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The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1
edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Debbie Notkin, Jeffrey D. Smith
Tachyon Publications, 320 pages

The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1
The James Tiptree, Jr. Award
In February of 1991, Pat Murphy announced the creation of The James Tiptree, Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender. She created the award in collaboration with author Karen Joy Fowler. The award is named for Alice B. Sheldon, who wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr.

The James Tiptree, Jr. Award Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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For years, a woman writes using a man's name and nobody twigs to her real identity. In a major collection of her work, an expert announces that there is something ineluctably masculine about the stories. Such was the early science fiction career of Alice B. Sheldon, better known to the science fiction reading masses as James Tiptree, Jr. Following Sheldon's tragic death, a cadre of admirers founded an award to honor the exploration and expansion of the use of gender. The award took its name from Sheldon's more famous pseudonym. After more than a decade of presenting the award, several of the recent stories considered for the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award have been collected into The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1.

Just as Tiptree/Sheldon was not as he/she appeared, neither is this anthology what many might expect. Of the ten stories included in its pages, only two of them, Matt Ruff's "Set This House in Order" and Kelly Link's "Travels with the Snow Queen," actually won the award. And Ruff's story is presented only as an excerpt as it was originally published as a novel. In fact, most of the stories in the anthology competed directly against Ruff's work, for six of the stories formed all of the short fiction on the short list the year Ruff won. The remaining two pieces of fiction include an earlier competitor by Karen Joy Fowler as well as a reprint of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Snow Queen" to be read in conjunction with Link's work.

Fowler's Nebula Award-winning story, "What I Didn't See" can be read as speculative fiction, although its presence in a collection of science fiction can be argued (and has been). However, just as Link's winning story is a direct response to Andersen's reprinted tale, so, too, is Fowler's story a direct response to James Tiptree, Jr.'s "The Women Men Don't See," although for some unfathomable reason, the editors have elected to omit that story by Tiptree.

Notably, the Tiptree award is not just given to women writing about "women's issues." The judges, while focusing on the gender discussion within the stories, appear utterly gender-blind when looking at the authors. Especially in recent years, men have won an increasing number of the award. The point, of course, being that discussion of gender roles is not, and should not be, relegated to only one gender.

Rounding out the anthology are several contextual essays written by authors such as Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Suzy McKee Charnas. These essays explain the award and the type of stories which are considered for the award in relation to history, the science fiction field, and the method of selecting the winners. Another piece, written by Sheldon when her true identity was first leaked, helps provide insight into who she was and what she was trying to do, which had very little to do with the type of gender exploration the award celebrates.

The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1 will come as a surprise to those who think the award is given to stories which only celebrate the role of women and advocate its expansion. Instead the stories explore all varieties of gender in thoughtful and provocative ways. Focusing mostly on a single year, The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1 leaves plenty of room for additional volumes which deserve to grace the shelves of all science fiction and gender studies fans.

Copyright © 2005 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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