The James Tiptree, Jr. Award Will Become the Otherwise Award

The James Tiptree Jr. Literary Council has announced that the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award will be renamed the “Otherwise Award”.

The organization explains their decision in an in-depth breakdown/FAQ within the initial announcement on their website. Quoting both supporters and opponents of the name change at length, the organization explained that ultimately, there was “too much discomfort over this history for many of us to feel joyous about this name” and that “keeping the joy is more important than keeping the name.”

As for why the organization went with “Otherwise”, they explained that they wanted something that “capture[s] what excites us about the works and writers that the Tiptree Award has honored” without “overt textual references” or naming it after a real person:

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.

The James Tiptree Jr. Literary Council emphasized that the many traditions that have come to be associated with the award, from the Fellowship program for emerging creators and open nominations, will not change.

Going forward, the organization will hold off on finalizing the name-change for the next two weeks, so that they can receive feedback on the decision. After that, they’ll start implementing the change across online and print materials. Barring any last-minute changes, the next round of fellowships will be announced under the new name, and the first Otherwise Award will be presented at WisCon 44 in May 2020.

The history behind the award’s name, as well as the reasons behind the name-change, are incredibly nuanced and complex, so rather than summarize them here, we suggest reading the full post on the Tiptree Award site.

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