Sarah Hall's The Carhullan Army, the future dystopian novel I reviewed a while back, has won this year's James Tiptree Jr. Award. I was lucky enough to be on the jury for the Tiptree, which recognizes science fiction and fantasy stories that consider gender in a new and interesting way, and we were all blown away by the grim future world and realistic female characters in Carhullan, which is being released in the U.S. as Daughters of the North. The Tiptree honors list also managed to expand boundaries by including a young-adult novel and a graphic novel series.
The young adult novel in question is Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce and the graphic novel series is Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn, Pia Guerra and others. Also on the "Honor List" is Charles Stross' Glasshouse, which I liked a lot. Here's what I said about Glasshouse in recommending it for inclusion:
It's set in a John Varley-esque world where you can have any body you want and you can back up your brain. But the main character agrees to take part in an experiment where he'll live in a reconstruction of America in the 1990s. Because so much data from that era of history was encoded on magnetic tape and digital media, it's been lost and historians know little about the period from 1950-2040. So the 1990s reconstruction is fatally flawed, especially as it relates to gender roles. It's sort of a pastiche of the 1950s, where women are expected to be subservient and sexually available. The main character gets stuck in a female body and quickly discovers how non-consensual gender roles can be. On top of that, participants receive points (towards a promised bonus) for gender conformity, including sexual behavior.
And here's the full Tiptree press release:
JAMES TIPTREE JR. AWARD WINNER ANNOUNCED
A gender-exploring science fiction award is presented to Sarah Hall for The Carhullan Army (Daughters of the North)
The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2007 Tiptree Award is The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall (published in the United States as Daughters of the North). The British edition was published in 2007 by Faber & Faber; the American edition in 2008 by HarperCollins.
The Tiptree Award will be celebrated on May 25, 2008 at WisCon (www.wiscon.info) in Madison, Wisconsin. The winner of the Tiptree Award receives $1000 in prize money, an original artwork created specifically for the winning novel or story, and (as always) chocolate.
Each year, a panel of five jurors selects the Tiptree Award winners and compiles an Honor List of other works that they find interesting, relevant to the award, and worthy of note. The 2007 jurors were Charlie Anders, Gwenda Bond (chair), Meghan McCarron, Geoff Ryman, and Sheree Renee Thomas.
The Carhullan Army elicited strong praise from the jurors. Gwenda Bond said, "Hall does so many things well in this book - writing female aggression in a believable way, dealing with real bodies in a way that makes sense, and getting right to the heart of the contradictions that violence brings out in people, but particularly in women in ways we still don't see explored that often. I found the writing entrancing and exactly what it needed to be for the story; lean, but well-turned." Geoff Ryman said, "It faces up to our current grim future (something too few SF novels have done) and seems to go harder and darker into war, violence, and revolution." Meghan McCarron said, "I found the book to be subtle and ambiguous in terms of its portrayal of the Army, and its utopia....The book became, ultimately, an examination of what it means to attain physical, violent power as defined by a male-dominated world. And it asserted that it could be claimed by anyone, regardless of physical sex, provided they were willing to pay the price."
The book, which is Hall's third novel, also won the 2007 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for the best work of literature (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama) from Britain or the Commonwealth written by an author of 35 or under.
The Tiptree Award 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. The 2007 Honor List is:
* "Dangerous Space" by Kelley Eskridge, in the author's collection Dangerous Space (Aqueduct Press, 2007)
* Water Logic by Laurie Marks (Small Beer Press, 2007)
* Empress of Mijak and The Riven Kingdom by Karen Miller (HarperCollins, Australia, 2007)
* The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (Hyperion, 2007)
* Interfictions, edited by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss (Interstitial Arts Foundation/Small Beer Press, 2007)
* Glasshouse by Charles Stross (Ace, 2006)
* The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper (Harper Collins 2007)
* Y: The Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Pia Guerra (available in 60 issues or 10 volumes from DC/Vertigo Comics, 2002-2008)
* Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce (Harcourt, 2007)
The James Tiptree Jr. Award is presented annually to a work or works that explore and expand gender roles in science fiction and fantasy. The award seeks out work that is thought-provoking, imaginative, and perhaps even infuriating. The Tiptree Award is intended to reward those women and men who are bold enough to contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles, a fundamental aspect of any society.
The James Tiptree Jr. Award was created in 1991 to honor Alice Sheldon, who wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. By her choice of a masculine pen name, Sheldon helped break down the imaginary barrier between "women's writing" and "men's writing." Her insightful short stories were notable for their thoughtful examination of the roles of men and women in our society.
Since its inception, the Tiptree Award has been an award with an attitude. As a political statement, as a means of involving people at the grassroots level, as an excuse to eat cookies, and as an attempt to strike the proper ironic note, the award has been financed through bake sales held at science fiction conventions across the United States, as well as in England and Australia. Fundraising efforts have included auctions conducted by stand-up comic and award-winning writer Ellen Klages, the sale of t-shirts and aprons created by collage artist and silk screener Freddie Baer, and the publication of four anthologies of award winners and honor-listed stories. Three of the anthologies are in print and available from Tachyon Publications (www.tachyonpublications.com). The award has also published two cookbooks featuring recipes and anecdotes by science fiction writers and fans, available through www.tiptree.org.
In addition to presenting the Tiptree Award annually, the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council occasionally presents the Fairy Godmother Award, a special award in honor of Angela Carter. Described as a "mini, mini, mini, mini MacArthur award," the Fairy Godmother Award strikes without warning, providing a financial boost to a deserving writer in need of assistance to continue creating material that matches the goals of the Tiptree Award.
Reading for the 2008 Tiptree Award will soon begin, with jurors K. Tempest Bradford, Gavin Grant (chair), Leslie Howle, Roz Kaveney, and Catherynne M. Valente. As always, the Tiptree Award invites all to recommend works for the award. Please submit recommendations via the Tiptree Award website at www.tiptree.org.