The mighty James Tiptree Jr. Awards have surveyed another year of science fiction and fantasy relating to gender. This year's best gender-related SF books: Greer Gilman's trippy folk tales and, for the first time, a Manga series.
Once again, the Tiptree Award goes to two different works this year, and they couldn't be more different. Greer Gilman's Cloud & Ashes (from Small Beer Press) is a collection of three stories drawing on folk tales from the British Isles. Two of them are previously published, and one of those won the World Fantasy Award in 2003. The other winner is Fumi Yoshinaga's Ooku: The Inner Chambers (volumes 1 & 2) which takes place in an alternate feudal Japan, where a plague has wiped out three out of every four boys. (So it's sort of the opposite of last year's winner, The Knife Of Never Letting Go.)
Says the press release:
Cloud & Ashes contains three memorable and poetic tales that draw images and elements from folk tales and ballads of the British Isles. Told in lyrical Jacobeanesque dialect, the stories are striking for their language and their originality.
Juror Paul Kincaid praised Cloud & Ashes as "A book whose hold on your mind, on your memory, is assured. It is a story about story, and stories are what we are all made of."� Jury chair Karen Fowler reflected on the intriguing complexity of the interwoven themes in the work: "Patterns repeat, but also mutate in kaleidoscopic fashion and then mutate again…. Power shiftts about, much of it gender-based; time eats itself like a Moebius strip."
The first two stories in Cloud & Ashes were published previously. The first, "Jack Daw's Pack," was a Nebula finalist for 2001. The second, "A Crowd of Bone",� won the 2003 World Fantasy Award. The third story, "Unleaving,"� is original to Cloud & Ashes.
Fumi Yoshinaga's Ooku: The Inner Chambers (volumes 1 & 2) explores an alternate version of feudal Japan, in which a plague has killed three out of every four boys. In this world, young men are protected and sheltered; women have secretly taken positions of authority and power. The Japanese ruler or shogun and the feudal lords are women and much of the story takes place among the men in the shogun's harem. The title of the work refers to the living quarters for the shogun's harem, contained within Edo Castle.
SThe selection of Ooku: The Inner Chambers marks the first time that manga has been chosen for the Tiptree Award. Though no one on the jury is an expert on manga or on Japanese history, the jurors fell in love with the detailed exploration of the world of these books, a world in which men are assumed to be weak and sickly, yet women still use symbolic masculinity to maintain power. Throughout the two books, Yoshinaga explores how the deep gendering of this society is both maintained and challenged by the alteration in ratios. "The result,"� juror Jude Feldman writes, "is a fascinating, subtle, and nuanced speculation with gender at its center."
Ooku was awarded the Sense of Gender award by the Japanese Association of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy (2005), the Excellence Award at Japan's Media Arts Festival (2006), and the Grand Prize in Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize (2009).
The short list of runners up is:
* "Beautiful White Bodies",� Alice Sola Kim (Strange Horizons)
* Distances, Vandana Singh (Aqueduct Press 2008)
* "Galapagos", Caitlin R. Kiernan (Eclipse 3, Night Shade Books)
* Lifelode, Jo Walton (NESFA Press 2009)
* "Useless Things", Maureen F. McHugh (Eclipse 3, Night Shade Books)
* "Wives"�, Paul Haines (X6, coeur de lion)
And the press release also includes a special recognition for L. Timmel Duchamp's Marq'ssan Cycle, which concluded in 2008:
In addition, the jury wishes to extend a special honor to L. Timmel Duchamp's Marq'ssan Cycle, noting the importance of this stunning series, which envisions radical social and political change. Published over a period of four years, this five-book series began with Alanya to Alanya (Aqueduct Press, 2005) and concluded with Stretto (Aqueduct Press, 2008).