Edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Debbie Notkin & Jeffrey D. Smith

Tachyon Press


274pp/$14.95/January 2007


The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3
Cover by John D. Berry

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Only two of the stories in The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3 have actually won the James Tiptree Award, and one of those is actually an excerpt from the winning novel. The other stories which have been included are stories which were recognized on the short list issued each year when the award is announced.  This is a nice touch since while award winners are often reprinted, stories which almost won an award seem all too often to be relegated the the dustheap of publishing history.

In 2001, Geoff Ryman published the story “Have Not Have,” which later became part of his 2005 Tiptree Award winning novel Air.  In typical science fiction fashion, “Have Not Have” looks at the changes to society brought about by the introduction of technology, in this case, the internet to a small town in the fictional Asian region of Karzistan. In Ryman’s world, however, it is women who tend towards innovation while the men are more conservative. However, it is the very changes in the world, whether technological or personal, that create havoc in Ryman’s protagonist’s life.

Nalo Hopkinson looks at gender expectations and race in “The Glass Bottle Trick,” in which a white woman in an interracial marriage discovers that she is pregnant.  Her joy at the prospect of the birth of her child, however, is tempered by her discovery of her husband’s past and the realization that her role in the marriage is not what she expected and her very joy may result in her murder.

“Wooden Bride,” is a coming of age story by Margo Lanagan in which a girl, Mattild Weir, taking part in a coming of age ritual experiences all the emotional baggage and sense of alienation that so often accompanies any teenager who is going through life changes.  Despite focusing on a young girl who is in the quintessentially female role as a bride, Lanagan’s story carries extra weight in that it can be applied to either gender.

“Dearth,” is a short story from Aimee Bender 2005 Tiptree winning collection Willful Creatures.  The story deals with a woman’s response to her pregnancy, although rather than actually being pregnant, she finds herself faced with strangely appearing and growing potatoes, thereby negating any emotional attachment and sense of duty she might feel to them…at first.  However, as the story (and pregnancy?) progresses, Bender comes to see the potatoes as more than just something strange. 

Mountain Ways ,” the collection’s second Tiptree winner, by Ursula Le Guin examines what happens to lesbians without an interest in men in a society in which the typical marriage consists of two females and two males, living and loving in a joint hetero-homo-bisexual and polyamorous relationship. By creating such a complex marital arrangement, Le Guin is able to look at our own culture’s response to similar issues in a very different way that provides enough space and difference to offer a more neutral look at homosexual relationships.

Pam Noles takes the makes of SciFi’s “Earthsea” miniseries to task in the non-fiction article “Shame.” While her criticisms are legitimate and can be applied to a number of works of fiction (both on screen and off), the tone of the piece sounds dated and almost inconsequential as the miniseries, which first aired in 2004, is no longer a current item, although it does make occasional reappearances on SciFi and it, of course, available on DVD.

Dorothy Allison’s non-fiction piece, “The Future of Female: Octavia Butler’s Mother Lode,” was first published in 1990, but given Butler’s untimely death in 2006, its inclusion in the current volume is a fitting tribute to Butler and joins the concept of gender with the concept of race, both of which were so prevalent in Butler’s writing.

One of the misconceptions about the Tiptree Award is that it is for women and women’s fiction, whatever that means.  Rather, it is for fiction which focuses on gender, such as “Liking What You See: A Documentary,” by Ted Chiang.  Chiang’s story, told in the form of a transcript from a documentary project, examines a world in which drugs suppress not physical beauty but the ability of the human mind to recognize and respond to it. While the idea seems a bit far-fetched, Chiang invites the reader to suspend disbelief and responds by producing a story which is entertaining as well as thought provoking.

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” was first published by  James Tiptree, Jr. in 1973.  As with Chiang’s story which precedes it in this collection, the story focuses on the role of beauty and how it can affect a person’s life, in this case the girl Philadelphia Burke.  Burke is given a way to become a beautiful person and Tiptree looks at the way the dichotomy between her real appearance and self-image differs from the new way people view her and react to her.

 The final non-fiction piece in the book is L. Timmel Duchamp’s “Dear Alice Sheldon,” an epistolary essay considering the importance of Tiptree/Sheldon’s work, but even more the revelation of Tiptree/Sheldon’s identity.  Timmel’s argument that female authors are seen as women authors rather than authors who happen to be women is interesting in light of the recent spate of articles and essays attacking the 2006 Hugo slate for its dearth of female authors, although it doesn’t seem to address to success of authors such as Lois McMaster Bujold, Connie Willis, Ursula Le Guin, Nancy Kress, Vonda McIntyre, or Kelly Link.

Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Little Faces” is a space opera reminiscent, in some ways, of Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang. The women who ply the stars have symbiotic relationships with the spaceships and men are relegated to additional symbiotic organisms attached to the women’s body.  However, the gender statements of the story, while important, tend to take a back seat to the overall sense of wonder and sense of fun displayed by the story.

“Knapsack Poems” is a reminder that in science fiction, authors are not limited by the two primary genders belonging to humans. Eleanor Arnason’s goxhat are multi-bodied organisms who come across an individual child left in the wilderness.  Arnason switches between the various parts of her goxhat to show their different reactions to the abandoned child, resulting in a complex, and at times confusing, examination of relationships.

Geoff Ryman Have Not Have
Nalo Hopkinson The Glass Bottle Trick
Margo Lanagan Wooden Bride
Aimee Bender Dearth
Ursula K. Le Guin Mountain Ways 
Pam Noles Shame Non-Fiction
Dorothy Allison The Future of Female: Octavia Butler's Mother Lode Non-Fiction
Ted Chiang Linking What You See: A Documentary
James Tiptree, Jr. The Girl Who Was Plugged In
L. Timmel Duchamp Dear Alice Sheldon Non-Fiction
Vonda N. McIntyre Little Faces
Eleanor Arnason Knapsack Poems

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