soon begin. The panel will be chaired by Margaret McBride.

The Tiptree Award invites everyone to recommend works for the award. Please submit recommendations via the recommendation page. Full information on all the books mentioned above will be in the Tiptree Award database by early April 2018.

Anna-Marie McLemore Wins the 2016 Tiptree Award! Plus Honor List, Long List Announcements

2016 Tiptree Award Winner Anna-Marie McLemore Collage

Congratulations to Anna-Marie McLemore, who has won the 2016 Tiptree Award for her novel When the Moon Was Ours (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2016).

About the Winner

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore is a fairytale about Samir, a transgender boy, and Miel, an orphan girl who grows roses from her wrists and is bullied as a result. In fact, there is a fairytale within the fairytale: the first chapter telling us the version of the story that mothers would tell children for years after — before also telling us what that story leaves out. Then the book takes us through all of it, step by step, exploring the heartache and frustration that being and loving differently generates. Beautifully, the novel never lets go of its unique magical realism framework. While the thoughts and emotions these characters share are incredibly familiar to anyone who is queer or trans or has loved someone who is trans, the imagery and particular scenarios the characters encounter are also completely bright and new.

In the author’s note at the end of the book, Anna-Marie McLemore tells us that when she was a teenager she fell in love with a transgender boy who would grow into the man she married. This is their story, reimagined as legend.

About the Honor lISt

2016 Tiptree Award Honor List Collage

In addition to selecting the winners, 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. These notes on each work are excerpted and edited from comments by members of this year’s jury. This year’s Honor List is:

Eleanor Arnason, Hwarhath Stories:Transgressive Tales by Aliens (Aqueduct Press, 2016)

This is a wonderful collection of stories that examine the ways that culturally, deep-rooted assumptions around gender restrict vocation and recognition of skills. Arnason tells of a culture with significantly different gender assumptions and customs that lead to a number of subtly shifted societal impacts — both positive and negative.

Mishell Baker, Borderline (Saga Press, 2016)

A fascinating whodunit with wonderful characters, Borderline spotlights diversity and intersectionality. Most of the characters in this novel are viewed as disabled by others, even by each other. But the characters’ so-called disabilities give them advantages in certain situations. Understanding this helps the characters love each other and themselves. Almost every character can be described as having attributes that are both disabilities and advantages. What builds us up can bring us down. Or put another way: our imperfections are openings to beautiful achievements.

Nino Cipri, “Opals and Clay” (Podcastle, 2016)

A beautiful love story about solidarity. With just three major characters, this story does a lot with gender, demonstrating how gendering can be something one does to control or out of love.

Andrea Hairston, Will Do Magic for Small Change (Aqueduct Press, 2016)

A beautiful story of magic and love that spans two centuries and three continents, moving between times and places through a book-within-a-book structure. Its 1980s protagonists are a family who has been torn apart by an act of homophobic violence. Through a discovery of their past, they are able to reconnect and find love again. Among other things, this novel depicts an amazing range of queer characters. Importantly, the book de-colonizes these representations, making queerness not a white or American thing, but something that emerges in different shapes and structures at different times and places, particular to individuals as well as the cultures and communities that they are a part of.

Rachael K. Jones, “The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2016)

A moving story set in a world where people live separate lives by night and day, with an opposite-sex lover by day and same-sex lover by night as the standard family structure. The theme of being trapped in one’s body and circumstances and in the customs of one’s times is dealt with well. The metaphor of a city/body that traps people in prisons of identity was very powerful. A surprising (yet well set up) twist to the story broadens its scope.

Seanan McGuire, Every Heart a Doorway (Tor Books, 2916)

This is a lovely YA novel about teenagers who return to our world, against their wishes, from magical lands that they entered through secret pathways — a magic door, an impossible stairway at the bottom of a trunk, a mirror. Their parents cannot understand their pain and misinterpret the stories their children tell and send their children to Miss West’s Home for Wayward Children. Miss West, herself a returned child, helps them deal with their separation or return to what they all think of as their real homes. This novel came to the attention of the Tiptree jury because of the reasons the children are taken from or rejected by their magical worlds. The protagonist, Nancy, is asexual, and finds an ideal world through her door. A character named Kade was born Katie, and discovers he is a boy, not a girl. He is thrown out of Fairyland as punishment for his transition. Two twin girls named Jack and Jill take up identities opposite from those their parents imposed upon them. There are beautiful lessons here about the importance of finding one’s home–that place where one can be one’s self. An emotionally engaging novel.

Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning (Tor Books, 2016)

This book will start conversations about gender, philosophy, religion, government, even war.The judges perceived contradictions within this book that may be resolved in the sequel, but these only serve to spark interest. In the future in which it is set (the twenty-fifth century of our world), gendered language is considered taboo in most circles and gender/sex-related cues are minimized and overlooked in clothing, vocation, and all other public areas of life. However, the book slowly reveals that gender stereotypes, sexism, and sexual taboos still remain strong despite the century’s supposed enlightenment and escape from such notions.

Johanna Sinisalo, The Core of the Sun (Grove Press/Black Cat, 2016)

This emotional, moving and thought-provoking novel, set in an alternate present in Finland, provides a critique of heteronormativity, eugenics, and all forms of social control, done uniquely and with humor. In this alternate present, the government values public health and social stability above all else. Sex and gender have been organized as the government sees fit, much to the detriment of women, who are bred and raised to be docile. All .drugs, including alcohol and caffeine, have long been banned. Capsaicin from hot peppers is the most recent substance to be added to the list. Our protagonist, Vera/Vanna, is a capsaicin addict. Consuming peppers provides an escape from a world that has treated her horribly. Most chapters are from Vera/Vanna’s perspective, but others relate the history, laws, fairytales, and other literature of this fictional Finland.

Nisi Shawl, Everfair (Tor Books, 2016)

In this gorgeous steampunk revisionist history of anticolonial resistance, a coalition of rebels defeat King Leopold and transform the former Belgian Congo into Everfair: a new nation whose citizens comprise Africans, European settlers, and Asian laborers. Told from many different perspectives, the story switches among the viewpoints of a dozen protagonists. This novel shows how relationships can grow over time between people of different races, classes, and religions as they build community together. Characters work through their internalized racisms and demonstrate how this is necessary for those in interracial relationships.

But Wait — There’s More!

In addition to the honor list, this year’s jury also compiled a long list of twelve other works they found worthy of attention.

Now What?

Anna-Marie McLemore, along with authors and works on the Honor List, will be celebrated during Memorial Day weekend at WisCon 41 in Madison, Wisconsin, May 26-29, 2017. She 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 2016 judges were Jeanne Gomoll (chair), Aimee Bahng, James Fox, Roxanne Samer, and Deb Taber.

Reading for 2017 will soon begin. The panel consists of Alexis Lothian (chair), E.J. Fischer, Kazue Harada, Cheryl Morgan, and Julia Starkey.

The Tiptree Award invites everyone to recommend works for the award. Please submit recommendations via our recommendation page. Full information on all the books mentioned above will be in the Tiptree Award database before the end of March 2017.

Tiptree Award presented at Borderlands Books​, August 2015

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 winner has been selected!

2014 Tiptree Award Winners! And more.

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!

2014 James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Winners
2014 James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award 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.

Honor List

2014 James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Honor List
2014 James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Honor List

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.

Long List

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:

  • Corinne Duyvis, Otherbound (Amulet 2014)
  • Meg Elison, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Sybaritic Press 2014) At the same time that the Tiptree winners were announced, this book won the Philip K. Dick Award.
  • L.S. Johnson, “Marigolds” (Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, Crossed Genres 2014)
  • Laura Lam, Shadowplay (Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry 2014)
  • Ken Liu, “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring” (Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, Crossed Genres 2014)
  • Sarah Pinsker, “No Lonely Seafarer” (Lightspeed Magazine, September 2014)
  • Michael J. Sullivan, Hollow World (Tachyon 2014)
  • Deborah Wheeler, Collaborators (Dragon Moon Press 2013)
  • Cat Winters, The Cure for Dreaming (Amulet 2014)

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.

Jurors

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.

The 2013 Tiptree Award winner has been selected!

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.

N. A. Sulway — Rupetta
N. A. Sulway — Rupetta

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.

Nike Sulway 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 with strange 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.

N.A. Sulway’s Acceptance Speech for Rupetta

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.

N.A. Sulway accepts the 2013 Tiptree Award for Rupetta

On May 25, in Madison, Wisconsin, at WisCon 38, N.A. Sulway accepted the Tiptree Award for Rupetta.

N. A. Sulway
N. A. Sulway

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.

Tiptree Award Clockwork Heart by Carl Cone
Tiptree Award Clockwork Heart by Carl Cone

Nike gave an especially remarkable acceptance speech, which we are delighted to share with you all here